Absolutely nobody asked my opinion on this, so of course I’m giving it. Here are some rules I’d like to see enforced for Super RMN Bros. II, which the guys are supposed to be kicking up later this summer.
For the hub world:
- Two mushrooms within one screens of every level entrance. (Players can do this anyway if they feel like running half-a-world away and returning; might as well make it easier for them. Easy access to power-ups in the hub would discourage kaizo-style “challenges” in the levels.)
- Nothing overtly lethal. Anywhere. (It doesn’t have to be impossible for the player to die in the hub, but they should have to try really really hard to accomplish it. Dying in the hub should be funny, not annoying.)
- The entrance to World 1 should be immediately visible and reachable from the entrance to the hub. (The player should not have to go hunting to find the easy levels.)
- 50% of the total available stars, plus at least one star in each world, should be required before unlocking the next world. (Helps maintain a linear progression of challenge, and helps the player better learn the layout of the hub world.)
Rules for levels, which also apply to the hub:
- Water and waterfalls should both be unilaterally swimmable. (Surely this is a Mario axiom. Players should not have to forget rules they already know in order to play.)
- It should be possible to finish a level without taking a hit. (Combined with Hub Rule #1, this makes it impossible to design a kaizo-style level where the player is expected to remain small throughout.)
- Every level requires a working checkpoint, no matter how small. (Prevents designers from falling into the “my level is only six screens, it doesn’t need a checkpoint” trap.)
- Levels with unconventional goals should keep a visual display of goals cleared, and should remember state when reloading from a checkpoint. (If you find six red coins and flip two switches, then touch a checkpoint, then die, you should not have to re-collect those six red coins and re-flip those two switches.)
- Homing koopas are disallowed. (No koopa in any Mario game has ever acted the way the homing koopas in RMN Bros. do. If your level must have a homing enemy, use a Phanto. Match the enemy sprite with the player’s expectations of how that enemy is likely to act!)
- One Lakitu per level. (For some reason Lakitus are stone cold bastards. They’re fast, hard to kill, launch totally unpredictable projectiles and cannot be shaken no matter how far you run. No level needs two of these.)
- Connected pipes require a camera pan. (If a pipe is going to take me to a new location on the same map, the camera should scroll along the pipe to show me how I am traveling. If it’s not possible to see how two ends of a pipe are connected the technique is being misused.)
- Difficulty should be assigned as an aggregate of all test players, rather than being assigned to one’s own level. (It is not possible for a designer to accurately gauge the difficulty of his own level.)
I could probably think of more if I kept going, but honestly, these are the basics, folks. If you’re going to work with a Mario toolset, make a Mario game. If you don’t want to make a Mario game, don’t use Mario. It really is that simple. Too many of the guys who worked on RMN Bros. tried to apply logic and ideas to Mario that simply don’t fit within the spirit of any Mario game I’ve played.