Let’s Interview: Super Mario 64 Reimagined Creator Harold de Boer!
Over the years, many people have tried to remake Super Mario 64. There was Roystan Ross, who remade Bob-omb Battlefield in HD back in 2015. There was MTLenz, who tried to turn Super Mario Galaxy 2 into a Super Mario 64 remake, with some tweaks to fit the new engine.
And the list just goes on and on from there. CryZENx, Nimso Ny, I Love SMB, the Super Mario 64 Fan Remake Team… Seemingly everyone and their dog has tried to remake this game at one point or another, with only Ocarina of Time managing to offer up any competition in the ‘most common fan remake’ department.
Regardless, none of these projects have ever worked. Oh no, whether it’s due to team drama, burnout or Nintendo takedown notices, every past attempt at remaking Mario 64 has failed to get off the ground. It’s like the concept itself is cursed, in a similar way to the Defence Against the Dark Arts post at Hogwarts.
But Harold de Boer’s attempt is different. It’s ambitious. it’s interesting and more importantly, it’s actually shown some decent progress. It’s not just the castle grounds or Bob-omb Battlefield anymore, it’s a full game with multiple levels, enemies, mechanics and items.
It’s certainly more than a tech demo, that’s for sure!
So join us, as we discuss everything Super Mario 64 Reimagined, from its humble beginnings to its ambitious goals. Let’s a-go!
Starting with a quick question about Harold de Boer’s personal background. Who are you? Who is Harold de Boer?
Well, I’m just a guy who lives in The Netherlands and is 24 years of age.
And how did you get into gaming anyway? What was your first game?
I am pretty sure my first game was Super Mario 64 actually! I was a little young to remember but I was about 5-6 years old, Me and my siblings had a Nintendo 64 in the late 90’s and played on it days on end. So I pretty much got into gaming since I can even remember!
First Mario game specifically?
Super Mario 64, But I played Mario Kart 64 and Mario Party 1 a lot too, and I still do so to this day. Something about the old classics makes me nostalgic about them.
What games are you playing now?
I mostly alternate between Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8, Mario Odyssey and even Pokemon, but I also love games like Fallout, Bioshock and Minecraft as well.
Any titles you’re looking forward to in future? Perhaps those 3D Mario remakes we’ve seen rumoured about online?
I would love to see a Super Mario 3D World remake on the Switch, since I had a great time with that game before. A Super Mario Sunshine remake would be the absolute best though! Let’s hope the rumors are true.
Onto game development now. How did you get into making games?
I have always been into modding games since I discovered it as a young teenager. It always fascinated me that you could edit a level in any way you want in a game you were so into at the time and see your own twists and turns come to life. It’s kinda like playing with legos. They are still the same blocks but you can build whatever you want, limited only by your imagination!
However, I didn’t get into making games from scratch till I was much older. There, I stumbled across a Facebook group by someone who also wanted to remake Super Mario 64. This concept was really exciting to me, and I wanted to help out, so I ended up having to learn how to do any of this stuff.
Sadly while that group didn’t get very far, I did become proficient enough to start my own iteration.
So you didn’t make any other games before Super Mario 64 Reimagined?
No, this is actually my first game development project. However, I do get a lot of side projects and other random ideas that I work on from time to time. Got to mix it up so I don’t get bored with the same thing all the time, plus it keeps me busy trying to solve more challenging problems.
Fair enough, let’s move onto Super Mario 64 Reimagined. What made you decide to remake Super Mario 64?
Well it’s always been a big part of my childhood, and I spent countless hours playing the original game trying to find all the stars. It was also my first video game too, so that’s a big plus in terms of owing it a remake.
Additionally, it’s also a perfect fit for a remake due to how outdated the graphics are at this point, in part due to being one of the first 3D games ever made.
However those old graphics also make it harder to remake too, since a whole bunch of the models are nothing but platforms and cubes.
That doesn’t look much better with modern graphics alone, so I had to come up with more creative ideas in order to make this look better and more enjoyable, hence the name Super Mario 64 Reimagined!
And what made you decide to use Unreal Engine 4 anyway?
I think it’s because Unreal released it’s 4th version of the engine back when I was learning to do 3D art/make levels. It just looked more user friendly than the other engines I’d seen, hence why I chose it.
In the end though, I’m glad I did, since I’ve had a very pleasant time using it for this game.
Have you seen those other attempts at remaking the game (like the Bob-omb Battlefield demo or the one by CryZENx)?
Yes I have!
What do you think of them overall?
I think they’re pretty great overall, with some decent talent and ideas put into them.
Sadly though, they never usually get much further than a level or 2 before the project goes silent never to be heard of ever again. The graphics also often aren’t up to professional standards either, which is something else I’m trying to do better with in Mario 64 Reimagined.
Caption: Nimso Ny’s version barely got further than remaking Peach’s Castle before Nintendo shut it down…
Still, the coding for some of these remakes is pretty good!
What will Super Mario 64 Reimagined do differently?
Well, I actually want to finish remaking the entire game for one thing. I want to remake it with better graphics and perhaps some extra features, like more playable characters to use and levels to explore. Mod support would be great too, so people can add their own stuff to it down the line.
Super Mario 64 Reimagined is also trying to be as nostalgic as the original but with a new and refreshing modern twist to it, since I fear that making the game exactly as it was but with some better graphics will just get boring really fast.
Makes sense to us. Presumably the physics will be better in Reimagined too? Most Mario 64 remakes don’t seem to work too well in that regard…
Yeah, they’ll definitely be better. I’m not happy with Mario’s movements, controls and animations so far, so I’m hoping to make them better soon.
I’m starting to study more programming to get better here, since while I can code pretty well in Unreal Blueprints, I’m not yet skilled enough to perfectly recreate Mario’s movements. Maybe I’ll even be able to find someone with professional programming skills to get this working even sooner!
So how tough was it getting Mario’s physics and movement implemented like they are now?
Well I didn’t actually program the current version of Mario used in this game. Someone like Zack did, before leaving the project.
I did code him in the first video though, but that was very difficult to get working, and ended up being so buggy I went with a simpler coding setup instead.
Caption: Harold programmed the physics in this early version of the game.
Another thing a remake needs to do well at are graphics, and Reimagined seems to have really nailed the aesthetic in that sense too. How did you and the team manage to make these levels look so vibrant and full of detail?
Thanks! It was pretty much all me as far as the levels and 3D art in this remake are concerned. We do have a very talented character designer called FullBoyle though, and he’s done some great work on the project as well.
However, I won’t lie, it’s taken me a good few attempts to get the levels looking good enough, and I’m still not happy with some of the old work I did on them years ago. Hence I’m redoing most levels again till everything’s perfect!
Can you give a few more details on why that’s so tough?
As I said before, it’s difficult trying to remake a game where most objects are simple cubes and most textures are blurry bitmaps. So I’ve had to come up with some pretty creative ideas to get it to look better and more interesting for the player to look at. That’s why levels have extra item blocks and things to interact with too; it makes the levels feel less empty overall.
I’ve also had to mess around with colour grading settings quite a lot too, just to get the right color vibrancy for the project. It’s got to have that warm, ‘happy’ Mario feel after all.
Where did you get the 3D models and textures from for this game? Some definitely look Odyssey-like, but others look very different indeed…
All the 3D art and models are custom made, except for Mario’s model. The characters and level models are by me and FullBoyle, and Mario’s own model will eventually be remade from scratch too.
In the end, every model and texture in the game will be brand new, and nothing willl be reused from existing games.
Sounds good. Speaking of sounds, where are you getting the music from? It sounds very nice indeed, and it fits the feel of the game perfectly!
We’ve got a bunch of great musical artists on the team that are very passionate about recreating the original music and sound effects. In fact, most people applying to work on the project are actually musicians!
It’s a good thing too, since I don’t know a thing about making music haha!
One thing we do notice however is that the game’s design has been tweaked a bit here, with many levels having a lot more detail than in the original game. What’s the thought process behind this stuff? Like the extra blocks and platforms in Bowser in the Dark World?
Caption: Super Mario 64 Reimagined adds extra content to existing levels, like more platforms, blocks and background details
To add more detail and give the game a much more interesting vibe, plus provide more to explore in general. It’d be boring to just faithfully recreate the game as is, so I try to think of other ways to liven things up and keep the game looking interesting.
It’s why we decided to call the remake a reimagining, since I rethink the original game’s design in a lot of places!
Makes sense to us. Does that mean there’s going to be a lot of new content here in general? Like how Mario 64 DS added new missions, characters, etc?
My main focus is to remake the original game first and then hopefully add all the DS stuff to it too. Then after remains to be seen but i would definitely love to add entirely new levels and characters! Those mini games from the DS were pretty great too. If I can get a good amount of stars to collect by the end of it I’ll be pretty happy about it!
How does the game’s progression system work? Will it keep the same star gathering setup from the original game, including the same missions?
Yeah, I wouldn’t dare to touch the original story or goals! But adding to it here and there won’t hurt, as long as it does not get in the way of the original game’s ideas.
How much of the original game has been remade so far anyway?
Well technically every level of the original is done up to this point. But given that some of those levels are now getting on a bit and looked outdated, I decided to re-remake a lot of them nonetheless. The coding needs a lot of work specially on the Mario end too, but that will come with time.
Sadly game development takes a long time though, especially when there’s not many people working on it. Nintendo might have an army for games like this, but I don’t.
So we still need a bunch more musicians and animators for this project.
What about all the enemies, bosses, etc? Generally this seems to be where a lot of remakes trip on, with one of the most notable ones having managed to recreate very few of the mechanics from Bob-omb Battlefield. Have you managed to recreate every enemy and boss in the original game?
Caption: Both Roystan Ross and I Love SMB struggled to remake Bob-omb Battlefield’s enemies and mechanics
This is something I’m not focusing on right now, only the simpler programming needed for other parts of the game. Once I learn more about game development though, I’ll definitely be on it. AI work is typically one of the hardest parts of making a game, so it’s no surprise most don’t do well at it.
Still, the AI in this game is comparatively simpler than other titles, so with a bit of time it won’t be much of an issue.
What exactly will the latter play out like anyway? Mario 64 is not known for having good boss battles, so we’re guessing they’ll need a bit of an update to get them working well in a modern looking project like this…
In an ideal world, I’d love to have clever AI for each boss, which would make it a bit trickier to defeat them. Because while back in the day it was challenging to defeat one, the AI doesn’t hold up well today, and I’d like to make it a bit more challenging to deal with overall.
Especially Bowser. He moves a bit too slowly in my opinion.
Another element of the original everyone remembers are the caps, which give Mario various new abilities for a short time. Have these been implemented into Super Mario 64 Reimagined yet?
No, the caps haven’t been added yet, but the items box have been. I always thought these were a fun addition to the game, especially what with the music that played when you collected them.
Either way, while I don’t plan to change the original game’s caps very much, I might consider adding some new ones to the game as well. I’ll see how it goes.
What about story elements, like cutscenes, intros, NPCs, etc?
Having a cinematic cutscene for boss encounters rather than a still image with a text box certainly sounds like a great idea to me! It’d also be nice to have more lively NPCs too; the existing ones just stand so eerily still when they talk to you, with no animations other than looking up and down a bit.
But I don’t want to overdo it here, so we’ll have to see how much makes it in at the end.
Either way, let’s talk about the general setup of the project now. How are you marketing the remake online?
I mostly showcase the project on our Discord group, which has a lot of members leaving great feedback on the project.I do try to post more on YouTube though, since the game has reached a stage in which I can actually show off some of the gameplay elements and mechanics.
And what’s the reception been anyway? I know sites like Reddit and ResetEra seem to be very skeptical of these projects, as seen by often the ‘Nintendo hire this man’ quote/video pops up in discussions about them…
Hahaha ‘’Nintendo hire this man’’ is one of the most common comments I get. There’s a lot of these repeating comments on the video and it can drive me a bit mad to be honest, especially since I try to read all of them. All in all though, it’s mostly meant well and I really appreciate it.
Most feedback is actually really positive though, and it seems a lot of people are pretty excited about the game overall. There are a few comments that Mario’s a bit stiff in terms of movement and animations, and I do agree with that (since it’s very early in development and things are still subject to change), but for the most part, I’m happy with the feedback I’ve received so far.
Yeah, it certainly is doing well on YouTube at the moment. Are you surprised how it’s doing right now?
I actually am surprised how popular it is. It’s inspiring me to work on it more (and harder) in hopes it’ll reach a modern artistic standard.
Of course, there’s always the occasional scolder that hates it, but we don’t pay attention to those. I’m glad to see so many people still love Super Mario 64.
Super Mario 64’s certainly a fantastic game. Still, what’s the development timeline for this remake? When can we expect to see it released?
That’s a very difficult question to answer. As long as I’m doing most of the work on my own, it’ll take a while, since I still need to learn a great deal more about programming to finish everything here.
Still, at least I can show off most of the levels gameplay wise.
Do you ever worry Nintendo might try and shut it down? They’ve certainly gone after a few Mario 64 remakes before this…
That’s another comment I often get on these videos!
As far as I understand though, it’s perfectly legal to make videos of this kind of game so long as you don’t release any downloads. I don’t think any project has been shut down without one of those, though I could be wrong about that.
Of course that raises its own issues at the end of development, so I’ll likely have to work this out one way or another by contacting Nintendo in future.
Hmm, might that may not be the best idea in the world. Still, what are your plans for the game if they do try and shut it down?
Sadly if Nintendo orders me to shut down the project, I’ll have to listen to that and shut it down. There’s no way around it. I do wish Nintendo were more free and open about their content, but I understand where they’re coming from regardless; no one wants to see their ideas taken and given out for free.
I just hope Nintendo knows it’s because fans have a lot of love for them and their games and want to see more of them!
Editor’s Note: Well that’s a first for an interviewee on this site. Never seen someone so calm about Nintendo potentially shutting down their project before.
Regardless, if they didn’t shut it down, would you be interested in making any more Mario fan games after this one?
I’d definitely be interested in making more. I’ve been having a ton of fun making this one, and there are a lot of other games I’d love to see remade as well.
That said though, I won’t just make fan games. I’ll also make totally new games not related to Mario or Nintendo as well.
Like indie games?
Yeah, I have plans to design my own games as well, and I’m already working out some ideas for them here and there.
However, I think they’ll be much bigger projects though, since they’re being completely made from scratch, and original ideas are very difficult to come up with.
Finally, what advice would you give anyone wanting to get into game development?
Be patient, don’t rush things, and take all the time you need to learn the basics before starting on the bigger stuff. Game development is a tough process, and you’ll need to learn multiple skills, not just one or two of them.
So give it all the time you can and don’t worry too much about the difficult things yet to come. Being naturally creative helps too.
Oh, and don’t start if you just want to make some quick money or simply feel you have to either. That’ll make nobody happy.
Yeah, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves Harold. If you’re not passionate about your work, it’s going to be obvious to everyone. After all, look at the Irate Gamer. His videos clearly had no passion put into them, and ended up being badly researched, badly edited jokes narrated by an individual that clearly didn’t want to be there.
And people knew it. It’s why the channel died and Bores moved on ghost hunting videos instead of gaming ones. His heart just wasn’t in it.
So don’t follow his lead. Don’t put out videos or create games just for a pay cheque, or try and follow trends on the assumption it’ll suddenly make you a millionaire.
Because that’s a recipe for burnout and a sure fire way to create a hollow, soulless imitation of art rather than anything you’re actually proud of.
Still, what did you think of the interview? Do you think Super Mario 64 Reimagined looks promising so far? How likely do you think it is that the game will actually get completed one day?
Tell us your thoughts on these questions (and more) in the comments below, on thw Gaming Latest forums or on our new Discord server today!