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Nintendo used to design Super Mario levels on graph paper

Screen Shot 2015 06 16 at 11 10 35 AM 600x332

Super fun read on the early days of designing Super Mario from Boing Boing.

As a child, I was obsessed with video game maps. I would pore over them in old issues of Nintendo Power magazine, and even try to recreate the levels of my favorite games block by block on pieces of graph paper. I wasn’t alone. In the early days of the Super Mario franchise, that’s exactly how the folks at Nintendo were designing them.

“Back in the day, we had to create everything by hand,” says Takashi Tezuka in a video promoting the upcoming level design game Super Mario Maker. “To design courses, we would actually one at a time onto these sheets of graph paper. We’d then hand out drawings to the programmers, who would code them into a build.”

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2 Comments

  1. Richard Collins

    I grew up in the 80’s with the zx spectrum. This is what I would spend my spare time doing, using my maths homework book for inventing new levels. Also brings back happy memories of mapping out Manic Minor levels. 🙂

  2. (Richard, I did similar things w/VIC-20 programs 🙂

    Let me suggest that this approach might ultimately have been better for the designs than a more interactive one would have been. Admittedly, I went to school when batch processing was the norm, and even programmed that way for my first few jobs, so that sort of design process was where I started out.

    The one advantage to slow turnaround – and/or having to design things on paper – is that you’re forced to spend time actually thinking through a problem, as opposed to an endless change/rebuild cycle.

    Computer power is cheap nowadays, but it doesn’t replace thinking.

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