Mario Teaches Platforming Post 1 (Super Mario Maker 2)

This week’s bog post is a little different. Recently Super Mario Maker 2 was released. Originally I wasn’t going to buy it because I had the first one and I found the whole concept interesting but really underwhelming for me personally. I don’t like playing games for the sake of playing. I need an end goal to work towards. That’s the reason I prefer single player campaigns over PVP. I want to reach the end of the game. That’s one of my favorite parts of the experience. Feeling like I worked towards something and accomplished a goal. In the same mode of thinking, I’ve never really connected with level creation games before. Because I don’t understand why I’m making a level. I spend all this time making a level hoping people will play it but to what end? Levels are small parts of full games. The ability to make a piece of a game but not an entire game makes me feel depressed rather than accomplished. So I ultimately made less than five levels in Super Mario Maker 1.

The reason I ultimately decided to purchase Super Mario Maker 2 was the inclusion of end goals. One created by Nintendo and one created by me. Unlike the first game, this new installment of the franchise has a story mode. Sure it’s not as epic and thoroughly developed as normal Mario games, but it does have a story and an endpoint with about 100 courses. This alone makes the game worth buying because it’s a full single player experience with a story and end goal to work towards. I’ve already completed 22% of the story mode at the time of writing this. The inclusion of a story mode makes this game worlds better than the first one, for me personally.

Episode - Screenshot 2019-06-30 14-03-47

I’m also using the maker mode a lot more in Super Mario Maker 2. This is tied directly to the reason that I ultimately decided to purchase the game: I’m trying to teach my girlfriend how to play platforming games. My girlfriend hates platforming games. She finds the challenge of jumping between platforms, especially moving ones, stressful and irritating. This has been the case for the almost seven years that we’ve been together. I still remember the first platforming experience I introduced her to. I was playing Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault (2012) and I needed to do a few levels in co-op mode to get the final trophies for the platinum completion. I thought this was a great chance to try to include my girlfriend in my favorite hobby. This was an easy game among platformers, had fairly simple co-op mechanics, and in my opinion didn’t ask too much from players. I thought it would be perfect for her. I was wrong.

The very first platform my girlfriend encountered was a simple horizontal moving platform over a pit of lava in an outdoor setting. I still remember it quite well. It was a simple platforming scenario that I’d done countless times. The lava was there for effect, but shouldn’t have had any real impact on seasoned platforming gamers, which my girlfriend was/is not. It required two simple jumps forward, as in away from the camera. Stationary platform to moving platform to second stationary platform. Though I haven’t tried it, I’m fairly certain that I could get past this set of jumps blindfolded. Anyone who has beaten a single level of any of the Crash Bandicoot games could easily get past those two jumps. My girlfriend could not. No matter how many times she tried, she always ended up in the lava. We spent over an hour just trying to get her past those two jumps and she never actually made it across. Eventually she was so broken by the experience that she quit and swore off platformers for good.

Ratchet and Clank FUll Frontal Assault

My girlfriend plays games. She has beaten a number of them. She loves indie titles like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, ABZU, and even managed to get through Journey. But she hates platforming. Journey was a struggle for her. The only reason she was able to complete it was because of the very forgiving gliding mechanics. It’s definitely a platformer, but not to the point where completing it prepared her to take on a real one like any of the Super Mario games. I have spent years trying to convince her to try real platforming again. She always says no. She is still traumatized from that first experience with Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault. But finally after all these years there is newfound hope for her platforming.

When I pitched the concept of her playing levels that were specifically created by me for her to play, with the promise that they would be at her skill level, she said she’d be open to the idea. This brought me hope and inspired me to purchase Super Mario Maker 2. With that I’d like to introduce my new project: Mario Teaches Platforming.

Mario Teaches Platforming

My goal here is to create a full suite of tutorial levels in Super Mario Maker 2 with the intent of helping someone go from zero experience to that of a full-fledged advanced level platforming gamer. These levels will not assume any previous gaming experience. Any person who completes the entire collection of levels in order should be able to start from nothing and ultimately complete all the stages with no outside experience or practice. This tutorial will obviously not be interesting to everyone. The first level, for example, is literally just walking forward (right) in a straight line until reaching the flag. The third level is a series of static blocks to jump over with no enemies or pit falls. It’s meant to be that detailed and that slow of a progression from stage to stage. But by the end, the player will be asked to complete complex stages that will rival the hardest of end game levels.

I want to create a tool that is helpful to my girlfriend and by extension anyone who wants to develop their platforming skills. My 10 year old nephew is another person that I believe would benefit from this project. For me, the emphasis is on moving and jumping mechanics, as that is what my girlfriend struggles with. But I mean to create a collection of levels that account for jumping in every occasion. Enemies, moving platforms, riding platforms with obstacles, timed stages, enemy projectiles, and the list goes on. I plan to account for environmental conditions and hazards such as ice blocks, spikes, lava balls, and so on. But difficulty is not the point or intention. If Mario Teaches Platforming is created successfully, then it will hopefully never feel difficult to the student using it. As they progress from stage to stage and develop their skills, each proceeding level should feel rather easy or at the very least manageable. Because they will simply be applying the skills they learned previously with a new skill to learn being added in with each new stage.

Episode - Screenshot 2019-06-30 14-03-26

I want to be able to upload this entire project to the online database for other players to use. If I had an unlimited number of stages I could create, like the story mode, I’d probably try to do upwards of about 100 levels. I like round numbers and I could create something almost perfectly incremental down to the smallest details. Because Super Mario Make 2 only allows users to upload up to 32 levels online, I’d like to keep it down to that. What I’m currently doing is creating a full scale version for my girlfriend that is 100 levels to play offline and then an abridged version to upload for other users that’s only the maximum 32 stages. I also have the ability to make multiple areas in a single stage separated by transitions such as warp pipes, so possibly I can still do 100 levels within 25 stage packs with four levels per a pack separated by transitions. Here’s where you come in.

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Based on the 100 stage model, I need to decide what those 100 stages/sections should look like. I plan on not only evolving the gameplay as stages go on, but also the settings and items available. This means creating a full stage by stage plan with titles and short descriptions. I wish there was some way to add dialog boxes to the stage so I could give the player directions and tips as part of the tutorial. I’ve created a first draft of my planned 100 levels, but I’d love to get some feedback on how this tutorial can be improved/shaped based on the collective experience of as many gamers as possible. Please take a look at my initial plan and let me know what stages you think need to be added, changed, or removed. I’m also curious as to how others might order such a tutorial based on how they see the learning process of mastering platforming games.

I have broken this plan up into five main sections with each containing different focus tenants of mastering platforming games. As far as art styles, I originally wanted  to use a different art style in each of the five main sections going from the original through all five currently available art styles for a total of 100 sections/stages, with 20 sections being done in each art style. But I quickly realized that due to certain limitations with earlier styles there are certain levels that need to occur early on in the tutorial that require later art styles. So currently my plans for art are a bit random. In the next post, which is already published as well, you can a breakdown of all five of the proposed main sections and the 100 combined levels within them along with a hopefully informative title and short description of what that stage should be. I didn’t want to overwhelm readers by including all 100 stages in this already lengthy post, which is why I opted to publish the stage breakdown as a separate blog post.

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I hope that this post and the proceeding list of planned stages gives a clear depiction of what Mario Teaches Platforming is supposed to be but as I said, this is just a first draft and an incomplete one at that. I’m very aware that the plan isn’t perfect yet so I am hoping to get as much feedback as possible. Maybe my five section breakdown isn’t the right way to go. Maybe my levels need to be put in a different order. Any and all feedback and ideas for stage submissions are appreciated. And if you’ve got sample stages you think would work well in any part of the tutorial, feel free to submit screenshots or videos and maybe I’ll implement parts of them into this project. But please remember that the target audience for these stages are people with no previous platforming experience. At the time of writing this I currently have 25 stages “completed”.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.
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How I Learned to Love the Rabbids

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past five or so years, Rabbids are these stupid rabbit like creatures that appear to be sentient but never seem to do anything other than make funny noises and cause trouble. They originally appeared in Rayman 4 (2013) but were so popular that Ubisoft decided to give them their own game series. I hate Rabbids. I think they’re annoying and add very little to no value to gaming history. I have gone out of my way not to play any game featuring them, including Rayman 4. But technically I haven’t played any of the Rayman games, outside of demos, so that doesn’t necessarily mean anything special. In any case, Rabbids irritate me.

It was my distaste for Rabbids that made me very unhappy when they first announced Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle for the Nintendo Switch. I actually really liked the idea of them making a Mario strategy game with a Banner Saga style grid battle system. While it isn’t canon, pun not intended, I was fine with them giving Mario and friends guns. The game seemed very interesting. But I could not stomach a Rabbids game. It felt so odd to see Nintendo allow Rabbids to enter the Mario universe. It was very out of character for the company and I’m still not entirely sure how it happened. It was the presence of Rabbids in the game that made me ignore it initially.

Mario Rabbids Combat

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was released just a few months before I finally purchased my Switch. I knew I was going to purchase a Switch and I knew when I was going to purchase it. What I didn’t know was that I was going to end up purchasing a Rabbids game on the same day. I had sworn the game off but then people started talking about it. So many people on Twitter were praising the game for its amazing gameplay mechanics. I didn’t have any particular reason to think the gameplay would be bad but my bias against Rabbids made me assume everyone was over exaggerating. They have in the past on multiple occasions. So I was still not planning on buying the game. Then the awards season hit.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, to my surprise, won four awards for best strategy game and was nominated for several other awards from multiple game awards shows. I was shocked it did so well. It seemed like people weren’t exaggerating and that it really was that good. I have owned every console Mario game since Super Mario 64, and many from before that as well. Part of me was devastated to be skipping this Switch Mario game. And the promise of amazing gameplay in a genre I hadn’t really experienced in a Mario game before was also very alluring. But I still said I wouldn’t buy a Rabbids game.

Episode - Screenshot 2018-07-11 01-37-15

It has always been a ritual for me to buy a stack of games when I first purchase a console. I’m not one of those people who buys a new system just to play one game. It needs to already have several games I want to play before I even consider buying it. On the day I went to buy my Nintendo Switch, multiple limiting factors came into play. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Explorer’s Edition hadn’t been released yet and wouldn’t be for a few more months. Super Bomberman R was sold out in all the stores I went to because it had just recently been brought to Taiwan. I did eventually get it though. Snipper Clips was a game I was buying specifically to play with my girlfriend so it didn’t count in my stack of games to play with purchase. I would kind of say the same about Just Dance 2018 but less so. This meant that the only games I was buying for my new Switch to be played for myself at this point were Super Mario Odyssey, obviously, ARMS, Sonic Forces, and Splatoon 2. Two of those games aren’t even real single player games. It was at this moment that the clerk, who I actually know very well and trust his recommendations, suggested Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle.

With only two legitimate single player games, the great reviews, and the awards, I ended up buying my first Rabbids game. It hurt even when I was making the purchase but I did it. I bought Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. I felt dirty. I felt like I had betrayed my morals. I did not feel happy about the purchase. But it was already done. And in Taiwan you can’t actually make returns for games so even if I wanted to change my mind, I couldn’t.

Episode - Screenshot 2018-07-11 01-35-49

It took me seven months to finally start playing Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. By that point I had beaten Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Sonic Forces, the Splatoon 2 single player campaign, gotten bored with both ARMS and Super BomberMan R, and had beaten other games on my PS4. It was time to give this game I had purchased a try. The start of the game was not promising. An annoying video that features the Rabbids prominently for several minutes before Mario even appears. I had to stomach through it and get to the actual gameplay.

Once you make it through the necessarily long tutorial and actually get to battle on your own, you realize right away that Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle really does have amazing gameplay. It’s different from any other Mario game I’ve ever played and it’s extremely well done. I was hooked so quickly. The other thing that’s really nice about it is that it has text based dialog and turn based gameplay. Meaning you can play it with no sound while doing other things and you don’t miss out on the experience much at all. I love to play it undocked while watching Netflix. It’s great. I don’t even have to hear the Rabbids making all their annoying sounds. The gameplay is creative, addictive, and convenient. And it’s easy to play just one battle and then step away. Jumping back in is fairly easy with the Switch’s sleep mode function.

Episode - Screenshot 2018-07-11 01-32-59

So let’s actually talk about the Rabbids. It took me quite some time but I will admit that the Rabbids in this specific game have grown on me. This is due largely to the dynamic Ubisoft has created by making copies of the Mario characters as Rabbids. Rabbid Peach is one of the funniest characters I’ve seen in a long time because of the dynamic she has with Peach and Mario. Alone she is just a ridiculous character that spends too much time taking selfies. But when interacting with Mario and constantly competing with Peach, I find the character hysterical. Other Rabbids in the game are funny too. Rabbid Donkey Kong looks so awkward that you can’t help but laugh. Rabbid Mario’s mustache looks ridiculous. I haven’t gotten Rabbid Yoshi yet but I’m sure that’s going to be hilarious as well.

It seems I’ve learned to tolerate the Rabbids in the context of this game and they actually make me laugh. I really have to commend Ubisoft for creating such an excellent game and tip my hat to Nintendo for taking such a large risk with their most important franchise. I’m usually very good about gaming predictions but have to admit that I did not see this coming out nearly as well as it did. I enjoy Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle so much that it will be the first Nintendo Switch game that I actually purchase DLC for. I regret that I didn’t wait for the Gold edition originally because I really want all the content for this one. Maybe one day I’ll even buy a second Rabbids game.

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Gaming Photography – Super Mario Odyssey

A few weeks ago I finished Super Mario Odyssey. This was actually the first game I beat on my new Nintendo Switch, which I absolutely love, by the way. So I wanted to share my experience playing the game visually with another Gaming Photography post.

I have to say that Super Mario Odyssey is objectively the best Mario platformer ever made. For the longest time I have said that this is Super Mario Galaxy, and I continue to hope for a Super Mario Galaxy 3. But Odyssey truly revolutionized Mario and 3D platforming in almost the same way that Super Mario 64 did back in 1996. It’s almost a perfect game. I got a full 100% completion. That’s all the power moons, all the costumes, all the purple coins, all the souvenirs, and all the possessions. It took me about 50 hours of play, which by today’s standards is great for a platformer. The game is innovative, imaginative, and beautiful. The gameplay works well and the audio, both effects and music, is top notch. I cannot recommend this game enough to Switch users and really platformer fans in general.

I took more than 1000 pictures in this game because there are just so many great moments in it. But the bulk of them were actually taken on my Switch directly rather than with my Elgato like I usually do. This is because the Switch is just so convenient for taking screen captures in games. So now I’d like to present my top 20 photos from Super Mario Odyssey. While this game actually does have a photo mode, I didn’t really use it because I prefer the natural lighting and appearance of the game in most cases. I also post game photos on my Twitter and Instagram often.

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*If you’d like to see the full resolution image please right click and press “view image”.

Please let me know what you think of my shots. Any feedback is appreciated because I would like to improve my gaming photography skills.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.