Classic Mega Man design secrets that still hold up today

Mega Man director Akira Kitamura shares insights into how to design action games, in a newly translated interview.
"Also, two of my personal goals for Mega Man were to create a game where all the stages could be cleared in an hour, and to make something that players would want to come back to again and again."

- Mega Man director Akira Kitamura

Keiji Inafune is routinely credited for creating Mega Man, and it's true that he both shepherd the series from soon after its genesis and drew the art that adorned its original covers. But the director of the first two games in the franchise is Akira Kitamura, and in a newly translated interview over at Shmuplations, he shares insights into his design process for the original classics in the series -- techniques that still hold water today.

For example, Kitamura (pictured, above, in manga form) analyzed the action games at the time to try and figure out how to design the experience he describes in the quote above: 

"To that end, I actually calculated the total number of stages by measuring Mega Man’s walking speed and seeing how long it would take to get through each stage. I then split that up so that the first half of the game would be the robot master stages, and the second would be the Wily stages."

It's worth noting that the game's structure was extremely innovative at the time.

But his "rules" for enemy placement are more interesting:

  • Single, weak little enemies would appear in “waves” of 3 or 4 individuals (and to the extent possible, I’d avoid mixing up multiple enemies);
  • They would all use the same attacks;
  • I would use differences in terrain and enemy placement to adjust the difficulty of a given section;
  • The difficulty of each enemy in the wave would gradually rise, but the last enemy to appear would be easier.

The full interview contains a lot of insight and history both, and it's well worth a read if you'd like to learn more about the genesis of one of the defining action game franchises of the 1980s and 1990s.

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