Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

General discussion about Super Mario Bros. X.
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Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby Aero » Sun Aug 21, 2016 2:41 pm

This is another repost because the first time this was deleted by Linik for being btb related when it wasn't, and then again by PixelPest right after it was posted. This is still backed up on pastebin.

Meta
1. Optimize that shit.
If your level is going to have custom graphics, optimize them. If you have a completely opaque PNG but it has all the alpha channels saved, you're doing it wrong. If you have a GIF file that only uses 8 colors but you're saving as if it has 256, you're still doing it wrong. Run your graphics through an optimizer tool, there's plenty of ones out there. With 32x32 (which SMBX uses a lot) images and other images with small dimensions you should be able to reduce the file size between 80-90% which keeps download sizes small and knocks off a second or two in loading times. Also, if you're going to be working with Lua Lua, there's no one universal rule for optimized code but just pay attention to when you're repeating lines a lot with slight changes, such as long if-then chains. Scripting and programming relies on math skills, so do the Math when you can to get a desired output and make use of the Math class instead of doing a bunch of checks when if you do the math right you should know exactly what your outputs would be.

2. Label that shit.
Write out your level name for level file and folder, and the full title of the song if you used custom music. Don't be a dork that wants to keep people from maintaining an archive and wondering which level is which and what songs you used, especially if you don't include them in your OP or ReadMe. Chances are you don't own the custom song anyway so at least give the actual composer enough credit by letting people know about it. For your Lua code, make your variable names clear and label your functions with comments properly along with the code within them. To make a comment in Lua enter two dashes (--) before a line, and you can use that to leave notes on what a particular piece of code does. This helps you work on your Lua project if you come back to it later on and forget what some of the code does, and it helps everyone else understand what you're doing or at least trying to do.

Main
1. Test that shit.
If you're not able to beat your level without cheats, then it's not worth anyone's time. When you submit a broken mess and call it a level, that's no good. Make sure you can't cheat your level by having blocks that are one block high in the air because a player with a powerup can run and duck into them, and break your level. Also make sure you extend ceilings and walls above the top of the level boundary so that the player can't walk over parts of your level. Also when you test your level do it while trying to break it so you can take care of any bugs that a player would encounter. Before submitting your level, do a final test. People always forget to put Mario's spawn back at the beginning of a level instead of midway for testing, or forget other quick but important changes like that.

2. Make that shit fun.
Fun is what normal people call "replay value" as reviewers would say. If your level contains any of the following it's not fun, you hate your player, and you probably should just uninstall SMBX:
  • More than two bosses.
  • The same boss being respawned after the first one dies.
  • Boss battles that rely even slightly on AI and not total player agency.
  • Chasing Koopa AI
  • Ice physics on snow tiles.
  • Ice physics used more than occasionally.
  • Messages that explain gimmicks.
  • More than one message in a sequence. (exception: dialouge but not for more than like 5 messages)
  • Long messages.
  • Any situation when the player has to wait on AI.
  • Metroid stuff to make bosses harder than they need to be.
  • Any situation when there is three or more projectiles on screen.
  • Hitboxes greater than or equal to the dimensions of an NPC.
  • Repetition of any sort.
Games are about having fun, and nobody cares about your super cool boss rushes or complex events when your level is terrible. The player should be saying "Wow, I've never seen that before that's pretty cool!" or "Wow, that was cool I want to do that again or maybe make a level with that gimmick," not "I want to kill myself and bring the level designer with me." It's not a contest despite popular opinion, so enjoy making your levels so people enjoy playing them.

3. Consider that shit.

When you submit your level and get a review, there are things to consider when taking criticism. When someone critiques your level, it's supposed to help you not hurt you but look out for the following buzzwords that discredit whoever uses them and should be ignored:
  • Clash
  • Cutoff
  • In my opinion
  • [Insert Mario Game] styled
The context should rarely matter. Your level is being reviewed, not your graphics so if there's a few pixels where they shouldn't be that doesn't effect the level at all. Don't do anything stupid like having bushes in the air, not correctly using tiles, and making cgfx bad on purpose because then you have it coming.

Discuss. If there's anything that I forgot to mention or missed, let me know and I will amend this post. If you're in doubt about if your level follows these tips, ask this question:

Would my level not be seen in a Nintendo Super Mario Bros. game?

If you said yes, then you screwed up somewhere. Check this video out for a clearer understanding but apply it to SMBX:
Last edited by Aero on Sun Aug 21, 2016 7:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby Ness-Wednesday » Sun Aug 21, 2016 6:16 pm

I gotta watch the video again, my first time watching it made me understand about level desgining, also what's with the S?
  • More than two bosses.
  • The same boss being respawned after the first one dies.
  • Boss battles that rely even slightly on AI and not total player agency.
  • Ice physics on snow tiles.
  • Ice physics used more than occasionally.
  • Messages that explain gimmicks.
  • More than one message in a sequence. (exception: dialouge but not for more than like 5 messages)
  • Metroid stuff to make bosses harder than they need to be.
  • Any situation when there is three or more projectiles on screen.
I mean, I understand what you're trying to say, but this seems to focus on telling me and Mechdragon on what not to do.
I'll like to see someone give me a good boss example if that's the case, and if so I'm okay with it.
It doesn't sound like if you're telling this to the entire community.
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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby Aero » Sun Aug 21, 2016 7:00 pm

I didn't single anyone out but if this applies to you so much that you feel like it is, you dun goof'd. This is for everyone.

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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby underFlo » Sun Aug 21, 2016 7:03 pm

I wouldn't just see "more than two messages in a row" as a bad thing. Of course it depends entirely on the level: A traditional level certainly doesn't need them, but if something's dialogue-heavy I'd much rather see it in multiple smaller textboxes than one huge one. Idk, just looks more appealing to me.

Also I can't shout out Game Maker's Toolkit enough and y'all should watch it if you wanna learn stuff not just about platformer but game design in general.
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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby Aero » Sun Aug 21, 2016 7:08 pm

Spinda wrote:A traditional level certainly doesn't need them, but if something's dialogue-heavy I'd much rather see it in multiple smaller textboxes than one huge one.
Notice the exception. It seems I forgot to add long messages to the list though, gonna fix that.

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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby JupiHornet » Mon Aug 22, 2016 7:30 pm

AeroMatter wrote: When you submit your level and get a review, there are things to consider when taking criticism. When someone critiques your level, it's supposed to help you not hurt you but look out for the following buzzwords that discredit whoever uses them and should be ignored:
  • Clash
  • Cutoff
  • In my opinion
  • [Insert Mario Game] styled
Why?
- Clash is when you use several graphics that don't look good together. "[Insert Mario Game] styled" is an easier way to identify clash.
- Cutoff is when your tileset, well, "cuts off" so that the player can see where it ends.

And what's wrong with saying something is your opinion? Levels are like art in that they're entirely subjective; a level that's good to one person might not be good to another. So saying "in my opinion" is like saying "I think ____ about the level, while someone else might not." If you don't say that you're basically implying that what you're saying is the truth.

Other than that, though, I liked this thread :P
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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby Enjl » Mon Aug 22, 2016 8:13 pm

JupiHornet wrote: - Clash is when you use several graphics that don't look good together. "[Insert Mario Game] styled" is an easier way to identify clash.
Yes on that first part. Eeh on that second. It's not an easy way to identify clash, it's something that sometimes CAN cause clash, but often doesn't. It's often misused and most people aren't aware that sprites from different games don't immediately look bad together.
On the same topic, you could say that SMW Grass and SMW Cave tilesets clash, because in a lot of cases they don't look good together. They ARE from the same game, though.
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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby Aero » Mon Aug 22, 2016 8:14 pm

Well you defined what clash and cutoff are, but idk how that translates into it meaning the level isn't fun. Nintendo had cutoff, and it didn't matter. Over here it depletes scores that are supposed to cover the entire level, it's dumb.

Oh, and there is objectively better levels it's just the judgment that's subjective and pointless in reviews. The next time you see a review look at how it describes the level overall or general parts, and then makes an opinionated remark either positive or negative. These should be ignored in favor of the specific parts pointed out as good or bad, and how they are to be improved if they need. I've called this fluff elsewhere, and it doesn't do much to help anyone.

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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby Radiance » Mon Aug 22, 2016 9:22 pm

AeroMatter wrote:This is still backed up on pastebin.
What if someone deleted it at pastebin?

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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby JupiHornet » Mon Aug 22, 2016 9:44 pm

Enjl wrote:
JupiHornet wrote: - Clash is when you use several graphics that don't look good together. "[Insert Mario Game] styled" is an easier way to identify clash.
Yes on that first part. Eeh on that second. It's not an easy way to identify clash, it's something that sometimes CAN cause clash, but often doesn't.
Yeah, I was having a hard time figuring out how to phrase that :P
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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby Aero » Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:20 pm

This topic isn't getting as much attention as I'd like. Time to stir the pot. This topic is objectively better than Valtteri's trash sticky in the levels forum. You may be saying "Jeez AeroMatter can't you go a day without making a bold statement like that and going after someone? Hahaha, no.

Here is the list of level design tips to date in that thread. It wasn't fun to compile it.

Legend:
Bad advice, and has nothing to do with level design or is a repeat tip.
Bad advice or useless platitude/generality/vague.
Good advice, has nothing to do with level design.
Good advice.
Objective truth.
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1. If you're going to use custom graphics, make sure they look good and fit to the level.
2. Add enemies, pits, coins to make it a more fun experience and scenery and pipes and such to make it more lively.
3. Make sure everything fits together. It's best to use one theme per level.
4. Make sure the level is completeable. Pay attention to the difficulty, too. Nobody likes too hard levels. It's no fun without a little challenge either.
5. Remember to give the player power-ups.
6. Don't forget the start point. If you move it in the middle for testing purposes, remember to move it back to the beginning.
7. Use a Checkpoint for longer levels.
8. Horizontal warp pipes don't go in the middle but half a block down from the middle of the pipe end.
9. The original Mario games are a great source of inspiration.
10. Have fun making the level. That way the players will also enjoy the level.
11. There's no shame in using graphics from multiple games. Just make sure it looks good.
12. The level doesn't have to have a set "gimmick". There are plenty of ways to make a grassland level really fun.
13. Don't feel like you have to name your levels with alliteration (e.g. all the words start with the same letter). Sometimes, personally, I find that kinda tacky.
14. You can never have too many slopes in a cave level. Using just the straight blocks looks boring, most of the time.
15. It's cool to use different types of enemies in your level, but having 20 different enemies that only occur once is generally not a good idea.
16. Remember the multiple checkpoint tutorial by KILROCK? If you use a mandatory checkpoint-tag like Valtteri's Mini Hawkmouth (in the ultimate pack), it works perfectly! Why, you could recolor that to SMB3 or SMW and use it in longer levels, or even create a mandatory checkpoint style of your own!
17. Use color switches sparingly, and in ways that don't make the player backtrack. Don't use all four just to extend the length of your level.
18. Don't be afraid to use a wide variety of NPCs, but make sure to stick to the basic ones throughout the level.
19. Use scenery/BGO in a plentiful amount, but not in an over abundance, because it's likely you'll make your level lag. Same applies to sizable blocks.
20. Yoshi Coins shouldn't be a necessity; they're simply a way to get a 1-up, not a star.
21. Levels do not have to be 10 minutes long to be good levels or enjoyable levels.
22. Sometimes it's better to just scrap one of those "wait 2 minutes for a bombomb to spawn so you can hit mother brain 1/10 times" bosses if you can't figure out a way to make it less tedious than doing the same thing 10 times for 20 minutes. These bosses can be cool but these bosses x10 usually AREN'T cool. Maybe just make 3 enemies or something?
23. If you're thinking "Hmm, a switch block barricade could make this level longer!" you're not thinking of good level design right.
24. Also, make switch blocks be solid and stop a gap, or be invisible and make stairs when you toggle them, as opposed to just a big tall wall.
25. This is more episode design, but please don't use "All Koopalings over Larry Koopa" as the bosses if you just put them in the exact same room for each boss. Put cannons, or conveyor belts, or Podoboos or something. A good example of good Larry Koopa varying design is Darkonius64's The Koopalings Are Back!.
26. Just because Chad rose to fame with Super Mario Star Expedition doesn't mean you have to take the graphics and structure from that episode. It's practically deja vu!
27. It's better to make platforms generate if you have a platform ride in your level, so that if player falls down to the starting area again they won't have to restart the whole level.
28. If you use lava in a level, set the mushrooms' speed to 0 (I assume you all know how to use graphic codes). A mushroom falling into lava causes a runtime error.
29. Avoid making some areas too cramped in your levels, this makes dodging enemies harder, especially if you use paragoombas or paratroopas.
30. NEVER place a Piranha Plant on a warp pipe, just don't. Especially don't place Venus Fire Traps on warp pipes, this also causes a runtime error.
31. Not exactly a level design tip but don't use decimals in npc codes, this may cause a runtime error as well.
32. Making player carry keys or springboards around to get furter is always fun, but don't overuse this and avoid making people carry objects for long distances, that gets really frustrating.
33. If you are making a Subcon level, either make the enemies vulnerable to fireballs or don't use Fire Flowers as power-ups. Otherwise they'd be completely useless.
34. Effects have to have the same sprite as the npc.
35. Open levels are always great, but if that's all you do and can't figure out how else to make your level enjoyable without making it too open? Lots of slopes and varieties of blocks.
36. Don't mix styles that obviously clash, like SMB3 and SMW. However, some of them go pretty well together, like SMB1 & 2.
37. Link can't move springboards at all. Make sure he's disabled if you need to the player to use them.
38. Levels don't need custom graphics to have good level design. Remember, SMBX had already existed for a year when custom graphics were added.
39. Save your levels (simply by Ctrl + S command) before using "Fill" command. You'll have to either delete all the blocks or remake the whole section if you don't, which's a huge waste of time.
40. There's a limit of 20000 blocks per level, so in bigger levels it's always better to use 64x64 or 128x128 blocks to fill in platforms. That way you can keep the amount of the blocks used in the level low, and it also helps to avoid lag.
41. Boss battles should be fair. Attack patterns should not be hard to dodge.
42. If you are working on a fair episode, don't use levels of kaizo-intensive difficulty. Use them only in kaizo episodes, because if you include a kaizo level in a fair episode, you can't continue at all.
42*. The meaning of life. Avoid using realistic backgrounds in your levels; they're a guaranteed clash.
43. Always stick with the appropriate amount of pixels. Don't try to use 1x1 pixels for your graphics in a level. They also clash.
44. Use a nice pallete with both your backgrounds and tilesets. They make a level more appealing to the player.
45. Only use 1x1 pixels if the entire level uses them as sort of a high-resolution kind of theme. NEVER use squashed or stretched sprites. This is, however, very uncommon.
46. If using custom music, never ever use 8-bit music except if ALL graphics, including the player, are in 8-bit, and even if you are, use it with caution. This is because it's still going to clash with the 16-bit sound effects from the player.
47. If you're running short on blocks, switch to 128x128 fillers or use BGO versions. Your block level will decrease, but although the BGO level will increase, there's still a limit on around 8000.
48. For some levels, if the bg goes a certain height, it will look odd if you go to that height, everything will have a permanent outline. This is only good for drug levels, which are highly not recommended.
49. Don't use cutoff. E.g. blocks not having corners and bushes floating in mid-air. This makes your level look ugly.
50. Just because Chad named his levels using alliteration doesn't mean you should.
51. Consider the use of signs to explain gimmicks. Would it be possible to let the player use the gimmick in an easy or harmless situation to let them get acquainted with it instead of plunking down a wall of text explaining it?
52. If you feel the need to explain a gimmick or enemy with a sign or friendly NPC because there's something uninitive or even a bug of it, maybe you should consider whether or not to use it at all.
53. Bossedit8 made black or white silhouetted outline background objects (P switch, clock, spring, etc.) from the ultimate GFX pack, and maybe these could be used instead of a sign saying "you'd better go fetch a spring pad to get over this hill!!!!!!!1socks" to make the player feel less railroaded along one path to winning. Perhaps put them on stone or sand BGOs like hieroglyphs, ex. Wario Land 4's Hall of Heiroglyphs to make them feel like they have a reason to be there. The same inituitve idea goes for Mudkip's animated flashing "!" and h243's SMB2 arrow BGOs.
54. If you have multiple level ideas and you're not sure which to pick, go for the worst or the weakest idea first. Then, take what you learned while making that level and put it into practice to make the stronger ideas even better in execution.
(I'm currently doing this with episodes, as I have about 7 different episode ideas, lol)

55. You can edit the size parameters of individual blocks after placing them, finding out their coordinates in the debugger, and then opening the .lvl file in Notepad.exe, and then looking up those co-ordinates. Directly below those coordinates is a pair of numbers that contain the height and width information of that block and they can be edited. This can be used to alter the angle of slopes and works in tandem with using differently-sized graphics and masks to replace them. You can create 64x32 note blocks and question mark blocks by this method.
56. like i did, instead of having the regular smb3 rouleyte graphic, make your own! (i made a smb3 recolored SPP roulette exit, and it's awesome)
57. consider gradually increasing level as a better way to manage a difficulty curve and better implament gimmicks
58. Consider the intended function of a particular style you want to use. Sometimes its purposeful not to use many BGOs or even music. It may even be interesting to include atmospheric sounds instead of music to achieve a completely different feeling. Similarly, what is known as "clash" could actually be used functionally to demonstrate two dissonant atmospheres colliding into one place.
59. When you plan to make a long level, there is a chance that you won't be able to design it the way you want because you might reach the block limit before it is finished. There is a way to fix this issue if you plan to make levels that require more blocks than allowed. You can basically take a sizable and turn it into an expandable block. Using paint.net, you drop a default sizable into it, as well as the centerpiece from the tileset you plan to use. Copy and paste the centerpiece block onto the sizable until it looks like a bigger version of the tile. (If it is a 64x64 block than you would need to copy the block into it four times). So after saving it to the level folder you have an expandable version of the centerpiece that could take up an entire part of the screen, but only use one space in the debugger. I used this for my level Ultimate Airship Invasion.
60. When creating a level think carefully how you want your level. Play and learn from other levels of rather good or great quality to get inspired and plan your gameplay.
61. If you have a long level with a short section that's a bit harder than most of the rest of the level, you should place the midway point right before that section, rather than right in the middle of the level. That way, the player doesn't have to go through an easy part just to get another shot at the hard one, it's annoying. You kinda have to play it by ear when doing this though. If said hard section is only marginally harder than the rest of the level, and is very short and at the end of the level, you might not want to do this.
62. Make a decision: Every level in your episode has checkpoints, or it doesn't. It's inconsistent to do otherwise.
63. The same goes for Dragon Coins.
64. Remember that more than 5 Dragon Coins =
6 = 2up
7 = 3up
8 or above = 5up

65. Remember to place at least 5 Dragon Coins (unless you modify the score to have less give a 1up). If you don't, finding the Dragon Coins is almost a waste.
66. Just because Chad put 3 stars in all his SMSE levels doesn't mean you have to.
67. If you make your level too long, hunting for stars will be tedious if the player misses some on the first go. This is one of the problems SMSE had IMO. Try shorter levels so that the player will want to replay them if he misses something, and not just go to the next level.
68. Tying back into the last one, if you have stars, think about not making 100 percent of them, mandatory to get to a special world. A secret Toad House with items is fine IMO, but it's annoying to have to track down the ONE SINGLE LAST STAR left at the end of the regular worlds.
69. If the level contains water, slopes or walls that extend to the screen boundary, continue them couple of blocks offscreen in order to prevent unwanted shortcuts and sudden death.
70. If you do this, then you are actually the most evil person ever.
Image
71. Draw your level on a whiteboard or a piece of paper BEFORE making the actual level.
72. Bonus stages are great. Have them in some of your levels.
73. Always eat your food. Never submit your levels without having tested them in god-mode without god-mode and finished them. Testing is a good way to revisit your level and find bugs and flaws you didn't find during designing.
74. A gimmick being overused doesn't mean you're not allowed to use it. If you think it goes well with how you want your level to be, go ahead!
75. The community loves SMB2 levels. This is scientifically proven. Have fun.
>>>>>> I didn't read the thread before posting these. <<<<<<
1) WORK OUT YOUR THEME AND ART STYLE FIRST. You'll want to have a good idea of where to start on your level and where to go with it. Putting down whatever while keeping a vague idea is a good way to make a terrible level.
2) DON'T USE THE HARD ENEMIES ALL THAT OFTEN. There are plenty of ways to use the other NPCs to invoke a sense of challenge without using venus piranhas or hammer brothers. Conforming to a limited selection of NPCs also helps with tip #1.
3) IF YOU CAN'T DO IT, NEITHER CAN THEY. Use God Mode for one reason only: testing how a level flows and runs. You need to be able to complete your level without any help from powerups. If YOU can't beat your own level, or at least validate that each part of the level is possible at base minimum, then how is anyone else going to do it?
4) PUT YOURSELF IN THE PLAYER'S SHOES. By default, you're cheating by knowing the level exactly as you put it together. Players don't get that luxury the first time around, or maybe the second or third or fourth. The easiest way to solve this problem is to assume the average skill level of the player is lower than yours. That way, you'll be able to say that parts of the level you clear without issues is just right, and parts you struggle on are going to give others a worse time. You'll want to give this a bit more forethought than that though.
5) Finally, GET SOME EXPERIENCE. Play SMBX. Play other platformers. Take notes on the episodes of greater people. Show works in progress and ask for advice. Make a single level and have others evaluate it. Those 5 star ratings don't come to people because they have the midas touch of marios. They've practiced, experimented, and worked up a solid grasp on how SMBX works. Unless you do your homework like everybody else, you're gonna be one of the hundreds of people who make garbage levels.
80. Try to not make a player utilize glitches in a level unless you explain how the glitch is done in some way! No one likes to play a level and get stuck, just because they do not know something about the SMBX Engine! [I made this mistake with a little test level I released!]
81. Don't add slopes in a Larry or Ludwig bossfight, because the player can slide and damage the boss unfairly.
82. Unless they sound better than the originals, try to avoid using remixes/arrangements of default SMBX music, as it's a waste of space.
83. Put multiple gimmicks in your level, unless it is something entirely new.
84. Mix up terrain. Do an iced lava land or a water planet. Players like new ideas.
85. Find a creative way to use BGOs. Example: I'm creating animated rain by changing the quicksand gfx to look like water droplets.
86. Never ever ever use SMB coins in an SMB3 level, and vice-versa. It looks ugly.
87. Don't mix different types of the same thing. For example, don't put SMB1 and SMB3 goombas in the same section, or SMB2 or SMW coins in the same section. If you're using them in different sections you should be fine.
88. It's okay to use a default tileset if it fits the theme of your level.
89. If the entire level consists of stacked enemies, stacked bosses, stacked Ludwigs or stacked Bowsers, you're an evil person. So don't. Srsly, even if it seems "cool" to have 3 fireballs spat by Bowser at once.
90. Don't put unneccesary powerups at the spawn area (Ex: 2 random Fire Flowers at where the player spawns)
91. Don't put Hammer Suit or Tanooki Suit very early, in the first or second world, unless there's a stage where you need to defeat something, or go through hard stuff to get it.
92. When it comes to events and layers, special blocks can feature many different effects and items from one single block. Useful for an adventure-like game, or just plain boredom releases.
93. Don't replace the original graphics with custom graphics via graphics folder. This will NOT affect other players who are playing the game.
94. Pipes somehow makes a level look "alive". Almost nobody wants a level without pipes, unless pipes doesn't fit on the level's theme.
95. Try not to place too many power-ups at a level unless the level has a hard difficulty.
96. Be consistent with your level design.
97. Don't be afraid to try out custom graphics, as they can change the beauty of the level.
98. Make sure that the level can be completed with all characters (that is enabled on your episode, if you are going to make it as a level of your episode..).
99. Know each power-up's and NPC's limitations.
100. Avoid placing a lot of bosses on a single section or level. (Unless the level is a mix of boss rooms with nice rewards at the end.)
101. In Paint.NET, Brightness -50 and Contrast -40 on a tile works wonders if you're looking to make a BGO out of said tile.
102. Don't include gimmicks just for the sake of having a gimmick, the gimmick has to fit atleast somewhat with the level theme and has to be well thought-out
103. Don't put two world map paths directly next to each other.
104. Don't make a long level even if you want to. It's the designer's job to facilitate the player's enjoyment, not the player's job to slog through stuff over and over again because it's 5 minutes to the checkpoint. I don't know about you but going 6-7 minutes without a checkpoint, seeing the same stuff over again when I die (for 5-6 more minutes) isn't enjoyable.
105. Please don't put hammer bros and fire traps in the first few levels. I mean I can deal with them fine, but if those are the first few levels' enemies, then it indicates a lack of foresight for the later levels.
106. I'm not actually mad at this, but Airship Attack had a autoscroll tank level with 6-7 hammer bros. Cool, okay! The boss was a single hammer bro. Yeah. This doesn't pop up a lot but please don't do that guys.
107. My castle preference: half a level, then a boss. Not a level + boss.
108. Multiple boss fights in a row are rarely a good idea since one will have to redo them. Even if you make it so you don't have to redo them, they could still be spread out better (over a few levels) while retaining a climactic feeling.
109. Don´t make a broken bossfight with many Rinkas in a small place or too fast spawning chasing parakoopas. There are other kinds of enemy spam but these two kinds are the worst.
110. Only for episodes: If your episode is more than 10 mb big, you could try optimizing the compression by using other formats than zip. 7z is a much better format when using LZMA2, 'Ultra' compression, solid blocks and maybe self-extracting so people don´t need extraction software to extract it.
111. Only for episodes: I don´t know if this tip is useful, but many kinds of cutoff on the world map can easily be covered with scenery. One time I just didn´t found the right tiles and I didn´t want to delete the island so I put rocks on it and some next to them to make them look more natural. 8-)
112. take time to make up a special concept for a level, it makes it more unique and fun if you can use events to trigger changes to help you throughout a level ( for example, hitting a switch to lower a gate blocking your way, or making an elevator, anything really can be made with knowledge of the SMBX events and a little creativity )
113. When building castle levels (basically every indoor type), always add a ceiling or some parts with solid tiles on the top (as long as you have the right blocks in the level's folder of course). This kind of level without ceiling looks most likely unprofessional (maybe unless it's sky-themed).
114. Alliteration in level names is recommended unless the name doesn't make sense anymore.
115. This is more episode design but don't use 1 tileset more then 1 time (just my opinion). That avoids making 4 levels which are almost the same.
116. Better don´t think about how to kill the player with an obstacle, instead think about how he passes it.
116*. Don't make the player die whenever they get to the goal, unless there's a P-Switch and a coin bridge, or maybe a different goal where they don't die.
117. Below is a list of things in a level that are nope.
117a. Lava in grasslands = Nope
117b. Bosses in Toad Houses = Nope
117c. Spikes in a desert = Nope
117d. Mushrooms going into lava = Game Crash + Nope
117e. Getting many 1UPs from a room full of Goombas = Nope
117f. Too many Kamikaze shells = So much nope
117g. Mean and Nasty P-Switch Tricks = So much nope
118. If you want to use SMB2 Bosses in an SMB3 level, make sure you SMB3 recolor them.
119. Make sure the music fits the level COMPLETELY.
120. Do not put rude gestures in a level or you might be considered evil.
121. When making a hub, make sure you have the themes for ALL the worlds in different sections.
122. Mixing SMB2 Npcs with SMB3,SMB1, Or SMW Npcs makes the level have more diverse enemies. You don't have to mix SMB2 Enemies with enemies from other Mario games or vise-versa but it is a pretty creative thing to try.
123. If you want to make a SMW ghost house with ghost blocks, make the SMB3 Boo Didly's graphic invisible, and make a layer for each block. Then you put the block down with it's layer(layer1), then go to the boo's advanced settings and select "Attach to layer - (layer1)". Do this backwards for a SMB3 ghost house.
tip #xxx: don't fill your levels with shit, they are not fun to play and therefore they don't look good.
tip #xxx2: don't make levels that can be beaten under 1 minute nor they should take you over 5-6 minutes to beat normally. Explorative levels (aka levels with reasonable secrets) can be up to 8 minutes. These lenghts are perfect in my opinion and therefore your levels have more chances to be great.
tip #xxx3: Clouds can look bad when stationary. Attach them to layers and make them move using events. It create great life in a level that would otherwise have little of.
tip #xxx4: Background objects exist for a reason. If there are foreground BGOs, replace them with some other graphics, and that will create a sense of depth in a level in which there was none before.
tip #xxx5: If you place something that only exists to aid you in level testing, be sure to remove it before releasing the level.
Tip #xxx6: If you don't have the graphics to make a layer that crushes look good, then add spikes. Spikes always work unless you have a crushing this as a graphic. EG SMW crushers.
130. If you make the power up NPCs bigger, you will need to use PGE to put them in the block.
131. Try to use most elements of a level more than once, to make it less of a mess. (Bosses, Friendly NPCs, and level starts and level ends are exceptions but these are best used consistently anyway)
132. Use NPC speed changes sparingly (giving Larry's Shell 3x speed is way too much, 1.5-2.25 will usually suffice)
133. If you want a flying Koopa Paratroopa to stay [EDIT: relatively] still, give it the advanced setting of flying left to right.
134. (this one is quite obvious, but I'll put it out there anyway) unless you know what you're doing keep Friendly NPCs on Friendly.
135. (ditto, but it trips me up all the time. And it did as I was just typing) make sure if you're using custom graphics of a different size that they don't sink into the ground, just Select them if they do. This can be easily prevented by saving with the graphics loaded first, then placing the whatever.
136. Don't use both buried veggies and throw blocks in your level unless you know what your doing.
137. You can make flying SMW ? Blocks by attaching them to a paratroopa that has the graphics of the wings.
138. don't be afraid to swich to kaiso after world 8
139. never use inopropreate language
140. If are making a Role-Playing level, or has much cutscenes, or has much sings and Message Blocks, try not write grammatical errors.
141. Make sure your levels get progressively harder and make sure the last level is longer than an average level. This will add to the build-up.
142. If you're making a Kaizo level remember that it needs to be EXTREMELY hard, but still beatable.
143. Only use Kirby music, if you sure, it works in your level.
144. Always make up useless rules to be able to get your post counter up.
145. Don't take jokes way too seriously.
146. If colors from different games don't look good together, recolor the graphic to the level's main style, if it doesn't clash with colors (not style) then there shouldn't be a problem.
147. Do not wrap the level if there are... birdos snifits bullet bill launchers And others like that
148. Pls don't put jumping koopa troopas/goombas/??? in the cramped areas. kthx.
149. If Redigit gave you layers and events, use them. And not only in castle levels, because you can use them properly in:
150. Autoscroll levels! Moving layers can be awesome in these types of levels. Independent from the levels style, desert, snow, forest or darkland, they can make the player feel that they are actually playing a level and not because "Oh, well...Lets finish it fast and lets move on to the next level." These levels should be dynamic. Spinning platforms, moving pipes, moving ground, anything. But there is something else and it is:
151. Music choice. Not every music fits perfectly to these levels so they must be chosen wisely. Time the layers to the music and you end up with something like... Geometry Dash.
152. Have you ever played New Super Mario Forever? And if you did then have you seen the fast airship level in World 7? And if you did then did you see that there are 2 switches which must be deactivated fast to be able to progress? If you did then avoid this from happening in SMBX.
153. Don't put an enemy wright next to a checkpoint, the player doesn't have time to react.
154. And for that matter, don't try to screw the player right over by having an enemy placed right close to where they start.
155. Don't you dare make any traps with invisible blocks.
156. When putting background objects in the level, make sure their placement looks naturalistic to the level design. For example, don't put several bushes in a row, one block away from each other, because you don't normally get that, and it'll look more out-of-place than if there were no background objects at all. Try putting them at varying heights and irregular intervals to have some variety.
157. Broken graphics in your level not being made you do not justify their brokenness
158. Make sure moving layers via events have at least 3-5 seconds to stay in their place, also remember to make sure they go along correctly and the events are all in sync.
159. If you don't know how long the level is, don't set a timer because something can happen that would make it off sequence (especially lag), use the SMBX time trialing lua code and make sure your end's death triggers and event that will stop the timer.
160. If the level is fun, disregard all previous and following tips.
160.2 And if it's not, think of ways to make it fun or fix what makes it not fun. "Filler" and "generic" levels for episodes are a bad excuse for laziness.
161. You don't need to make a completely new gimmick or even a gimmick at all in order to make your level enjoyable.
162. Don't make invisible hurts. It is so cruel. The player will die if they hit them carelessly.
163. Don't let the player do blind jumps (jumping without knowing where they will land).
164. It is better (I think) to use switch blocks to block the secret exit not the main exit.
165. NO TROLL ELEMENTS
166. Unfair levels will make people hate you faster than you can say "IT'S JUST A PRANK BRO"
167. Avoid stacked Goombas, but in some cases, stacked Shy Guys is a great idea.
168. Mainly for episodes and based on an earlier post about the annoyance of tracking down missing stars, because of this, you should create a level at the end of each world to show the stars that have been collected on that world (if stars are used in each level), so players know where to look if they desire 100%ing the game and/or looking to progress down a path that requires more stars than they have. I know Airship Attack 2 does this.
169. Also episode exclusive but if you have a large world map then add a few shortcuts so it is easier to get around the so players don't have to travel long distances to travel between earlier and later levels.
As you can see I am somewhere on the autism spectrum, and there's a ton of bad/irrelevant advice in the thread. There is a somewhat good amount of pockets of helpful information, however due to the fact that nobody reads that topic anyway and new designers aren't going right to page one with their notebook out jotting down these tips, they're all worthless. Imho the thread is being played out like a forum game, and isn't worth being stickied. It should be archived and started over to be a more concise thread *cough* like this one *cough*. I haven't seen a bad level that perfectly imitates Nintendo's design, so just the one tip to make your level look like it came from a Mario game is enough for people to expand on and discuss how to do so.

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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby Shadow Yoshi » Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:33 pm

JupiHornet wrote:- Clash is when you use several graphics that don't look good together. "[Insert Mario Game] styled" is an easier way to identify clash.
As I've said a million times but might as well say again, clash has nothing to do with the games the graphics are from. As Enjl suggested, it's possible for two graphics from different games to look fine together and it's possible for two graphics from the same game to look bad together.

"[Insert Mario Game] styled" is neither a way to identify clash nor a buzzword - it simply indicates graphical style. What were you getting at here, Aero?

I think a little cutoff here and there akin to what Nintendo did is fine only because Nintendo did it. Attempting to fix that cutoff by, say, putting two green pixels in between two wood blocks so the pipe blends better (see: what was not done at the top of this page) is going overboard in my opinion. Likewise, making a steep slope cut into a less steep slope without the proper corner block is cutoff that should be avoided. Does this really have anything to do with a level's design, though? Nah, not really.

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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby Aero » Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:45 pm

Joey wrote:I think a little cutoff here and there akin to what Nintendo did is fine only because Nintendo did it. Attempting to fix that cutoff by, say, putting two green pixels in between two wood blocks so the pipe blends better (see: what was not done at the top of this page) is going overboard in my opinion. Likewise, making a steep slope cut into a less steep slope without the proper corner block is cutoff that should be avoided. Does this really have anything to do with a level's design, though? Nah, not really.
No disagreement here. What Nintendo did was fine, which is why I say it's not a big deal. I think it's common sense to keep your slopes proper like you said which is why I think cutoff as a concept to be critiqued is pointless. It's usually the one or two pixels that people comment about, which is why I made a sweeping statement to ignore that because it has nothing to do with level design and isn't important. If I explained each nuance of when cutoff is and isn't a problem, and listed exceptions my post would just be bloated which goes against my goal of a short list.

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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby Magician » Tue Aug 23, 2016 4:27 am

Aside from the fact that the volcano lotus shoots four projectiles off at once (though I do understand what you're getting at), I like this thread and I've even learned a few things from it.

You seem to have rewritten the OP from scratch. What that your intention or were you forced to do so due to its deletion? Did you withhold anything that was in your original post intentionally? I remember you mentioning Link levels and unironic factory levels.

One thing I think might be a good idea re:posting levels is for designers to inform users in advance if the level contains anything in the list under "make that shit fun". Simply saying "My level contains ____" and including anything applicable from that list means people can decide for themselves whether it's something that will interest them, and possibly save time. Maybe for some people, not all of those things on the list will ruin a level for them by default, and people have different pet peeves.

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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby underFlo » Tue Aug 23, 2016 4:48 am

But I mean if you did that you'd pretty much say "this level contains good design" and that'd make people question your other levels if good design is something you actually have to mention lol.
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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby Magician » Tue Aug 23, 2016 5:28 am

That may be what people would end up doing, but that doesn't mean it's what I'm talking about. I'm saying that if your level contains a design element that the general community thinks is bad or at best controversial, letting people know in advance would probably be appreciated by a lot of people. That seems like a fair suggestion. There might be a reason you designed the level a certain way—people have varying convictions as to what makes a good level and people looking for levels to play have certain kinds of levels in mind that they're willing to play, and certain elements they're willing to forgive, and some they won't tolerate.

For a completely random example, we'll use the top of the list. Let's say you hate levels with more than two bosses to the point that you would resent any time spent having played a level containing such a thing. Someone posts a level with more than two bosses in it, but they went ahead and let you know in advance, knowing it's not what some people want to play but other people might be receptive to it. You would at least appreciate that the level designer respected your wishes and your time, no?

I mean I'm sure the mere existence of such a level would still offend certain purists, but the intent wouldn't be to get everyone to agree on what's inherently good or bad, but instead just help people get to the kind of experiences they want to have faster than the alternative. I'm not for enforcing that or anything; it's just a thought really.

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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby Aero » Tue Aug 23, 2016 3:08 pm

Magician wrote:Aside from the fact that the volcano lotus shoots four projectiles off at once (though I do understand what you're getting at), I like this thread and I've even learned a few things from it.
Those are fine. If you have 3 or more hammers or venus fireballs after you, or bullet bills even then that's bad.
Magician wrote:You seem to have rewritten the OP from scratch. What that your intention or were you forced to do so due to its deletion? Did you withhold anything that was in your original post intentionally? I remember you mentioning Link levels and unironic factory levels.
I had to rewrite from memory because the original was deleted without notice and I didn't archive it because I didn't think I had to. Nothing was intentionally withheld, so I guess I just forget about those.

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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby WindyDelcarlo » Thu Aug 25, 2016 12:53 am

AeroMatter wrote:Those are fine. If you have 3 or more hammers or venus fireballs after you, or bullet bills even then that's bad.
I'm going to heavily disagree with this. Projectiles, like any other enemy, are fine so long as they're not, you know, actual enemy spam designed simply to make people hate their lives. In the World 8 airship in NSMBWii (Nintendo example), you'll have somewhere between 3-5 projectiles on screen during most of the level. In the same way, any level with bullet bills are likely to give you 3 at any given moment coming from different blasters.
Granted, that may be different in SMBX, but if it is, you need to explain yourself more.
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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby Aero » Thu Aug 25, 2016 1:40 am

NSMBW Bill Blaters != SMBX Bill Blasters. SMBX ones fire slow enough to where a bullet can leave the screen before firing again while NSMBW ones fire frequently but the bullets are slower and easier to manage. SMB3 usually had just one bullet bill on screen so my cap of 3 is generous.

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Re: Real Level Design Tips [Trial 3]

Postby WindyDelcarlo » Thu Aug 25, 2016 2:43 am

That still offers no explanation on why 3 projectiles at once is a problem. I've never thought of it as a problem
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