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Xeodrifter diary #12

GN Podcast #479
 

Sakuai discusses the grueling nature of creating a Smash Bros. game

Coming from the most recent Famitsu feature with Masahiro Sakurai.

"When you think about three years (of Brawl development) like that, that's the amount of time between entering middle or high school and graduating from it [in Japan]. You have all these people working their fingers to the bone to complete just a single project. The games I make tend to be played for a long time, and whether I'm satisfied with the results or there are things I'm not happy with, it always takes a lot of time to make them.

Every time, you know, I try to the point where I think I can't go on any longer. For example, I think pretty much the limit when it comes to creating characters for a Smash Bros. is about 20, counting those from older games. We remake them completely each time, after all, and the teams and personnel and specs are all different. But we all go beyond what the work calls for because we want to do our best to retain fans of each character.

The Brawl team really put in a great effort. They remade all the original characters and added 18 completely new ones! Even with Melee before that, that game has over twice as many characters as the original. And that doesn't include online support and the assorted other features we've taken pains to complete under difficult circumstances. But the players don't know about how hard we work. That's not a problem because that's the case for any product, but it's important to remember that you can't take anything for granted.

Projects take a while, and you run into difficult and painful times. Some people have to bow out of it. To be honest, I've sometimes thought about what I'm earning for myself, going through all this life-changing struggle. But the pain I feel at the time goes away over time, and yet the game itself always remains. Players talk about the fun and so forth behind the game for years to come, and they still play it.

Oftentimes I'm asked by the overseas media if I feel any pressure when making a title like Smash Bros. Like I've written before, on a personal level, I don't feel anything like pressure. It's really fun work. Sometimes you have to resign yourself to the fact that things will work out the way they're meant to work out. But you need to funnel your regrets to the next project and work as hard as you can on that. The pain goes away, but your work always remains."

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29 total comments (View all)
User avatar
09 Aug 2013 03:10

@TheBitBlock You tell wrong. Animations of a character model can be ported, as well as the values for movesets and other stuff. But it takes more than that. Probably the program they used for Melee was dated at the time and the files couldn't be compatible, then they wouldn't be ported. And even if some files were ported, there's also are other steps in making characters, such as character designing, planning, doing the models, giving them skeletons, textures, then with programming they have to give them physics, values, animations. And there's also the Final Smash animations, some characters change drastically when using a Final Smash. And the same goes for the transition from Smash 64 to Melee, it's a big leap of a difference right there. And you have to consider it's not the same staff that works on the games each time.
No Avatar
09 Aug 2013 03:42

well a solution to those problems would be to stick with the same team ! but he's too involved he's practically making everything , i wish he could oversee to two teams at the same time

the transition between those games were quite long so no i don't think it would have been easy to port the animation, especially since those were two different team, and now again it's another team . Obviously sf x tekken reused the sf characters , but it's the same generation, it's the fourth iteration of the engine or something.
In any case, i am all for saying that even with years behind , games are all a little light on content but at some point the truth is yeah that's all they could do . Also i'm fed up with the thought that anything none fpsey is not worthy because they didn't put as much work . I really can't understand what is it that those shooters studio do to put out the same game every month .
User avatar
09 Aug 2013 04:10

In the many years I have been following gaming news, Sakurai is the ONLY developer I've seen complaining so dramatically about his job at all. And it's not like he's doing it just this once.. he complains like this on an increasingly regular basis.

I mean, I love that he's a passionate, dedicated worker, but he comes off like he wants to be pitied and pampered, or like he's fed up with trying. His complaints are very over the top - or his attitude when viewing his hurdles is.

You would think his focus in interviews would be more about how elated he was to be working on such a megaton sort of project containing so many beloved and wonderful characters. He doesn't ever seem to really talk like that. He never seems like he loves making Smash Bros.

Almost makes me wonder if the series would flourish more with a director who was less focused on groaning about working on the games and was instead actually enjoying it.

I should note that he does toss in a comment about the work being 'fun', but none of his verbose descriptions of how hard it is paint that picture of him having fun at all.
User avatar
09 Aug 2013 04:42

Tendonin wrote:"For example, I think pretty much the limit when it comes to creating characters for a Smash Bros. is about 20, counting those from older games."

This is a blatant contradiction, as Sakurai goes on to emphasize in the next paragraph. Why is it that Sakurai always ends up with the most awkward and misleading translations? Is there some nuance of the Japanese language I'm not getting here?



This exactly, he then goes on about how the team created 18 new characters for Brawl. So maybe he says he personnaly thinks 20 characters is about right for a SB game but they always end up doing more. Or maybe he's saying the team should not have to create more than 20 NEW characters for each game, in which case there would be a translation problem.

But it certainly is a blatant contradiction. And now watch the internet being set on fire by fanboys/ragers/haters/illetrates because Sakurai said there would be only 20 characters in SB4. Dumb gamers are dumb. Bad journalism is bad. What can we do really.
User avatar
09 Aug 2013 07:54

@RustyCage
Sometimes you complain about things you DO like, but you love them anyway. Just ask any married couple :P
User avatar
09 Aug 2013 09:09

BigLord wrote:@RustyCage
Sometimes you complain about things you DO like, but you love them anyway. Just ask any married couple :P


that..... is entirely true ^_^'
User avatar
09 Aug 2013 09:39

I personally appreciate the fact Sakurai's brutally honest about game development and how you literally dedicate years of your life to certain projects and how on some days your hand is an inch away from grabbing a flask or a gun. If he didn't like it, he wouldn't do it and I'm glad that he doesn't try to delude us that its all sunshines and rainbows like 95% of college freshmen who go into game development/art/film think it will be.
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Anonymous
09 Aug 2013 12:03

RustyCage wrote:In the many years I have been following gaming news, Sakurai is the ONLY developer I've seen complaining so dramatically about his job at all. And it's not like he's doing it just this once.. he complains like this on an increasingly regular basis.

I mean, I love that he's a passionate, dedicated worker, but he comes off like he wants to be pitied and pampered, or like he's fed up with trying. His complaints are very over the top - or his attitude when viewing his hurdles is.

You would think his focus in interviews would be more about how elated he was to be working on such a megaton sort of project containing so many beloved and wonderful characters. He doesn't ever seem to really talk like that. He never seems like he loves making Smash Bros.

Almost makes me wonder if the series would flourish more with a director who was less focused on groaning about working on the games and was instead actually enjoying it.

I should note that he does toss in a comment about the work being 'fun', but none of his verbose descriptions of how hard it is paint that picture of him having fun at all.


I agree. I usually do not get a very positive vibe from his comments. How about instead of "online is so hard to implement" you talk about how much better you think the play experience will be and how online will impact that?
User avatar
09 Aug 2013 12:27

Smash Bros became one of my favorite Nintendo franchises. Tremendously fun and entertaining, but man I have a hard time liking the man responsable for it... He just makes everything sound so tedious, not to mention his weird logic on some of his choices.
User avatar
09 Aug 2013 12:39

TheBitBlock wrote:I don't get what he means by totally remaking the characters each time. They port over animations and move sets for most of the lineup from what I can tell.


I think he means in a programming sense, maybe. As all character usually change in how much they damage and knock off.
User avatar
09 Aug 2013 13:17

NeroSuferoth wrote:Smash Bros became one of my favorite Nintendo franchises. Tremendously fun and entertaining, but man I have a hard time liking the man responsable for it... He just makes everything sound so tedious, not to mention his weird logic on some of his choices.


Yeah... let's not add costumes because... it isn't like everybody wants those!

Yeah, I am really nervous that Sakurai is just gonna be lazy with SSB4. Seriously, why doesn't he want many more characters, when that is what everyone wants most in a Smash Bros game? I mean, at least don't let the 3DS version hold back the Wii U version.
User avatar
09 Aug 2013 14:56

RustyCage wrote:In the many years I have been following gaming news, Sakurai is the ONLY developer I've seen complaining so dramatically about his job at all. And it's not like he's doing it just this once.. he complains like this on an increasingly regular basis.

I mean, I love that he's a passionate, dedicated worker, but he comes off like he wants to be pitied and pampered, or like he's fed up with trying. His complaints are very over the top - or his attitude when viewing his hurdles is.

You would think his focus in interviews would be more about how elated he was to be working on such a megaton sort of project containing so many beloved and wonderful characters. He doesn't ever seem to really talk like that. He never seems like he loves making Smash Bros.

Almost makes me wonder if the series would flourish more with a director who was less focused on groaning about working on the games and was instead actually enjoying it.

I should note that he does toss in a comment about the work being 'fun', but none of his verbose descriptions of how hard it is paint that picture of him having fun at all.

He is just the only one really speaking up. Making games is really a very hard job. What helps is the attitude that everyone has to take that job in a playful way. The job is hard, but we joke and do stupid things so much that it doesn't quite feel that way. When you see "Behind the scene" videos showing devs doing silly things, well we do this off-camera too, but we also hit our head on the walls to solve problems we can't get through or that shouldn't even exist. And every other dev I've talked with told me the same thing. They don't talk about it because, hey, that's the way the things are, nothing will change that.
Hell, I've heard that many programmers quit quite early (as early as mid twenties), going on to work on easier projects in non-gaming developpement, with better work conditions and more time to see their families.

Also, as a game developer myself, I'm VERY tired of the HEAVY and gratuitous use of the word "lazy", like VERY VERY much! PLEASE STOP! That is quite insulting, even if the words isn't directed at me. Thank you.
User avatar
09 Aug 2013 15:04

@Elfteiroh
You're a game developer? Awesome, be my friend<3

Also, yes, Sakurai complains a lot. He's just brave enough to do that. He obviously loves and cares about Smash a lot, and I am very sure he really wanna work on it. ^^
User avatar
09 Aug 2013 16:59

MasterofMonster wrote:@Elfteiroh
You're a game developer? Awesome, be my friend<3

Also, yes, Sakurai complains a lot. He's just brave enough to do that. He obviously loves and cares about Smash a lot, and I am very sure he really wanna work on it. ^^

Well, right now I'm more of a "Graduate looking for a job", but yeah, I have made games and plan to make this my career. :P
User avatar
09 Aug 2013 17:05

Elfteiroh wrote:
MasterofMonster wrote:@Elfteiroh
You're a game developer? Awesome, be my friend<3

Also, yes, Sakurai complains a lot. He's just brave enough to do that. He obviously loves and cares about Smash a lot, and I am very sure he really wanna work on it. ^^

Well, right now I'm more of a "Graduate looking for a job", but yeah, I have made games and plan to make this my career. :P


Well, that's cool enough. ^^ Also, guess this is off topic. But, I'd love to talk more, if you want. *nods at Signature*

Ahem, on topic then.

I Think Sakurai himself makes it much tougher than it needs to be. He seems to really have to stress and work seriously hard. Of course, making games is Always stressful and hard, but... he seems to make it worse (without making the game worse). Maybe Sakurai should be careful next time to not make him do it so suddenly. XD
User avatar
09 Aug 2013 17:43

MasterofMonster wrote:*SNIP*

Well, that's cool enough. ^^ Also, guess this is off topic. But, I'd love to talk more, if you want. *nods at Signature*

Ahem, on topic then.

I Think Sakurai himself makes it much tougher than it needs to be. He seems to really have to stress and work seriously hard. Of course, making games is Always stressful and hard, but... he seems to make it worse (without making the game worse). Maybe Sakurai should be careful next time to not make him do it so suddenly. XD

Oh, yeah, I agree, as much as it's hard, as much as he seems to make it even harder for himself by overdoing it. But yeah, the pic of him playing two characters at the same time by himself? I played two characters in a LAN multiplayer shooter by myself to test the network on a game I made for school. Thank god for dual screens! This is really common for devs. :P

*Off topic*
Haha, yeah, I'm ok with that. It may take some time to reply to some messages as I'm pretty busy at time, but usually I try to hop on the computer at least once a day to read GoNintendo. :P
User avatar
09 Aug 2013 19:50

RustyCage wrote:In the many years I have been following gaming news, Sakurai is the ONLY developer I've seen complaining so dramatically about his job at all. And it's not like he's doing it just this once.. he complains like this on an increasingly regular basis.

I mean, I love that he's a passionate, dedicated worker, but he comes off like he wants to be pitied and pampered, or like he's fed up with trying. His complaints are very over the top - or his attitude when viewing his hurdles is.

You would think his focus in interviews would be more about how elated he was to be working on such a megaton sort of project containing so many beloved and wonderful characters. He doesn't ever seem to really talk like that. He never seems like he loves making Smash Bros.

Almost makes me wonder if the series would flourish more with a director who was less focused on groaning about working on the games and was instead actually enjoying it.

I should note that he does toss in a comment about the work being 'fun', but none of his verbose descriptions of how hard it is paint that picture of him having fun at all.

god forbid some transparency here and there. years of interviews just like this from all over the industry have told me that game development can be and often is a grueling, difficult process. Sakurai, whose part in the development cycle for this game has been especially tough due to his wrist issues and the nature of this project, is just sharing with people his experiences developing this game. 'Tough' isn't quite the only way he's described it over the last couple of years but if it is really tough for him (and I wager it is) then it's not that big a deal for him to speak up about it and inform gamers and prospective developers rather than hide behind smiling pr bastards
User avatar
11 Aug 2013 22:40

BigLord wrote:@RustyCage
Sometimes you complain about things you DO like, but you love them anyway. Just ask any married couple :P


I'm married with no complaints. :p haha

I do see where you're coming from though. That's a fair point.
User avatar
11 Aug 2013 22:46

Elfteiroh wrote:
He is just the only one really speaking up. Making games is really a very hard job. What helps is the attitude that everyone has to take that job in a playful way. The job is hard, but we joke and do stupid things so much that it doesn't quite feel that way. When you see "Behind the scene" videos showing devs doing silly things, well we do this off-camera too, but we also hit our head on the walls to solve problems we can't get through or that shouldn't even exist. And every other dev I've talked with told me the same thing. They don't talk about it because, hey, that's the way the things are, nothing will change that.
Hell, I've heard that many programmers quit quite early (as early as mid twenties), going on to work on easier projects in non-gaming developpement, with better work conditions and more time to see their families.

Also, as a game developer myself, I'm VERY tired of the HEAVY and gratuitous use of the word "lazy", like VERY VERY much! PLEASE STOP! That is quite insulting, even if the words isn't directed at me. Thank you.


Well, firstly, I should point out that I never used the word 'lazy', so don't get me wrong here.

I've worked on several amateur game projects before as a spriter, concept artist, and idea guy. My best friend was heavy into coding, which is a nightmare I've dabbled in too. It's absolutely not easy. But you know what? Despite the headache, we were happy about what we were doing (even though we never completed any of our projects for a number of unfortunate reasons). We felt -energetic-. The complaints were an afterthought.

Sakurai isn't lazy. I even said in my post you quoted that I respect his dedication (including testing with a sprained/broken hand). The problem is that he comes off like he doesn't love what he's doing, or appreciate the fans or the blessing of amazing franchises he has to work with.
User avatar
11 Aug 2013 22:51

Darth Vader wrote:
god forbid some transparency here and there.


I never said there was anything wrong with transparency, or with him talking about his struggles. What I said was that he mostly seems to be focused on talking about negative things, and I haven't personally seen many (if any) interviews where he seemed like he was -truly- enjoying what he was making.

He mostly comes across as bitter and sometimes snooty about things, even down to the fact that some dedicated fans prefer not to use items. Way over the top. The options are there for anyone to play how they like to play, and yet.. he gets on this little campaign about how they aren't playing the game the way he wants people to. Even rubbed it in with a joking insult on the Dojo during Brawl's development, saying, "REAL MEN USE ITEMS." :p

Maybe I've missed all the 'happy' interviews, but I've yet to see a single one where he doesn't come off angry or pessimistic.

Odd coming from the guy who created Kirby of all things...
User avatar
12 Aug 2013 01:50

^^Eh, don't worry. We'll have one day the Iwata Asks interview and he'll be (laughing) all happily... with Iwata.
User avatar
12 Aug 2013 05:15

RustyCage wrote:*SNIP*

Well, firstly, I should point out that I never used the word 'lazy', so don't get me wrong here.

I've worked on several amateur game projects before as a spriter, concept artist, and idea guy. My best friend was heavy into coding, which is a nightmare I've dabbled in too. It's absolutely not easy. But you know what? Despite the headache, we were happy about what we were doing (even though we never completed any of our projects for a number of unfortunate reasons). We felt -energetic-. The complaints were an afterthought.

Sakurai isn't lazy. I even said in my post you quoted that I respect his dedication (including testing with a sprained/broken hand). The problem is that he comes off like he doesn't love what he's doing, or appreciate the fans or the blessing of amazing franchises he has to work with.

Oh, yeah, I wasn't speaking of you for the lazy thing. I should have been clearer. :/ Sorry.
User avatar
12 Aug 2013 15:14

No complaints? Pfft, lies.

I love Sakurai but he makes some stupid decisions with Smash... Like why does Mario still have FLUDD? =S
User avatar
12 Aug 2013 15:18

Swedish_Otaku wrote:No complaints? Pfft, lies.

I love Sakurai but he makes some stupid decisions with Smash... Like why does Mario still have FLUDD? =S


Because FLUDD is awesome. ^^ Well, he's not that good in Smash, but still awesome.

Plus, seeing Mario use him in the Mario vs Megaman battle, it seems it's gotten a good boost (and it looks like you can actually walk a Little when using it).
User avatar
12 Aug 2013 16:46

led-naruto wrote:^^Eh, don't worry. We'll have one day the Iwata Asks interview and he'll be (laughing) all happily... with Iwata.


I hope you're right. I don't mean to come off like I dislike Sakurai or his work. It's quite the opposite; I want to see him and Smash in healthy, happy condition. That means good things for everybody, players and developers alike. His apparent attitude since Brawl has me concerned though.

If Sakurai isn't enjoying this, it might be better for both his prosperity and the series' prosperity if he just passed the torch. Miyamoto passed the torch on Zelda which freed him up to do other things, and I feel Aonuma is a very worthy successor. (Hidemaro Fujibayashi directed Skyward Sword, so Aonuma's record is still intact imo. :p )

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