In a post on Nintendo’s Japanese recruitment site, Super Mario Odyssey VFX lead artist Junki Ikeuchi delved into the game’s visual effects.

The team sought to create cohesion between the effects and the different art styles. Ikeuchi talked about how “ideas were taken from both themes and combined.”

you are watching: Super Mario Odyssey developer talks about blending the game’s art styles and visuals

Creating “possibilities” in a game world

The effects are like glue.

Before the release of Super Mario Odyssey, we made an announcement trailer for the game in which Mario jumped out of a sewer and ran through a city similar to CG New York. The concept of the video was to have an animated Mario contrasted with a realistic and realistic cityscape. As an effects designer on the project, this presented me with many challenges.

When Mario runs in Super Mario Odyssey, a small white cloud of smoke appears under him. My senior colleagues often say that “effects are like glue” that also hold things together when things in the game interact with each other. When Mario throws his hat and hits an enemy, things like stars appear to let you know visually that you’ve hit the target.

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When Mario interacts with the “real” world, the big problem was choosing which of the two art styles the visual effects should resemble. Should we choose an effect that resembles animated Mario? If so, it would not match the realistic city, and the same could be said for the opposite. To solve this problem, ideas from both topics were taken and merged.

The moment the screen takes over

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Take for example a waterfall in the middle of nature, which has a realistic splash effect. But when Mario hits something, cute stars appear instead. We didn’t want every character in the game to have the same effects. If a dragon breathes fire, the fire becomes more realistic the further away it gets from Mario, and we kept that design choice in mind when creating all the effects in all stages of the game.

Effect design may seem simple compared to character design, but the technology allows for more unique expression. However, implementing technology is not something a designer can do alone. You need help from programmers to help apply ever-evolving technology to effects, and we had a lot of help with this in Super Mario Odyssey.

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super mario odyssey capture

The disintegration effect when Mario captures an enemy is one such example. It was a joint effort with the programmers and is an example of how technology can be used successfully.

One of the great things about this job is that we can add a single effect to allow what’s happening on screen to take center stage. In a forest stage, adding mist creates a more natural look. Or if from the outside you see a picture of a cherry tree in bloom, it’s beautiful on its own, but what if you add a wind effect to it? The context of the image changes and represents the progression of time. Effects don’t just tie things together in the game, they’re something that adds to the world. The job of the effects designer is not only to create effects, but also to make the game feel more “real”.

Super Mario Odyssey originally released for the Switch in October 2017.

Many thanks to centurionnugget and Jarop for contributing to this post.

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