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 Donkey Kong Country  collaborators talk difficulty surprises
Donkey Kong Country collaborators talk difficulty surprises
February 20, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

February 20, 2014 | By Alex Wawro
More: Design

"What we didn't expect was that not many players would want to use the Super Guide, which we had created as an option for people having trouble with the game. We learned that players want to clear levels by themselves in the end."
- Nintendo SPD producer Kensuke Tanabe, speaking about the development of Donkey Kong Country Returns with Official Nintendo Magazine.

Nintendo SPD producer Kensuke Tanabe and Retro CEO Michael Kelbaugh shared stories from their past projects and offered some interesting insight into the development of the upcoming Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze in the course of a recent joint interview with Official Nintendo Magazine.

During the course of the interview Tanabe and Kelbaugh both highlight how they tend to roll unpractical or otherwise leftover gameplay feature ideas into completely new games, and they share what Nintendo has learned about accounting for a player's preferred level of challenge when designing gameplay systems in the twenty years since Nintendo first created Donkey Kong Country with Rare - a title both men worked on, since Kelbaugh was at Nintendo Of America at the time.

In particular, Tanabe notes of complaints over the new game's difficulty: "We did anticipate such opinions because we purposefully kept the difficulty of Donkey Kong Country Returns as high as in the old Donkey Kong Country games... We learned that players want to clear levels by themselves in the end. Given this experience, we decided [for Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze] to add some features that mean even casual players will be able to complete the whole game. But this doesn't mean that the difficulty of the game has been lowered at all."

This is far from the first time the pair have spoken publicly about the partnership between Nintendo and Retro -- both Tanabe and Kelbaugh were interviewed at length for a previous Gamasutra feature about the development of Donkey Kong Returns. It probably won't be the last, either.

"We consider Retro as part of Nintendo family and a very capable game development studio," said Tanabe. "They will keep working with not only SPD, but also with the development teams in Kyoto. They might even work on a title that Miyamoto-san leads directly in the future."

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Eric Geer
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People like challenges and difficult levels, but only when they know that there is balance and the issue is there abilities rather than the game being unbalanced and purposely made to be unfair.

Andy Wallace
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Are they genuinely surprised that players would rather clear the levels themselves than have a CPU player beat it for them? It seems pretty obvious that people want to play the game more than they want to watch the game play itself.

Joe Zachery
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If you look at the reviews some people saw it being difficult a negative. So ya knowing when to use the super guide is a challenge. There are 2 different audiences playing this game, and you have to balance for both.