Well, that’s certainly been a while hasn’t it? Seems like the last interview we had on Gaming Reinvented was back in November 2015, a gap of more than three months! But fortunately, interviews are now resuming here on the site, and first on the list is a name that many Nintendo fans will know.
It’s WwwWario! Notable for creating the Super Wario series, the Five Nights at Wario’s series and the upcoming Super Wario Land game, he’s a popular Youtube celebrity with 60,000 subscribers and a list of videos that have taken the internet by storm! And now, exclusively on Gaming Reinvented, we have an interview with the man himself.
So enough with the intro, let’s get to what matters! Here’s our interview with fan game and Youtube phenomenon WwwWario!
Well, thanks for accepting the interview! Let’s start out with a few general questions first. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Sure! My name is Andreas, but since Andy is both a nickname for Andreas and more international, I use Andy while online. I live in a little village in Norway where everyone know each other, and this place is heavenly beautiful. I have two big brothers who are twins who love sports and are very talented gymnastics. I’m very shy, something I hope to overcome soon. I love music, games, movies, and horror stuff. I go music school in High School with the best class in the world, and I play mostly piano, but also play guitar and accordion (and try to sing for myself). I generally love all type of music, everything from slow sad songs to fast country songs. The only genre I really don’t like is metal. And yeah, that’s the general stuff I guess! I’m crazy after chocolate too, that’s important to note.
And what’s your history with video games? What one did you start with all those years ago?
I have lovely memories with games. Me and my brothers have always played together since I can’t remember when. Our first console was Nintendo 64, and we played Mario Party, Super Smash Bros., and other games when we didn’t have anything else to do, and I have such wonderful memories with it. We got the Gamecube shortly after, so I believe actually one of the first games I every played was Super Mario 64, Zelda: The Wind Waker, Starfox Adventures, or some of the Mario Party games. Can’t remember. I’ve loved games every since, because they’re not just fun, but it’s like a movie where you have control. Some games are beautiful and tells a beautiful story with beautiful music, some games are fun because they take lots of skill, and some games just drags you into them because of their atmosphere, characters, etc.
Above: The original Super Smash Bros was one of WwwWario’s earliest games.
Above: As were the Mario Party titles on the system
Onto a Wario question now. What’s your history with the franchise? Why do you like the Wario series so much?
My first Wario game was Wario Land 4, even though I knew him before that from Mario Party and other sport games. I got the Gameboy Advance as pretty young, so WL4 is very nostalgic for me. After that, I’ve gotten Wario Land Shake It, Wario World, and tried Wario Land 2 and 3 a good amount of years later and love them. They’re so good imo, because, well, they have Wario, and they’re very unusual yet familiar platformers. They have you go through exciting levels, but often with absurd enemies and transformations that only Wario Land provides. I like Wario Ware too, but I don’t like it nearly as much as Wario Land. I’ve always been a massive Wario fan. I remember the early internet days for me, whenever I found just a PICTURE of Wario on Google, I went crazy, and I just HAD to print it and draw it. I loved to draw before, you see, but not as much now. I even drew lots of Wario comics. I don’t know why I was so crazy after Wario. It might just be that he was my favourite Mario character since I both liked his design and personality, and the fact that me and my brothers chose one of the 4 bros as our “own”, you know (one of my brothers have always had Luigi as his favourite, my other one always had Waluigi). It’s also the fact that I’ve always liked big and strong characters in games. In all fighting games I’ve played I’ve always liked the big guys, the fat guys, or the strong guys. Not much of the small fast ones, or the magic ones.
Above: His first Wario Land game was Wario Land 4
For that matter, what type of Wario Land game do you enjoy the most? Traditional Mario gameplay like in the original, puzzle gameplay where you can’t die like in 2 or 3, or the ‘get the treasure and escape the level’ gameplay from 4 and Shake Dimension?
I think I like Wario Land 3 the most, even though that was actually the Wario Land game I played last! But in spite of that, I still get nostalgic feelings from WL3 for some reason, probably because the game just feels so Wario-ish. I think it has brilliant puzzles, and as I’ve explained in a video of mine, I simply LOVE the backtracking in this game. The fact that you see doors or places you can’t reach first, and later in the game, you either get an item or power-up that allows you to come back to these levels to find new areas. It’s brilliant, and having these 4 chests in the level really gives off a good 100% feeling. I also like the fact that you can’t die in this game. I like that you can in WL4 and Shake It, but not dying fits better with WL3’s level design and gameplay.
Above: but Wario Land 3 is his favourite Wario Land game.
Have you played Wario World or Wario Master of Disguise? What do you think of them?
Wario World is SO underrated and amazing. It has so much you can collect, it forces you to truly explore the levels, it has many awesome and satisfying moves, cool platforming, great difficulty, and typical Wario enemies (absurd ones). Really a great game. As for Master of Disguise, I can say so much that it’s very different. Not only with how you transform, but the whole feeling you get from the game. I think it has to do with the more realistic world, the music, the sounds, etc. that makes this game feel so different. People hate it, or dislike it, for the most part, but I think it very good. It has good level design, great puzzles, very cool transformations, and the dialogs for Wario are just amazingly fun.
Above: Unlike quite a few Wario fans, WwwWario enjoyed playing Wario Master of Disguise for the Nintendo DS.
Let’s talk fan games now. What got you into making them?
It was many years ago when I found this Youtuber called Kjellm87, who also happened to be Norwegian, who had made a video called “MY OWN GAMES” or something. I thought “What? He has made his OWN games?!” and indeed he had. I got SUPER excited that someone had made their own Mario games. So I made a Youtube channel just so I could message him and ask questions, and that’s also one of the reasons how my Youtube channel was born. He helped me A LOT, and spent a lot of time with that too. He taught me so much. I most likely wouldn’t make games today if he didn’t help me back in the day.
So, your main series seems to be the ‘Super Wario’ series. What inspired these games?
After I started to figure out how the software (Multimedia Fusion 2) worked, I immediately wanted to make a Wario platformer, obviously, as the Wario fan I am. I wanted to make something super epic, you know, with epic dialogues and epic boss battles and epic endings, but looking at it now, it’s pretty pathetic and funny since the games I made back then were so bad, haha! Anyways, my first game was called Super Wario 10 (since I made it in 2010), and the Wario sprite there is made by this Kjellm87. The game is very short, very glitchy, and not really fun at all. But I was proud of it. So I thought that I will now make people excited by announcing a second Super Wario game, and so the series continued with The Ghost Ship, The Hunt of the Frozen Treasure, 4Tune, and the World of Wirio.
Above: Super Wario 4Tune (one of WwwWario’s favourite fan game creations)
They also seem to have a very… hand drawn aesthetic. What made you decide to draw your own sprites and backgrounds for these titles?
I always thought that using ripped sprites from other official games will just make my game blend in with the rest and basically become worse versions of their official counterparts. I wanted to use own graphics to both make the games stand out, and to give them some more personality and truly make them feel like mine. I don’t use much custom graphics in this game I’m making now, since it’s not in the Super Wario series, and I wanted to make a really good game now, with proper and good graphics.
And out of all these games, which ones are you most and least favourites? Why?
I believe, out of my 5 Super Wario games, my favourite is my 4th one, Super Wario 4Tune. This was the one I thought would turn out the best, and I still think that one did. I used a LOT of time on that game, and I truly wanted to make it epic and big, by trying to make more exciting cutscenes, putting Photoshop to good use, lots of moves, a shop, exciting levels, Wario Land 4 gameplay, etc., and I think that one turned out the best, honestly. I did use Photoshop a bit TOO much, I think, since the graphics are often too big so the game can lag or even crash sometimes, but not often at all. I’ve learned more how to use it smart now, tho. The one I’m least proud of is my first one, since, well, it’s the worst, haha! However, there is one I’m even less proud of – a cancelled game, that was supposed to be my 3rd one. It was called Super Wario & The Amulet of Time, which would take Wario back in time to the times of the Big Bang, and teleport him forward in time for each level, going through Earth’s history. But that game’s small demo got SO many complains, and for good reason, since the game was both historically incorrect, glitchy, looked bad, etc., so I cancelled it and started on a new 3rd Super Wario which would eventually become Super Wario & The Hunt of the Frozen Treasure.
Above: Super Wario the Amulet of Time was not well received.
Now, what encouraged you to make the Five Nights at Wario’s games? They’re obviously Five Nights at Freddy’s fan games, but why Wario?
Now this was fun, haha! FNAF was pretty new at the time. I found FNAF on Markiplier’s channel and thought it was “just another decent horror game”, but this was kinda before FNAF exploded into what it became. I THINK it was around FNAF2, or maybe before that was released, that I started making something. I thought that “hmm, I wonder if someone has made a FNAF fan game?”, so I started playing around and managed to make a engine that worked similar to FNAF, so I thought to myself “I’ll make this into an actual fan game!”. And a few days before that, I had found a GIF on Twitter, where Wario’s head was flashing in the left door in the office instead of Freddy’s head, and under it was the text “Five Night’s at Wario’s”, and it was both hilarious and horrifying at the same time. So that’s how I got the idea, since I had models for Wario and Co. from Smash Bros Brawl. I uploaded the demo, thinking that this was the first FNAF fan game, but apparently Five Nights at Treasure Island was before mine. I believe Treasure Island was the first ever FNAF fan game, and mine was the second one.
Above: A trailer for Five Nights at Wario’s
One of the key things about these games are the creepy, messed up Mario verse character designs. How did you create these spooky character models?
This is interesting. For all of them, I made a pose for them inside BrawlBox (the Brawl modding software), took a print screen, removed the background, and put them into the pictures of the different rooms, before adding shadows, etc. For Wario, I simply used Photoshop afterwards to make his eyes glowing, and making some black lines in his face. For Waluigi, I did the same, but I also stretched out his arms to make him look more uncanny and really play on his height and skinny body. As for Peach, I did the same, pretty much. For Luigi, however, I went through all of his animations inside this BrawlBox software (you can look at and play the animations from Brawl in there), and for some reason, some animations made Luigi’s nose super big and stretched out, even though that didn’t happen in Smash Bros Brawl itself. So I used this to my advantage! As for Mario, I removed some models on him by accident (namely his head), so only his eyes and moustache were left. So I used this to my advantage, too, haha!
Despite the name, Five Nights at Wario’s arguably takes a bit more inspiration from general Mario games than Wario. Why are there fairly few Wario Land and WarioWare characters featured in them?
Well, mostly because the models for Luigi, Waluigi, etc. were already in this BrawlBox software, so I had the models ready for use. Finding models for others would be hard. Also the fact that I wanted to use the most familiar Mario characters so everyone would be familiar with them.
Is Five Nights at Wario’s 3 the final game?
Story-wise, yes. But Five Nights at Wario’s: Origins came after that, too. That’s the last game I made in the series, and will ever make. The story is a little complicated time-paradox and time loop. FNAW3 has both a good and bad ending, and FNAW: Origins is a result of the bad ending, resulting in the loop starting over, but the events in the whole story couldn’t have happened if Origins didn’t happen first… so, a time-paradox, because it’s a mystery where this whole loop started.
Above: A trailer for Five Nights at Wario’s Origins
It’s been a while, but interviews are now resuming at Gaming Reinvented! What’s more, this time, we’ve got one with a name that will be very familiar to anyone in the Mario fan games community. Because you see, today we’re talking with Thunder Dragon, the maker of such well known classics as Psycho Waluigi, Toad Strikes Back and Toadette Strikes Back.
Above: A trailer for Psycho Waluigi, illustrating what the game is about.
Haven’t heard of them? Well, the former is pretty much the most popular Mario fan game ever made, outside of Mushroom Kingdom Fusion. It’s had a ton of Let’s Plays (including ones by raocow and PBG among others) and even has its own page on GameFAQs and Gamespot.
The other two are a bit less popular, but also highly regarded in the community. So with that said, let’s get right to the interview!
1. What inspired you to create Psycho Waluigi, and its whole ‘telekinesis’ gimmick?
Psycho Waluigi, quite literally, came to me in a dream! Practically the entire concept was spawned quite randomly, in vivid detail, in the murky depths of my oft times twisted subconscious. Yes, even the very nature of the “telekinesis” gimmick – how it worked, how it was a purple eyeball cloud thingy – all of it. I knew, that somehow, some way, I HAD to bring this concept into the waking world.
Granted, I did need to take a few liberties from the, ehrm, “source material.” In the original dream, Psycho Waluigi employed both the file select screen and the world map from the original Donkey Kong Country. Also, there was some sort of two player mode, where the second player apparently controlled a so-called “Buddy Kong” – who was basically just a dwarfish DK in a blue t-shirt. Yeah.
2. And how about the new characters? What was the inspiration behind Hazel and Psycho Iris?
Actually, while I’m on the subject of Donkey Kong, let me first talk about the shopkeeper, Monkeybags. See, I wanted to preserve the dream’s origins somehow, so I made the shopkeeper into the obligatory DK reference. He might not resemble “Buddy Kong” as he had originally come to me, but hey – in my mind, he truly -is- Buddy Kong. Because after all, who would seriously name their child “Monkeybags?”
As for General Hazel, I wanted to give Waluigi his own “Captain Syrup” – see, I consider Psycho Waluigi to be some kind of a strange, alternate universe version of the first Wario Land, which proved to be a major influence. Hazel ended up taking after Syrup’s Wario Land 2 appearance, however, what with her penchant for piloting machines. I wanted a strict, no nonsense hero antagonist to counteract Waluigi’s clownish villain protagonist. I didn’t want her to be TOO too serious, though (this is a Mario game, after all!), so I gave her an oversized hat and a couple of ridiculous machines themed after Mario enemies to command.
Above: General Hazel was designed as Waluigi’s version of Captain Syrup.
Now, for Psycho Iris, this character was created to justify the setting. For a long time, I mulled over how to explain both Waluigi’s psychic powers AND his justification for using them to take over the world. Having a mysterious voice talking in his head seemed amusing enough to me, so everything just spiraled wildly out of control from there!
3. The graphics in Psycho Waluigi seem to go pretty well together, given all the games they originated in. How did you manage to get them working together to provide such a cohesive art style?
I’m an illustrator in real life. Although I didn’t do any actual drawing for Psycho Waluigi, save for a few original sprites, my visual arts background nonetheless played a part here. I’ve done collages before, so I consider using pre-existing graphics – and editing them for cohesiveness – not unlike something out of the Pop Art movement, or even a Dada-esque photomontage of some sort.
Above: Given how the graphics here come from Yoshi’s Island, Super Mario World, Wario Land 4 and Mario Kart Super Circuit (among others), its amazing how well they fit together in game.
4. Did you ever see the game becoming so popular? What was your reaction to its popularity on sites like Youtube?
I expected it to become popular within Mario Fan Games Galaxy. Outside of MFGG’s walls, however? That’s crazy, yo! Truth be told, I have mixed feelings about its popularity. See, fangaming for me was something of a guilty pleasure, as I was effectively building on somebody else’s intellectual property, which, depending on whom you might ask, is a question of dubious legality. I feel that if something of mine should receive widespread recognition, I would prefer something original. Something that is, you know, actually mine.
Above: Thunder Dragon did not expect the amount of media coverage that Psycho Waluigi has received. It even appears on the Know Your Meme page for Waluigi, like as seen above.
But then again, as a fan of such a quirky and polarizing character as Waluigi, I must say that I have no regrets contributing to his legacy. A lot of the game’s popularity can be owed to the fact that somebody was actually NUTS enough to make a game centered on Waluigi, of all characters! And, I’ll admit, that’s a pretty cool feeling! Furthermore, all those Let’s Plays on Youtube? Not only are they entertaining (raocow’s LP, especially), but actually seeing others playing my game, and in turn commenting on it, helps me improve as a developer. That is more valuable to me than their players could ever hope to realize. So, I say to all of them, each and every one: thank you.
And that ends the questions about Psycho Waluigi. But the interview doesn’t end there, so now onto some questions about Thunder Dragon’s other works; Toad Strikes Back and Toadette Strikes Back.
5. Why Toad and Toadette? Do you think they’re underrated and deserve their own games?
You know, when it comes to any sort of media franchise, whatever it may be, I find myself drawn to the little people. The bit parts. The nameless henchmen and villagers. I just… feel a natural synergy with them. Are they not us? I yearn to know what their lives are like, what they do, and so on and so forth – I’m sure that somewhere out there, we have a nameless Toad whose feats can compete with, and even exceed those of Mario himself. Maybe they didn’t rescue any princesses or whatever, but perhaps we have a great artist, an explorer, an innovator, a leader. A lowly Toad can be any of those things – why not? Besides, they’re stinkin’ adorable.
6. Toadette Strikes Back came out quite a while after the first, any reason for that?
Originally, I didn’t want to make a sequel to Toad Strikes Back. And yet, one day, I started making a sequel on a complete whim for no discernable reason at all. I think it was spurred in part by my love of Super Mario Bros. 2 – one day, I was playing that glorious gem of a game, and I asked myself, “how come there aren’t more Mario 2 fangames? And why aren’t I doing anything about it?” And before I knew it, there I was. I was still working on Psycho Waluigi when I began Toadette Strikes, so the latter became something of a cool-off point. It was made to be little more than a silly throwback to the early days of MFGG, while I consciously aimed to work Psycho Waluigi into a grand affair.
Above: Toadette Strikes Back was released quite a while after the first one.
7. So, the bosses in Toad Strikes Back. What was the inspiration behind their strange, somewhat ‘edgy’ designs?
Toad Strikes Back was my first fangame that wasn’t completely terrible! As such, I was still learning the ropes. Back then, I didn’t care about such things as graphical consistency; and at the time, I was drawing a lot of crazy monsters! Said crazy monsters ended up influencing my newbie sprite work. I was basically doing what I normally did, without concerns for conventions, and no boss exemplifies this better than that ridiculous, oversized, demonic Goomba.
Above: The bosses in Toad Strikes Back are… original in their designs.
8. Toadette Strikes Back seems to take a lot of inspiration from Super Mario Bros 2. What’s the story behind that? Is the final boss really some sort of Marx Soul version of Wart?
As I said before, SMB2 is an absolute stroke of genius. Most consider it to be the black sheep of the Super Mario Bros. series, while I consider it a sacred cow. It introduced concepts never seen before or since, and it remains practically ageless. I’m not sure if I’d label it my absolute favorite Mario game, but it is definitely up there. We need more Mario 2, both in fangames and in official releases! As for the boss you mentioned, I should also note that I deeply admire the Kirby series, in case that wasn’t obvious! I’m sure you’ve been noticing a bit of a trend in my final bosses, eh hee hee.
Above: The bosses in Toadette Strikes Back are very much influenced by Super Mario Bros 2.
9. A couple of years ago, you stepped down as staff member on Mario Fan Games Galaxy. How was it being a staff member there?
Well, I created MFGG, so my experiences may naturally differ from those who would serve on the staff in the years to come. I was really only active during the site’s early years, and most of my work can be best summed up as “getting the site off the ground.” The site grew quickly, and soon enough, it was much bigger than I was willing to handle. Maintaining the forums proved especially stressful, prompting me to flat out leave on a couple of occasions. All of it proved to be incredibly daunting, and it kept me from, you know, actually making Mario fangames. You know, the very purpose of the site to begin with? I may have created MFGG, but I felt I wasn’t cut out to be an actual staff member. My place was that of a simple game developer.
I continue to hope that, with my games, I was able to bring to MFGG what I couldn’t bring as a staff member. And to all MFGG staff members, past and present: THANK YOU. Thank you so much for picking up my slack – I feel unworthy, haha! Really, you folks have no idea how grateful I am for all that you have done.
10. Why did you stop making Mario fan games?
Fangaming was a big part of my childhood, all of my teenage years, and the greater part of my twenties. I knew I had to outgrow it eventually. I intended for Psycho Waluigi to be my last fangame – it presented the foundation for something original, after all. However, by the time it was finished, production of Toadette Strikes was well underway; so as I toiled away at the latter, it dawned on me: this is all WAY too limiting. I had a more rigid standard to uphold. More restrictions. I could do some original things, but only so much before it began to lose form. Working on TSB2, I felt like I had to dig myself out of a hole. I knew I had the potential for greater things. It was time to move on. It was time to take the next logical step from Psycho Waluigi: it was time to make something completely original. I’d be free of restrictions, free of legal concerns. Finally, a chance to come out of my shell.
With that said, though, I’m glad I tried my hand at Mario. Aside from being something of a childhood dream fulfilled, it gave me a high standard of quality to work towards – as far as I’m concerned, Mario is the best. I had to push myself to be truly worthy of Mario. Through all that Mario has taught me, my future projects can only get better from here.
11. Finally, what advice would you give new game developers for their future projects?
So, you want to make your own game? If so, please remember this simple bit of advice: make it your own. Make it something only you can make! I cannot stress this enough! Make it your own!
When you’re just starting out, never set a bar for yourself. If you do, you’ve already set it too high. You want to experiment. You want to go nuts! Learn through experience! Our first attempts are never gems, but if you make it your own, you could potentially create something with a dose of quirky charm – something that can make you say, “heeeeeey, I can make things! AWESOME!” And with each step you take, you’re only going to get better and better. Don’t hold yourself to a standard; let it all come naturally. Don’t try to imitate what has already been created. You want to CREATE, not imitate. Even if you are making, say, a Mario fangame, you can still make it your own… in fact, I will insist you make it your own. Don’t take Mario as a mold to fill… Mario is too inspiring for mere imitators. Take Mario as a springboard to the imagination!
Whatever you decide to do with your game making career, just remember: you have limitless potential. You have the power to shape entire universes. So, don’t waste that power. Use it to its full!
And so, that concludes our interview with Thunder Dragon. We’d like to thank him for his time, and wish him all the best with his non fan game projects in the future. Perhaps one day one of his non Mario games might become the Psycho Waluigi of its own genre?
Released back in August of 2013 to both compete with Skylanders and offer a decent alternative to a long line of mediocre licensed games, Disney Infinity has since grown to be a multi million dollar franchise with characters, play sets and other content based on all kinds of properties. From Star Wars, to Pirates of the Caribbean, to The Incredibles and Guardians of the Galaxy, there is plenty there for everyone.
So let’s interview Asher Einhorn, in an exclusive for Gaming Reinvented. Having worked on the Pirates of the Caribbean play set among others, and with a history in game designer covering everything from Formula 1 games to licensed tie ins, here are some of his thoughts in regards to game design, the industry’s future and much more besides…
Above: A photo of interviewee Asher Einhorn
1. So first of all, what’s your background? What got you interested in video games?
I always have been. I never had them as a kid, maybe that’s why I found them so fascinating. I used to watch my cousin play them and then I’d design my own on paper, so I guess it started pretty young!
I think what I like about games has evolved over the years, but luckily there’s always been something new to love about them. When I was young like most kids it was things like guns and robots, then as I got a little older it was really immersive stories like Ocarina of Time, and now it’s a fantastic outlet for any and all kinds of creativity. Architecture in level design, storytelling, the much more game-like parts – the core mechanics and so on. And of course the ongoing puzzle of how to make it all work as a medium.
Above: The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time was an influence at one point.
2. That said, why design? I see you’ve worked as an animator and an engineer beforehand, so why move into game design?
I was always heading for game design, but there’s no clear path into the industry as one. If there had been I might have taken it, but I’m glad there wasn’t, because being able to do something other than design is so valuable. Having a good knowledge of how other roles in a studio work is pretty vital if you want to be a good designer.
3. Now the main game. What do you think about Disney Infinity in general?
I think it makes up a pretty incredible package. The goal was always something that parents could play with their kids and I think it really achieves that. it definitely captures that Disney magic. It’s an enormous project and it’s on a very tight cycle, so it’s a bit of a shame each game doesn’t have more time to germinate. With more time the worlds could be more full and more alive, but then, I suppose you can say that about most games!
Above: From Disney Films to Marvel to Star Wars, Disney Infinity captures that Disney magic brilliantly.
4. What franchise themed part of Disney Infinity did you enjoy working on the most? Why?
Without a doubt, Pirates of the Caribbean. In fact I can safely speak for quite a few people in the studio. The reason is sort of bizarre – You are looking at your screen from between 8 to 16 hours a day, and it was pretty great being in the Caribbean! I know this sounds silly, but when it comes to finishing the game and you’re pulling the late nights, being in a lovely sunny place (at least virtually) really lifts your spirit. That whole first game was very colourful and nice to develop. In fact the game was split into islands, and I chose mine solely based on weather!
That was a goal on the most recent game – let’s make it a nice place for us to be while we make it. No grey skies, even a winter atmosphere should be bright! Sometimes film-reference stops you from doing that though.
5. What was the situation behind Disney Infinity when you started working on it? How did they advertise jobs for a game that wasn’t officially revealed yet?
Well I was already at the studio, it was that or F1, and I absolutely hate racing games that don’t have some sort of crazy fiction to them – Wipeout or Mario Kart. But as for the project and hiring externals – Avalanche had already made Toy Story 3 so I think that’s probably what they described to people going for the job. They have a very specific style.
Also a lot of people with kids only play games with them now, they don’t have much free time! Some people really jumped at the chance to be involved with it, even people who had previously only worked on hardcore games. It was a nice surprise to get those people involved!
6. So what was it like working on a game as large and complex as Disney Infinity? What was different to say, working on a smaller indie title?
It’s very different. Quite honestly I do not have a deep deep understanding of every part of that game – you can’t, it’s just too big and it’s constantly developing. I knew the linear, story-based playsets inside and out, but the toybox for example – it would take weeks or possibly even months of solid play to experience everything in there. Not to mention min-games. Making sure it all works together was someone elses job, mine was just about trying to get a handle on everything that was relevant to our part of the game. you really had to stay up on it.
Above: Mr Einhorn worked on the Star Wars part of the game, among others.
You really have to get used to the idea that you need to play the game for a good few hours each week – a genuinely tough thing to do when the deadlines are looming.
7. As everyone knows, Disney Infinity is a crossover title where theoretically anything goes; you’ve got numerous characters with different abilities and an even larger amount of unique mechanics. So given this, was it difficult to balance the game properly?
Well, yes, but mainly because it’s so huge, not because of the different properties. There are teams in charge of features that cross the entire game – like enemy design or characters. So they’re usually pretty balanced among themselves. The tough part is one when team makes a change to say, character health. Then if you’re on enemies you have to notice and adjust health and damage accordingly. Communication is the real issue, and in such a big company across so many continents it will always be tricky, but in the end everyone is trying to pull together to make it all gel. Doesn’t mean you don’t get some pretty bad headaches though!
Design changes mid-way through development is something everyone in the industry has experienced, everyone finds hard, and everyone has to just get on with.
8. And how did this challenge influence the game’s level and challenge design?
That’s a good question – the answer is: Massively! Each character in our part of Infinity 1 was pretty much identical, which is less interesting, but easy to design for. In infinity 2 they could all do different things – fly, wall-crawl, super-jump. Designing for all those different metrics is very very difficult.
Ultimately I don’t think it’s always worth it – in the sandbox part of the game those things are fantastic, but in a linear section – how do you make a platforming puzzle when the player just puts on a flying character and hovers over it? Most of the time the solution is to reward their smarts and let them do it. I’m still not actually sure what I think of that. In some ways it’s nice to let people cheat if they want to, but people often do the easy thing, even if it’s boring just because they know they can.
Above: Balancing characters with flight abilities and non flight abilities is also an issue with other games. Like SMW and its cape, or Sonic and Tails’ flight abilities.
The one big restriction in Infinity is that you can’t use any character in any playset, they have to be from that property. I think it’s a shame that this goes against the mash-up theme, but it certainly makes design a little easier.
9. On a non mechanic related note, which Disney films and franchises do you want to see added to Disney Infinity and why?
I would really like to see some traditional Disney added. You end up really getting into what the kids want on these projects because you’re really not designing for yourself. Disney Infinity has so many female players, I think it’s a shame there isn’t a Disney princess playset – Frozen or maybe a mix. I think aesthetically it would be really nice to make something that looked classic too.
Above: Why Frozen isn’t represented (along with a lot of other Disney princess movies) is a bit of a mystery, given their status as some of the company’s most famous and beloved movies.
And if it was for me – Wall-E. I guess I’m still that kid that loves robots sometimes.
10. You mention in this article that you should think of a ‘core’ idea to define a game:
What was the core idea, or ‘razor’ for Disney Infinity?
Their tagline is ‘Play without limits’ – I think they went a pretty long way to achieving this, but it’s not really a Razor. In fact, just the opposite! It kind of encourages the inclusion of everything! But then that’s the nature of those projects.
11. But enough Disney Infinity for a moment. What other interesting games have you worked on?
Well other than Disney Infinity I’ve worked on F1 – I’ve worked on Disney Infinity for 3 games so that accounts for a lot of time! F1 was interesting because it was like entering an alien world. I do not understand that sport. Did you know that on average there are three overtakes per race? They’ve invented the most beast-like machines and then designed the dullest possible game around them.
Here are Gaming Reinvented, we’ve interviewed quite a few people from the fan game community. There was one with Feguelion about Mushroom Kingdom Fusion Revival, DJ Coco about Paper Mario 3D Land and Judge Spear about Mushroom Kingdom Fusion and Super Mario Fusion Revival.
But while those were all interesting interviews, here’s one that’s a bit different. Basically, The Binding of Mario is a mod for the action adventure/dungeon crawler game Binding of Isaac, a controversial title based around Christian mythology. As you’d expect, it adds a Mario style twist to the affair; Isaac is replaced by a cast including Mario, Luigi and Peach and they have to battle off a bunch of monsters from Bowser’s army to save the day. It’s not on Mario Fan Games Galaxy or SMW Central, it’s not a traditional Mario platformer or RPG, but it’s a very interesting mod that definitely deserves some more attention.
So here’s an interview with its two creators, Armando and Wolter*:
* Also known as ArMM1998 and tipo19
1. Who are you guys? What is your background in game development?
Armando: I always have been interested in Game Development. Started with simple flash games, most of them were platformers. I’m now learning how to program in Java and make my own games, using my own content and my own ideas, something that I wanted to do a long time ago.
Wolter: When I was younger, I used to make RPG maker games all the time. Later on, I took a course on programming on a Game Design course here in Brazil, and learned a bit of Flash and Lua. I had to left the course because of time restraints, but I didn’t stop making personal projects.
2. What made you decide to make a Mario themed mod of Binding of Isaac?
Above: A Mario themed Binding of Isaac mod is a unique idea
Armando: When I discovered how to “mod”, I wanted to re-skin the game into a Legend of Zelda theme, but there was already a Zelda mod project. Then I had the idea of making a Mario themed mod, and since nobody was making it, I decided to release a test version that if the community liked it, I would continue. Wolter offered to help, and he started making stuff along with me.
3. How did you design the levels and bosses? What is your level/game design methodology?
Above: Most of their bosses (like this Fawful one) are sprite swaps of the original ones. Very well done choices though.
Armando: Well… almost all of our work is Spritework or music replacement, and some changes of code files, so we have the limitation of the actual game, since .exe modding is not public right now. And our way to think is “if we like it and fits then it stays.”
4. Given that Binding of Isaac is an M rated game, do you ever think it’s odd to make a Mario version?
Armando: Kinda, but that’s the fun of that. You’ll never expect to see a thing like this. It was really fun when I made the first character (Mario) and see how weird and cool it looked.
5. How many of the ‘darker’ elements from the actual Mario series will make it? Anything from Super Paper Mario or Mario & Luigi Partners in Time for example?
Wolter: At the start, we wanted to make it as focused on the “Mario & Luigi RPG” series as possible. Later tough, we started putting stuff from the other mario games like Galaxy and SM64. We want to add more M&L stuff and for sure, Paper mario stuff. Shroobs are already scheduled to appear!
6. We saw Fawful in one picture. What other RPG characters will make it in?
Above: Fawful made it into The Binding of Isaac. What other Mario RPG characters will?
Armando: I personally wanted to add important characters from the RPG series, like Cackletta or the Shroobs or even Dark Bowser, but it’s not so easy to find a good monster in the game to reskin…
Wolter: I would love to see Petey Piranha and the Shroobs, possibly enemies from M&L Dream Team.
Above: Given his status as the ‘King of Nightmares’, maybe Antasma could make a good boss for this game?
7. What do other fans of Binding of Isaac think of this mod?
Armando: I was surprised when I launched the first release. I seriously expected comments like “it’s ok” or “the spritework could be better” or things like that. Like negative comments, I mean, the first release was almost empty, 3 characters and one floor.
They liked it a lot and I’m very happy they did
Above: Some of the many reviews for this mod on Youtube
Wolter: People have really liked the mod so far, because of the spritework, use of music and creativity for enemies, items etc. People also send us suggestions, and that helps a lot.
8. Many fan games and mods are difficult to beat, and I hear Binding of Isaac itself isn’t a cakewalk. How difficult is this game in general?
Armando: It’s not really hard. The only hard part is trying to avoid taking damage, but the rest of the game is more luck based than dificulty. You will never know what room will be the next, or what item you will get, or what boss are you going to fight. Discovering what item does what is also part of the fun.
9. Have you tried to market the site anywhere other than Reddit? Where have you done so?
Armando: No, I never really had that idea and I don’t think this mod need advertising. We only made a Twitter account so people could follow the updates and send suggestions
10. So, the game seems to have a fair amount of custom art. Who made it and what was their logic behind the current designs?
Above: Some of the interesting Binding of Isaac style takes on classic Mario characters. Even E Gadd and Rosalina!
Armando: Both of us. We are always making custom art and sometimes looking for sprite resources to adapt them to the “Isaac style”. We work together in most of the sprites, sometimes one makes the drawing and the other works on the color and the shaders.
11. Did you encounter any notable difficulties while making this game?
Armando: As I said before the modding limitation. There is no way to add new characters or new items (there is a way to make new enemies, but I personally couldn’t make it work). Sometimes we need to throw away ideas because of those limitations.
Above: Though there are certainly cool things you can do with the game with just new sprites…
12. Why did you choose Reddit to market the game instead of a website or a fan game site or a social network?
Armando: Well as I said before, I never had the idea of posting anywhere else. But I choose Reddit because there was where I’ve learned how to mod and they were always helping other modders and posting new discoveries.
Wolter: I took knowledge of the mod and joined Armando through reddit, and later on the mod was posted to moddingofisaac.com. It is among the top mods right now
13. How do you plan to avoid the game getting shut down by Nintendo or the likes?
Wolter: Since we aren’t asking for money with it (and we don’t plan to do it), there is no risk of Nintendo claiming rights.
Above: Nice reply, though be warned that Ocarina of Time 2D and Paper Mario 3D Land were hit, and both are free games
14. Do you have any advice for other game developers? What is it?
Always practice and try to improve on something that you do and love doing, try to be original and do something different. Also listen to feedback, that’s pretty important.
15. Once the game’s been completed, what do you plan to do next?
Armando: I have no plans, I’ll keep studying and probably make my own games soon.
Wolter: I’m currently learning unity and I’ve got some projects on the paper. Hopefuly I can find people interested in making games along with me, and hopefuly Armando can join me in the fun.
And that’s all we’ve got for now. Thanks to the Binding of Mario team for agreeing to an interview with Gaming Reinvented, and we wish them all the best of luck with their awesome project. Hopefully it gets completed with many more neat references to the Mario series, and eventually includes a fair amount of custom reprogramming for the game as well.
A short while back, we interviewed Feguelion, maker of the revived Mushroom Kingdom Fusion. It was an interesting conversation, with plenty of talk about the game’s future, how it worked and what sort of things were planned after it was completed.
But now, we’ve gone and held a potentially even more interesting interview, with a different member of the development team. Namely, here’s Judge Spear, creator of the original Mushroom Kingdom Fusion as well as Super Mario Fusion Revival and the entire Fusion Gameworks website. So do you want to know what could have been different in Mushroom Kingdom Fusion, the indie game development plans of the team or the level design philosophy in Super Mario Fusion Revival?
Cause if so, here’s our interview with Mushroom Kingdom Fusion creator Judge Spear…
1. So, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a longtime video gamer. I started being a Nintendo fan way back during the NES days and the first Super Mario Bros. Recently, I moved on from Nintendo, because their games do not appeal to me nearly as much as when I was younger, and I play games on the PlayStation 4 and PC. Outside of video games, I enjoy socializing, taking walks, riding bicycles, and watching Netflix. I have been programming since I was 8 years old. I never took that skill further than a hobby and beyond a barely intermediate level. I am now in a prestigious 4-year university studying for my degree in computer science, wanting to take that skill for programming into a career.
I have a life story that will go beyond the scope of this interview. For the sake of brevity, I am a believer in the principle that it is never too late to turn your life around. The most noteworthy life accomplishment then was serving in the United States armed forces for 30 months. Other than that, life had been very rough on me, and it took me until very recently to realize I was taking out my life frustrations on the world. People who knew me during my M.U.G.E.N days before I started Mushroom Kingdom Fusion knew me as a hot-headed, combative person who was a jerk to pretty much everyone; this continued into my MKF days and into most of my SMF:R days. Off the internet, I basically sat around doing nothing with my life, feeling sorry for myself and almost resigning to the idea that I’ll never have a successful life. I had gone through several bouts of depression, the worst starting around the end of November 2013 that caused me to be hospitalized.
Then the epiphany hit around late December 2014, when I realized I had so many deep flaws when, all the time before, I thought nothing was wrong with me and all fault lay on the rest of the world. Through a lot of hard work and perseverance, I changed each of my fatal flaws as I learned about them. I now feel drastically better about myself, more self-confident, and more self-aware. I got accepted to a prestigious university in Fall 2014, and even though I lacked focus before my epiphany, I refused to give up because I worked so hard to accomplish that goal only to fall flat on my face. Things are still tough for me because I had virtually no foundation growing up to help me out, but being out there facing life’s challenges instead of being protected and sheltered from them is making me stronger and making me grow even more as a person than ever before. It was difficult when I realized I needed to change and turn my life around, but it was only starting out that was the hardest part. The rest of life’s challenges will come with relative ease once I adapt to them.
2. What inspired you to make Mushroom Kingdom Fusion all those years ago?
Back in 1992, I played Super Mario Land 2: The Six Golden Coins for the old brick Game Boy. I was impressed with the highly varied worlds and levels in that game. Its story differed in that there are no Peach and no Bowser in that game. Mario had his own kingdom and a new villain named Wario took it over. Then I started thinking, “What if someone were to remake SML2 in full color?” In the early 1990’s, game-making apps were almost non-existent, and those that did exist were for non-PC platforms, and the games they created were severely limited. I also lacked the level of skill and software needed to program a game on early 1990’s PC hardware from scratch. The only noteworthy game-making app for the PC at the time was Klik ‘n Play for Windows 3.1, which I got in 1994. It does not support screen scrolling, and the platforming engine is very inconsistent, so trying to make an “accurate” Super Mario game on it was more trouble than it was worth.
Above: Super Mario Land 2 Six Golden Coins was one of Judge Spear’s influences for Mushroom Kingdom Fusion
Fast forward to the year 2000, when I had the next generation of application in the Klik ‘n Play family: Multimedia Fusion. It allowed screen scrolling and, with advanced manipulation, a decent platforming engine could be created. However, my attempt at making a Mario game fell flat, due to constant crashing and very limited NPC behavior control. Nevertheless, I created on Multimedia Fusion the prototype of what will become MKF was born as Super Mario MF (with MF standing for Multimedia Fusion). It had Mario, Luigi, Sonic, and Mickey Mouse as playable characters, and the worlds were planned to be varied. This prototype was never released to the public.
Above: Super Mario MF, Mushroom Kingdom Fusion’s predecessor.
When I discovered Game Maker and Hello Engine 3, I had the tools to finally make a decent Mario game. On December 27, 2007, I released the first playable version of my Mario game, then titled Super Mario Fusion: Mushroom Kingdom Hearts. Once it became a big hit on the internet, people started asking if they can help me work on the game. One person, Obreck2, had extensive Game Maker experience and offered to help with programming. Over time, he added new playable characters, including some non-Mario and then other non-Nintendo characters like Arthur from Ghosts ‘n Goblins. It is because of Obreck’s addition of these characters that prompted me to change the name of the game to Mushroom Kingdom Fusion. What was supposed to have been a fan remake of SML2 became a game in which Mario and others visit other worlds. With the involvement of other people, that idea then transformed into what MKF is known for today: a massive nostalgia-driven crossover game.
3. You’ve worked with quite a few people who brought ideas to MKF. What things would you have fine differently in development?
I would have been more firm in the direction of the game and more actively screened contributions by other people. There was no real leadership on the MKF team, so people did whatever they wanted, leading to the addition of new content going out of control.
4. What was the history of the game? What levels did you make first?
See my response to question 2 for most of the history of the game. The levels I made for the first public version were: The Entryway, Storm Canyon, Hammer Bro Hideout, Lair of the Leviathan, Fort Bubble Man, Tower of Babel, and Covenant Assault.
5. MKF has quite a few playable characters. What ones are your favourite?
My favorite character has always been Mario. It got to a point where in my YouTube MKF videos, people were complaining I was using no one else!
6. And favourite levels/bosses?
It has been a while since I looked at MKF. However, from the time I was most active on MKF, my favorite levels are Birabuto Bash, Yellowstone Journey, and Sea of Muck. My favorite bosses are R-Type’s Gomander (a boss battle so big each phase takes place in two separate screens) and Calliope the Clown.
Above: Birabuto Bash and Sea of Muck are two of Judge Spear’s favourite Mushroom Kingdom Fusion levels.
7. You knew this was coming; what are your least favourite levels or bosses?
My least favorite levels, frankly, are any of those that MKF team member Del made. They are known to the MKF team and our community as some of the most difficult levels in MKF. In retrospect, it really felt as if he made those levels to troll the community and players, while he put up videos of him crushing those levels, further rubbing salt into the wounds.
I also dislike marathon-length levels like Yellowstone Journey (stated as a favorite, but only due to its atmosphere), Scandinavian Campaign, Bydo Station, and pretty much all of the Mega Man world’s levels. Extremely long levels are fine if MKF was only 10 levels in length, but when the planned level count was to be over 300…
Above: Scandinavian Campaign is not a favourite.
I really dislike the shoehorned-in “RUN sections” (fast autoscrolling sections) in a disturbingly high number of MKF levels. This is also a problem in Super Mario Fusion Revival (minus the fast autoscrolling).
My least favorite boss is Robo-Corpse in the Energy Zone level. It is completely unfair towards non-projectile characters, with attack patterns straight out of its source game, Contra III, with almost no balance to fit a Mario style platforming game.
Above: The Robo Corpse boss in this level is not well suited for a Mario style platformer.
8. And what lessons have you Learnt while making the game?
I learned to never again let nostalgia drive another project unless I decide to make a game project nostalgia-driven in the first place. Even then, I have to think less like trying to relive my childhood and more like ensuring I am able to bring my ideas to life.
I also learned to be sure I can work with the people I choose to work with on big projects. Personality clashes can get in the way of work.
9. Could the cancellation have been averted? How?
In retrospect, the only way the game’s cancellation could have been averted is if we started all over again from scratch. I actually wanted to cancel MKF as early as 2010. However, the rest of the development team refused to let it go. I announced its cancellation again in October 2013, but the other developers brought it back with the premise of finishing up whatever is incomplete in the game and cutting out a majority of the unmade content (most significantly, most of World 0).
We ended up adding so much new content to the game’s source files that Game Maker had corrupted them several times. At one point, a developer lost two weeks’ worth of work because Game Maker corrupted his game source. As stated in the MKF cancellation video posted on the Fusion Gameworks YouTube channel, none of the MKF developers knew where anything was in the game’s source files, so many long-standing glitches were impossible to fix. Most significantly, the core MKF programmer, Obreck, disappeared from public view in 2012, and he was the one who molded the MKF core engine to what it is today; without his presence, no one knew where anything was. By autumn 2014, it was too late to fix seven years’ worth of content from 20 different people, and the decision was made to officially cancel the project.
10. So now that the game has been revived, what’s your involvement in the reboot?
I was generally a technical advisor for the MKF revival. I had provided Feguelion some advice during the times early on he was being too ambitious, repeating the same mistakes the old MKF team made. However, I had to step down from that role due to being busy with life obligations.
11. Enough about MKF for a while, so what’s the story behind Super Mario Fusion Revival?
Super Mario Fusion Revival was founded to revive the original 2007 Mushroom Kingdom Hearts premise of Mario visiting other worlds. I founded this project in 2010, shortly after I left the MKF project. Interestingly, this project was to have been an extension of MKF, taking in levels that could not get added to MKF itself. However, this idea was quickly dropped, and we decided to make the gameplay more Mario-focused. At one point SMF:R had guns like MKF, but that was dropped once we decided to make the mounts system the primary new gameplay mechanic.
Above: Super Mario Fusion Revival is a more Mario themed game by the Fusion Gameworks team
Most importantly, we decided to limit crossover content in SMF:R. All but a handful of SMF:R levels are completely original in setting. Enemies from other games may appear in those levels, but they are used in original contexts. There are cameo appearances of characters from other games serving as support to the game’s story, unlike MKF, which shoehorned in crossover content for the sake of nostalgia. For example, the Metal Slug characters support the events of World 2’s story arc, which will factor in to the story arc of World 6 much later on. They are not there to be “Metal Slug meets Mario”.
One phenomenon we observe still continuing to this day is people confusing SMF:R for MKF. When we explain that these are two distinct projects, SMF:R sometimes gets criticized for not being like MKF and often gets requests to add in nostalgic crossover content. We have to make it clear that Super Mario Fusion Revival focuses on Mario-style gameplay and it involves Mario characters visiting other worlds, not a heavy focus on crossover content.
12. Were there any interesting development challenges with this game?
Bringing Yoshi to life. In Hello Engine 4, Yoshi was crudely implemented. He could eat anything, including Thwomps and Chargin’ Chucks. I spent a good month’s time giving Yoshi a major upgrade to his gameplay, giving him the ability to spit enemy projectiles back as an attack (New Super Mario Bros. Wii) and using explosives as weapons (Super Mario 64 DS). Not only that, I completely resprited him to the more charming Yoshi’s Island sprites and coded a color-shifting routine for him so that we can have Yoshis of any color without adding new sprites to the game. Revamping Yoshi also allowed us to have a good mounts system, which served as the basis for future mounts such as the Metal Slug SV-001 tank and the Chocobo.
Above: The mounts system is a major part of Super Mario Fusion Revival.