Last year Masahiro Sakurai revealed that he is suffering from calcific tendinitis. For those of you not versed in the ways of muscle diseases, calcific tendinitis is when deposits of crystalline calcium phosphate end up growing in your tendons. This causes immense pain and eventually paralysis. It ain’t fun.
As a result, Sakurai can barely play the game he is actively designing, that being Smash Bros. for the 3DS and Wii U. The disease affects the tendons in his forearm, which makes it hard for him to move his fingers without pain. He’s still been playing the game in order to test it, but progress is going slowly. Sakurai said last year that if the condition worsens, it may impact the Smash Bros. project, but for now the project is going on as normal.
The condition was originally isolated to his right arm and shoulder, but has now spread to his left. Sakurai isn’t required to come into work every day. According to Famitsu, his work hours are whatever he decides to set them at. He has the option to show up once a week if he likes, or even telecommute. However, he doesn’t. Despite his injury, he comes into work at 10AM every day to oversee Smash Bros. development. Sakurai approves every design decision and nothing gets into the game without his approval. "It's just as important to check the specifications behind the development of things like graphics, sound, motions, characters, stages, game modes, and UI, not just the products themselves,” writes Sakurai.
Sakurai also provided commentary on why Japanese games take longer to develop in general. This is what he had to say (via Kotaku):
"Whether it's domestic or international, development speed is a case-by-case scenario, so I feel this may be a biased opinion. I think the Yakuza team is quite fast considering the scale of their games, and some foreign games can take over 5 years from initial proposal to the actual product release.
However, the fact that someone asks this does seem to indicate that it's not completely unfounded. If I were to guess, it seems that foreign studios have the appearance of a stricter product schedule and organization. Then again, in some cases, even if the development period is long, the development staff can be small, so the entire picture is a mystery.
Also, the time between announcement and release does not necessarily equal the development period. In most cases, when development actually started is never publicly announced.
In any case, whether it's cost-effective or not is what's important. Whether the development period is long or short, the real questions is if the man-hours spent can bring about a profit or results. Of course, this is also a case-by-case scenario."
Frankly, it’s worth it for Smash Bros. to be a little bit delayed if it means that Sakurai can heal himself up a little bit more. Waiting a few months for the game’s release is fine, if it means that the creator of the Smash series can keep designing games. Rest up and get better soon Sakurai… and if you can find the strength to, make sure that random tripping doesn’t get into the game this time.
Senior Contributing Writer