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I think you guys will enjoy this video: "Super Mario 3D World's 4-Step Level Design"

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Posted: 03/17/15, 01:18:05  - Edited by 
 on: 03/16/18, 14:53:45
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Awesome Vid! This is why Galaxy 2 is considered the better game (as compared to 1) by many...

Donkey Kong Returns (and TP) also has great level design - but you can tell it's a different style then 3D world
Posted: 03/17/15, 02:41:06
I never really picked up on that design, even though my brain probably did. It makes a lot of sense, though I don't have anything against a hodgepodge of ideas being thrown at a player in a single level either.
Posted: 03/17/15, 02:48:44
I've been thinking about this type of design a lot actually, because I have a game that has about 10 stages planned, 3-4 minutes per stage, and a good 5-10 new things (concepts, platform / enemy / types, etc.) introduced each stage. If I pull this off it will basically be constantly full of new elements, and I don't want a million tutorials, so I need to introduce it all dynamically like the Mario games do it. It'll be a challenge for sure.
Posted: 03/17/15, 04:41:28
Um, that's awesome.
Posted: 03/17/15, 05:37:30
Cool but really, this guy's videos don't really say much one couldn't figure out on their own...

Get the feeling he's gonna get a ton of credit for his vids when he's sort of stating the obvious.

And his HL2 one rubs me very wrong when he implies Dead Space holds your hand because it feels the need to explain the core game mechanic (which is a huge departure from other games) a few times at the beginning of the game. Most of them are in world, which is what he praises HL2 for, even though HL2 has on screen prompts as well :/ And how is HL2 showing you how to do physics stuff not an obvious tutorial? That video is way too contradictory.

The video about adaptive music also seemingly puts down Dead Space for merely speeding up the music and such, implying it's less creative than the way other games did it.

The video this thread is about is pretty good, but again nothing really mind blowing. I expected more (saw it posted on GAF first and based on the reactions and descriptions I expected some mind bending game design explanations. I've seen a much more detailed one explaining how SMW's camera works).
Posted: 03/17/15, 10:52:47  - Edited by 
 on: 03/17/15, 10:56:41
That was quite illuminating.

There's something to be said for both the Galaxy 1 and the "3D" approach.
I feel like Galaxy 2 was a lovely hybrid of both philosophies - the organic sense of wonder and place of Galaxy 1, and the tight level design of 3D world. I would love for Nintendo to develop a separate series that expands on Galaxy 1 and Mario 64 - the platform adventure. They have an abundance of tightly designed 3D and 2D platform games, but haven't really pursued the adventure aspect as much.
Posted: 03/17/15, 21:26:05
@carlosrox Well, he isn't really saying anything mind-blowing. I mean, I already kind of on my own figured out something similar to this 4 step thing, except my theory is more just the first 3 steps... I don't have any "final challenge" like the goal post stuff.

Nintendo, however, are brilliant at IMPLEMENTING their theories. Something that many developers are not. I... am not. Definitely a goal of mine though.
Posted: 03/19/15, 03:13:09
Yeah, the Galaxy and 3D Land/World games do a good job of having each level have some sort of "hook" like this, and introducing it in a gradual way to the player.

DKCR and Tropical Freeze also implement this level of design. In fact, they ultimately take it to more extremes and higher difficulties. Whether that's a better way to do it or not is up to personal preference, I suppose.
Posted: 03/19/15, 03:20:40
Interesting stuff. 3D World is awesome. Consistently fun and very elegantly designed. I prefer it to Galaxy by quite a margin.
Posted: 03/21/15, 06:14:13  - Edited by 
 on: 03/21/15, 06:14:32
Pretty good video. I agree with Carlos that much of this is obvious simply by playing 3D World, though I admit it was enlightening to hear how the level design was influenced by Japanese poetry and stuff. Never heard that before. It does make me wonder what the real numbers are - how many levels adhere to this 4-step approach.

Here's the thing, though. This guy seems like yet another of this new breed of media critics who identify a formula and then prosecute a work of art based on how well it adheres to that formula. Which I find absolutely irritating. It's what drove me crazy about Extra Credits videos and what drives me nuts about many Red Letter Media movie reviews - they seem to exalt some arcane Theory of X over whatever else the work may be trying to do. And that's just stiflingly academic. Narrow-minded, even.

For instance, in regards to Galaxy vs. 3D World, I would say there are good arguments for both. He's right that an organic "tutorial" is better than word balloons, for instance. But does that mean every level needs to adhere to this 4 step formula, though? There's a great English word for that, "formulaic", and it doesn't have good connotations.

He also seems to criticize Galaxy for its randomness, which is a complaint I've never heard anyone make before. To me, Galaxy wasn't only made for newcomers who need their hands held at every step. There are millions of gamers who already play and already love 3D platformers. Mario doesn't have to ignore those gamers, who may be up for having new challenges thrown at them, just to be sure that new gamers won't be surprised by flip platforms. I know I appreciated that about Galaxy - it felt like it could go anywhere at any moment. If anything, this underlines my feeling that 3D World started to feel pretty safe and samey throughout. (Though I should mention again that I like 3D World quite a bit anyway.)

In fairness, I don't think this was a bad video and it's mostly more informative than persuasive. I don't want to sound like I'm being overly defensive of Galaxy just because I prefer it to 3D World. But I do encourage everyone to look for these formula-based critics. They have their place, but I don't feel they should get to set the rules by which we evaluate the quality of things.
Posted: 03/21/15, 15:14:43

Good post! For Red Letter Media, are you referring more to their Star Wars reviews, or other films covered in Half in the Bag (etc)? They do like the whole narrative of "hero rises from humble origins, gains friends, reaches lowest point, saves the day," although I think their Star Wars reviews make a lot of good points without delving into a sort of boiled-down film "recipe" that much.
Posted: 03/21/15, 15:58:00

I do think the Red Letter Media guys are smart and insightful much of the time. You're probably better versed in their approach than I am, since you've said you are a fan. I was referring both to the Star Wars reviews, where I first noticed this trend from them, and then particularly the Half in the Bag takedown of Boyhood, which largely boiled down to "this movie isn't structured like a normal movie therefore it's crap". They make other cogent points about flaws in that movie, but it seemed to me that Boyhood's divergence from typical structures is what stuck most in their craw. One of the guys was just outright dismissive, as if liking that movie was a sign of insanity. I'm trying to remember, but I think at one point one of the guys says, "You know what I like? A story." As if a penetrating character study is just out of bounds and grounds for automatic dismissal.

As for the Star Wars review, I'd have to rewatch it to put together a case. It seemed to occur multiple times throughout. But I remember, for instance, that Plinkett makes a big deal about there being too many things happening at once during the climax, and alludes to there being narrative rules being broken by that. Now, too much going on in that climax may be a fair criticism of that particular film. But let's not act, as he does, that there's some cardinal rule that says you can't have 5 things going on at once in a narrative. Read War and Peace. Watch several famous heist movies. You can absolutely intercut between 5 different scenes and still have a successful film. Phantom Menace's problem isn't that it tried to do too much, it's that it tried to do too much with characters and situations no one really cared about. And I suspect Plinkett knows that's the core problem, but there's still this call out to formulas of narrative, anyway. Mostly because he's actually just making a case that George Lucas is a lucky idiot who doesn't know the basics of telling a story. Which is ironic coming from a guy who talks about the Hero's Journey all the time, which was Lucas's bible on Star Wars.

Having gone through college and hung out with academics, I think there's this need some people have to add academic heft to their arguments. You can't just say, "This doesn't work because nobody likes Jar Jar or Anakin at this point." That's just an opinion and can be easily dismissed. "Hey! I do like Jar Jar, therefore, opinion invalid. Good day sir!" Instead you have to say, "This breaks the Rule of 3 set down by Stanley Eliot in his seminal work, "The Reader's Objective Correlative Response" in 1926, which codified the rules of story structure, and of which you should be familiar." Of course it's still just opinion, but this makes it look like there are scientific formulas that should govern our opinions. Which is good if you're an academic trying to make a name for himself (or herself). Not really useful if you're a thinking, feeling person who just wants to explain his emotional reaction to art, though. Emotions are frustratingly non-formulaic.

Extra Credits was worse, partly because they're working in a field that hasn't had the depth of academic study novels and films have had - so there's not even an academic consensus on the things they said were true about game structure - and partly because they cranked out, like, one of these a week for a while there.
Posted: 03/21/15, 16:54:33  - Edited by 
 on: 03/21/15, 17:04:00

I wonder if that push towards formulas comes from a desire to make one's argument more intellectual, or if it's just a human tendency. I think the human mind tends to attach to formulas and numbers over more qualitative evaluations by default. I guess, consciously or subconsciously, using a formula or statistic makes the argument appear more valid. Also, structured formulas and equations are consistent, which is something that humans are naturally inclined towards. It gives people something to point towards as an unchanging ideal instead of pragmatically evaluating a given film on its own terms.

I say this as someone who has never seen anything by Red Letter Media and is by no means trying to defend them. I'd very much like to hear what you have to say about Extra Credits as well, as I haven't picked up on them doing the same thing.
Posted: 03/21/15, 17:48:29

I dunno. Human brains seem more chaotic, to me. I would be more inclined to say that the human mind avoids numbers and formulas, whenever possible, which is why those things have to be taught. We may respond to patterns, of course, but in a more subliminal way.

As for Extra Credits, I'd have to go back and watch some of those videos and point out what I'm talking about. I recall they were fairly consistent in decreeing things good or bad based on whatever rule they laid down for that episode, but I don't have concrete examples because I haven't looked at one in like 3 years. I'm sure there's an old tirade or two around Negative World. I'll go looking for one.

EDIT: Kal and I lay out the case against Extra Credits pretty well, here. It's not entirely about formulas or whatever, but you can kind of see where we were coming from. It also comes from a time when I actually had time to think about video game culture and make cogent points.

Back when I was actually a worthwhile poster around here.

EDIT EDIT: It's funny, if you search "Extra Credits" you can go back in time and watch me alternately agree with and then piss and moan about Extra Credits.
Posted: 03/21/15, 18:22:59  - Edited by 
 on: 03/21/15, 18:53:08
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