Iwata Asks About Smash Bros.
First job will be to port basics of Smash Bros. X to 3DS and Wii U.
Back when Nintendo first announced the opening of Masahiro Sakurai's Project Sora studio, CEO Satoru Iwata held an Iwata Asks column with Sakurai. Sakurai is back in the Iwata Asks hot seat at the Project Sora site. This time, Iwata is asking him about Smash Bros., which was announced at E3 for both 3DS and Wii U.
The interview was conducted prior to the Smash Bros. announcement -- on May 11, actually, the exact two year anniversary of the opening of the Project Sora office. The main focus of the column appears to be a job solicitation for the project, but Sakurai did provide a few hints about what to expect from the new game.
Kicking off the session, Iwata told readers that by the time they're reading the interview, he and Sakurai would be in Los Angeles for E3 where Project Sora's second title following Kid Icarus Uprising would be announced. Sakurai corrected him, saying that Iwata would actually be announcing the second and third project.
Internal talk about creating a new Smash Bros. first started a bit after the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl on Wii in 2008. This was about the time Nintendo first asked Sakurai to make a 3DS game. Iwata realized that fans would want a new Smash Bros. for the 3DS, but he was unsure if it would be okay to ask Sakurai to make another Smash Bros. immediately following Brawl.
They ended up deciding to make Kid Icarus Uprising as Project Sora's first game, with sights set on making Smash Bros. as the second game. The idea was to build up experience with the 3DS through the first game.
Gathering developers from scratch is difficult, said Sakurai. They did do this for Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but for that game, they told the developers that they'd be working on Smash Bros. Project Sora began assembling staff under the guise of creating a mystery project that would be headed up by Sakurai. At the time of the solicitation notice, the planning for Kid Icarus Uprising was already under way, and the game was known to be a a shooting game for the 3DS. But these were things that could not be revealed publicly, of course. The idea that Smash Bros. would be the studio's second title was also kept secret even from the incoming staff. It's something that only Iwata and Sakurai knew.
When Iwata first mentioned the development of Wii U to Sakurai, it seems that Sakurai immediately realized that they'd need to make Smash Bros. for both platforms. Iwata had actually intended to ask him if he'd like to make the game for 3DS or for Wii U.
Sakurai had actually begun thinking about what he'd do with the next Smash Bros. while he worked on Kid Icarus. He felt that it would be wrong to make a mere extension of Super Smash Bros. Melee (GameCube) and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. He did not feel that it would be right to just increase the volume, adding 50 characters or doubling the stages for instance. He also felt it would be wrong to just improve the visuals. This is why he felt that selecting to make the game for the console just because it would have greater performance would be wrong.
Making a portable version had its appeal for him, as they'd be able to do a number of new things. At the same time, there would be limits, as they'd be handicapped in some areas when it comes to offering the usual enjoyment areas of Smash Bros.
Specifically, Sakurai feels that a portable system makes the game a more "individual" experience in that, compared to a console, it's easier to make players attached to the data that they've built up and collected. The fact that you're carrying the hardware with you makes for a more personal experience.
The difficulty here is that the current Smash Bros. games haven't relied on rewards, collecting money or raising your character's level. There's no element of gaining experience to make your character stronger, Iwata noted.
Adding the notion of experience would pose a dilmena, explained Sakurai, as there are some players who would get into such a game, while others would not like it. Iwata added that placing a focus on experience would also make the game lose its instant play quality.
What Sakurai hopes to do is have the 3DS version of Smash Bros. allow players to build up their character through battle and rewards, then take their custom character to the Wii U version to face off against everyone. He feels it could be nice if they can make the "personal" portable space and the stadium-like "public" console space mesh together.
Iwata summed it the basic idea nicely: players would spend time on the 3DS version, building up their character and collecting stuff, then show off their skills on the Wii U version.
Sakurai noted that as the Wii U is an HD system, this version could offer 60 frames per second visuals, high quality graphics, dynamic effects, and smooth character movements.
While it is important to have both versions of the game be enjoyable on their own, Sakurai feels that connectivity between the two versions will make the experience even more enjoyable.
Closing off the little section offering vague hints about the new Smash Bros. games, Sakurai said that his aim with the 3DS version is to offer players a slightly different experience from conventional Smash Bros. games. He believes that there is merit in having skilled and unskilled players play together, so one emphasis will be on elements of players helping one-another.
Many of the current staff members from Kid Icarus Uprising will move on to work on Smash Bros. However, because the scale is so big, Project Sora will need to take on new staff. Elsewhere in the column, Sakurai and Iwata went into great depth about the type of staff they're seeking for the game: planners, programmers and designers (artists).
A few points from this section:
Regarding planners, Sakurai noted that he's headed up all areas of game balance and character strength settings for past Smash Bros. This time, he's hoping to leave this area to the staff.
For the programmers, the difficulty is in making two games at once. Sakurai wants to place a focus on smoothly making the basic systems. They will first begin by porting the basic gameplay systems of Smash Bros. X to 3DS and Wii U.
Are you a talented game developer? Then by all means visit the Project Sora page and submit your name to the project! In a closing message in the Iwata Asks column, Sakurai threatened (or possibly joked) that if they can't find appropriate staff, he'll either switch to development on just one platform, or will use a small staff and take five years to make the project.