RMN Bros. 2 is Awful

I spent a great deal of time this weekend playing through RMN Bros. 2, the sequel to the ill-conceived Super RMN Bros. It is very very bad, and you should not play it. It’s not worth the $0.00 you would spend.

I tried to get involved in this project early on as a kind of Jiminy Cricket. My LP of the first RMN Bros. got the RMN guys to make a lot of noise about how they wanted the sequel to be bigger, better and more playable. At the time the TT guys were putting together their Mario game by way of an intense and often heated peer-review process. I thought for sure the RMN guys, who already had set “make Brickroad happy” as one of their design goals, would be receptive to me stepping in and offering the same cycle of criticism and feedback that was already working at another forum.

I guess I should have known better.

I got through to a few of them. Some of the guys really did go back and try to fix their levels, and others really did try to pick apart the levels of others. A few levels were improved. For the most part, though, criticism was met with resistance and/or hotility. The general consensus was these are our levels dammit and if you didn’t like it, you could just take a hike.

So I bailed on RMN Bros. 2 and focused my energy on TT Bros. instead. This was months and months ago.

Yesterday I signed into RMN and told them they had made shit. That prompted responses along the lines of “why not tell us why it’s shit, then?”, as though I had never been there in the first place trying to help them fix things.

And that’s the double-edged sword here. I can’t just say “it’s shit!” because that sounds dismissive, and it is. They can safely ignore that kind of feedback. But I can’t go through and do a point-by-point breakdown of the game either, because that would take forever. I don’t have the time or energy for that, even if I were at all convinced that just maybe this time they would magically listen.

So I’m doing the next best thing: I’m warning everyone else. Stay away from RMN Bros. 2. Do not play it. Here, offered with only mild commentary, are a few screenshots I grabbed showing off the utterly anemic sense of game design that went into this project.

These shots are not cherry-picked. They are absolutely representative of the entire game as a whole. Virtually every single level exhibits these kinds of errors.

Broken-ass mushroom house.

Here’s a mushroom house. These are strewn around the overworld map. The toad inside gives Mario a helpful tip about playing the game, then leaves him a power-up. Note how the toad is standing on a ledge just barely too tall for Mario to jump to. There is just barely enough room in the toad house to get enough speed and make it on top of the block. Accomplishing this task always took me several tries.

rmnb2_02

Here’s a mid-stage checkpoint sitting on top of destructable blocks in an area of a stage that spawns bob-ombs. Also note: the tunnel is so narrow that if a bob-omb were to break more than a couple blocks there would be no way to jump over the gap.

Broken-ass slide.

Here’s a level with a green, grassy slide. The slide has some goombas on it, captured here in hilarious mid-death. Every Mario player knows what to do in this situation: slide down the hill and kill the goombas! Except if you do that, you ramp off the edge of the slide, sail over the springboard, and land right in the pit. The only way to safely hit the springboard is to jump over the slide or the goombas — thereby eliminating the point of having it there in the first place.

Broken-ass elevator.

Here’s an elevator you have to ride up through a spike-lined shaft. You may remember this scene from I Wanna Be The Guy. The difference is, in IWBTG you only have to dodge three or four spikes in a row before reaching a checkpoint. Here, you have to dodge about twelve in a row.

Broken-ass spike wall.

It looks like I’m carrying a huge shell here, but I’m not. That’s Ludwig, a boss monster that rapidly launches fireballs and zips around the room. He’s usually not that hard to kill because the room he appears in tends to be a full screen long. Here, you have to fight him in a cramped space with some blue ?-blocks. If you hit one of the blocks, the spiked wall chases you and Ludwig into the quicksand. Essentially an insta-death.

Broken-ass thwomps.

Here are some thwomps in a vertically-panning level. Climbing this staircase, it’s impossible to see the off-screen thwomps until you’ve already landed on a platform and one has dropped on top of you.

Broken-ass tutorials.

Here’s a “tell, not show” tutorial about how to break blocks with turtle shells — in World 7.

Broken-ass waterfall.

Here’s a rather clever level! The Birdo fires egg platforms which you have to catch a ride on in order to cross the long watery pit below. Can you guess what happens if you reach this part of the stage and then kill Birdo with the provided mushroom blocks?

Broken-ass everything.

Finally, here’s the broken-ass bouncy level I tried desperately to fix during the early days of the project.

I will provide an in-depth analysis on that last level, because I’ve already done so once, and because it illustrates so clearly why the RMN mindset will never produce a quality game. The idea for this level is sound: it’s entirely coated in bouncy blocks. It’s full of bouncing goombas, sawblades, piranha plants and bullet bills. And it auto-scrolls, so you can’t complete it too quickly or too slowly. There is a truly wonderful stage in here somewhere. There is definitely a place for a level like this in any Mario game you care to name. The author just didn’t get it right on his first try.

The stage is very, very long. It uses this music, and if you go through the whole level avoiding P-switches you will hear it loop through three or four times. The stage is at least four times as long as it probably needs to be, which is a problem for two reasons: first, the gimmick isn’t fun enough to sustain that long of a stage. The player will be done bouncing long before the level is over. And second, because the level autoscrolls, if the player gets to the 80% mark and then dies, he has to play the first 80% all over again.

My solution, during development, was to add a checkpoint halfway through the level. Unfortunately there are technical reasons why the level editor couldn’t do that. Trying to think of other ways to fix the level, a few easy solutions sprang to mind:

  1. It could be shortened.
  2. It could be set to not scroll automatically.
  3. It could be split into two distinct levels.
  4. It could be made easier, by shortening gaps and removing some enemies.

I should point out that all three of these ideas were things that actually happened in levels over at Talking Time. I know for a fact they could have worked to fix this bouncy RMN level.

But the author was simply not hearing it. He became so discouraged that he decided to just pull the level entirely from the project, since obviously it sucked and wasn’t worth playing. But that’s not what I was saying! I wanted it fixed, not destroyed. In his mind, though, there were only two options: the original, un-altered level which perfectly reflected his vision, or no level at all.

Of course, after I shied away from the project and there was no one around to tell the guy how broken his level was, he plugged it back in. The version in the final product is the original, first draft, un-edited and un-altered version that existed back in the first few days of the project’s development.

Why is TT Bros. awesome? The TT guys are not smarter than the RMN guys. They are not professional game designers. They are not more talented. I’m not even convinced most of them think about game design at all, except on the very superficial level of “am I enjoying this?” And there were certainly a lot of TT guys who felt like their personal vision was more important than whether or not the player was having fun.

The difference between the two groups is that one adopted a process by which levels were rigorously playtested, reviewed and criticized. They were willing to make changes. Sometimes desperate, sweeping changes. A few of them had to abandon their ideas entirely when it was shown they couldn’t work, or at least couldn’t work in the current state of the editor. There were hurt feelings. There were shouting matches. Levels, or sections of levels, were re-made and re-done.

If you scroll down through the TT Bros. Wiki, you will see an archive of all the levels at various stages of development. Some were sent back to the drawing board as many as seven times.

Is it any wonder their game was so much better than RMN’s?

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28 comments to RMN Bros. 2 is Awful

  • It’s a damned embarrassment that a community of people trying to already design games could not work together something even as fractionally good at super TT Bros. I think, in a lot of ways, it’s TT forced a lack of ego. No one was a designer so everyone was more willing, on average, to accept criticism. Seems on RMN, folks thought their opinions and work was sacred for some god awful reason. That is totally backward and in contrast to what a designer should be. I had IWBTG rigorously playtested to fix things that were deemed too unfair and make sure the game remained humorous and fun. I didn’t think “OH THIS IS ALL PERFECT AND I WILL ONLY GIVE YOU MY PURE, UNALTERED VISION”. That’s arrogance and almost entirely dictates that you will only ever produce crap.

    When it comes to game design, check your ego at the door. I was pretty humble when I submitted my levels for the expansion and I’ll humble still as I submit more, as that is what generates the best experience for the player.

  • Garrison

    Amen. I’m pretty open to flawed games and I made an effort to play through the original RMN Bros back when you started your LP, but I actually quit and deleted this thing after World 3. The exact same kind of thing you see polluting the romhacking community is at play here, only without the savestate function that those atrocities are built around. The saddest part is that RMN actually managed to pump out a few good ideas, if not good levels. The whole project is a real shame.

  • Desmo360

    I must agree that a lot of what you said is true, but you must understand that THIS ISN’T THE FINAL PRODUCT. This is Shortstar’s version, where Shortstar didn’t cut any levels and actually changed most of them. The official version should be much better if GRS isn’t too discouraged to finish it.

  • Some RMN dude

    I agree with part with this. Some of the examples listed below a few screenshots are not game breaking at all and pretty farfetch’d.

    If you pick all the worst parts about RMN Bros 2 and talk about the ones who “couldn’t accept criticism”, this is what you get. Not to mention that the only currently existing version of RMNB2 was NOT made by the event organizer and therefore doesn’t necessarily reflect the final list of approved levels. This is simply a compilation of levels that was assembled while we wait for GreatRedSpirit to make an official version(which has taken far too long).

    If it were me running the event I would have been very strict on what levels actually made it into the final version. There were a lot of terrible Mario level makers who took part in the event and the majority of the negative feedback I’ve seen is aimed at them. If the bad levels were cut/altered then you would see a decent RMNB2. I’ve played most of the levels individually and there is a good game here, it’s just overshadowed by the lands of shit.

    So while Brickroad is not wrong in what he is saying, just remember it isn’t the whole story. There was plenty of peer judging, testing, and improvments made. Don’t look at all of the participants of RMNB2 in this light.

    • Brickroad

      If the “for real” game is actually improved, I promise I will eat my words. I won’t hold my breath, though. Unless you guys go back to square one and really tear into each other, there’s no way this project will ever be good.

  • From the looks of it, the “truly wonderful stage” in there appears to be 9-8 from New Super Mario Bros. Wii, of which it appears to be a blatant ripoff.

    • kentona

      Well, duh.

      Anywho, I tried to put a checkpoint in the level, and then I tried fixing it up (it is this tweaked version that made it into the game, with 50% speed “Bonzai” Bills). When the fixed up version was rejected, I pulled the level out of the game, since I felt that the gimmick (or at least my implementation of it) was not salvageable. A while later I let myself become convinced by a few others that played it that it was decent enough, so I re-added it. I see now that it was a mistake – I should have just left it out.

      Please don’t take my crippling low self-esteem as arrogance.

    • kentona

      Well, duh.

      Anywho, I tried to put a checkpoint in the level, and then I tried fixing it up (it is this tweaked version that made it into the game, with 50% speed “Bonzai” Bills). When the fixed up version was rejected, I pulled the level out of the game, since I felt that the gimmick (or at least my implementation of it) was not salvageable. A while later I let myself become convinced by a few others that played it that it was decent enough, so I re-added it. I see now that it was a mistake – I should have just left it out.

      Please don’t take my crippling low self-esteem as arrogance.

      • Brickroad

        No, kentona, you should not have left it out. You should have fixed it. That might mean sending it back to the canvas five or six times.

        That is the whole point here!

      • Dude. Duuuuuude. DUDE. This is so wrong! It’s so wrong I want to cry for you!

        The great works in this world were not made but some class of smart, clever, beautiful and infallible people. It is rarely — virtually never done by people so phenomenally gifted that they do not make mistakes and that their works, uneditted, uncriticized and unrevised, are intrinsically great. That is fucking bullshit.

        The amazing things we enjoy are made by flawed, fallible people. They are made through hard work, failure, criticism — but external and internal — and revision. Do NOT act like a few mistakes equals an unsalvageable failure! If not for the innocent naivety of that belief, it could be construed as offense to those of us who do this all the time. You did not fail nor should you feel bad that your level was subject to criticism. Easier said then done, I KNOW, but if you want to make wonderful things, you don’t have to be some paragon of man, you just have to have a spine, some patience and a little faith that what you hold right now can be made better! Some people can get things right in fewer attempts on average and thats great, but it is the end result that matters.

        Buck up, son, and revise that level. Even if it STILL fails and it NEVER works, the lessons you learn from the attempt will help you make things in the future.

  • Craze

    Trying to make RMN a better place is difficult. They are the most stubborn, elitist and rude stone age cavemen (re: rm2k3-using cavemen) I know. Unfortunately, the forums are matched up with a really great game profile system that WIP developed. RMN is terrific for hosting and updating your amateur (and hopefully, eventually, indie) game, if you can deal with a bunch of snots.

    There are good, industrious and clever people at RMN. There are people looking to enhance their skills and receive criticism. They’re just not the majority. I respect the good, and beat up the bad.

    WIP recently threatened to pull the plug and destroy RMN. I argued with him for a long time about it, and RMN was saved. I do believe that I did admit that I could live without the forums at least once, however. There ARE good people at RMN, and there ARE good projects being worked on… they just get lost in the mess of ego and stupidity.

    I’m very glad that you made this blog post, Brick.

    • Deckiller

      Elitism and rude people aside, I do feel that if people have fun making games with 2k and 2k3, then they should feel no pressure to change makers. Of course, eventually it’s a good idea to branch out and expand, but for me I already have a lot of stress from full-time work and school, and don’t really want to learn a new maker until projects are completed.

      Now, if I had started Rpg Makering 5-6 years ago, I would be using XP/VX by now for sure. I just happened to fall into the older makers and would like to finish my current projects before moving on ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Robert Holbert

    “There are good, industrious and clever people at RMN. There are people looking to enhance their skills and receive criticism. Theyโ€™re just not the majority. I respect the good, and beat up the bad.”

    Craze, I would disagree with that statement. I think most of the RMN folks are good, industrious, and clever. The real problem is that they’re often the silent majority and get drowned out by some very vocal members who also happen to be stubborn and obnoxious. One of the things that surprised me most going through the database now is how the site discussion has shifted from the forums to gameprofiles — there are a lot of gems there that are virtual unknowns on the forum.

    • Craze

      Holb, I’m talking primarily about the forums – game profiles are generally pretty good! However, forums are where people can (hopefully, should be able to) meet to discuss broader topics in terms of game design and development. Just because there are some great folks and projects doesn’t mean that the community itself is healthy.

    • Deckiller

      I love the RMN community – I’ve had far more positive experiences than negative. Many of us have our stubborn streaks (though I almost always try to find middle ground and make changes when receiving feedback), and I do think projects can fall through the cracks.

    • Brickroad

      Wasn’t that one of WIP’s goals in designing the site? Moving focus away from the forums and onto games and other projects? Because I’d say he succeeded in that for the most part — at least to a greater degree as any RM site previously.

      • Craze

        It was, yes. But if the forums exist, and they’re a problem, then it hurts the site as a whole.

        Holb could just ban a few folks, but that’s his decision (and I don’t want to be banned).

  • Solitayre

    I love how RMN drama isn’t even confined to RMN anymore.

  • Kentona

    I agree Solitayre. Plus a good way to get visitors is to insult something and pick it apart. Like an article about the most overrated games, wrestlers or athletes.

    @Desmo: I blame short star for slightly editing levels because he was bored and didn’t want to wait 3 months to play the game. GRS will save it by not modifying the levels huzzah!

    Mario sucks anyway. Its an overrated game we all grew up on. Saying this level pack sucks or that level pack sucks is irrelevant when Nintendo made the best damn levels there can ever be.

    I’m just stirrin’ the pot.

    • The best way to also understand or improve something is to pick it apart and scrutinize it. That is how you prune the tree of ideas and promote healthy growth.

      ๐Ÿ™‚ Like a bonsai.

    • kentona

      who is this Kentona?

      I love Mario games and I am in the midst of making 2 more games with other people. If anyone knows me I also love to emulate or recreate the games I loved as a kid.

      (in case it wasn’t clear, I did not post with the alias Kentona.)

  • Desmo360

    I think this page has got us back on our toes at RMN. We’ve turned the project around and we are working as a team again to save this project.

  • Minus

    Seems that your rant had quite an effect on the project, Brickroad.

    http://rpgmaker.net/games/2975/blog/4616/
    http://rpgmaker.net/games/2975/blog/4625/
    http://rpgmaker.net/games/2975/blog/4638/

    I never thought I’d say this to anyone, but thank you for criticizing the hell outta us. It seems to be just what we needed.

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