Nintendo’s Super Mario Maker made waves this year by providing burgeoning level designers with all of the tools they need to create the Super Mario stages of their dreams. Some makers work hard to provide players with beautifully realized challenges, complete with out-of-the-box ideas and professional-grade flow.
Others… well, they’re just out to make people angry. If you’re one of those sadists committed to frustrating players with a few well-placed trolls, these eight rage-inducing design strategies are a great place to start. Shame on you!
Invisible Blocks Are a Troll’s Best Friend
Invisible blocks — which aren’t activated until hit from underneath by an unsuspecting player — are a trolls best friend. Place them in the middle of a wide gap to ensure players fall to an untimely death. If you think your players are beginning to wise up to your trolling, place a second invisible block next to the first one to ensure ultimate rage!
Misleading Stage Names for Psychological Torment
A misleading name can establish a false expectation in your players. Sadistic level designers can stage elaborate trolls by subverting qualities suggested by a level’s name.
Keep the Clock Ticking
Give players an infuriatingly small time limit and force them to collect precariously positioned clocks scattered throughout the stage. This will imbue your designs with a sense of compelling urgency and, if your troll game is on point, might just motivate players to throw their Wii Us out the living room window and into traffic.
Carefully Hide Necessary Power Ups
Let’s say you have a level with dozens of enemies barreling towards Mario like a herd of wild buffalo. Let’s say there’s no way to actually avoid the onslaught of death-dealing pixels without picking up a Starman at the beginning of the stage. Let’s say this necessary super star is nestled in a hidden block to the immediate left of the starting point. Sounds to me like the kind of troll that keeps players guessing and swearing until they’ve either put their Wii U up for sale on Craigslist or somehow happen upon the well-concealed solution.
For Frustrating Results Add Mushrooms and Spikes
If Mario takes a hit while augmented by any power up, he has a few frames of invulnerability that keep him protected from additional threats. Exploit this mechanic by placing mushrooms or any other power-up above a platform consisting exclusively of spikes. This forces your player to collect the power-up so they don’t instantly die upon hitting the spikes. It then lets them run across the spikes after taking damage while Mario is invulnerable, and jump towards the next platform to do it all over again. Repeat ad nauseam for excruciating timing puzzles.
The Classic Bait-and-Switch
Everyone expects a horizontal pipe to lead to another section of the level. What if it doesn’t? What if, instead, this horizontal pipe spits out enemies, and the player actually has to activate a hidden vine concealed on top of the horizontal pipe? Subvert a player’s preconceived notions about certain level features for simple-yet-effective trolls. Sometimes, the line between “clever level design” and “trolling” is almost completely invisible.
So Obvious it Hurts
Make a challenging level that requires players to demonstrate their amazing Super Mario Bros. skills. Throw in whatever challenges you see fit: difficult jumps, hordes of enemies, complicated power-up puzzles. Now, place a wall right before the flag. Make the wall completely impassible. At the beginning of the stage, right near its starting point, place an obscured pipe that leads beyond the wall. Players will be cursing your name for years to come!
Whatever You Do, Never Give Up
You can always do what one enterprising troll did: make a level promising to show off the game’s various costumes and then, after you’ve won their interest, serenade players with a Super Mario Maker-themed rendition of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Nintendo seemed to appreciate the joke: They picked the stage as one of their first Featured Levels. You can’t trust anyone these days!
Remember: Makers have to complete their own levels before unleashing them on the public. So, while you’re free to make a level as clever and annoying as you fit, you have to make sure it’s technically passable. So get trolling you nefarious designer! It’s the subversive approach that put legends like Terry Cavanagh and Hidetaka Miyazaki on the map — and it just might be your calling card. Nonetheless: Shame on you.
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