Wario Land 4 – Hall of Hieroglyphs Design Analysis [Video]

May 8th, 2013

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This morning I was playing around with doing a video commentary piece on Anna Anthrophy’s Mighty Jill Off. I’ve been meaning to write about this game’s level design for a while, but because the game’s only playable in full screen—meaning I can’t play a bit and then type about it, or quickly stress test my comments on the fly—I never finished my article. I knew that the video wouldn’t work because I needed to have taken some notes first, but I gave it a shot anyway, just to prolong my procrastination. After not getting very far, I thought that I could do something similar on Wario Land 4, and came up with the video above. It’s pretty rough (so many “it’s important”s) and I didn’t do any preparation, but I’m still curious to know what you all think of it? Let me know in the comments.

  • Hamish

    The testing rooms are kinda interesting, but why did they include pictures? Wouldn’t it have been more fun and give a nicer feeling of discovery if they just had pictures of the buttons being pressed?

    I don’t feel like you are revealing any particularly clever pieces of teaching here – you are just saying “X happened, which teaches the player that X can happen.” You are not pointing out anything as insightful as what is, for example, here: http://auntiepixelante.com/?p=696

    The closest you come to something surprising is the part where that room is repeated, with a big block in it, and you mention the player’s attention is drawn to the block, the inconsistency. But *what is this for?* What is interesting about this second room?

    I am very keen on level design analyses, so I’d like to say I will buy your book, but I don’t think I will be – I don’t think I will find anything in it to surprise me. You must edit your writings until you are only saying things that are non-obvious, things that are special to a game that we may learn from.

    By the way, you may not have seen the following post on anna’s formspring. She was asked: how do you begin level designs?

    “start by identifying the most important rule of the game, and find the most effective way to teach it to the player. then start introducing her to the COROLLARIES and EMBELLISHMENTS upon that rule.

    “EXAMPLE: the most important thing in mighty jill off is jill’s super-tall jump. so she starts at the bottom of a really deep pit. there’s nothing to do down here but jump, and with a single button press jill jumps all the way out of the pit! now the player knows how far jill jumps! the second lesson involves another long jump, but this time with SPIKES at the top! the player learns the second-most important rule in mighty jill off, that jill can stop in the middle of a jump!

    “in the next part of the game, she practices jumping side-to-side from platform to platform, with nothing dangerous underneath. then, she does tall full-height jumps, but over burning flames! and then, jump side-to-side, but over flames! you introduce ideas, then you develop them, and then you start mixing them together. later, jill will have to JUMP really high, STOP beneath a row of spikes, then FLOAT sideways over hot flames to a safe platform.

    “all of the challenges in mighty jill off are laid out in a single, fixed order, bottom to top; that’s not the case with REDDER – in that game it was impossible to know in which exact order every player explores every room in the game. but because there are only a few points of transition between different areas, i knew that, say, the player had always passed through an area containing automatic guns before she ever encountered a room with automatic guns that *ricochet*.”

  • Hello Hamish, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

    I can’t really talk about what players find fun or not, but I don’t agree with your point about removing the Game and Watch man images. Sure, there’s a discovery factor when the game designer doesn’t provide all the information, but this doesn’t suit the restricted practice of this level. The designers want to introduce the core mechanics quickly and the best way for them to do so is to just give the player the information and an exercise in context. Leaving out images would be better suited to freer practice where you want the player to show more autonomy. There’s already plenty of information that’s subtly delivered to the player through the arrangement of level elements.

    I’m sorry that you don’t feel that I’m pointing out much of interest. I read the article that you linked to and I’m pretty sure that my book is full of such interesting insight, perhaps it doesn’t come through in the video. I just did it off the top of my head, the text is much clearer. Also, my book covers everything in Wario Land 4, so naturally there are some parts that are less interesting than others.

    Similarly, your quote is exactly what I have done in my book and more. I’ve read a few of Anna’s article as well as your own, (that is, if you are the same Hamish Todd that wrote about sin waves in Castlevania) and I can say pretty confidently that my writing holds up. In any case, if you are _the_ Hamish Todd, I think that your articles are pretty cool. Maybe we can have a longer chat about them sometime.