Let’s Interview: YouTuber and Newer Super Mario Bros Developer Skawo!

Skawo YouTube

Well guys, we’re back! After six months of not doing any interviews here at Gaming Reinvented, we’ve now got another series of them for you all to enjoy! From voice actors to musicians, YouTubers to game developers, the next set of interviews look to be some of the most interesting yet, with all manner of familiar names and faces from throughout the industry.

And the first one of these, is with a modder and YouTuber known as Skawo! Known for creating Newer Super Mario Bros DS and Another Super Mario 3D, he’s been part of the ROM hacking scene for years now, and has worked on all manner of awesome hacks and mods to boot. He’s also an accomplished YouTuber creator too, having posted text commentaries of games there for many years and rack up nearly 60K subscribers to boot.

So let’s see what he has to say, shall we? Time to delve into Skawo’s mind, and see exactly what makes him tick!

Starting with a bit of personal background. So who are you anyway? Who is Skawo?

Just an old timer YouTuber that’s still at it. Oh, and I helped make a hack or two, I guess, most well known of which are Newer Super Mario Bros. Wii and DS.

And where did your name come from? Why Skawo?

It’s a combination of a few different surnames. As to why… ? Not sure.
12 year old me’s struggle to find something that wasn’t yet claimed, I guess.

How did you get into gaming? What was your first video game?

My first game was Super Mario Bros. that I played on a Famiclone, and then a bunch of the NES “black box” titles.
After that, I played the Harry Potter games for PC. Eventually, I discovered that Super Mario 64 existed, and I properly started gaming then.

Super Mario Bros Title Screen
Super Mario Bros was Skawo’s first game

What about YouTube? What got you interested in that?

Honestly… I don’t remember. Channel exists since 15th of June 2008, so I guess it must’ve been a pretty boring holiday.

Why don’t you use voice commentary in videos anyway?

I just really dislike my voice. Plus, I guess what I do makes me stand out just the tiniest bit.

What’s it like writing the text commentary for them? What’s the process like when it comes to adding those captions?

…time consuming, I’d say. As to how… I play the game, thinking about what I’m going to say, then put that into the video editor, plus other things

I think of at the time of editing. Since I can have a long think about what I want to say, doing it that way lets me make the commentary more… hm.

Well, I hope I don’t sound absolutely pretentious here, but “insightful”, I guess. At least I hope so.

Where did the counter idea come from? Most of your playthroughs seem to count things like ‘Captain Obvious’ moments and what not, and it’s an amusing setup…

The ORLY counter idea came when I tried to play Mario and Luigi: Dream Team, because that game just spams you with needless tutorials.

ORLY Counter
For when the game tells Skawo the bleedin’ obvious

It was meant to be an one-time thing, but then it just kinda stayed, I guess.

How do you choose a game to cover?

Usually just things I want to play or cover, though lately the decision does unfortunately also include thoughts like… “well, will this get any views?”.

Are there any games you want to cover in future? Like maybe Metroid Dread or Breath of the Wild 2?

Ah, I’m not very into Metroid, and BotW2 will… probably be way too long to cover in my style.

Will be playing Mario Party: Superstars and Twilight Princess soon, though.

Mario Party Superstars
Skawo will likely play Mario Party Superstars

Onto modding and hacking now. How did you get into video game modding anyway?

I took my first foray into hacking was with Super Mario World, and probably because I saw a bunch of romhack LPs and wanted to make a hack as well.

That didn’t go anywhere until New Super Mario Bros. Wii came along.

What games have you worked with so far? Obviously New Super Mario Bros DS is a given, but given you’ve modded the text in Luigi’s Mansion 2, it’s clear your interest in mods go way beyond that scene…

On a large scale, I worked with New Super Mario Bros. Wii and DS, Super Mario 64 DS and Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Minor things… too many to list, probably. Luigi’s Mansion 2 wasn’t me, though. That was a friend of mine, RoadrunnerWMC, and I simply was testing/recording what he has done.

Speaking of Luigi’s Mansion 2, do you think we’ll see more mods for that game soon? The text changes you made were a good start here…

…well, from what I know, no. Next Level Games must hire literal aliens for their staff, for their file formats are incomprehensible to mere humans.

The text was a low-hanging fruit, ’cause it uses relatively normal formats.

That said, even if they were figured out, the games are so intricate in nature I doubt much would be created for them.

What do you think governs whether a game’s modding scene will be successful anyway?

Three things: whether the tools made to edit the game are any good, whether the game is simple to make custom stuff for… and whether the game is popular.

The middle point in particular. It’s hard for a community to form when the entry level skill required is on par to professional game devs.

Let’s talk about New Super Mario Bros now. Why did you decide to make mods for that game?

New Super Mario Bros Wii Cave Artwork
New Super Mario Bros Wii quickly became one of Skawo’s favourites

Well, I was very excited for New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and when it came out, and tools to edit the levels came out soon after, I just wanted to do it.

As for New DS… I wanted to make another hack, but I’m not a graphical artist of any kind, so doing it on DS would leave me some leeway with the assets.

And why Newer Super Mario Bros DS, rather than a different project?

I wanted to fix some stuff I didn’t like about Newer Wii. (Which is also why I’m helping Newer Deluxe now)

What interesting challenges were there in making the mod? I do hear the DS game is way harder to mod than the Wii one…

It’s not necessarily harder… just more limited. The biggest challenge was learning how to program stuff in ARM assembly, and then C, which I didn’t really know at the time – I didn’t code anything for Newer Wii. That’s more of a general hack thing, though. As for New DS itself… I guess the biggest challenge was making 3D models, since there didn’t exist any tools to do so. There would be more custom enemies and stuff in the game if that was more easily doable.

Favourite levels in the game? Which ones are you most proud of?

For Newer Wii, it’s Beanstalk Ascent, because it’s just a well-designed level, with a cool gimmick and a really nice buildup to the Space World.

For Newer DS? Hmm… I guess the minecart stages. Those are very intricate and took a very long time to put together. I’m also pretty fond of Boomblast Badlands and Firehoop Inferno.

How about your least favourite? Any levels you’d design differently now?

In Newer Wii, it’s not one of my levels… Fungi Pit. The well-versed in the community will know why. It’s become a meme at this point.

For Newer DS, it’s probably Napalm Nebula. It’s kind of an annoying level, and pretty desperate idea-wise.

Do you have any thoughts on the idea of a sequel? Or another Newer type game on DS?

We (that is, Newer Team) planned for another Newer game on the DS, and it started development, but unfortunately lack of progress led to its cancellation.

Same happened to Newer Super Mario Bros. U. So… for now, at least, nothing *new* is planned, though of course work continues on Newer Wii Deluxe.

What was it like to work on any of the other Newer Super Mario Bros Wii games? They’re all incredibly well designed and coded for fan projects…

Assuming you’re referring to the specials, like Summer Sun and Falling Leaf…

Most of those just happened during periods where levels didn’t really need to be designed, whether that’s due to me waiting for the graphics or programming, or whatever.

There’s not much to say about them, really. Just quick projects to get something out there. See how people react.

Regardless, one thing I’ve always found interesting is how… limited most New Super Mario Bros hacks are, with only the Newer games on DS and Wii adding major mechanics, power ups, bosses, etc. Why are these elements so rare in hacks for these games?

At the current moment I firmly believe that the only thing holding people back is models and animations.
The codebases for Newer DS and Wii are a bit… unorganised, certainly, and the games could be reverse-engineered a bit more to make everything easier,

but other than that… it’s just a matter of people. …And the models.

Caption: The difficulty of making new models may also be why Newer Super Mario Bros Wii’s bosses mostly used vanilla models

Is there any evidence that may change in future? Or the games may get scenes more like those for Super Mario World, 64, 64 DS, etc?

There have been some very interesting developments lately. One person in particular has implemented things like Mario Galaxy’s prankster comets into NSMBW, and things like that.

Unfortunately, despite that, I doubt the scene will ever reach the level of Mario World or 64.

Speaking of Super Mario 64 DS, let’s talk Another Super Mario 3D now. What gave you the idea to work on that game?

Trying to learn how to model, really. (Which, well, I didn’t get very far in that, to be honest.)
I first tried to import the model I made into 64… and the game said “no”, and slapped me with its horrible camera.
So I turned to 64DS… and then I just kinda kept at it until it became something I could release.

And what was your thought process as far as design was concerned? It’s a very well designed 3D Mario platformer, and feels a lot like a Nintendo project…

Heh, well, I don’t really think that personally, sorry.

Another 3D was just mostly modelling tests, like I said, and then me trying to fit stars around the stages I made.

Once I realized that this was something I could release, the stages became a bit more… designed, more thought was put into them, but that’s not saying much.

I will say, though, that the main design principle was keeping things simple. Mario 64’s stars are, for the most part, very simple romps.

The fun comes from how you can tackle them in any order, in many different ways, sometimes “cheesing” them completely in the process.

Caption: Skipping the slide entirely in Tall Tall Mountain being a great example

Mario 64 hacks tend to go a different route… with very challenging, long stages, tons of platforming, etc.
I tried to make Another 3D a bit closer to the original 64.

Still, the scene has advanced a lot since then, with Super Mario Sunshine DS, Super Mario 256, Super Mario Galaxy DS and more being incredibly impressive projects on a design and technical level. Do you find it impressive to see how far the community has come?

Caption: Super Mario Galaxy DS is an amazing fan made project in development right now

Oh, absolutely! When I was making Another 3D – and this is one of the reasons why the game is only 73 stars long – I became kind of frustrated with the tools. Nowadays, the tools are more refined, advances on the reverse-engineering side have been made,
so it’s all progressing very nicely.

What other modding/ROM hacking scenes seem promising so far?

Perhaps a bit biased, but with the coming decompilation of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, that scene should be blooming soon.
Even without it, people are able to do some absolutely stonking good stuff with the game.

Let’s wrap this up now then. First off, what other interesting projects are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working on an NPC scripting tool for Ocarina of Time, called the NPC Maker. I have videos of it in action on my channel if you’re interested.

Caption: Skawo’s current project is an NPC making tool for Ocarina of Time aptly called NPC Maker

Anything YouTube related, like a new kind of video series or what not?

Just focusing on individual game playthroughs right now. In the future, who knows. There’s one particular special video I’d like to make, relating to how horribly programmed New Super Mario DS is, but haven’t had time to.

Do you ever worry about the future of YouTube in general? The platform has certainly been hurting its issues with things like the ‘for kids’ classifications, content ID, random copyright problems, etc…

I do worry about it a lot. Most (though not all) of the problems come from outside pressure, like legislation. YouTube just HAS to comply to the rules set out by law, so I can’t fault the platform there. I can fault the platform on having actual help be unavailable for smaller YouTubers, though. You should NOT have to beg on the platform’s official twitter to have your issue resolved.

Finally, what advice would you give a new YouTuber or game modder?

Start off small; Don’t expect to make the next Newer Wii right out of the bat. To be quite honest, the fact that game even got completed is an absolutely absurd miracle.

Listen to constructive criticism; The first things you make will probably suck, and you have to accept this; You can only get better from there.

Lastly, have fun. Romhacking is not a competition.

Agreed! It’s not a job, and you don’t have to constantly keep up with the Joneses here. Just have fun, learn new things, and enjoy ROM hacking for what it’s meant to be; a fun hobby rather than a get rich quick deal.

Regardless, thanks to Skawo for agreeing to the interview, and thanks for all the amazing answers you’ve given us today. We loved hearing all about your works and the design process behind them, and we’re even more excited for things like Newer Super Mario Bros Wii Deluxe because of that.

But what did you guys think? Did you enjoy the interview? Did we ask all the questions you wanted to see answered?

Tell us your thoughts in the comments below, on our social media pages, or on our Discord server today!

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