August 25th, 2014
The Mario player uses the stick, buttons, and the Wii-mote’s gyro to run and jump their way from the start of a level to the end. The co-star player uses the Wii-mote as a pointer to point to stuff, pick up coins, grab and fire star bits, stun enemies, and execute various contextual actions. The Mario player takes the lead role and the co-star player takes an assist role. Where the Mario player engages with the 3D space surrounding Mario, the co-star engages with 3D space from the first-person perspective. Because the camera’s behaviour is based on Mario’s movements, the co-star player’s viewpoint is subject to the Mario player’s movement.
What this means for gameplay
- Although the two players are playing the same game, they’re engaging with it in entirely different ways. The Mario player is playing a typical game of Mario and the co-star is playing a rail shooter with motion-control aiming.
- Because the co-star can interact with the same world that Mario inhabits, the Mario player must be aware of, and be able to adapt to, any spontaneous actions that the co-star may make. Likewise, the co-star must be ready for any sudden changes in the perspective that result from the Mario player moving about. By interacting in the game world, the two characters organically alter the challenges for one another. This is similar to how the difficulty of New Super Mario Bros. Wii scales with additional players sharing the same space.
- In this way, to play well, the two players need to have a strong understanding of the game system as well as each other in order to predict and prepare for what will happen during play. The greatest joy that I got from playing Super Mario Galaxy 2 was having my wife, who rarely plays video games, come to better understand me as a player, learner, and person through our interactions in the game.
The dynamic relationship and interdependence between the player roles make co-star Mario Galaxy 2 a game about cooperation, communication and understanding. This is not unusual for multiplayer games, but Mario Galaxy 2 does it in a way where experienced and novice players can play together.
August 19th, 2014
Not long after I released Game Design Companion: A Critical Analysis of Wario Land 4 a handful of readers emailed in and gave suggestions for amendments. I’d like to share them here.
Quest Hawthorn had a theory that Aerodent’s biggest weakness is Large Lips because in Japanese “kiss” shares the same sound as a mouse squeaking.
Rowan Divey found a small mistake in Mario and Wario – A Character Comparison:
“You claim that the act of Mario taking away the golden princess statue is an example of Mario going against his do-gooder nature.
However, if you had read the manual for Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land, you would know that the statue had belonged to the mushroom kingdom before Captain Syrup had stolen it, and that Wario was planning on holding the statue for ransom when he had succeeded in obtaining it. Ergo, Mario’s action are not an act of spite, but an act of securing someone’s property before further crimes could be performed with it. This is even discounting the possibility that Mario was aware of Wario’s efforts or presence during that time.
However, it is still an embarrassment for Wario, as his greedy nature sees the inability to obtain any potential material reward as a failure, despite how many rewards he may already have obtained at the time.”
CM30 wanted me to add a bit more context to some sections in the Need to Know chapter:
“Okay, one more thing. On page 70, you talk about the flowers in Wildflower Fields and say:
‘wither up and be attacked for a few loose coins’.
This is technically right, but it’s also a bit misleading. The game actually gives you a different amount of money depending on how long you wait before breaking the flower bud, with the larger ‘bud’ giving the most money and the broken one (which occurs if you wait too long) giving you the least.
You might also want to mention that Robo Bird enemies are one of the very few monsters that actually respawn in this game, which adds another layer of challenge.”
Thanks for the submissions and thanks to everyone who continues to email and tweet in to let me know how the book is helping them better understand games.
August 10th, 2014
Every now and then I come across a great quote that articulates something that’s been sitting in one of the dark corners of my brain, patiently waiting for that light bulb moment of articulation. One of the great things about this game design discussion group that I’m part of (more details here) is that such quotes come regularly. Here is one on games criticism:
“I think a lot of the criticism field is about proving authority through displaying how well you fit in the group. You do this by outward displays of intellectualism, which is easiest to manufacture by taking the simple and rendering it complex enough to justify your college degree. Since today’s game design culture is such a loose world of ideas with very little in the way of concrete knowledge, currying status among the critical community doesn’t mean producing results that others can reproduce and use–it means harnessing intellectual fads and making everyone feel good (read: smart). “Let’s come up with language that is less ambiguous and more concrete so we can more directly describe how games work and how we can do game design better” is actually at odds with this status quo, and thus needs to be said. It’s tempting to see a statement so close to our values and say “well, isn’t that obvious?”–it’s not obvious, though no one will argue the other side of it because admitting that games criticism is primarily a status game would damage the status communication mechanism that is games criticism and provide no benefit to the vast majority of games critics who would prefer to continue their effective status-gaining strategies.
Regardless, there are often kernels of truth and useful information to be gleaned from the needless verbal profusion of games criticism.”
The speaker sums up a lot of the ideas I was forming back in 2007-2008 when I first started writing and interacting in this space. Not much has changed since then and not much will change going forward without a critical language to ground our conversations and communities. What are your thoughts?