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Retro’s Kelbaugh/Nintendo’s Tanabe on game development, working with Wii U, more

Posted on March 18, 2014 by (@NE_Brian) in General Nintendo, News, Wii U

IGN has gone live with a new feature about how Retro goes about making Nintendo games. There’s commentary from Retro’s Michael Kelbaugh as well as Nintendo’s Kensuke Tanabe. You can find quotes from both below, and IGN’s full piece here.

Kelbaugh on why Nintendo’s games differ from most of its competitors…

“For a lot of western developers, when an idea comes up that pushes you beyond the scope of the schedule, you automatically say no, whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea. That’s not the Nintendo way. If it’s a good idea, we’ll find time to make it.”

– Kelbaugh believes when people play a Retro Studios game 10 years from now, people will remember a great game and not as a product that shipped on time
– Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze began development shortly after Returns
– Retro first had to think about what the Wii U would be like

Kelbaugh on the tech behind Wii U…

“The Wii U is a powerhouse of technology that we had to transition to. We had brand new tools, brand new engine, brand new everything. There was a lot of unknowns [for us]. From a technology standpoint we’re trying to develop that technology while we’re developing a new game at the same time. That was really challenging.”

– Nintendo producer Kensuke Tanabe observed early on that Retro would focus on finishing design documents as a top priority
– Game would then be made based on that documentation
– This is what a lot of western studios follow, but is different from Nintendo’s prototype-focused approach

“At Nintendo we focus on that main gameplay element and until that is created and determined we don’t move past that step. Until we have that finalized we just repeat that trial and error process over and over again.”

– Nintendo designers begin making the game after the trial and error process
– Team can change direction at any point of the project regardless of the impact on the schedule
– If the change pushes a project over the development period, the mindset would be, ‘Well, we’re going to do it anyway.’

“I believe that it took time for Retro to really get a good understanding of the way that we create games. That mindset that we have going in took them a while to grasp. And of course if you’re a game developer you want to create the game that you want to create. But one thing I can say, at Nintendo what we focus on is what is going to make the customers happy.”

– Tanabe believes there was some resistance in the beginning
– It’s now a major part of Retro today
– Relationship between Retro and Nintendo is a two-way street
– Tanabe admits that Retro has offered insight into what the American gamer wants or likes

“They have really helped close that culture gap for us.”


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