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Turning Nintendo: The Donkey Kong Country Returns Interview
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Turning Nintendo: The Donkey Kong Country Returns Interview

May 30, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

A lot of games for kids, they're often licensed; they're often not that well thought-through. Not that much care or respect is given to the audience, per se.

KT: That's a great point, by the way.

How do you think about like how you're going to interact with kids with this kind of game? What do you guys do to make a game that would do the opposite of that? That would be respectful to kids and excite their imaginations?

Michael Kelbaugh: I think one of our objectives, right off the bat, was to pay homage to and make a better DKC. So inherently DKC was a hard game, so as that applies to children, it's almost not accessible to a very young child. So, how did we approach that? We owed it to the fans to keep the difficulty level such that it paid homage to DKC -- but how do we let a five year old play? We took kind of a two-pronged approach.

The Super Guide, if you get stuck in a level and you die a few times, then you use a Super Guide, something that's not in DKC, and was really unheard of back then, right? So we implemented the Super Guide. It's a player choice; they could choose to use it, they could choose not to. You could choose to make the game simpler by using that play mechanic, or you can choose not to.

Multiplayer, specifically, was a real fun challenge for us, because it's unique in the sense that our goal was for a very experienced player to be able to play the game and have fun in multiplayer mode, as much fun playing it in multiplayer mode, as an inexperienced player could.

So as a father, I want to play it with my daughter, who is five years old, right? And not to be hamstrung by playing it with her and vice-versa. So in the multiplayer, specifically, we think we did a good job with that, where we merged the enjoyment level for the expert player and the novice player, and the opportunity for them to play together.

So in summary to your question, I think that we did homage to DKC in keeping that difficulty level robust, and also by incorporating features that allowed children to still approach the game.

Yeah, I think same screen co-operative multiplayer is very underrated.

MK: We're really proud of that feature.

KT: Would you mind if maybe I elaborate on that in a more general sense?

MK: Please do.

KT: So you know, it would be unfair to say that every game that we make is built to be enjoyed by every user at every age. For example, a Zelda game, I think those games would probably be very difficult for smaller children to enjoy on their own, and I think a lot of that barrier comes from controls. So for example, another thing is, if you're talking about a small enough child, even the idea of text, text explaining controls for example, can become a barrier to their enjoyment of the game.

So I think that, then, the challenge becomes to look for controls that are intuitive and experiences that are intuitive. You know, if you're roaming around and you push the A button, no matter your age, and you see something jump, then you're like, "Oh, if I press this A button I can jump," because physically this action is not difficult for even smaller children, so it's about that intuitive nature of things. I mean that's how Mario works, right? The first one I'm talking about, in particular.

But then there are people... If people then learn, "If I hold down B and then jump, I can dash and then jump." I think that that might be a challenge for smaller children to learn more complex operations like that, but for the people that are playing that game, who long for that challenge, it's at least deeper gameplay for them.

So you know, then it leads me to think that perhaps one of the core principles of building gameplay at Nintendo might be the idea of starting with a really simple intuitive core concept, one that, say, a child could learn for themselves and quickly learn to enjoy, and then build layers of additional complexity around that -- that could be enjoyed and explored by people have the skill level to exploit them. So perhaps that's how we see doing things, when it comes to finding a way to get kids to enjoy the games.

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