Friday, October 30, 2015

The Sky Floop

The Sky Floop

I made this last night. It's an SMB3-Airship level with a sub-area. There's a puzzle involving Bob-ombs that I'm kinda proud of. There are some enemy challenges (nothing too tricky) but there's also a Bill Blaster that spits out infinite mushrooms, so hopefully that balances it out a little. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Four Doors Puzzle

The Four Doors Puzzle - DCB4-0000-0042-4431

This is probably the best level I've made, or at least the one I'm most pleased with, as it's completely different from basically all the other levels I've played on Super Mario Maker. Which is nice. And also I like the way it looks.

There's four short block-based puzzles, none of which are especially difficult, but which all make use of the various properties of the different block types in slightly different ways.

There are unfortunately a couple of bugs in it (despite me playtesting it for a day and a half). In the second puzzle, if you activate the P-block but then go back through the door which you initially came through, the level becomes impossible to finish. I did edit it once I realised that but because it's impossible to edit levels you've uploaded without deleting them I've just left the bugged one up.

You can also get trapped in the blocks in the final puzzle and also just before the finish line if you try really hard, although those ones you have to be going out of your way to break the level really to end up doing that.

A Machine For Feeding Dogs

A Machine For Feeding Dogs - CD1C-0000-0039-EABA

This was an attempt at an atmospheric horror level, although I'm not sure I succeeded.  Not actually that hard, but also not actually any fun at all. But then I suppose getting stuck in a dogfood making machine probably wouldn't be much fun really.

The House Of Death!

The House Of Death! - 65B8-0000-0051-60E0

I got really excited by just how atmospheric the Mario 3 ghost house music is on Super Mario Maker, so much so that I just had to try and make a classic 8-bit style adventure game with it, and The House Of Death! was my attempt.

And then of course I had to make some instructions and a walkthrough map as well (ideally the map would have been drawn in a biro on some graph paper but I didn't have any to hand).

Hopefully soon a sequel will be arriving too, although who knows if I will get round to ever finishing it.

Some notes: One of the problems with making a big level is that there's no way to get rid of the timer, which is a shame. I wanted to have a few more rooms of puzzles but was afraid people would die  before they had time to complete them. So instead there's a couple of empty rooms with little else except extra lives in them, and a pointless attic room to explore after the end of the level instead.

The way items respawn (or often don't) is a problem too. I think it might be possible for you to lose the trampoline at the start and get stuck, because it'll revert back to the room it came from rather than stay where you dropped it. But it's so inconsistent in its behaviour that I just left it how it is. At least you can make the pipes spit things out forever when you really need something to always be there, although that feels strangely inelegant at times.

Quick walkthrough: You need to get the trampoline, use that to get to the higher level in the starting room, get big by eating a mushroom, smash the blocks off the pipe above the chimney, use the P block to switch the bricks in the chimney to coins, climb across the vines and up the cloud staircase to collect the raccoon leaf, so that you can use your tail to knock out the blocks in the wall downstairs, then go past the ghosts and up into the cold room, so you can steal a shoe off a goomba, then go back downstairs and bounce across the deadly plants, beat (or avoid) the witch that you inadvertently helped escape by using the P block earlier (although I wonder where the other captive in that room escaped too, who knows), go out the back door and into the garden and then you've won congratulations.

(There's also a shortcut method where you can just about sprint across the plants if you're still tanuki mario and therefore miss out the annoyance of the ice room.)

Acknowledgements: Here's where the cover image came from, and also partially here, and the instructions were from this version of Gridrunner that I had when I was little.

Some more levels, some upcoming things

Been a few days since there's been a post here.  I'm still making levels though, I just uploaded my 24th, so I'll contribute a couple of my recent efforts to the blog, and add some further notes:

Found Course Design: Clouds

Did you know that, to save ROM space in the original Super Mario Bros., they reused the graphics for clouds for bushes, just recolored?  And that this graphical quirk persists into Super Mario Maker, where you can't manually place clouds, but you can so place bushes with a little thought?

I think that, while it's easy to do level design badly, there are far more good kinds of levels out there than most people even dream of.  And so I embarked on this: a level whose entire gimmick is that there's a platform (with a bush on it) every place where there's a cloud in the background, adding enemies in order to provide a bit of challenge, and powerups to help the player out a bit.

And I think the level works pretty well!  It's probably a bit too long (it's maximum length), and there's a winged Hammer Bros. by the flagpole that, while able to be bypassed with some searching, is probably still overkill.  (By the way, winged Hammer Bros. are more predictable, and therefore easier, than normal ones in the SMB style.)  It plays rather like a (much) simpler version of my earlier, whimsically-named A Bunch Of Cubes On Sticks (D618-0000-008E-7DA8).

The Valiant Defense Of Ft. Goom

A lot of players and makers alike look down on Goombas, but really they're exactly as deadly as Bowser himself, in that, if Mario gets hit by one, he dies.  In this level the Goombas are fed up with their reputation for weakness and so, inspired by the rabble-rousing Goomba military genius General Goom, they have set up a series of elaborate deathtraps for Mario.

Of course one of the charming aspects of Goombas is that their ferocity is far from equal to their adorable scowl, and none of the tricks used here are anywhere close to Kaizo territory.  Still, Goom's treacherous obstacle course will keep you from the flagpole longer than you might suspect.  The old veteran's especially fond of sudden attacks from the sky.

To set aside the goofy narrative, the theme to this level is that every enemy is either a Goomba, or, to give it some variety, is being ridden by a Goomba.

----------   ---------   ----------

Some news --

A major update to Super Mario Maker has been announced, offering an expanded version of the Gnat Attack minigame, and official courses and courses made by Nintendo partners....

Oh, and also checkpoints!  And progressive powerups like in all the other 2D Mario games!  Two of the most requested features from makers are coming on November 4th!

Checkpoints are, simply put, "midway points" that, if Mario gets to one, allow him to continue from there instead of going all the way back to the beginning on his next life.  They also throw in a free Mushroom when used.  And you can set up to two per level!  The only catch is, if you use Checkpoints, you must pass additional Clear Tests upon uploading, starting from each point, to make sure the player can't get stuck by a checkpoint at the bottom of an inescapable pit.

Progressive powerups mean that you can set a high-level powerup (Flower, Leaf, Feather, Propeller) so that, if the player isn't Super when he encounters it, it will instead be a Mushroom.  It might sound like a minor thing, but its lack has been like my biggest complaint about the game, for reasons that I plan on elaborating upon soon.  Speaking of which....

Plenty of people have been talking about the requirements of good course design.  Don't let the player get into inescapable situations, don't punish exploration, don't use leaps of faith, don't make instant deathtraps, and so on.

But, what about great course design?  What makes Nintendo's levels so good, for instance?  What should a course editor aspire to?  And because I am practically filled to bursting with good old-fashioned hubris, I have undertaken to write an essay expounding on the qualities of greatness in the best Mario levels, and dare I say it, level design in general.

It's about half written at the moment, which means of course that I might finish it tomorrow or it might not ever see publication.  And when/if it gets finished, I'm not sure where it'll go.  But if it does see the internet in some form, I'll be sure to link to it from here.

That's enough from me for the moment.  I still have a ton of levels I haven't posted!  I'll probably put them up here, maybe a the rate of one every few days.  I hope everyone reading this is still enjoying Mario Maker!  I keep coming up with weird ideas for more courses.  Anyway, back to work!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Two new levels. I'm going high-concept!

The Green Horse Is My Ex-Fiancé

ID: FA93-0000-00B7-F462

I made an emotionally harrowing level about my ex-fiance. (Or really, more of a silly dadaist take on narrative levels.)

● Impermanence

ID: C5C3-0000-00A2-45E5

A haunted house puzzle involving lots of small, prison-like rooms. The pretentious name is supposed to be slightly intimidating.

NMcCoy's Level Sampler

A sampler of my levels, of various types. All of these include my signature Angelshroom (a winged 1up with the "heavenly" sfx) as a bonus to find and collect. (Please let me know if you find them! I don't have a good way to gauge the difficulty of their hiddenness.) The shapes on my newer levels are difficulty ratings, in the style of ski slopes. I'd love to hear your feedback on these, or any of my other levels. :)

Triple-Jump Toadstools (0114-0000-0047-F11D)
■ Wingy Swingy Chomps (B5CF-0000-008F-1D00)
Tried to design as plausible a level as possible, something that could conceivably be a real Mario level. Built to be both explorable and speedrunnable.

Tiny Puzzle:
Tiny Puzzle: Cloud Ladder (F817-0000-002B-3F05)
◆ Tiny Puzzle: Two Pets (628D-0000-00A7-1F60)
Puzzle levels packed into the shortest level it's possible to make. I've got a lot of these, but these two represent the one that's most popular, and the one that I'm currently the most proud of.

Puzzle Castle:
Puzzle Castle: Yoshi (859B-0000-0035-ACF5)
Deep explorations of a particular game element, and how it interacts with things - in this case, a castle that's all about the various properties and capabilities of Yoshi.

Technical Challenge:
◆◆ Parkour Castle (25D3-0000-0063-5ED3)
One of my most popular levels, this is a comprehensive test of your wall-jumping skills.

Concept Levels:
Nightfall on PNF-404 (CF2A-0000-0061-FA48)
■ Another Castle (54E4-0000-0067-B412)
■ Mario Circuit Time Trial (E0B8-0000-00AA-FA36)
Mario levels inspired by a particular Amiibo costume.

Minigames and Miscellany:
●Tiny Challenge: Spiny Soccer (52F3-0000-009E-AFFB)
... (F12A-0000-0040-C2CC)
Tiny Bonus: Infinite? 1UPs (FC12-0000-003A-B9BD)
Tiny Fortress: Too Much Fire (3560-0000-003F-40DB)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Let's Go To Bowser's Castle

Let's Go To Bowser's Castle
ID: 361A-0000-00A0-32D3

I couldn't decide if I wanted to make a normal Mario World level, or a castle level, so I made both and crammed 'em together. I think I like how it turned out, but there's a couple places that may have been a little more difficult than I intended if the P-Switch is hit in the wrong place. I may go back and tune it up later, possibly by moving where the shortcut pipe lets you into the castle, but for now I'm relatively satisfied with how it stands!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

3 More Levels

Not much new, but some highlights.

Cave of Trials (B2C6-0000-00A8-BB1A) (EP)

Some simple puzzles using tricks I've seen in other puzzle levels. Pretty rough. For example, I'm not sure it's possible to get through the fire arms without getting hit.

Double Dungeon (5E41-0000-00A0-D1F4) (EP and Mrs. P)

Another collaboration. Mrs. P did all of the first floor, and we both did the second level. I have beaten it without getting hit.

Weirdly Moist (072E-0000-0097-24C2)

A generic water level. Just looking for another excuse to use the Weird Mushroom a lot, and the name makes Mrs. P cringe.

We're almost at our 20 level limit, so we're waiting to get the 28 starts we need for the third medal before we seriously get into making more levels.

(changed title from "3 More Level" to "3 more levels" because I know how words work I swear)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Two speedrun courses

These are both what I've heard called speedrun levels, levels which purposely put you under heavy time pressure.  Both of them would not be very difficult if it weren't for that.  Give them a shot, why not?  Even if you don't make it, at least you won't have spent much time on them.  I can't say the same for myself.  I spent several hours of time playing, testing, fixing, adjusting and proving each level.  I hope you enjoy them!
The Three-Minute Mile
ID: 9DBE-0000-0042-9B9C

Time to finish: 180 seconds.

This is one of my best levels I think.  It's a very long course; you'll end up running the maximum length of the map four times by the end.  It's full of situations that are meant to be taken at a full run, but then gives you situations that you shouldn't run through, like the above-pictured sequence where you have to use a giant Koopa to smash through a hard wall.

It's not an easy course, but I think everyone can finish it eventually.  My personal best record is finishing with 19 seconds left, but there's a commenter who's managed to finish with over a half minute remaining.

Super Rush
ID: 0A50-0000-00A5-5255

Time to finish: 120 seconds.

This was originally envisioned as a sequel to Three-Minute Mile (hence why you only have two minutes to finish it), but it has an entirely different character.  It's even longer, and you get less time, so how are you supposed to complete it?  Through the use of that wonderful invention, the fast conveyor belt, which most of the stage is made out of.

Because of those belts, you have very little time to react to most threats, so the course makes a lot of use of coins to suggest ways to go.  They're best treated as suggestions, though towards the end they're very important suggestions..

This course is harder than Three-Minute Mile.  Not only are there more things that can directly kill Mario, but even a successful run isn't going to have much time left.  Yet, in the less than 24 hours since I uploaded the course, one person at least has already finished it out of three players, and after just 15 lives between all of them, so maybe it's fairer than I thought.  A word of advice: if you get near the end, there is a long, long jump over the only pit in the level.  You're actually slightly better off not making this a perfect jump; you want to jump about one block before the end of the belt, which is like split-second timing.  That will bounce you to potentially a faster route for the final segment.

I discovered an interesting bug in Mario Maker in building this level.  The level makes good use of "in the field" powerups, which are just laying around to be collected, as opposed to coming out of blocks or other spawners.  For the last third of the course, however, I discovered that these powerups were no longer appearing!  It made the last segment rather harder than it should have been, so I added several blasters that fire Mushrooms.  I'm particularly annoyed that a certain Flower doesn't appear, and that a clever bit I had worked up where the game hands you a random Mystery Mushroom just before the flagpole doesn't work.  I have tried to compensate, but the powerups that should spawn remain in the level, in case Nintendo fixes this someday.  If you download the level and try those last sections in playtest mode, you'll see them in play.  They only fail to appear, it seems, if the player has seen a lot of object spawning before them.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Pipes Climbers: 55FD-0000-009B-A58B

Another new face arrives! I'm David, and I post on Metafilter as Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish. This is the second level I made in Mario Maker -- an attempt at getting around the game's two-screen fixed height to homage the vertically-oriented pipe maze levels of yore.

It does that through copious use of warp pipes (of course) and doors at the top of two-screen-high climbing challenges. Nothing especially difficult, for the most part -- the toughest section can be cheesed out with post-damage invincibility, which is by design. I'm still getting the hang of this whole "challenge" thing, and I'd rather err on the side of easy.

That's that. I hope it's fun!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

No Shelter From The Goomba Rain

No Shelter From The Goomba Rain

NSFTGR was my second ever Mario Maker creation, and even now 17 levels later it's still my favorite.  This despite the fact that many people look at it and think, certainly, this is unfair.  And just look at its death chart!

At the moment it has just 29 clears out of 1,204 attempts, for a clear rate of just 2.4%

But this is the kind of level that needs a low clear rate.  I tell you, it is far from impossible.  I can now complete it better than 25% of the time, indeed I'm getting to where I can beat it half the time, despite the fact that it is infuriatingly, gloriously random.  Indeed, randomness is the entire point of this level.  I've called it something like a roguelike Mario Maker level before.  That's probably going a bit too far honestly, but still, it is proof that randomness and difficulty can make for a good Mario level design.

One of my favorite things about Mario's ruleset is that it's full of subtlety.  Goombas don't just march forward, but if the encounter another enemy, will turn around and go the other way.  There are actually not a lot of platform game enemies that will do that!  As a result, a pipe that steadily adds Goombas to a room won't cause them to clump periodically, but instead they'll tend to spread out evenly, into a solid floor of goom.  NSFTGR includes Goomba drains in most of its basins precisely to stop that from happening, because a solid floor of Goombas can be handled just by bouncing off their heads one after another.

The key to finishing the level is to get the powerups when you need them (I left a coin on top of blocks that contain one!), especially the Star early on, and to keep moving.  If you dally you'll get swamped beneaath a hilariously scowling horde, but dallying is what you have to do if you need a powerup.  I put a lot of thought into deciding on the right placement of platforms to slow the player down generally, but still allow him to get a good run going if he's good at hopping through gaps.  But also note, it's a lot easier to keep up speed without a powerup; Small Mario's height is a tremendous asset here, although it comes at the cost of great fragility.  This is a level in which a Mystery Mushroom would probably be overpowered.

Levels should be designed with a clear purpose in mind, some primary aspect that informs its structure.  Here it is overcoming an army of chaotically-dropping weak enemies.  There is a pit before the exit, but I put a shelf in near the end to help save players who jump out of the fray and overshoot the final staircase.  If I redesigned the level now, I'd probably extend it and make it impossible to fall out of the level there.  If the player has managed to swim through Goomba Valhalla, dying to a pit feels like getting cheated.

I am working on a sequel, that uses off-screen Lakitus to do the Goomba dropping.  They're a lot "clumpier" in their deposits than the pipes here.  I'm still working on the perfect arrangement of platforms and the best density of goom;  it's probably a little too clogged with enemies in the version I'm working on right now.  Yes, that's possible.

I mentioned that I can now beat NSFTGR around half the time now.  I'm starting to wonder if maybe it's a little too easy.  That Star, especially, if you get a good run going with it, can obviate a whole half of the level.  Maybe if I took it out and put another Flower in somewhere else?  Ah, but these decisions are what level design is all about, and there is no end to the overthinking you can do.  I'd say it is a game to itself, but really, isn't that the entire point of the game called Super Mario Maker?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Hi! I'm Dan. I post on Metafilter as branduno, and my girlfriend and I post levels on Mario Maker as Michelle. My ability to play is sporadic, but I'd like to drop in here at least once a week.

My latest level:

Kuribo's YOU: 112E-0000-0092-EC90
I love Goomba's shoe, and I love Goombas, and I love turning into a Goomba. I loaded it with Mystery Mushrooms to minimize the chance that you'd have to go through the level as anything but a Goomba, and shoes to minimize the chance that you'd have to go through barefoot, but it's pretty simple to complete it with neither (and without going into the hidden areas).

Older levels you may have seen since I already posted a couple on Metafilter:

Fish In The Trees: 18AB-0000-0072-D755
This started when I was trying to recreate the falling Cheep-Cheep levels like 2-3, and then I just liked how the fish flop around at the bottom. John pointed out riding the Lakitu cloud makes things quite easy, which I always feel is an adequate trade-off for getting to ride a Lakitu cloud.

Koopa Canyon: 8A34-0000-0072-A16C
Short and simple; I just like bouncing off Koopas; I intended the challenge to be less getting to the goal and more making it up to the higher platforms.

Shipping Schedule: 21B1-0000-006E-692E
A Mario 3 airship level that I think I tried to be a little too clever with. It's not difficult difficult, but finding the exit is a little more obtuse than I think I intended.

GF's levels:

Bowser Schmowser: 0737-0000-005A-10A7
Bowser & Son try to impede your progress through a Mario World level filled with capes and P-switches!

Go Fish: D542-0000-0059-B66F
There's a lot of fish in this level, but fire flowers and a star make them fun to plow through. I like how the underwater style lends itself to nooks and grottos to explore.

Invisi-Block Glitch w/ Goombas

ID: 0FDC-0000-0093-823F

So it turns out there's a glitch that makes it possible to turn ordinary blocks invisible, or give some kinds of blocks the appearance of other kinds of blocks.  This level is a demonstration of the effect.

This isn't the first discovered glitch in Super Mario Maker.  There's an infamous glitch involving doors and spikes that can make Mario completely invulnerable to attack, and another one that lets him jump extra high off a springboard and possibly even teleport through blocks in the process (that one requires the Super Mario World style and also that Mario either be carrying something or riding Yoshi).

I consider both of those glitches to be pretty scummy and not a good thing to require to clear your course, or use to pass the Clear Test.  But I am more kindly disposed to this glitch.  Why?  A bug that let people create hell levels that others would have a slim chance of finishing would be a bad thing, right?

My view is it's not, really, because even without the bug, people were doing that anyway.  Expert mode in 100 Mario Challenge (selected, I think, from levels with a 15% or less clear rate) is basically more than half hugely difficult levels right now; to have any chance of finishing it with your 100 lives you have to lean pretty hard on the skip button.  For the person who thinks that somehow kaizo levels are good game design, this trick is just one more rubber phallus in the toolbox of dickery.

But for the person who can make use of it legitimately, it is quite a resource!  The level I constructed here is very short, but I think makes use of it well.  For one thing, the void below is actually completely sealed off: there is no way to fall out of the level, it's entirely covered over with invisible blocks.  And I give the player fireballs at the start, allowing him to use them to "feel out" the level.  To give it some slight bit of challenge a few Goombas are wandering around, and it's possible to get stuck in one area that might be hard to get out of.  But truthfully, getting out of it is not very hard.

Will I make other levels that use invisible blocks?  Well, it's really a pain to make effective use of them!  Making the first one requires messing around with tracks, doesn't always seem to work, and once one is made you have to copy from out of multi-select mode to make more, and even that sometimes fails to work.  And weirdly, copies of the original don't always seem to work as intended.  And when working with them, sometimes in the editor they will show up randomly like the real block type, especially when they're scrolled in from off-screen.  And to work right in the player, you have to be sure to save or upload immediately after a play, so they will all render correctly while in their invisible state.  In short, working with them feels glitchy, which means Nintendo will almost certainly patch this out.

But it also makes working with them feel like magic, like having to follow a special ritual to make this thing that doesn't obey proper physics.  And that's pretty cool!

The Anti-P Consortium

Level: The Anti-P Consortium
ID: A96C-0000-0093-439D

Difficulty: I would rate this as Normal. My first iteration of this was difficult, but more due to unfair level design elements and unwinnable states than anything else. I've tweaked a number of areas and I think it's a more enjoyable experience now.

I'm really finding that reiteration is the key. My first designs should always be considered drafts. Or maybe I just need to spend more time with them before they get uploaded to the world...

P.S. - I apparently have a weakness for bad hip-hop puns in my course names. I'm sorry everyone.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Course Backlog

Mirror rorriM: 3F68-0000-0090-A37A (EP)

A gimmick course I came up with on the way home from work and cranked out in about 30 minutes. There is one tough jump but otherwise a patient player should have no problem.

Invisible Boxes: 179A-0000-008D-C761 (EP)

My attempt at a Ghost House puzzle level. It is possible to get to the ending without taking damage.

Ziggest Zaggest: 6FE4-0000-008D-8EAE (EP)

The third iteration of this idea. Almost everyone who died in Zig Zag died on the first screen so I lowered the number of Goombas, and then Zigger Zagger had a 0% completion rate, so I took an idea from the Nintendo World Championship levels and used doors to let players attempt the platforming areas multiple times. The level is probably too generous with mushrooms but it's so long it only seems fair.

Simply Weird: A97B-0000-0088-F3B5 (Mrs. P)

Holly and I spent an evening unlocking the weird mushroom and this is the result. Fun and short.

A Team Effort: B337-0000-0088-CCD0 (EP and Mrs. P)

A collaboration, and a pun. Getting Yoshi makes the whole level much easier. A puzzley bit near the end.

Raccoon Run!: Normal Mode 7276-0000-0087-006F, Hard Mode 7CEB-0000-0087-0D17 (EP)

A basic autoscrolling level. Hard Mode is faster but not, apparently, much harder. As John put it, "I don't think it's possible to get the first leaf in Hard Mode".

Good Old Fashioned Mario: C4E5-0000-007D-87AC (Mrs. P)

A really nice SMB3 level. About a 20% complete rate, with 12 completions out of 18 people who played it as of this writing.

Monday, October 5, 2015

They Call Me Guy Firebar

The Call Me Guy Firebar
ID: F8AB-0000-0091-0CFB

Reader, I don't make these courses to stymie people.  I don't favor making my levels into unclimbable walls.  I don't view it as a positive thing generally when completion rates are at 1% or lower.

That said, this is a hard level, as hard as I can bring myself to make them.  It's about the same difficulty I think as No Shelter From The Goomba Rain (which I have yet to post here).  But whereas that course has bouncing enemies landing all around you, behaving chaotically, sealing routes and reopening them, forcing you to think in the moment, this one is more of the classic type, where you have a specific challenge ahead of you and you have to find the way through it, this time involving firebars again.  And yet, believe me when I tell you that its two primary situations each have two specific solutions.

I didn't pay much attention to decorating this one; I focused pretty much entirely on testing and honing the difficulty.  I tell you, this is absolutely not an impossible level.  It's certainly not a long one.  I even put in coins to help you find one of the solutions to each.  But even so, finishing this course might take you some time.

Note, after the two main sections, there is a small underground level with a much milder firebar puzzle.  And yet, I suspect after finishing the two primary crucibles, most people will hopelessly flub it their first try from sheer adrenaline overdose.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

"P" Is For Practice

I've made a lot of levels lately, and there are plenty I haven't posted here yet.  I'm going to try to confine myself to one level per post though, and one post a day.  Today's level is--

"P" Is For Practice

 Not all of us has had the privilege of extensive play of the earlier Mario games, despite the fact that Virtual Console means they are not hard to come by.  Even if you haven't played them, some of the finer parts of Mario's handling in individual games may be a bit obscure to people.

One of the more esoteric aspects to Super Mario Bros. 3 is the mysterious P-Meter, a bar that fills up as Mario runs, and drains when he doesn't.  With it fills, a fluttering noises plays, signifying that if he has a Super Leaf he can fly using his (rather whimsical) raccoon tail as a propeller.  The bar fills and the fluttering plays even if he doesn't have a tail, which can be rather confusing.  While Super Mario World's Cape Feather uses a similar charge-up mechanic, the fluttering and the P-Meter both went away.

The interesting thing about making the charge explicit is that it reveals exactly under what circumstances Mario gains and loses charge.  While most people suppose you have to have a long enough straight runway to build up steam for flight, because the bar doesn't drain instantly upon stopping or slowing, by running back and forth, with the occasional timely hop or even slam into a wall, you can build up power without a straight run.

The purpose of this course is to provide practice for building P-Meter charge.  Five trial situations are presented and then a final test that uses elements of the trials.  Here are some tips:
  • Mario has to be running at top speed for the meter to charge.  This causes it to build at a constant rate.  It fills at eight segments, causing the fluttering noise to begin signifying flight is possible.
  • Any time Mario isn't in flight mode or running at top speed, the meter is draining.  There is no penalty for it running out, other than the lack of flight of course.
  •  The instant Mario "flaps" (with the jump button) while at maximum speed, the meter becomes locked at full.  This is "flight mode."  At this time, Mario can gain height by pressing Jump, even when in the air.  It's actually kind of like swimming, except that he falls faster when not "flapping."  (I call it flapping, even though he's spinning his raccoon tail, because it's pretty much how it works mechanically.)  The fluttering noise plays constantly now.
  • If Mario is on the ground flight mode doesn't end; he can jump and resume flying so long as flight mode continues.
  • After about five seconds, regardless of what Mario does, flight mode ends.  The P-Meter completely empties and the fluttering noise ceases.  If he's running at top speed at this time, the meter will immediately begin building towards the next flight mode.
  • When the meter is draining, it is at a constant rate.  This rate is the same regardless if Mario is running slightly under top speed or at a dead stop.  This can be taken advantage of: it is easier to build steam on a platform bordered by walls than gaps or enemies, because Mario will have to reverse direction himself, meaning he'll have to skid to a stop then get back up to speed again.  If he hits a wall instead, he'll instantly stop, and he can resume building up flight power without losing so much.  Using this technique is very useful in this course.
  • Running over one-block gaps at full speed enables Mario to build speed about as fast as he would running of even ground.
  • When "flapping" with a Super Leaf but without a pull P-Meter, Mario will "glide."  He won't gain further upward momentum, but his descent will slow.  His combined horizontal and vertical speed are actually pretty constant in this mode, implying strongly that it was designed this way: he will make three blocks horizontal progress for every block he falls.  The final test in this course provides coins in the air at this angle as "landing lights," which can be used to tell if you're on track for gliding in safely for landing on a platform.  If you don't understand what I mean by this then try playing the level to the end, and it may become clearer.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Firebar Finesse and The Day It Rained Fish

Two levels I made tonight:

Firebar Finesse

The only dangers in this level are a series of max-length firebars.  The difficulty lies in the terrain arranged around them....  It's not a long course, but it's long enough.

The Day It Rained Fish

A tribute to 2-3 of Super Mario Bros, it's a long bridge with fish bothering you.  But it's more from above you have to look out for here, and someone's carelessly left a bothersome obstacle course of blocks on the bridge to wade through.  Like 2-3, the level's a bit unfair, with frequent random cheap Cheep death suddenly landing on you without chance to react.  But also like 2-3, it's possible to develop a good technique on getting through this that usually leaves you unscathed. I'm work on an essay about this kind of game and level design -- it's something I've been thinking of a lot lately.

By the way... did you know you can upload screenshots from your Wii U to internet services using the built-in Internet Browser?