Mario Rabbids Sparks of Hope tells us how a video game is born

Mario Rabbids Sparks of Hope tells us how a video game is born

Not even the Ubisoft Milano development team believed their eyes when they saw that a sacred monster of the gaming world like Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Super Mario and many other characters who have made Nintendo history, had approved their project with interest: that Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle released five years ago now. Yet Miyamoto, so protective of his creatures, had understood the quality of the project, and above all he had seen the passion of the Milanese team made up of those who are first and foremost passionate gamers, as well as professionals. The idea of ​​Davide Soliani, creative director of Mario + Rabbids, turned out to be a success that, beyond the over 10 million copies sold, conquered an audience as difficult as that of Nintendo fans, being a title that had nothing to envy to quality typical of the first party games of the big company of Kyoto.

After five years we find ourselves talking about a new fantasy that has become reality: Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope has just been released, followed by that first chapter. loved by audiences around the world. In a moment of great uncertainty regarding the other Ubisoft projects, between several important references, such as the video game dedicated to Avatar, and the arrival of several new Assassin's Creed, Sparks of Hope, as the title itself says, represents a hope. for the company of French origin. Today, however, we want to tell you about how Sparks of Hope was born and to do so we went directly to the Ubisoft Milan studios to witness the creative process firsthand and chat with some of the key members of the team, who brought this second to light. important chapter for the made in Italy videogame.

From the idea to the video game: the birth

In 2023, Ubisoft's Milanese studios will turn 25 years old. In all this time they have created or collaborated on some of the most important franchises of the transalpine videogame giant, such as Assassin's Creed, Ghost Recon, Just Dance and Rayman. The study, as already mentioned, however, ended up in the spotlight of the whole world in 2017, with the release of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. Since then, as creative director Davide Soliani explains, Ubisoft Milan has expanded even more, reaching around 140 collaborators. In addition, for the development of Sparks of Hope, it was supported by four other studios around the world: the headquarters in Paris, in Montpellier, a studio in Chengdu, China, and another in Pune, India. 400 people therefore collaborated in the creation of the second chapter of the series.

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The first episode presented an atypical gameplay, both for a game starring Super Mario than for the Ubisoft Rabbids. It was in fact a turn-based strategy, a genre in which the characters fight in predefined arenas, where each character has a variable range of movements and attacks. To win you need to plan a strategy that allows you to hit the weak points of the enemies while avoiding putting your characters too much at risk.

The Ubisoft Milan team chose to create a turn-based strategy, after intense brainstorming sessions to decide which title to propose to the Ubisoft headquarters in France; in the end the choice fell on this genre for the passion for strategic board games that unites many team members. The project immediately appealed to Ubisoft Paris, also thanks to the presentation made through a very brilliant cinematic-style poster. In a few weeks, working like crazy, Soliani and his team put together a prototype to show to Nintendo and the rest is now history.

Ubisoft For this second chapter the team could have continued on the path already traced by expanding it , but instead of this simple solution he preferred to try to create something new in almost every aspect, while maintaining the strategic turn-based structure at the base. In Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope the movement grid has disappeared and during their turn the characters can move freely, within the limits of their movement capacity. There are some elements in real time: for example, if you hit a Bob-omb, the typical bomb with legs and eyes found in many Super Mario games, it will explode after a few seconds without waiting for the next turn. However, we will always have a turn-based structure alternating between enemies and allies.

The Sparks of the title (the fusion between Rabbids and Lashes from Super Mario Galaxy) are also an integral and very important element of the gameplay. Each character will be able to equip a maximum of two and these will translate into multiple extra skills for the battle: for example, they will be able to enhance the attack, make fiery meteors fall or add elemental damage to weapons.

Thanks to the Sparks therefore the gameplay it will be even more varied and fun and will allow really many combinations between them and the characters, so the player can create his favorite style of play. In addition, there will now be three levels of difficulty, so as to satisfy both those who want to play the story without much effort and those who prefer a more demanding challenge. With these additions, the Ubisoft Milan team aims to make the strategy genre even more accessible to the general public and, from what we have seen, they have succeeded in full, creating a colorful, varied, fun and easy to approach title.

The structure of a development team

Cristina Nava, producer of Ubisoft Milan, spoke to us in more detail about the production processes, who told us some curiosities and details of the long process that it starts from the conceptualization up to the actual realization of a video game. The producer told us how, when the lockdown triggered, the team was able to be ready to work remotely in a few days, especially thanks to its online infrastructures, already proven to collaborate with colleagues around the world. . The reorganization of this new working method took place very quickly, even if in the long run the lack of everyday relationships and seeing each other live and not through a screen began to weigh, especially since the team members all consider themselves one large family and many of them have been there since the Milanese division was born.

Ubisoft At the beginning of the production phase, the team started from the desire to create something new compared to the previous chapter, hence the idea of ​​expanding beyond the Mushroom Kingdom and exploring new worlds in the shared space from the Super Mario and Rabbids franchises. In fact, in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope exploration has also changed a lot, moving from mainly linear worlds to more open and full of activity maps. Cristina confirms that if the inspiration of the levels of Kingdom Battle came from the historical Mario in 2D, in this case we have instead chosen to pay homage to the titles of the 3D saga, such as Super Mario Galaxy (to stay in the space theme) and the great classic Super Mario 64. A justified choice, according to the feedback on the first chapter, by the willingness of the players to explore the game world even more.

Speaking of the relationship with Nintendo and especially with Shigeru Miyamoto, father of the characters in the world of Super Mario , the producer told us how the already excellent relationship of trust has improved further after Kingdom Battle. Miyamoto also oversaw this new chapter and the Milanese developers worked closely with the Nintendo team, which provided various feedbacks. For example, Cristina told us an anecdote about the creation of Spark linked to the Japanese team of Nintendo: "They have always supported us and, if I may give you an example, the character design of the Spark, union of the Rabbids and the Sfavillotti, was a perfect synergy. between our team and that of Nintendo in the search for an image as simple and evocative as possible, which would make the most of the fusion between these two creatures. "

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