Did you know that back in 2006, Super Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai helped develop a Tamagotchi-like game where you raise virtual beetles on these smol LCD toys and send them off to fight other beetles over infrared connectivity a la Street Pass? It’s new news to me, and one of many interesting facts the storied game designer has shared on his new YouTube channel, Masahiro Sakurai on Creating Games. To be honest with y’all, I think he might be my fave YouTuber now.
Masahiro Sakurai may be most well-known as the creative genius behind the Kirby and Super Smash Bros. franchises, but he’s done a lotta work in the games industry since starting in the ’90s. Hey directed his first game, Kirby’s Dream Land, at the age of 19. He wrote a weekly Famitsu column about games for nearly two decades. He even went independent for a bit in the mid-2000s, leading the design of the falling tile-match puzzle game Weather before returning to Nintendo’s HAL Laboratory for some more Super Smash Bros. games. And up until earlier this week, Sakurai was posting daily screenshots from what may or may not be the crossover fighter’s final entry, only to announce he wouldn’t do that anymore and instead was focusing on a new project: A YouTube channel where he spills the tea on the ins and outs of game design. YouTuber Sakurai. Has a nice ring to it.
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As YouTuber Sakurai put it in the first video on his channel, the goal of Masahiro Sakurai on Creating Games is to “try and help make games around the world a little more fun.” With his decades of expertise, he plans to dissect what “good” and “fun” could mean in game design, teaching aspiring developers and curious onlookers more about the medium through bite-sized lessons. Though there are only four videos on his channel right now—YouTuber Sakurai moves fast, y’all—the topics he aims to cover seem to be all-encompassing, ranging from how frame rate affects game feel to the ways distance determines risk in platformers. It sounds technical, but YouTuber Sakurai ensured that game development experience isn’t necessary to get enjoyment or glean insight from his channel because “keeping things simple” is the best for accessibility.
Consider the second video, Stop for Big Moments, which is all about “hit stops.” A hit stop is an in-game effect that, as the name suggests, stops the action when you get hit. You see it a lot in action games where you stagger a bit and the screen shakes after a blow, but hit stops are most acutely felt in something like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate when you deal a critical attack that sends your opponent careening off the screen. The purpose of hit stops is to make every blow in a game feel impactful and to translate to you, the player, the weight of the attack. Without them, combat can feel floaty and imprecise, lacking any significant heaviness or punch.
What I love about Masahiro Sakurai on Creating Games is YouTuber Sakurai’s demeanor. If you’ve watched any of the Super Smash Bros. livestreams he hosted, then you know the vibe here. It’s lowkey and personable, filled with tons of information delivered in a digestible format. He speaks clearly and plainly, and doesn’t spend too much time wading through game design jargon to teach concepts. In talking about hit stops, for example, he demonstrated several times how the effect changes a game’s feel with it activated and deactivated. What you get is a window into how developers make combat that’s both punchy and rewarding. I really feel like I learned something from YouTuber Sakurai. So, if you’ve ever wondered what makes combat in some games so “crunchy,” pay attention to the effectiveness of the hit stop.
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While Masahiro Sakurai is reveling in the YouTuber life now, Nintendo is going through a tumultuous August. Earlier this month the company was accused of firing an employee for asking a question about unions at a meeting. HAS fire broke out at Nintendo’s headquarters in Kyoto this month as well, possibly sparked by a faulty device that was charging. Kotaku also spoke to multiple sources alleging that as Nintendo of America contractors, they experienced a “frat house” culture rife with sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior. Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser said the company is “actively investigating” the claims that have appeared in recent media coverage.