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Question: What does "Vanilla" mean to the people on this site?
Forum Index - Sunken Ghost Ship - Old Contests & Events - The 12th Vanilla Level Design Contest - Question: What does "Vanilla" mean to the people on this site?
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For a while, I've noticed that a lot of levels in every "Vanilla Level Design Contest" have aspects of them that aren't considered vanilla if you're to look at what it means in gaming as a whole. A lot of the levels that are considered "Vanilla" are packed full of EXGFX, which I really don't understand.

What Vanilla always meant in videogames is the original game. In SMW's case it would be a level or an entire hack that has no patches, no extra graphics and no extra sprites, meaning that it would be something made out of what the game has and nothing else. Some examples of a VLDC level with a crap ton of EXGFX would be a few of the top ten VLDC9 levels, Plant Stadium (I think that's what it was called) being one of them.

With that in mind, why is it called "Vanilla" if you're able to use EXGFX that's outside of the original Super Mario World like that? If Vanilla means something else to this community then I'd understand, but I'm asking this mainly because me and even some others that I know have been confused as to what it actually means on this site.
"The only thing to fear is fear itself!"
This has been a massive debate in the community ever since VLDC7 allowed the use of exgfx in order to make combining tilesets easier, but they also stretched the rules to allow merging of two original smw tiles together through graphics files.

As for using custom music, that's because eventually the community was sick of hearing the same ost from the original game for the past 6 contests.

What you're more or less talking about is the Old-School Level Design Contest which retains the old fasioned rules from VLDC1-6 (more or less, there's a couple other restrictions)

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Using ExGFX to combine tilesets has been around since VLDC1, actually. I think the best stance on this is what FPzero said back in the VLDC3 discussion thread:

Originally posted by FPzero
I feel like people always get confused with this contest. Contest starts and everyone starts calling it the Vanilla contest. same thing happened with the "Chocolate contest." Don't remember what it was called officially but my point is that these are names given to the contest by the participants, not the real names. In reality, this contest isn't so much a Vanilla contest as much as it is a Vanilla Resources contest. That's why we see levels with new graphics made from vanilla tiles that are still legal entries. True vanilla, or "Water", is what everyone knows as the original SMW. Because playing lots of levels that are very similar in feel and look to SMW, the idea that manipulation of vanilla resources to create new graphics and effects was decided as a basis for this contest. So that's why you'll see all this crazy "vanilla" stuff going on.


As far as this contest goes, this has always been the definition of vanilla. (And like Daizo said, the custom music was just because the original music was getting boring for people.)
Most of the stuff for vanilla contests has been streamlined even if it's not really vanilla. On top of music, you could argue patching in infinite lives isn't vanilla, but it's a hell of a lot more annoying to HAVE them considering difficulty of some stages in the contest. You could argue that fixing some bugs takes away some of the vanilla too, as well as changing the graphics to make it easier to tile things, among many other things. Thing is though, doing that doesn't really change much altogether, it just makes it easier on the people creating or playing entries.

Regardless of the scale of "vanilla" people consider the contest to be, I thought the whole point of the contest was to see how even with all this chocolate, none of that is needed to make a great level. SMW's toybox is HUGE, and there's still new cool setups being used or refined to this day. There's also the thing with working under limits and constraints, which is something people did a lot with game design back in the day. Sure, it is restrictive and tough at points, but when you get something unique working it stands out and is impressive nonetheless.

I'm rambling again, aren't I? Really what is and isn't vanilla purely comes to who you ask. I would say that while there's stuff in these contests that aren't vanilla at all, the core idea is still to make a level with only the bare essentials.

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Hey check it out I made a level that got 104th place (wow he sucks!).
To me it's nothing outside of the game. Including no graphics, no music

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Super Mario Pants World
Luigi's Lost Levels
New Super Mario Pants World
VLDC12 - 72HoKaizo#1
To me, vanilla is raw SMW and at most, new maps and manipulation of the palettes and existing graphics make a vanilla hack. I do not know whether I would consider bug fixes vanilla because some of them become a piece of how SMW plays, so I am leaning toward "it depends" - things like a goal fade fix would be fine so your pretty shrubs don't leave behind berry squares when you cross a goal post. Custom music/sprites/blocks/other new code is not vanilla. SA-1 is not vanilla: SMW has no special chip.

You can say "my hack uses only vanilla graphics" but uses custom resources otherwise, (+-maybe changes the player graphic or text and adds a couple well-done SMW-styled sets but no other graphics really) - it's not a vanilla hack but has a vanilla look.

Vanilla samples: using only SMW's samples, at most giving new tuning, ADSR, or GAIN to them. Here it's called "no samples" for in sample categorization. It's still custom music.

Modified disassemblies: custom, just looks vanilla

I am pretty sure in VLDCs if your ExGFX contains any material that can't be matched in SMW comparing tiles, you are disqualified, no questions asked. Don't know how I feel about judging of custom music but it at least made the level comfier to play and I can see it would sway aesthetic judgment even passively overall regardless of formal inclusion on the scoring rubric.

So yeah, VLDC is loose V to me and I just accept it, rather easily because it's all quality of life stuff for the site's second biggest event. It is what it is. OSLDC sounds real V and I would like to try that out.

#tb{:?} You might eat a Chocolate Block, but would you drink a Chocolate Sprite?

Just look above you...
If it's something that can be stopped, then just try to stop it!
It's literally and virtually impossible to define what vanilla is, but in my time hacking, it means using the sources from the original game even if they're not present in it. No custom ASM, music or graphics (yes, even merged tilesets don't count as vanilla).

But here's the thing; people get sick of what the game originally intended to have, so spicing up a few things doesn't really hurt. Then again, you fall into a rabbit hole and hear even more terms like choconilla and such, but I really don't want to explain what's been explained like a million times by now.
I already have answered to a multiple of such question but here we go: "Vanilla" is pretty difficult to classify at the result as a whole as you can never get a fully "vanilla" hack. In fact, you always want to make edits to something to get a new results (often times the levels and overworld but graphics hacks typically don't edit the levels, much less the layout, and change only the graphics) so a hack is never going to be fully "vanilla". In fact, the definition of "vanilla" in the hacks section even applies only to graphics for this very reason.

Not counting QoL stuff (such as being able to teleport from a 0xx to a 1xx level and vice versa), Lunar Magic adds a lot of custom features which didn't exist in SMW including custom graphics, local palettes, direct Map16 (and therefore more than two Map16 pages), custom animations, custom layer 3 tilemaps (though arguably, this isn't much different from custom layer 2 backgrounds — there just aren't many 2bpp graphics in SMW), more liberal midway point handling (excluding redirection, arguably QoL) and most notably, different level dimensions.
I'd even say that featuring custom musics, besides the reason that hearing always SMW's themes gets boring, don't feel too much out of place with how much the definition of vanilla is streched.

I look foreward to BLDC which current VLDC but with more custom resources so a lot of Lunar Magic features don't look out of place personally (not to mention you have to use a base ROM anyway) and maybe I'll create stuff for OLDC too (even if I never submitted an entry to both contests, albeit for different reasons).

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Okay, my layout looks ugly.
i dont really think of vanilla as a specific classification because it's just an arbitrary blanket term used to easily define whatever rules the vanilla contest has that year.

it becomes less confusing when you stop looking at "vanilla" as a proper label and just see it as a shorthand for "no custom blocks, sprites, and uberasm". the specifics can vary based on the context and the person using it, but it isn't worth thinking about it much deeper than that.


it is interesting to note that people outside of the immediate community get confused when they see a level like "space cave rescue" be defined as vanilla, but i think it's moreso a failing of the site for putting in some sort of legitimacy to the idea of "vanilla" and "chocolate" being binary, definable categories. nothing matters just read the rules and you'll be fine.
tile merging shouldnt be allowed in vldc
People have already summed up the very definitions of vanilla, so I'm not going to ramble about it here to avoid unnecessary repetition.

Originally posted by aaa
tile merging shouldnt be allowed in vldc

Why do you think so?

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Você é a razão da minha felicidade.
Originally posted by aaa
tile merging shouldnt be allowed in vldc

Why stop there? No custom music, no custom level palettes, no bypassing timer limit, no bypassing gfx, no custom Layer 3, no exgfx, no bypassing music, no custom Map16, Fox only, Final Destination.
My VLDC12 levelMy 24 hours of SMW #13Help me get the VLDC11 collab fixed and done.
Originally posted by AnEvilGhost
Originally posted by aaa
tile merging shouldnt be allowed in vldc

Why stop there? No custom music, no custom level palettes, no bypassing timer limit, no bypassing gfx, no custom Layer 3, no exgfx, no bypassing music, no custom Map16, Fox only, Final Destination.

You just described OLDC.

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Why are you like this!?
Originally posted by aaa
tile merging shouldnt be allowed in vldc


Your opinion doesn't hold any water if it isn't coupled with an explanation. Besides, if you don't like tileset merging, then participate in an OLDC. Not having tileset mixing in both OLDC and VLDC would take away from the two different definitons of vanilla that these contests provide.

Vanilla can't be defined very well, but I like to divide the term into two categories. There is the OLDC vanilla which only uses base SMW resources (which can only be used in certain ways). Then there is the VLDC vanilla which allows full usage of all SMW resources with fewer restrictions than OLDC. Participants are able to be a lot more creative (especially aesthetically) with VLDC.
Originally posted by AnEvilGhost
Originally posted by aaa
tile merging shouldnt be allowed in vldc

Why stop there? No custom music, no custom level palettes, no bypassing timer limit, no bypassing gfx, no custom Layer 3, no exgfx, no bypassing music, no custom Map16, Fox only, Final Destination.
If you don't ban items too, it is not a true test of skill, but a party

This is the ideal vanilla contest. You may not like it, but this is what peak vanilla performance looks like.

Just look above you...
If it's something that can be stopped, then just try to stop it!
Originally posted by Minish Yoshi
Besides, if you don't like tileset merging, then participate in an OLDC. Not having tileset mixing in both OLDC and VLDC would take away from the two different definitons of vanilla that these contests provide.

You can still participate in a VLDC and not involve tileset merging at all. It's not mandatory. OLDC has more restrictions than VLDC, but one contest doesn't invalidate the other unless the rules are heavily reworked on.

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Você é a razão da minha felicidade.
Can an admin close this thread please? I got what I was looking for and I feel like it serves no purpose anymore. Even an arguement about tile merging or whatever it was got started becasue of the question.

I really didn't mean for my alerts to get flooded with people arguing, but the internet will be the internet I guess.

Also, thanks to the people who answered the question, it was mainly something I was just wondering and wanted to see everyones view on it, and from that, I now know that "Vanilla" in VLDC is simply a level that follows the rules that the moderators set in place.
"The only thing to fear is fear itself!"
Originally posted by Katerpie
Originally posted by Minish Yoshi
Besides, if you don't like tileset merging, then participate in an OLDC. Not having tileset mixing in both OLDC and VLDC would take away from the two different definitons of vanilla that these contests provide.


You can still participate in a VLDC and not involve tileset merging at all. It's not mandatory. OLDC has more restrictions than VLDC, but one contest doesn't invalidate the other unless the rules are heavily reworked on.


Of course tileset merging isn't mandatory, but a level in VLDC without tileset merging might not be as well recieved (especially aesthetically) by the judges. If you don't like tileset merging, you just might like making an OLDC level more because you know that you aren't going to recieve a lower score for leaving the graphics the way they are. Furthermore, if you dislike the "VLDC vanilla" (which some consider to be too much of a stretch on what vanilla really is) then you'll probably favor participating in an OLDC. You don't have to worry about other entries getting an advantage on yours when it comes to how they look, and to an extent, how they are designed. If you don't care about your score or your ranking however, then whatever contest you participate in doesn't really make a difference.

What I was attempting to allude to in my previous post was that there doesn't seem to be much of a point in saying that an aspect of a contest shouldn't be allowed when there is already a contest that does not allow said aspect. If you really don't like that aspect of the contest (so much so that the aspect should be removed), then just participate in a contest that doesn't allow the aforementioned aspect.

To me, removing tileset mixing from VLDC would detract from the definition of what "VLDC vanilla" is. I think that OLDC has its own version of vanilla (which does not allow tileset mixing) and if you don't like one definiton, just go to the other. It's just your preference.

I apologize for the ambiguity of my previous post and for its possible presence within this one.
Originally posted by debug001
Can an admin close this thread please? I got what I was looking for and I feel like it serves no purpose anymore. Even an arguement about tile merging or whatever it was got started becasue of the question.

I really didn't mean for my alerts to get flooded with people arguing, but the internet will be the internet I guess.

We don't really grant closure requests in this case since the discussion is going on smoothly. We do grant them when it's your hack thread or something more personal, though. Simply unwatch your thread by clicking on "Watched Threads" and then "Unwatch" if you don't want to be notified of further posts.

Also, I saw no arguments here other than some people asking for clarification as to why tileset merging should be forbidden in VLDC.

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Você é a razão da minha felicidade.
idk about this contest.. i didnt read the rules

but ive seen hacks with a shit ton of custom blocks still referred as vanilla. I guess its just a seal of quality.. or purity.. like some products labeled as organic or 'vegan'.. but when you read the info there is still some tolerance for some synthetic substance usage.. in the end its just a label to try to increase 'value' without necessarily providing a better product
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Forum Index - Sunken Ghost Ship - Old Contests & Events - The 12th Vanilla Level Design Contest - Question: What does "Vanilla" mean to the people on this site?

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