When Nintendo 64 launched back in 1996, Nintendo was faced with the daunting task of converting many of their popular franchises from 2D to 3D. The extra dimension allowed for game-changing innovation, but it also created a host of new challenges for Nintendo, and that included rethinking how characters control and interact with the environment.
An old interview with Shigeru Miyamoto (originally featured in a Japanese strategy guide for
Super Mario 64) was recently translated into English for the first time, giving us an inside look at Nintendo’s development process during this transitional period. In the interview, Miyamoto reveals that the team had to shift their thinking with Super Mario 64, as levels designed for precision jumping were proving problematic.
“In the Mario games up to now, we’ve carefully crafted every stage and level down to the individual pixel. Take jumping, for example. Implementing jumping in 3D is really difficult.
“In earlier Mario games, we were able to measure the number of pixels Mario could jump and know exactly what was possible. But this time, we had to design the levels so that as long as your jump was “close enough”, you’d make it; it was too hard for the player to judge. This was a design change we made in the middle of the development, when the game was far already very complete. There was a lot of booing from the staff.”
— Shigeru Miyamoto
The upgrade from 2D to 3D made precision jumping much more challenging, and (despite protests from the development team) Miyamoto felt a change was needed. Given the game’s universal praise, it was probably the right decision.