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'Sometimes life isn't fair':  Mario Kart  director defends Blue Shell game design

'Sometimes life isn't fair': Mario Kart director defends Blue Shell game design

July 24, 2017 | By Alex Wawro

July 24, 2017 | By Alex Wawro
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More: Console/PC, Design

"Sometimes life isn't fair. Sometimes in life you have something where you feel that's not right, and that's frustrating."

- Nintendo's Kosuke Yabuki, director on Mario Kart 7 and 8, speaking to Eurogamer about the philosophical underpinnings of the series' infamous Blue Shell power-up.

In the 20+ years since its debut, the Blue Shell power-up in Nintendo's long-running series of Mario Kart games has inspired much wailing and gnashing of teeth among game designers.

It's unfair. It keeps things exciting. It's a cheap way of implementing "rubber-banding" in a multiplayer racing game. It levels the playing field. It is the unstoppable arbiter of an uncaring universe

There have been as many takes as there are devs to have them, and it seems likely there will be many more, as Mario Kart 8 director Kosuke Yabuki recently told Eurogamer the Blue Shell isn't going anywhere.

"We have tried - or we are trying - to see what the game's like without the Blue Shell," Yabuki said. "When we've experimented without the Blue Shell, actually it feels like something's missing. Like there's something not quite enough in the game. So for now we've kept it in."

He goes on to acknowledge that the power-up can be quite frustrating, but suggests that "sometimes life isn't fair" and lays out how the Mario Kart dev team tries to design the game so that players turned off by the Blue Shell eventually come back.

"As far as possible we want to avoid those feelings of frustration," he said. "Ultimately, in the longer term, although everyone might feel on one particular day that they're so frustrated that they're not going to play any more Mario Kart today - [we focus on] keeping the experience enjoyable enough so that you might feel like that today, but the next day, the next week, you'll still go back to Mario Kart and still enjoy it."

However you might feel about the Blue Shell, you can find the rest of Yabuki's comments about it and Mario Kart over on Eurogamer.  

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