Nintendo designers drew the levels by hand in the early days
In the leadup to Nintendo’s new level-creator game Super Mario Maker, the company is offering an inside look into the design process that goes into creating games in its most successful franchise. During Nintendo’s E3 video presentation, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto and longtime Mario designer Takashi Tezuka showed off some early sketches of gaming’s most famous plumber.
Initially Mario had an even more cartoony look, with an extra-large nose and a pretty serious overbite. The sketches show the character riding a cloud (a feature that would crop up in later games in the series) and hurling fireballs at flying turtles that look pretty similar to Koopa Troopas.
Miyamoto also explained how he physically created levels in the series early days. Designers used graph paper to map out each tile of a given level block by block, then handed the drawings over to programmers to build in the game. To make edits to a level’s layout, designers would place a thin sheet of translucent paper over the original design that marked the specific changes.
Eventually, the company developed a more efficient computer program that allowed designers to easily insert different types of obstacles and architecture into a given level. That program became the basis for Super Mario Maker, which debuts on Wii U on Sept. 11.