But one of them has to be the fact that they don’t just have engineers and designers running the company—they have visionaries. From Gamasutra’s interview with Yoshiaki Koizumi on Montreal Game Summit, with my notes and observations added:
Koizumi noted that Miyamoto is known for taking lots of trouble to get key elements just right—Koizumi called his demands “numerous and exacting”—especially important in this case as players around the world spend a lot of time in Mario’s shoes.
Steve Jobs, anyone?
…empowering Mario with the simple ability to jump…opens up several new and connected possibilities just by offering the player one ability.Koizumi calls it player-based design: the right balance of fun and complexity with the player first in mind. “That’s why it’s so important, and that’s why we have to be so particular about getting it right,” he said.
While this statement should come as no surprise to anyone in Advertising or Marketing, in reality, not many video games today are thought of this way. Bizarre, isn’t it?
There are issues with 3D action, including problematic depth perception, getting lost, and even getting motion sickness.But Koizumi also stressed a focus on the positive, like creating a sense of surprise so that the player can be astonished by the world. To do this, Koizumi explained, you have to completely eliminate all the problems that obstruct ease of play.
Suddenly, the field of Game Development intersects with Information Architecture and Interface Usability. It’s no surprise that games and consoles that are designed for normal people were probably made by Nintendo because they took things like “ease of play” into account in their development timeline.
“[having shadows fall directly under the character regardless of the light source] might not be realistic, but it’s much easier to play with the shadow directly below,” he [Koizumi] added.
Absolutely right. Sometimes, context must reign over consistency to improve usability.
In a 2D Mario game, the sky is up, the ground is down, and everyone goes right on their way to a goal. Mario 64 [one of the first fully 3D Mario games] also sent players after a goal, but things weren’t quite as simple back in the time when few had yet gained experience with rotating a camera.Why not just give the player a map? According to Koizumi, if you want them to stay in the action without pausing, there’s no time to look at a map—“that’s why we included large landmarks so players could orient themselves without stopping,” he explained.
Sometimes, geeks that made games live their life with a different relationship model from the rest of us. For instance (and to over generalize), they prefer to use a chatroom vs. participate in a dinnertime conversation, network through forums vs. make new friends through parties, and use GPS vs. ask for direction.)
Almost any adventure games today utilize some form of a map to help the player navigate his/her character through the world. Problem is, in real life, most people navigate by recognizing landmarks (“cross the steel bridge, past the city square”) instead of maps. A geek who uses GPS to drive around and find direction would certainly prefer to see an elaborate map in the game that he wrote and developed.
A gamer who plays a software that the geek wrote would have no problem using it, but the rest of the world (casual gamers) would. Again, Nintendo address this problem by employing interaction cues that are not immediately obvious or available, but are closer in spirit to casual users.
He continued, “Through this [the development of Jungle Beat] I found [that] to get the player to enjoy a game with real ease of play, the developer has to be thoughtful, and there are no shortcuts.”
Surprise. Simplicity is actually harder to achieve than complexity. However, simplicity and austerity is not the same. Simplicity may look ornate yet stay perfectly clear, comprehensive and straightforward at the same time. Austerity may look simple yet lacks all the nuances and expressions.
Simplicity is for human beings. Austerity is for machines and Modernists (sorry, I had to throw in a little inside joke there.) Never confuse the two.
And the Wii system, according to Koizumi, also helped achieve the earlier goal of bringing families together in the living room.
Nintendo seem to think that electronic games should be similar in spirit to their real-world counterparts, in that they are meant to be enjoyed and played together in a non-anonymous setting. Again, these are concepts that may sound obvious to us, but not to geeks and most other software developers (again, I’m over-generalizing this.) Remember, most geeks communicate through chatrooms and internet forums instead of dinners and parties.</p
Concluded Koizumi, “… Believe firmly that games that are fun to make are always fun to play when they reach the consumer.”
Amen. That’s another mantra for me.
Via Daring Fireball.