Designing Level with Mario

Radek Koncewicz (You can read his posts here.) did a great series of blog posts, which detailed various points into what made Super Mario Bros 3 levels not only great, but also into a teaching tool for game mechanics. This not only involved positioning enemies, objects, and the environment in such a way that aid the player in doing it themselves, but also the order in which the player encounter these situations. The best example of this has to be, not only the start of the game, but the first point in Koncewicz’s post, in which the player travels forward to encounter an enemy with a few blocks overhead. A player that never played this game before, would probably try to kill, or avoid, the Goomba. This will potentially lead to the player inadvertently hitting the block, teaching the player that these blocks contain items.

This way the player is taught a very valuable mechanic, yet the game doesn’t force him nor does it just show him. The level allows the player, to learn this on their own. This trend happens throughout the entire game, not just in the first level. Such as levels that side scroll are introduced early, and are not hard. Which helps prepare the player for later in the game, when they encounter the much harder military levels. Same with the power ups, be it the long flat spot to build up the flying power after you get the leaf, then the coins right at the end that entices the players to jump and learn that they can fly. Then the Fire Flower, which is introduced in a level where most enemies are immune to it.

However, not all of Super Mario Bros 3 levels were great for just teaching. They also had unique elements that could create cases of stress or suspense, these method kept the game interesting and fresh as the player made it through the eight different worlds. Some levels were devoid of enemies, but required the player to be patient and think to bypass the obstacles and make it to the end. Other had giant fishes, or even the sun, chase you through the level until you made it to the end. Then there were even levels were normally helpful terrain, such as slopes and wooden blocks, would be used to hinder the player instead of protect or aid them.

This is the perfect version of a tutorial, no long tedious introduction to learn the controls since it is just pick up and play. There is no stopping every so many minutes for the game to let you know that you can hit blocks, or jump on enemies. Plus with the levels being open enough, players are not forced into doing these actions to get through the levels. There are a number of ways, that do not involve holding the player’s hand as they walk through the level.

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