Is The Internet Bad At Super Mario Maker? | Game/Show | PBS Digital Studios
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Is The Internet Bad At Super Mario Maker? | Game/Show | PBS Digital Studios

August 28, 2019


[MUSIC PLAYING] Hey, everybody. Jamin here from Game/Show. So Nintendo released
“Super Mario Maker” a couple weeks ago. It’s a game that you’ve probably
seen ads for everywhere. There was actually an ad for
it on my Kindle– my Kindle Paperwhite, of all places. Anyway, it’s this game where
you can construct your own Mario levels and then share
them over the internet. And though most everyone
agrees that it’s a fun and intuitive
level editor, there’s been– you know–
a little bit of criticism that the game is
inundated with uninspired and kind of lousy Mario levels. Writing for the Washington
Post, Michael Thomsen complained that the
few creative levels are being lost among the gaping
archive of disposable failures, which is– which is quite,
quite, quite an indictment. And I think this has, like, you
know, a ring of truth to it. They’re either really,
really simplistic, or they’re trollishly
difficult, the latter category coming from this long
tradition of making these really evil Mario
levels that have popped up in the modding community for
years and years and years. Many of the top rated ones,
at least in the early going, tend to be these Rube
Goldberg-type contraptions where you press nothing at all,
and then all this crazy stuff automatically happens. I’ll link to a couple of them,
obviously, in the description. So this got me thinking. Why does the internet
gotta suck so much at being creative when it comes
to designing Mario levels? So I think there’s– you know,
it’s a couple opinions about why this might be. The game writer Brendan
Keogh chalks it up to the game being new, and that
creators are inexperienced, saying that making a bad
game is part of the learning process to making a good game. And this is
something that you’ve seen a lot in other
user-generated games like Media Molecules’
“Little Big Planet,” for example, which took some
time for people to actually create some things that were
going to have some meaning. Patricia Hernandez
at Kotaku had said that “Mario Maker” just
needs better curation tools so that you can separate
the good from the bad. Oh, I think that’s something
that one of my favorite games, “Trials,” has done for quite
some time, where they have obviously a rating
system, but they really do a good job of
hand-picking the levels that are going to be emblematic
of the types of things that you can create
inside of “Trials.” Offworld offers these– the
possibility of the editor actively encourages creation
of these crazy, vandalistic, over-the-top levels, often
to its own detriment. So there’s a lot
of forces at play that maybe explain why
some of the levels, maybe, or a lot of levels,
aren’t really that great. In any case, if you look
outside the world of games, though, I have a
different explanation for why, at this point,
Mario levels are still something that’s outside
of most people’s depths. If you ask me, it has lot
to do with this concept of generativity, which
is something that we’ve discussed before on this show. But generativity is an idea
from Jonathan Zittrain, a social theorist and professor
of internet law at Harvard. And basically, a
system has generativity when it empowers an audience
to use it to create things that people who made the system
had never thought of before. So a great example is obviously
YouTube, the medium that I’m currently speaking to you on. So when Sir Tim Berners-Lee
was using hypertext to create the worldwide
web, he had no idea that there would be these
people using his invention to express their own ideas. That to say that the
internet at its most creative is when it’s doing stuff, it
goes against the intentions of its platform creators. Certainly for the folks
who created YouTube, they probably could
not have expected that the number of things that
would be created on YouTube someday would be the
current state of affairs. Or if you look at a game
like “Minecraft,” that’s a great expression of this. If it was up to
Notch, for example, “Minecraft” would have been this
survival-ish, rogue-like thing where you kill dragons. But because it was
developed in open beta, and people could start
experimenting with it before the game was
completed, people started making all these
amazing things– architecture, and microcomputers, and
all this amazing stuff. Machinima became super popular. The Let’s Play as
a– as a genre became something that was codified
through “Minecraft.” It’s also really
important to remember that “Minecraft’s” EULA–
those are the terms that dictate how you
can use it– they remained really, really open. So Mojang actively
encouraged people to mod it, and that led to things that
Notch and the design team could have never
possibly imagined, like having the
UN use it to allow local people to help redesign
impoverished public spaces. Or how it’s driving technology
like Microsoft’s HoloLens. With “Mario Maker,”
I’m not so sure that the player is given
the same level of openness. It’s pretty much tools just for
making Mario levels, which is what people are doing with it. So I don’t know if
they could potentially take a page from
the Notch playbook, like maybe there’s
a way in which you can encourage openness. But I think that
part of the problem there is that Nintendo
historically has not been a company that’s
really open to the idea that people make things
with their own tools. And “Mario Maker” is really
unusual in that respect, because it goes
against a lot of what Nintendo has done in the past. Nintendo was initially
very reticent even to have– you know,
certainly with the Nintendo Wii– was really
reticent to allow players to play with each
other on the internet. You had these, like,
really long friend codes, and it was difficult
to find people. So Nintendo, in a
lot of ways, has been very resistant to
some of the larger themes that have been
happening in terms of encouraging and engendering
creativity on the internet. And so maybe that’s
part of problem with “Mario Maker,” where
it’s open in a sense, but not quite open enough that
you can really do some really super amazing things with it. Anyway, hopefully
people will start to find ways to
create games that step outside the boundaries of
the familiar Mario lexicon. So hopefully, can unleash
the true creative potential of the internet. Anyway, what do you think? Do you find a lot
of the “Mario Maker” levels are not that
great, or do you have some of your
favorites, or do you think I’m just kind of– just
being unnecessarily critical? Hash it out in the comments,
and if you like what you saw, please subscribe. I’ll see you all in a bit. [MUSIC PLAYING]

Only registered users can comment.

  1. I've already lost interest in Mario Maker. Most levels are really just awful and creating them isn't as fun as I initially hoped. I'll stick to Splatoon for now.

  2. The internet is bad at pretty much everything… Look at how many videos there are on youtube and how many of them are worth your time.

  3. 100% for better curating tools. My biggest gripe for now has been with the number and popularity of "impossible levels". Inevitably with Ross being the highest rated maker in the US atm, we'll see a surge of those levels.

  4. You sound distracted, it looks like you didn't have a script but still. When you pronounce in er or repeat words, your point across doesnt reach with as much energy as it normally does. Still liked the video though.

  5. I think this ties back to your previous video about Game Designers. Game design (or specifically level design in this case) is a skill that not every random person on the internet has developed enough to allow for the creation of interesting (or well-paced) Mario levels.

    But once the novelty of auto/nearly-impossible levels wears off, I expect there will be a community of talented designers building on each others' ideas and developing some truly amazing levels.

  6. Coming from LittleBigPlanet 2, 3, & Vita to Super Mario Maker, it was frustrating not being able to do something. Go from creating RPG's from the logic level to placing blocks and enemies? The Mario Maker level designer is easy to use but doesn't offer any deep level of creativity to do anything other than a Mario level. Even adding extremely simple logic like Minecraft's basic redstone or LittleBigPlanet 1's magnetic key devices as well as some things they can interact with like doors or lights would add so much more!

  7. I'm at little lost at what you're trying to say.

    You bring up the concept of generativity and compare Minecraft to Mario Maker. But why? Minecraft is being used for all these purposes but according to you, Minecraft is doing this amazing job because people have recontexualized the game and have added rules beyond what Minecraft lays out before it. Are you saying Mario Maker can't do the same thing? Why not, it's only been out for about a month. I've already seen people recreate classic games like Frogger on it. I've seen people try to recreate Metroid with it. I've seen really unique ways things interact with each other and I've even seen Mario Maker used as satire against overly dramatic and serious games. So not only do I think you're being overly critical, but I also think you're simply overthinking this whole issue. The reason why there are so many bad Mario Maker levels is because most people playing it are not experienced game designers.

    The best thing about Mario Maker is that it's simple. It streamlines level designing to something akin to a text editor, but even easier. This is a lot of people's real first glimpses into what it takes to a be a game designer and has practically no barriers of entry, like having to understand code or having to buy assets (like Project Spark). This is the best way for people to not only understand how much effort goes into something as simple as a Mario level, but also to understand how game designers think, which is a huge problem right now as a lot of critics do not see games the same way as creators do and that hurts criticism by making it inapplicable to most developers.

  8. You say multiple times that Nintendo has historically been opposed to people messing with their games; are they not allowed to change?

    On the topic at hand, Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer has a similar network to share the homes and businesses you design, but it seems fairly natural, so I think that the system SMM has can work, just not for SMM, which would benefit from a hefty update with things like difficulty filters and downvotes (which could be hidden and would just function as a way to keep troll levels from showing up in searches.)

    Side-not: kind of love how the Mario Paint music community now basically has updated software to use with SMM

  9. One thing people are trying to make epic boss fights, but the problem is that the game doesn't make it easy all the time

  10. The problem is that there is no way to filter other than looking for ratings and people suck at critisizing levels overall or do none at all so yeah it's bad because it hasn't developed a proper community for building levels and refuses to filter levels based on their type

  11. Better end script imo: Hopefully, Nintendo patches Super Mario Maker with more generativity, or tools for less generativity. Anyways, what do you think? Do you think the Super Mario Maker levels are actually not as bad as I make them out to be? Should Nintendo go in the direction of Minecraft and unleash their user's creative potential with more generativity, or go towards it's current direction with more design tools and less generativity? Hash it out in the comments, and if you like what you saw, please subscribe.

  12. The issue with Mario maker is that people AREN'T using professional level design techniques. That's what is wrong. The professionals who made mario games would place obstacles but give the player tools and ideas to overcome them. Mario maker levels (referring to the hard ones) are designed to place almost insurmountable obstacles with the purpose of seeing the player fail. And the only way to beat said level is to study every single object and learn every enemy pattern which can take quite a while if you didn't make the level yourself. Which is very, very bad level design. And makes you truly understand that THIS is exactly why we NEED our game designers and level designers. Like if you agree.

  13. I suppose an alternate idea could be that, rather than letting players mod the game, perhaps they could instead make a space where players can put ideas for new things that could be added into the game, and others could vote on what ideas they liked for Nintendo to possibly impliment later.

  14. I 100% disagree with the assertion here. I think people are being rather creative with the tools they've been offered. What I think some people are experiencing, and what Jamin is referring to here, is how the game is a microcosm of the Internet as an entity. It goes well with the old adage "you've got to kiss a lot of frogs." Mario Maker levels, like the Internet as a whole, are rife with sub-par selections, but if one takes the time to look closely, there's some brilliance buried in there. Now, better citation tools might make this more apparent with less effort, but the quality is indeed there.

  15. As a game designer, it took me quite a long time to come up with both fun ideas and a fun implantation of those ideas. At the time I was making my first few games, I thought they were fantastic. They were not. In fact, by my standards today, I'd be hesitant to even call them games. More like "killing time trying to get to a goal".

    I strongly suspect the vast majority of Mario levels being made are by people who used to be a lot like me. They just need some time and constructive criticism to really hit their stride. Give it a year or two. I predict you'll see a vast improvement in level design.

  16. How about designers are extremely innovative people and there is a reason why 99% of people are never going to create video games.

  17. They would have to open up a lot more options, it's not formatted in a way to allow crazy stuff to happen. Its just any ol level editor. Its not like the resources are there to make Day Mario… You know, how ARMA II was a largely ignored game but when the Day Z mod came up it was enourmous.

    In the end I don't think there's a whole lot they could do to really open it up even if they wanted to. I imagine it would have to get a PC release and tie the PC release in with the console release so then with the exceptional modding abilities the PC has then some awesome stuff can happen.

  18. I totally agree with you. Most of the Mario Maker out there right now are pretty bad to put it lightly. There is of course the problem that not everyone is a game designer. So most people don't know or care about level design and just do whatever.

    Another problem is Nintendo itself. they should be highlighting some handpicked levels to set an example.
    If you go to the top rated list right now, you'll find nothing but auto-play levels. (Which I'm completely sick of at this point)
    Meanwhile actually great levels are impossible to find, unless you dig through the Mario Maker subreddit.

    I personally think the tools we are given are fine. There's enough to play around with and it's perfect for making Mario levels.
    They could have given us more, but it was never meant to be this all encompassing game creation tool.
    So I think the solution lies with Nintendo. They just need to do a weekly top 10 of handpicked levels and we're golden.

    A search bar that allows you to look for certain tags, names or features in a level would be nice too.

  19. Do you guys ever played a tabletop RPG with a novice dungeon master? It is very common to see one trying to play against the players instead of making an experience for everyone to enjoy. They stop trying to "win" the game when they realise their players are quiting, but in Mario Maker there isn't something like that.

    On the bright side, I hope Nintendo see all these hard (and poorly implemented) levels and do more difficult levels on the next Mario Games.

    Sorry for my english!

  20. Has no one considered the possibility that the general public is just not creatively gifted enough to make levels to the caliber we have become accustomed to in the Nintendo-made romps. My creative friends have all made great levels, and the less creative- less so.

  21. While it is true that there are plenty of okay to not great levels and while there are certainly too many "do nothing and stuff will happen" levels, there are also plenty of creative ones like one that was flappy bird in Mario form which was really cool to me!

  22. Easy. Level design is actually quite hard, and the vast majority of people has no experience in the field, så of course most levels would suck.

  23. I don't know that you can be bad at a level making game of this sort, I always feel that making the level is the game, just messing around with the pieces you're given. Conversely, things like Warioware are more powerful tools but can be difficult to use, and you can be objectively bad at it, making something that doesn't function at all. That said, having some basic goals with what you're making does help you make levels that are kinda cohesive.

  24. This is not exactly news.

    Dungeon Keeper (the first one) eventually got an editor, but you needed to manually (with a text editor) create a script file to initiatialize and use the maps. As a result, most maps found online were not even playable (because no script). I checked out some of them by either adding the missing script or looking at them in the editor, and it was not worth the effort. It took me longer to check them out than it would have taken me to create a better map myself from scratch.

    Modern user created content games, like for example spore, do a great job of letting peope create levels, items, characters, but ofc most of them suck. Imo the goal of a content creation tool is not great content, the goal is to empower the users and to given them a feeling of acomplishment. Someone else checking out the creation and then finding it sucks is basically a misunderstanding of the meaning and potential of such tools.

    I mean, come on, do you really expect millions of 13yo kids to generate valuable content? And then add all the "I drew a nice picture of a dick/giraffe/giraffe with a dick." or the "Check out this glitch I found." stuff that is not intended for use either.

    As a result, at least 90% of user generated content created with an easy to use tool will be unpublishable garbage. Which is fine, people should have fun and create stuff. Just don't force me to use that crap (like in spore).

  25. It's not that they're bad, it's that they're different. We've been playing World 1-1 for the last 30 years. We can now officially play levels that are confined to the tried and true Mario game physics, but that are of a creative skew that separates them from traditional level design. This is why such levels are rising to the top and will rise to the top while the game is still fresh and new in everybody's mind. The two types of levels you rarely see in games are of the ones you mentioned: crazy, unique levels that are automated and trollishly difficult levels that only have one specific way to complete.

    Thing is, we've been doing this since day 1, it's just now we're able to do it officially and present to a mass audience. Look back at all the mods/hacks of any game of any genre. Almost always what comes first are cheats and cracks that completely destroy the basic mechanics of said game, such as infinite lives or infinite ammo. Eventually, mods that actively make the game better, such as improved skins and HUD designs, come and start to rise to the top. Mario Maker will follow the same path. But first, let's have a little fun and put that invisible block over the pit right in the middle of your jump arc 😉

  26. I think with time Mario Maker is going to be a brilliant online archive of user generated content. I haven't played the game myself but from what I understand every user is only allowed a certain number of uploads. Surely this means through experience, inspiration, etc, players are going to become better at designing levels and therefore their ten levels will be a showcase of what they can really do. It's still very very very early days at the moment.

  27. SethBling's (usually minecraft) has been making some rather interesting levels. With focus on design and having a reasonable difficulty curve.

  28. how are you finding it in comparison to other games with a big map making focus/element (LBP, forge in halo, etc.)?

  29. Design is a learned skill. Anyone can use crayons, but it takes time, effort, and discipline to move beyond stick figures standing under a smiley-face sun. With a subject as popular as Mario offering a way to be creative, most of what you get from people is just raw enthusiasm to create something with no concept of how to go about it effectively.

  30. Over complicating it, it is simply inexperience with level design for platformers. They will improve as those users get more experienced with it.

  31. I spend a lot of time and brain power on my levels to make them memorable and difficult, but not impossible. I want people to play and enjoy my levels, and I want them to see that not all the levels you end up with in the Mario challenges are garbage. Auto Mario levels were fun at first, but now they just make me yawn as I wait for them to finish so I can move on.

  32. on the bright side, it would be an encouragement to game design through a simples tool. It's like sparking a flame to starters and maybe, create some real game designers in the future. Sturgeon's Law will apply, but the 10% may be worthy.

  33. There are 1 mil copies of super Mario maker sold and about 2.1 mil published levels. Thereby most of those levels are probably made by new players. This could be a reason for the bad levels.

  34. As many have said, level design is really difficult, and sometimes it can get to the point where the designer actually just becomes detached from understanding how hard the level truly is. It's why game testing is so important. I'll give a few examples.

    The first mario level is one you have discussed before, which was specifically designed to teach the player as easily as possible about a multitude of mechanics. It puts you against certain enemies, it teaches you through your own actions, showing how break blocks and how to kill characters and how they can kill you. It was very thoughtful design.

    Meanwhile, the Journey post mortem at GDC explains That Game Company had to extend production by about a year to help finalize the ending of their game, trying to figure out how long they should take before the player finally collapses to make sure the character isn't frustrated from a sudden drop or bored from how long it takes.

    Lastly, one that's a bit more personal. A guy at my university ran a study on different ways of perceiving depth in games, varying from stereoscopic 3D to drop shadows in hopes of determining what was most effective. He had designed a game in unity so that he could easily alternate the settings, which was fine and dandy. However, he had chosen some of his hardest levels, which he had played to death. It took me almost two hours because he went from a tutorial to extremely difficult levels that to him were totally fine, but to others, took an extensive period of time to get just right. Aside from me, there were no other women he knew that could run the study and complete the levels so my data was scrapped to avoid a lopsided amount of men and women playing. The levels were okay, but again, they didn't really allow for much learning. There is definitely a balance that is needed to help ensure that levels are the correct amount of difficulty.

  35. I made a level I figured would be simple and fun. It starts with a couple boxes (one with a Super Leaf), and you need to jump to some pipes with Piranha Plants spitting fire at you. There's a third pipe that's upside-down with the same thing, but a little low to make it so you need the leaf to get to the fourth pipe. There's a pit of pipes that you can just jump over, leading to a fairly safe spot with Winged Monty Moles coming out of pipes and in a big pit with a hole in it above you. You can actually just run through this part. There's a final part where there are some more Winged Monty Moles, but a four-high tower of springs (It was fun standing on them and watching the moles get pushed back as they try to get you. Then it's just a quick jump over a pit and you're at the goal.

    My friends couldn't beat it. They'd mess up the jump over the pipes, they'd wait until the Plants were down before jumping (when they'll just pop back up by the time they're there), they'd stick around to kill the Moles even after I said the pipe makes infinite ones, and this went on for almost an hour. "That's not fair! You can't make unlimited moles!" I set up the pipe to prevent people from just standing around. The goal in Mario is to get to the goal, not kill everything!

    They give me the controller and I breeze through the whole thing without getting hit. Then I'm called a cheater when I hover with the Super Leaf, which they did too. I made the level to be EASY! Obviously if I put in a power-up I expect the player to take advantage of it. What, was I supposed to design a level you can breeze through without the Super Leaf and just give it to you at the beginning for no reason?

    I want to make fun levels, but that's way harder when the people who would otherwise be testing those levels are so bad. I got the game with the intent of making fun levels to play with my friends, but if they suck too bad at the game mechanics to begin with, then I can't make fun levels for them!

  36. I don't expect most of the levels in Mario Maker to be worth playing the same way I don't expect most of the paintings in Colors 3D to be worth looking at. Making a level is easy. Level design is hard. Some skilled creators are going to make great levels that are fun to play. The rest are just going to screw around with tools, have fun, and, ideally, learn enough to become more of the skilled creators making great levels someday. And if they don't, oh well. The tools are the game.

  37. Super Mario Maker is an interesting idea, but I'll probably be more interested after people have been playing around with it for a while and it's maybe gone through any updates it needs or when/if Super Mario Maker 2 comes out.

  38. We had this argument regarding STEAM awhile ago, that with the flood of games it was difficult to find the games YOU wanted to play. STEAM has made great leaps in its' curation tools to address the issue, and Nintendo will need to do similarly to keep people interested.

  39. There are some unique levels that bend the physics of mario objects to fun and interesting puzzles that definitely fall outside of the traditional Mario formula.

  40. I have to say unexpected doesn't equal against the creators vision. Unfortunatly I haven't got a WiiU to play around with this but I have made simple plat form games in Fusion 2.5

  41. While they give you plenty of ways to make a Mario level, it's definitely hard to get away from the "start on the left and move to the goal post on the right" formula, because every level has to have that as it's basis. I've enjoyed the creativity that people have found within those systems, but it is not the type of open sandbox of Little Big Planet. It just allows people to create levels similar to other SMB, SMB3, SMW, and NSMB levels, and usually crazier. Little Big Planet had a core game, but came with the creation tools, so didn't focus as much on making LBP levels, but on making many different types of games. However, I feel that the Super Mario Maker restrictions can lead to some fun and interesting level designs, where LBP seems almost too open, and harder to make something playable because of all the freedom.

  42. Level design is an art in itself. To expect regular people to create excellent Mario levels with no experience is asking for a little much.

  43. if guys thing this stuff is something new and innovative you certainly wasnt around to play "Tim the incredible machine"

  44. The Wii mod "newER super mario bros wii" is 10000 times better than the original one on the Wii, so… at least some people are better at making Mario levels than Nintendo themselves.

  45. To me is not just the ability to design the levels, there is also the ability to play the game. What may seem easy and straightforward for Mario veterans might be impossible and frustrating for the rest. So even if your level feels like an actual Mario level that could have been in any official game, if is played by unskilled gamers then it will be skipped and forgotten in favor of popular levels that anyone can beat like automated/music/easy to reach the end levels.

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