domingo, 1 de noviembre de 2015

A Spinning World

id: A270-0000-00D5-F33D

Update: Further updates in new post: Versions 7, 8

A month ago I had what I thought was a cool, original idea. There were already many levels based around flipping the screen vertically / horizontally. Really "all" you need to do is make a warp zone that's identical to the main zone but with everything flipped. The next logical step was think of rotation instead of just flipping.  With there being four different versions of the same world, each being equal to the previous one rotated 90 degrees right. How was I going to implement it? My idea was quite clear:

So I just needed two things, the room with that pipe that rotates everything and the room with the puzzle. In reality I would need to make 4 versions of each room. The first step was to see if the rotating room is possible at all. You see, let's name the rooms for each diection A (up), B (right), C (left) and D (down). I wanted the same pipe to take you from A to B, from B to C, from C to D and from D to A.

You can place pipes on top of other pipes, even warp pipes. This seems to be an intentional move by nintendo because with this it is easy to make a situation in which entering any of two (or more) pipes takes you to the same exit pipe. Thanks to a reddit thread I found out that it works in reverse as well: If you enter a pipe that has multiple entry points, it will always pick one of them. Priority depends on the order the pipes were placed in the map. Latter tubes have more priority. So I was just adding pipes trying to keep the correct priority going and correcting when it's wrong. After half an hour, it started to seem impossible. Because it is impossible.

We have four pipes: A-B, B-C, C-D and D-A, we want B-C to have a larger priority than A-B, C-D a larger priority than B-C, D-A larger than C-D and A-B larger than D-A. This is an impossible cycle. Sorry.

The only way to fix it was to remove the cycle somehow, but I didn't want to change the original idea of having a single tube to rotate it all. Then I had a an idea: There's a room in which the pipe would appear top. We can make it so high that you cannot jump through any normal means, and need a spring. So add a whole new pipe that can only be used in the (up) room and takes you to a room that it includes a spring. When you exit this spring room, you are actually taken to a different (but identical-looking) version of (up): (up').

So now there is an up area A, and another up area A', an spring area called E. We have pipes like A'-B, B-C, C-D, D-A, A-E, A'-E, and there's no cycle. There's a bit of a problem and it is that now there's a whole new room to complicate the original idea, and worse, you need to go through it every time you want to change the gravity direction once you are top.

Another issue is that this would make me run out of warp pipes quite quickly. Remember I need one from start to rotation room and 4 pipes between rotation room and puzzle room, on top of all those pipes mentioned above. The warp pipe limit is 10. I fixed this by making it so the puzzle room can't be accessed when the world direction is right.  Also the exit would have to be directly connected to the puzzle room.

But at least the rotation was working, I was truly excited and proceeded to think of the puzzle. It would have three version: Up, Down and Left. It makes sense that Left is the one that takes you to the exit.

Spoilers (Although this is an old version, the new version has a different puzzle area but the idea is roughly the same).

  • The "left" area is connected to the exit but you need a Rakoon Suit to fly that large gap.
  • This quite works well because if we rotate this, then the exit would be unreachable or be part of a deadly free fall.
  • The four question blocks contain raccoon leaves, the only way to get them is jumping against them. This needs you to use a P to turn the coins into blocks and to be able to stand on them. This means that to get the raccoon leaf, you need the direction to be (up) and an active P switch.
  • The only way (I thought) to activate the P switch is when the direction is (down), so you have to activate the switch and then go to the rotating room until you reach the (up) direction. Since this (unfortunately) requires the spring room and it would take too much time, this is the reason the spring room has a P switch that you can only active when you enter it while another P is active.
I was quite proud of this, so I published it. I tried to get some plays going, the first versions had too low success rates and many crosses in the rotating area, so I reduced the number of enemies. These are screenshots of the fourth edition, things like there being 4 question blocks instead of just one came from attempts to make the level more friendly.

I published it to /r/MarioMaker.  I tried to get streamers to play it. I passed it around a bit. I thought this idea was very original and that people would love it. The results, however, were ... underwhelming.


More Work

To be fair, 11 stars is not that bad. Most of my levels stay in one-digit star amounts. But as the time passed I found multiple people who implemented the rotation idea in more successful ways: Like /u/saintlantis and /u/GamingfulLuke . Their levels got like hundreds of stars. I can only dream of ever making such a good level. But what I take from all of this is that this old "Rotation Warp" idea needed more work. In Level design, it's not enough to have a nice idea and know how to implement it.

Where to start in updating this level? By coincidence I saw the same streamers (supertwou) play both my level and saintlantis'. The biggest impression I could get was that it was far easier to tell that their level is about rotation. It helps that the rotation does not only happen in a small room, it's clearer that all of the map rotates. I cannot really change the idea of the level too much (Or I would be making a whole new level instead of modifying it), I still need to keep a single room for rotation. But I can still improve the situation a bit.

This is the new rotation room. I hope the extra asymmetry can help.

I also further reduced the number of enemies, only two of them now. Let the difficulty come from noticing that the thing rotates.

I am willing to bet the spring room is one of the reasons the previous version was too confusing. We need the spring room to exist, but I reduced the number of times you need to go to it. I moved the spring room to the (right) room. This way the only reason to use the spring is to use the rotation pipe, as there is no puzzle area in the right room, you don't need the spring to get to any of the puzzle areas.

Another very subtle thing is that the arrows in the rotation room pointed to the opposite direction than their respective puzzle rooms. I fixed this :)

I changed the special effect that plays whenever you use the rotation pipe. I used to use the telephone effect, but it shows graphics in random places of the string. Instead the Car Horn effect shows a flower circle in the pipe.

I also made plenty of changes to the puzzle area:

I added an arrow right next to the pipe. This should help notice that direction is important. The actual puzzle area looks very different too. Spoiler: I don't want to spoil things too much but here are some details:
  •  Having the additional P switch in the spring room was giving too much importance to that room, which should really be just an additional step in changing one of the directions. So now you need to activate the P (without taking it out of the puzzle area) rotate the map correctly and go back to the puzzle area before the P activation runs out.
  • So there are only two ways to activate the P, you cannot activate the P in the (up) version because it can't be reached. You can activate the P in the (left) version, but you get stuck (a plant will rescue you, but the plant only activates AFTER the P runs out). So you need to activate the P in the (down) room.
  • There are many reasons I changed the rows of coins into that device. The first is that coins were just confusing, people would think that they have to eat them and could fall down. Also, if you eat them, why would they come back when rotating the level? Keeping coins and blocks inside an isolated area helps against this confusion. It should be both clearer and more interesting to see how gravity direction affects the shell device. (I hope).
  • There is also a bit of a safeguard in case you decide to leap of faith in the (down) version of the room. An extra chance to retract and go back to safety (that question mark spawns a vine).

Thanks for reading (I'd be really surprised if anyone actually found this interesting). I hope the new version works out!