Masahiro Sakurai Outlines the Challenges of Smash Bros. Development
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
"It's important to remember that you can't take anything for granted."
It can be all too easy for critics and consumers, not just in video games but any entertainment medium, to casually disregard creative works without enough thought or consideration. Maybe it has one mechanic that isn't exactly as before, maybe Sonic's eyes have changed colour, or perhaps Super Mario 3D World has the audacity to not be Super Mario Galaxy 3. It's human nature to want specific things, but unfortunately in some cases its also natural to dismiss all-too-easily games that don't fit the exact templates in our own head.
It's certainly a pressure Nintendo faces with a lot of its games, with 30 years of game development legacy weighing heavily at times. It affects various brands, including — of course — the iconic Super Smash Bros., which is scheduled to arrive on the Wii U and 3DS in 2014. Masahiro Sakurai has used his regular Famitsu article to outline the challenges and stresses of completing a major game project, highlighting the amount of effort required.
When you think about three years like that, that's the amount of time between entering middle or high school and graduating from it [in Japan]. You have all these people working their fingers to the bone to complete just a single project. The games I make tend to be played for a long time, and whether I'm satisfied with the results or there are things I'm not happy with, it always takes a lot of time to make them.
Every time, you know, I try to the point where I think I can't go on any longer. For example, I think pretty much the limit when it comes to creating characters for a Smash Bros. is about 20, counting those from older games. We remake them completely each time, after all, and the teams and personnel and specs are all different. But we all go beyond what the work calls for because we want to do our best to retain fans of each character.
The Brawl team really put in a great effort. They remade all the original characters and added 18 completely new ones! Even with Melee before that, that game has over twice as many characters as the original. And that doesn't include online support and the assorted other features we've taken pains to complete under difficult circumstances. But the players don't know about how hard we work. That's not a problem because that's the case for any product, but it's important to remember that you can't take anything for granted.
Projects take a while, and you run into difficult and painful times. Some people have to bow out of it. To be honest, I've sometimes thought about what I'm earning for myself, going through all this life-changing struggle. But the pain I feel at the time goes away over time, and yet the game itself always remains. Players talk about the fun and so forth behind the game for years to come, and they still play it.
Oftentimes I'm asked by the overseas media if I feel any pressure when making a title like Smash Bros. Like I've written before, on a personal level, I don't feel anything like pressure. It's really fun work. Sometimes you have to resign yourself to the fact that things will work out the way they're meant to work out. But you need to funnel your regrets to the next project and work as hard as you can on that. The pain goes away, but your work always remains.
Sakurai-san has often spoken about the demands of his work, but this gives some further insight into roster building and Smash Bros. development. Let us know what you think of these comments below.