Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Mario Galaxy or how Nintendo Cheats

I finally got around to playing Mario Galaxy after the break. I wasn't allowed to buy it before xmas since it was on my list but then no one bought it for I had to do the honorable thing and borrow it from someone who had already beaten it.

I'm 68 stars in and I'm not sure how much further I'm going to go. I feel like 70'ish is the sweet spot for the game. I feel like I've seen almost everything the game has to offer and after this I'll just be OCD and torturing myself to collect 100 purple coins within 2 minutes. Once I got 60 I went straight to the final boss which definitely could have been better. Instead of adding any new mechanics he's just more or less a homework test. You just do the same thing you did earlier in the game but multiple times in a row. Shrug.

My real problem with the game is I kind of feel like Nintendo cheated with this game. When you make a modern 3d action platformer game there are ALL these problems - camera, level design, level pacing, cohesion, blah blah. With Galaxies I feel like they said, 'ok - instead of trying to solve all these problems lets just remove as many as possible!'

Camera? Well - what are the problems with camera? Walls, collision, etc so lets just get rid of those problems by making the play space spherical! Anytime the world isn't spherical the camera breaks down SUPER fast. The bootleg go into first person mode to look around was a crutch that didn't even work 1/2 the time for me.

Level Design? I could make some comment about how the small worlds keep the fun focused but in all honesty this game has pretty damn good Level Design. Especially the 2d'ish worlds with the gravity going all crazy.

Level Pacing? I think they did kick this one out for sure. Usually going from point A to point B requires keeping the trip fun for the player. Sometimes it's just having level 1 dudes to kill along the way. Mario Galaxy totally gets rids of this problem by jumping from one plane to the next via a star. The problem I have with this is most of the time I really don't know where I'm going - I just jump in because there is no where else to go. In some instances it's really hard to go backwards also - in case I didn't have enough star bits for the first section and needed to collect more.

Cohesion? This one is a double edged sword. I really do like this game since you are doing something new all the time. At the same time - this game is kind of exhausting because you are doing something new! Galaxy feels very much like Mario and Wario Ware combined. Maybe this design choice was more telling of how popular the DS is and how to make this game feel like a portable game? shrug. While I was excited to get the next star it was only really my curiosity that made me push on. I felt like I could have stopped almost anywhere in the game and not have regretted it. Maybe thats part of the charm? Not sure.

The biggest problem I have with the game is the overall lack of exploration. In mario64 you could enter a world and maybe have immediate access to 4 of the 6 stars. In Galaxy I felt like I deviated from what they wanted me to do maybe once...maybe twice. I'm no longer exploring the level that they have given me - I'm just along for the ride. I hella forget how Sunshine handled this to be honest.

After that it really bums me out that Nintendo can't figure out how to do swimming in 3d. The swimming were by far the worst fucking levels. That and 'spring' mario. The flowers - ice and fire sucked being on a timer also. There was really no need for it.

There are a couple of other nitpicking things I didn't like about the game - how long it takes after you get a star to get back to the same level to get the next star. Along with why are there even lives? I played once for about 4 hours straight and had 40'ish lives saved up. Saved the game for dinner and when I started back up I only had what is it? 4 or 5? Whatever you start off with. Thanks....

That being said I think they did a really good job of taking complex shapes in 3d space and really simplifying it and while still making it fun. I think the game is a definite must play but I wouldn't give it 10 out of 10.


Anonymous said...

A few of the purple coins are torture, but some of them are great. A very mixed bag.

Most of your complaints are valid but calling novel solutions to things "cheating" is sort of backwards in my view.

I just finished GOW2. The camera in that is awful. Some of the chest placement in the game (like the two near the two big bells towards the end) are actually *based* on the fact that the camera is annoying.

I agreed with all the changes you said you were making in GOW2 in posts here, but when I played it I found that other than L1 + [] being useful the changes were all neutral or for the worse.

I'm curious about a lot of decisions that were made. Most of the special attacks are still basically useless since you can't cancel them, some moves were removed, air combos seem harder for a variety of reasons, etc.

Anonymous said...

Yes, GOW 2 had its fair share of problems. The fixed camera was a perfect example of avoiding having to implement a true user-controlled camera.

Cory Barlog said...



You openly talk about flaws in Nintendo games and you are not bombarded with venomous posts!

2 freaking slightly negative comments. I am disappointed and I say Boo to you sir.

I will now tell you that you suck. And you speak negatively of the Big N because you are insecure about your total inadequacy when standing before the design greatness that is ALL Nintendo games. they do no wrong sir...and you would be wise to quickly understand that or I will post more anonymous words of hate and bile.


this isn't anonymous.

errr...wait...I take it all back. GoW was kewl. And that new Hannah Montana game you are working on is roxerz.

Good to see you the other day man.


Anonymous said...

"The fixed camera was a perfect example of avoiding having to implement a true user-controlled camera."

Now there's irony.

Oh, hi Derek! - Phil

Cory Barlog said...

Oh and another thing.

The male main character in your last game was a perfect example of avoiding implementing a true female main character.

And the name of your blog, low fierce, is a perfect example of avoiding implementing a true high fierce blog.

That's why I hate you.

insomnia sucks.


Anonymous said...

An intelligent camera combined with optional player control would have been the best solution. However it would also have meant building more of the levels so everything can be viewed from all angles.

Anonymous said...

Ruh-roh... Cory has gone mad.

Cory, the reason you got flak is that your criticism was poor. Mario doesn't really need a story, the storybook in Mario Galaxy is actually very well-done, and the plot of GOW2 is pretty bad so you don't have a leg to stand on there.

I don't think anyone can argue that some of the purple coins in Galaxy aren't annoying. And the camera points are fair in some ways - I didn't have big problems with the angles but the camera control is odd in general in that often times it isn't available.

Galaxy is also very on-rails compared to 64, a perfectly valid observation.

Also people in charge will just get flak...that's life.

I'm curious about the GOW2 combat changes because here Derek posted his rationale for making changes and it was spot-on, but to me it seems that something was lost in translation.

Derek Daniels said...

Wowsers - I claim Mario Galaxy isn't perfect and I get GoW2 attacks and Cory 'fucking' Barlog! People take shit so damn personal these days.

anonymous #1 guy: What would you like to know about gow2 combat specifically? I'm not going to go through the laundry list of things that were changed hoping I pick up on what you are interested in. But whatever you would like to know, I'll try my best to answer.

anonymous #2 guy: I personally think user controlled camera is a fucking crutch to the 3d camera problem. There is no need to force the player to both play the game and frame it at the same time. Fixed camera wasn't avoiding the problem, it was trying to fix the problem.

cory: Miley Cyrus does own me, I can't lie. I'm really looking forward to her singing, 'achey breaky heart' so I can use it as my ringtone for when you call me.

Phil: hope everything is going well for you, cheers.

anonymous #7: feel free to ask away as well.

Margalis said...

(Anonymous poster reveals his true form!)

Specific questions:

1. It feels harder to do air combos in general, due to a couple of things. For one the new L1 + X launcher feels slower to me than the old one, and also appears in the game later. (I think) Second some of the physics seem a bit different. Third the enemies are more aggressive in general. Fourth many enemies (like the minotaurs with the flaming clubs and the big armored guys) can't be launched. I found myself using air combos are lot less overall.

2. The special moves still seem mostly useless for the same reason they were before -- you can't cancel them with rolling or blocking. The L1 + O seems particularly bad as it is really long and tends to be off-axis and whiff later hits. (L1 + [] is situationally useful)

3. A combination of new enemies and camera angles makes it harder to tell when enemies are trying to attack you. When I'm surrounded by the new generic enemies (the red and white guys) or skeletons it's very hard for me to tell what is going on and I revert to randomly rolling and blocking while pecking away.

4. The auto-combo where you press [] a couple times then hold it had a lot more oomph in GOW1 with the big clear-out whip at the end. The new one feels less satisfying and the run afterwards seems pretty useless.

5. The upkick you could do from a roll is removed, I thought it was pretty fun.

I played GOW1 in a pretty technical style, developing damaging combos for each enemy type. I find in GOW2 I just spam [] and roll around a lot, due to a combo of enemies, encounter design and combat. Also GOW2 seems easier, I wasn't forced to develop good tactics because spamming [] was good enough.

GOW1 had some quirks, like the incredibly annoying L1+[] that I only used by accident, but overall it almost feels like GOW1 is the sequel as far as combat is concerned as GOW2 just feels more button-mashery.

Anonymous said...

My point about the camera is not condemning a smart fixed camera. I wish more games had those. I just take issue with the fact there isn't the *option* of taking control when desired. There are always moments in games where it's desirable to take camera control, from surveying a different angle on your jump, to just appreciating the gorgeous graphics. Not having such control just feels outdated.

DavidSurman said...

Dude I compared your notes on SMG to the Cursor*10 flash game:

:) Happy New Year!

omar kendall said...

My Mario Galaxy is still in plastic.

I played Tekken 6 the other day. It plays like Tekken.

Derek Daniels said...

Margalis: Thanks for revealing your true identity!

I was going to write a response to all your questions but I talked with Eric Williams and he said he was going to write something on his blog about cancelling so I think I might hold off to answer everything.

I'll take a stab at #5 though since it's easy to explain. When it comes to making videogames there is only so much memory to work with. Either physical disk space or whats being loaded up in the game at any one time.

With GoW2 Kratos was remodeled by Louis Lu and the textures took up more space then the one done originally by Erik San Juan. This made the model look better then how he did in GoW1. San Juan would have used bigger textures in part 1 if he could have, we ran into memory limitations with that game also.

So in part 2 - textures go up in size along with a few new things that Kratos received such as Icarus Wings, Time Stop, particles for the Golden Fleece, etc. So without taking any animations into account Kratos went up in size. There is only so much room to work with and I do believe the size was 2mb. I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong.

So the reason why roll into flash kick was taken out is two fold. One, because Kratos was in the pose that he was in (imagine looking at a vertical line head on) we cheated as much as we could on the collision but he still didn't hit fools half the time. A LOT of people missed the enemy.

Second - the way the animation compression was done, when the chains are extended there can be no compression. So we had this move that didn't hit and took up a lot of room.

So it got replaced by something that we thought was fun, took up less room and tried to show off his character more.

Not a sexy answer but a truthful answer nonetheless.

Oh and to touch slightly on #1 - are you sure you aren't just remembering GoW1 with rose colored glasses so to speak? I think the concept of air combat completely breaks down in that game rather quickly. Maybe around Pandora. There was an actual system implemented for the enemies to block specific attacks and the launcher was one of the first things put on that list.

David Surman: I hadn't played Cursor*10 yet (i knew it existed, just hadn't played it yet) but after reading your article I gave it a shot. Good read!

Omar: Did you play bob? I'll be disappointed if you did not.

Margalis said...

Hmm thanks...I played GOW pretty recently so I don't think I am misremembering.

It's tough to pin down because the changes in combat bleed into enemy types and scenario design. In GOW2 it seems like fewer enemies can be launched.

In GOW1 I whored out the L1+X move quite a bit throughout the entire game.

I look forward to reading about cancelling. It seems to me that for the most part un-cancellable moves just aren't very good. I know some people came up with "bow-cancelling" in GOW2 as a way around this but I'm too lazy to do that.

Anonymous said...

I think going spherical wasn't cheating with the camera system, I think it was brilliant and it fit the "galaxy" word they created.

I read your galaxy review and drake's review and I have to come out and say your commenting from a hardcore gamers perspective which you are and thats great, but I'd like to hear the other side to that.

I'd like to hear if you thought the things they simplified like only being able to get 1 star at a time is a step forward or back in making the game fun to the audience the game is made for.

Feels like you have something against making a game accessible and not confusing to the majority of gamers that actually play the game. With every positive comment you had to follow it with a little venom. Is it just because its a Nintendo game not a Sony one? Your Drake review feels like you liked Drake better saying it was a top 5 game of year and you only say galaxy is worth playing.

I'm a designer as well and I think its important to make my own opinion of the game which you did but also put myself in whoevers shoe it is that loves that game and figure out what it is that makes it tick and then I learn so much more. If I don't then I'm just making a game for myself to feel good.

Anonymous said...

Derek here but I'm on a business trip and don't have my computer with me.

I'm not sure why you are trying to put me in some sony fanboy group. First of all - I don't work for sony. While I did like Uncharted if I was making a group of awards for games in 2007 it would fall into the category of, 'Games that I thought would suck but didn't'

I didn't include Mario into that group simply because I played it 2008, shrug. I realize it came out in 2007 but my mind puts it in 2008. Oh well.

I feel like some people didn't understand what I meant by 'cheated'. I didn't realize this until after I posted but oh well. I wasn't trying to imply 'cheat' as a negative thing. In fact I was actually commending them for coming up with workarounds to problems. I think they did an amazing job! I meant 'cheated' in the sense that no other game can really come out and do the same workarounds that they did.

You think that I have something making an accessible game? Come the fuck on?! I helped make God of War 1 and 2!! One of the most accessible action adventure games out there. Our mantra the entire time while making the game was:

Anything a pro can do, a scrub can do but only 80% as well.

If I had to guess you are a new designer which isn't a bad thing. Hopefully whatever you are working on turns out to be a fun and accessible game.

omar kendall said...

I want to make games accessible, but only to people who love Virtua Fighter. Or Ico.

Derek: No Bob was played. I only got a few matches in (as Ling) because my boss is some sort of Soul Calibur freak and forced me to beat him up on it all the time. Apparently the arcade we went to is the arcade of choice for top players in Osaka (we found the arcade by checking the high score section in the back of Arcadia).

I got pwned like a newb in Tekken, and held my own in VF. Only me and my boss were playing Soul Calibur, so not much to say there (except, of course, that Soul Calibur sucks).

Oh yeah, and while checking out the screen, I noticed that Daigo is currently the #10 best Tekken 6 player in the country (accordig to points), and that he plays Mokujin - pimp! Backdashing ftw.

Maj said...

I would post in this thread to say that i also think Mario Galaxy is 18 times more interesting than Uncharted - based on owning neither console and having played neither game. But nobody posted in the Uncharted thread so disregard kthxbye.

Derek Daniels said...


Eric updated his blog

Anonymous said...

"Feels like you have something against making a game accessible and not confusing to the majority of gamers that actually play the game."


Anonymous said...

"If I had to guess you are a new designer which isn't a bad thing. Hopefully whatever you are working on turns out to be a fun and accessible game."

Harsh burn

Anonymous said...

hello, i was on #capcom irc asking some advice on indie game development and a fmjag pointed me to your website. we were discussing what does it really mean to be a "game designer." a lot of people on there pointed out game designers were useless and didn't do much besides come up with ideas and were the least technical people out there, that's why they are "designers." there were some programmers on the channel that pretty much said game desigers are a "vague" role.

i'm trying to get into a game design program and it's discouraging to here this.

Anonymous said...

Ok well I can only imagine that in the "indie" game scene, whatever that is (I imagine it is like when I read a forum amd someone is posting how they are making a videogame in their house based on the Quake source and how they need programmers and artists, but they are full on "designers") "designers" are probably 99-100% useless. A "real" game designer is not (in my experience) a guy who simply comes up with some ideas and expects other people to make it happen...any moron can do that. A true designer understands the inner workings of the mechanics of gameplay and story and level design and how these things interact with each other to create a compelling experience that satisfies the broadest number of people possible.

The people in this post (Derek, Omar, Corey, Eric, etc.) are all very close friends of mine AND brilliant designers because they are interested in not only games in general, but what makes them fun at the core. They are also VERY technically inclined (bordering on being programmers for all intents and purposes) and implement much of the actual content that goes into their games.
I don't know of any designer that simply sits around and tells people what to program or animate because their vision is so amazing (the super high up execs frequently do this but we generally ignore them :P) but man, that would be a cushy job and if anyone has an offer for me doing that I have an updated resume all ready to go.
In any case, tell #capcom to go suck a dick and pursue your dream of being a game designer if that is what you want to be, but it is a much different career than you probably think! Learn a little programming, learn how to use 3DSMax and/or Maya and above all, disect every game you play and try to figure out why things are done the way they are.

P.S. - Derek, Sega does, Nintendon't!

Anonymous said...

I also work in the industry and I can tell you that there are a lot of designers are lazy hacks who don't have skills in any particular area. HOWEVER there are also the really talented guys who get down and dirty with scripting, technical issues in the game and the inner mechanics. It's a tough job as it's easy for the lazy to BS their way through a design job and those that work hard often don't get the respect they deserve. Personally, I think the title itself is wrong. We have level builders, scripters, camera experts, people who understand combat and even people who design UI and menu navigation all under a 'designer' tag which is outdated and doesn't represent the myriad of tasks people do on the games.