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GDC 08: Masahiro Sakurai Talks Brawl at GDC Presentation

At GDC 2008 today, Super Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai gave a presentation regarding the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Brawl for Wii. Check out our summary of his speech below.
To start, Sakurai talked about the process of adding the characters to Brawl. He started out big by choosing all of the characters at the beginning (with the exception of Sonic), but had to cut some of them out due to time constraints. Next, Sakurai talked about a crucial part of the game: blending. He emphasized how important it was to make sure all the characters, despite having different art styles originally, had the same feel. He illustrated this point by showing off a mock-up picture of Mario and Link in Super Smash Bros. Melee and comparing it to the same picture as it would be in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. In the Brawl version, everything looked more detailed but the colors seemed less vibrant. After that, Sakurai explained how the biggest component in making the characters blend was their design, most notably mentioning detail and proportion. He brought up a side-by-side comparison of Nintendo's official rendition of Mario and his SSBB counterpart. Proportionally, the two models are pretty much the same, but the design is where they differed dramatically. With Nintendo's compliance, the SSBB version of Mario was made to look more detailed, as Sakurai made clear by showing off the scuffs and scratches In Mario's denim jeans. He said that by making the cloth feel more realistic, the characters blended in better. In a similar vein, Sakurai showed off a picture of Captain Olimar as he is in Pikmin and as he is in SSBB. The SSBB iteration definitely looked more detailed, with wrinkles in the material of his space suit and buttons on the front of it. To finish off this section of the presentation, Sakurai made one more comparison – Pit as he is in SSBB and Pit as he is in Kid Icarus. Mentioning that Pit hasn't been in a game for about twenty years, Sakurai talked about the various evolutions of Link over time and how he posed the question of "How can we get all of that evolution in one swoop?" to his team. He then used some pictures of Pit in SSBB to point out the stylistic changes of Pit's design, such as how he wears clothes underneath his toga, the differentiation in colors and fabric for his scarf and toga, the two halo-like wristbands on his left arm, his elongated body, etc. Next up, Sakurai talked about the different poses of the characters, using Link's standard attack as an example. He showed off the four different poses to Link's standard attack and talked about how each part was important – the standby, as it is Link's basic pose and what he uses to go into other poses, the pre-strike, as it gives the player notice that the button-pressing was recognized and tells the opponent of the attack, the strike itself since it is used to attack other players, and the follow-through, as it is what leaves the player open for attack from an enemy. Sakurai showed off some micro-man poses he used to replicate the poses he wanted in-game, using pictures of Wario and the micro-man to illustrate the similarities. He then showed pictures of Sonic and the micro-man, showing the similarities between their running poses, stopping poses, and even Sonic's classic foot tap. Next up he showed Pit and a micro-man with a twisty tie to represent Pit's bow. Next, he showed a female micro-man (micro-woman?) and how he used it to make up the poses for Zero Suit Samus. He showed his methods for creating Snake's poses, complete with crawling pose and missile launcher. Finally, Sakurai showed off various other characters including Meta Knight and Olimar doing the same poses as the micro-men. Next, Sakurai illustrated how the micro-men part was time-consuming and modifications were necessary afterwards to comply with the various character physiques. He then talked about how placing an emphasis on how things looked from a side view was important as this is how the game is displayed. "Being in the brawl is more than just making the roster." Sakurai talked about how placing a character in the game does mean that the character's essence has been imported. Extra work has to be done to tweak the character so that it performs within the standards of the Smash Bros. universe. He brought up the less noticeable elements of each character such as movement and attack capabilities, etc. Bring up a picture from Super Mario Bros. and Metroid, Sakurai compared the differences in Mario's and Samus' jumps. He noted how Samus's jump has more float to it than Mario's and how crucial the reasons for this are. In Metroid, the player needs to be able to fire at enemies and doors from any height, making Samus's floaty jump extremely helpful. Next up, Sakurai talks about Sonic and how considering him to be a really fast character is a misconception, as the old games show him having heavier and slower movements. He then brought up a live feed of Sonic, Pit, and Snake in SSBB, showing off the various speeds of his different movements. Next, he switched his focus to Snake, mentioning that his model is based off the MGS2 version of Snake. Also, of the human characters, he's the slowest, making it easy to show how his and Sonic's movements contrast from each other. Sakurai then moved onto Pit, showing off how he uses his bow and split it into two swords. Fun fact: From the sound of it, it seemed like Sonic's voice actor is the same from the Sonic Adventure series. So what do you need to construct a character? According to Sakurai, it starts with envisioning the character's essence. That's key. Therefore, game designers must think before they act. Sakurai mentioned how he hears designers say, "Well, we'll never know until we try". He then said that this is an excuse that shouldn't be used. To close his lecture, Sakurai talked about "getting the word out". He began by talking about the Smash Bros. Dojo. Fun Fact: The Smash Bros. Dojo website started up in May of 2007 and has been updated around 230 times to date. At its peak, the site had 1 million hits in a single day and 5 million hits over a single week. So why was all this necessary? According the Sakurai, no matter how good a game may be, you can't be lazy about getting your product known. To get your product to stand out, the production side has to reach out as well in order to create a strong overall presentation. If you do, you'll be paid back in full by people playing your game. The end. Extra: When approaching the stage to get a closer glimpse of Sakurai, we noticed the Wii console that was used during the presentation, along with four GameCube controllers plugged into the top. I guess now we know what Sakurai's preferred control method is, eh?
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