ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Super Mario Presentation 64 —

For two weeks, I was off the air as far as this weblog was concerned. Oh, but have no fear, readers… have no fear at all. I’ve been generating what might be called a “lot of content”. Today’s bit is just the beginning.

I am just back from Blockparty at Notacon, the 3rd edition, which ran from the 16th through to the 19th in Cleveland, OH.  Before I even begin to spend some entries on everything that went on, let us instead begin with a simple provision of Jason Scott presentation. This one happened at 1pm on the 17th, and concerns that most important of academic subjects, Super Mario 64 for the N64 Game System. (1996)

Here’s the direct link if you can’t get this to work or want to download it some other way.

I feel no general need to sell people on the idea of watching one of my presentations; I’m one to just link to it and let you decide if it’s worth 50 minutes of your time. For about 60-80 people, this was worth their time at the event, and I had a wonderful time explaining the history of Mario 64, talking about Platform Studies as a realm of academics, and talking about what lessons could be learned from this now 13 year old game.

My choice of talk subjects goes all over the map, but I really do think there’s a ton to be learned from this game, and the Mario series has really given us a lot to learn from, even if not everyone can get their heads around the idea.

This was just one of the things I was up to in the last two weeks. Keep tuned!


Categorised as: computer history

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12 Comments

  1. TrendyMoron says:

    That was totally worth 50 minutes of time. <3

  2. Shannon Harris says:

    Your presentations always prove educational and entertaining. Hope I can catch one live one day.

  3. Jim Leonard says:

    And if y’all want to see how Jason PREPARED for this talk, check this: http://trixter.wordpress.com/2009/04/20/back-from-block-party-2009/

    Never ceases to amaze me.

  4. Irongeek says:

    I was there for the live performance. :) Loved it Jason. I’m going through Google video right now watching some of your old presentations.

  5. raindog151 says:

    amazing presentation, even better than the ham/telegraph one at shmoocon a few years ago. kudos, sir.

  6. Nathan says:

    Great talk; I love Mario 64, and you really highlighted some of the design choices that make it such a lasting game.

  7. Rat says:

    “But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

    You obviously know your history (without notes; impressive), so I don’t know why you say that Nintendo “prefers to lag in terms of technological advance,” since the Wii is the first of their consoles that came out later AND more underpowered than its competitors. I mean, “64” was put in the Nintendo 64’s name as a boast of its power at the time.

    I did not own a 64 at the time of release, so by the time I got around to playing Mario, 3D was not exactly mind-boggling. In that respect, I liked that you demoed the game with commentary highlighting the things that would catch a less experienced player’s attention. As I said, your comments about the game’s development and design philosophy were mostly correct.

    But then you go and insult arcade games, compare competitive players to Enron criminals, and take shots at Halo. I find your suggestion that Mario creates better human beings to be laughable, but that is a probably a more deep-seated philosophical difference.

    I like the layout of your site, though!

  8. Jason Scott says:

    You’ve tempered things a bit since your original commentary on this presentation. Less “pretty bad” and “completely misunderstands”, a little more “I liked”, “mostly correct”. You hang in there, soldier.

    I didn’t say “proudly technologically lagged”, I said “technologically lagged”. Ignoring the marketing, the Nintendo 64 had a raft of features that were in some ways experimental, but in many ways taking a very safe bet – the Playstation read from a 640mb CD-ROM but the initial cartridges for the Nintendo 64 were more in the less-than-a-dozen megabyte ranges. Remember the Nintendo DD64? Well worth looking that one up.

    Where they innovated, honestly, was not technologically. It was in trying to make the control mechanism more involved, via a combination of analog and digital control, the rumble pack, and similarly, utilizing a-list titles like Zelda and Mario to the best the game system could offer. As a result, both Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64 are pretty universally regarded as classics, although my speech focuses more on what an A-list development team could do when given essentially carte blanche and the blessing of a firm like Nintendo.

    How unpleasant that here you show you didn’t own (or use?) a Nintendo 64 in 1996, but in your previous comment, you make all sorts of historical qualifications to what I was trying to get across. I worked for Sony at the time, and I spent quite a bit of time observing what was popular and innovating and who was doing what – and while there are plenty of cases of features and aspects of N64 and Mario 64 before those items’ release, Nintendo brought it to a whole new stage, which was the point of what I was trying to get across.

    The majority of your GSW comment is reactive, a butthurt screed enraging itself when I wander up through history into a place closer to home. I was playing arcade games in 1977 and get a few hours of Halo 3 in a week. I’ve seen a bit. And I stand by what I say, even if you don’t like it. Many modern first person shooter games, in multi-player mode, are murder simulators that reward, by design, using any means necessary to win. Elastic AI is a debate that is ongoing and has points on both sides, and I believe that it is fine as long as there is an option to turn it off at the switch/configuration level. The comparison to Enron criminals (and chickens) was a (too) subtle (for you) reference to how unintended consequences arise from design choices.

    Other than that, the play was awesome.

  9. Rat says:

    It was meant as a continuation; that’s why I quoted your comment at the top. The first is for GSW readers; the second was a response to you, so I thought I’d post it on your site.

    “Prefers to lag in terms of technological advance,” is a direct quote from the video, but okay. I still think it’s strange to say that about Nintendo hardware in general–I see your point about the 64, but the same doesn’t seem true for the SNES or GameCube. It’s not really important; so I’ll let that drop.

    I don’t know what me owning a 64 has to do with the “historical qualifications” you’re talking about. I acknowledged its impact on 3D action games and analog joystick control. There are clear examples of companies trying to create “the next Mario 64.” Nevertheless, you use a lot of phrases like “hardly any games do this” for things like exploration and “a sense of context.” Hell, you praise the forward-thinking displayed by Mario’s IDLE ANIMATION and mention the “beautiful grating” out in the garden, so I think “slobber” is quite an appropriate word. Mario 64 is a great game, but it doesn’t deserve fanfare over every detail.

    Anyway, of course my GSW comment was reactive–it’s a response. My criticisms are harsh but correct:

    You do not understand that expert gamers are the only ones who can offer useful advice about how to improve a series. Who else COULD be qualified? What does it matter if newcomers can’t understand these deeper, more complex games? The old ones haven’t vanished; they can still go play those; they’re not being excluded from anything. Of course it matters to the developers, who want to make money–and this is understandable. But it is an unfortunate financial necessity that games have to retrogress and rehash and simplify in order to expand their audience. It’s not the way to make better games.

    You claim that few games have a constant learning curve like Mario 64, but you’re confusing “learning curve” with “variety of actions.” Yes, Mario 64 introduces many new stages and obstacles–unlike, say a fighting game–but the fighting game have much more complex ruleset and greater room for improvement as a result of it.

    There is nothing subtle about your Enron/chickens comparison. You make the ridiculous assertion that players want to improve their skill “regardless of whether or not [they] enjoy it,” which shows nothing but ignorance of how competitive players think. I wonder if you think the same about competitive basketball players or Chess players. Could it be that they derive pleasure from MASTERY OF THE GAME, considering that overcoming a CHALLENGE is the entire point of playing a game in the first place? No, they must all be secretly miserable on the inside. Furthermore, you conflate using cheating with programs outside the game with expert knowledge of tricks and exploits within the game. You denigrate all competitors as trash-talking sociopaths-in-training. If you had experience with high-level players in any tournment, you wouldn’t make such absurd claims.

    Regardless of your age and the games you may have played, you have nothing but snide for arcade game design (Limited lives? Pah!) and players who would rather improve their skills and avoid filler, instead of backtracking through levels, enjoying the “immersion,” and having to design their own challenges.

    You may know a lot about video game history, but your comments about design are way off the mark. Hopefully someone at GSW will read my comment and filter your presentation accordingly.

    For starters, you should read this:
    http://insomnia.ac/commentary/mini-games_are_for_morons/

  10. Peter says:

    I like your talk. Well thought out…

    The arcade comments were well said. The lives gimmick in arcade games was a way to get the player to pay more money. Why the hell would I want to do that at home?

    I love FPS games – don’t mind that comparison. I know the point is to kill however you can – and that’s what I like – and I like to think I’m pretty good at that gimmick.

    At the same time – I love playing all sorts of other games with other gimmicks. And I know FPS isn’t for everyone.

    All in all – I wanted to stop by & say I dug your talk.

  11. Rat says:

    Arcade games are designed to be beaten–albeit by very skilled players–with one credit only. The idea that arcade games REQUIRE credit-feeding is a common misconception. The ones regarded highly by fans (R-Type, Metal Slug, Alien vs. Predator, etc.) can be cleared without continuing; players would simply not stand for it if they felt there were unavoidable cheap deaths.

  12. Josh says:

    As someone who has beaten many arcade games in a single credit, I can authenticate everything Rat is saying. I’m not some shut-in who spends exorbitant amounts of time playing games either. It’s an issue of time management, really. While some people reserve that gaming time to collect collect-athon items, play mini-games, grind, and unlock all the cummerbunds for their character, I’d find more enjoyment in using it to discover all the techniques to overcome a really challenging design. Personally I think the world is big enough that games like Mario 64 and Metal Slug 3 can coexist without having to be pitted against each other for supremacy when they’re clearly apples and oranges. Like, if I don’t like romantic comedies, I just don’t watch them. No need to compare Must Love Dogs to The Terminator.

    Anyway, Mario 64. Yeah it was a pretty cool game.