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013: Pon-Pon Palace - Supertails
Forum Index - Events - Super Mario World Central Production 2 - World 3 - 013: Pon-Pon Palace - Supertails
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Originally posted by Supertails
My concern is whether it can stay on-beat when going between areas... having the music reset each time would honestly be distracting. I wanted the player to get the hang of the drum's timing rather than the tempo of the music, but if there's a way to have it stay synched, I'll look into it.

As I believe someone else mentioned, even just having a sound effect (or something else to help identify the timing) for them would be fine. When you have two rhythms going at slightly different speeds, I find it can be very difficult to focus on one over the other.

Originally posted by Supertails
while it's a little clunky I'll admit, unless I can find a solution that gives a bigger boost every time, there's nothing I can really do about it.

If a mechanic doesn't work properly, then should you use it? Think about it- this affects pretty much every drum-jump in the level. *Shrug* I mean, look at Lightvayne's level, where we had him ask someone to recode the throw block spawner so the throw block's timer wouldn't start until it was picked up. Mechanics shouldn't make players "fill in" for the designer, right?

Originally posted by Supertails
I kept that in mind while creating the level, and that's part of why I had precision that relied on the timing of the drums. So with all due respect, when it sounded like that's what you wanted, it leaves me puzzled when you didn't seem like it now.

Sorry- I guess I miscommunicated. That's to be expected, though, given that I only communicate through these posts and that most people here don't seem to believe in unit testing (as opposed to designing the whole level first and then going through testing- this is a point in general, not directed at you).

Originally posted by Supertails
Honestly, I disagree. Part of my focus for the level was to make it focused. That's why I intentionally stuck to the symbols, Chucks, Ninjas, and Koopas when designing. I don't want to include several different kinds of sprites as I feel it makes the level design feel too ADD and random rather than sticking to a gimmick.

I'm not saying you should go the other extreme and put tons of sprites in your level. I'm saying your level's a little too sparse. In most cases you only face a single enemy, so there's little sense of progression or complexity. Said in another way, I think you're trying too hard to have control over the experience. i.e., I think your approach is a bit extremist and not very holistic where sprites are concerned.

Originally posted by Supertails
To me, it's more important that what the player is doing feels different.

That doesn't make the overabundance of spikes unimportant. I agree the player shouldn't be doing the same thing throughout the whole stage, but I just don't think you're doing enough in that regard.

Originally posted by Supertails
I can't include coins in the level.

Then, how about a ninji on the right side of the first screen, or something else to draw players to the right?

Originally posted by Supertails
It's a pet peeve of mine, but I'm consistently frustrated with layer 2 levels that don't include any sort of background.

I can sympathize with frustrations regarding engine limitations, but you shouldn't be so obstinate about it that it ends up hurting the design of your level. You have to respect and embrace the limitations to an extent, no? I can't help but feel that you're limiting yourself a tad too much...

Originally posted by Supertails
There really isn't anything I can do to "obscure" anything given there's no vertical scrolling.

Then how about a more skill-based jump to a pipe? As it is now, you just land on that first platform and make a couple of simple jumps to the left. You have all the time in the world to line up that first landing.

Originally posted by Supertails
Again, while I can add a couple more sprites to the "pool" I'm using for this level, the nature of the level can't be overly decorative. As I said before, both the foreground and background are on the same layer. If I recall, I literally don't have the palette space to have drums at any other locations since both they and the background are on the same layer. Either way it'd use up a lot more graphics tiles I tried to conserve for the most part.

A common thread in your response has essentially been "there's not much I can do," but if that's the case then I really would consider rethinking the level to a point, because it sounds like you're in danger of designing yourself into a corner (to me, at least)...

Originally posted by Supertails
I guess I can change it, though I thought it'd be an interesting and fitting way to end the level with a final test of sorts.

The only real difference is the tile-to-tile arrangement of the drums, and it doesn't feel any harder or more complex than earlier iterations. A "Final Test" should feel like a revamped version of the same idea.

Originally posted by Supertails
I guess ultimately it boils down to differing views and ideas on level design. To me, I like to have a specific gimmick to the level (the drums in this case) and add another component in the second half (the big drum) all while having a set of sprites and specific challenges that develop over time.

And how does that differ from my views and ideas on level design? Claiming we fundamentally disagree might make it easier for you to distance yourself from my feedback, but that doesn't make it true.

Originally posted by Supertails
I've never been one to use a lot of sprites in any level, in part because of lag, their more finicky nature, and that I find objects more interesting to work with.

Sprites are a part of the game. You shouldn't neglect them just because you don't like them. Jimmy52905 doesn't feel strong with sprite usage either- are we telling him it's alright, that he doesn't have to include them? No, we're not. Is it fair for you, then, to shrug it off?

Originally posted by Supertails
You can't please everybody.

Strictly speaking, I don't need to like the stage- I just need to be confident it has competent design and meets our quality standards. I can accept people will have different opinions than me, but just chalking it up to "we disagree, let's move on" kind of ignores the issue, doesn't it?

Moreover, if your and S.N.N.'s response is essentially "we must fundamentally disagree," there's not much I can say, is there? I can leave as much feedback as I like, but ultimately I have no sovereignty here. Come to think of it, don't the staff and organizers who are also making levels (myself included) have a conflict of interest regarding their own levels and their submission/clearance? (To clarify, I take issue not with my lack of power, but with the fact that your response leaves little room for discussion.)

I think I'll just move on to another level, then- I just want you to understand my stance, I guess *shrug*

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I've decided to clear the level and start over from scratch.
Hmm, while I haven't had the chance to test anything in the past couple of days, this level seems to be sparking quite the debate, so I figured I'd put some time aside and try it out.

Honestly, I'm a bit torn. While the gimmick itself is intriguing (despite the aforementioned having to hold down the jump button silliness, but eh) and the aesthetics are gorgeous, I can't help but feel that there's something a bit off. I'm not completely sure if I can pinpoint what it is, but I'll try.

013: While frustrated with the drums mechanics, I found little issue with the first section. I always found myself releasing the jump button every time I landed and then remembered I had to hold the jump button, which caused me to jump; missing my first chance to use the drum's boost and having to wait around for the next boost, which overall slowed the pacing down. Even after three playthroughs, I still fumbled with this - ugh. It sounds like the issue has been looked into with no foreseeable solution though.

The only area that I felt dragged down 013 was the row of drums on screen 18. With the amount of alternating drums, I found myself traversing this section at a snail's pace since I never felt confident enough to run through. However, if something like this appeared late in the level, it likely wouldn't bother me as much as I'd expect the drum rows to increase their alternating trickery as the level progressed, much like the final staircase descent before the goal. Otherwise, I have no complaints about this area - I enjoyed it.

0A2: I love the premise here. However, I have to admit that I agree with Axem's thoughts regarding a sense of repetitiveness. Taking a step back, this area has an overall repetition of "jump this, jump this, run across a long row of drums before they launch you into a ceiling of spikes, and repeat." There's never a sense of mixture between these two elements.

One area that I really enjoyed was the lower route of screens 03/04. Although the area was simple enough, it utilized the drum in a differing manner; the drum becomes an immediate danger as opposed to a helpful bouncing platform. I can't help but wonder if this type of setup can be used later on and in even more intricate ways. Elsewhere, the drum/architecture mixture never actually compliments each other outside of "use the drum to jump this high barrier." Also, despite others' comments regarding difficulty, I found the koopa patrol to compliment the drum quite nicely as well as it forced you to think and angle your jump - reminds me of a very simple approach to VVVVVV's Gravitron. But while I didn't find that section hard, I can see how it can be viewed as such.

Overall, I like the area, or at least, I like the idea of the the area. However, I have this nagging feeling that something can be done to help mix up the overall presence. That or find a way to place even more emphasis on the drum through differing methods. As is, there's plenty of focus on the drum, but outside of screens 01-03, it's all pretty much the exact same utilization - jump this barrier, jump that barrier.

0A3: No real complaints.

As a whole, I have mixed emotions. While I never experienced the fun that SNN mentioned, neither did I find it boring. It was a real middle of the road level for me that happened to look good. What I found to be too difficult for W3 has already been pointed out. The feeling of sparseness is definitely present, but I'm not wholly sure how big of an issue this is, if any, since the level does have a vibe of solitude and emptiness. However, this does cause the level to rely far too heavily on spikes over sprites. But again, given the level design, and as you said, your tendency to use objects over sprites, is what we're contending with considered appropriate to the design or just an easy way out? Like I said, I'm torn.

Edit: Oh! I see you decided to start over from scratch. Um, I don't think anything that drastic was required by any means. So, uh....
When I first started playing this level, I was actually quite excited when I saw those timed-autobounce drums. I probably haven't said it before, but the Booster Dump Site was one of the few levels I actually enjoyed in ASMT. Naturally, I had high expectations when I saw a similar gimmick being used once more, in SMWCP2.

...unfortunately, those expectations were immediately met with disappointment when I saw what I had to do only a few screens into the level: having to walk on an alternating set of these drums positioned below a row of spikes. This is not a good difficulty curve, you're throwing a very tricky use of this gimmick shortly after the player sees the drums for the first time. Not to mention whereas the Booster Dump Site actually had some safe stand/jump spots throughout the level, this one does not offer the same luxury, often using long strings of both drums before you find normal ground. Also, while this is just a personal gripe of my own, the palettes on the two drums are so similar it's difficult to tell which ones are on which timer.

Going further up, that Ninja Chuck's placement, combined with the drum platforms used to reach him, can be rather tricky to overcome without getting hurt. In the next screen, there is a Red Parakoopa that might not be visible for a few seconds, which confused me for a bit when I saw the big pit of spikes.

Past the midway point, I'm now bouncing on this giant drum that seems fixed to the lower portion of my screen. At least this is introduced in a better manner, presenting simple Parakoopa formations to avoid and Ninja Chucks that toss fewer shurikens (why wasn't that in the vertical segment?). Then I run into the drums again... while the first row of drums at Screen 6 can be safely crossed with well-timed short hops, I can't say for sure how many players will figure this out instead of attempting a dash past them and possibly getting hit by those ceiling spikes. Screen 9 is much worse, with only 3 tiles between the drums and the spiked ceiling.

The setup of Yin-Yangs and more drum floor+spiked ceilings at Screen A was just ridiculous, and without any hint that you can jump over that mess, I expect several people will do what I did; wait for the Yin-Yangs to align perfectly, attempt to dash through, only to take a hit, and use invincibility frames to get past it. The Ninja Chucks in the next two screens pose almost no threat if you're not trying to bounce high. Finally, I don't think Ninji hopping is a good idea this early in the game, considering this is one of those things that needs to align correctly in order to overcome it.

Now I've just noticed you wanted to start over from scratch. Honestly, it disappoints me when people decide they have to resort to this, because to be honest, the gimmick you chose wasn't bad at all, you just didn't execute it in a plausible manner. If you had worked on a better difficulty curve, given players more breathing room at points, and made a more competent use of sprites, this could've been a very enjoyable level.

In response to some comments as well as some assistance from MarioEdit in the ASM help thread, the drums now bounce you high regardless of whether or not you press B. Since they actually work smoothly, I can continue to use the gimmick, and instead focus on better execution this time around.

This time, I'm showing chunks at a time so I can get feedback about the general direction of the level and can take another path easier with less set in stone. My goal is to make it easier and more fitting for what will be the second world to a lot of people that play the hack. If anyone has some clever ideas on how to use the drums, or combine them with sprites, I'd be more than happy to hear it. This time, I'm trying to avoid the redundant "wait to dodge X" stuff seen last time. In some capacity, I'd like to include the giant drum for the second half, but that's also an area where I'm eager to hear ideas.

Here's what I have so far. It runs at about 45 seconds and is a bit less than a quarter of the level. The two sprites on the bottom right are vertical and horizontal electricity in that order, and the Ninji palette is just how it shows up in LM. Above the chuck area was where I was planning to put the first SMWC coin. I won't be putting any decoration in until I know that the design is sound.
That's good news. By the way, do the drums affect sprites? That might be a useful functionality to implement, if feasible. Assuming we don't have that to work with, though, let's see...

It's certainly a gentle introduction, and by the time players get their first powerup they should understand the concept, so then it's just a matter of making them learn to be comfortable with it so you can introduce trickier setups.

For example, see those two ninjis after the question mark blocks? Why not ditch the first one, bring that platform down so it's level with the previous one, and place some drums there instead, and finally move the second ninji to the left edge of the ledge it's on. Then players have to use the drums to arc over the ninji; they can't just land safely next to it first. Still, it's not a very high jump, so players have leeway. Does that make sense?

The first x is vertical? What if you made it horizontal, raised it up a tile and put a set of drums underneath, and added more ceiling below the higher-up drums but made it slightly uneven? Then, there are no spikes, but players have to be slightly careful not to land on the wrong drum at the wrong time, while avoiding the single electricity sprite. Not particularly difficult, but it helps players acclimate quickly (and you can have players land on a safe ledge first so there isn't a blind drop into an enemy). Come to think of it, I wonder if you should also put a horizontal electricity sprite just below where those goombas are?

I'm not sure exactly what you're doing with the chuck there, but you might also want to put some drums on the lower platform in front of it. Those drums wouldn't be necessary to use, but players would have to pay attention to them while paying attention to the chuck, which would probably be good multitasking practice early on.

After all that, we'd have a progression something like this:

-Find out what drums do
-Bounce up to question block area
-Grab powerup/coins with the drums
-Use drums to bounce over an enemy, plenty of room
-Lull with goombas
-Avoid bouncing into sprite from below, plenty of room
-Avoid landing on enemy after bounce, plenty of room
-Juggle attention between drums and one projectile enemy, plenty (?) of room

From there, you can probably start to get a bit more creative, but I'll hold off for now and see what anyone else has to say, too. Hopefully those suggestions help- I'm taking the stance that somewhat heavy but easy usage in the beginning will make players comfortable early.

I really appreciate the approach you're taking, by the way- posting small pieces helps us refine the level as we go instead of picking things apart later. Let's see how this goes.

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Hey all.

So I have another update, this time showing the first half of the level in its current state, again without any decorations so it's easy to change later. I took AxemJinx's suggestions into account for the first part and tried to introduce some new segments for the latter part.

Here it is.

Things to note:
-Sprites in 02 are both horizontal yin-yangs.
-At 03, the idea is the player sees the springboard before hand, but is hidden from view when they actually go down. Then they bounce up to it.
-04 blue coin is a placeholder for the springboard outline.
-Sprite in 06 is a blue paratroopa, designed to center around the platform.
-Sprites in 07 and 08 are also horizontal yin-yangs.
-0A sprites are blue paratroopas.

As always, I'm more than happy to take suggestions and overhaul this part. I'm trying to think of how best to tackle the second half and likely incorporate the large drum in a better fashion that would be more fun to the player.
Looking at the screenshot, the layout seems much better than the previous incarnation of this level. I can clearly see a difficulty curve in the use of your gimmick this time, starting off simple and gradually mixing in other obstacles with the drums, and overall, it feels much more like a World 3 level this time. Though I couldn't help but feel a couple spots felt a little barren, like at the bottom of Screen 03, or maybe add some coins in Screen 09, in but those are just nitpicks on my part.

Again, it's a big improvement over the previous one.

It's definitely looking better. Building on what GeminiRage says, I have some suggestions:

3, bottom: A ninji or vertical symbol in the center of the non-drum platform here may alleviate that sense of barrenness.

4, right: It might be a good idea to have a blue paratroopa circle around the narrow path to the smwcoin, so players have to time the springboard bounce. You could even replace one of those ninjis with a blue paratroopa if you wished, so that once players get up there, they'll have to decide whether to go high or low to get the smwcoin. Also, if players go for the smwcoin, that goomba might walk off the ledge to the right before ever posing a threat, but I'm not sure.

6, left: Not sure how well this would work, but since you can cross this jump without the drums from what I can tell, how about extending thin barriers from the ceiling and floor, then putting a vertical symbol in between so players have to time that jump too? You can use spikes to ensure that players don't use the barrier to jump over the blue paratroopa, but then you have to make sure that players can see the second row of drums before they bounce and that the gap with the vertical symbol is wide enough.

6, right: Might be a nice place for a horizontal symbol.

7, bottom: It's entirely possible to duck under (run under, if small) and/or spinbounce on the symbol to make things easier, right? At the least, perhaps you should group two of the symbols together so it makes a moving wall. If you wished, you could also raise the upper safe spot higher to negate spinbouncing, and then put something like a throw block on the way down. That would force players to bounce up using the drums, and the throw block would prevent the drop down from being blind, as well as prevent players from skipping the safe upper platform altogether.

8: These horizontal symbols are mostly harmless, no? Instead of bouncing up with the drums, you could have players jump normally through a mini-network of symbols, kind of like what Atma has in his first airlock section.

9: I notice you're only using one type of drum here- doesn't that make things easier? To balance things out, perhaps you should place a pitchin' chuck at the right end of that setup. As GeminiRage says, some coins somewhere in 8-A wouldn't hurt. Come to think of it, some coins on 2, top, and around the chuck on 4, might be a nice touch as well. Oh, I'm also not sure about that clappin' chuck, since you can use it to go high and defeat those goombas before even continuing. I feel like you should only be able to get up there from the drums below. Well, maybe you can keep the clappin' chuck but just make it so you can't bounce up there from it? Something like that, anyway *shrug*

You might even be able to make this section a little longer, but I'll hold off for now- let's see what happens with the second section.

On the topic of the big drum section, I wonder if it would be best to focus on sprites over architecture? As in, give players a lot of room to maneuver but have them dodge mobile obstacles. That's not to say you shouldn't have any platforms/ceilings/etc., though- quite the contrary. You don't have to overload the section with new sprites, but I'm thinking one or two new ones might be appropriate? One example you might consider is the flying sparabuzzy Kipernal coded for me (which should be inserted in the latest base), as it's quite versatile- it can fly horizontally, vertically, or in a circle. It really depends on what kinds of sprites you want to use, though, so I think I'll leave it up to you for now and see what comes of it in your next update.

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Thanks again for all the suggestions so far. It's nice to be able to design something a bit at a time and make sure it's on the right track.

Some info about what we've done and where we're headed:

I took the suggestions for the first half and tweaked the level a bit. As it stands, it runs at about two minutes, maybe a little over, so I was concerned about extending it given many players' aversion to long levels. If anyone has a suggestion on a specific area to replace, I'm guessing that would work better. Also, the idea in screen 8 (which has been tweaked a bit) is to "trap" the symbols with the invisible ? blocks so you can get a safe jump. I place three there, though in every test, only two show up.

Here's the first half, with decoration this time. As always, I'll be glad to take suggestions and fix up areas. This is by no means final.

I've been working on the second half too. Actually, I realized the way I was going about the background was silly: if I just put the background on the same layer as the big drum, I can still have objects easily put in, so that allows for a lot more varied design. I'm trying to incorporate sprites more to populate the area and plan to reintroduce the blue paratroopas and perhaps something else. Right now I've got some ideas beyond this already, though am more than willing to hear more.

Here's the first part of the second half. The palettes for things are a little wonky right now, but I'll get them fixed up. X in screen 01 is a half time P-Switch and the other two are vertical symbols. Also, the giant drum runs along the bottom three visible 16x16 tiles as a reference.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I will be on vacation starting on the 29th, which makes things a little tight. My plan is to fix up the first half and first part of the second half based on feedback, then finish the second half and have a "completed" test by the end of the day, therefore meeting the requirement of a fully playable level. I may be able to sign in sporadically and fix things up from the test patch while I'm there and would otherwise do it when I got back (August 5th). Either way, when I have a tentative version of the second part second half, that would just complete the level anyway, so it'd make more sense to send the whole thing at that point.
Level 13

6: I think no one's trying to get that upper coin.

Level A2

1: Why is the entrance floating?

Your layout has been removed.
Well, Supertails said the drums bounce you at full height regardless now, so I'd expect that coin is a little more reasonable than you think, unless you tried to jump off the custom sprite.

I guess the entrance is floating in the sublevel because of how you entered it by bouncing up through a teleport block.

I don't think I want to say anything else about section 1 until I test it- it's looking good so far. I have a couple of comments for section 2, though.

Instead of putting the p-switch right next to the puzzle, what if you made players find it instead? For instance, you could hide it in an alcove on the top of screen 4 and use the koopas to reach it. Also, tossing a blue parakoopa or two into the general puzzle area there might not hurt.

4/5: Just a suggestion, but it might be interesting to have a horizontal symbol travel along the floor here with the goombas, or something of that nature.

6: Also just a suggestion, but if you want to make things more difficult for any of the pitchin' chuck setups in this section (as opposed to the first one), you could add a horizontal symbol a little below the chuck. I'd understand if you want to save that for later in the section, though.

7: I'm not sure about this area, but I guess I'll wait to see what you're planning for it.

One idea I have for this area is navigating through a network of symbols, but then you might need hurt blocks or solid-only-for-sprites blocks to emphasize using the drum (as opposed to, say, the platforms the symbols bounce between) to progress.

Also, any kind of area where you have to carefully think about whether or not to use the drum might be a good idea.

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Here is the redone level.

Stuff to note:

-the big drum looks a bit square right now. I may fix that up later, but it's to prevent BG cutoff.
-it's still using placeholder music that doesn't synch.

I may be able to answer comments and fix it up over vacation, but otherwise, I will take it into account and improve when I get back.

EDIT: updated the patch with a couple fixes.

EDIT2: Level up! Updated it again fixing up most of what AJ mentioned. I'll see if there's a problem with making electricity sprites impervious to fire globally.
This is a lot better than the last version. I don't really have any major issues, only some comments:

2: Because of this symbol's spawn point, it'll despawn when you're on the top tier and then respawn once you turn left on the middle tier. Functionally it's not a problem, but it looks a bit odd for it to only appear once you drop down to the middle tier. Perhaps you could move its spawn point to the right and/or shorten its path a bit? Just a suggestion, though. Also, symbols aren't fireproof- is that intentional?

5/6: Perhaps you should lower this coin formation by one tile, since the top coin seems just out of reach.

8: Hitting these invisible blocks with the right timing can kill the symbols instead of trapping them. I guess it amounts to the same thing anyway, but I just thought I'd point it out.

A: I'm not sure if it's an issue, but if players' first instinct is to jump on the parakoopa, they could miss out on the midway point.

9, left: See what others say too, but having to duck under those spikes right after that symbol combo felt like a bit much.

D, top: This lone spike seems to demand too much precision, and I was hoping for something a bit more complex to finish things off. For instance, an up-and-down zigzag with drums (or just the big drum) in every trough and a pitchin' chuck in the middle, so you have to dodge the baseb- err, shuriken- going both up and down. Or something like that.

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I pretty much sgree with Axem here, especially about the spawn weirdness of the first symbol.

A couple of things to add myself:

At the first drag.. SMWC coin, it's really easy to stomp the blue koopa so he's walking inside the FG.

You can keep the springboard and still get the first SMWC coin, and i managed to get myself stuck later in the level with it. When you hop upwards throogh a rope to avoid the two symbols just after that part if you drop the springboard when you go back down, you can get yourself stuck. Not really an issue, since you'd have to be pretty stupid to do it, but it's not like it's a hard fix.

Really like how this is shaping up!
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