levelengine (usually never capitalized) is part gamer, part activist, part artist, part critic, and one of his main focuses is modifying / hacking Super Mario World and reviewing modifications of said game made by other people.
He discovered his love for playing video games as early as age 6 as soon as he picked up an NES controller and played the first Super Mario Bros. Since then, as the creative person he was and came to be, he often drew out potential video game levels on paper and acted them out through imagination, before he got access to any full blown Mario game level editor.
Before ever hacking SMW, he discovered the free open-source Super Mario World clone Secret Maryo Chronicles. This clone had an easy to use level editor, and away he went with it. He never shared these levels with any internet users up until early 2008. This served as a foundation for him to learn level design, and he continued using it to share his levels with people at the Secret Maryo Chronicles forum board.
He began SMW hacking the same year, though he only really started to move into it, and get any good at playing / reviewing / building hacks in 2012.
2008: The Beginning
levelengine wanted to begin hacking SMW after having watched several videos from Let's Player Proton Jon who was playing other SMW hacks made by his fans, such as Wacky Worlds. Once he finally figured out how to set up Lunar Magic, his ROM file, and his emulator, he went on to do what most first timers do: churn out minor level edits of the actual game's levels. Needless to say, it failed. He lost that first hack by patching over it with someone else's. Later that same year, he built two more levels in a new hack... and didn't like the end result, so he started over again. For the third time now, he built something, and it was two worlds long (his longest hack thus far). By this point his levels were all originals and he tried a few things with just Lunar Magic itself, though he messed up something that barred him from building his hack any further, so he had to stuff an endgame last minute into the last level he could access. All three of these hacks (6 levels, 2 levels, and 11 levels respectively) don't exist anymore.
2009: Slow Steps Forward (The Death Game, Hotel Mario 2, and the Hand of Chaos)
After his multiple failed / discarded SMW hacks, levelengine tried to make another 1-World hack known as The Death Game. Idea? Be plopped into a world where spectators watch the enemies try to kill Mario. It turned out to be a five level hack that went missing like the first 3 hacks he made, though four of the five levels / most of the hack, actually, was recycled for later use.
After the end of the Death Game, now inspired by the awfulness of the CD-i game Hotel Mario and all its infamous cutscenes, levelengine booted up what is his oldest surviving hack, Hotel Mario 2 - A Better Game. This was his longest hack up to this point since it expanded itself over the first three worlds of the original Super Mario World. Needless to say, it took a step in the right direction by adhering to a sensible difficulty curve, though it got way too hard in the last castle and the last Switch palace (they essentially became bad Kaizo levels).
Lastly for the year of 2009, levelengine made Hand of Chaos, which proved to be his most ambitious and daring romhack yet, clocking in at a whopping 81 exits. Hand of Chos's idea was that Bowser, the main villain from Super Mario World acquires knowledge of an evil weapon known as yes, the Hand of Chaos, in which Mario has to chase down Bowser and stop him and that Hand. The project had lasted well into 2010, which is continued in the next section.
2010: Nearing Retirement (The Hand of Chaos and The Castle)
The sheer length of Hand Of Chaos (HoC) extended well into 2010, and a few other side projects were started as HoC was still being built. He had Project 5, in which he would attempt to introduce some friends he had at school to SMW hacking, and bundle up their levels with his own level. Unsurprisingly, it was unsuccessful. He also then wanted to make a random SMW Lost Levels hack, because hasn't that been done before? Answer is, yes, and that project quickly died off as well. Those other two projects could not stand when it came to Hand of Chaos being finished.
What was Hand of Chaos in the end? It was a huge mix of new ideas levelengine had not yet done before, plus a largely consistent difficulty curve, though it was not perfect. The motive? Despite not knowing sooner that his favorite LPer didn't play SMW hacks anymore, levelengine wanted to make a hack and send it over to Proton Jon, expecting a reaction similar to Jon's reaction to Wacky Worlds. After realizing this, levelengine was crushed, the hack was done, and future progress started to inevitably slow down.
After HoC, levelengine made The Castle, and after knowing what a huge hack was like, had went back to something smaller and more manageable. Again he tried something new: a fork in the road. The first level leads to a switch palace that now has two switches but can only be ever entered once, thus meaning that only one of the two switches could be pressed, thus making a choose your path scenario. This new scenario and Elite Quarters (for its extreme length / difficulty) are what levelengine remembers most about Castle.
2011: It's Going Down
During this year, levelengine hardly made any sort of SMW hacking related content at all. After having gone halfway through building Bowser Stadium, his motivation to finish it just petered out. Somewhere during this year he also started an unofficial Karoshi Mario sequel titled "Karoshi Again! 99 Ways to Die!", planning to have exactly what it says on the tin, although without the know-how to actually do some of these neat tricks, the unofficial Karoshi sequel ultimately failed. This sequel is hinted at in a message in a later release that can't be accessed directly through playing it.
2012: The Revival
After a recent return to SMW hacking in early 2012, he built many more levels in what used to be a partially finished Bowser Stadium, in which Mario ends up trapped in an arena in which Bowser and his more aristocratic minions watch the lesser minions try to kill Mario for amusement (wait, didn't he try this before?).
Unlike his other hacks up to this point, it employs a game style similar to EVW (find switches to get to the final level) since he was still very bad at making overworlds.
On May 6 2012, that was completed and put in the C3 on System's side (her side, not his side).
After its initial rejection, it was altered and re-released as the beta (2nd) version. The alpha (1st version) can still be found in levelengine's files, and the gamma (3rd) version has been accepted and can be found with the other hacks.
May 2012 - June 2013: The Quest Really Begins
During this time, levelengine built the now somewhat notorious "Way of the M", which brought up the question of how difficult a savestateless hack could really be. While it looked nice and served as an excellent challenge for himself and other hardcore players, it also showcased various faults in his level design, such as using similar enemy patterns too often, and having some unfair encounters.
In addition to Way of the M, levelengine did some work as a level designer in a collab hack known as Dark Side of the Kingdom, in which he was determined to ensure that the hack succeeds after addressing the statement: "This has a 99.9% chance of failing". He built four levels total in his time working on the project.
Divine Acropolis: The first level of his in the Dark Side of the Kingdom collab, that is set in World 5's fortress. It's a fortress level that takes place in the sky, then goes inside the fortress for the second half.
Tarpit: A world 6 level that takes place at a volcanic setting, that starts out at ground level for the first half and then leads to a higher up second half. The second half wound up being more difficult than it should have with its precise jumps across note blocks.
Ghost by Death's Sea: The first half was not too difficult, though the second half was hazed for its claustrophobic level layout, with numerous unkillable enemies coming after you. That segment in particular was heavily edited from the original.
Bubble Trouble: Here, he tried to do something he hasn't done before, and not go overkill like his last level. It was a level themed around swimmable bubbles moving on Layer 2. It looked very barebones without a background, but with his limited GFX knowledge, he rolled with it. This level was nowhere near as panned as his last one either.
It was accepted the first time it was sent, though it was updated four times to fix whatever issues arose (a bunch of them pertaining to World 7 difficulty). It's now his hardest and most relentlessly difficult romhack in his library (not counting Kaizo crap like he made in the past), and for most people, it's inconceivable
July 2013 - January 2014: Stray Off The Beaten Path
After finishing Way of the M, levelengine wanted to stray off the beaten path, and as a result, attempted a hack with custom drawn graphics and... an actual story and cutscenes, quickly named "Infinity Edge", named after a purchasable weapon in League of Legends.
During the latest stages of building Infinity Edge (sometime in December), while using YY-CHR to manipulate the game's graphics further, he realized that he wanted to get good at drawing graphics as well as building good levels.
Infinity Edge was completed. Less changes were made to get the final version, and it is overall easier than Way of The M. It also took a different path with its cutscenes and storyline. After being somewhat dissatisfied with the end result, he went on an entirely different path and went to work on a new hack after experimenting with Pac's SMW Enhanced base. The result of this is the experimental / avant-garde Colossus.
January 2014: A Different Direction
levelengine began work on his now biggest hack yet (99 exits long if
he pulls it off), Colossus. Over the course of its development, he learnt even more tricks, and it eventually got to the point where there were hardly any restrictions as to what he could do, and he could think of a way to get Colossus to do almost exactly what he wanted it to do. Also, he constantly wanted to know even more about SMW hacking and was always eager to take a step further.
Much later into the course of building this hack, it became an experimental freestyle in which every idea levelengine had would be implemented somehow if possible, and inspiration was found in many other hacks he's played in the meantime. The hack has no plot; it will just be his largest collection of experimental levels he's ever released all at once.
March 2014: It's Alive
levelengine created his own kiosk / archive in which all his releases are displayed in one place and made easily downloadable, even the really old ones.
The levelenginekiosk is now open!
July 2014: Hack 11
levelengine announced there would be a Hack 11, though he did it silently, simply by displaying another hack in his archive, without giving any details as to what it is.
August 2014: Hack 12 / By The Harvest Moon
With Colossus (Hack 9) and Hack 11 still unfinished levelengine added another hack the same way he added Hack 11 to his archive, though he announced it in his blog, levelenginekiosk, and stated that there was a very legitimate reason to have done so.
A week later he finished Hack 12 (which sort of has a Colossus look and feel though is easier by comparison) now titled By The Harvest Moon (In memory of my grandfather), to honor his grandfather who passed away a few weeks ago. A couple weeks later, he updated By The Harvest Moon and finalized that instead.
October 2014: Hack 11 / Shelf Life
On October 8th levelengine then announced the name and information about Hack 11, saying it may be a 2D shooter. Three days later he also spoiled a screenshot, saying it was also going to be used as a contest entry in its earliest stages.
At this point, not even levelengine himself knows what he's doing anymore. First, he said he'd make Shelf Life (that meat locker hack he was talking about for most of October) into a full hack and maybe balance Colossus at the same time, but now, he's signed up to make levels in two different collab hacks simultaneously, and still left one level unfinished before starting the next one (or ones).
December 2014: Hack 13
levelengine continued to make levels in various collab hacks with Nin on his forum board, and even started a thirteenth hack after remembering exactly what he wanted to do with one of the possible definitions of "vanilla" (anything goes in Lunar Magic), known as Skullpepper. By the middle of January he built the first world of a predicted 5. He then built a semi-joke level for a vertical level contest, made out of bacon. During this time period, he also worked on some custom made graphics, expanded Colossus and even released it as a pre-alpha for testing purposes, and established Skullpepper.
January 2015: roughly 20% of Hack 13 done
By the middle of the month he completed 1 world of Skullpepper and built a moderate percentage of World 9 of Colossus. Around that time, the forum board ran by Nin, and the main repository of information for the collab hack he was partaking in was demolished and overtaken by spammers, and plans to ask where all of the efforts put into the hack so far will go, and if there will be a chance of completing or releasing it.
May 2015: Bits and Pieces
Four months later he announced Colossus was almost finished, and started another romhack, Bits and Pieces. He would then take suggestions from the community as to which custom resources (sprites or blocks) would be used in the levels.
July 2015: The Release of a Giant, Colossus
Not too long after having submitted an unofficial release, levelengine officially released Colossus. A few days later, he re-submitted it after having removed excess sprites that would cause slowdown unless the hack was played on an overclocked ZSNES. The hack still may be updated further if concerns of difficulty are that vocal.
December 2015: Multiple events
levelengine became Member of the Month after having helped with legacy hack remoderation, which had delayed the first testing stage of Bits and Pieces. In addition to becoming member of the month and achieving a milestone he also released the first 5 worlds of Bits and Pieces, which started in May, looking for feedback and how to balance the difficulty.
With Hacks 11 and 13 still on hiatus, ten days later, he also rereleased a compilation of older levels that were made for contests, user collaborations, or other occasions titled I Come In Peace. Three days later he started a new project set to be built over the course of 12 days, building one level per day.
January 2016: Continuing Hack 16
Over the first five days of January, he built the remaining five levels for Hack 16.