Super Mario Maker has been out for a while now and a nearly limitless amount of levels are already available to all players around the world. One popular trend among the countless armchair level designers is creating controller-throwingly difficult courses. More often than not, these courses have little to no margin for error and require an extremely specific series of inputs with exact timing if they are to be passed.
Takashi Tezuka – a developer who's been heavily involved with the Super Mario series – recently was part of an interview with EDGE magazine and was asked a question relating to these difficult levels. Tezuka had this to say:
When you design levels for a product, you need to take into consideration a wide range of users. This limits the amount of extremely difficult courses to only a fairly small part of the whole game. I expected that the users who wanted to play more of the hard courses would be attracted to Super Mario Maker, so it's not surprising to see that a lot of difficult courses are being made.
There is a tendency for the courses people make to be a little harder than they think they are. The creator already knows the design, where they have placed their traps, and the best route to take. So it would generally be easier for them to play through than someone trying it for the first time. As a result, the course ends up being more difficult than the creator meant it to be.
Beyond this, Tezuka also said that he was very pleased and impressed by courses he's seen on Youtube and that they push and motivate the level designers to keep upping their game. Here's the relevant quote:
I've been watching lots of different courses on YouTube. It was quite a surprise how much fun it was to watch the videos, without even playing myself. There are so many intriguing and inventive courses, like one which you couldn't beat if you picked up a mushroom. It's been a huge motivation for us developers to do better.
What do you think? Are you a fan of these nearly impossible levels? What's your favorite level that you've discovered on Super Mario Maker? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
@NintyMan I'm really looking forward to how this impacts the next 2D Mario game. I have a feeling that it won't be just another NSMB.
Super Mario Maker was made to bring out your inner sadist.
I don't really like the ones where they just spam enemies, but I've seen some very interesting yet extremely hard levels. One user who goes by "Panga" NNID is PangeaPanga, makes and plays Kaizo levels and made some in Mario Maker. (I haven't beaten any though)
Seriously, give some of his videos a look.
I haven't made many stages, but I like to create ones that are interesting and fun to play even if they don't have much of a challenge.
I admit it took me 14 tries to beat my one of my own levels to get it online. But that's part of why I still play Mario. It's challenging. I did not think I would like SMM but my kids and I can not stop playing it. I bet it got 24 hours of playtime this weekend alone. I can not wait for Dlc to add more stuff, please.
After playing through Super Luigi, a couple of panga levels, and thinking about these quotes by Tezuka, it would be interesting to see the 2d Mario franchise evolve and be sold like Pokemon in 2 flavours - one in normal difficulty, and one in hard difficulty... It would appease all fans, and could make more money for Nintendo.
@NintyMan I hope so. I liked the NSMB series, but they were the epitome of bland. It's time that we see a Mario game that really pushes the series forward again.
@NintyMan YES! I hope so; I'm so tired of the NSMB series!
Back on topic, it is hard to create a level that is truly the difficulty you set it as. A lot of levels I make I don't find too hard, but after I upload them, I only see around an 20% completion rate. You don't think knowing all of the secrets of the level matters that much, but I guess it really does.
If I think I made a level too hard, it's nice how it shows you where people die, so you can improve on your next level. I wish it showed the sub-levels, too. All deaths don't appear on the main level!
The best part about Mario Maker is all of the ideas that people have. Like that "Can't grab a mushroom" one, it was a really neat idea! Levels don't have to be hard to be fun, only a good idea is needed.
Yeah if I make a hard course, I want it to look nice. Spamming enemies everywhere just to make it hard is just stupid. lol
I'm not going to keep making super hard levels, though...my Advanced Remix is enough. lol
The first of the two Tezuka quotes really hit the nail on the head! It turned out to be exactly that way with my first (and so far only main) level--"Sacrificial Items." I intended it to be an interesting and fun design of fair but not insane difficulty--the biggest challenge being the 500 second timer, as it's a very long level. Hasn't been the case thus far, as it has a clear % of between 5 and 6% (6 clears in just over 100 attempts).
I don't know, I guess I figured that people who didn't reach the end in time would try it a few more times until, if nothing else, they took the right paths by trial and error and remembered for the next time. (I did give clues for each right way to go, but I guess players might not pay attention to them or at least understand them.)
But alas, he's right--it's hard to accurately assess the difficulty of your own level. I'll have to factor that in next time.
I think hard levels are fine. Unfair levels are the ones that shouldn't exist. And yeah, what Tezuka-san said is pretty accurate, that's why I label my levels harder than what I think. Easy for me? Normal. Normal for me? Hard.
I try not to make my levels /too/ difficult. I'm up to 2-2, right now! Not to mention my 30-Year Mash-Up and, er, my first course. ^^;;
@Captain_Gonru "I have to wonder if there are players who try a level once, and if they die at all, they move on to another."
Yup, that's been my guess too. I'm just the opposite, as a player--whatever the level that comes up, my goal is to eventually beat it, however many times I die. I've done about 600 levels thus far, including 20 times through the easy 100 Mario (for amiibos for the mystery shroom), 20 times through the normal one (same), and once through expert, and never yet skipped a level. (Of course, if a Kaizo-type level comes up, such as the one that was shown in an article here, I think I'll make an exception; nothing to be gained by dying a million times and never beating it.)
@Captain_Gonru: Yeah, I think my levels are quite easy; I never try to make almost impossible ones. I've also noticed most of the deaths in my levels are towards the beginning, which infers that some people do what you said: try it once, and skip it.
@Rocky2418: I'd say I'm in the middle. I give a level a fair amount of tires, but if I still can't beat it after a while, I eventually skip it. Not skipping a level is quite impressive, though! Especially with how many levels you have played!
Well, I'm sure I'll have to eventually; thus far, the most deaths I've ever had on a single level is 30 or 40--which has happened two or three times, maybe. Man, there are some nasty ones out there. And others that are just intentionally annoying or obnoxious (like one where there were a bajillion invisible blocks that you had to navigate through, followed by having to randomly find a P-switch in an invisible block, which required an unnatural jump to even reach; and another level that was simply comprised of about 13 sets of 3-way multiple choice paths requiring blind luck--two of which would lead to certain death, ugh...). Nevertheless, I've persevered--and then made sure NOT to star the levels.
My goal is to make levels on par with a typical professional Mario level, and most of mine are at about 20% completion. One level I didn't think was too difficult has 0% completion, so maybe what's obvious to me is not to others.
@Rocky2418 I too like to continue attempting a level until I beat it, however I do know people who would rather just skip it after one or two failed attempts. :/
Yeah. I mean, there's nothing wrong with skipping, if a level gets too frustrating or you just don't think you'll be able to do it. But I say give it at least 4 or 5 tries; still won't take too long.
Yeah, same here (the comment about stuff not being obvious to others).
I'm prepared to die many times to beat a level but only if it's fun to play.Ridiculous enemy placements,single block jumps you have no idea if you'll even reach,blind jumps that take you to your death and ugly levels that have no rhyme or reason are among my pet hates and if I die through no fault of my own I'll quit even if it's my first attempt.
I don't even bother with 100 Mario challenge,I've beaten it twice and have no motivation to do it again.Every level I played was poor.Even the 10 Mario challenge,I've beaten it 4 times and don't really want to do it again.Maybe the levels improve further on but what I've played of them so far were just bland.
There aren't too many difficult stages in modern Mario games. Sure NSMB2 had an impossible pack (I wish I could try those levels separately, like playing normal levels, coin rush just adds some fake difficulty in it, I don't want to replay that boring first level every damn time) but overall the games are too easy.
I'm fine with well designed levels that aren't meant to be super hard but I wish Nintendo made another Lost Levels. Some people know how to design hard levels in Mario Maker, others just spam a lot of invisible blocks and other annoying stuff.
I can live with hard levels.
The worst kind of levels are auto play "Don't Move" levels that require no player interaction at all. Those levels try to pass off their lack of interaction with flashy sounds and graphics, overloading the screen with objects, and making it look like Mario might just die, but he won't as long as you don't push buttons.
What I hate about them is that they are the most common level type, and go against what Mario should be. Mario did not become popular by overloading the screen with flashy graphics and bouncing Mario all over the place like he's a ping pong.
Mario became popular with fun levels and gameplay.
I can't fathom why these kinds of levels get the most stars. If you aren't going to buy a Mario game to play Mario levels(or ones that play like Mario levels that are created by users) then why bother with Mario Maker?
Auto Play "Don't Move" levels are worse then taunt parties in Smash. At least I can crash a taunt party. When I play the `100-Mario challenge, I can't do anything but watch Mario bounce around the level while strobelights shine and out of place sound effects play.
It'll be interesting to see what the next official 2D Mario game will be like... After Mario Maker, I'm pretty sure Nintendo will have to put together something truly special for it to be considered any good.
I hate these nearly impossible levels, and the one thing I keep seeing is people designing levels that are way harder than they need to be and usually it's because they simply lack the ability to step back and see the level from someone else's point of view. Like Tezuka said, they created it and know where every trick and jump is, so they totally underestimate just how frustrating it will be for most other players, especially if the basic level design isn't actually very good in the first place.
I don't necessarily have a problem with hard but well designed levels. The problem is that most of the levels I've seen in Super Mario Maker are hard but badly designed, and that just makes them really unfair and frustrating, which isn't fun gaming as far as I'm concerned.
To be honest, so far, i encountered 90% garbage stages.
Item or enemy spam, flat levels, boring mazes, joke levels alá "Dont move" and on 100 Mario Challenge Hard, the levels simply get ridiculous.
From "the creator could only upload this becaus ethe stars aligned right on a full moon" stage that requires inhuman amounts of luck and precision to flatout "Here, start in a room filled with the max number of enemys. How i got through ? I have no idea"
Its rather rare that i encounter a stage, that took more then 5 minutes and an eppileptic attack to finish and its super frustrating that no one seems to put any effort into their stages.
@Einherjar you should try one of my levels then (but we all says that). I try to make fun levels that should be easy enough for everyone.
Personally I hate the hard or stupid design levels. That is why I skip a lot of levels during the 100 Mario challenge. Just can't be bothered with luck based, hidden blocks, etc levels.
For my levels see https://www.nintendolife.com/super-mario-maker/users/bisamrat
There isn't enough love for traditional Mario levels, the hard ones are overdone sadly. As for the future of Mario games, it's... Going to be interesting. By releasing Super Mario Maker they've essentially forced their hand. They can't just rehash New Super Mario Bros. with a couple new ideas again (Cough, NSMBU, cough) they're going to have to do something radically different.
Yeah, I think what people may tend to do is design challenging/outrageous stages for their friends who give more than two cents' of concern to actually finish a more challenging stage made by their friend. Inevitably these types of stages get thrown into the mix of 100 Mario Challenge and frustrate most, myself included.
I'm a type of person who will instant skip a course when I encounter a situation of bad design, usually:
-the leap of faith levels that give no hints where a safe landing spot may be.
-the doors/pipes that lead to instant death/injury situations, usually there is no way to avoid the trap once engaged, which is awful design; I don't know you personally, so I've no reason to care and try your course again in these instances.
-any course that begins and I die w/i half a second w/o even moving is very terrible design imho, these pretty much get insta-skipped. The idea is to give others playing a fair chance, not instantly batter them to death.
I have nothing against a difficult course as long as as it's got fair design no cheap tricks, and it's important to know people aren't psychic about what may be coming next, so as a designer you need to at least give ample warning or hints of oncoming danger.
Usually playing 100 Mario Challenge if I encounter a difficult yet fairly designed level I will still give it a star so I can come back to it later outside of the 100 Mario setup.
Let's be honest here, at the moment I'm only playing 100 Mario to unlock the 8-bit costumes, so if your course impedes this process unfairly, no star for you and instant skip. If it is a fairly designed course I will generally give a star and give myself 3 chances to pass then move on to try another course.
What more people who upload levels need to learn is that there's a difference between challenging and cheap.
Putting unforeseeable traps around every corner is not challenging, it's just stupidly cheap and ruins your stage + the enjoyment of anyone playing it.
I think every time you play a level (not just complete it) you should be able to rank the level's difficulty on a scale of 1 to 5 stars or something so people can get a general idea of how hard it is.
@Kirk I usually don't promote my levels on the news comment section but it'd be an honor if you try some of my levels. I'd like to know how good/bad they're from your point of view, since you are a game designer,
There's an easy one and a hard one
There's no need to comment or reply, staring is enough (in case you like them).
@Freeon-Leon I honestly would but I don't have access to a Wii U just now so I unfortunately can't. Hopefully some other people check them out and give you good feedback.
@Kirk Oh, my bad. I was thinking you'd like those levels because they're well designed and somewhat minimalistic.
The guys at the forums seem to like them and they've given me really good feedback. But it's a shame most people just want flashy automatic levels.
Watching PBG and the game grumps play the hard levels are hilarious! Some levels should be fair, and not have some cheap secret you have to find to beat it, or something close to impossible.
My most popular level was the first one I ever made. It all went downhill once I figured out how to use the level editor, probably because I forget that I'm pretty good at Mario, and I make the sorts of levels that I personally would enjoy playing.
I'm revising a formula right now to check level difficulty while still making something interesting for advanced players. I've decided that from now on, every level that I upload until I get my next medal will be beatable even if you don't know how to run.
@MrRight "Putting unforeseeable traps around every corner is not challenging, it's just stupidly cheap and ruins your stage + the enjoyment of anyone playing it."
YES! "Expert mode" is not fun for me. Only frustrating. Having looked at the youtube video, I will play PangaeaPanga's "P-Break" willingly, a few times. But the sorts of things you seen on expert mode are not like that. I think it's cheap and not in the spirit of good design to force a player to spend an extra life gathering information. It's one thing if you have an opportunity to escape, like the NWC level with 8 doors. It's another thing entirely when you fall helplessly into a spike trap, and the only thing you can do to prevent yourself from losing a life is to hold the minus button and skip the level.
I have a big problem with making my levels too long and/or difficult. Almost all my levels have a completion rate between 10-15% My wife is a good play tester though, so I might be able to fix that problem by involving her more in my process. I usually don't lose a life on a level until it's below 15% completion rate though, and the only levels I truly have difficulty with are the ones below 1% so even if I try making a level that I think is fair, it ends up being too difficult.
This is probably my best example of what I mean:
0958-0000-004D-66BD - Pepperoni Pipe Yard
I meant for this level to be like a 6-1 or 7-1. In my opinion it's a fair level, just a bit hectic, but it's sitting around a 7% completion rate or so.
@Freeon-Leon I'm sure I probably would have liked them.
We need curated lists of good levels!
It's good that news sites and youtubers highlight great levels, but we need complete collections of stages, and most of all we need these lists inside the game.
Don't tell me what to do! Make us a new Lost Levels!
As long as it's fun and not needlessly cruel, harder is usually better.
There's one thing every Mario games has had over the years that you can't get with Maro Maker - a play guide. Before the internet, there were serveral gaming magazines to point you through the tougher spots.
So now that we're orphaned and left to figure out SMM levels on our own, any level that's too puzzling is scrapped in favor of the next one, and the other key factor in low completion rates. Don't know what to do in this level? Ah, skip it. There's a couple million more to choose from.
I'm guessing that considering the length of the list of makers available that a very small fraction of those submitting levels make the cut. And judging by the familiarity of names like "Andre GX" and "Panga" and "Projared", these guys climbed the charts because they were already "internet famous" in gaming circles. I havn't been able to find myself on any of those lists. The rest of us players are at the mercy of whatever random chance the game employs to select 100 Mario challenge levels you get.
It looks like I'll be stuck for a long time to come with my 10 level limit, since I get starred at a fraction of a percentage of the rate the course maker elite do. From here on I guess the levels I make will just live in my Wii U's memory.
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