Super Mario Maker has been a smash hit for Nintendo, and has finally given players the chance to create their own unique Super Mario experiences. However, if a 1994 patent is anything to go by, Nintendo has been thinking about this kind of user-generated approach for quite some time.
Described as a "Video game/videographics program editing apparatus with program halt and data transfer features", patent US 6115036 A is focused on a proposed hardware platform which would allow players to pause the gameplay and edit parts of the game using a streamlined UI and no programming experience - very much like Super Mario Maker, in fact:
This invention relates generally to a method and apparatus for generating unique videographic computer programs. More particularly, the present invention relates to a video game fabricating system designed primarily for users who are unfamiliar with computer program or video game creating methodology. Such users may conveniently create a unique video game through an icon driven, interactive computing system that permits a video game to be executed, stopped, edited and resumed from the point where the editing began with the editorial changes persisting throughout the remainder of game play.
Billed as a stand-alone hardware system, this device would have been pretty ground-breaking for its time. Players would essentially be able to pause the game and edit how it plays, changing how many items they have or the behaviour of certain enemies. Level designs could also be tinkered with, and once changes were made, players could resume gameplay as normal as well as save their revised game.
On paper it sounds like an extension of the Game Genie concept, a special pass-through cartridge which allowed users to input special codes which would tamper with the in-game code, gaining access to cheats and hacks. The difference here is that developers would be able to specify which elements of the game the user could alter at the programming stage to ensure a pleasurable experience and the player could retain their own work.
It is also suggested that given the right tools, anyone could potentially create their own unique video game with this system:
In accordance with the present invention, unique video games may be simply created by users ranging from a relatively unsophisticated elementary school students to sophisticated game developers. A unique hardware and software platform enables users to create original games by selecting icons which access more detailed editor screens permitting the user to directly change a wide variety of game display characteristics concerning moving objects and game backgrounds.
Even more exciting is that Nintendo was thinking about how users could share their creations with other players - something which is possible in Super Mario Maker thanks to its code system. In the patent, it is proposed that user-generated content is send over a telephone line:
The "user file" is the portion of the video game that a user can change. In the system shown in FIG. 4, the user file may be transmitted via the network to the house of a friend having a game processor system to permit interactive game play between users or to permit a friend to play a modified version of a newly designed game.
Like so many patents, this one didn't appear to really go anywhere, but its influence can be felt in Super Mario Maker, which provides a software-based alternative to the proposal. Interestingly, the 1994 filing date - and the use of the SNES cartridge and controller in the patent illustrations - suggests that Nintendo was possibly looking to release this as a SNES successor, or at the very least side-by-side with the N64.
Thanks to Ekurisona for the tip!
Wow, so... Super Nintendo / N64 Video Game Maker! That was truly ambitious!
A simplified game maker? In the 90'?
Oh my God, I would have bought this in an instant!
That's crazy! So SMM 20 years ahead of its time in a big way! Totally would have wanted it
Now this is what I call a Nintendo Innovation!
It would've been revolutionary is this came to fruition.
Wow that would have been very marketable for its time. Perhaps they couldn't realise a consumer ready plan at a reasonable cost before PCs had similar, readily available tools?
Either way, this is cool.
Remnants of that title screen are vaguely familiar to Mario Paint as well, you know?
Fascinating... I would have loved to tinker with such a setup.
It seems this game would have utilized the SNES mouse peripheral. A peripheral that kind of bombed here in the states. I can see why Nintendo ended up shelving Mario Maker for 20 years,
"Mario Factory" is such fun-sounding name. I wonder if that "name" was something that appeared only when this proposed device was used with certain Mario games, or if it was the tentative name for the device, itself.
Maybe this is what NX is partly going to be. . . .
Most of you know my own very similar idea regarding such a game/entertainment creation system that I would love to see integrated into 3DS, Wii U, and NX:
The creation stuff is a bit later in the post (and it's something I've been thinking about since not too long after the days of the Mario Artist series on the 64DD).
And you guys don't even wanna know my VR alternative to this all-in-on solution--it that would just blow your minds.
Why does the second image show Sept 5, 2000, not 1994 as the article reports?
Who finds this stuff??!?
And here I thought that Super Mario Maker was based on some fan project.....stupid of me to say that. Its obvious that Nintendo was far ahead of time.
Perhaps this was at one point meant for the N64 Disk Drive? That piece of hardware did end up with increased storage, online connectivity, and peripherals like a mouse. Not to mention that the small N64DD library included some familiar titles. There was an F-Zero track editor and four Mario Artist games in a library of about ten titles.
I doubt it could have been on par with the real Super Mario Maker, but I suspect a comparable game might have seemed feasible during the DD's development. Especially considering the F-Zero track editor did work out.
It makes you wonder why Nintendo didn't pursue this further though. Even if the Disk Drive flopped, they could have easily designed the GameCube with this kind of function in mind. Or did Nintendo really give up on 2D platformers until the DS?
Regardless, I'm glad the Wii U has a GamePad. Without it, Mario Maker probably wouldn't have happened.
So SMM was 20 years in the making?
Then I'm surprised it's lacking things like slopes, water tiles, etc., you'd think they'd go all out on principle.
@Setrodox Receiving a patent is a very lengthy process. From the link in the article, it appears that the patent was first filed by Nintendo in '94, but not granted until 2000.
Kind of a side question regarding Mario Maker....
How long do guys think the servers will stay on, since we are nearing a new game system?
Many games I enjoyed the connections on Wii (not just playing Strikers Charged online, other things like Boom Blox levels, and other sharing, etc) were shut down and much of those games are now worth less.
What will happen with Mario Maker and all those levels, access to sharing, uploading, and even playing them longer term?
@msvt Hopefully Nintendo has taken that into consideration with their next platform and the new Nintendo network. The network is supposed to be more unified so maybe Mario Maker will come along for the ride. It would be more of a certain thing for sure if we knew the NX is going to be backwards compatible.
I remember reading about this looong time ago in a magazine. i think it was EGM? I cannot remember.
Maybe it was planned for the 64DD
most of us would know what you think? Are you the next Dominic Diamond?
Uh... wasn't Klik & Play released in 1994?
'cause that sounds a lot like what Nintendo is describing.
(KnP was basically the predecessor to current game-maker software)
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