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Miyamoto: Evolving tech kept Mario fresh

Otherwise he couldn't have "stuck with it".

Shigeru Miyamoto has explained that the evolution of technology is what kept Mario fresh. Had videogames been a stationary medium like books, then Mario would have departed a long time ago.

"I'm always asked how I make the Mario series, but it's like we're thinking the games up on the run. I can only answer that each time is different, so I don't know," Miyamoto told famed Japanese copywriter - and one-time Nintendo employee (and inventor of the name Game Boy) - Shigesato Itoi (an interview conducted in place of Iwata Asks).

"Looking back, what's been easy about making the Mario games is that they could naturally change along with the progress of technology. For example, when you make live action SFX movies and as special effects technology advances, then you have new methods at your disposal.

"In the same way, as technology advances, the Mario games change, too. On the contrary, books have basically always been made the same way. If it had been necessary to keep making Mario games in the same way like that, we couldn't have done it. In that way, making the Mario games has been easy.

"But the technology changes, so we just have to adjust to that. And as technology changes, so does what you want to do.

"If it weren't for that," he added, "I don't think I could have stuck with it this far."

Itoi and Miyamoto talked at length about the nature of ideas and inspiration. The hope was that Itoi could help Miyamoto put into words how he created an icon like Mario. The interview marked the moustached plumber's 25th birthday.

One recurring theme was simplicity, something Miyamoto teaches young Nintendo game designers who provide needless explanations of tiny details. Miyamoto himself was taught this lesson - at least in part - by the technology restrains of the NES.

"We were making the software for the NES system back then, so there were also capacity limits," Miyamoto recalled. "Having said that, however, even when we are facing such limitations as capacity constraints, if anything bothers me, I would really apply myself to it. For example, deciding to have Mario enter a Warp Pipe from the top. Having him cross in front of it from the side wouldn't work.

"I thought it was strange how Mario was already standing there underground when that level begins. Why is Mario, who just passed in front of a castle, standing underground? I couldn't fit in a sequence showing him falling underground, so I decided to have him just plop down from the top of the screen, and-surprisingly-that was just fine. If someone had said, 'You should provide a little more detail here,' it would have turned out differently.

"The restrictions were often a big help. Players were able to imagine the details that weren't put in."

Other interesting tid-bits were Miyamoto remembering a discussion with "my master" Gunpei Yokoi, who in a meeting told the Mario-maker "you're pretty negative." "That really shocked me," Miyamoto said.

"But I wasn't intending to be negative," he added. "I thought about what he might mean and realized that when I think about something, I have a tendency first to draw up a list of what can't be done. For example, when it comes to what can and can't be done with the NES system, it was really important for me to know a lot about what can't be done

"So when I think about something, I draw up a list of everything that won't work. If there's an idea according to which doing one thing means something else won't work, I focus on what won't work. Certainly, that is negative. So which is better, negative or positive? Well, both are important, they need to coexist.

"Someone who only sees the positive is just a blind optimist," he declared.

"And while it's important to know the negative, someone who only talks about what's negative is just a pessimist."

Mario today in Super Mario Galaxy 2.

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Robert Purchese

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Bertie is a synonym for Eurogamer. Writes, podcasts, looks after the Supporter Programme. Talks a lot.