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Tip: A common level trope to avoid is "item babysitting". This involves forcing the player to carry P-Switches, springboards, or other items all around the level. Usually, this doesn't end up being very fun or engaging, so use another level gimmick if you can.
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The Essence Star 2
Forum Index - SMW Hacking - Works in Progress - The Essence Star 2
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A couple weeks ago, I posted a video of a level in my hack codenamed ø. That hack is indeed The Essence Star 2, a followup to SMW2+3: The Essence Star.

What exactly brought upon this sudden desire to work on a followup to SMW2+3? I've been talking to fellow SMWC user Azurik who has been showing off his very nicely done overworlds to me. He had this very unique, dark and sad overworld, and that made me want to create a hack of the same nature.

So what's the progress so far? Very, very early on. I've only finished the first level, as seen in the previous video, so far. Since posting the video, I've fixed up the level a bit according to people's suggestions.



For level design, I'm trying to go for a different approach than in its predecessor. Levels will be more puzzle-based, ala Super Mario Underworld, and somehow relate to the plot. In the above level, a bunch of icky creatures have infested the plains, and Mario must find a way to use them to his advantage. A lot of people pointed out that they enjoyed the story of SMW2+3 but felt the levels were lacking, so I'm trying to build more interesting levels this time around.

Gameplay-wise, I'm trying to eliminate some unnecessary things. As you can see, no status bar, meaning no coins, lives, or reserve items. As many would likely agree, lives are really unnecessary. You can still die, you'll just go back to the start of the level or the midpoint. I think that's punishment enough. Reserve items...I've always felt that player stocked up on them very easily, so I just got rid of them. And since there's no more lives, no need more coins. I could use them for some other arbitrary purpose, but didn't see a need for them.

As for story, I've planned out the general idea from beginning to end, but of course there's room to work out a few kinks. Here's the gist of it:

Story: The Essence Star has been stolen from Mario's castle by an unknown character, and now the Mushroom Kingdom has succumbed to darkness. Odd side effects have been seen as well, such as the plains being infested by icky creatures. The citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom blame Mario for allowing this to happen, so it's up to him find the one who took The Essence Star and lift the curse over the lands.

Of course, there's a lot more to that than meets the eye.

A small teaser...while "The Essence Star 2" may not seem like a very creative name, there's actually some significance to it...

Speaking of story, I'm contemplating how to convey it through the hack. In SMW2+3, I used Romi's Cutscene Tool. I want to use RPG's Cutscene Tool, but it seems a bit complicated for me to use. I wanted to ask, do people have a preference as to what type of cutscenes are used when playing hacks? Do you feel Romi's Tool is outdated?

Anyway, it's pretty early-on, but I was hoping on any feedback on my current ideas and direction for the hack, as well as anything from SMW2+3 which you feel could be improved on in this sequel.
I haven't even played the original, but all I can say is: this may be the announcement of the decade.

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"(Z->)90° - (E-N²W)90°t=1"

Supporting:


Current project: Mario's Kool-Aid Acid Trip
True dat. I wonder what surprises the fans of The Essence Star will encounter...

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On Pixel Art Requests: I generally do not accept work unless I either have the time, if I see your project worth my time to contribute towards, and that is usually me doing the approaching to you on that.
-I also do not accept speculative work as I do have various art I made on-hand with me.
-I am more receptive to equivalent exchange of resources in which case, you can DM me wherever I have an active presence on for the details.
-Other times I'm availible for your project is C3 request threads I may run.




I must say that I like the idea of the levels relating to the plot somehow. I like it when levels have somewhat of an importance to the story in such, defiantly makes them more interesting. As for the gameplay, I think eliminating the things you mention is an interesting route to go by, I haven't seen many hacks without a status bar. I'm just wondering how it all play out, since no coins in such might probably eliminate the need for bonus areas, unless you make a power up such as a cape rare to find. (Not that this is a bad thing for me, as I hardly explore levels.) As for coins, maybe you can still include them but only for puzzle purposes. A few examples would be maybe using the blue coins (Or any color) as hints to what you're supposed to do at times, just make them uncollectable. Another one would be maybe having to collect enough coins to pass through certain passages, doors or pipes. Just throwing a few ideas out there.

Anyways as for the first level it's looking pretty good so far. Never really heard of having to use enemies to your advantage so that's cool. That plus controlling the on/off triggers can turn into a real interesting puzzle, so nice work there. I actually enjoyed playing SMW2+3: The Essence Star quite a bit, it's defiantly up on my top list for favorite hacks. On/Off puzzles are interesting but try not relying on them too much. (Just a small nitpick for me in the SMW2+3)

I'm looking forward to seeing more from this hack.

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My Youtube Channel for Hacking and Gaming.
As a fan of The Essence Star, I am really looking forward to seeing how this hack unfolds.

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Vanilla Twist!

Since I was a fan of SMW 2+3 I cant wait to play the sequal of this hack#mlp{rd}`plus I like how how you have to get the star back from someone that happens to be an unknown enemy. Since were not going to have a status box to hold our items is the power down system set to were if you are fire mario you go to super mario and then small mario because without that it could be a bit harder

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Check out my Hack Thread
Wow, that's a nice surprise! Definitely looking forward to it!
Are you planning to do something as big as the first part again?

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You already know how I feel about this, but I'll say it again anyway: I'm looking forward to seeing how much you've improved in the past three years. Darker hacks are right up my alley, so this is sure to be wonderful.
I am glad you are taking the SMU route of designing levels. They were definitely more engaging than the levels in SMW2+3. Some other things I felt were lacking in SMW2+3:

- The OW. Will you be needing one for this hack anyway?
- The bosses. They weren't challenging and felt boring and repetitive.
- FG/BG choices. I felt they clashed or didn't really fit together at times.

I wonder how your hack will play out without a status bar as well. I'm not sure how no lives equates to no coins though. You could use coins for many other purposes but if you truly think there's no need for them anywhere then there probably isn't a need.

Quote
Speaking of story, I'm contemplating how to convey it through the hack. In SMW2+3, I used Romi's Cutscene Tool. I want to use RPG's Cutscene Tool, but it seems a bit complicated for me to use. I wanted to ask, do people have a preference as to what type of cutscenes are used when playing hacks? Do you feel Romi's Tool is outdated?

In my opinion RPG Hacker's one is far more easier to use once you play around with it for a while. I don't think Romi's one is outdated by any means but RPG Hacker's one is more flexible and that's probably why people probably prefer it to the former. Some advantages RPG Hacker's one has over Romi's:

- You can still have Layer 1/2 and sprites during a dialogue. No need to set up an entire cutscene using the sprite layer.
- You can have animated cutscenes.
- More options in general. You can display RAM Addresses in dialogues, use up to 7 different colours during a dialogue, customise the text-box border, etc.

Some commands might be a bit harder to use but overall I think it's easier to work with. I wouldn't really mind seeing Romi's tool again though.
First off, where is RPG's Cutscene Tool? I couldn't find it in the tools section. Are you talking about the VWF Patch?

Anyway, I did like what I played of The Essance Star, so this is sure to be interesting. The first screenshot is pretty well done, so good job already!

- BlackMageMario

EDIT: nanananananana, GOLBAT!
I guess I might as well say it.

This isn't really a big deal for me. I've played SMW2+3, but it wasn't very memorable. All I remember was a talking umbrella and Kamek. It was a decent hack, though. It just wasn't great.

As for this, I see it as an unnecessary sequel. Not only does the story sound bland, it just doesn't have a point. Wasn't everything completely wrapped up in the first? What's the point of a second?

Also that screenshot is a major turnoff. Not only do the enemies' graphical styles not match, but Mario looks completely out of place. Here we have this really dark scenery, and here we have a bright, cartoony plumber. It feels wrong.

Also puzzles aren't really my thing, so I'll probably sit this one out. Good luck anyways.
..I really hope the whole hack isn't centred around puzzles. Otherwise, this hack could get boring very quickly. If there's "normal" non puzzle levels as well, then the hack will be fine. Otherwise, I'll probably skip this one too.
All I can say is that I loved the esence star, and I will love this one too!

And why not just puzzles? Well it's just opinion so yeah!

Looking forward! Good luck!

EDIT: And finish this!
Originally posted by Iceguy

In my opinion RPG Hacker's one is far more easier to use once you play around with it for a while. I don't think Romi's one is outdated by any means but RPG Hacker's one is more flexible and that's probably why people probably prefer it to the former. Some advantages RPG Hacker's one has over Romi's:

- You can still have Layer 1/2 and sprites during a dialogue. No need to set up an entire cutscene using the sprite layer.
- You can have animated cutscenes.
- More options in general. You can display RAM Addresses in dialogues, use up to 7 different colours during a dialogue, customise the text-box border, etc.

Some commands might be a bit harder to use but overall I think it's easier to work with. I wouldn't really mind seeing Romi's tool again though.


Well, according to the readme of RPG Hacker's tool there's still some sort of bug which results sometimes in warping to random levels if you want to teleport. I'm not sure (haven't tested it yet) but if this is true it might be useful to either use Romi's or both depending on what you want to do with it.

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GvS @smwcentral.net ~ u:11380
Ooh, great to see you back in action, Jacob. I've already seen how nicely your first level is designed, and here's hoping the rest of the hack will have the same kind of clever, puzzlish design, not just platforming. You're combining those too really well, and I'm really liking the aesthetics so far. You know, I'm really looking forward to this hack. Removing the status bar also seems like a good idea, because of the reasons you've mentioned. I wish you good luck with this project.

Originally posted by moltensnow

Also that screenshot is a major turnoff. Not only do the enemies' graphical styles not match, but Mario looks completely out of place. Here we have this really dark scenery, and here we have a bright, cartoony plumber. It feels wrong.

Might as well jump in and say that this doesn't make any sense at all. The enemies don't clash with eachother at all, I don't get what you're trying to say there. And if you really have to complain about Mario's "bright" palettes in a dark scenery, than question yourself why Mario still has his same looks in a cave in the original SMW. You're just looking for the smallest things to nitpick about. It doesn't make any sense.
Originally posted by FPI
Are you planning to do something as big as the first part again?


Length-wise, yes.

Originally posted by Iceguy
- The OW. Will you be needing one for this hack anyway?


Hopefully I should have some help with that this time around, I'd really like that to be better.

Originally posted by Iceguy
- The bosses. They weren't challenging and felt boring and repetitive.


Not sure how I will handle bosses in this hack. I do want them to be better than the previous hack, but I just don't have the skills for that.

Originally posted by Iceguy
- FG/BG choices. I felt they clashed or didn't really fit together at times.


I try to be more careful of that nowadays. Do you think the FG/BG choices in the posted screen look alright?

Originally posted by moltensnow
As for this, I see it as an unnecessary sequel. Not only does the story sound bland, it just doesn't have a point.


Uh what? Not sure why you'd think the story doesn't have a point, as I've only posted a small teaser of it. As I said, there's a lot more to it than meets the eye.

Originally posted by JDC
..I really hope the whole hack isn't centred around puzzles. Otherwise, this hack could get boring very quickly. If there's "normal" non puzzle levels as well, then the hack will be fine. Otherwise, I'll probably skip this one too.


Hmm...I could go for the route of normal levels throughout each world, then a "dungeon" type level at the end of the world like in the predecessor. Thing is, I was trying to make the levels more unique this time around. It just depends on the general consensus, if they want a puzzle-oriented hack or not, although I do understand those types of hacks, such as Keytastrophe, are not your preference. If someone has any suggestions to make the levels more unique without using puzzles, I'd like to hear that.
If you are going to make the puzzles similar to the ones in SMU, then I say make the hack puzzle-based. Those puzzles weren't your generic P-switch and item babysitting puzzle #3843. They contained very clever gimmicks and required a lot of thinking at times. Reminded me of LoZ which has great puzzles.

As for bosses, we have plenty of new ones in the database and there's even a thread listing them all in the Tutorials forum. That combined with some additional obstacles in the boss level could make for an interesting battle. There's also the n00b bosses which could cleverly be used (I may update the ultimate n00b boss sometime in the future).

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Do you think the FG/BG choices in the posted screen look alright?

Yeah, that looks pretty good. I think you should just make sure the style of graphics is consistent throughout the hack.

Originally posted by FPI
Well, according to the readme of RPG Hacker's tool there's still some sort of bug which results sometimes in warping to random levels if you want to teleport. I'm not sure (haven't tested it yet) but if this is true it might be useful to either use Romi's or both depending on what you want to do with it.

I haven't encountered a bug like that before despite having used the teleport command quite a few times. But yeah that bug may exist. In any case it could be fixed and there is a small workaround anyway. I guess it's just Jacob's call. :P
Originally posted by Jacob


Originally posted by JDC
..I really hope the whole hack isn't centred around puzzles. Otherwise, this hack could get boring very quickly. If there's "normal" non puzzle levels as well, then the hack will be fine. Otherwise, I'll probably skip this one too.


Hmm...I could go for the route of normal levels throughout each world, then a "dungeon" type level at the end of the world like in the predecessor. Thing is, I was trying to make the levels more unique this time around. It just depends on the general consensus, if they want a puzzle-oriented hack or not, although I do understand those types of hacks, such as Keytastrophe, are not your preference. If someone has any suggestions to make the levels more unique without using puzzles, I'd like to hear that.


The thing with Keysatrophe is it's good at first, but 50 item babysitting levels gets really tiring very quickly. Even if the puzzles ARE creative and original in every level, it still will get quite boring after a while.

What I'd do is keep the puzzles in small doses - like at the end of every world like SMW2+3. I quite liked the puzzles that were in that, partly because they were used sparingly and they were quite good. I'd like to see some puzzles in this hack too, but I definitely wouldn't want a hack full of 50 puzzles or so.

Sorry if I sounded harsh there.
If people think puzzles are boring, then don't play it really. Get a mix of puzzle/platforming and your all good. Seeing Jacobs other works it's clear to me at least that the hack wont be boring.

Anyway I like the darker theme, Maybe the custom mario palette would be a good patch to apply, it's big but could make the atmosphere better?

Keep up the good work Jacob ^.^
Originally posted by Iceguy
As for bosses, we have plenty of new ones in the database and there's even a thread listing them all in the Tutorials forum.


Thanks for pointing that thread out, didn't know about it before.

Originally posted by JDC
The thing with Keysatrophe is it's good at first, but 50 item babysitting levels gets really tiring very quickly.


I've really been trying to avoid those types of puzzles in general. Super Mario World isn't really a puzzle-friendly game to begin with , so it's quite challenging to come up with decent puzzles.

Originally posted by JDC
What I'd do is keep the puzzles in small doses - like at the end of every world like SMW2+3. I quite liked the puzzles that were in that, partly because they were used sparingly and they were quite good. I'd like to see some puzzles in this hack too, but I definitely wouldn't want a hack full of 50 puzzles or so.


I think I may ease up on the puzzle levels. The reason I wanted to go in that direction is because it seemed many people enjoyed the story of SMW2+3, but felt the level design was lacking. I definitely don't want to have players drudge through boring levels to get to the good story parts.

Thing is, for me, it's difficult to come up with fun levels without some type of gimmick. I've played a lot of hacks with standard run-and-jump action, and while they're well-designed, I'm just not impressed because they're more of the same. But, I don't think there have to be puzzles in all levels. For example, in the second level of the hack, Mario has to defeat fireflies in a cave to darken the area, allowing him to sneak past a guard. Not really a puzzle.
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