The Daily Mario, Day 9: Crowdsourcing Toward Excellence

The Daily Mario, Day 9: Crowdsourcing Toward Excellence

Your feedback turns an interesting but unrealized level concept into a near-finished work of art.

When last we met, I was embroiled in the madness of trying to create a good, interesting stage around the premise of an early, compulsory Boswer battle. It turned out pretty rough, but the core idea was strong. And thanks to all your thoughts and recommendations, I managed to smooth over the bumps to bring the concept much closer to greatness...

I began by truncating the bridge leading up to the Bowser battle. Its length was the source of many of the problems affecting the previous take on this stage; there was a lot of dull running back and forth to farm turtles, without any real threat to speak of. By shortening the bridge, I've reduced the amount of time spent backtracking while also making Bowser himself more of a threat. His flames emerge at multiple levels, and the shortened bridge is now within that spread. This also means the Super Mushroom is now the first thing you encounter — which makes sense, given the almost immediate danger involved in this level.

Point two: The turtle pipe has been replaced by an upside-down giant Buzzy Beetle pipe. The beetles drop directly into the playing field instead of cascading off a series of platforms...

...and their double size means they hit Bowser for twice as much damage, halving the length of the fight.

Now the battle takes about a minute or so as opposed to four or five, greatly reducing the sensation of this being a drawn-out slog. You need to be far more nimble dodging both flames and beetles than in the previous iteration of this stage, as both appear more often and within a smaller space. But the obstacles aren't impossible, and because the battle with Bowser goes so much more quickly, it prevents the whole thing from being a battle of attrition.

And I've provided alternatives at every opportunity — none clearly offered out in the open, but each hinted at, as with this flock of flying Buzzy Beetles (the beetles having become the primary monsters to appear in the level now).

The back half of the stage also has a flying Buzzy in this short little area where you drop from a pipe and duck through a door. It seemed pointless in its original form, but rather than make it into a more elaborate structure...

...instead I dropped in the beetle as the key to unlocking a secret area. You can fly on the backs of winged beetles, which will slowly rise into the air as long as you use them for a perch.

This leads you to a raised area with coins and a 1UP. The Buzzy Beetle isn't the only hint here; the wooden beams in the background holding up the platform stretch all the way to the ground, so you pass them by while heading to the stage's second pipe. Everything in this level has a sense of architectural stability, so the wooden slats in the background rising to some unseen vanishing point are another cue to look up.

And I kept the Starman where it was, but changed around some details. One, the secret was a little too obscure, so I made the Question block without the Starman visible. Now there's a sense of broken symmetry about this structure that nudges you toward the hidden block without being totally obvious about it. It's one of those spaces where everything is so tidy and neat that the one element that doesn't match up to something else becomes subtly conspicuous.

I also removed the Fire Flower from the visible Question block, because it was redundant. Who would shoot Bowser when you could just dash through him instead?

Instead, the Fire Flower is now hidden directly above the starting point. This background element isn't just scenery — it's a platform, too. And if you think to hop up there, you might wonder if there's anything hidden...

So, by my count, that's three different ways to beat Bowser, plus a a bonus 1UP just for the heck of it... but the only "obvious" route is to take on Bowser directly with the Buzzy shells. The more you explore, the more you find. And there's one other secret...

The red arrow here points conspicuously at the pipe hidden behind Bowser, but... there's so many flying Buzzy Beetles, who can be safely stepped on...

So many, in fact, they create a tricky pathway that allows you to bypass nearly the entire stage and skip directly to the end. Or that's the idea, anyway. This feature is still a work in progress, I'm afraid, due to the properties of the beetles — they way they spawn, and move, and the fact they can't be turned to face the other direction. I'll lock it down eventually, by golly.

WATCH: Our level design in action.

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