We sat down and spoke with one of Nintendo's most legendary designers.
Nintendo World Report (NWR): Since you have worked on Yoshi’s Island before, what came from Yoshi’s Island into Yoshi’s Woolly World?
Takashi Tezuka: Well, actually, Yoshi’s New Island and Woolly World were created by separate teams and they were developed in parallel. But I was involved with supervising both projects. And as far as whether we borrowed from one game to the other, or anything like that… No. I mean, no… I guess we can say no. But we have some level design staff in common between the two games’ two developers. And so, as far as people who worked on both games, there’s me and then our two course designers, and so of course we took the know-how from either game into the other in some form.
NWR: Could go into more detail on the Amiibo integration and Miiverse integration into the new game.
Tezuka: Sorry, but we can’t get into details at the moment, but stay tuned.
NWR: Same with Miiverse, or…?
Tezuka: Yeah, Miiverse too.
NWR: Oh, darn.
Tezuka: At least you tried.
NWR: It’s our job. Now while you didn’t work on Kirby’s Epic Yarn, the developer of Woolly World did. There were some people who thought Epic Yarn was a little too easy. Was there any kind of thought process going into developing of the game to maybe make it a little more challenging, or is it still kind of just focused on exploring the world around you and finding all the hidden secrets?
Tezuka: So with Kirby’s Epic Yarn, the difficulty level was set pretty low, for younger players. And so, with Yoshi’s Woolly World, we don’t intend it to be for younger players. And so, when we started with this game, we went in with the idea that we were going to make it Yoshi’s game. It wasn’t going to be a sequel to Kirby’s Epic Yarn. So we really liked the graphics of Epic Yarn, and we wanted to make a Yoshi game in that same style.
NWR: What’s being done differently, as far as Good Feel going from one game to the next? What’s done differently in the Yoshi game to make it more aimed at older gamers, as opposed to younger gamers?
Tezuka: So with Yoshi’s New Island, with Baby Mario on Yoshi’s back, you didn’t really have a real easy way to die right away. But with Yoshi’s Woolly World, it’s kind of like Mario. You can fall into a pit and die, and get hit by enemies and die. So that’s the way it’s made. So because it’s created around that premise, it’s easy to raise the difficulty level as needed. So the courses beyond what we have on the show floor will get more challenging. And if you try to get all the collectibles, you’ll find it pretty challenging. It’ll push back.
NWR: Awesome. One last question on Woolly World before we move on to Mario Maker. We first heard about Woolly World, or I guess Yarn Yoshi, back in the beginning of 2013, and this is the first time we’ve heard about it since then. And it’s not coming out until 2015. Was development just really early when this was first shown, or were there any kind of road blocks along the way that kind of made it slow down at times?
Tezuka: We didn’t have any problems or trouble, not really.
NWR: Switching to Mario Maker, you’ve now had decades of experience doing course design for Mario games. How do you feel about opening up that capability to the general public?
Tezuka: When we create games, we consider the whole course design as being very, very challenging. And the reason is, we have experienced players and inexperienced players, and we want both groups to have a great time. With Mario, if you want to, you can make really, really challenging, difficult courses. And if you aren’t really into action games, you can make something more basic and simple and fun, and you can create courses to fit whatever your need is. You know that part where, as creators, we were focused on creating that challenge level that would appeal to both types of players? Well, we don’t have to worry about that. With this game, it’s taken care of for us.
NWR: As far as the origins of Mario Maker, it seems like it might be somewhat inspired by Mario Paint. But if it was that, it’s been a long time since Mario Paint, so why bring that idea back? And if there were other inspirations to it, what were they?
Tezuka: So actually I was thinking that I wanted to create Mario Paint using the Wii U’s GamePad. And as you know, Mario Paint is a drawing or painting utility. And with that kind of game, the people who seek it out tend to be folks who like drawing and painting. But creating Mario courses is a lot easier than drawing, and easier to get into. So we felt that a lot more people would be willing to jump in and try that. And so, at first I was thinking about doing a new Mario Paint, but then partway through I changed my mind and then thought, alright, let’s turn this Mario Maker into a Mario Paint idea. So what I particularly like about Mario Paint is that it’s not just about drawing, it’s playing with the software itself and having fun with it as you draw. So I wanted to take those fun, clever little things from Mario Paint and implement them in Mario Maker, so it’s a lot more than just a course editor. And so, I made it so you can use your imagination and experiment with lots of things as you make your courses.
NWR: Outside of the Mario Paint influences, how does Mario Maker resemble the level editors that you use internally?
Tezuka: So the Mario course editors that we use internally are a lot more complicated, and your average person wouldn’t really be able to use it. Actually, the idea behind Mario Maker came from our internal tools team. They were working on a prototype for a Mario course editor. And so this tools team, those members don’t make the courses themselves. They just make the tools, and so we had them working on something for us. And so this tools team--you know, those folks who don’t actually create courses--started playing with that and thought it was really fun, so they thought it would be a great game idea. So that’s the story behind how this game came to be. And yes, it is different from what we actually use internally. So once we decided to make it a game, we then thought about making it so that regular people can make courses, and so we focused on making it so you can create and then instantly edit and go back and work on your courses.
NWR: Who is the development team working on Mario Maker? Is it the same people that worked on New Super Mario Bros. games, or is it something different?
Tezuka: OK, so it was the tools team that actually came up with the original idea, but then when we decided to turn it into a game, we went to another group which is made up just a bunch of different people from many different groups. We all don’t work as a group on any one project and then continue on with the same thing. We all come from everywhere.
NWR: Who’s the director on the game, out of curiosity?
Tezuka: The director is a relatively young member of our team, and his name is Mr. (Yosuke) Oshino.
NWR: And is this his first directorial project? What’s his background?
Tezuka: Yes, it is his directorial debut, and he worked on Pikmin, and I forget what else… [laughs]
NWR: I know you probably can’t tell us too much, but would you consider adding an expansion to Mario Maker for Super Mario Bros. USA, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Mario World? Would there be a way to add in so that you can have other 2D Mario styles other than just new and original, specifically from those three titles?
Tezuka: I can’t make any promises, but we are thinking about those things. Our dev team has a lot of ideas for different skins, as we call them, and we’re not sure which ones we want to use at this point.
NWR: You kind of talked about having the fun from Mario Paint in Mario Maker. Would that be a fun that you can kind of do in a like a couch multiplayer setting, as well? Like, multiple people playing together locally, would that be something that could be done with Mario Maker?
Tezuka: So can you describe maybe, what--?
NWR: Like maybe someone using the GamePad to design something while someone else would play on the Wii Remote. Something like that.
Tezuka: In real time? As you’re making, or…?
NWR: Sure. That’d be cool.