The guy behind ‘Full Screen Mario’ thinks Nintendo’s ‘Mario Maker’ looks suspiciously familiar


A screenshot from "Full Screen Mario" (Timothy B. Lee / Washington Post)

Nintendo announced "Mario Maker," a game to be released next year on its struggling Wii U system that allows players to create their own levels in the style of the classic platformer, on Tuesday at the Electronics Entertainment Expo, or E3. The game features an interface specially designed for easy level editing on the Wii U's tablet-style gamepad and improved graphics, although details are still few and far between.

Here's the trailer:

The idea seemed awfully familiar to one college student -- Josh Goldberg, the computer science major behind "Full Screen Mario," an HTML5 remake of the original Mario game that took the Internet by storm last year before a lawyer representing Nintendo asked Goldberg to remove it via a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice sent to his hosting service.

The adaptation, which Goldberg pursued as a personal passion project to build his programming skills, is a meticulous re-creation of the first game in the Mario series but also featured a robust level editor and the ability to randomly generate levels. "Full Screen Mario" remains available for download on code repository GitHub, although the playable version is no longer online.

"I think it's too much of a coincidence that in the fall they take down a fan site that was too popular for them, then in the spring and summer they release a trailer for this product," he told The Washington Post in an interview. Goldberg said Nintendo never contacted him directly about the "Full Screen Mario site," but upon seeing "Mario Maker" he thought it was "very much an expansion" upon his level editor idea.

"It has the same user interface I had in development, just way better, and it's something I wish I could have made," he said. But while he's a bit disappointed Nintendo never got in touch, he's very excited to see the company doing more with its beloved series.

"It’s about time Nintendo made 'Mario Maker,'" Goldberg said. "They’ve kept the original Super Mario Bros. static for years, completely wasting a lot of opportunities to bring more content to the game until now." "Full Screen Mario," he said, proved that people want more Mario -- including original content and randomly generated maps. And he thinks there's a real market for nostalgia gaming, especially when expanding on a classic experience. "Look at what Microsoft’s doing with re-releasing "Halo 1-4" on the Xbox One: As much as everybody loves sequels and remakes, there’s always going to be a desire to get original games in a modern setting."

"I’m not even upset about 'Mario Maker' coming out within a year of 'Full Screen Mario’s' DMCA takedown," he said. "If this is the direction they’re heading, good."

Nintendo declined to respond to a request for comment about whether they had begun development of "Mario Maker" before they noticed the viral success of "Full Screen Mario."

But Goldberg isn't the first person to dream up the idea of a level editor. Older, fanmade versions of Mario on the Web have included similar features. And Nintendo even hinted that it might do something similar around the launch of "New Super Mario Bros. U" in 2012.

According to NintendoLife, the director of that game, Masataka Takemoto, told GamesTM magazine that level editing was a long-term possibility, but that the company would need to find a way to do it that was "uniquely Nintendo" and fun for both beginners and people "really into Mario" who might want to make complex experiences.

Goldberg acknowledges a level editor isn't a unique idea, but believes "applying it to Mario the way Nintendo has is very similar to 'Full Screen Mario.'"

He also says he is excited to play "Mario Maker" -- and to work on his current project: "Full Screen Pokémon." First launched as a rickroll joke on April Fools Day this year, Goldberg said he is rebuilding the engine he used for "Full Screen Mario" and using it to make an HTML5 adaptation of the first two generations of the classic Pokemon series. He hopes to be able to launch the remake by next April.

"When 'Full Screen Pokémon' is released, maybe we’ll get a 'Pokémon Maker,'" he joked.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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