Why do squids turn into kids, and why are these characters part of a world so inspired by graffiti? Why does A Link Between Worlds have an artist for a villain? Why hasn’t there been a new F-Zero game in so long? What is Doom doing in the headline?
They’re all good questions, and the answer can be found in how Nintendo creates its games. The latest episode of Game Maker’s Toolkit, which you can watch above, explores how Nintendo begins with the gameplay itself, and then moves onto the theme and story in order to justify the characters’ interaction with their world.
So there hasn’t been a new F-Zero because Miyamoto hasn’t found a new mechanic or interaction for the game. “What do you want that we haven’t done before?” he asked in an interview, and it’s a simple but important question. Just more racing, but with better visuals? How do you evolve those ideas?
Squids turn into kids because the idea is that characters would move in and out of ink, and spray that ink as a form of locomotion. Spraying ink on a wall felt like graffiti, and suddenly you have an aesthetic. It seems whimsical and slightly random but, by creating the game’s framing after coming up with that central interaction, Nintendo has found some interesting and unique settings for its games.
A Link Between Worlds features an evil artist because Nintendo had already come up with the idea that Link would turn into a flat painting and had to justify it in the story.
Which brings us to Doom, a game that revolves around its melee mechanic. It always comes back to the melee attack, even for health, and the melee attack is an idea you’re introduced to in the first few minutes of the game. While that idea didn’t inspire the game’s setting — we all know what Doom should look like and what the enemies should be — it focused the action in a way that felt much more pure than competing shooters. It feels great to play, and reviews were overwhelmingly positive.
This is a fascinating look at how Nintendo creates its worlds, and goes a long way to explaining why so many of its characters find themselves in such seemingly random situations. Some artist somewhere or, more likely, teams of them, had to find a some way to explain why this character interacts with the world in that manner, and the rest is history.