As you may have seen by now, we really want you all to share Super Mario Maker levels with each other; to achieve that we've set up a special level sharing page with some neat features - just for you.
We're also teaming up with some 'Nindies' to share some levels from established and highly respected developers. To start off we have a creation by Markus Månsson, who is a level designer from Image & Form, the studio behind SteamWorld Dig and the upcoming SteamWorld Heist.
While Super Mario Maker makes us all game creators, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at levels from those within the development community, so we can understand the thought processes behind their designs. While many of us will slap down items in Super Mario Maker in a haphazard way and tweak them on the fly to make something fun, a level designer may well approach things in a more methodical fashion.
So Månsson, in his own words, explains how he created his Ghostly Mushroom stage.
What was the thought process behind the creation of your level?
I'll go through the steps that define this level and talk about what I was aiming to achieve. When designing levels for Mario I try to keep the level focused on a couple of objects. Each level I create is based on one core idea that will be the focus throughout the whole level.
My core idea with this level was to convince the player they know what they are up against. Then they feel comfortable.
I do this by initially showing the finish line and the obstacle blocking the path towards the finish. In this level it is a single yellow block that prevents the player from getting to the finish line; the player needs to become big Mario to finish this level. And how convenient, there is a red mushroom on the other side of a wall.
Then I turn the tables.
The player takes the pipe that "obviously" leads to the mushroom area but they show up on another place. Either they arrive in a place that looks exactly like they thought it would, but without the mushroom, or in a place that is totally different. Both help to confuse the player. Then they take the very same pipe back and show up in yet another area. I do this repeatedly.
This is done by building multiple identical rooms connected with warp pipes, shaking up the perception of what they should be.
But there is a fine line between confusing the player and just being evil. I'm not saying I nailed the exact spot regarding that, but I think arrived not too far away. I made sure to throw in some rewards every now and then to not discourage the player from continuing. Sure, they feel lost, but at least lost & rewarded instead of lost & punished. Also, during all this time at least they know what they are supposed to do. They simply need to get a mushroom and then return to the finish line.
And yet, when they finally manage their way back to the finish line, as big Mario, to crush the single yellow block that is in their way I tossed in another surprise. Hidden blocks to block the player's way. Whoops. Most of the players rather quickly find the real way to the finish after that though; they have already been shown another path, albeit subtly.
This map relies on the spin-jump Mario can do in Super Mario World to crush blocks beneath him after becoming big Mario.
To make sure that the player actually knows about this jump I decided to do a mini-tutorial in the beginning of the level. The player won't get past the first room before they manage to crush the blocks with a spin jump.
I aimed for an easy difficulty, overall. I wanted everyone to be able to finish this level. Based on my perception while browsing maps and comparing their success rate I'd say that the majority of 100 Mario Challenge players do not want to fail over and over. If they die too much they just skip the level. So I tried to make the level interesting in other ways than to challenge their Mario skill; to satisfy the really hardcore players I added secret areas and additional exits. Perhaps they are too well hidden to ever be found. I realised that no one will probably find the feather without downloading the level and examining it in the editor, and I'm sure no one will ever find Yoshi. Poor Yoshi, he will be forever alone.
How have your experiences designing levels at Image & Form helped/hindered you in this process?
The game we are working on, Steamworld Heist, is a completely different kind of game. But spending 8 hours a day at creating levels for ANY game will help you to get into the mindset needed for efficiently creating a level. One thing you learn by creating a lot of levels is how to scale up a level's intensity throughout the course without making the level totally crazy. Start out by introducing some simple obstacles and then later in the level use the same kind of obstacles but in a more complex set up. That's an easy way of creating something that appears to be very well designed.
Another thing I get to practice a lot is the ability to detect errors in the design as early as possible, to avoid putting too much effort on things that don't really work out well.
And that brings me to the last thing that came to mind for now. Realise the value of testing your level. A lot. Both yourself but preferably on anyone that is willing to give it a go. To observe other people playing your level is the best way to detect both big and small design problems.
As a special bonus, here is another level from Ulf Hartelius at Image & Form which promises a sterner challenge.
Be sure to try out Markus' Super Mario Maker level for yourself (and Ulf's too!) and let us know what you think with a comment below. Do you feel his design choices paid off?
This sounds awesome. I'll have to check it out when I get home!
I always hate the levels where you have to find a hidden block, with no indications, in order to win. I'll definitely try this out though, because I love brainteasers.
Nintendo expressed concerns about devs publishing levels with their official accounts. I wonder if anything will become of that.
I agree Samuel, I have also grown to despise these levels where you are working through a maze or just have to keep going through random doors to find the exit.
As far as the hidden blocks go, I'll usually put them somewhere where I know somebody will likely jump, or put a coin or something directly over/under them. My example is 80A8-0000-0040-247F I'd like to think they were used fairly well there.
But even then the original SMB was guilty of using hidden blocks with no indication of where they are so it's hard to judge too much. I'll try Mannson's level and reserve judgement but I don't think anybody was fond of these kinds of levels even when Nintendo made them. The one's I've seen on SMM have been horribly tedious to play through.
Love Steamworld Dig,like both these guys after reading their story on here a few months ago but their SMM levels are nothing special at all.Mawnsson's level got off to a bad start with me as I hate being forced to take a hit to progress,especially when there was no need to and from then on it was basically go up and down pipes.It was quite clever how some of the rooms were identical I suppose but ridiculously easy.The Chain Chomp level I haven't even bothered finishing,being direc ted to jump blindly into 2 chain chomps that will hit you is cheap whether there is a mushroom there or not.I like to think my own last few levels and many of the NL communities are much better than these.No stars from me.
More of this kind of thing please!
Somewhat related question: anyone know if the levels by Playtonic (the Yooka-Laylee developers) were uploaded to Super Mario Maker? I mean the ones they showed on the Nintendo UK stream.
@jariw I just wanted to ask the exact same thing
I'll check this level out later! A well-thought not-spammable level is always welcome
Sounds brilliant. Reading his thought process defininitely reveals his level of experience.
I'm no developer, but I sure feel like I could be if I knew how to program. When I make levels I do it very methodically, play test, fill to the brim with secrets and space every jump and place every enemy to perfection.
Even if the level turns out to be a bust, the thought process behind it is impressive.
I'll give the level a go this evening.
Perhaps my review was a bit harsh,I wasn't in the best of moods when I played them.I'd just got back from a 130 km trip on a scooter and my rear was killing me.I still don't like being forced to take a hit though.
@OorWullie The hit at the beginning is required as you are taught that you can break the blocks by spin jumping as big Mario, but not small Mario. A lot of players may not be aware of this mechanic as it's pretty unique to SMW.
Are there any sites which lists level codes of well designed levels, separating the good from the bad? Playing random levels is a real pain. 99% is so horrible, that I almost prefer playing a game by RCMADIAX.
Ok, I played both of them and they're great.
I liked the way Ghostly Mushroom is build, it really feels like you're kinda lost at a certain point, but the way the level progresses tells you how to advance by exploring a bit. I also loved the little tutorial.
The Chain Chomp Chains is very different but it has some nice things. I don't know if this solution was included on purpose, but I took the green shell with me instead of using it to find the fire flower. It made the level easier because I could defeat the Chain Chomps by throwing the shell upwards and picking it again. It was fun.
Hope you guys try some of my levels, I do some of the stuff Markus said. You can even speedrun them if you find the correct path and timing. Overall, I think they're pretty decent.
Thank you everyone who gave your time to test or read about my map, it feels really awesome. Hit me with your levels and I will gladly play them back in return
@OorWullie Yeah if I were to change only 1 thing it I would be the first area. I would have reworked it to a nicer way of achieving the same thing.
The reason I even put that sort of "mini tutorial" there was partly because the different mechanics in the different games, but also because they moved the spin-jump to the shoulder buttons (compared to snes-version of SMW).
I totally agree with you its not very nice to damage the player like that, but I thought it might have been worth it for not having anyone getting stuck later. Perhaps not. I guess we will never know for sure =/
@mawnsson Play this level please:
It's not perfect but I hope you enjoy it
Now this is a cool level.
@mawnsson I liked Steamworld Dig that much I feel bad now haha.I'm just not a fan of forced hits and having it so early kind of set my opinion from the start but you're right,with the different mechanics,I'm forgetting a lot of players wont be familiar with the spin jump.I kind of done a similar thing with one of my levels,having one of those blocks at the start that you wont be able to pass through till the end.I'd be fair chuffed if you tried it.
Dark Side of the Shroom DB3F-0000-0040-B6C1
@OorWullie Hey, that's a really good level. It's cool how it needs to be done a little fast, maintaining the momentum (wich is something I love about Mario games).
btw, thanks @mawnsson
I have already played this level, and I thought it was pretty great! I didn't know you could configure levels like Ghostly Mushroom!
Hi, @mawnsson here, from official account. Got trouble posting from my own.
Played your level and left comment in-game
Spent alot of deaths on exploring, not sure I found all secrets though. Will have to take another look on that one. I liked the slow and steady increase in difficulty that ended with some extra interesting enemies. Nice one
Mawnsson here, but on validated account.
Don't feel bad, you had valid points! And I take them into consideration until next time
Played your level, it was daunting at first but I managed to find my way around after a while. Left comment in-game
But I have to admit I cheated on my first clear. I managed to grab the first mushroom while still crouching in the 1-block-tunnel, and then crawl my way back to break the brick.
Fun and challenging. Nice tease at the beginning with the yellow block. My favourite area of the level was the one where you had to follow the shell down the "maze" of yellow blocks rather quickly, because you can't break them yourself when you are small Mario.
@imageform Cheers for playing,that wasn't supposed to be possible haha.That wall was a bit of a nightmare to make,trying to get it to spell out 'The Wall' and make it so you wouldn't get trapped took me more time to solve than I care to admit
@Freeon-Leon Thanks for playing.I'll give yours a try later.
@imageform Well, you found the most important secret, and I'm really happy for that, it worth the extra work.
Also, as I said before, you can speedrun through it just like in a normal Mario level. I'll let this video (poorly recorded btw) to show you all how to do it:
This confused me so much haha. I didn't realize you could have multiple pipes on top of each other like that. Downloaded it to figure out how everything works.
Hey Guys, i!m new here . i've made this course today. on Mario Maker. ID: B44C-0000-005D-E4A7 "Adventure is CallingFor Me!"
pretty fun, not too confusing but just wacky enough
@mawnsson I'm looking forward to checking out your level. I have fond memories of playing ghost mansion levels of this ilk back when super mario world came out. I was always so amazed and proud when I finally figured out how to navigate through each new room and how they intertwined. I will comment if I find Yoshi... that is my goal.
I have a Ghost level as well which has multiple rooms, you have to find two items to advance to the end of the level. You are teased with being able to see the goal from a few different rooms.
My level code is: A07B-0000-005E-DBE8
Level: Jigglypuff's House of Horrors
I beat both levels and I really liked them! Some nice ideas there.
@OorWullie nice level!
Didn't find Ghostly Mushrooms as fun. Then again, I was never into those ghost levels. I did rather enjoy the Chain Chomp level. Challenging and simple designed. Classic Mario levels are more my cup of tea.
Please try out my levels and let me know what you guys think on miiverse! Would greatly appreciate it! I really enjoy this game and creating levels. I really put in the time and polish when making these courses.
Try "Where's Bowser?" by june_l #SuperMarioMaker https://www.nintendolife.com/super-mario-maker/levels/CD9C-0000-005E-5C4F
Try "Very Hard Level #realchallenge" by june_l #SuperMarioMaker https://www.nintendolife.com/super-mario-maker/levels/6902-0000-0039-56AB
While it was fun to play I consider it to be a bit too harsh against the player
Not in just being difficult, thats ok to be. But the first flowers are deadly without the player having a chance at avoiding them. At least not in their first run. So they will probably instantly die, and then they will ask themself if it's worth another try.
And I think that even on hard levels you as a creator has to think "How can I make the player want to replay this level after they die?"
I'ts really hard. I avoided that question and made my level super easy instead. But If you're to make a hard one I think it's a good idea to inform the player about the threats before they die.
The rest of the map had less surprise deaths and that was way more enjoyable for me. Perhaps a good idea to throw in a mushroom somewhat early?
Just my thoughts, do what you want with them ;P
I played it and enjoyed it. The different paths were very varied. Sadly I didn't get to finish it, will have to give it another try later.
I really liked how you give the player new mushrooms every now and then. Many people chose not to, but I think in a level with this much enemies that's really the way to do it.
The hidden blocks were nicely prodded at with the coins, which made them possible to find (but not too obvious).
What I had most problems with was the ghost-bumpy-ride was a . It was a super fun idea but perhaps a little bit too hard. That was something new for me and I was not sure how the boos would control the flying machine. That combined with like 20 small boos chasing me it felt much more harder than what I had encountered earlier on the stage. Like a little too big step in difficulty. Or I just suck at flying with boos I killed all the small boos with the star but never managed to bump my way to the switch/door.
Overall you absolutely caught the things I enjoyed in the original ghost houses. Multiple doors for you to choose from. Some with exits in the air which makes them 1-way-exits. That's really nice. Also I might have much left, not sure. Because it's a ghost house ;D
Will try to get some more time for this after work (y)
Hello, I'm the one who gave the clear as crystal hint on miiverse to follow the arrow!
Also, dunno if anyone wants to try it but here goes:
And the post on this site that goes with it:
(Somehow only got 1 clear last I checked, its honestly not all that hard though the lack of a pattern from the Chain Chomp at the beginning can be annoying)
I enjoyed both levels, especially the chain chomp one. Nice balance in difficulty.
Yeah, that Chain Chomp was the biggest issue in the level (or some of the invisible blocks near the end when Bowser is firing at you).
I really appreciate the comments and glad you enjoyed the level
With the Ghost clown car room, I agree that it is difficult, maybe a bit too much. Originally I didn't even have the star haha but after a few playthroughs I realized I needed something for the player to be safe for a certain amount of time before they figure out what they need to do. I thought about subtracting one of the big boos but then thought that once the player has figured out how to get to that door the next playthrough would be much easier and they could focus on figuring out how to maneuver that area.
The best way to make your way around the boos in the clown cars is to stay low and have them come down to you. They should come far enough left and leave you enough room underneath them that you can pass under and head up to the P switch and door.
Thank you again for giving it a try and providing your feedback.
@imageform SteamWorld Dig is my favourite 3DS eShop game and it's in my top 10 list of all games for the system! Well done on making such a great game! I got it on Christmas Day 2013 at the same time as Zelda: Link Between Worlds but I spent more time of the holidays digging than exploring Hyrule and Lorule.
Please check out my best level:
Bowser's Bob-omb Factory
It's a Bob-omb factory with conveyor belts, various rooms including a mushroom testing room and a room for faulty Bob-ombs, and a boss battle with the owner of the factory.
@Luffymcduck I know I used quite a few invisible blocks, but they were mostly stuff I'd look for when playing a level for extra powerups.
The springs are nasty though, its why I gave people multiple chances with extra fire flowers just sitting out there and even lakitu clouds, if you can unseat their users, to find more favorable positions and extra powerups beyond the obvious.
I will admit the chain chomp was just evil on my part.
In my other levels, 'bouncy play' and its sequel, I used koopa troopas like that as well. I had my brother playtest them, and despite a reaction time slower than mine and also not knowing I'd put something there, he managed to get past the most evil one without dying (End of the sequel level) so I didn't think it was that hard to deal with.
The best thing you guys can do to play my levels is look for me on MiiVerse.. same name.. the Goof... and just look from there and see the levels i have up
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