Mario Kart 8, the fabulous new Wii U entry in the series, is set to launch in 2014 with its primary draw being its HD graphics and the new anti-gravity antics. However, the game was not always going to focus on hoverkarts; in a recent interview with MTV's Multiplayer Blog, Hideki Konno and Kosuke Yabuki (the game’s producer and director) talked Mario Kart 8's development, as well as the inclusion of the dreaded Blue Shell, off-TV play, and the inclusion of additional characters.
The developers had the following to say about the GamePad's role in the game:
Multiplayer: You spoke of the hardware, was there ever any consideration of using the GamePad differently than it ended up in the game?
Mr. Yabuki: Well, we always wanted to do off-TV play. We had a lot of experiments with different ideas, but we finally hit upon the idea that we had now as the best one.
Multiplayer: It seems like one of the things that I've always run into playing "Mario Kart" was always being able to cheat by looking at the other person's screen, was using the GamePad's screen for multiplayer was ever thought about?
Mr. Yabuki: We always have lots of ideas, and that was actually one that we considered. What we finally figured out was that it was more fun to have everyone on the big screen, playing against each other that way.
I enjoyed the way that Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed utilized the controller, with the GamePad screen showing the first player in multiplayer situations, and the big screen splitting up to show additional players. I had hoped that Mario Kart 8 would also feature this setup, but I guess not.
Multiplayer: Have there been any ideas that have gotten scrapped over the years?
Mr. Konno: We're always looking to surprise our players with something new, and sometimes we will take those ideas that we've tossed aside for one reason or another, and use them as a reference or even put them in future games. So we really can't talk about that right now.
(turning to Mr.Yabuki) Maybe we can give him one little tidbit?
Mr. Yakuki: What about that underground thing?
Mr. Konno: Yes. In "7" we had the glider, and submersion in water, and so when we were also thinking about new ideas for "8," and we thought, "well, since we did all that, why not put a drill on the karts, and have them go through the earth somehow, subterranean racing." But, we kind of thought that's not such an interesting idea, and after that we hit upon the antigravity mechanic.
I don't really think that the drill idea would have worked well; sure, it was a neat idea, but I would find it difficult to differentiate between where I could and could not drill through the walls.
Multiplayer: I didn't happen to see if it was in the demo for "Mario Kart 8," but one thing that has found its way into the series for a few years now has been an item that is loved and hated - the blue shell. Where did that idea originally come from, and does it appear in this latest game as well?
Mr. Konno: It's not in the demo out there, but it will be in the final version of the game. It's actually a question that I get a lot, talking about balance, or where that idea came from, we often get that in interviews. One of the things that we always think about when making a "Mario Kart" game is the replay value for the customer. When we made that game, we thought it added something to that value, for people to play over and over again. When you just want to play one more game, one more match. So actually the original idea, that we had back in "Mario Kart 64" where we hit upon this idea for a Blue Shell weapon, was that it would enable even whoever was in the back of the pack to still want to continue the race, to still want to keep going. Something that would allow them to still have that feeling. The first one we made would go straight up the middle of the course, so anyone that was in the way would get damaged as it flew. Then we changed it to the one that flies over and hits that person in first place, and you know, takes them out of their game a little bit. Every time we make a new game we want to challenge ourselves to adjust it a little bit, with something new. We're always having this battle of whose side do we take? The person in the back obviously they want something that hits, because that's their chance to influence the game. The person in first, of course, wants to have some kind of chance to get out of the way. That's always something that the designers have to think about, and make small adjustments to figure out the best thing for that particular game. That's part of the reason about why it's not out on the floor, because we're still thinking about that balance and what we're going to do with the blue shell. We'd like your opinion actually, what you're idea would be to have that thing go at you.
Apparently the Blue Shell item will be making a return in this next game. In previous titles, the dreaded item has soared to the front of the race, spelling demise for the first place driver with almost no hope for escape. Personally, I hope that they make it a little bit easier to dodge, but I'm glad that it's back; it's a great way for someone in the back of the pack to take out their frustrations on successful competitors.
Multiplayer: Those games in particular feature some of the Namco characters, and the "Smash Bros." series features some third party characters as well. Has that ever been an ideal that's been tossed around for "Mario Kart"?
Mr. Konno: The idea always come up during development of new "Mario Karts," but we believe there's a certain feel that "Mario Kart" has as a series, it's Mario kart, the "Mario Kart" characters are the ones that are going to be coming out. We almost feel like there's a secret rule that Mr. Miyamoto has that limits those new characters to just Mario.
If we did it too much it would be "Smash Kart."
Multiplayer: That would be an interesting game.
Mr. Konno: (laughs)
Mr. Yabuki: Actually, the addition of the Miis is kind of pushing us towards that.
Mr. Konno: Don't tell anybody, but when we put the Miis in, Mr. Miyamoto was even kind of like, "You know, aren't you crossing the line here? This doesn't exactly feel like 'Mario Kart.'" But you know, with the Mii being a basic part of the console, we were able to put it in, and have him actually play it to get his sign off. It's still an unlock, you can't select a Mii from the get-go. So, for some reason it didn't exactly cross that secret line, but it kind of came close.
Personally, I'm not sure whether I'd like to see additional Nintendo characters in a kart racer. I'm not completely opposed to the idea, but Mario Kart seems to have a vibe that wouldn't really fit Nintendo's other franchises. Still, if it were available, I'd definitely try it!
Would you like to have seen drills instead of anti-gravity? What about Link and Samus racing alongside Mario and friends? Let us know in the comments!