"The Stars of Famicom Games"
How Video Games are Made

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I picked up a children's picture book at the local library recently. Some of you might be thinking, "Why would you take out a Japanese picture book? Are your Japanese language skills that atrophied?" Well, this happened to be a very special book, because it showed kids how Nintendo games are made, from start to finish. With some fantastically juicy pictures! And not only that, the game it focussed on was Super Mario Bros. 3!

The book was published in late 1989, based on a tour and interview session at Nintendo of Japan in July of that same year (this will become evident in a later picture). They interview Shigeru Miyamoto, Koji Kondo, all the major players in Nintendo's games.

I've scanned all the pages of the book and have presented them below. Also, the text for each page is here in Japanese and English (translated by me, Chris Covell) for your reading pleasure.

Note to game journalists: my name (or website's name) is not "disgruntled designer"; that's just the name of the domain owned by my best friend whose webspace he lets me use for my own site as well.

  社会科 はこばれてくるしくみシリーズ―11
     ファミコンゲームの主役たち
   ゲームソフトの制作と流通
            ● ●
監修 慶応義塾大学教授 鴫口充輝 文 村田栄一
       PHP研究所
Social Studies "Step-by-Step Process" Series 11
The Stars of Famicom Games
Game Software Production and Distribution

Editor Futsuaki Shimaguchi, Professor, Keio University
Writer Eiichi Murata
PHP Institute

            ●目 次●
スーパーマリオの生みの親にいろいろきいたぞ…………2
ファミコン企画室に侵入してみた…………………………6
おしゃべりやあそびもゲームをつくるのにたいせつ……8
基盤をつくる工程……………………………………………12
頭の中はコンピューターのリズム…………………………14
成型をつくる工程……………………………………………16
主人公たちの動き方もくふうする…………………………18
ゲーム機をつくる工程………………………………………20
作戦変更をまとめる役目……………………………………22
DISKをつくる工程………………………………………24
ゲームは全部写して調べる(検品)…………………………26
海外への出荷がふえた(出荷)………………………………28
デパートのファミコン売り場………………………………30
ニューヨークのこどもたちもファミコン大好き…………32
NESをつくる工程と検品…………………………………34
世界の人たちにむけて出発…………………………………36

Table of Contents
We asked the creators all about the birth of Super Mario...2
We snuck a look into the Family Computer planning office...6
Both chatting and playing are vital to making games...8
Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Manufacturing Process...12
Inside his head is the rhythm of a computer...14
Molding Construction Process...16
Planning out how our heroes will move...18
The Game Machine Manufacturing Process...20
The role that guides changes in the project...22
Disk Manufacturing Process...24
Games are inspected for perfect duplication...26
Shipments abroad have increased...28
The Family Computer counter of a department store...30
Kids in New York also love the Famicom...32
NES Manufacturing and Inspection Process...34
Shipping to the people of the world...36

Below they show the desk and chair that Miyamoto sits at every day

P2,3
                 

スーパーマリオの生みの親にいろいろきいたぞ

 テレビ放送がはじまって以来、ブラウン管は、さまざまな世界を写して、こどもにゆめやたのしみをあたえつづけてきた。だけど、それは放送局から家庭へ、一方的に絵が流れるだけだった。
 1983年に、マイクロ・コンピューターをつかうテレビゲームが開発されて、テレビとのつき合いに革命がおこった。ブラウン管の画面に自分も参加することができるようになったのである。

宮本さんの仕事机のまわりはとてもたのしいものがいっぱいだ。ラジコン、まんが本、アメリカで買ったピーチ姫の人形などをおいている。椅子の上にはスーパーマリオのざぶとん。ネクタイはミッキーマウスの絵だった。

We asked the creators all about the birth of Super Mario.

After the start of television broadcasting, the cathode-ray tube has continued to bring various worlds to people, and dreams and happiness to children. However, these images flowed only one way -- from the television station to the home.
In 1983, video game systems that used microprocessors were developed, and thus a revolution was begun in which game systems could be attached to television sets. People were now able also to participate in the events happening on their screens.

Scattered all around Mr. Miyamoto's work desk are many fun things: an RC car, comic books, a Princess Peach doll bought in the United States, and so on. Miyamoto's chair has a Super Mario cushion on it. He has a Mickey Mouse necktie.

And here's his desk with lots of interesting things to see! He's got games in development all around his desk, and some tantalizing design documents sitting on his shelves.

LET'S PLAY "SPOT THE CLOSE-UP!"
P4,5
                 

 宮本茂さん(37歳)は、ファミコンメーカーである任天堂で、ずっとゲームソフトのデザインやプロデュースをやってきた人だ。
 小学校のときは絵かき少年。当時テレビではやった「チロリン村とクルミの木」に出てくる人形をつくりたかったという。中学でもマンガをえがきつづけ、いまは、世界じゅうのこどもを熱狂させるあそびの「仕掛人」になっている。

たのしい物にかこまれているのは、発想が豊かになるようにするためだ。心がいつもゆめ見ていないと、みんながよろこぶようなキャラクターや、ストーリーは頭のスクリーンにうかばないのだ。

Shigeru Miyamoto (37 years old) has spent his whole career at (Famicom maker) Nintendo designing and producing games.
As a child he loved drawing. He says that he had wanted to design a puppet like those that appeared at that time on the TV show "Chirolin Village and the Walnut Tree". Since starting drawing comics in junior high school, he has now become what he calls the originator of games that thrill children the world over.

Miyamoto surrounds himself with fun things in order to enrich his creativity. If he doesn't keep dreaming, pleasing characters and stories will never show up in his imagination.

Apparently Miyamoto doesn't care that he's posing for a kids' book as he lights up for a smoke.

LET'S PLAY "SPOT THE CLOSE-UP!"
Here, the calendar (and Miyamoto's schedule book & Game Boy) indicates that the photo was taken in July 1989. (1989 because of the arrangement of the dates.)
P6,7
                 

ファミコン企画室に侵入してみた

 テレビゲームであそぷほうは楽だがつくるほうは楽じゃない。いままでにないアイデアをひねりだすために、スタッフはみな、映画を見たり、美術館にいったり、音楽や踊りのイベントにいったり、ほかのゲームをやったり、本を読んだり、ヒントをもとめて、あちこちさまよう。

「スーパーマリオブラザース」のシリーズをつくるときでも、陸、海、空をテーマにした8つのワールドで構成するということはきまっても、場面をどう動かすかということで悩む。土管の出入口をどうするかなんてことでもずいぶん考えた。いちばん困るのは「あきてしまう」こと。なんにでも興味をもちつづけなければ、と思っている。
 
いつももち歩くカバンはつかいふるされていて色がすこしあせている。でも中味は楽しいアイデアをつくるための小物がいろいろ。秘密のカバンだ。

We snuck a look into the Family Computer planning office.

Playing video games is easy, but making such games isn't. In order to squeeze out ideas which haven't been shown before, the staff all go together to see movies, go to art museums, music or dance events, play other games, read books; all to find inspiration hidden here and there.

Even when making the Super Mario Brothers series, Miyamoto (the staff as well, possibly) worried about how scenes would work for each world theme such as land, sea, and sky. Even what to do at the entrances to pipes was carefully considered. The biggest worry for him is boredom. No matter how he does it, he has to get the player to stay interested at all times in the game.

Pictured is the bag that Mr. Miyamoto always carries with him when he goes walking. He's used it so much that the color has faded. But inside the bag are many little items that he says will aid him in thinking up fun ideas. What's in the bag is a secret to everyone.

Here's Takashi Tezuka (A.K.A. "Ten Ten"), director and designer, consulting with Miyamoto. If you look at the items above their desks, like the fan, manga, and mini-speakers, you can see that Tezuka's and Miyamoto's desks are back-to-back.

LET'S PLAY "SPOT THE CLOSE-UP!"
Naughty you, Tezuka! You've got a nifty little Sega Mega Drive collection going, including Altered Beast (twice), Super League, Osomatsu-Kun, and Phantasy Star II.
This could also be a proto... or not.

I wonder what game this is a level design for?
P8,9
                 

おしゃべりやあそびもゲームをつくるのにたいせつ

 マリオのディレクターをやっているのは、手塚卓志さん(27歳)。宮本さんのあとをひきついだ。入社まえまで、テレビゲームのことはなにも知らなかったそうだ。

スーパーマリオ3の企画から製作にはいるまでには、約2年が必要だった。アイデアはかんたんにうかばない。

Both chatting and playing are vital to making games.

The man acting as director of the Mario games is Takashi Tezuka (27 years old). He was pulled into this type of work by Mr. Miyamoto. Before entering the company Tezuka says that he knew nothing at all about video games.

From the initial planning of Super Mario 3 to its completion took about two years. Ideas did not come easily.

Tezuka shows off the workstation used for designing Famicom graphics. Wow, one can see from pictures on the web that he's really gotten chubby recently.

LET'S PLAY "SPOT THE CLOSE-UP!"
Oddly, he's looking at a March 4, 1988 copy of Famitsu, turned to the Winter CES page. I wonder if he's getting inspiration from some U.S. game covers...
P10,11
                 

 手塚さんは、大学でデザインを専攻して任天堂にはいったのだが、小学生のときは、算数と図工が好きで、国語は苦手だったという。どういうわけか、「マリオ」をつくっているスタッフの多くは、国語が苦手だったという。きっと、文字で考えるより、イメージで考えるほうが好きでとくいという人たちのあつまりなのだろう。
 手塚さんも、アイデアをもとめて、映画や音楽、イベント、美術展などによくいく。テレビの歌番組もよく見るし、マンガもたくさん読む。はたから見るとあそんでいるようだが、本人は真剣だ。そして、スタッフとのアイデア会議。会議といってもほとんどが、テーマと直接関係ないおしゃべり。このおしゃべりの中から、アイデアが発見されることが多い。おなかがすいたから「クッパ」とか、えがいたキノコがクリに似てたから「クリボー」とか、「マリオ」だって、アメリカに出向した社員が住んでいたアパ−トのおじさんから、名前とヒゲを借りたものだ。

アイデアがひらめき、あたらしいキャラクターができたら、かならずテレビ画面で動かしてみる。

どんなにおもしろいアイデアだとしても、テレビ画面で動かすときは、機能の制約があるので、その中でいかにたのしく動くかを考えるのがたいへん。またブーメランなどの小道具で動きをつくる。

Mr. Tezuka majored in design at university before starting at Nintendo. As a child, he liked arithmetic and drafting, but says he was poor at languages. In fact, many on the Mario team say they were poor at languages. Indeed, many people who think in images rather than words were assembled (on purpose?) for this team.

Tezuka also often looks to movies, music, events, art exhibitions, etc. for ideas. He often watches music shows on TV and reads lots of comic books. While to some this might look like play, it is serious work to him. After this, he conducts a brainstorming meeting with the staff. It might be called a meeting, but most of the time is spent chatting about things not directly related to the theme. In many cases, fresh ideas are discovered out of these chats. For example, he got the name "Koopa" from once when he was hungry (a Korean dish's name); and a mushroom he drew resembled more of a chestnut, so he named it "Kuribo" ("Goomba" in the west.) Even the name "Mario" and the idea for his moustache were borrowed from a man living in the same apartment as a Nintendo employee in the United States.

If an idea comes in a flash and Tezuka makes a new character, he will always see how it looks animated on the TV screen.

No matter how interesting an idea, there are certain restrictions placed on it when moving it on-screen. Thus thinking about how to make it move in a fun way inside of those limitations is difficult. Other small items, such as a boomerang, also have to be animated.

For some reason they jump to the factories on the next two pages. Perhaps half a dozen pages of only bespectacled men gets boring or something?

P12,13
                 

基盤をつくる工程

工業の発達が、ファミコンを生みだした。集積回路といって、電気の配線や回路がうんと小型化する技術が研究開発されたためだ。
 いちばんたいせつなのはIC。スーパーマリオのソフトが送りだす信号を読みとって画面に写しだす働きをするものだ。

基盤をつくる

Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Manufacturing Process

Developments in industry gave birth to the Family Computer. From the research and development put into miniaturizing wiring and electrical pathways, the integrated circuit was born.
Of greatest importance was the IC. It is that which does the work of decoding the electrical signals that the software sends out, and displaying them on-screen as an image of Super Mario.

The PCB is made.

Koji Kondo, composer of Mario, Zelda, and many others. He's got a lot of cool musical stuff in his room, but it must be disheartening to be an accomplished musician but still have to dress in Japanese engineers' blues.

LET'S PLAY "SPOT THE CLOSE-UP!"

 

 

 

 

What's Mr. Kondo doing with an EPROM writer in his studio, eh? Hmmm....
P14,15
                 

頭の中はコンピューターのリズム

 マリオの音楽を担当しているのは近藤浩治さん(27歳)。幼稚園のときからエレクトーンをならっていた。ストーリーが全部できてしまってから、その絵に音楽をつけるというのでなく、アイデア会議にいっしょに参加しながら、そこで、音のイメージをあたためておく。だけど、いざ本格的な作曲・編曲となったら、とちゅうで人に相談しない。

おもしろいキャラクターや、ゲームのアイデアはなかなかうかばないが、月日だけはどんどんすぎてしまう。

ピアノの音を、コンピューターにやらせたら、どんな音色になるのか、をいつも考えながら音づくりをしている。

Inside his head is the rhythm of a computer.

Taking charge of Mario's music is Koji Kondo (27 years old). He began his studies on the electric organ when he was in kindergarten. He doesn't begin composing for a game after the story and images have all been completed, but rather he joins in the same brainstorming meetings as everyone else and imagines the sound of the game from these sessions. However, once Kondo has begun full-scale composition and arrangement, he doesn't consult anybody.

Even when no interesting characters or good game ideas appear, days and months still pass by quickly.

When he makes the computer produce the sound of a piano, he is always thinking of what kind of tone it will have in the final product.

These are the machines that build the outer Famicom casing (it says), but all I see are large plastic bins...

P16,17
                 

成型をつくる工程

 基盤に設置されたコンピューターをおさめるはこは、成型といって金型にプラスチックを入れてつくる。大量生産には欠かせない方法といえる。

成型をつくる

Molding Construction Process

The outer case into which the PCB will be placed is formed by injecting plastic into a metal mold. It can be said that this is an indispensable method in mass production.

The case is made.

Spindly arms and bad hair can only mean you've entered the programmers' lair. Toshihiko Nakago (alias "Nakazoo") is probably the lead programmer of this motley crew.

LET'S PLAY "SPOT THE CLOSE-UP!"

These men are using HP 64000 mainframe computers (circa 1979) to do their programming on. These computers could share data and processing on a network, could burn EPROMs using a built-in burner board, and could even run 6502 emulation with diagnostic hardware and software. An interesting (if depressingly archaic) method of development.

P18,19
                 

主人公たちの動き方もくふうする

コンピューターで動かすには、数値化したプログラミングが必要。仕事にはたいへんな時間がかかる。

 中郷俊彦さんは、イメージをコンピューターの絵に変換するプログラマーだ。アイデア会議に参加しても、キャラクターのおもしろさより「そんなん、どうして動かすんや」といったことばかり気になる。「歩く」と指示されても、どんなふうに歩くのかは中郷さんの仕事になる。

Planning out how our heroes will move

To make anything move on a computer, it is necessary to express it numerically through programming. It takes many hours of serious work.

Toshihiko Nakago is a programmer whose job it is to convert an idea into the images shown on the computer. Even though he participates in the brainstorming meetings where everybody discusses how to make the character fun, he is more concerned with "okay, so how do I make it move, then?" If he is given the simple order to make a character "walk", it becomes Nakago's job to think about exactly how it will walk.


Continued on Page 2

 
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e-Mail Chris: chris_covell@yahoo.ca