Nearly 6 months ago on the 11th of September, 2015 I got Mario Maker. Last week I reached 40 stages. Today I reached 1440 stars. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way.
Running is fun. Fun stuff works well
It's easy at first to want to milk every screen to make the level last. I did that a lot my first few levels, focusing on putting obstacles in front of Mario that were tricky to get past safely. It wasn't until my fourth level, March of the Wayward Spiny, that I just tried having stretches where you run and jump freely. Running is fun. Find fresh and novel ways to do running bits and you'll do well.
Also remember that power ups are fun too. Before there were conditional power ups I made sure to make later power ups the full variety. Even now I make the last power up in most levels a guaranteed flower/cape/etc. Unless it's an Amiibo level. Amiibo levels unfortunately can be a little mean due to only ever having 2 hits.
“Nacho” your gameplay mechanics
Another thing that was super successful about March of the Wayward Spiny was simplicity. It used one enemy, Spinies, and only a few elements, Donut Blocks to run over and springs to propell the Spinies in interesting ways. This is how you should approach mechanics. Go over the possible choices for enemies and objects, choose a few and figure out interesting/flavorful way to build around them. Ideally you build these mechanics in layers like Nachos.
First you introduce them, then you evolve and combine them in interesting ways through the level. Really develop those flavors.
Another thing- I recently did DKC1, DKC2DKC3 & DKCTF remake remix stages and do you know what I noticed? Rare was never afraid to introduce entire mechanics in the back half of a level. Take Krockhead Klamber for instance. The Krockheads over which you clamber don’t appear until just after the midway! Also notice how the reed climbing and flitter jumping from before is layered in with the Krockheads. This “Deep Dish Nacho” method adds a little zesty punch to the back half.
Mario Maker is a Buffalo - use every part
I’m sure as a player there’s a lot of parts you simply don’t like. I’m not big into ghost wheels because I think waiting is dull, I’m not into Cheep Cheeps because they’re usually too low to be dangerous.Vines are slow, burner cycles are annoying, etc, Here’s the thing though, to continue making novel stages you need to get everything you can out of the kit and that means using every part at least once. Look for ways to combine objects you’ve avoided or simply not used. You may surprise yourself by the cool opportunities you might miss if you play favorites.
It’s not just about individual items, it’s also about whole types of levels. Try to make as many breeds of level as you can, both in terms of what’s done in the level and the overall genre. It’s not just about types you haven’t done, but also about types you haven’t wanted to do. When I started I said “I want to make this kind of level, never underwaters/kaizos/ryckerts.” Now I have underwater levels which accelerate swimming to my liking. I got joke/gimmick/theme levels which are amusing. I have a Boss Rush filled with quick kills. Levels in which you need to fly, levels in which you need to backtrack. I even have a Kaizo level where you can finish the level early like in Rayman Origins. Real great stuff! It’s easier to bring something new when you’re taking on something new to you. (Edit: The Kaizo-ish level, Smoking Room Soirée, was deleted for having the word "smoking" in its title.)
(Word of warning: People like stages they can finish. The conversion rate of plays to stars is awful on hard stages. My Klepek ender Short Fuse Frustration really struggles to get stars. Still, I'm personally really happy with its villainy and I'm glad I made it. Check out my 40th level if you want a Witness style clue to the intended solution! If you know it it's really very doable!)
It’s Easy to Watch People Play Your Stages
The first stage of mine I watched played was Beneath the Runway when it was featured in a blind race. I wrote a whole blog about the experience, but suffice it to say that watching someone play your stage is super informative. Reminds you of something obvious, that everyone plays differently.
What I want to say today is that watching someone play your stage is actually really easy. You don't have to get famed Paper Mario runner iateyourpie to feature it in a race, all you need to do is go to Twitch, find someone streaming viewer levels, doesn’t matter who, submit your level and wait for the streamer to ask if you’re still in chat. Mario Maker Twitch streams are great to have in the background while Mario Making, playing another game, even cooking. If you don't feel like multitasking chatting with other Makers and seeing the levels they brought is rewarding on its own. Either way you’ll see your stage in action and likely get a star.
Anyway, I'm super happy to have gotten to 40 stages, all of which I'm super proud of. From Malpractice Platform to Malpractice Epilogue, each level manages to be its own thing and do it well. It’s a great set of 40 levels, and I hope you play and star as many as you have time for. Now I'm taking a nice big break to prepare for my next big Mario Maker blindspot, an 8 world saga called Mario Mario's Conquest. It's going to feature 32 levels in 8 uniquely themed worlds and possibly use red coins as optional collectibles throughout? I dunno.
Hope you guys find these things useful in your own Mario Making. Do fun stuff, give your levels a rich flavor, and buffalo! Also Twitch makes it easy to see your level played. Go for it!