A Super Mario Kart interview from 1992 resurfaced on the internet recently, after being translated to English from Japanese for the first time. The interview covers many topics about the creation of Mario Kart, including the reason the franchise is based on go-kart racing instead of car racing in the first place, and the reason Battle Mode was added to the game. Towards the end of the interview, series creator Shigeru Miyamoto and directors Hideki Konno and Tadashi Sugiyama were asked about drifting, an ability that allows player to gain speed while rounding corners.
Miyamoto said that drifting was added to the game because it was a really fun ability and it allowed players to drive their karts in ways that weren’t possible in real life. Drifting was mapped to the L and R buttons in the finished game, instead of a more realistic control scheme, because the directors wanted to make the ability easier to execute. They also added a small speed boost to the ability, thus encouraging players to drift as much as possible.
How did you come up with the drifting?
Miyamoto: “One of our core ideas was that you’d be able to have fun driving these karts in ways that you couldn’t in real cars; in that sense, it wouldn’t be much fun if the karts couldn’t drift, would it? At the same time, if they slide around too much you can’t drive, so we had to give them some grip, and strike a complex balance between the two. The drift idea was there from the beginning, you see. We continually refined the idea with the goal of making it a technique that any player could do.”
Konno: “In the finished version, you press L or R to do a little hop, then you drift as you turn. But in the beginning we didn’t know it would actually work. In real driving, you drift by counter-steering the wheel in the opposite direction when you corner. We tried implementing those controls, but the majority of people couldn’t do that technique. They’d overdrift everytime, so we abandoned that idea. After a bunch of research we hit upon the idea of drifting by holding down the L/R buttons. Most people could do that at will, once they got used to it.
“In a real car, drifting actually happens at slow speeds. Our drifting controls were different from F-ZERO, and I thought they were cool, so I thought we should incentivize players who had learned the technique by making drifting a little faster.”
Sugiyama: “Konno and I did some races together when we were playtesting. He decided to drift, and I just raced normal grip style. It was there that decided we should make the drifting a little faster.”
Konno: “Still, drifting isn’t really implemented perfectly in Super Mario Kart, so people who drive really well without it will still be faster.”
Miyamoto: “That’s because of the corners. Drifting in SMK is sort of like “PR” for people watching the game. It’s to get them excited: ‘see, you can race this way too!'”
To read the rest of the interview, you can go here.
What do you guys think? Are you glad drifting was added to Mario Kart? If you’ve played the original Super Mario Kart on SNES, is it true that drifting there is still too slow? Let us know in the comments below!