Rules for RMN Bros. II

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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.)
  4. 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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.)
  5. 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!)
  6. 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.)
  7. 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.)
  8. 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.

11 comments to Rules for RMN Bros. II

  • Nicola Nomali

    The homing Koopa would be okay with me if all blue-shelled Koopas behaved that way across all stages, which they currently don’t. Alternately, if they used Phanto, you wouldn’t know you could beat it by hopping on it. The obvious solution is to make a Phanto Koopa.

  • Nicola Nomali

    Oh, and SMB1 does have bottomless water pits. But that’s SMB1 with a 1.

  • Amen. I’m enjoying the hell out of watching your playthrough, but some of the design philosophy (or lack there of) is unbelievable. And oh god, that red coin level. You poor, poor man.

  • Games like Kaizo Mario and I Wanna Be The Guy are horrible. The reason for this is that there is too much of a punishment on dying. Think of it this way, in Meat Boy when you die you almost instantly respawn for another go. In these games the punishments are waiting 10 seconds (the seconds add up, people) and having to replay an area you can already do. This isn’t fun, or even hard, it’s just tedious. Having challenges in a Mario game is fine, great even, but when it comes to an endurance round the challenges should be toned down to compensate for the punishment being too harsh. It’s basic game design!

    • Brickroad

      If Meat Boy is the game I’m thinking of (Flash game where you play a little square of beef?), I quit playing it because the controls were so sloppy. I felt like I kept giving the game the right input, and in return the game kept giving me a messy splatter. Which is funny the first time it happens, not so much the 300th time.

      I don’t like I Wanna Be The Guy either, but the controls are solid and it’s very clear what kind of game you’re getting into. If Kayin would just go in and fix that lousy double-jump bug I might even sink some time into playing it! (But probably not.)

      • Yeah, that’s meat boy. The controls are a bit slippery, which is why I was put off by it as well. BUT, it is a perfect example on what to do if you want to make a difficult game. Short levels, quick respawn, difficult gameplay. Sadly, controls have to be tight in this fast paced type of challenge.

        Battle Kid for the NES is leagues better than IWBTG since it has way more checkpoints and toned down difficulty (since you have to replay parts in between). There has to be some kind of balance between difficulty and punishing the player for dying, and Battle Kid barely hits the dartboard.

        Think to yourself now, would Super RMN Bros. levels be a fair challenge if you respawned at the level start/checkpoint instantly (instead of having to exit the level pipe, go back into the level pipe, THEN have to replay the area)? I believe so. The developers clearly missed the mark on how to make a Mario game difficult and fun at the same time.

        • Brickroad

          I think instantly respawning at the level start/checkpoint would be a bad idea, because this is a Mario game, so if you can’t win at one level you should have the option of going to a different level instead. At the same time, though, most of the levels don’t have checkpoints at all. So they kind of muffed it up from both angles!

  • GreatRedSpirit

    Alright, reponses!

    #1) I eventually figured this out (World 8 has the respawning mushroom. Good thing mushrooms touching lava crashes the game post-1.2 beta4!) and I totally agree. Two mushrooms means both players can be big.
    #2) I think a better way of putting it is “Don’t make the hub world a giant fuck off level”. Agreeing here, even if I use enemies as ways to access secrets.
    #3) I agree that W1 should be very close (and not expect players to do things like talk to the friendly toads to push them in the right direction v:v:v ) but I’d take faster avenues of transportation to be closer. When the player starts it’s always in the same place. If you quit in World 7 you’d have to get back there and there should be a quick path there from where the player starts.
    #4) Star limits were discussed and turned down. This way players could do any level they wanted. A better designed hub could guide players from W1 to W8 and back if they go too far ahead and find themselves in trouble. I think the idea does have merit though but I’m thinking more along the lines of “seal shortcuts until the player gets a W1 star” for the five seconds of thought I gave that idea.

    I think the biggest flaw of the hub world is that it is a game level first and then a hub world. It’s more like something pulled from an exploration-based game than a hub world for a bunch of platformer levels. It’s trying too hard to be something it shouldn’t be with the overall design and world placement, the far too many alternate paths between worlds, and then there was the second part of the hub world where W8 and the extra power ups were stashed. It was too much and too complicated for what is essentially a playable menu screen. A world map would’ve been a better choice for selecting levels.

    #1) You also couldn’t swim up Doki Doki Panic SMB2 waterfalls! Hell the only Mario Bros. game where you could swim up waterfalls was SMB3, but I don’t think there were Waterfalls in SMW or NSMB(W). I don’t think not swimming up waterfalls is a huge stretch since it only happens in one Mario game (correct me if I’m wrong), but I agree that if it is water, you can swim in it!
    #2) Agreed, but I don’t remember this being an issue in RMN Bros. A lack of power ups on the other hand is a much bigger issue that made some levels much harder when you’re stuck as little Mario with no way to become big.
    #3) I think this depends on the level. 95% of them, yes. However levels that are just a puzzle or are more like a maze could be better off without them. See: Kentaro Desert. If the whole stage was the first half (which is pretty much “find out where to go and how to get there”) there’d be no place for a checkpoint. Not that checkpoints would’ve done a lot of good; In the 1.2b4 used to make RMN Bros checkpoints were either a) broken or b) forced the player to stay in the same stage until they beat it/game over’d and it broke auto-start events.
    #4) Probably impossible with SMBX period. Better to keep those stages short or cut them entirely. I agree with the idea though.
    #5) Oh god yes. Those guys are borderline unfair.
    #6) Lakitus on the other hand, are totally past ‘unfar’ straight to ‘fuck off’ territory. If a level had a lakitu, it got a +1 difficulty from me right away.
    #7) Again probably not possible with SMBX. It’d be nice but I’d rather have quick transport than none at all. Would definitely be nice though.
    #8) I was the guy responsible for assigning difficulties. I had everybody assign a difficulty level so when it came time to sort them I’d have an idea where to start instead of picking stages at random and trying to assign a relative difficulty. Some stages got/were close to their creator assign difficulty, others didn’t. Creator assigned difficulty was a “Make GRS hate running events a wee bit less” than “We will unironically use these numbers!”.

    Some of these issues might’ve bene resolved or at least better planned out if there was more than throwing the idea around in IRC for planning. I had just posted SMBX, an event was suggested, I came up with a quick draft with some light rules (which generally got ignored anyways), and away everybody went with less than two days after finding SMBX! Playing RMN Bros 1 and your Let’s Play show some pretty big mistakes we all made, especially myself, while making RMN Bros 1. Hopefully RMN Bros 2 turns out a lot better! (which Kentona will be the force behind because I’m certainly not doing it)

  • kentona

    I think you guys are putting way too much thought into a game that took 2 weeks to make by a group of people that have never before seen or used this editor before. Also, note that some things you suggest are not possible in this editor, like camera pans and remember goals/states, and checkpoints were broken in the SMBX 1.2 Beta used. And of course waterfalls should be swimmable!

    @Rycar: There was no design philosophy! …except maybe “experiment with this cool new editor dudes!”

  • I agree with everything here, it all makes sense except rule #4 for the Hub world. The way I see it, if the player wants to go straight to the harder levels, why not let them? It’s their funeral.

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