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Do you ever feel like SMW hacking as a whole has stagnated/plateau'd? (An Opinion Thread)
Forum Index - SMW Hacking - SMW Hacking Discussion - Do you ever feel like SMW hacking as a whole has stagnated/plateau'd? (An Opinion Thread)
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I saw Final Theory's post in the "Where did you see yourself in five years?" thread:

Originally posted by Final Theory
As long as this site exists Super Mario World hacking in 5 years will probably be spectacular. There will probably be many more tools and sprites and blocks and tons of creative projects.

and my cynical side came out and was like "inb4 SMW hacking is still the exact same in 5 years just with some new ASM"

And it got me thinking.

As a whole, I feel like SMW hacking has just plateau'd for the time being. Not because we've reached the "technical ceiling" of sorts of SMW hacking, but because the scene doesn't seem to be interested in progressing towards more creative, experimental projects. I feel like the site's standard to hack making is the VLDC compilation hacks at this point. We're more interested in improving the collective level design standard than anything else.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not downplaying level design here. Level design is very important for a game, I just feel like we're putting too much attention on it, and not enough on the scene's general... creativity, if that makes any sense? I feel like we've already reached the "skill ceiling" of level design outside of discovering new exploits like the 1F0 tile (which I consider to be more a gimmick than level design, think of it like spices on a steak).

I realize that a lot of the userbase here is underage, and that this is also just a hobby for us all. But a lot of "greener" hackers seem uninterested in learning how to develop their own resources. Now, the graphics, music, ASM sections etc, they're all meant to be there to help hackers who can't really create any of their own resources. But this just results in a lot of hacks blending together. Many look the same (due to using the same resources), many play the same (due to basing their level design from VLDC or SMW)... At best we get a few puzzle driven hacks like Super Mario Logic, or character hacks like Sicari or Daizo's Journey fuck yeah.

Now, it's okay to not be an absolute god at ExGFX, or ASM, or music porting. No one is automatically born being good at everything ever (if anyone ever tells you that you need talent to be good at anything, automatically disregard all their arguments tbh they know nothing lol). I'm not trying to order everyone in the forum to, like, become automatically good at all aspects of SMW hacking, this is just a hobby. That'd be absurd.

I'm just saying that, as older members start to grow out of the hobby, it's up to newbies like us (let's be real I am kind of a newbie, I just hang out with a bunch of oldbies) to pick up where they left off, and keep "pushing the envelope", more or less. This is why I'm extremely concerned about the new Tutorial List, and why I think it's something that should be placed in high priority.

I'm not asking to abandon normal SMW hacks as a whole, or to abandon the ASM, Music and GFX sections. I'm just asking us to try to be more "out there" with our ideas.

Be prepared to step out of the box.

Feel ready to screw up a little among the way.

Not feel confined to just Mario-esque gameplay.

Let newbies have some room to explore their horizons and encourage them to experiment with different areas of romhacking.

Feel free to give your opinion, whether you agree or not. Just please describe why you agree or disagree. Don't just go "Yeah, I agree." because that really doesn't answer anything. Thank you and sorry if I'm asking for too much or if I'm being too picky. Just please, don't start a huge bandwagon against normal SMW hacks if you agree with this. I don't want to see the site split over this.

It's just something I've been feeling for quite a few years now. It's why I've fallen out of love with SMW hacking outside of JUMP. Sorry.

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HackPortsASM"Uploader"

I agree that there aren't enough unconventional hacks out there and I've definitely felt the pressure to make a traditional hack before. For a really long time I didn't exactly feel at home with the whole platformer style of gameplay that people demanded but I kept making levels that I didn't really like because I didn't even think about how there wasn't any reason for me to not do something else instead.

This is exactly why I quit working on RISE and instead focused completely on 'the. It gave me a deeper satisfaction, I always felt like the only thing that kept me working on RISE was the great feedback and all the attention. 'the was a completely different story for me. I believe I only showed two or three screenshots at the very beginning of the project and then didn't show any until the release, about two or so years later. All motivation while working on it was purely intrinsic, I could finally do what I wanted without being afraid of people not really being into it, I wouldn't even have minded giving it up in the end without anyone ever finding out about its existence, working on it was so much fun, I just didn't care about what people would think about it at all!

I was kinda hoping 'the might inspire people to go for some more unconventional concepts, but it doesn't seem like anything changed really, which is unfortunate because I personally kinda hate platformers so the only hacks I really play are those that either look really good or those that don't focus on platforming or offer something else for me to focus on instead (like game.bps' atmosphere and horror elements for example).

All in all, I just want to say that if anyone feels like they're working on a hack mainly because they like the feedback and attention it's getting, you may want to try working on something that you can enjoy just for yourself instead and see how that goes.
The thing is that programming, music and graphics are all fields that require years of training to get good at. I've worked with the pixels and MS Paints for years to get to a level of quality that I deem "not embarrassing" and I imagine it's a similar journey for other fields. Now factor in those years of practice and then throw in a hobby that you will never be able to make money of while requiring you to work with (from what I understand to be) a poorly programmed base made in a low-level language with no official documentation and then try to learn how to put your own code or music into that. Good luck lol

tl;dr don't expect too much originality from your hobby-grade ROM hacks.

For some reason, though, people around these parts seem really adverse to collaborations. Dunno what's up with that, you'd think that'd help a lot in the originality department. (And no, I don't count VLDC)

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Originally posted by Gregor
The thing is that programming, music and graphics are all fields that require years of training to get good at.

This is generalising it a lot, it varies from person to person. Some people are inclined enough at certain fields to catch it quicker than others.
Besides, it's not like learning it for hacking will be completely useless for other fields, it's still a way of practicing.

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Originally posted by Koopster
This is generalising it a lot, it varies from person to person. Some people are inclined enough at certain fields to catch it quicker than others.
Besides, it's not like learning it for hacking will be completely useless for other fields, it's still a way of practicing.

Well if you want to get PICKY about it, yes, it varies. But it'll still take quite a bit of time and I don't see a lot of people picking up these skills just to improve their ROM hack.

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Was that really necessary? @Gregor

Anyway I think this is true to an extent and it's the reason I've stopped doing stuff with SMW beside the occasional collab level.
Originally posted by Noivern
Was that really necessary? @Gregor

... was what? Saying "PICKY"? That's not a naughty word from what I know.

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Originally posted by Gregor
Now factor in those years of practice and then throw in a hobby that you will never be able to make money of while requiring you to work with (from what I understand to be) a poorly programmed base made in a low-level language with no official documentation and then try to learn how to put your own code or music into that. Good luck lol

Being good at programming and porting varies from person to person

ASM has actually quite a lot of official and unofficial (both here and outside of SMWC) documentation, due to being one of the few programming languages in older years, heck, 65c816 ASM itself is just a fork of 6502 ASM: the language used for consoles like the NES, the Master System, computers like the Commodore 64...

You also don't really write ports in the TXT unless you're used to working with trackers (see: Sinc-X, Jimmy). You can convert MIDIs made in programs like FL Studio as well.

Also if you need money as a motivator to improve on anything beyond what you yourself deem as "not embarrassing", I'd consider that a flaw on the person itself and not the "field" they're in. Just because not everything gives us money to buy food and pay the bills means we shouldn't work on improving whatever skills we may have.

Originally posted by Gregor
Well if you want to get anal-retentive about it, yes, it varies. But it'll still take quite a bit of time and I don't see a lot of people picking up these skills just to improve their ROM hack.

Again, it really depends on the person, some people port, draw pixel art and code just because they find it fun or interesting.

Also, these skills do cross over to other fields:
Port composing -> general composing
ASM coding -> general coding (many people on here picked up other languages easily with help from their ASM skills)
ExGFX drawing -> general art
Level design -> general game design

It's not like all of this is exclusive to SMW and SMW only.

Originally posted by Gregor
Originally posted by Noivern
Was that really necessary? @Gregor

... was what? Saying "anal-retentive"? That's not a naughty word from what I know.

It just comes off as rude.

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HackPortsASM"Uploader"

Originally posted by lion
ASM has actually quite a lot of official and unofficial (both here and outside of SMWC) documentation, due to being one of the few programming languages in older years, heck, 65c816 ASM itself is just a fork of 6502 ASM: the language used for consoles like the NES, the Master System, computers like the Commodore 64...

I was referring to the engine. The engine we're using has no official documentation.

Originally posted by lion
Also if you need money as a motivator to improve on anything beyond what you yourself deem as "not embarrassing", I'd consider that a flaw on the person itself and not the "field" they're in. Just because not everything gives us money to buy food and pay the bills means we shouldn't work on improving whatever skills we may have.

I don't consider money as a motivator myself, but it still plays a factor. Spending years on something as hard as making a game without being able to make money off it could be demoralizing for some.

Originally posted by lion
Also, these skills do cross over to other fields:
Port composing -> general composing
ASM coding -> general coding (many people on here picked up other languages easily with help from their ASM skills)
ExGFX drawing -> general art
Level design -> general game design

It's not like all of this is exclusive to SMW and SMW only.

I didn't say it was exclusive to SMW, but I wouldn't pick them up just for SMW. If I were at the point where I was getting frustrated by my hack's lack of unique music/code to pick up the skills to rectify that, I'd just make my own thing.

Originally posted by lion
It just comes off as rude.

Does it? Wasn't aware, pretend I said picky then or something.

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Originally posted by Koopster
This is generalising it a lot, it varies from person to person. Some people are inclined enough at certain fields to catch it quicker than others.


Can confirm; since I'm mostly experienced in music stuff anyway, and naturally I do just that. I'm also very terrible at programming/art/sprite-making/level-making/whateverstuffyouguysdootherthanmusicporting, tho, so I wont have the same luck in those other fields sadly. Its a thing that comes from the person itself, yeah lol
Layout by Mathos
One reason why "Character Hacks" are not too common is because a multitude of custom player characters are not widely accepted, I've seen quite a large number of complaints of "This character plays too much like Mario". Those kinds of things can and will discourage people from attempting to make their own character. Heck, I'm pretty sure Daizo gets a number of snarky remarks because his character is "Edgy" or "Different". (Actually I would know, I talk to him almost daily)

It's one of the reasons why I went out of my way to get programmers to make unique abilities for Scorpion, the player character of Hunter and Scorpion's Bet hack which is very unnoticed. (5 back to back posts in WIP, which is why I don't post updates anymore)

This is also why I went out to teach myself how to draw original graphics fairly well. As far as ASM, Music and what not, I would look to others to provide that as they are more skilled in those areas, while I continue to hone my graphics skills for others when they need them.
Gonna be honest here.

You can use the resources here in a lot of creative ways, and if all the VLDCs haven't shown that I don't know what does.

But with some hacks it's that same Thwomp boss, that same ambient song, and that one horrible font that makes me want to gouge my eyes out.

So yeah, I agree people should be at least a bit more creative.
Originally posted by lion
You also don't really write ports in the TXT unless you're used to working with trackers (see: Sinc-X, Jimmy). You can convert MIDIs made in programs like FL Studio as well.

I wrote in the TXT before using trackers...

Originally posted by lion
...the scene doesn't seem to be interested in progressing towards more creative, experimental projects. I feel like the site's standard to hack making is the VLDC compilation hacks at this point. We're more interested in improving the collective level design standard than anything else.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not downplaying level design here. Level design is very important for a game, I just feel like we're putting too much attention on it, and not enough on the scene's general... creativity, if that makes any sense?

Really? Because if anything, I feel exactly the opposite way. I feel like making good levels (and especially ones that feel like something Nintendo would make), as well as fine-tuning their design, is far less encouraged than making ones that are unorthodox and gimmicky just for the sake of being unique. (Especially for the level design contests.)

Though yes, it does seem like it's stagnated a bit. It's been a long time since I was excited for a hack that wasn't one of Gamma V's and that I actually expect the creator to finish. It seems like there haven't been as many really useful resource releases lately either, especially where the graphics section is concerned.
I'll say what I said over some IRC earlier;
I'm not one to hope for "Mario-esque" design from hacks. I'm not trying to sound petty by saying that, but I legitimately would rather rely on Nintendo if I wanted to play something ressembling a Mario game. For a couple of reasons - because as a big company with experience in the field, they're more likely to grasp cohesive design better, sure; but my main reasoning is that they create new games instead of trying to recreate one (SMW), which is what a lot of these Mario-esque hacks seem to go for.
I was never sold on "new powerups/mechanics" to try to make it feel like a new game. As a SMW hack, it's still SMW. And if the original game is already pretty stale for me, so is something that tries to recreate it.

This is why I, as a ROM hacker, find the fun in my hobby in trying to exploit things. I do it for the "wow" factor, I make and play hacks striving and hoping for the unexpected.

No, I understand completely that some people don't feel that way. Many of you actually enjoy Mario-styled hacks, this is pretty clear just by looking at some works in progress and released stuff. I was also like this, naturally. If I'm here, it's because I also enjoyed SMW at some point and I also wanted to make SMW-like levels. But after a while, Mario style just got boring. If it wasn't for the jank and possibility of going beyond that, I'd most likely be done for a long time.


Anyway... I know quite a bunch of people also feel like this, so I don't doubt things will change in the near future :) Mario-esque stuff will always exist, but so will different stuff, I believe.

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I guess I don't really hear of or see many interesting hacks anymore, but I don't know if that has much to do with resources or just people being boring.

The VLDCs get pretty old, especially when their overworlds push the limits only to service levels with strictly limited functions. While there are always at least a few levels that surprise me, most of them are not that memorable. Proficient content with no surprise is something to be avoided, but it's always that that rises to the top of any medium.

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Very very very shortly, this drab, workaday world and everything in it will be changed forever! Follow us into the golden country, into the empire of the senseless!
I feel that a bit. I always just make kaizo hacks or levels for collabs. Maybe it's cause I'm interested in unconventional hacks (kaizo, puzzles, etc) that I don't see a problem with creativity. One thing is that really cool asm is only as good as the level design around it.

But I still see a lot of peoppe branching out. In terms of asm, Erik has been submitting lots of great sprites. Music is being made by newbies. I doubt any of those skills are gonna be lost. It's hard to be good at everything though, which is why collab hacks are great and teaming up on contests is fun. I kinda do wish I was good at asm sometimes, but I just don't feel like learning it, plus there's tons of sprites/blocks on this site that have never been used in a creative way in a hack.
I feel that sometimes, and it's not just in the hacking field. The only reason I'm still hacking is because I'm fiddling a lot with the resources we offer to be more creative, otherwise I would have given up a long time ago. People are always coming up with fresh ideas for resources over time, which has kept them here for a good while (including myself). Music, blocks, sprites, everything.
I think Gbreeze kind of nails it. I'm also more interested in unconventional hacks, but there are a lot of creative and experimental projects that stand out from the rest of the regular projects (JUMP is one of them). They show up every single time and don't even need to resemble what Nintendo would do if they made an official game. You should just think outside the box more often.

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Really, sometimes I feel that me doing ports is only because that I always had a pretty strong love for VG music, and I always loved what most people can do with actual hardware, so I thought to myself "why not do the same thing?". Its probably why I'm actually staying at this community, to learn more about music and what you can do with the SPC700, NOT for hacking (even though I always loved the idea of putting a song into a game). Besides that and the people here, there's really no reason for me to be staying here, but I am because reasons lol
Layout by Mathos
After reading the initial post and the rest of thread I agree with what's been said.

It does seem like a lot of people of comfortable making Vanilla hacks which I've always thought it fine but I do get the point of how people are starting to see hacks blend into each other.

With the posts going on about learning about making graphics and learning ASM and how it takes awhile are very true.

I've been here as of this post nearly 8 years and feel like my last big project will be a accumulation of all that I've learnt.

Some people don't have that time and keep it simple but it'd be nice to see some new trends branch out and start up.
The only reason I haven't really finished any hack that would totally give me a great sense of achievement and satisfaction both for making something I'm content with and for developing several skills at once, is that for some reason I still can't feel motivated enough to do anything creative-wise. I don't know why, but it drains me a lot and very quickly, and it's sad cuz when I do manage to do something unique I get really happy. Oh well.

I think the only field I haven't really developed in more deeply than the basics is in ASM. Even in graphics I've had some experience with custom drawings to the point I'd dare make an entire hack using original graphics, but I have to rely on others for custom ASM for now. Thankfully there's a huge huge list of things in every section that I could get hours of fun out of, I just have to see how to use them in ways not overdone to death!
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