Sunday, November 6, 2011

Super Meat Boy 64: World 1-4,1-5, and World 1 Boss

Of the levels found in Super Meat Boy 64, World 1-4, 1-5, and the World 1 Boss are probably the sloppiest. World 1-4 suffers from being just to difficult for how early it is encountered in the "game," even though I do think it has an interesting gameplay element. World 1-5 was designed around an idea that was eventually discovered to not work in Blockland's engine properly, and thus half the design is plagued by a visually uninteresting replacement. And finally, since Blockland doesn't allow for complex enemy AI, or for that matter, enemies, (there are mods that do add enemies, but we didn't have the ability to make our own custom model/code for the first boss) we couldn't create a proper boss and thus we resorted to a "boss stage" which would be more sinister in theme and play.

World 1-4 is one of two stages which I had no hand in designing; it was completely designed by Rykuta. It definitely feels as if it was designed by the primary scripter. The main gameplay elements here are disappearing blocks which the player must time their jumps to properly land upon. Compared to the previous hazards, these are more complex in how they are scripted (though as anyone who knows Blockland's scripting system should understand, it is actually quite simple to execute). While the artistic vision isn't as strong, for the stage is contained within a more basic looking square arena, the gameplay is the tight, hard stuff Rykuta is so good at creating. Unfortunately, World 1-4 innocently spikes the difficulty curve. I can attest to this from personal experience, but it was very noticeably seen in the advancement of play testers as well. Everyone got stuck on World 1-4 and almost gave up. Almost though, since the design is still fun to play on, even on the 30th time through.

The gray blocks fade in and out of space in a rhythmic fashion.

The black pit of doom is ugly and almost nonsensical in hindsight.

The last stage I designed for World 1 was 1-5. Now at this point I had definitely started to become well adapted to the tools I was using. One of the things I have learned from playing Super Mario is that a great platformer needs a new idea to be expressed in each level. This design technique is simple and is used in all sorts of games; the idea is introduced in an controlled environment and then, as the level progresses, the player learns to use the element in new ways while the situations that demand its use become more difficult. Rare does this almost obsessively in the Donkey Kong Country series.

The new concept I wanted to introduce in 1-5 was a box that shot out saw blades (taken from Super Meat Boy of course). After some experimentation and the breaking of false hopes, it eventually came to be that due to technical issues too obtuse to describe through text that it wasn't possible to make these work without more extensive modification of the game's fundamental code. Which wasn't going to happen. So a substitute was implemented, and just didn't have the same feel of potential. Basically, the replacement was a electric floor that let out a shock every few seconds. Players would respond to it similarly as they would the blades in that section of the level, but it really stuck out as a tacked on and undesirable solution.

The beginning of World 1-5 starts the player off in a cavern system beneath the rest of the level. It is here where the saw blades where originally intended to be placed.

 The upper level of 1-5 turned out very well; it might be the most interesting part of World 1 in its entirety.

 Fans and spikes collide to test the player's sense of air control.

For some reason I took a lot of screenshots of this stage...

There is not much to say about the boss stage of World 1 except that there is no boss and it is highly unlikely that a boss like the one found in Super Meat Boy's World 1 could even be made to satisfactorily work in Blockland. Anything is possible, but the estimated opportunity cost is way too high for a rather dull result. This part of the forest is drenched in fire and has a floor of lava, because if the history of video games has taught use anything, those two objects = boss-ish stuff.

In the boss stage, the player is jumping from falling platform to falling platform over a pit of lava to reach the end. There was some tweaking that needed to be done to the amount of time before the platforms fell in order to make the stage fit in anywhere as the next step after 1-5 in difficulty, but otherwise, there is not much I can say about it, since the majority of it was designed by Rykuta (I did decoration and tweaking).

And some images of the dark world versions of these stages, of which I have nothing to state. As always, Rykuta succeeds in making very difficult, very fine tuned, yet very satisfying variations of my designs.

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