Learn how Nintendo comes up with its big ideas
Between a prototype for Breath of the Wild that resembled the original NES classic and concept imagery featuring Link riding a motorcycle, playing electric guitar, and staring down a UFO, Nintendo sure brought some fun material to its 2017 Game Developers Conference presentation.
This year, the company will have two sessions at GDC: one on Splatoon, and one on ARMS.
Splatoon and Splatoon 2: How to Invent a Stylish Franchise with Global Appeal
Synopsis: No one expects a dull Nintendo game, but the Splatoon 2 game’s scrappy ink-hurling heroes who can morph into turbo squid and graffiti up skatepark-style arenas are unusual even for a company that puts hats on mushrooms and wings on turtles. How does Nintendo come up with its big (and occasionally gonzo) ideas?
Splatoon and Splatoon 2 producer Hisashi Nogami will share his experiences working with a design team whose goal was to create a game that was novel yet easy to grasp and riveting to play. What were the brainstorming sessions like and what kinds of review processes determined the game’s final ideas? How do you make a sequel better while releasing it on a brand-new platform with unique features? And how do you land on a quirky concept like “squid creatures fighting turf battles with water pistols” in the first place? Mr. Nogami, who also served as director and lead artist on Nintendo’s Animal Crossing series, will don his lab coat, roll up his sleeves, and divulge lessons learned while illustrating the importance of risk-taking.
Takeaway: A window into Nintendo’s generative ideas process, the challenges of balancing quirky character design and novel gameplay against worldwide appeal, and why taking risks matters more than ever.
Intended Audience: Developers of all levels and backgrounds interested in a thoughtful, provocative tour of the Splatoon and Splatoon 2 games’ design history.
‘ARMS’: Building Mario Kart 8 Insights into a Showcase Nintendo Switch Fighter
Synopsis: Spring-loaded fists hurled like rockets. Body blows from boomerangs, parasols, and robot birds. Up to four players juking and jiving in kaleidoscopic arenas. ARMS is anything but run-of-the-mill. How do you make a family-friendly fighter that’s also rich and rewarding for serious players? Craft motion controls to excite eSports pugilists?
Nintendo’s Kosuke Yabuki, who directed Mario Kart 7 and Mario Kart 8 and served as producer on both Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and ARMS, will talk about the challenges of creating a genre-bending fighting game for a brand-new platform. What lessons can a kart-racer offer a brawler that has players throwing corkscrew punches like tennis players volleying missiles? How do you ensure function follows form, using the Nintendo Switch system’s motion controls in ways that feel as natural and responsive as tapping buttons? And what’s the story behind a world where protagonists’ fists come unglued from their forearms anyway?
Takeaway: Insight into the ways seemingly unrelated games can influence each other, and the challenges of creating experiences that inform and illustrate the unique concepts behind just-launched hardware.
Intended Audience: Developers of all levels interested in design tips from two key Nintendo products, as well as anyone interested in learning about the unexpected connection points between the Mario Kart series and ARMS.
I’m sure we’ll get some good anecdotes. Splatoon is more my speed, but it’ll be fascinating to hear about the Mario Kart-to-ARMS connection and get insights into those stellar character designs.
GDC 2018 runs from March 19 to March 23 in San Francisco.