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What would be fair level design for each world?
Forum Index - SMW Hacking - SMW Hacking Discussion - What would be fair level design for each world?
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I've been wondering for a little while... What do YOU guys consider to be good level design and great traps for each world/difficulty level, in an average, FAIR hack? I mean in GENERAL, not theme-specific things. For example, we all know that the first world is the easiest, with few chances to die unless you make big mistakes and powerups everywhere, while the secret world is where the really evil level design comes along and you need to really think to get through. But what kind of things would YOU think would be fitting for each world? Be descriptive! And I mean REALLY descriptive. Things like how far you may have to jump, size of a small platform you need to land on, etc., along with enemy placement in a general area. (Such as "place this enemy about 1-3 blocks away from the spot you should begin a jump across a long pit so someone who is rushing may get hit by the enemy upon trying to jump across, but being patient will remove the obstacle".) Stuff like that, you know? Sorry if I'm confusing you all. These sorts of things are my assumed issues with balancing difficulty. I feel I'm not good at it because I feel like I HAVE to rely on enemy placement for difficulty, but at the same time I thought I heard before that this community frowns upon using enemies to 'artificially' boost difficulty. maybe I just misunderstood it. dunno. Still, that's my main form of trap. I'd like to know what other FAIR and difficult things you guys feel would be suitable for each world so I may better know how to balance my levels' difficulties.

Also this might help others.

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<Adam> I feel like smwc is a prostitute now, because we put up a porn ad for money
Try not to use munchers, only if there is something you need to have youshi for
First world gaps/holes shouldnt be that often, take the orignal SMB1 for example, there were like 3 holes I think in that entire level while in W8 there were many more. Enemies should b atleast one on every screen unless its a puzzle or "block area". I use block areas so ht eplayer can get a powerup without loosing it striaght away.
For the 1st world, I agree that it should be rather easy, without too many places to get killed and with plenty of power-ups.

For worlds 2 to 5, I would gradually use longer and more frequent gaps/holes as you work upwards through the worlds, but try not to force the player to use very precise run and jumps just yet. I'd also start to introduce more difficult enemies, and start to use a few less power-ups.

And for world 6 onwards, I would just try to make the levels generally more difficult. Using more frequent larger gaps, more difficult enemies, and less power ups generally. And of course for a secret world it's fine to really push the difficulty higher.

Originally posted by Riolu180
I feel I'm not good at it because I feel like I HAVE to rely on enemy placement for difficulty, but at the same time I thought I heard before that this community frowns upon using enemies to 'artificially' boost difficulty. maybe I just misunderstood it. dunno.


I think what the community means is that using many enemies (e.g 4-6 of them) as the only way to increase difficulty, is not so great. Placing an enemy or two 1-3 blocks before a gap is fine, because it adds difficulty, and it's still perfectly fair.
I've played through your "Every Level" hacks and i've never felt that they were unfair due to enemy placement. I think you judge enemy placement throughout your level design really well, so don't worry about that too much. #w{=)}

I must add this is only my oppinion of fair level design in general, but I hope this will help you out.
Originally posted by Mr ESC450
For the 1st world, I agree that it should be rather easy, without too many places to get killed and with plenty of power-ups.

For worlds 2 to 5, I would gradually use longer and more frequent gaps/holes as you work upwards through the worlds, but try not to force the player to use very precise run and jumps just yet. I'd also start to introduce more difficult enemies, and start to use a few less power-ups.

And for world 6 onwards, I would just try to make the levels generally more difficult. Using more frequent larger gaps, more difficult enemies, and less power ups generally. And of course for a secret world it's fine to really push the difficulty higher.


This is what I meant in the first post about what I was wanting, although a little more descriptive on exactly what kinds of things everyone would consider "fair" for an average SMW hack.

Originally posted by Mr ESC450

I think what the community means is that using many enemies (e.g 4-6 of them) as the only way to increase difficulty, is not so great. Placing an enemy or two 1-3 blocks before a gap is fine, because it adds difficulty, and it's still perfectly fair.
I've played through your "Every Level" hacks and i've never felt that they were unfair due to enemy placement. I think you judge enemy placement throughout your level design really well, so don't worry about that too much. #w{=)}

I must add this is only my oppinion of fair level design in general, but I hope this will help you out.

Heh, thanks. What I mean, though, is for later worlds. This is my issue. I know I can do earlier worlds well, since they're easy, but I worry about my ability to do anything in between easy and hard... That's why I'd like some specifics on what people consider "fair" difficulty, so I know how I should build my levels to fit specific difficulty levels.

When I say specifics, I mean that literally. How long gaps could/should be in block length, when/where you would put ceilings above jumps to make them harder, when you'd put what traps in, stuff like that. Like, for example, take a jump across a pit with the only platforms being the gray falling ones, and to get across them, you have to jump up and over a small ledge that has a muncher on top. What would difficulty would YOU start putting something like that in?

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<Adam> I feel like smwc is a prostitute now, because we put up a porn ad for money
The three levels of pit falls:

1.water

2.muncher/spikes

3.lava/hole

Use water mainly for world 1 & 2

muncher/spike for 3-4

rest can be mainly hole

(this is just general, you can still use holes in 1 and such, this is just sort of a rule I try to go by)
As a rough guide for maximum lengths of gaps in each world:

Worlds 1 and 2: max 5 block gaps, (possible without much, if any running before the jump.)
Worlds 3 and 4: max 7 block gaps(requires you to have a small run up to pass the gap.)
Worlds 5 and 6: max 9 block gaps (requires a fairly long run up, and a failry precise jump.)
World 7 onwards: max 11 blocks gaps (Needs a fast run up, and a precise jump at the very edge of a platform.)

I wouldn't introduce low ceilings till about world 4. To begin with they could obstruct gaps over water. Then in worlds near the end of the game, they could be used to block gaps that are holes, contain munchers etc.

From your example, pits with a few grey platforms to cross shouldn't be in till about world 5. If you wanted obstacles in this kind of section, such as munchers, then maybe it could go in near the final levels.

This is only a general overview as it's hard to consider every possibility, but this is the sort of thing I would use in my own hack.
Originally posted by Riolu180

When I say specifics, I mean that literally. How long gaps could/should be in block length, when/where you would put ceilings above jumps to make them harder, when you'd put what traps in, stuff like that. Like, for example, take a jump across a pit with the only platforms being the gray falling ones, and to get across them, you have to jump up and over a small ledge that has a muncher on top. What would difficulty would YOU start putting something like that in?


I would put something like that in world 6-8 depending on how high the munchers were. If they're 1 or 2 blocks below max jump height they'd go in world 8. If the tops of the munchers are at the level of the platforms then I'd make them wider and put them in a level in world 5 or 6.

On powerups: I would always have at least two powerups in a level, one near the beginning and one at the midway point. Earlier levels would have more though. That's how NSMB Wii has it, and that game's difficulty was balanced pretty well.
This is actually an interesting question.

For an average hack, I'd say the first (few) world(s) use(s) only simple jumps and basic enemies. (which is why I always have the hardest time in hacking with the first level...because it doesn't seem right to put in anything 'special')

In later worlds, you can put in harder jumps, slightly harder enemies (like Boomerang Bro or Baseball-Chargin' Chuck) and perhaps even different platforms (line guide, falling platforms, conveyors... maybe even Shyguys/Mega Moles?)

In the endgame, well, just make things harder, with things like faster autoscroll (SMB3 W8 Airships), 'spamming' (but obviously don't go overboard) harder enemies (SMB1 8-3 has eight Hammer Bros), and complex gimmicks (such as anything using custom blocks on a moving Layer 2).

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What would be fair level design for each world?

Well, just take any hack on here other than ASMT, TSRPR, SMW2+3, Brutal Mario, or Mario's Keytastrophe and cut the difficulty by a factor of about 2 to 4.

...okay, maybe not. I'm not really sure what I'd consider fair level design, but I'll try. Assuming the hack is 8 worlds long plus a bonus world (you can adjust for more or fewer worlds), it might go something like this:

World 1: Quite easy, but not boring. Few bottomless pits/lava; gaps usually 2-3 spaces wide; almost all enemies can be taken down in one hit by being jumped on; no continuously-spawning enemies (such as Bullet Bill generators); may have a very few projectile-throwing enemies; but only easy ones (such as Boomerang Bros.); no "cramped" jumps (low ceilings and the like) or platforms narrower than 3 tiles above bottomless pits; most levels about 10-13 screens (hex) long.
World 2: Easy, but not boring. Gaps usually 3-4 spaces wide; most enemies can be taken down in one hit by being jumped on; no or very few continuously-spawning enemies; a few projectile-throwing enemies, but none that are difficult or paced in annoying locations; no "cramped" jumps or platforms narrower than 3 tiles above bottomless pits; most levels about 13-17 screens long.
World 3: Medium-easy. Gaps usually 3-4 spaces wide; some enemies can be taken down in one hit by being jumped on, but there are some that are semi-invincible or take multiple hits; a few continuously-spawning enemies; some projectile-throwing enemies; a few "cramped" jumps; no platforms narrower than 2 tiles above bottomless pits; most levels about 17-1B screens long.
World 4: Medium. Most gaps up to 5 spaces wide; about half of the enemies can be taken down in one hit by being jumped on; a few continuously-spawning enemies; some projectile-throwing enemies; a couple "cramped" jumps; no platforms narrower than 2 tiles above bottomless pits; most levels about 1C-20 screens long.
World 5: Medium. Most gaps up to 5-6 spaces wide; about half of the enemies can be taken down in one hit by being jumped on; some continuously-spawning enemies; mildly frequent projectile-throwing enemies; a few "cramped" jumps; few platforms narrower than 2 tiles above bottomless pits; most levels longer than 20 screens.
World 6: Medium-hard. Gaps up to 6 spaces wide; of the enemies that can be taken down in one hit by being jumped on, many occur in locations that could make the platforming slightly trickier; a good number of continuously-spawning enemies; mildly frequent projectile-throwing enemies; some "cramped" jumps; some platforms narrower than 2 tiles above bottomless pits; most levels longer than 20 screens. Around this point is where some of the really difficult enemies show up.
World 7: Hard, but fair. Most gaps 5-7 spaces wide; of the enemies that can be taken down in one hit by being jumped on, most occur in locations that could make the platforming slightly trickier; a good number of continuously-spawning enemies; a good number of projectile-throwing enemies; quite a few "cramped" jumps; a good number of platforms narrower than 2 tiles above bottomless pits; some levels may be longer than 30 screens; a few more difficult enemies.
World 8: Quite hard, but still fair. Most gaps 5-7 spaces wide; relatively few enemies that can be taken down in one hit by being jumped on; a good number of continuously-spawning enemies; a good number of projectile-throwing enemies; quite a few "cramped" jumps; quite a few platforms narrower than 2 tiles above bottomless pits; all levels are longer than 20 screens and many are longer than 30; a good number of difficult enemies.
Bonus world: Very hard, but STILL FAIR, for Pete's sake! Take everything listed for world 8, turn it up one more notch, and make pretty much every level longer than 30 screens, but throw in some nonlinearity, with substantial rewards for finding cleverly-concealed bonus rooms and even beating the stages.

The big thing here is that even when the stages get difficult, they should still be fair. Artificially increasing the difficulty with things like cheap hits, requiring the player to keep certain powerups and things, and, well, putting munchers everywhere, using annoying auto-scroll, etc. might make the level more difficult, but at the expense of fun. If the player doesn't even want to play all the way through a stage and just wants it to be over with to make the frustration end, or if he/she has used 20 lives on the same stage, that's not a good sign. Granted, it's pretty tough to make levels that are both difficult and fun (both for ROM hackers and for actual official video games, if my experience is anything to go by), but it is possible. For example, some stages that I would classify as difficult but fun are 8-2 in Super Mario Bros., 6-7 in Yoshi's Island, Ropey Rumpus in Donkey Kong Country 3, and the Lava Factory stage in Mega Man X7 (provided that you don't take the horribly annoying boss of that stage into account). Some stages that I would classify as difficult and annoying are 8-3 in Super Mario Bros., 7-8 in Super Mario Bros. 3, 6-5 in Yoshi's Island, Lightning Look-Out in Donkey Kong Country 3, and Wily Stage 1 in Mega Man 7.
Thank you very much, imamelia, that GREATLY helps me. :D

also lightning look-out is just annoying. It's not that hard when you realize...the lightning spawns in front of you most of the time. The rule of that level is basically to RUNRUNRUN all the time, and stay out of the water, but be sure to turn around when the lightning comes or it'll hit you.

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<Adam> I feel like smwc is a prostitute now, because we put up a porn ad for money
One ideal concept that would be very useful in designing a level is giving the players a preview of the level's concept or gimmick on the OW.

In New Super Mario Bros. Wii, players got the concept idea of a level and its per-level gimmick from the level's location on the world and the surrounding detail objects on the OW which were present in that level. For example, if there is a Chain Chomp sprite placed next to the level on the OW, then the level is more than likely to have a lot of Chain Chomps.

Another example which was presented in SMW was that most underground levels were placed on layer 1 level points which resembled a large hole. This automatically addresses the players and get the sense that the level is set in a cave.

Finally, be sure to combine this concept with your own ideas such as vanilla OW design, custom OW sprites and/or OW ExGFX. If a level is meant to be difficult, players should be alerted with that level's OW concept. Ghost Houses are an exception to this because they're meant to be puzzling.

In conclusion, just because a water level is placed directly on water in the OW doesn't mean the players are expecting the level to be set on land. Add detail to the OW so that players may know what the level will have.

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