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How Super Mario Bros. 3 was made (chrismcovell.com)
293 points by bpierre on Dec 16, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 29 comments

I love the picture of the programmers at the bottom of the page. Clearly not the best working conditions even though the office has nice desk space available (see background). Just shows how much more developers are respected now. ...thanks in part to these guys.

It's interesting to compare this to what we had at Atari. Typically the game would center around the engineers (for consoles, the software guys), and they'd be supported by artists and sound folks who were a shared resource amongst several programmers. There was usually no game designer per se, just a bunch of management.

I think it shows -- the NES games were a lot more fun, more imaginative, more colorful, and (the big test) did much better in the market over time.

If this same book had been written about (say) Star Raiders, it would have been shorter and pretty boring.

Are you talking about the 2600 days or the 7800 days? From what I understand of Atari, the 7800 era was pretty lousy? But Atari sure put out some really great games for the 2600 considering the level of tech available.

2600 games are easy enough to build with a small team and simple enough to have the game mechanics and story completely specified on, say, a single piece of paper. There isn't much room to have a complex story, and there isn't much ability to drift away from the proper story line (since there isn't much of one). By the time of the NES that had definitely changed.

I love the picture also, but for a different reason. I spent some time writing games for the NES in 6502 assembly, and even with modern tools I couldn't fathom programming something as sophisticated as SMB3 for that platform. Many times I have ruminated on, and been inspired by, the very existence of these people and their remarkable accomplishments. To see a photo of the SMB3 programming team in their office _while they were writing the game_ gives me a thrill I can't really describe.


That, and the picture is of Japan. One of the most densely packed countries in the world in terms of humans to space ratio.

I'm not so sure it's an issue of respect for developers. It was a different time over 20 years ago...

Without specific regards to Nintendo, you could visit a lot of offices here which have the "N programmers at N computers on one table" office layout, and they're frequently a wee bit underpowered. (In 2010 I was rocking XP and fighting to upgrade from 512MB to 1GB of RAM for Java development.)

This is, at least in part, because of the relative social statuses of people who program things and people who do important work for the company.

One would think that game developers would be exquisitely sensitive to the needs of programmers because, hey, that is their business, but anecdotally they're treated pretty much like they are in the US: chew 'em up, spit 'em out, there will be more stupid boys to take their place next year. (I got a solicitation to work for a game company here by a recruiter who had heard of me from my ex-employers. I kid you not, the pay was $2k a month.)

Interesting. Is the job market different from the US, where there is a core group of actual programmers that want real money, and then a group of people that could theoretically pretend to be programmers, and will work for free?

(My first thought was, "well, the schools are better", but I went to high school for a year in Tokyo, and I did not touch a computer once. I has a scheme interpreter on a PalmOS device that I played with, and that was it.)

I was excited to read this, and the main site is still down... but I'm at a coffee shop and OpenDNS says "Sorry, but www.chrismcovell.com.nyud.net is blocked on this network."

Like many of you (I suspect), I got into CS because of video games (had an Atari 2600, a C64 and an Amiga 500). Sometimes I get really nostalgic for the good old days. I came across a hilarious series called "Code Monkeys" a few years ago that seems appropriate to point out here ...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_Monkeys http://www.g4tv.com/codemonkeys/index.html

"Since game systems are computers containing high-density and highly-integrated ICs and LSIs, even a single speck of dust can cause a malfunction."

They aren't kidding. I think I remember this being a problem...

Here's a cached version from Google. Seems some of the pictures didn't make it through though :(


I don't believe Google caches images, just the text content so the inline images are still being pulled from the troubled site.

This reminds me of Iwatani's sketches for Pac-Man: http://www.control-online.nl/gamesindustrie/2010/06/22/iwata...

It's crazy—I taught English in Japan circa 2002-2004, and those pages are laid out exactly the way our school newsletters were (and I'm guessing still are to this day). Right down to the oval portrait shot.

I can't read the article at the moment, but I was thrilled when I found out that the programmers, musicians and artists who made most of my favorite Sega Genesis and Master System games were using Amigas.

In case you're interested in Mario's history, here's an incredibly detailed book: http://www.pixnlovepublishing.com/The-History-of-Mario.html

Neat. Anyone up for some proper scanlation work, though? It seems this would benefit from in-place translations.

the reason i became a programmer,i should have read this article 15 years ago.

HN effect? probably this news got into reddit and slashdot too.

I don't see it on slashdot and refuse to hit reddit from work but my guess is just budget webhosting.

Yeah it got into reddit at least:


I always find this sort of DoS attack interesting. What would be the best way for an indie guy with a budget hosting to share an interesting article?

What would be the best way for an indie guy with a budget hosting to share an interesting article?

Publish like normal and accept that, if simultaneously on Slashdot and Reddit, you're doomed. If "doomed" is not an acceptable outcome for your online presence or if you have a greater-than-epsilon chance of going viral, don't use budget hosting. (Better options include a VPS or hosting environments which are not bottom-of-the-barrel.)

> Publish like normal

Or may be, if it's just a blog post, let Google(blogger) handle it.

What would be the best way for an indie guy with a budget hosting to share an interesting article?

Amazon Cloudfront with the cheap hosting as a custom origin. Use a CNAME like cached.domain.com and share that link. If the original link gets shared, you could at least change the links to images, css, and js to the cdn copy.

Google App Engine. HN + Reddit together doesn't bring enough traffic to move the cursor over the free quota even.

503. Overload?

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