Nintendo Producer: The Nature of Games

This article is reproduced from “Original + link” in Sunset. “Sun|Luo Translation Project” is a translation and recommendation/indexing plan of some foreign language texts that are helpful for thinking about games/video games during the sunset of the Media Lab.

Editor / Ye Zitao

Translated by Luo Junyang

Editor’s note: If you’re a Nintendo gamer, then the name Sakurai Masahiro may be familiar to you.

In the early years, he was invited to join HAL by Satoshi Iwata in an electrical store and created the classic work “Kirby Star”, and even made the “Nintendo Super Smash Bros.” series that was recognized by Nintendo executives.

After Satoshi Iwata passed away, he fulfilled his wish to release “Big Smash Bros.” on NS, making the 2018 Nintendo press conference the most frenzied press conference in game history – being a squid girl When the logo of “Smash Bros.” was reflected in his eyes, countless players were boiling.

Today, Smash Bros. is in a sense a hall of fame in the video game industry and history, a gift that belongs to the player and belongs to the video game.

Then, for such a star producer, the analysis and thinking of “risk and reward” runs through his game design and production. This article translated from Japanese by Luo Junyang, a follower of Sunset, fully presents How does he show the thinking method of game design from the micro level.

And even if he focuses on the game design of risk games, he also sees more possibilities in video games, and believes that “gameplay” and “gaming” are only part of video games, and he even mentioned Roger Kejowa. “Games and People”. Whether you are a developer or a player, a researcher or a passerby, it may be worth reading, thanks to Jun Yang for his careful translation and sharing.

Translator’s Note: Recently, Mr. Masahiro Sakurai set up a channel on YouTube to explain and teach game development experience, which is quite popular. I have also read a few articles about the barbecue carried by the Sinicization team.

When I was surfing in the comment area once, I found that someone posted a link to the original Japanese text of this article. I probably looked at it and felt that the content was very good. It is especially useful for newbies like me who have no development experience and have not yet formed their own set of theories, and searched for it. I found that it has not been translated and published on the Chinese Internet. I happened to know Japanese and I was interested, so I translated it. I hope it helps you, and I hope you enjoy watching it.

Finally, I would like to thank Mr. Sakurai for his selfless sharing, and my colleagues in the editorial department of マレ電ファミニコゲーマー Co., Ltd. for organizing and publishing this speech and making it free for everyone to read, and for their trust in me – in the case of not knowing about me Kindly grant me permission to have this translation published on the Chinese Internet.

The following is the text:



1 Opening remarks from the editorial department

Mr. Masahiro Sakurai, a game producer who has produced many works by himself, including the “Kirby” series and “Smash Bros.” series, is giving a speech to game developers around the world.

The topic of the speech is: about gameplay.

The main content of this speech is based on the desire to “create as many games that users love as possible”, and I will convey my game design experience and skills to everyone without hesitation. If it is a game development person, I am sure Will want to know and master.

In fact, when preparing the content of the sixth “Wakano いたり”, Mr. Keiichi Tanaka and the editorial department of Den ファミ had the honor to invite Mr. Sakurai to give a speech.

We who participated in the speech believed that “having a deeper understanding of games is not only meaningful for practitioners in the game industry, but also for us gamers”, so we decided to publish the content of the speech here.

Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to Mr. Sakurai and the game development companies who provided the speech materials without hesitation.

Well, the speech is about to begin. Mr. Sakurai, I’ll leave it to you! (Editorial Office)

※In addition, all the comments of this article are collectively recorded at the end of each page. Please note. (Translator’s Note: The original text is divided into 3 pages, with notes at the bottom of each page. This translation is only 1 page, and all notes are attached at the end.)

2 Mr. Masahiro Sakurai’s opening remarks

Let me start by saying that this talk was given around 2003 when I became a freelance creator and was corrected in 2017.

However, only part of the content at that time, including overseas lectures, was made public. And it is not intended to be made public on the web.

In an interview with “Wakano いたり” this time, Mr. Tanaka Keiichi himself talked about “what is the interesting nature of manga recently, and is there anything like a formula?”

Then I was asked if there was any theory about the “fun of games”, because this happened to be the theme of a speech, so I disclosed it to everyone on the spot.

Working with Den フ ァ ミ, we resolved the licensing issue and made it fully available to the public. Thank you for your opportunity and help.

For game developers, this will be a permanent save version since this is something that will do you no harm after learning about it.

3 The speech begins

Hello everyone, my name is Masahiro Sakurai. He designed games such as “Kirby Star”【※1】and “Nintendo Super Smash Bros.”【※2】. Although he has made a lot of Nintendo games, he is now a freelance creator. Please take care of me!


Preamble: The fun of the game = risk and reward?

Today’s topic is “The Nature of Games”.

While there are all kinds of games, I want to talk about how to capture the essence of their fun. If you can grasp the essence, there is no doubt that it will be very helpful to the fun of weaving and creating games.

There is a word called “playability”. I think it’s a word that clearly expresses the fun of the game. But the so-called “fun of the game” cannot be expressed in words, right?

Since I started discussing “what is the so-called gameplay?” in media such as the Internet, I have not yet seen a convincing answer.

The word “gameplay”, like the fun of games, has never been explained very clearly.

Some people also say that “the game is interesting” means “the game is high”.

According to this idea, “the game is boring” means “low gameplay”, right? What about “the game’s animations are fun”? Probably “has nothing to do with gameplay”. It’s fun though; what about in practice mode, where it’s “fun to practice beating an enemy that doesn’t move”? It also “has nothing to do with gameplay”, but it looks fun too.

Definitions are getting weirder.

So, what about a game that’s just manipulation — say, there’s no time limit, just “it’s fun to just play and drive”? So what exactly is “the fun of the game”? Now we come to the next definition.

Let me paraphrase the game, it should be “game”. In other words, “risk and return”.

※The foreign term is “risk and reward”

“Risk” refers to, in short, “what the player does not like and does not benefit from, and it will be judged as a mistake after encountering it.”

“Reward” means “something that removes risk, or moves the level forward, that is good for the player, or the process of getting it.”

Digging into this point of view explains the joy of games of all kinds.

Next, various games will be explained as examples.


Case 1: Shooting Game

First, let’s look at shooting games.

Everyone should know this game. The game is called “Space Invaders” [※3]. It was released in 1978. It was a game 40 years ago, but it has become a social phenomenon in Japan. It can be said that it is a shooting game. The originator of the mountain. By the way, I was about 7 years old at the time.

The game can be controlled in real time, the screen is like this.

The blue-blue convex object at the bottom of the game screen is the turret. Control it to move left and right.

Countless intruders move left and right while descending, and players must eliminate the intruders before they reach the bottom. It’s that simple.

There are some red “bunkers” at the bottom of the screen and slightly up, which can block the turrets and intruder’s shells to a certain extent.

Let’s zoom in.

Both the aggressor and the turret fire beams and missiles vertically, so in the state shown in the picture, the probability of each attack hitting is zero.

I define this as a “no risk, no reward” state.

Therefore, move the turret slightly to the right and make it horizontally closer to the intruder. The closer the turret is to the intruder, the easier it is for the intruder’s bullets to hit the turret. So the risk “increases” and the reward “becomes possible”.

If you keep getting closer, you will reach a distance of “to be killed by the intruder”. Although the risk is quite high, it is only in this state that you can get the reward of “destroying the enemy”. That is, in order to get a return, you must take a certain risk.

So we came to a conclusion very suddenly!

Take the risk and get the reward!

That’s the nature of the game. In short, by working hard to reduce risk, you can get better returns.

This is the most important content of this speech, so I wrote it down in super large font size. Please remember it carefully.

2.1 The relationship between [Gameplay] and [Strategy]

There is a word that is very close in meaning to “gameplay”. That is “strategy”. If “gameplay” is the joy of taking risks and getting rewards, then “strategy” refers to ways of controlling risks and getting rewards. The above is a point of view from the perspective of the game system. Below is the player’s point of view.

…In the end, these are just conceptual things, it is difficult to understand, let’s take an example to see.

Let me use the strategy that I just mentioned in Space Invaders as an example.

When the invaders are arranged as shown, their attack range is the part shown in purple in the figure.

Because the laser falls straight down, the attack range is directly below the aggressor. Also note that there is a safety zone under the bunker.

However, because the intruder is constantly moving laterally, the attack range is skewed.

Before the laser reaches the ground, the intruder will move laterally, so it will be like this, do you understand?

This is because the intruder is constantly moving laterally as the laser hits the ground.

Zoom in to see. When the intruder moves from right to left, its attack range becomes the same as the purple part in the picture.

When the turret and the attack range overlap, there is a risk of being killed.

In this case, if you start chasing the intruder from the right, the position where the turret and the attack range overlap is as shown in the picture.

Even if you have already taken risks, you can only take these risks in vain and cannot defeat the intruder because you are still at a distance from the intruder.

However, when attacking the enemy from the left, the overlapping area of ​​the turret and the attack range is almost the same as when attacking from the right.

In other words, although it bears the same level of risk, it can perfectly shoot down the intruder.

Instead of chasing the intruder, fighting the intruder is a better strategy.

That is to say!

The horizontal length of the turret, which is linked to the degree of risk, is the key to the balance of the game. This horizontal length is not only a simple art setting, but also makes the fun of the game have a deeper meaning.

Likewise, systems that change the level of risk are key to game balance. As shown in the picture, the bunker completely blocks the right side of the turret, allowing the player to attack the enemy unilaterally without any worries.

Find ways to reduce risk to move forward more profitably. This is “strategy”.

…So, under the framework of the rules of “Space Invaders” and the composition of the enemy, only the design of the turret that can shoot bullets in 3 directions will be cool at first glance, but it will not be adopted. Of course, if the enemy can also shoot diagonally or the number of bullets is limited, it will be another matter.

If you are a game developer, please think carefully about “risk and reward”, and polish the balance of showing the fun of the game.

2.2 Risk Control: Balancing Risk and Reward

Plus, in Space Invaders, it’s unimaginable that a game of the last century has an astonishingly balanced risk-reward design.

Let me introduce some of them.

For example, when the number of aggressors decreases, the aggressors move faster, i.e. the risk increases as the game progresses.

Also, intruders at the bottom scored lower and those at the top scored higher. The difference is because the width of each intruder, that is, the difficulty of being hit, is different, and the intruder with a lower score is more likely to be hit.

Combined with the speed relationship mentioned above, it can be seen that the score is not high because the intruder is at the top, but the reason for the high score is to match the risk taken.

In addition, a lot of advantages can be seen in “Space Invaders”, but the details are not expanded one by one.

When looking back on this speech, I would be satisfied if everyone could feel the depths of Space Invaders from every aspect.

2.3 Nagoya Play: Biggest Risk and Biggest Reward

Having said that, we call an intruder “intrusion” when the intruder moves left and right while descending and eventually reaches the bottom of the screen. Because the game is over after being “invaded” once, this is the most dangerous behavior.

However, there was such a trick in the past.

When the invaders descend to the bottom of the screen and are about to “invade”. Crisis is coming! But at this time, at the bottom of the screen, that is, the bullet of the invader who was about to “invade”, for some reason, it passed through the fort.

It is called “Nagoya style”. If the invaders invade, that is, go down to the bottom layer, no matter how many turrets are left, it will immediately be judged as the end of the game.

In other words, being on the verge of “invasion” means you are at great risk. However, the risk of the turret itself is suddenly greatly reduced because it cannot be hit by the laser.

In other words, the “Nagoya Style” is in a state of maximum risk and maximum reward at the same time!

If there is a slight error, it will be “invaded”, but now it is in the “invincible” state. It can be said that this is a very aggressive design.

The biggest risk in the game and the biggest reward are only separated by a paper, and this design is very powerful. We have to keep the “risk and reward” in balance as we move through the game.

Although the game is almost 40 years old, this design is really awesome. There’s a reason why Space Invaders became a social phenomenon. There were a lot of knockoff versions on the market at the time, but those versions that couldn’t use the “Nagoya style” really didn’t always feel that interesting.

Here I will also explain how the “Nagoya style” is achieved. In fact, the “Nagoya style” is considered a bug.

Intruders fire bullets. Normally, bullets will spawn from this location. Usually this is the case. But on closer inspection, this is not the case. Intruder bullets spawn at…

Actually here. Spawns in very low places.

So, when the turret is closest to the intruder, the bullet spawn position will appear below the hitbox collision box, and they will pass each other.

Even if it is a bug, it is still very interesting that “this kind of radical design appeared in that era”.

2.4 Boosters and Ultimates: Application of Risk and Reward

In a “risk and reward” application, shooters with power-ups place risks on the act of acquiring power-ups.

It can be seen in this picture that although the red turret above has enhanced props, it is indeed risky to defeat it. However, if the reward is to obtain power-ups, the latter process may become easier.

Compared with shooting games without terrain, shooting games that hit terrain are more thrilling. Compared with directly increasing the strength to the strongest state, the strength “increasing” makes people feel more happy, which is similar to “risk and returns” are closely related.

Also, in shooting games with the so-called ultimate [*6], it is common to be defeated without using the ultimate. Rather, those who run out often are in the minority. If you use it casually, you will not be able to use it in a real crisis.

The ultimate move can be said to be composed of a limited number of uses and a powerful game-solving ability, like a bet.

So what do I have to do to get through the level without using my ultimate? The answer is risk control through extreme operations and strategies.


Case 2: Action Game

Next let’s look at action games.

As you may have noticed, I will explain the various game types in the order in the lower right corner. The former types will take more time to explain, and the latter parts will not take so much time.

Do you know about Super Mario Bros.? One of the great things about this game is turning enemies into offensive tools by stomping on them.

Let’s continue the analysis with the premise of “this is fun”.

Because fun or not is a subjective issue, there will also be people who stubbornly feel that “this is not fun at all”, but making a game without understanding the fun of the game is the same as “cooking with a dull sense of taste”, but it is a Just bragging.

Making a game doesn’t require ratings and reviews. I think what is needed is the ability to express interesting things through design and programming and make people feel “interesting” directly.

There is an enemy in front of Mario…

When the distance from the enemy is long, the possibility of being hit by the enemy is zero, so the danger level of the enemy is low.

The rectangle at the bottom of the screen represents the horizontal coordinates of Mario and Slow Turtle.

As the enemy approaches, the enemy becomes more and more dangerous.

Continue to approach until the horizontal coordinates overlap, and it is very dangerous at this time!

In this case, the player must jump up to avoid the enemy, but there is a chance to attack the enemy at the same time! That’s the point.

Stomp enemies by jumping. The fun is that when the stakes are at their highest, there is a reward for taking out the slow turtle by stomping on it.

A little deviation will fail, which will greatly bring out the excitement and coolness.

Afterwards, you can use the turtle shell as a weapon to kick out, and you can also follow the kicked turtle shell to get big rewards such as high scores and life.

However, with such a large payoff, there is also the risk of being hit by the reflected shell. It can be said that this is a very good design.

Summarize the key points here.

When designing “risk and reward”, they must be placed very close together and the level of risk and reward value must be appropriate. The “risk and reward” should be aligned with each other, and some very exciting designs like big reversals should be added.


At the time, in the second half of the 1980s, as a student, I had a question.

3.1 Will a risky game be difficult?

People often say that the original Super Mario and other games like it are too difficult? You only get rewarded for touching an enemy, and while it’s fun, it’s not too hard.

Games like family games usually have less capacity for the player to enjoy the game more, so there is a tendency to increase the difficulty. When I was young, I always thought that while I could get through the game without a hitch, at least my parents and the kids around me couldn’t play the game very well. So I entered the game industry, and in 1992…

Released “Kirby Star”.

This is the first time I’ve designed a game, and it’s a game made for newcomers to gaming.

It’s been a 25th anniversary since its release, which is really gratifying.

As just mentioned, the risk is low at great distances from the enemy.

Then, as the enemy continues to approach, but the risk is not particularly high…


Sucks in the enemies who are still far away!

Players can eliminate the risk when the risk is not particularly high. After sucking the enemy into the body, you can also control the character to move freely.

Then, spit it out and turn it into an attack!

Can attack enemies further away without getting close to them.

Low risk but high reward.

The ability to use enemies flexibly allows players to enjoy the game learned from games like Mario; but it’s Kirby that makes the use of enemies easier and more casual.

Also, because the setting of falling in a hole and you will die is too strict, the game is adjusted to be able to fly in the sky at any time, so that players can easily pass the level.

In addition, there are designs such as the addition of a blood bar system that can withstand up to 6 attacks, so that the risk of “Kirby” is much lower than that of games such as “Mario”.

3.2 Risk and reward are proportional

In a moderate balance, there is an almost purely proportional relationship between the magnitude of the risk and the magnitude of the reward.

Meaning, the more difficult the risk, the greater the joy you get when you overcome it.

Conversely, the lower the risk, the lower the reward.

That is to say! With a series of risk-mitigating mechanics designed to cater for newcomers to the game, Kirby itself has the downside of becoming less fun.

But of course, that’s not to say that Kirby can’t be considered a game.

Different people have different perceptions of difficulty! I can’t imagine a person with little interest in gaming glamorously finishing a very complex game of today’s age. There are often things that are very small risks for people who play games a lot, but very big risks for people who don’t play games very often.

Be newbie friendly! If the pressure of playing the game overwhelms the joy of passing the level, no matter how good the game is, it can only be ruined.

Kirby was made with that in mind, so it’s frankly not as exciting, or even boring, as Mario, but it does its job well.

When designing “risk and reward”, don’t just imitate others, the important thing is to identify the target audience.

In terms of difficulty, Kirby is easier than Mario. However, that is not to say that one of the two is correct. To be honest, both are correct.

Each game has its own target audience and values. Don’t lower the difficulty on the basis of “because it’s for kids”, the important thing is to consciously identify the target audience.

Although the game becomes more exciting as the stakes increase, it also becomes harder. Don’t just look at the game’s veterans as a standard, look at the difficulty level more objectively.

Every game has its own concept. Think carefully about “risk and reward” and polish the concept of the game!

So this is, no matter what type of game, you can use the “risk and reward” theory to explain why the game is interesting.


Case 3: Versus Fighting Game

The first two examples were introduced in more detail, but starting with this example will speed things up a bit. Next, let’s talk about fighting games.

This is the screen of “Super Street Fighter II” [※7]. Basically, fighting games are also a form of “game”.

The two sides seized the gap and approached each other, and then Gulie jumped up! Ken used the wave punch! The outcome is now decided. In this case, Gulie won. There is a lot of “risk and reward” game between the two sides here.

Ken’s “Risk and Reward” for using Hajiquan is shown in the chart above.

The “game” in it even takes into account the difficulty of the move.

Similarly, Gulie who jumped up also has his own “risk and reward”.

Only those who constantly find the optimal solution between risk and reward can get closer to victory. It’s not just a simple move.





In this way, Gu Lie completed a three-hit combo.

4.1 Example of “Virtual Warrior 5”

Similarly, in the case of 3D fighting games such as “VR Warrior”, even if there is no long-range attack, the idea is roughly the same.

By the way, this screenshot was taken using the PS4’s screenshot function in “VR Warrior 5” that comes with “Like a Dragon 6: Poem of Life”. In 2003, when this publication was made, the pictures of VR Warrior 3 were captured through Dreamcast. It feels so convenient now, so convenient that I was taken aback.

Whether it’s “VR Warrior” or “Tekken”, most fighting games have upper-stage attacks…

There are also mid-range attacks…

And the next attack.

Although there are special cases due to skills, in most cases, the relationship between them is: the upper-stage attack with its range and power can defeat the middle-stage attack…

A quick mid-range attack that can break defenses can defeat the next attack…

The lower attack can defeat the upper attack by attacking from the gap. In fact, they only differ in range, speed of release, etc., it is important to note that the advantages and disadvantages of different skills can switch at a dizzying speed.

Therefore, fighting games are often referred to as high-speed versions of rock-paper-scissors.

There are other examples of attack vs defense, defense vs throw, throw vs attack, and so on.

While many people realize that the interlocking elements of the three can add depth to the game, it is important to think about why they are so interesting.

Here’s a summary.

Give each attack characteristic advantages and disadvantages, and let the “game” emerge from it!

Fighting games are not simply composed of boxing, kicking, and nirvana. If you can’t move and you can only hit one type of punch, there is no “game”. Just pressing the button.

Moving left and right creates the concept of distance. Jumping gave rise to the concept of three-dimensional offense and defense.

If there is only attack and defense, there will not be much “game”, but if you add throwing skills, the range of “game” will be greatly increased.

Instead of imitating popular games, think about where the root of the “game” lies. Whether it is in the planning stage or the production stage, I think this should be thought carefully.


Case 4: Racing Game

Racing games, the moment you choose this theme, the gameplay already exists!

Most racing games have to go as fast as possible when hitting a corner. It’s the same whether you’re racing against your opponent for first place, or reducing your time by 0.1 seconds in a timed race.

This is the iron rule.

But…turning as fast as possible comes with a lot of risk in itself. “The faster you go, the harder it is to turn” – that’s for sure. It naturally evolves into risk control with its own capabilities.

So, that’s why racing games are already playable just by simulating reality.

However, from a more game perspective, you can still make the game more interesting by setting goals such as “making drifting better”. Drifting is fun because the risk of losing control and the joy of successfully cornering go hand in hand.

For a real car, of course, the speed of normal driving [※10] is faster, but it is a good way to treat the risk of drifting in the game.

There are so many things that are inherently playful.

However, you can’t just rely on the original fun, but arrange and design from the perspective of the game. The same is true for drifting and so on, make the risk-taking part as if there is a reward waiting to be acquired by the player.


Case 5: Item falling game

The gameplay of item-dropping puzzle games such as “テトリス” [※11] and “ぷよぷよ” [※12] is to let building blocks and other objects pile up from the bottom to the top, and the game ends when they finally pile up to the end.

That said, dropping blocks and stacking them are inherently risky.

And the risks will continue to increase. But it’s not just about stacking the blocks, it’s getting ready here…

If you are a fan of the series, you will probably use a specific stacking method.

Then, a chain reaction occurs when the blocks begin to be eliminated!

The pressure that has been accumulating so far is released in an instant. The longer the pressure builds up, the better it will be when it is finally released. Games such as “テトリミノ” of “Tetorisu” are based on the same principle.

Finally, as an additional reward, give the opponent a violent attack.

In conclusion, a good game allows players to adjust risk naturally. Low risk for low reward, high risk for high reward. This ultimately creates a game that anyone can enjoy.

6.1 How to make “ぷよぷよ” more fun? : Thinking in terms of “risk and reward”

Now the question is, what can I do to make “ぷよぷよ” more fun?

Thinking in terms of “risk and reward” should yield some results.

But please do not simply accept the content of this lecture in its entirety. I hope you can understand the content of this speech well and discover new solutions and mechanisms in the process of game development. Below is my answer.

If the “stumbling block” thrown by the opponent can be linked to the reward, it should work well. For example, games such as Flower Fairy Cubes can use enemy attacks as counter-attacks.

I’ve also done item drop games before. The name is “メテオス”【※13】.

To be honest, the reason why I am not good at making item falling games is that the relevant theories have been sorted out in the lecture notes of this lecture. So, how long did it take to come up with this plan…

5 minutes.

Of course, it takes more time to write a plan, but understanding the “risk and reward” is very helpful in planning the plan. It’s not fun because the blocks disappear when they’re lined up, but it’s fun because it’s fun to clean up the risks that build up.

So, as for the method of clearing up the accumulated risks, I thought what else could be done other than “elimination”, what about bombs, but there are also games such as “Bond Burris” [※14], so I finally thought about going in the opposite direction. method of launching.

Knowing the “risk and reward” theory will help all game planning.


Case 6: Role-playing game

This is the screen of “Dragon Quest 3″【※15】. The enemy has appeared! What are you going to do…

Wait, watch the enemy carefully first…

Finding the enemy’s weakness seems to be a clue to fire.

Let’s think about what attributes to attack with.

Suppose there are direct attack, fire magic, and electric shock magic to choose from. We’re going to choose one of them to attack…

When the enemy has no resistance and all attributes are the same, if the projectile and attack range are exactly the same, there will be no “game”. Whether it is a direct attack, fire magic, or electric shock magic, it makes no difference, just do it according to your preference. In fact, there are many such games.

However, magic consumes MP while slightly increasing attack power and range.

Because the price is paid at the time of use, it is necessary to adjust the risk from the beginning.

Next, what should I do if the enemy has “weak fire resistance” and “strong electric shock resistance”?

The enemy just now looked like this. The dry body looks easy to burn, and the soil property has strong conductivity. Then, set the related properties.

If you think about countermeasures and make full use of your mind, you will be able to make your team fight against stronger enemies. If you understand this and design the balance of “risk and reward”, you can find a breakthrough and innovative direction from the existing games that are simply “magic with fire” and “magic with electric shock”.

Although this is a very easy-to-understand example, it is precisely the thinking of “is it better to consume MP or not to consume it” and “whether to use MP for attacking or for HP recovery” and so on, which leads to the formation of the team The rich and colorful combinations in the game make the “game” continue to escalate.

A game that takes this kind of “game” to the extreme is “Pokémon” [※16]. The “game” of properties becomes very numerous and complex.

However, sometimes children will say things like “burn the bugs with fire”, and they are more inclined to use intuition to think about game strategies than adults.

Summarize the key points. Even if it is the same team and the same combat power, as long as the game has a strategy to get better rewards through “gaming”, it can make the game more exciting!

Monster design shouldn’t be separated from gameplay either. Let the player know the weakness from the appearance, and if the player can make good use of the weakness, give the player a handsome reward!

7.1 Difficulties and benefits moving forward

Let’s move on to role-playing games.

In Dragon Quest, strong enemies are often encountered when crossing bridges.

When you’ve barely beaten off a strong enemy, you’ll often find that there’s a small town right in front of you or something like that.

The fighting supplies were almost exhausted. Should I go back to my old city right away, or just keep going?

This is where the “risk and reward” comes in.

Summarize the key points here. Balance the risk-taking behavior by inserting rewards in time. It feels simple, but when done, it can give meaning to ordinary rocky fields and plains and unexplored places.

In addition, the brushing experience of RPG plays a role in naturally regulating risks. When you can’t beat it, you just need to brush the experience. This kind of reassurance is connected with the willingness to play, so that players are willing to play.

Not only in orthodox RPGs, but also in online RPGs and other RPGs, getting powerful rewards from extremely strong opponents can make players feel great fun.

Not only your own combat power, but also the opponent’s combat power and squad configuration are all important. By helping your companions to create deeper bonds, players can be more involved in the game. One more trick by the way that only uses returns.

This is the original PC version of Ys [※18], but please pay attention to the part with the red arrow. I think it was designed to shrink the main screen to reduce the rendering load, but that made the game window very small. The experience required to level up and the current experience are always displayed on the screen.

I call this the “carrot hanging in front of the horse”. Show the returns all the time. Always keep what you’ve earned and your goals visible.

While contrary to the recent trend of simplifying UI displays, this emphasis on rewards works well and is a topic that should be studied.


Case 7: War Simulation Game

This is the screen of Fire Emblem【※19】.

Red is the enemy army, blue is your own army. Even though the red enemy army’s combat effectiveness is higher than our army’s, our army has won the victory for some reason. Why is this?

Use the characteristics of your units flexibly to win difficult-to-win battles.

This is the unique gameplay of strategy simulation games.

For example… this is a Pegasus knight. If this bird-like unit is hit by a bow and arrow, it will take triple damage.

So if you encounter archers, you will become weak. However, archers have the characteristic of being unable to melee combat.

So if you encounter a swordsman, it is a one-sided slaughter.

But warriors are not good at dealing with enemies with high defense.

The armored knight covered in steel armor is simply an iron wall.

But the armored knight only exercises his muscles, his brain is not very good…

Magic works well for armored knights. Will be unilaterally slaughtered by the mages.

But even an idiot is fine, isn’t it, he’s a warrior after all.

But the Pegasus knights introduced first have high resistance to magic and can easily kill the magister.

Even if it is the exact same combat power, depending on the arrangement of the appearances, there will be a complete victory and a disastrous result! This is strategy.

Suppose you set up one of the five types of units just now, one for each of the enemy army and one for our army. Remove the strategy, just two groups of people fighting each other, the risk and reward are the same. That is to say, there is no game. However, if they were staggered to attack restrained enemies, the results would be completely different.

It’s good strategy and a great way to add some gameplay. Not only video games with attributes, but also shogi and chess, etc., also make differences by combining different movement characteristics.

Summarize the key points. Let the arrangement of arms or pieces cause changes in the outcome of the battle, thereby expanding the breadth of the game.

Plus, since it’s a video game, resetting is handy. Of course, it’s not a bad thing to have the player try again several times for better results. So put resets and “try again” into the game design too!


Case 8: Card Game

At this point, I think everyone has understood. Card games such as “Magic: ザ・ギャザリング” [※21], “Pokémon Cards” [※22], “Card Summoner” [※23]… are mostly based on the consumption and characteristics of the cards. Various “risks and rewards”.

Now that everyone has accepted the point of view of today’s speech, please observe the card game from a different point of view. While there are good and bad games that use cards, I think you can find what’s fun and what’s boring. Compared to a simple armed conflict, a card with a strange strategy is better.

Summarize the key points. If you carefully scrutinize the “risk and reward”, you can find the role of each card!

In most cases, cards are assembled by players according to their own ideas. Decide what to risk and get the best return possible.

If you can cleverly add the appropriate “luck” element to the game, it can prevent the game from becoming monotonous. Dice are often used in card games, which can effectively prevent the game from becoming monotonous and boring. And that doesn’t make the game unfair.


Case 9: “Devil’s Cauldron” System

Although it is not a certain type of game, I would like to mention the “Devil’s Cauldron” system by the way.

The so-called “Devil’s Cauldron” refers to the system used to control risks in “New Light Myth: The Mirror of Paludina” [*24].

Heart, which is money, will become more difficult if you put it in, but the quality of the artifacts you can pick up will improve, which will help you clear the level. After the game is over, because the contents of the cauldron will spill out and the heart will be lost, so this is a difficulty adjustment system with automatic difficulty reduction.

This is a game of betting on your own skills and combat effectiveness. While there are downsides to making the game too hard, I think it’s a very reasonable risk system. But in the final analysis, this is always “a system established because obtaining powerful artifacts helps to clear the level”.

The “Battle of the Warriors” that appeared in “Super Smash Bros. (3DS / Wii U version)” [※25] is almost the same system as the “Devil’s Cauldron”, but it doesn’t feel that important.

That’s to balance the mechanics and acquisition of power-ups. In “Super Smash Bros. (3DS/Wii U version)”, the form of enhancing the combat power is to equip 3 items. Items will not change the means of direct attack, and there are still many acquisition conditions to be fulfilled.

It is necessary for every game to change the mechanics and balance appropriately. Of course, I think that’s fine, but it’s always good to try and question mere imitation.

10.1 “Game” and “risk and reward” are the essence of the game

Although there are various examples, “game”, “risk and reward” and “strategy” are the essence of the game.

Even in the face of games that are as boundless as clouds in the sky, you can firmly grasp the core of their “interesting”. Master the core of developing games – “risk” and “reward”!

But please note one thing. I’ve given this talk in several places before, conveying the concept of “risk and reward” to many people. Then I heard something that happened in a big company.

This is what older employees say about stuff made by less senior employees: “Is there a risk and reward in your stuff!” I call this phenomenon…

“Risk and Reward Syndrome”. Although all the “risk and reward” is said, it does not mean that this theory covers all the fun of the game.

Each game has its own target audience, and not everyone can follow a set of theories. Also, please don’t force yourself on “risk and reward”.

The content of today’s talk does not cover all the fun of the game.

Games are not so superficial!


Case 10: Fun beyond “gameplay”

Well, let me list 8 representative examples next.

Let’s talk about the types of games that have fun other than “gameplay” and “gaming”.

Just manipulating a video game can be fun. The space freed from the laws of nature displayed on the monitor is truly incredible and fascinating to us living in the real world.

In order to make it feel like it’s fun just to control, from a developer’s point of view, there needs to be an appropriate mechanism and a technology that sensitively absorbs the feel of the operation and adjusts it. Although some people have raised the question “Is there any gameplay in a game that only enjoys the control?”, but my conclusion on this is “it is fun although there is no gameplay”.

What was left unfinished in the project of “Kirby Star” is what is mentioned now. Radio control, etc., is also a medium that makes people feel happy through the sense of operation.

In this type of game, the pleasure of reading the story takes precedence over the pleasure of “games”.

This kind of game is an extension of novels and movies, but it’s not a game just because the story is interesting.

A system that utilizes the characteristics of computers in a different way of expression from novels. Using these two points to make the script will give birth to the unique wonder and fun of the game story.

By the way, the example in the photo is “The Nightmare” [※27], but if you analyze “Ace Attorney” [※28], you will find that there are more elements of “game”. So it’s not just a choice between yes or no, often the line of demarcation is blurred.

Things of this type, such as “movies”, “toys”, “cards”, etc., can be regarded as commodity groups for fans of the work.

Therefore, in general, it is more important to let people enjoy the world represented by the work than whether the game is interesting. It can also be said that the evaluation of people who are not fans of the work is worthless. For this genre, just talking about gameplay is inappropriate.

However, regardless of the original work, as long as the game is interesting, it will be recognized by users, thereby attracting users other than fans of the original work. This phenomenon is also very common. For example, “Goddess Megami Tensei” [※30], etc., people who know that there are already original novels are in the minority.

The images mentioned here also include movies and the like. There is no “gameplay” in images and stories, and I think everyone understands this.

However, it has become an important essence outside of gameplay. First of all, users can deepen their impression of the game and improve the immersion of the game screen by watching the characters and world displayed by the video.

In addition, if the story, including the movie, is interesting, you will want to see what happens later, so it can stimulate the player’s desire to advance the game. If this can be met in the show, then the end game will be more interesting.

The real sport itself has a “game”, so when it is reflected on the computer, it already has some kind of gameplay. This is very similar to what was mentioned in racing games.

Plus, there’s definitely support for a certain team when watching sports. A game made up of actual teams, actual players, that alone makes the game fun, and because you have explicit control over your team, it allows you to immerse yourself in the game and enjoy the ups and downs.

What follows is also slightly related.

If you aim to represent the real world exactly the same in the game, there is a limit to your performance. And that sense of inconsistency creates fun.

Play simulation games in a simulated world. Do things that are impossible in the real world. This is also an element that makes people feel very interesting in addition to the gameplay.

The picture above shows a tram game. For example, when the tram arrives at the station, the door is opened and the sound of “Cara Cara Cara” is played. From the program point of view, only one sound effect is played, but the player will feel the outside of the display screen. The door is opened in the real world. This is an example of increasing the amount of information by simulating real-world situations.

Games like editing and crafting can be fun as long as you are making something, even if it has nothing to do with gameplay.

However, if you add elements related to “risk and reward” in the mechanism, such as: falling from a height and dying, creating props to defend against enemies, taking risks in order to obtain materials, etc., there is a possibility of leaping be fun.

In addition, there are similarities with the aforementioned reproduction of the real world. For example, objects like furniture in Animal Crossing [※35] are closer to the real world and more understandable than those in Minecraft [※34].

Before asking about the gameplay of a musical game, know that the joy of making sounds in rhythm is based on the most primitive joy. Humans can enjoy it purely.

Also, the feature of this type of game is that the more you play and listen to familiar songs, the more fun you can enjoy them. Taking memorizing the tune as the premise and playing with the rhythm and grasping the melody can really make people immersed in it.

However, depending on the production, there will also be “games”, and “risk and reward” can also be added. This is the case with games such as the “Fever Rhythm” [※37] series, if it is a little later than the perfect timing, it will be judged to fail. If this is made into a loose system such as judging good or bad according to the distance from the perfect timing, it may become boring.

So far, 8 examples are finished.


Summary: What kind of game is a video game?

“Games and People” [※38] This book is very famous in the theory of game design, and probably many people already know it. It was written in 1958 by the French philosopher Roger Kelloy.

In the book, the game elements possessed by humans are divided into 4 categories.

1. Agon = competition: competitions and wins and losses, exams and board games, etc.

2. Alea = luck: gambling, boxing, something decided with dice, etc.

3. Mimicry = simulation: play house, drama, running group, etc.

4. Ilinx = vertigo: things like swings and roller coasters that engage the senses

These elements are coupled with axes with “Paidia” and “Ludus” at each end. In short, “disorder and rules”. Therefore, the so-called “game”, regardless of the connection of several other elements, can be said to be very “Agon (competition)”. And some Alea (luck). However, it is clear that everything is included in the elements of the game.

Presumably everyone can theoretically and multi-facetedly explain the fun of most games through “risk and reward”. But on the other hand, as a comprehensive entertainment method, the game still has many mysteries, whether it is technique or methodology, as well as the fun and possibility of the game, it involves many aspects.

However! If you calmly observe the games that appear on the market, you can find that most of them reinforce the existing types and rules.

But since games don’t make sense if they’re not fun, I don’t think there’s any value in designing rules that are completely different from other games.

The game itself should have more possibilities. Experiment with various methods to develop newer and more interesting games in the future.

However, if the gameplay continues to improve…?

But, here’s something to say that will upend the speech so far… I’m pretty sure of it myself and have been thinking about it. This is……

If you increase the gameplay, the generality will decrease.

Previous battle fighting games used very niche mechanics to reduce guests. If the “game” is deepened, there will be customers who can’t keep up.

If you want your game to have a wider audience, you’d better consider making it more casual. Kirby and Smash Bros. did both. High gameplay is not necessarily justice.

However, the higher the generality of the game, the evaluation of the game also tends to become messy… Similarly, I also think that it is not correct to only pursue generality. There are all kinds of changes in things to think about, both before and now. For those of you who are developing games or planning to develop games, let’s work together.

Finally, at any time, as long as you are a game developer, please give the highest priority to users who play our games!

Even though development is hard work, we must work hard to make our game enjoyable for players. If most users are having fun, all the better.

I hope this speech can help you.

This is the end of the speech, and I hope to play the games developed by the developers.

Thank you everyone.




1 Notes to the original text

Masahiro Sakurai (Sakurai Masahiro, Masahiro Sakurai, August 3, 1970 -), Japanese video game director, game designer, writer, voice actor, to create and supervise the “Kirby” series and “Nintendo Star Chaos” Famous for the Super Smash Bros series. He mainly creates games for the Nintendo platform. He used to work at the HAL Research Institute and is now the software R&D director of his company Sora. He is known as the “Father of Kirby” by the outside world.

Sakurai Masahiro

He also had a column in Famitsu magazine from 2003 until 2021. His streamlined but deep gaming system has a cult following.

In addition to Kirby and the Smash Bros. series, he also oversaw the popular Meteorite and the Mirror of New Light Myth Partina. He also voiced the character Emperor Di Di Di in Kirby 64 and Super Smash Bros. X.

On August 24, 2022, he launched his YouTube channel “Masahiro Sakurai on Creating Games”, which is available in English and Japanese. The content mainly discusses his historical background as a game designer, and also discusses various aspects of video game theory. Concept and application tutorials in game design.

This article has been authorized from the editorial department of Mare Electric Co., Ltd., and the picture is attached to the translator.

Japanese original link:


Electric ファミニコゲーマー official website (there are many excellent articles, friends who understand Japanese can go to see it):

Game Grape Recruitment Content Editor,

Recommended reading

Miha Traveler Design | Understand the fist | Heart this year

Difficulty finding a job in 2022 | Interview with War 2061 | AI painting

Absolute Zero | Sixteen Tones of Yanyun | Yuanshen 3.0

Click on the official account card below to get more information about the game industry