Questions for level judges.

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Troopa Koopa321
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Questions for level judges.

Postby Troopa Koopa321 » Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:24 pm

I’m just curious. What makes a bad level in your vision?
I’ve read level threads lately and reading some reviews on some levels.
Here are some questions

Are short levels necessarily bad? Is there anything particularly wrong about having a short level?
Seriously I’ve just been read a thread in the archive trash can and then one of the judges saying that this one grass level is short and should be extended to 4 god damn minutes. Don’t you think that’s way too much just for a basic grass themed level? Seriously the first level of the original Mario bros,smb3 and Mario world only lasted for basically 1 to 2 minutes. 4 minutes is asking for way to much especially for a world 1 styled level. Unless it’s some sort of level where the difficulty is increased. It seems that having a short level is unacceptable in the forums. I think what qualifies as a short bad level is something that can be beaten under 30 seconds.

Is having a vanilla boss like a smb3 bowser fight or normal birdo fight bad as well? Isn’t that what they are attended to do? Act as bosses? I see judges criticizing Levels just for having it. Creating fully fledged custom bosses is tricky in smbx. Even with Luna Lua.

Are linear levels considered bad now? Like with like short levels. I see level get criticized for being linear. Which I think is absolutely ridiculous. I’m not even going to explain how retarded criticism like that is.

Vanilla styled levels also get criticized as well. Not every smbx level needs fancy custom graphics to look good. Vanilla levels can be accomplish to be fun and engaging and seeing levels like those get criticized for that reason bothers me.

Does every single level need a specific gimmick? As far as I remember the first 2D Mario games didn’t have gimmicks in literally every single level. Some of them where simply straight forward or some of them had a new enemy that was the main focus on the level. Using gimmicks in every single level you make can lead to people running out of ideas when they continue to make levels which is another problem.

Here’s my point of view of what makes a "bad level"

.Clashing graphics/styles
.lots of cut offs and misproper tile placement
.Enemy spam
.Too much power ups
.impossible challenges; leaps of faith,trial and error,enemy spam etc.
.Bland levels; no coins,bgos, scarce npcs, no form of challenge.
.pointless level sections
.bgo spam
.levels that last under 30 seconds.

Hopefully this thread doesn’t become controversial.

Added in 5 minutes 59 seconds:
Edit: Theres a couple of other levels that really shouldn’t be in the trash can.

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Re: Questions for level judges.

Postby Electriking » Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:31 pm

You basically explained why arbitrary standards by major members of a community are terrible and why we have shifted to industry standards since the changes to the levels forum.
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Re: Questions for level judges.

Postby Enjl » Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:46 pm

I don't write level reviews anymore, and can't pin down what makes a "bad" level for me easily. The way I see it, Celeste and DKC: Tropical Freeze are the pinnacle of sidescroller level design at the moment, and employ some of the best level design strategies. Their levels are excellent, and my scale kind of ends there and then slides down toward a rushed pile of blocks and npcs on the "bad" end. It's very so-and-so.
Troopa Koopa321 wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:24 pm
Are short levels necessarily bad? Is there anything particularly wrong about having a short level?
A level should be as long as it needs to be. How long it needs to be depends on the ideas within and how exhaustively they are executed. As long as the level flows well and is fair to players, any length should be fine. Stretching out a level makes it boring, cutting it before it has a chance to get going is unsatisfying. If a level doesn't have enough ideas to exhaust them (e.g. just standard npcs and geometry), chances are it's not gonna be interesting regardless of its length.
Troopa Koopa321 wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:24 pm
Is having a vanilla boss like a smb3 bowser fight or normal birdo fight bad as well?
SMB3 Bowser fights are usually tedious due to their high HP. Birdo I don't mind, even as a regular enemy. If I notice a bowser fight that'll take longer than a minute, I usually just cheat through it, cause it's bound to be fairly repetitive and a waste of time. Intelligent use of vanilla assets is always appreciated, though. I love seeing people make clever use of bosses.
Troopa Koopa321 wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:24 pm
Are linear levels considered bad now?
No. They're easier to design and offer a more satisfying progression, imo. Split paths often end in a scenario of the player thinking "ah shoot what did i miss now?" and going backwards through the level. SMBX's respawn mechanics are NOT tuned to this, and the result is that the act of going back through an already-cleared area is EXCEEDINGLY boring. A high amount of dead ends gets frustrating quickly, especially when it's not obvious which path is the primary path.
Troopa Koopa321 wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:24 pm
Vanilla styled levels also get criticized as well.
Dunno about that. I find Waddle's vanilla-like aesthetics often get massive praise. The key in interesting people in something is always to be creative. SMB3 Grass isn't "bad", it's just "boring". Doesn't conclude anything about the design, though, unless the artstyle acrively gets in the way of the level's design (making the level hard to look at, for instance, which levels with custom graphics are more prone to do).
Troopa Koopa321 wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:24 pm
Does every single level need a specific gimmick?
Every level needs ideas, like explained above. Designing around a particular enemy is an idea. Making distinct geometry is an idea (a level sloped 45° throughout, for instance), and a level evoking a distinct emotion is an idea too (creepypasta levels). A level without an idea just kinda is nothing. It's the kind of level in a contest that doesn't commit any crimes, but also doesn't get anything out of the player other than a yawn. Surely they have their audience and purpose, but anyone advocating for these kinds of levels to be "nintendo design" doesn't know what "nintendo design" is. SMB1 has ideas in many of the levels I remember, like Lakitu in 4-1 and them later returning in a scenario where the player FINALLY gets a chance to easily take them out. The vast majority of SMW's levels are themed (2-1 Super Koopas, the entire forest of illusion is themed around deception). The idea of 4-step design has been with the series forever. If you run out of level ideas, maybe not make an 80-level episode. I can only speak for myself, but when I work on a level and I run out of ideas for it, I quickly just abandon it since it ceases to be fun to work on. Surely pushing through that boredom with no ideas won't produce a better product, will it?
One tip for brainstorming ideas I have is to think of something you aren't too familiar with. Think "hey, I've never used the floaty water bubbles before. I wonder what kind of unusual things I can do with that", or "Link's hammer powerup is pretty unique. I wanna make a level about it!" Focus on what you like to do, not what kind of levels your world sheet requires. Especially when working on an episode, I always make sure to have a list of ideas for all levels I want to have in it. And if I come up with new ideas - I add them to the list and maybe even replace one I stopped liking. I often use this technique myself. Been making a lot of bosses recently and have been trying to do something which I've never done before with each one. Restarted one last week cause I didn't like it, but its replacement is going splendidly cause I have way more ideas for it!
Troopa Koopa321 wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:24 pm
.Clashing graphics/styles
Really difficult to do, actually. A more pressing issue is the aforementioned interference of aesthetics on design, like in the case of low contrast between foreground and background making enemies and pits hard to see.
Troopa Koopa321 wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:24 pm
.lots of cut offs and misproper tile placement
That's just lazy tiling. If he level plays fine despite that... Maybe it's even an active aesthetic choice, like in a glitch level!
Troopa Koopa321 wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:24 pm
.Enemy spam
.Too much power ups
These kind of go hand-in-hand. Every object in a level needs a reason to exist. Too many powerups is often a side-effect of all the enemies NOT having any reason or thought behind their placement, and the designer trying to cover their butts by making the level possible by damageboosting, so in that sense yes. Don't be afraid of putting infinite access to powerups in a level meant to showcase what the powerup can do, however. Player's don't need to be able to die to enjoy a level. Enemy spam is rarely justified though... at most as a decision in a fake-out, and even then it's cleverly engineered and not technically spam.
Troopa Koopa321 wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:24 pm
.bgo spam
Can be an aesthetic choice, like cutoff. Too many BGOs remove negative space in the level though (area where you can see the background) and make the environment feel cluttered. It can look good in, like, a jungle setting. Under certain circumstances.
Troopa Koopa321 wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:24 pm
.pointless level sections
Not sure what this one means. Pointless anything is something that should be cut before releasing a level, though.
Troopa Koopa321 wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:24 pm
.impossible challenges; leaps of faith,trial and error,enemy spam etc.
Yes, yes, yes, yes.
Troopa Koopa321 wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:24 pm
.levels that last under 30 seconds.
Can be a theme once more. One of the SLAM submissions right now is a level where you permanently run. It takes under a minute to beat if you don't die, I believe, and is exceedingly fun! Crucially, it ramps up the challenge nicely and never feels unfair. Everything has thought behind its placement, which is what makes it good.
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Re: Questions for level judges.

Postby Troopa Koopa321 » Wed Sep 11, 2019 2:19 pm

Pretty reasonable answers. I agreed with most of the stuff you said.

Also the level reviews on this level is outrageous and the worst part the level wasn’t even half bad. It was bland af. but nothing trash can worthy.
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Re: Questions for level judges.

Postby Cedur » Wed Sep 11, 2019 2:35 pm

Blandness and bog-standardness were already a free pass to the trash can back in the days, since level judges operated by slightly advanced standards already back then. Why did you dig this up? It no longer holds relevance

Also a level is too short when it ends so early that there is nothing to experience within it (almost all overly short levels feel incomplete in that sense; frankly a puzzle or thrilling speedrun chase etc marks an exception; but usually when shortness is brought up as critique it indicates lack of effort)

Also vanilla Boom-Boom and Birdo are usually "bad" because usually their aesthetic surroundings are bland AND because they're a trivial deal for the player. If you want a vanilla boss then give it a good surrounding and a good challenge.

The general "no custom gfx" phrase is also brought up just to express that the graphics are bog-standard and lackluster. It's not brought up when the level has just a little bit of aesthetic appeal.
Troopa Koopa 321 wrote:Does every single level need a specific gimmick?

definitely not within an episode. This is just a very proficient standard; just make sure that your level is fun to play. Frankly often your imagination of the level will be guided by some certain enemy or mechanic. Just don't be overly worried about the g-word
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Re: Questions for level judges.

Postby Enjl » Wed Sep 11, 2019 3:30 pm

Something I forgot to mention in my previous post but which I was just reminded of re: level ideas.
SMB1 thru 3 weren't just pioneers in the sidescrolling platformer genre (with home console requiring longer games to make them worth the price), but also were developed on incredibly limited hardware. SMB1 is 30KB big, SMB3 is over 200KB big (judging from the filesize for their rom dumps). It's pretty incredible how much variety they were able to accomplish on cartridges that barely had room for anything (SMB1 in particular). I'm fairly confident the advent of more nuanced and unique level ideas in the series is thanks to more space on the cartridge being available, plus additional experience on the design theme. But even then (and this is the second thing I wanted to mention), even though those games re-use different concepts between levels (SMW's re-use of the rotating gray platform in several levels, for instance), the ideas FOR INDIVIDUAL OBSTACLES in every level are still unique to that level. It's cool to have multiple levels establish different ideas throughout the larger context of the game. Super Mario Odyssey did it a lot (dozens of moons between kingdoms present the exact same obstacle in a different environment). SM3DL and SM3DW's remix levels come to mind as well, giving the player a twist on a previously established idea. Celeste even made 2/3 of itself revolve around revision of ideas (B-Sides and C-Sides).
Cedur wrote:
Wed Sep 11, 2019 2:35 pm
Troopa Koopa 321 wrote:
Does every single level need a specific gimmick?


definitely not within an episode.
This can be misleading I think (since I find idea and gimmick are synonymous and, as explained in the previous post I think every level should have ideas to ensure that it's fun to make and to play). It's true that it's by no means necessary for every level in a game to have completely unique ideas that aren't also touched on by previous levels. I think every level in a game absolutely needs to have some ideas though. Else you get filler that runs into problems I previously outlined. And if your entire desert world is filler, you might aswell cut it, since it's not gonna be fun. Being really paranoid about the "gotta have x levels per world" pattern cause it killed like half a dozen of my own episodes once I ran out of ideas for the levels.
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