As a child, I was obsessed with video game maps. I would pore over them in old issues of Nintendo Power magazine, and even try to recreate the levels of my favorite games block by block on pieces of graph paper. I wasn't alone. In the early days of the Super Mario franchise, that's exactly how the folks at Nintendo were designing them.
"Back in the day, we had to create everything by hand," says Takashi Tezuka in a video promoting the upcoming level design game Super Mario Maker. "To design courses, we would actually draw them one at a time on to these sheets of graph paper. We'd then hand our drawings to the programmers, who would code them into a build."
If they wanted to make changes to the level, however, things got messy on the original document very quickly, so they started sketching out the changes on semi-transparent tracing paper placed over the maps.
"As the years went on and we made more and more sidescrolling games, we had to create a more advanced tool to design them with," says Tezuka. "This became the basis of Super Mario Maker."
The upcoming Wii game will give players the same sort of level-editing creative powers that once belonged only to designers like Tezuka, and allow them to design in the graphical styles of numerous 2D Mario games. It'll also include all-new bells and whistles like a "Luigi mushroom" that will give Mario the characteristics of his taller, thinner brother.
Super Mario Maker is slated for release on September 11, and you can watch the trailer below, or see some expert players get wrecked by some of its customized levels at the recent Nintendo World Championships.