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Level Design Help
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So, I know I probably sound kind of dumb for asking this, but here goes...

I've run into a problem. I'm making a vanilla-style ROM hack, but I'm stumped on the level design. See, all Super Mario levels usually have some sort of gimmick, be that a specific enemy, or game mechanic, that the level is based around.

And that's my problem. I can't think of any gimmicks to use for my levels. I've tried designing my levels without them, but they always end up feeling generic and uninteresting. I've finished my overworld, so the levels are all that needs to be done.

So what I'm asking is, do any of you guys know of any interesting vanilla game mechanics I could use for my level design?

Any of your ideas will be greatly appreciated, and I will credit anyone who helps me out.

Currently working on an SMW hack.
Try playing some of the hacks in the smwcentral hacks list.

Other than that, I can't help you too much because level ideas are supposed to be original.

If you're making a vanilla hack, I would highly recommend snagging stuff from the sprites page on SMWcentral. If you strictly limit yourself to what's in the original SMW, it's a lot more challenging because the game already squeezes a large part of the potential out of those items.

For me, seeing new tools to work with is what fuels my creativity. Aside from that, it's just trial and error to find interesting ways to use everything!
Thank you for the responses.

I did come up with a few levels of my own, but no matter what I do, they never feel like they're quite good enough.

Currently working on an SMW hack.
How are they not quite good enough to you? Try showing them off for us to give a taste of what they are like.

Also, you may have done it already, but play a bit with objects and sprites and test your level constantly and consistently until you feel like you're satisfied enough.

As a bonus, we have the OLDC2 submissions for you to get inspiration from in regards to vanilla mechanics.
I Usually Do Cape Levels Where I Just Fly Around And Dodging Obstacles. Its Fun (For Me) To Just Fly Around The Level. You Could Also Put Secrets Or Separate Paths In One Level. Its Just Fun Discovering Things. Sometimes I Choose An Enemy And Center The Whole Level Around It Using That Enemy's Gimmick. Like The Koopa Or More Specifically The Koopa Shell Can Destroy Blocks Or Kill Other Enemies.

.. -- | -... --- .-. . -.. | M O R S E
Originally posted by The WHG Modz
Sometimes I Choose An Enemy And Center The Whole Level Around It Using That Enemy's Gimmick.

That's right, this is what you should be looking for.

YY-CHR > Photoshop.
Thanks for the advice, but I've run into another problem.

You see I'm currently working on a mountain level, and I'm trying to sort of make it a journey.

You start off in a valley, then begin scaling the mountain, then you have to go inside the mountain, and then finally descend down the mountain, and to the goal.

And since I'm making a hack aimed for those who have already completed the original SMW, since most people on this site probably have, I'm trying to make it challenging. But it can't be boring either.

And it seems no matter how much I try to make interesting challenges for the ascending part, it always ends up feeling a bit repetitive.

In other words, how do I design a level where the real challenge isn't the enemies, but the terrain itself?

Currently working on an SMW hack.
You can't really make challenges with the terrain itself, but it can greatly enhance challenges made with other sprites.

YY-CHR > Photoshop.
One of the most important elements of level design is a setup. A setup incorporates terrain and an obstacle such as an enemy to make a challenge for the player. When making a level, I believe it is imperative to use setups rather than just terrain or just enemies. Setups allow you to be much more creative, so you shouldn't try to focus on making a level just about one thing or the other. Also, trying to make a level reach a certain difficulty threshold is a bad idea. Deliberately trying to make a level difficult will only result in it feeling artificially so.

Also, to answer your question, using Layer 2 in a level can make it more difficult while still focusing on terrain only. But I wouldn't suggest focusing on just the terrain.
Mountains... Well There Is Alot You Can Do. But It Depends On What You Want. Like "Does The Mountain Have A Mine Or Not?" Mountains Are Usually Connected To Mining So I Was Thinking Some Sort Of Mine-cart Level. Make The Mine-Cart Fast To Make It Challenging Yet Not Boring.

.. -- | -... --- .-. . -.. | M O R S E
I have another hack that I'm working on, that takes some of the thing that I find frustrating about SMW and putting them into the spotlight. But... how do you make a level frustrating without making it unfair?

Currently working on an SMW hack.
The solution would probably be to ensure that every mistake the player makes is easily considered their fault, not the fault of the level's design. (For example, dying to a blind jump is not the player's fault because they couldn't see what was coming.) Overall, a good example of a frustrating yet fair level would be Jolpengammler's Depraved Stronghold in JUMP. The level is incredibly difficult and frustrating for some players (such as myself), but almost all of the obstacles are fair.

But why would you want to make a level (and perhaps a whole hack) frustrating for players in the first place? A smarter way of going about highlighting frustrating things in SMW would be to find creative and fun ways to use a normally frustrating element.
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