Super Nindie Maker: Choice Provisions 1

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. We kicked off the series by sharing a special creation by Image & Form, now it's the turn of Choice Provisions' affable co-founder, Alex Neuse. You might know him best for the BIT.TRIP series among other things.

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 Neuse, in his own words, explains how he created his Paratroopa Pounce stage.

What was the thought process behind the creation of your level?

In making Paratroopa Pounce, I wanted to create a level that maybe could have been in a Mario game. One of the things about Super Mario Maker that I think is somewhat of a bummer is that most people try to create INSANE levels, either in difficulty, or in gimmickry. The levels that I find most interesting are the ones that try to create good Mario levels - not too difficult, not too extreme, not too gimmicky. Just plain old good Mario levels. This is what Paratroopa Pounce is meant to be. Pounce should take place about a third of the way through a Super Mario Bros. game. It's kind of hard if you want to actually pounce on the koopa paratroopa, but if you want to just breeze through the level without focusing on all the goodies, it's not all that difficult.

I created three paths through the level; the main one, along the ground, the cloud path, and the underground shortcut that awards exactly 100 coins and an extra life.

Which leads me to a bummer about Super Mario Maker, and that is that the coins and extra lives are absolutely pointless. One of the best things about Super Mario Bros. is that you have this risk-reward system where you can spend your valuable time to collect coins, or risk your life for the impossibly difficult extra lives, or you can just blast through the level and complete it.

Without game overs, or any sort of penalty for dying (other than the 10 Mario/100 Mario Challenge Mode), there is no reason to spend any extra time collecting coins or exploring the levels.

So, I hope that players are able/willing to play Paratroopa Pounce as if they are playing a classic Super Mario Bros. level.

Super Nindie Maker: Choice Provisions 3

How have your experiences designing levels at Choice Provisions helped/hindered you in this process?

One of the things that I find very interesting about making Super Mario Maker levels is how iterative the process needs to be in order to make a well-rounded level. When I make a Super Mario Maker level, I tend to do what I do when making a RUNNER level. I start with the environment first. I place all the ground pieces and play through it several times to make sure that traversing the environment alone can be fun. After that, I place enemies and see how the interplay between the enemies and the environment feels. If it feels good, then I know that I'm on the right track. If it doesn't, then I have two things I can adjust - the enemies, or the environment. And I start noodling. This step in the process takes the longest.

Once the enemies and the environment are happily married, I get to place the gold bars - er, coins.

Placing the coins and power ups should be one of the most fun aspects of making a level - I know that it is when making a RUNNER level. But because there's no value in them in Super Mario Maker, I find this aspect to be less enjoyable.

In future levels, I might use coins to guide the player, rather than as a reward. I think I'll try that out soon. Maybe in a Lakitu-themed level.

Let me know what you think in the comments, and I'll be sure to respond! Also, check out our latest BIT.TRIP-like game Laserlife and let us know what you think! And if y'all want another BIT.TRIP game, please let us know!

Other members of the Choice Provisions fraternity have also shared their levels for you lucky readers to try out:

Be sure to try out Alex's Super Mario Maker level for yourself (and others from Choice Provisions too!) and let us know what you think with a comment below. Do you feel his design choices paid off?