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VLDC Feedback

Originally posted by Giant Shy Guy
We're not really making a collaboration hack here. It's a compilation. We're taking all these levels from different creators, with different styles, with different skills, with different ideas. Why do some people (it might not apply to you) think that it's supposed be all the same?

It's not supposed to be all the same and that's not the objective either but those restrictions should be there so people actually focus on what's more important, visuals gameplay, because that's what everyone seems to forget once they start decorating their levels. That a level looks SMW-y doesn't mean it's "uninspired" only because the author doesn't want to bother on something that's not even supposed to affect your score anyway.
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Originally posted by MaxodeX
It's not supposed to be all the same and that's not the objective either


I was actually referring more to posts I've read about the music samples thing, about how "it sounds weird when songs don't sound like each other." Torchkas mentioning about visuals "going against the grain" just reminded me of that.

I should have said it wasn't really related to the ExGFX thing.

Originally posted by MaxodeX
but those restrictions should be there so people actually focus on what's more important, visuals gameplay, because that's what everyone seems to forget once they start decorating their levels.


So yeah. It depends on whose creating the level. What's the point of setting an ExGFX restriction? If a level designer can't find the balance of making something visually appealing/gimmicky, it will just dock points on them.

I'm pretty sure that with these ~80 entrants, there isn't really a huge problem of people focusing too much on visuals. I don't believe this ExGFX thing is a bigger epidemic this year. And if someone did focus too much on visuals, it will show in their sub-par work.

Let's see another example from the VLDC: Truxton's level. It is both visually appealing, uses the ability to use graphics to wherever he wants, and STILL makes a fantastic level.

Why do we try and herd people to focus on level design if we're setting that restriction? It's shown that with this more liberating usage of ExGFX more possibilities are opened up, and people are actually good enough to do something great. There should be a lesson given on making a level good WHILST having that freedom. And if a level creator focuses too much on visuals without substance, IT WILL reflect in their placement against the other entrants and IT SHOULD be made clear that focusing on the visuals was the problem. It's the fact they couldn't make a good level that counts, and the feedback to it is what changes it. Why should those who are skilled enough to use these resources competently be affected by those who didn't, when those who didn't could simply see what they did wrong.

Originally posted by MaxodeX
That a level looks SMW-y doesn't mean it's "uninspired" only because the author doesn't want to bother on something that's not even supposed to affect your score anyway.


Yes. ngwu's vldc 2013(?) level is an example of making a level that "looks like smw" yet is fantastic at it.

Doesn't ignore the fact that multitude of the entrants didn't do the same.

ngwu's level was "inspired" in the fact it tried to use things in ways it normally wouldn't. My usage of "inspired" refers to levels that don't completely "PLAY" like SMW, and all the other grassland, cave, layer 2, line guide, bridge, and water levels in hacks that are fine but been-done a million times and over. The leniency of the ExGFX use creates more possibilities. Not endless, as we wouldn't be allowed to edit or create graphics, but it gives more ways to be more creative.

Which, again, is completely dependent on the level designer.

And in any case, for a while now it has BEEN MADE CLEAR that level creators shouldn't focus too much on visuals. But it never said that level creators shouldn't use these visuals to their advantage. By continuing that almost-slogan for contests to come, it will serve as a reminder that "Hey, you can anything with the resources, but remember: make a good level with it!"

The new feedback based forums is a blessing to this. I've seen so much consciousness with focusing too much on decoration that it's common feedback to see. Those level designers who have been here for years should know not to focus on decoration, and with new people coming in it wouldn't be hard to tell them the same.

And please, the VERY vocal minority we had in the couple past years with level designers flipping their shit when their bad, obviously-decoration-directed, levels weren't crowned with 1st place in shining Halos shouldn't be the pivot to restrict everyone else.
I was talking about it going against the grain of the initial idea of the contest.
Heck if I care about all levels fitting together nicely.
But about the music, we are actually trying to create a soundtrack. With a soundtrack you're supposed to bring in theming, even though it's still gonna be a bunch of entries slapped together doesn't mean the musical progress can't have any consistency.
Then about the contest itself. I do believe so myself that a "Vanilla Level Design Contest" should be about creating a level while staying as close to SMW as possible. SMW had very clear level planning because there wasn't a lot of graphical shit thrown at your face. I think you'd find that the levels that might look a bit less stylized but more streamlined have better level design than the ones trying to get the most graphical impact out of SMW's original graphics.
Originally posted by Torchkas
Heck if I care about all levels fitting together nicely.


sorry i needed a scapegoat since it was bothering me :>

Originally posted by Torchkas
But about the music, we are actually trying to create a soundtrack.


Oh no, I wasn't talking about the vanilla remixing soundtrack. I was talking about people saying using samples wasn't consistent with others who weren't using samples, citing "it's a collab" as the reason.
Regarding graphical restrictions, I think part of the problem is that we've traditionally used a point system with a category specifically for aesthetics or visual appeal- "Appeal" for 2008-2011, "Appearance" for 2012, and now "Aesthetics" for 2014. Telling people not to focus on visuals while having a category specifically for it never seemed 100% consistent to me, which is part of why I pushed for qualitative ratings in the 2013 contest.

Under a point system, if you believe a level focuses too much on visuals to the detriment of its construction or design, how do you communicate that through the score? In 2012, I decided to give one such level an imperfect score in the "Appearance" category to make that message clear, but it ended up being a pretty controversial move, even more so once the level showed up in Let's Play videos. The level author thought I was making up the rules as I went along, and others saw me as an out-of-touch elitist.

Hence, the graphical restrictions in 2013. Did they work? Well, yes and no. We got lots of neat levels even despite those restrictions, but I won't deny the overall visual style was kind of homogeneous, maybe even redundant. I mean, I remember seeing a level this year that made nice use of the "Thank You!" scene graphics, among other things. Would that have been allowed in the 2013 contest? Probably not. Does it look close enough to the original game? Yeah, I think so. So, maybe we went too far with the limitations in 2013.

Since then, I've come to view these graphics-limiting rules as something similar to DRM protection in games. That is, the only people you're hurting are those who can modify the original graphics responsibly. The people who look for loopholes still look for loopholes, and those who make bad levels still make bad levels.

In future contests, I'd like to allow modifying the original graphics (including recoloring and tweaking), but with an "At your own risk!" disclaimer attached. Meaning, you're free to modify the graphics as you see fit, but if you abuse that leeway and take it too far, to the point where it hurts the design or strays too far from the original game, your level's rating could suffer as a result. This is the approach S.N.N. took with the 9th Door Contest (1st 24-hour Contest), and it worked wonderfully! People who missed the point of the contest ranked lower, and quickly wised up to the fact that they had taken the wrong approach. There didn't need to be any strict rules about graphics, because it was all enforced through the rankings at the end.

We could even take it a step further and allow stuff like blocks and sprites so long as they fit the minimalist nature of the contest- for example, a tweaked disassembly. This was also something the 9th Door Contest did, and it worked because only the levels which used such resources in a way that complemented the theme of the contest were able to rank in the top 20.

Just food for thought, I suppose.
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Originally posted by AxemJinx
Since then, I've come to view these graphics-limiting rules as something similar to DRM protection in games. That is, the only people you're hurting are those who can modify the original graphics responsibly. The people who look for loopholes still look for loopholes, and those who make bad levels still make bad levels.


how did you summarize what i was trying to say in one short paragraph
AxemJinx's post up there makes some good points. I wasn't able to put it into words, but the graphical restrictions/DRM thing is how I felt about the whole thing. Someone who designs a good-looking-but-boring level will almost surely design something that's still boring if graphical restrictions are imposed. I'm guessing a level that looks really good, and has great level design, but departs from SMW's graphical style considerably would still receive high marks.

At the same time... I don't know. It's conflicting. Are having graphics chopped up to look like something else really that important? This is still a level design contest first and foremost. I remember the majority of 2013 contest entries all looking somewhat similar (I'll have to look at them again), but I wouldn't call that a bad thing in a contest focused on level design. Also, telling users that it's okay to mix a bunch of different tilesets together but also docking points if you overdo it is kinda... Counterproductive? I don't know if that's the right word for it.

The time spent scouring Allgfx.bin to build a new tileset out of SMW graphics could have been used to fine-tune the level design instead. Of course, I'd say that's mostly the contest participant's fault if they spent more time prettying up their level in this case, but a more restrictive graphical ruleset might curb that to a degree.

Overall, I'm still not sure. I personally like the idea of graphical freedom for these contests, but I can also see how it goes against the whole "vanilla" thing. I still think level design should be king.

Now...

Originally posted by AxemJinx
We could even take it a step further and allow stuff like blocks and sprites so long as they fit the minimalist nature of the contest- for example, a tweaked disassembly.


I can't help but feel like doing this would almost surely take away from designing an SMW-like level. Even if the custom resources are simple and play a minor part in the level, you're no longer really designing with just SMW stuff in mind, and the vanilla part of the contest becomes tainted to a degree. Especially if your level relies on its custom sprite/block as the level's main gimmick.

If we end up going down the crazy path of using new resources, what could be allowed is remapping SMW enemies. You can't use Mega Moles and the Ball 'n' Chain in the same level, due to both of them occupying the same graphical space in SP4. Allowing users to remap vanilla sprites still makes sense in a "create a Super Mario World-like level" way. You're still using enemies found in Super Mario World, they're just combined together differently. Wait...

Remapping sprites would be messy if it all still had to be in one ROM. Maybe we could make use of this patch? I haven't tried it before, but it's supposed to remap sprites on a per-level basis. Now I'm thinking that's probably too complex. EDIT: the Vanilla contests are supposed to have a lower barrier of entry. Disregard the remapping stuff!

Just my two cents. I spent too long typing this so I'm going to post it anyway haha
Honestly, I'm all for tileset mixing (even though I'd rather see a contest that is truly vanilla without all these graphical shenanigans); my issue is with being allowed to edit tiles outright. In my opinion, this goes against vanilla entirely, and the point of the contest is to work with SMW's resources as they're given to you to make something neat, not "edit SMW's graphics to better fit what you want to make".


Also I do agree with AxemJinx that the scoring shouldn't really be in points, at least not including visuals. Having visuals be part of the scoring only encourages these levels that focus on that opposed to the gameplay, so it'd be better to remove that and either have a "fun scale" or just do like AxemJinx did and have just descriptive phrases for how you felt about a level.
<Adam> I feel like smwc is a prostitute now, because we put up a porn ad for money
What we need to think about is what the Vanilla contest actually is. Our community never really defined "what" vanilla is, giving the term a wide range between barely-edited and barely-SMW. If we're saying that Vanilla restricts the players to the base materials, then remove ExGFX. If we're saying that Vanilla shies away from advanced hacking in favor of level design, then we keep ExGFX.

Honestly the problem is the fact that we bother with the names Vanilla and Chocolate anyway. Just name the contest after the season and let the rules lay out the style, instead of us restricting ourselves based on arbitrary titles.
Originally posted by Egadd
Honestly the problem is the fact that we bother with the names Vanilla and Chocolate anyway. Just name the contest after the season and let the rules lay out the style, instead of us restricting ourselves based on arbitrary titles.

Vanilla contest has a purpose, though. Look at the number of entries for the VLDC, then look at the number of entries for the CLDC. The CLDC this year had 29 entries, 2010 had 42, and even the winter level design contest, not billed as a chocolate contest AND including real prizes, only had 50 entries, all of which would be rather disappointing showings for a VLDC contest.
Originally posted by Egadd
What we need to think about is what the Vanilla contest actually is. Our community never really defined "what" vanilla is, giving the term a wide range between barely-edited and barely-SMW. If we're saying that Vanilla restricts the players to the base materials, then remove ExGFX. If we're saying that Vanilla shies away from advanced hacking in favor of level design, then we keep ExGFX.

Honestly the problem is the fact that we bother with the names Vanilla and Chocolate anyway. Just name the contest after the season and let the rules lay out the style, instead of us restricting ourselves based on arbitrary titles.

Vanilla
-adj.
slang ordinary or conventional


Personally, I see "vanilla" as "level designed using SMW's default resources as they are given", plus palette editing. Basically, using LM to edit the level and palettes, and nothing more.



but people find that insanely boring and want innovation instead
<Adam> I feel like smwc is a prostitute now, because we put up a porn ad for money