Jumping on the thread-making bandwagon because I actually have things to say about my level, and because I'd like a bit of feedback.
I spent ages trying to come up with an alliterative name for this level, but I ended up calling it "On the Bayou". The setting was inspired by tcdw's VLDC9 entry "Tropical Stronghold", but you wouldn't know just by looking at it - the initial mental image is always so little like the final product it's incredible.
I'm not sure how to feel about this level. I took great care to make things fun and cohesive, but I still feel it lacks... focus. It has repeating motifs, but it doesn't revolve around a grand idea, and it doesn't thoroughly explore any single mechanic with ever more creative setups. I feel this is unlike, say, Nightswimming, and I hope this level doesn't disappoint anyone who was looking forward to the same tight playing experience.
Or maybe I'm totally wrong! Who knows. You tell me.
I also had a bit of a hard time balancing the difficulty, mainly because I don't know what I can rely on the player knowing. In particular, did you know that
you can press down on moving platforms underwater to pass through them
? This isn't a rhetorical question! Using this trick can make things trivial, while those who don't know about it may experience a spike in difficulty.
So yeah, I'd really appreciate some input. Hope you enjoy what I've made!
(known bugs: the first yoshi coin is subject to the subscreen boundary glitch; the third yoshi coin room may glitch; there are only four yoshi coins)
This is a beautiful looking, very neatly designed and well polished level, albeit a bit plain. As is, I think the judges would find this level too safe and plain. I think the level itself was very nicely designed and had a very clear and consistent flow, but it didn't have a lot of really fun parts until the end.
I really enjoyed jumping on the vertical rock platforms in the sky area for some reason, that was interesting and rewarding, and so was jumping on all those red parakoopas.
However, the underwater portion is super short and weak. Speaking of the underwater portion...
What's up with this??
But yeah, a solid level that could be even better with that extra uumph. Where are you gonna get that extra uumph? Idk, but I know it's possible. For example, in the underwater section, I know you're sticking to the theme of using the mushroom tileset platforms in different settings, but they simply weren't that interesting to dodge. I would say, don't be afraid to branch out a bit in an underwater section. Try the floating spike ball, grey platforms that sink (and reskin them), chucks, rocks from the diggin chuck.
Dragon coin rooms: I'm not a fan at all of the dragon coin rooms, except for the one with the vertical rock platforms. The underwater dragon coin rooms don't do anything unique and interesting at all, and are just basically extensions of the main rooms with dragon coins at the end. There's nothing wrong with using some interesting sprite combinations to make the dragon coin rooms interesting and challenging.
Also, all in all, the level plays really nicely, but I think it could benefit from being just a bit more jank. What I mean is, everything plays out really nicely and flows well, but not once was I ever surprised, shocked, or delighted by anything, besides maybe the chuck resprites (hehe). Speaking of that, you have the unique opportunity to combine those platforms with baseball chucks, but why stop there? If you can find more interesting workarounds and combine sprites that aren't usually combined, that would be awesome. But, you don't always have to play it safe, and it's okay to add just a bit of jankness and ridiculousness to give the level a bit of a challenge and make it memorable design wise.
The level looks absolutely amazing, and I'm sure you're well aware of that. I feel like the design can definitely be improved to match the aesthetics, with a bit of work.
E: Also, you can't press down to move through those platforms underwater, but you can pass through them by doing a short upward swim right before it passes below Mario. This is related to how you can spinjump and pass through jumping dolphins and other stand-on-able sprites as they move upwards.
Thanks so much for the input! I was actually aware of the technical bugs you guys mentioned. (Any suggestions where else to put the "known bugs" list other than below the download link?)
What I take away from this is that, as I feared, I need to come up with more interesting setups and use things to more of their potential. It'll be tricky finding the balance between exploring more ideas and not losing focus - here's hoping I'll find something that "clicks" for me like it did last year.
I was interested in playing this, because you said that you felt your level "lacks focus", which is how I feel about the level I'm attempting to build (lol i'll never finish my level).
Here's some scattered thoughts:
- I wouldn't go as far to say your level lacks focus entirely: I'd say your level is centered around different types of sprite platforms: The gray spinning platforms, rock platforms, and sinking grass platforms are abundant, and the platforms switch between helping and hindering just enough to keep a player on their toes.
- But! I think what contributes to an unfocused feeling is the frequent room changes. To get all the Dragon Coins, you'll go through the Bayou, and come across a hidden pipe that leads underwater. Now you're back at the Bayou. Few screens later, now you're back underwater! Few screens later, Bayou! Now we're in the sky! Bayou again! Sky! Goal! The level didn't really get a chance to develop its sprite setups, so the level's "flow" feels a bit broken up. Nothing's wrong with changing the scenery frequently, or interrupting a level with Dragon Coin sublevels, but I guess the screen exits need a little more room to breathe. Kinda hard to pinpoint this issue, but I tried my best to explain.
- I'll echo what Gbreeze said: The underwater segments felt a bit underwhelming. I actually wonder if you should point-blank tell players about swimming through platforms? I remember finding out about it accidentally in one of the VIPs, but it's pretty obscure knowledge. The platform swimming thing might make for a neat gimmick, but it sounds hard to stretch out past half a level.
- The Pitchin' Chuck looks really weird, but hilarious! You've definitely made the most out of sprite tileset limits. They kinda looks like something that would appear in an 80s 3D CGI video. I kinda wish Pitchin' Chuck had a little more time to shine in this level.
- Lots of eye candy in this level! The palettes are especially nice to look at. Minor issues with the visuals is that the tree leaves and most tree trunks don't have layer priority on. I guess it could be to help with enemy visibility? Also, the small clouds in the sky sublevels look pillow-shaded.
- This level felt pretty easy overall, but I died once trying to get the Dragon Coin from your third screenshot. It's sort of an awkward jump where timing it wrong makes the rightmost Paratroopas fly out of your range entirely. It seems to happen when the leftmost Paratroopa is at its lowest point. Not sure if I explained this well.
- Minor nitpick, but it seems kinda silly to put a powerup in the final room.
I think this level is okay, but I definitely think you can make it better. I'll be interested in the future of On the Bayou
Its main issue, IMO, is how cramped it is. Now this isn't so bad in itself, it gives the level a very swamplike feel. But it makes platforming setups incredibly close to each other. Those are very numerous and sometimes the variations are uninteresting or too difficult.
I consider this the worst offender.
While the crampedness introduces an excessive mechanical focus (too many variations too close to each other), it also causes the lack of thematic focus UTF pointed out above: the level looks like it's been compressed horizontally, and this makes area changes too frequent (music changes might reinforce the feeling of inconsistency).
The entire water sections are somewhat hard if you don't know the press-down platform trick and too easy if you do.
I suggest you sift through the current setups, both underwater and above, and only keep the best/most interesting ones (and those preparing the player for them). Then add some variety to the space you've freed up. (Maybe you could introduce a minor secondary gimmick underwater and combine it with the pitchin' chucks and platforms back on the surface?)
Finally, what's the point of the last rock platform in the hidden sky section?
Some aesthetics suggestions:
It's odd how the player is in front of the forest foliage, but blocked by the stone blocks underneath. Unless it'd screw things up, maybe make the foliage priority enabled? Or place the blocks in front, not behind?
Also, as much as I admire the creativity behind these wiggler Chucks, the brown platform bodies are just weird. What about normal wiggler segments instead? Or is this a compatibility issue? I also think their projectiles could use some exanimation to flash like regular lotus fire.
Anyway, keep it up. I'm curious to see how this level will evolve.
You sure are great at setting the mood for level settings and times of day. This level looks to be a mix between your previous VLDC levels, Touch Fuzzy (VLDC7), and Nightswimming (VLDC9), with the treetop/sunset are being a totally new place. I like it so far.
I'd love to see how your level plays once you submit it.
R.I.P. eXcavator... You will always have a place in our hearts...
I already feel better about this, but whether it's actually an improvement is not mine to tell. I tried to incorporate you guys' suggestions, and though I couldn't take all of them, here's what I hopefully succeeded in changing:
* focus on one type of sprite (floating rock platforms, reskinned to look like the orange ones), along with guest stars like Pitchin' Chuck. Interestingly, I ended up completely eliminating the rotating platforms.
* setups that feel less flaky.
* more space to breathe, I hope.
* fewer arbitrary rooms changes. The underwater section has been reduced to a total of one screen, because I realized platforms and underwater physics just don't make for engaging setups.
* no changes to the foliage priority unfortunately, since that'd entail priority changes to a handful of other tiles that'd be even more complex.
* no more wiggler chuck, as positively silly as it was. (@Lemonade: yeah, the platform chain segments were necessary I'm afraid, and they were the reason I had to reskin the Chuck i the first place.)
Fingers crossed I made the right kind of changes this time. (As mentioned, I really can't tell anymore.)
Feel free to still suggest things, but be aware I probably won't make any more major changes. This has already been the most exhausting level-building experience I've had in years, and I'd really like to just submit the thing and be done with it.
Wow, this is seriously so much better than before! It's really fun and really consistent. The baseball chucks are placed super well, so they don't get in the way too much and become too annoying, but it's jus the right amount of challenging. It reminds me of something that could be in Yoshi's Island for some reason? Also, with all the crevices and areas in the ground, I felt that there were some opportunities for "secret passages", just to a bunch of coins or a hidden mushroom or something.
This part was kind of tight for some reason. It's hard to tell you can duck and survive if you're big.
Thanks for the feedback! I'm really relieved you find it an improvement.
I took your suggestion and moved the one muncher up one tile, but apart from that and minor cosmetic changes I went ahead and submitted the level as it is. At this point I'd like to just be done with it and move on.
I just played your level and I have no complaints at all. It looks gorgeous, and the music is chill too. The design is on point, and you got a nice and smooth difficult curve, peaking at that very tricky piranha section. It's not a long level, but not a short one too. I absolutely love it.
This is not a fanjudge, but I figured I would give you my feedback since I liked it so much. I'm sure you'll place high enough with this entry.
Got around to playing this. Don't really have too much time to post something longer-form, so I'll try to make this quick.
I think it's a notable improvement from your first version. It's still somewhat of an easyish and simple level, but it feels more focused than before, and the general interaction from the moving grass platforms and the level around it is pretty neat. Getting the third Dragon Coin (the one where you have to bounce on a Chuck to reach higher platforms) can result in a cheap hit from the munchers if the player decides to fall a bit towards the right, though I'm not sure if it's a big deal. Also, will you keep the timer at 0?
Really cute level, I enjoyed it. While there aren't many stunning ideas and the likes, you make a good use of what you chose to have in your level. Chucks and platforms were placed in a good way, making the level very fun to play trough.
As issues, I pretty much have what others already pointed out previously:
...aka the fact that some elements don't have a priority on, while imo it would look better if they had.
Plus, there's this:
...which I'd honestly avoid, but it's not a big issue. Being nipticky lol.
Overall, great level though. A very well made ambience in particular.
Due to popular demand, I sidestepped a priority issue by moving the tree trunks behind the water and exanimating around it.
I'm afraid priority on the leaves is not going to happen though - the leaves are connected to the tree trunks, so both would need to have priority, and I feel constantly going behind trees is too distracting.
For completeness's sake, here's another update! I incorporated some of SNN's feedback in this one - most notably, I made the second half feature a couple of Lotuses. The post-midway part now feels tighter, but hopefully not too cramped!
Of all the levels I've ever made, this is by far the one that went through the most iterations, and that strayed farthest from my original vision. Unless there's anything game-breaking, this will probably be the final version.