11.19.13

Nintendo should listen to these Smash Bros modders

The Smash Brothers tournament community were none-too-happy with the changes Nintendo made to Super Smash Bros. Brawl when it came to Wii, in 2008. So, a team has modded the game to bring it back to its former glory, dedicating “four years and thousand of hours” to the restoration. Called Project M 3.0, the modification addresses a number of concerns that people who play the game at a high level care about: Yoshi can jump out of his shell; Olimar has been rebalanced, his Pikmin powered-up; and so on. There’s one that a Smash layman like myself even cares about: Mewtwo returns!

The point of discussion here is how Nintendo has created a semi-pro level fighter that fans are passionate about, yet they haven’t nurtured that community.  Other companies that make fighters do a great job of listening to input from pro players about how to adjust their games, even hiring them. Not so for Nintendo. To go with a sports comparison, a company like Capcom is the N.F.L., a league that perpetually caters football to titillate fans. Nintendo is closer to F.I.F.A., refusing to kowtow to the demands of an audience who wants to watch a more precise game with instant replay and goal-line technology. 

In the New Yorker’s profile of Shigeru Miyamoto, we were given a insider’s look at how Nintendo goes about interacting with players. The father of Mario borrowed a term used by an empathetic primatologist, kyokan, to study monkeys when describing players. “The developers are the primatologists, the players the monkeys,” the author handily summarized.

More to that point: 

Sometimes the test players complain that there are too many enemies in one stage. And when I approach the designer of that scene with that kind of complaint sometimes he or she says, “Oh, maybe they couldn’t find the stars at the beginning. As soon as they find out that the star makes you invincible, it’s more joy.”

As we see with the consistent quality of Nintendo’s games, this degree of separation between the player and the designer works well the majority of the time. But when it comes to a fighting series that is embraced by dedicated players, it would be wise for them to consider the opinion of expert players.