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01E: Seaside Spikes - Skewer/Aja


Claimed by: Skewer/Aja
World: 4
Exits: 1
Theme: Beach
Music Options: 1, 2, or compose your own.

Briefing: This is a secret level in world 4A which leads directly to the fortress. Because of this, it should be slightly more difficult and slightly longer. Do NOT overkill this, however.
So, I actually managed to snag a level in this, finally. Lucky break.

Would it be okay if I made this a somewhat fortress-themed beach, seeing as it leads directly to the fortress? I'll have to see exactly how much time I have and how far I can manage to take this, but I'll try to make a custom tileset for it, as well.
Yes, it's pretty open-ended. If you want to try and make a sort of fortress-themed beach (just as long as the main theme still remains a beach), then go for it.
What do you mean with a "fortress-themed beach"? A beach with fortress enemies? A beach with fortress blocks and decoration? A combination of both? If so, I don't see anything wrong with it, but I'd advise you to keep that for the last room/segment of your level, since only the final part is near the fortress. Maybe you could make a level that starts like a regular beach that will slowly become a fortress-themed beach, just a suggestion.

I advise you to talk with the owner of the fortress level so you can link the beginning of your level with the ending of his, but I'm not sure if NameUser is still working on his yeah.
Well, the transitions don't always have to be in the form of a 3-screen end-of-level segue. I'd say you can make the entire level fortress-flavored if you like, so long as you don't repeat the mechanics, setups, environments, ambiance, etc. used in the actual castle stage. It could go either way.

But yeah, like aj6666 says, talking with the castle designer in any case would be a good idea.
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Right, I 100% seriously need to post an update on this .. I've been rather busy with life, school and whatnot, combined with my father being an ass about when I use the computer, so eh. Nevertheless, I apologize for not being quite competent as I should have.

I have made part of a basic outline for the level with the grassland tileset, though I'll obviously use a graphic tileset that's in progress as of now. I'll also attempt to make some BGs from scratch. Sadly, everything is in a bit much of a WIP state to show off yet, so yeah.

I'd like opinions on what to do with this level, however:

Option A: A fortress-themed beach, with a mix of fortress blocks, rubble, enemies and whatnot, while obviously still maintaining a beach-y theme. It would most likely link it's end with the beginning of the fort.

Option B: A rather "intense" beach. Loads of gunfire, possible use of the submarine-pop sprite and oh ho ho.

Option C: A fortress wall-themed beach. I'd have to see whether S.N.N. (and/or DarkBones?) would consent to this, but technically, couldn't any fort, regardless of any of it's attributes, have a wall around it? I could have a beach ground, platforms sticking out of the wall, and perhaps a small segment played on top of or inside the wall.

And then, of course, I could always just make an ordinary beach. If you have any other ideas, feel free to share them!

I should probably devote all of my hacking time to SMWCP2 from this point on.
Originally posted by Zero-X
I'll also attempt to make some BGs from scratch.

Save the BG for later. It's not essential for level construction, which is generally what we want people to prioritize for the moment.

Whatever you do, don't do anything-pop. In my opinion, it doesn't suit SMW.
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I personally like B, I think it would be interesting to see bullets and whatnot rain down on a beach.
Mario's Vanilla Journey

Progress: 22/72 levels complete
I've decided to make this rather alcove-themed, assuming S.N.N. doesn't mind. Here is a screenshot of the beginning of the level, as well as the graphic tileset I drew for it. I'd show more, but I'm under time pressure, so yeah. Expect an update (an IPS, perhaps?) soon.
Yeah, that's fine. It's really hard to offer some accurate feedback based off of that screenshot alone, so feel free to post that IPS once you have it ready.

I'll update this very shortly - yes, I am aware of all the obvious problems, such as the slopes and the first SMWC coin, but eh. You could consider it a rough draft.

Oh, and two things:

*This is only the first half of the level, the second of which will be a rather vast descending vertical alcove.

*The brown sand will be diggable (like the dirt from smb2)

I haven't had much experience with level design, so please, I'd appreciate any feedback. Thanks.
Alright. I think we can work with this. It's not what I'd call "great", but with some polishing, I believe it can get up to the standards we want for this project. I'll point out some obvious things first, and then give a quick run-down of my thoughts.

You should make this sign readable. I can insert the sign blocks for you if you'd like.

Kind of a pointless coin, don't you think?

Disable LM's palette animation.

This whole chunk seems a bit pointless, not to mention that jump is rather blind. Try reworking this part a bit to make it more interesting.

This whole puzzle needs to be reworked. It's possible to get stuck in the middle there, plus it's just iffy in general.

1-UP farming spot. Kind of a bland drop anyway.

Pointless sprites up top. They just walk right into the holes.

Really easy to obtain this.

See screenshot 7.

Bland area.

My suggestion? Don't start over, but incorporate more of want you wanted into this. You said you wanted to make a fortress-esque beach .. so why not take those dirt tiles, make a SECOND set that is grey (just paste them on to a different palette), and build "rocky" portions out of them. While you're at it, try to incorporate some more "fortress" styled ideas. Perhaps grab some more cannon sprites from the Sprites section, or something like that. As it stands, you do have some decent architecture here, but the level itself needs to have a bit more to it. Experiment a bit and see what you come up with.
^^ You've beat me testing that.
Your layout has been removed.
A SMW level without good spritework is akin to a swordfighter without proper footwork...

There are screens like 2, 3/4, and 9-A that have nice architecture, but aside from that the level feels a bit bland, as S.N.N. points out, and since you use plenty of sprites that just walk calmly at ground level, it's relatively easy to just jump over most obstacles, one after another. The spiny setup on 3/4, however, is quite nice.

Also, you're forced to take the smwcoin path at 3/4 because that jump on the lower path is not possible.

Overall, parts of your level feel a bit cramped as well.
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It's really hard to judge this level in its current state. While playing through it, I viewed it in the same light that I think both SNN and Axem may have viewed it (judging by their comments) and found a number of areas made little to no sense - especially the "true" path underneath the first SMWC coin. However, reading back through your post, I see that we're really not experiencing the level for what it really is since all of the darker brown sand will be walkable/diggable at some point (which will obviously make the aforementioned jump possible). So, going back and looking at the level again with that in mind, some of the earlier mentioned areas may not be that bad in the end - we'll just have to see them once the diggable blocks come into action.

However, one part that really bothered me is the second SMWC coin path. It feels like you're forcing more of the level upon the player than necessary for no real purpose whatsoever - especially given that whole stretch is a bit dull. Essentially, we're forced to take a trip through all three layers when all is said and done. And really, that top tier has nothing special to offer other than some unwanted slowdown. I'd say scrap the top tier, add a bit more difficulty into the jump up to the second tier, and then have it drop you back down to the main path shortly after the coin itself.

Of course, one could drop back down to the main path through the gap halfway along the second tier, but then all that does is further question the existence of the top tier to begin with.
Take 2

I haven't shown an update for this for a very long time. I haven't fixed -everything- from the last time, but the major stuff is gone. I'd like it if you would also point out your favorite/least favorite parts of the level.

Oh, and I'm happy to say that the level is "done", minus whatever revisions I'm about to do. Ignore the blocked path around the second SMWC coin, by the way.
This is better than your previous revision, and certainly a new take on it. I still have some issues with it that you need to sort out, but this is definitely getting there.

This part needs to be changed. It's impossible to get out of here as Big Mario (and even as Small Mario).

I'd use sprite memory index 10, if you're not already.

Ceiling generator? Sprite D0.

It recently occurred to me we have a patch that can prevent the player from getting 1-UPs on vines/ladders .. but now I'm actually going to suggest we insert a custom Bullet Bill which is faster than the original one. This part would actually be more difficult to pass if the bullets were fired more often.

Blind drop. Bad, bad, bad.

I assume this is the blocked path? That's fine then. I'd do something to make this path a bit more interesting though.

Blind drop again. Bad, bad, bad.

So you said these brown blocks were supposed to be diggable sand, yes? The sand is already in the base ROM, so I'd suggest making these tiles act like the sand (if they do already, let me know. It's an issue on my end and I'll have to change the "acts like" setting of the sand itself).

Bland. Spice this part up a bit.

For any area where you have a slope going into a wall like this:


or with a \ instead, use the Slope Edge Fix Block underneath the slope (it's already in the base ROM). This will prevent players from going through the slope.

Overall, this is much better than your first incarnation. It's going to need some more polishing though. In particular, the second half feels a bit "lacking" compared to the first half. Try out some different mechanics - like I said, faster Bullet Bills make work wonders in making your level a bit more difficult (since it -is- kind of easy right now).
Does it make sense for one level's bullet bills to be faster, though? I feel like we should change the palette/graphics/whatever to signify that if we're going that route, and maybe see what we can do about using them in other levels later in the game?

Anyway, this might be a personal thing, but I just don't like boo circle sprites. Wait for an opening, slip through, wait a full rotation, find an opening, slip through, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat...Honestly, I feel like we should modify these sprites so that they either have two openings (one on either end), or much fewer sprites so there's always openings as the boos rotate.

As for the level...what sprites do you use? Mostly boos and bullet bills, with the occasional koopa or chuck. Also, all of the springboards and falling platforms you use are causing sprite disappearance (or at least, I think that's the cause). There's more to the ghost house set than boos, and I suggest you make more use of the sprites that are available, be they eeries, antiboos, big boos, whatever. The same goes for the standard sprite set. Also, get rid of all those springboards and use only as many falling platforms as you really need- you'll be wanting that sprite space, because a lot of your level feels too empty spritewise.

Also, if you're going to use diggable sand, then it should (a) have a noticeably different palette from the regular sand; and (b) not feel tacked-on. I don't really see why players would want to dig any sand in the places you have them, except where it's actually required on screen 1. Why not, for example, replace the ladder on screen 5 with diggable sand so players have to be wary of the bullet bills while digging through to the bottom? That way you also don't have to tinker with bullet bill speeds. What if you used enemies from Super Mario Bros. 2 (U.S. version) like snifits, shy guys, and ninjis to add even more variety? You could be doing a lot more with some of these areas.

The only part of this level I kind of liked (and wished there were more enemies in) was the lower path on screens 8-B: the architecture is there and it feels like it has some potential. Everything after the midpoint, though, looks extremely drab in comparison, and doesn't have any diggable sand. I mean, when you decide your level will incorporate a certain mechanic, it really should be used throughout the stage.
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First, I have a couple of pics I want to show:

Eh, now what do I do? Ok, my initial reaction was to use the springboard to get this P-switch. While trying, desperately - and failing miserably, to get back out, I managed to get myself stuck up there. Welp! Game reset for me... Yea, I would remove that first springboard. What is it supposed to be used for anyway? It wasn't until my third attempt that I realized I should be using the throw block to obtain the P-switch. Otherwise, that springboard is a pretty dirty trick.

Ok, I know the diggable sand blocks aren't in the level yet, and that will likely solve this issue once they're applied (if?), but this Chuck appears to be performing some rigorous training for the upcoming season by running in place continuously.

Moving on, I'm a bit confused over the diggable sand concept. Like Axem pointed out, the gimmick is damn near absent other than the very beginning of the level. If you're going to use diggable sand; make full use of it, otherwise scrap the gimmick. Don't rely on one section where you're forced to use it to continue on and then tiny pockets here and there that serve no real purpose. Of course, this is assuming you are still using the concept since your original IPS post made mention of the gimmick but your latest post hadn't, so...I don't know.

If you do continue with the gimmick, again as Axem suggested, replace the giant ladder with diggable sand. It could also be used to obtain the final SMWC coin, replacing the first bridged pit on screen 14 with a giant shaft of sand, or it could even replace the falling platforms on screen 15. There's definitely some areas in the level where it could benefit from the gimmick if it's used.

Regarding springboards: why are there so many of them? They're everywhere! I think you're relying on them way to heavily, and some of them can come across as redundant since you can just boo-jump, such as the ones on screens 06 and 1A. To me, the one on 12 is the only one that serves a real purpose since it can be used to find a hidden 1up. Even the ones on screen 14 could be replaced with something, ideally some kind of goundwork so you can open up a couple sprite slots for something dangerous besides the bullet generator.

The second half of the level seems incredibly empty compared to the first half, and it's not just the lack of spritework (again, completely relying on the bullet generator) or the wide open spaces - there's something else about it that just feels...bleh. Maybe it's the total lack of coins or the sudden loss of interesting architecture (especially screens 18+)? Hmm, I can't really place my finger on it.

As far as what I liked: I think the architecture in the first half (up through screen 0C) isn't all that bad. Other than a few iffy sections, such as the ladder setups on screens 04/05 or the upper paths on screen 08-0B, the design has a nice, varied approach. However, the spritework doesn't quite gel, be it with the architecture or with other sprites. For example, I only ever felt threatened by the boos in the first half of the level while the bullet bills were nothing more than harmless onlookers, while the exact opposite held true for the second half of the level.

Oh, and two final tidbits:
The coin trail on screen 1A leads right into a boo. Move that boo over to the right. And make sure any blocks above a slope are set to act like tile 100 instead of 130. Mario has trouble getting up slopes otherwise.
Could anyone suggest a level name or so? I was going to call it "Aridsoilic Alcoves", but seeing as I really kinda dropped the idea of having an alcove theme to the fortress one, that obviously wouldn't fit.