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VLDC9 - vanilla level design contest 9

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ft029
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Re: VLDC9 - ventures livening dusky canyons 9

Postby ft029 » 2 years ago

It is absolutely amazing how such a small difference can have a huge impact. If this level had a 1up checkpoint, I think Pyro would not have been as angry/rewind-y. (still angry though because she sucks at puzzles)

Notice some of the tiredness when raocow messed up the star escort. That was basically how many people felt after dying to the bullet shooters multiple times. I eventually gave up and put a savestate after the star part.

The level's design is otherwise extremely nice and generous. I have one last quibble, which is the reset door placement in the secret area. I preemptively pressed up before throwing the baby yoshi up into the first rock many times, and the door is right where I keep pressing up. This frustrated me a lot.

Oh well, less controversial levels coming up tomorrow (and possibly a cool overworld animation)
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Re: VLDC9 - ventures livening dusky canyons 9

Postby AUS » 2 years ago

I liked the part with the rocks.
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Re: VLDC9 - ventures livening dusky canyons 9

Postby nathanisbored » 2 years ago

S.N.N. wrote:
nathanisbored wrote:bluh
bleh
"You would need to be sure that the judges all understand the criteria which they are judging to perfection, regardless of what that criteria actually is." Agreed, which is why you should use criteria which is quantified. Instead of just throwing a number out for your score, every point given should be accounted for. i.e. if the category were "resourcefulness", you would give examples in the level, like actual obstacles in the level and say, "one point for this obstacle because it accomplishes X thing with limited resources. another point here for this part because of Y thing. and 2 points here for this part because of Z thing that was especially impressive".

basically actually quantify everything so it can be measured consistently between judges. obviously its still up to human judgement, but now instead of saying "ehh, i'll give it about a 7 or 8" based on some feeling or whatever, you can pick out specific things in the level and tally them. another psychological strategy to prevent bias would be to first score it on a scale out of 30, and then re-score it on a scale out of 60 or whatever. the smaller scale forces you to think about your score more critically, but then you get to be a little more precise on borderline scores when you expand it, so it helps prevent you from being too "safe" with your scoring.

and of course, actually play the levels multiple times. get to know the levels youre judging. sometimes theres a huge contrast between first playthroughs and subsequent playthroughs. sometimes you beat the level first try, but then struggle to beat it again, or notice how punishing the deaths are which you didnt realize the first time. sometimes you notice more things later on. sometimes a level might have a steep learning curve, but once its learned actually becomes fun to play again. sometimes there are multiple paths through the level that make it more timeless. take a break and play it again hours later. classify the level by its genre (and preferably have different rubrics for different genres, same total points score). analyze the level as if you were learning to speedrun it, so that you get to know it like the back of your hand. only then can you give a meaningful score. obviously you wouldnt be able to do any of that if you have 150+ levels to get through, so basically there's no point to even giving it a score at all.

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Re: VLDC9 - ventures livening dusky canyons 9

Postby AUS » 2 years ago

There's no way to quantify level quality. There's no objective marker for a good or bad level.
There are poor practices, but there's no objective qualifier for fun.

edit: that is to say, there's no way to make a quantifiable standard with which to hold levels to.

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Re: VLDC9 - ventures livening dusky canyons 9

Postby Koopster » 2 years ago

That just sounds like a boring way to do it, for the level creation, for the judging and for the outcome
Like, I can see how chorey it would be to state objective reasons as to why I think some level is awesome, and I also don't see the point in doing it because nobody who plays the level will think the same way I did

We just accept that people have different views and try to make an average out of the judges' scoring. In contests where the judges are well picked and scoring discussion exists, this works. There's a lot of fun involved in scoring a level and backing up the reason you gave that score when the other judges and other people start to discuss about it. It's a fun way to discuss about levels.
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Re: VLDC9 - ventures livening dusky canyons 9

Postby QubicTom » 2 years ago

Please make more puzzle levels, Leiras, that was excellent! Everyone's main complaint seems to be that SMW's limited checkpoint system meant that death was too punishing. Doesn't diminish the fact that you made a professional-grade set of puzzles! It was clear and creative. Fun puzzles are very, very difficult to design, clearly a lot of work and testing went into this.

Speculation: people who aren't generally good at puzzles may not have enjoyed the level, but that's not the level designer's fault! If you patiently follow the coins then the puzzles are solved almost automatically, with very little outside-the-box thinking required. And the hint system was a good failsafe for the players that get stuck!



I think with a little modification, a puzzle like this could work in a vertical autoscroller. I'd be very interested in playing a puzzle hack with levels like this :D

Regarding the points and judging system, I want to remind people of MAGLX2 - there were several entire hubs in a row where the point differences were within what I'd consider the margin of error. Insignificant changes in points would lead to big changes in placement. For this contest, I think it's better to just cluster levels into a low ground, middle ground or high ground.

With judging, I think the best system is when you have several judges of known tastes. In MAGLX2, you could predict what the level was going to be like by the judge's scores. More difficult/platformy with a high Sturge score, more story driven with a high Horikawa score, etc. That way you can choose a judge that aligns with your own tastes and consider their scores to be most useful for telling if a level is good or not within your own standards.

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Re: VLDC9 - ventures livening dusky canyons 9

Postby Zephyr_DragonLord » 2 years ago

And it ALSO gives judges a way to better themselves, with the more experienced judges perhaps helping the less experienced ones out in order to judge better in future contests. That includes consistency, which is incredibly important when judging.

(raocow, why do you commit war crimes? what are you hiding from us...)

Also, 4 levels again. Here I go...

Hilly Desert was yellow, but it wasn't terribly eye-searing. A little, but it isn't too bad. Decorations in the ground make no sense here. Other than that, the level was alright.

I have...issues with Vanilla Secret 1.5. Yes, it's a SMW based level. That's not the problem I have with it. It is an okay level, but the first half is merely skull rafts, and the second half has two finicky jumps that are trivialized with the cape. If those difficult jumps were removed, I would have a more favorable opinion of this. But for now.... it's not great.

Aero Plains is just fine, and looks nice, and also has Rexes. That's a good level, yeah? Seems a bit like Mario Maker with that underground Dragon Coin, though.

Starry Summit... this sure is something. 1-up checkpoints would have helped this out, yes. But it's pretty hard to die if you're careful. I am careful, so this would not have mattered much to me.... The puzzle is nice, but that secret exit entrance is a little mean... Not the hint, which is good. But the fact that you must enter it every time that you want a shot at the puzzle for each life. I like the level and its puzzle quite a bit, and would thoroughly enjoy this, but I would be lying if I said this didn't have some flaws. But nonetheless, good job. I hope you make more of these neat puzzleons.
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Re: VLDC9 - ventures livening dusky canyons 9

Postby morsel/morceau » 2 years ago

QubicTom wrote:Please make more puzzle levels, Leiras, that was excellent!
He helped make an entire puzzle hack! I have played the first two hacks of this series (there seems to be a third one out now) and they were both excellent, and rather difficult (also pretty much requiring savestates here and there in traditional puzzle hack fashion, although they don't expect you to use glitches). The puzzles are different from to-day's level, however, in being level-length instead of a series of small puzzles, and tending to having multiple options and complications as opposed to having the character of "spot the trick".
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Re: VLDC9 - ventures livening dusky canyons 9

Postby Lockirby2 » 2 years ago

I thought this level was brilliant. Lots of unique puzzles, and I felt like I was really thinking instead of just doing things until something worked out. Every puzzle felt satisfying to finish, and I also didn't feel bored with the platforming, which had the potential to feel really dull. While I agree that a 1-up midpoint would have improved the secret exit a lot, it doesn't hurt my opinion of the level much. With the way this level is designed, being careful and observant makes it easy to avoid the danger (I don't think I died in this level at all, actually). Perhaps that colours my opinion though, IDK. I know the designer wasn't aware of the 1-up midpoint, so barring that I would have probably moved the second bullet bill shooter (after you come out of the pipe) to the right of the Yoshi, so that they'd both be on the Yoshi's right side. This would have removed the most stressful obstacle in the level while still forcing the player to figure out the Yoshi puzzle. Maybe a third bullet shooter could have been placed somewhere less threatening to show when the bullets fire too.

EDIT: @nathanisbored I was thinking at some point about a qualitative judging system, but I ultimately rejected the idea. I think that many contest levels break the mold enough that a more standardized judging rubric (or set of standard judging rubrics) would not be able to fully account for their positive/negative parts of a level. It reminds me of our fourth year design projects (which are fairly open ended), where our instructor offers the option of working with him to create a reasonable alternative rubric to our projects if we think the current rubrics don't fit, for exactly this reason. That approach wouldn't work well for SMW contests though.

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Re: VLDC9 - ventures livening dusky canyons 9

Postby S.N.N. » 2 years ago

nathanisbored wrote:"You would need to be sure that the judges all understand the criteria which they are judging to perfection, regardless of what that criteria actually is." Agreed, which is why you should use criteria which is quantified. Instead of just throwing a number out for your score, every point given should be accounted for. i.e. if the category were "resourcefulness", you would give examples in the level, like actual obstacles in the level and say, "one point for this obstacle because it accomplishes X thing with limited resources. another point here for this part because of Y thing. and 2 points here for this part because of Z thing that was especially impressive".
This is a point that I somewhat agree with, but it's something that has never really been done for, again, a variety of reasons. While I think it's not the best idea pulling out an arbitrary number for any given category, it's worth nothing that most judges start with a base number after the first level they play, and then they kind of rank every level after that relative to the ones they have already played. As you can expect, as time goes on, they may need to go back and re-evaluate a couple of earlier levels (as you also mentioned and I agree with), and compare them to some of the later levels they have played.

In my own personal experience with judging, I'll play the first few levels and rank them accordingly. If I really enjoy them, I'll probably give them closer to the higher end of the scale, and vice versa. As time goes on, I may play entries much later on that I end up liking more than those earlier ones, so I will go back and either a) replay them to see if this is really the case, or b) adjust them down if I'm sure. In a sense, the number itself is arbitrary (though it always has been for every level design contest because, again, subjectivity), but it can be used as a relative gauge of how good a judge finds a particular level compared to another. In a sense, I don't think the numbers should ever be read into more than that. That being said, I do recall that one of the earlier VLDCs (or maybe it was a 24 hour contest .. doesn't matter) did away with the points system and lumped entries into categories like "good", "excellent", "poor", etc. This was not as well received as anyone had hoped.

On a related note, it's no surprise that every single contest is met with criticism of the judges and their opinions. TaviTurnip said something in the MaGL3 thread (albeit sarcastically and not meant to be taken constructively) which does ring sort of true - nobody is really "qualified" to judge levels. Some of us have more experience with SMW/SMBX/whatever and general design principles than others, but in the end, everyone is going to have their own opinion.

And yes, there are some judges who just aren't very good at judging, but this is usually because their comments either have no articulation or they come across as completely rude.

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Re: VLDC9 - viscid lava deluging cyclones 9

Postby Duker » 2 years ago

An alternative way of judging I think could work if nothing else because it would completely eradicate burnout would be to have every contestant be a judge. Yeap.
Not that everyone would judge every level, but all submitted levels would be divided amongst the contestants so each level gets at least X amount of scores each, which then gets averaged.

It would take a bit of trust that peeps won't score lower than reasonable to try to give themselves a better chance but honestly I think the vast majority would be honest enough, and clearly unreasonable scores such as say 1/100 when the rest are ~60/100 would be either looked at or even discarded.

With a lot fewer levels per person more time can be dedicated to each, replaying them, comparing them to each other etc etc.

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Re: VLDC9 - viscid lava deluging cyclones 9

Postby S.N.N. » 2 years ago

While that would give a more reasonable average, you'd have to rely on all of the contestants to actually follow through. Historically speaking, there are many people who will dump a level in a contest and never visit again (ie one offs).

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Re: VLDC9 - ventures livening dusky canyons 9

Postby nathanisbored » 2 years ago

S.N.N. wrote:
nathanisbored wrote:"You would need to be sure that the judges all understand the criteria which they are judging to perfection, regardless of what that criteria actually is." Agreed, which is why you should use criteria which is quantified. Instead of just throwing a number out for your score, every point given should be accounted for. i.e. if the category were "resourcefulness", you would give examples in the level, like actual obstacles in the level and say, "one point for this obstacle because it accomplishes X thing with limited resources. another point here for this part because of Y thing. and 2 points here for this part because of Z thing that was especially impressive".
On a related note, it's no surprise that every single contest is met with criticism of the judges and their opinions. TaviTurnip said something in the MaGL3 thread (albeit sarcastically and not meant to be taken constructively) which does ring sort of true - nobody is really "qualified" to judge levels. Some of us have more experience with SMW/SMBX/whatever and general design principles than others, but in the end, everyone is going to have their own opinions.
This goes back to my original point about how it's completely silly to complain about judge scores in a contest like this. If you're not taking any of the things I suggested seriously (and I'm not saying you should), then you shouldn't expect the scores to have any meaning, and you certainly shouldn't criticise the judges for it. It was just bothering me how people were bickering over the judge scores and ignoring the elephant in the room which is that the judge scores can't be meaningful simply because of the system. And if y'all think that's a good thing and that's how it should be, then stop complaining.

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Re: VLDC9 - viscid lava deluging cyclones 9

Postby FrozenQuills » 2 years ago

We should talk about the levels today lol

Magmatic Cliffs is a pretty interesting set of lava rides. I like how some of the setups involved falling buzzy beatles, and I think the secret exit was the best part for me. The lightning is a really nice touch as well.

Stormy Ruins nailed the aesthetic with the rain and architecture. I loved how the secret exit showed invisible blocks, though I sorta wished that it went further with the eating block stuff. I still like it a lot though.
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Re: VLDC9 - viscid lava deluging cyclones 9

Postby Koopster » 2 years ago

41st: MAGMATIC CLIFFS by Grugi
Nimono
DESIGN: 24/30
CREATIVITY: 16/20
AESTHETICS: 8/10
TOTAL: 48/60
Fun level, though the secret exit path is slightly unclear how to get into, and a few jumps were tougher than they needed to be with the skull raft. Overall, though, fun!

ninja boy
DESIGN: 12/30
CREATIVITY: 10/20
AESTHETICS: 6/10
TOTAL: 28/60
This was a fun level, nothing all to special design wise but still a fun level.

Eternity
DESIGN: 16/30
CREATIVITY: 16/20
AESTHETICS: 8/10
TOTAL: 40/60
Pretty fun skull raft level! Some really interesting sprite setups there, and the ride was fairly balanced overall - no areas were particularly boring, but there weren't enough threats to overwhelm the player either. The lightning was a bit distracting at first, but I got used to it surprisingly quickly - I still feel it would be better if the animation was kept to the back area color only, though.

OTHER:

Koopster
DESIGN: 25/30
CREATIVITY: 13/20
AESTHETICS: 9/10
TOTAL: 47/60
While it's not a level that does much out of the ordinary, it's really well crafted! It's very consistent on what it sets to do, gets the difficulty curve just right and hides its bonuses really well in my opinion. Feels like something that could be in an actual Mario game. Other than the kinda weird lava color, I really like how it looks, too.

21st: STORMY RUINS by G.D.
Nimono
DESIGN: 26/30
CREATIVITY: 17/20
AESTHETICS: 8/10
TOTAL: 51/60
Nice level with an interesting gimmick, though the secret exit was way too easy to reach, even easier than the normal exit! It was very visible...

ninja boy
DESIGN: 21/30
CREATIVITY: 16/20
AESTHETICS: 10/10
TOTAL: 47/60
What can I say about this level it's looks really good. That being said this level was built very well with a nice challenge but also good use of the graphics and enemy placement to create lightning clouds.

Eternity
DESIGN: 21/30
CREATIVITY: 16/20
AESTHETICS: 8/10
TOTAL: 45/60
Nice! Some really interesting challenges, and the level design seems fairly well thought overall. The secret exit isn't too annoying to get (I think the sublevel needed something to send the player back to the regualr exit path in case he didn't want to get the secret exit right now, though), and it also has some nice aesthetics. The use of eating blocks was fairly nice too, but I feel the falling spikes at the end were still a bit out of plae, even with the warning you added there, mostly because you didn't really use them in the level before.

Koopster
DESIGN: 16/30
CREATIVITY: 15/20
AESTHETICS: 8/10
TOTAL: 39/60
Really nice level! But it's a bit unfortunate to me how, while you had excellent ideas at hand - stormy clouds, hiding brown blocks, invisible coin blocks that are viewable sometimes -, I feel you could've done waaaay better. Ultimately this level is very simple, short, straight-forward and barely uses the gimmicks in creative ways D:


I was probably a bit too harsh with Stormy Ruins. Shoulda been a forty at least, I guess. I was just personally underwhelmed by how little the neat gimmicks were used. At least it placed relatively well!
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Re: VLDC9 - viscid lava deluging cyclones 9

Postby Zephyr_DragonLord » 2 years ago

raocow is being fairly savage with that intro, wow.
...I'm surprised by how much I agree with Eternity's comments today.

Magmatic Cliffs uses those skull rafts very well, giving not only a nice variety to the level in terms of challenge, but also giving the Dragon Coins some real difficulty. Hunting for them makes this rather tough... I like this level, and not just because it has magma in it. Nice work. The lightning effect is cool, though a bit distracting.

Stormy Ruins is another cool level. And it looks incredibly good. The stormclouds are a neat idea that were used well, and even though the secret exit's easy to find, it's a good addition to the level. The design's pretty good overall, though that ending comes a bit... suddenly. You did very well, and I agree with that rating completely.
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Re: VLDC9 - viscid lava deluging cyclones 9

Postby ft029 » 2 years ago

Magmatic Cliffs had very good setups with the skull raft. It doesn't do too much, but it's executed very well. I also really like the aesthetics and the music.

Stormy Ruins is excellent. But it could be excellent-er. It literally had all the ingredients: Invisible coin blocks that come out only sometimes that maybe you can use to complete eating block chains? And if you mess up, there's already doors that have a nice look to reset. Lightning is also a good waiting obstacle that can be used cleverly with eating blocks.

Of course, one shouldn't go too far with eating block gimmicks :oops:
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Re: VLDC9 - viscid lava deluging cyclones 9

Postby Lockirby2 » 2 years ago

ft029 wrote:Of course, one shouldn't go too far with eating block gimmicks :oops:
But who would do that, amirite? :P

Magmatic Cliffs definitely pulled the lava ride off better than Vanilla Secret 1.5, but there were still some spots where it felt like nothing was happening. I liked the contrast between the secret exit and the normal exit, and I also thought the secret exit was the best part of the level overall with those Eerie obstacles.

Stormy Ruins is very fun. I don't think I can add anything to what's been said already.

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Re: VLDC9 - viscid lava deluging cyclones 9

Postby Le Neveu de Rameau » 2 years ago

The æsthetics of Magmatic cliffs seem to be very strongly inspired by VLDC8's third place winner.

The æsthetics of Stormy Ruins, in contrast, seem to be very strongly inspired by pure awesomeness.

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Re: VLDC9 - viscid lava deluging cyclones 9

Postby Stink Terios » 2 years ago

So what triggers the special thing exactly? I completely skipped the switch puzzle thanks to it :v

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Re: VLDC9 - vehicular lawns dynamic creminis 9

Postby Zephyr_DragonLord » 2 years ago

Alternatively, Stormy ruins could be strongly inspired by Thor and his electrical buddies.

...raocow, only you could top a goalpost (and not notice) and fall in a one tile gap in a puzzle stage in the same video. One of the many reasons I've stuck with you this whole time.

Grassy Heights looks super saturated, and plays super well. It sticks to the central theme of layer 3 munchers and platforms, and goes with it. There are saws thrown in for good measure, and this enhances the experience. Nice work. Also, you made all of the goal post accessible, which is a good move.

Blue Switch Palace is fine, and raocow kind of failed to realize he could press the P-switch before he got on the other side...

Forestal Elevations is also a good and saturated level, this time with bouncy mushrooms! Those are always fun. Everything here is good to alright, but one minor quip on that last Dragon Coin... players need to decide to go for it or to top the goal post, which is a rather strange decision. But this is indeed a nice level, too, and I'm glad you made it. You contributed to the overworld!
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Re: VLDC9 - viscid lava deluging cyclones 9

Postby Koopster » 2 years ago

Stink Terios wrote:So what triggers the special thing exactly? I completely skipped the switch puzzle thanks to it :v
You have to do it when you got all the exits, and then you gain access to the postgame.

29th: GRASSY HEIGHTS by WarFlare2
Nimono
DESIGN: 29/30
CREATIVITY: 18/20
AESTHETICS: 10/10
TOTAL: 57/60
What a nice level! Greatly enjoyed the rising and falling platforms and how they were utilized!

ninja boy
DESIGN: 16/30
CREATIVITY: 13/20
AESTHETICS: 9/10
TOTAL: 38/60
This was an enjoyable level not to hard but not to easy either more of a mid game difficulty.

Eternity
DESIGN: 19/30
CREATIVITY: 16/20
AESTHETICS: 7/10
TOTAL: 42/60
The first half feels a bit bland, as a lot of areas pretty much only have the layer 2 for obstacles, but the second half is really fun overall. I think the gimmick works a lot better with the saws, it makes for some really interesting setups.

Koopster
DESIGN: 16/30
CREATIVITY: 12/20
AESTHETICS: 8/10
TOTAL: 36/60
Forgot to add one dragon coin? So, this level is pretty alright. I think layer 2 being used in outside areas is a pretty neat concept that's not used enough (probably because of BG constraints). This level doesn't do too much with it though. It actually gets rather unfair with the platforms, since I can't really predict that I absolutely need the layer lower to get through some sections without getting hit. Should've been more careful while designing!

58th: FORESTAL ELEVATIONS by Erik557
Nimono
DESIGN: 25/30
CREATIVITY: 17/20
AESTHETICS: 10/10
TOTAL: 52/60
Really loved the usage of the saws to help with the aesthetics, as well as the springy shrooms! Although, it was possible to take those pieces sometimes... Oh well! On top of that, there were some instances of cutoff pieces of scenery, and at one point a line guide went in front of the tree- and so did Mario for that sole segment. All in all, pretty fun!

ninja boy
DESIGN: 8/30
CREATIVITY: 10/20
AESTHETICS: 5/10
TOTAL: 23/60
Nothing stood out to much about this level really though it was a nice little level to play.

Eternity
DESIGN: 18/30
CREATIVITY: 11/20
AESTHETICS: 7/10
TOTAL: 36/60
There's not really a lot to differentiate this level from the others - it's nicely designed, but a tad generic as well. The layer 2 in the second part would have helped a lot, but it isn't used very well through the level, and actually feels a bit unnecessary.

Koopster
DESIGN: 18/30
CREATIVITY: 13/20
AESTHETICS: 6/10
TOTAL: 37/60
Nice way to pull off the springy shrooms in vanilla, even if I can take a shroom piece with me sometimes :P The second half introduced layer 2, which was cool. Mostly though, I think you could've gone a loot further with what you had in your hands. This felt too straightforward and simple for the gimmicks you had!


Also some info about the switch palaces: it was supposed to be 4 judges 4 switches but this one was made by JackTheSpades, the VLDC9 lead/manager. Eternity didn't design his switch palace because he disappeared during a lot of the development period thanks to school affairs (it was last year of school before university, I'm on the same boat as him actually!). He was, however, responsible for arranging the switch palace tileset we all used (and it looks great), which was made earlier on.
His absence also affected some of the postgame content, but nothing too bad.
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S.N.N.
Posts: 502
Joined: 10 years ago
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: VLDC9 - vehicular lawns dynamic creminis 9

Postby S.N.N. » 2 years ago

I think it's rather befitting that JackTheSpades designed that palace anyway, given its link to the post game and all that.

Related: the space world is probably my second favorite map in the game after Famicom.

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QubicTom
Pleasantly Confused
Posts: 803
Joined: 4 years ago
First name: Tom
Location: The North

Re: VLDC9 - vehicular lawns dynamic creminis 9

Postby QubicTom » 2 years ago

You got Nelsoned! :lol:
I was surprised you used that term for the corner jump, too bad nobody is going to get the reference!

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Lockirby2
Posts: 351
Joined: 4 years ago
Location: Ontario, Canada
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Re: VLDC9 - vehicular lawns dynamic creminis 9

Postby Lockirby2 » 2 years ago

Grassy Heights was pretty fun, and I enjoyed the layer 2 as obstacles. I never had any issues with the platforms being timed in a way that it was impossible to avoid damage (although I still got hit a couple times anyways), but given Koopster's judge comments I probably got lucky there.

I went through the Blue Switch Palace quite a few times (before I figured out how to break it), and Yoshi only ate the mushroom from under the note block once for me. Either I got really lucky, or raocow got really unlucky.

The last level was cute, but I wish there was a bit more stuff going on.


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