This Dumb Industry: The Pitch Meeting

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Sep 18, 2018

Filed under: Column 76 comments

I have noticed a business opportunity. Sadly, I can’t take advantage of it. I’m already overloaded with projects and have no time for game development. So to get it out of my system, I’m going to explain the idea. This is like a pitch meeting, only instead of asking you for investment money so I can make the game, I’m suggesting you go get the money from someone else and then do it yourself. If you peel away that nonsensical premise, then I suppose you’ll find a very roundabout criticism of Nintendo buried in here somewhere.

This will sound like a lame copycat idea at first, but hear me out. There’s a good reason why this makes financial sense, which I’ll get to eventually. But before we do that, let’s start by talking about this YouTube channel dedicated to streaming Super Mario Maker levels.

The Pitch

I enjoy watching this a lot more than I'd enjoy playing it.
I enjoy watching this a lot more than I'd enjoy playing it.

Super Mario Maker is a platformer for the Wii U, utilizing the now-familiar Mario-styled gameplay. It’s got all the polish and quality of a Super Mario Brothers game. The difference here is that users can create their own levels and upload them for other people to experience. As you browse through the ocean of user-made content the game lets you see some stats regarding each level. How many times have people played this level? How many of those attempts resulted in success? What’s the fastest anyone has cleared the level?

Rhyukahr, the YouTuber I linked above, uploads a lot of videos where he attempts to run through some of the hardest levels (according to clear rate) the community has to offer. He does livestreams and then uploads highlight reels of this to YouTube. What we have here is a four-part community: 1) Some people make levels. 2) Other people play levels. 3) Some people watch the players live. 4) Some people watch the compilation on YouTube. These four groups obviously overlap with each other, but the point is that there are a lot of ways to engage with this game.

My suggestion is that weAnd by “we” I mean “anyone besides me”. make a Super Mario Maker knockoff, except our game will be targeted at PC / Xbox / Playstation. Here’s what’s involved:

  1. Design a game around a strong set of platforming mechanics. We don’t need to mindlessly copy the Mario template of POW blocks, P-Switches, mushrooms that enable you to shoot fire, and sewer pipes. In fact, we shouldn’t. Those elements aren’t the magic behind Mario anyway. What makes Mario work is that it’s a tight and responsive platformer with a high skill ceiling that features a lot of different mechanics that can be combined in interesting ways. While iconic, things like mushrooms and Koopas are merely cosmetic. Games like Dustforce, Super Meat Boy, Spelunky, and Braid all manage to deliver brilliant platfroming experiences without copying the Mario formula.
  2. Give the game a built-in level editor. The player should be able to stop a level at any point and jump seamlessly into edit mode. The mechanics should support pure platforming (like Super Meat Boy) but also allow for action elements (Spelunky-type stuff) or puzzle gameplay (levers and switches and keys and doors) based on what interests the level designer.
  3. Give it a strong art style. This one should go without saying, but 2D platformers are a very art-forward genre. It might be tempting to distill the experience down to simple geometric shapes, but user expression is going to be a big part of this game and we want to draw in spectators, so we need to spend some money on the art.
  4. Create a server that allows players to browse the library, search for new levels to play, give non-textual feedback to creators, and keep track of who has beaten which levels. We can have player-focused leaderboards to see who is beating the hardest levels, but also creator-focused leaderboards to show who is making the most popular levels.
  5. Create tools for server-side level validation. Since this game is going to be on the PC, we also need the server to validate levels. As In Mario Maker, we’ll make it so that you can’t upload a level until you’ve personally beaten it. Otherwise, the level library will become polluted with frustrating unbeatable levels. The challenge here is that since we’re on the PC, users can hack the game client to bypass this and submit any random nonsense level they like. To fix this, the game will submit your winning inputs as part of the level. Both Devil Daggers and Pac-Man Championship Edition have a system like this to validate scores on the leader boards. If a score looks bogus, you can click on it to see a replay. We can use a similar system to discard bogus levels.

This might sound like a lot of work. Spoiler: You’re right. It’s certainly more work than just making a 2D platformer. In fact, this is probably double the work of just making a standalone single-player game.

Why Would We Make This?

My favorite part of Dustforce is the soundtrack.
My favorite part of Dustforce is the soundtrack.

The ecosystem of YouTube, Twitch, and Steam forms a feedback loop that sells games. People buy games they see on Twitch, they stream games they own, and they watch Twitch streams of games they’ve played. Fortnite, Five Nights at Freddy’s, Getting Over It, and Amnesia are all games that boosted their visibility and sales through spectators. I think a Mario Maker style game is uniquely positioned to leverage this kind of system and become the next fountain of highlight reels, memes, running jokes, fail GIFs, and micro-communities built atop an ever-shifting metagame.

The key here is that Mario Maker is a great game for streaming. It’s not incomprehensible to outsiders like DOTA 2. It’s not a one-note murderfest like Fortnite, PUBG, and GTA V. It’s not abstract like Hearthstone. It’s not a chaotic explosion of particle effects like Overwatch. Visually, Mario is as easy to follow as watching someone do a free-throw in basketball. You can glance at the game and immediately grasp the central mechanics: You can see where the player needs to go and you can intuit the nature and difficulty of the challenge just by looking at the parabola of the character’s jump. In Hearthstone, someone needs to explain what all these cards do, but in Mario Maker you can immediately understand why spikes and open pits are bad and coins are good.

The game can have a fast-moving laid-back feel if you’re just exploring a puzzle level. Or it can have a frantic feel if you’re doing some sort of time trial. Or it can be a cruel comedy like Getting Over It as the audience watches the player endure a series of pranks on the part of a sadistic designer.

Some people will watch the game and want to make levels for it. Once you’re making levels, you’ll want to hone your skills. You can’t upload a level until you’ve personally beaten it, so getting better at the game will allow you to create more challenging levels. While you’re sharpening those skills you might decide to stream to others, where more people will discover the game and continue the cycle of creation, mastery, and sharing.

But Mario Maker Already Exists!

This is another fun game to watch.
This is another fun game to watch.

This is where the business opportunity comes in. Yes, Mario Maker exists. It’s also true that no matter how much money you spend on art, your team will never be able to attain the iconic nature and global cultural dominance enjoyed by Mario. But while those are great attributes to have, you don’t need them for success. Mario Marker is a strong idea and it could easily succeed without the Mario branding.

The problem is that Mario Maker is the right game on the wrong platform. The Wii U was not a successful console and everything about the device, the audience, and the Nintendo ecosystem is working against it. I’ve been checking Twitch for the last few days, and regardless of time of day or day of week, Mario Marker barely registers. At the momentLate on a Thursday night / Friday morning. there are about 800 people watching Super Mario Maker right now. The Last of Us is an older game from an earlier console generation based on bog-standard shooter gameplay that varies very little from player to player, and yet that game has 2,800 viewers right now. Age of Empires II is a real time strategy game from 1999, and it’s got 3,000 viewers. I’ve never even heard of Hunt: Showdown, but 5,000 people are watching that right now.

But despite having rock-solid mechanics, a brilliant system of creation and sharing, and the strongest branding in all of gaming, SMM barely registers. So what’s holding it back?

  1. The Wii U is a weak platform. Its sales were poor and what few fans it has are quickly leaving for the Nintendo Switch. This means the possible audience for SMM is already going to be pretty low. On top of that, streaming and sharing video from a Nintendo platform is not easy. Assuming you’re looking to do Twitch streaming, then you need a gaming PC and some way to get the console footage over to the PC. That setup requires about $100 of equipment and some technical know-how. That’s not an insurmountable obstacle or anything, but given the small size of the existing userbase, you can’t afford to have that kind of barrier to entry. On the PC, all of this is much easier.
  2. Nintendo’s business practices have had a chilling effect on user-made Nintendo content. Nintendo is fond of issuing takedown notices to YouTube channels that feature Nintendo games, and they’re pushing people to enter into partnership agreements with them so they get a cut of ad revenue. The result is that my YouTube feed shows a lot less Nintendo content these days. Nobody wants to worry their channel might get hit with a wave of takedown notices, and nobody wants to worry that Nintendo might come knocking and asking for tribute, like the mob asking for protection money. Everyone wants to argue over whether or not Nintendo has the right to do this. I am not a lawyer so I don’t know. Moreover, it doesn’t matter. It’s a stupid, self-destructive business practice. It’s the old problem of punishing people for sharing. Legal or not, it’s a stupid move. The larger and more successful your channel is, the more you’ll want to avoid sharing Nintendo footage on it.
  3. The PC is a better platform for level design. On a PC you’ve got a mouse-based interface, a large monitor, and a keyboard with access to hotkeys. There’s a reason game developers develop game content on PCs regardless of their target platform. Also, the PC already has a baked-in culture of modding and sharing. This type of thing feels like a natural fit for the desktop ecosystem.

What I’m saying is that a Super Mario Maker style game would do better as a multiplatform PC / PS4 / Xbox One title.

I’ve already done the hard part of coming up with an idea. All that’s left for you to do is devise a solid set of mechanics, secure funding, assemble a team, foster a culture of cooperation, develop an art style, produce the game, find a publisher, build the server infrastructure, make it through beta, and bring the game to market.

You’re welcome!

 

Footnotes:

[1] And by “we” I mean “anyone besides me”.

[2] Late on a Thursday night / Friday morning.



From The Archives:
 

76 thoughts on “This Dumb Industry: The Pitch Meeting

  1. Grimwear says:

    Didn’t Sony have something like this with Little Big Planet? I’ve never actually played the game but I remember that you could make and upload your own levels. Was it too slow paced with the Yarn People so it wasn’t interesting? Or maybe before its time with streaming coming later? I honestly have no clue I only ever saw the commercials and I think there was a Penny-Arcade comic talking about all the ways people tried to put penises into their levels.

    1. Amstrad says:

      Little Big Planet came around before streaming really took off and was also a console game, meaning streaming was more difficult to get working to begin with. So while it was a fairly popular game (as far as I remember) it never got the same level of streaming viewership that SMM has today.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        This is correct. It was the right idea at the wrong time. Nowadays the PS4 comes with its own sharing system, yet there’s no LBP title on sight.

        1. Sarfa says:

          Little Big Planet 3 was released for PS3 and PS4 in 2014.

    2. Shen says:

      Honestly, “they” really should just make a new PC-focused Little Big Planet and watch the money roll in. Granted, the games industry HATES having money roll in and I’m sure they’ll find a way to hamstring themselves.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        That’s not entirely fair. It’s probably better to say the industry hates money rolling into their coffers in honest ways.

      2. Olivier FAURE says:

        Nah, MediaMolecule has an exclusive deal with Sony :(

    3. Nimrandir says:

      I was going to mention LittleBigPlanet. I remember a Game Informer interview with a guy who worked on a multi-person project to recreate the NES Contra inside one of the LBP titles. I had one of them for my PS3, but I didn’t do much with the creation tools.

      Sometimes it feels like publishers have a hard time breaking Nintendo’s lock on platformer-style games. Maybe Sony would have had better luck if they’d used Ratchet and Clank for this idea instead.

    4. Olivier FAURE says:

      Yeah, my first thought reading this article was “so basically LittleBigPlanet?”

  2. Zak McKracken says:

    May I suggest a category where the developer is not forced to beat their own level before submitting? There should be some way to ensure that a map can be beaten/solved, without a human actually having to execute it, or at least not the developer themselves.
    So maybe a “trials” category, where players are aware that something may not be beatable, and only once somebody makes it, can a map graduate to the “regular” pool.
    …or maybe, since we’re so big in the modding business, why not make a programming interface to generate steering inputs for the player character, then bring in “AI” developers who write programs to beat the game? (“AI” in quotes because that term is so overused these days, and you don’t necessarily need much of it to play the game). Then we could have tournaments of programs vs. programs.

    1. Milo Christiansen says:

      The problem with an automatic “solvability checker”, is that such a thing would be harder to write than the actual game. Worse, it would be impossible to make it work well enough to actually use. Any level that used a weird gimmick the solver was not programmed to know about would fail the test (in high-level play such gimmick levels are common), and as more and more gimmicks are created/discovered the complexity of the problem skyrockets.

      A possible solution would be to simply allow levels to be exported and imported manually. This way a creator could make something, ship it to a friend, get a replay back, and upload with the winning replay. In this case the system could allow two sets of credits: Mapmaker and test player.

      1. Zak McKracken says:

        Yeah, the automated solvability would by necessity be imperfect — or it would have to use something like a learning algorithm to get through the level, but then it might arrive at solutions which are impossible for a human to replicate (like chaining several actions, where the player needs to be at an exact pixel-perfect location with timing to within 1/60s), and could still miss out on creative problem-solving.

        …so really, an automaton should only be able to identify straight-forward levels, and the rest would need to be done by humans. I would still think, though, that there should be a public repository for unproven levels because not every developer has a world-class gamer friend to test their levels, and I bet that good players would be both willing to test these (because you get to be the first person to beat things that nobody was sure could be beaten), and able to tell from looking which ones are worth trying and which ones aren’t, so it’s not like there’d be a lot of “wasted” time for those map testers.

        Also also: If there’s a parallel “AI” competition, then you could also use the better (user-made!) AIs to test maps — so the automated portion of map testing could increase over time, without the developer specifically putting work into it.

        1. Shamus says:

          Suggestion for dealing with impossible levels: There would be a pool of “unproven” levels, which is just a wasteland of junk people have uploaded. You don’t see the unproven levels during normal play. You have to specifically browse unproven levels. However, if ANYONE clears an unproven level, it will be moved into the normal pool. So I can upload a level and send a link to my buddy, who will then beat the level for me.

          Alternatively, if you’re good enough you can simply beat your own level to get it out of the unproven pool.

          1. Zak McKracken says:

            Pretty much that. Plus possibly some sort of rating mechanism so that the proper bad ones don’t permanently get in the way of people looking for a challenge. And a badge or some sort of incentive for the first player who clears an unproven level.

  3. Mousazz says:

    What is this Mario Marker thing you’re talking about? :P

    But, seriously, Maker is a really easily misspellable word.

    1. Mintskittle says:

      Mario Marker was a sequel to Mario Paint to be released on the Virtual Boy, but was canceled because you only had two colors to work with.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        4 shades of grayscale didn’t stop them from making a camera, or a printer…

        IIRC, paint was the first game I played with a mouse. I had PC games by that point, but they all used the keyboard.

  4. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    IIRC there was a healthy community of people doing that on hacked roms of Super Mario World, despite the fact that it was incredibly hard to code levels using that and that it was pre-streaming.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      There’s actually a fan-made level editor for Super Mario World called “Lunar Magic” that has existed for almost two decades (actually turns 18 this very month), so I wouldn’t call it “really hard”.

  5. Asdasd says:

    For all the reasons you mentioned, Mario Maker was indeed the biggest streaming success Nintendo had during the years in the Wii U wilderness (wiilderness?).

    It’s as though Nintendo builds the best carriages, and breeds the strongest, healthiest, most well-behaved horses. But for whatever reason the company insists, and in a sad and fatalistic way will always insist, to assemble the pairing with the horse at the back. They’re still one of the most popular horse and carriage operators despite the fact that their magnificent steeds are having to push the carts with their faces.

    1. guy says:

      I feel like the Wii and DS distorted Nintendo’s design philosophy; starting with them Nintendo has been going for “gimmick” consoles and thus betting the entire console generation on the gimmick. With those two it paid off; the Wiimote sold an enormous number of units to people who wouldn’t normally buy consoles and so Nintendo basically won the console war that generation by siezing uncontested territory. And the DS gimmick had the advantage that it was easy to make a good game on the platform without leaning into the gimmick very hard; if you didn’t have a clever and innovative idea you stuck the inventory menu on the bottom screen and then put the game on the top screen and you had a normal game except with a better inventory.

      The WiiU, however, has an elaborate gimmick that’s hard to get a lot of use out of beyond the DS menu thing, can’t be used for symmetric couch multiplayer, and imposes a significant extra cost factor, so it sold poorly.

      The switch’s gimmick is basically that it’s a console which is also a tablet-sized handheld, so developers just have to make a game that works on its screen or a TV, and that’s not a huge ask, so it’s doing pretty well.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        I honestly don’t remember a time where Nintendo wasn’t trying to win over gamers with a gimmick, with varying succes. Remember Duck Hunt? Virtual Boy? Game Boy Camera? And the list goes on…

        It’s kinda hard to argue against (mixed) success

        1. Asdasd says:

          This probably has roots in their history as a toy manufacturer. When your stock in trade used to be all sorts of unusual novelties you probably see gimmicks as less, well, gimmicky.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            Oh wow that page takes me back…

            Although now that you mention it, I wonder how much of a force Nintendo has been in perpetuating the “Video games are just kids toys” perception?

          2. Jason says:

            The NES was marketed in the US as a toy to avoid the stigma that the video game crash had given to video games in the 1980s. That’s why the original system came with the light gun and R.O.B. It wasn’t a video game system, it was an “Entertainment System”

        2. guy says:

          In at least the N64-Gamecube era, they didn’t have an integrated gimmick in the core console, beyond that there wasn’t a standard for disk/cartridge design settled yet, and their controller differences were within tolerances. It’s the Wii that kicked off the gimmick coming with the console and vastly increased how much the gimmick succeeding or failing impacted the console as a whole.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            The whole N64 controller was a gimmick. Also, The Gamecube was the Switch before the Switch–it was designed to be compact (even has a little handle on the back) because you were supposed to travel with it.

            1. guy says:

              As a kid the N64 controller seemed not particularly more different from any two other controllers than the other two were from each other.

              I remember the handle, but it was just kind of there and had no implications for purchasing decisions.

        3. baud says:

          But none of them (duck hunt, virtual boy, the camera) were the central platform on which all games were to be sold. Starting with the DS, the gimmick is a central part of the console, not something tacked on afterwards.

      2. Nimrandir says:

        They also gave us controllers with shoulder buttons, unless I’m missing a console before the SNES that had them. Regardless of how their experiments go, I gotta give them props for continuing to try.

  6. Nick Powell says:

    I really don’t understand Nintendo. I can only assume there are a few higher-ups with control issues dictating their copyright strike policy that everyone else is afraid to say no to, because it’s obviously a terrible strategy.

    I can kind of see the justification if it’s a company trying to stop people leaking the plot of a very narrative-driven game (e.g. any Quantic Dream game, where the story is most of the product), but Nintendo games are typically the exact opposite of that

    1. Matt Downie says:

      My impression, from working with them, is that it’s more about keeping everything wholesome, which requires keeping everything under control via strict curation.

      They don’t want children looking for Nintendo things and finding something non-family-friendly. The only way to do that reliably is to ban sharing by default and permit only special exceptions.

      If Nintendo had invented the telephone, they’d have made it so that in order to call someone you’d have to get their written permission first (or parental permission if they’re under 18). That’s the only way to prevent someone from using a Nintelephone to harass strangers or to lure children away from their parents or any one of the thousand other dangers we expose ourselves to for the sake of convenience.

      1. guy says:

        Which has the advantage that parents feel a lot safer letting kids use it unsupervised; their online store is even engineered to support giving kids a carefully constrained pool of money to spend on DLC, meaning parents can avoid approving every dollar outfit individually without fearing losing a thousand dollars in a week. It’s a cohesive strategy they’re all-in on, and the times when they’ve had problems financially were clearly attributable to some other factor.

        1. Matt Downie says:

          Yeah, I don’t blame them. They’re sticking with what’s worked for them so far, rather than competing directly with Sony and Microsoft (and Apple, I guess).

          But as streaming and sharing become more mainstream, it may start to hurt them in a way that’s going to be hard to measure…

          1. Asdasd says:

            Agreed, there’s definitely a lot of trade offs. But being able to play Splatoon 2, and not have to deal with rando assholes on voicechat (because it simply isn’t there unless you go seeking it out), and it not be a cesspool of toxicity (and even trick you into believing the community in an online shooter is exclusively made up of friendly and wholesome people) is sheer bliss.

          2. guy says:

            I think they’ll stick with their focus on kids, so they’ll force kid-friendly streaming as much as they can. They do have a streaming/Youtube plan with their partner relationships and I expect they’ll stay on that general direction. If they decide they need more streaming they’ll probably either reduce their revenue slice or bring people in-house so they’ve got a wider selection of family-friendly streams.

            Nintendo has put a lot of thought into designing their online experiences and seem to be the most entheusiastic E3-replacement stream company, so I expect they’ve actually thought this through, and while they may well have made significant mistakes, they probably do understand that streams are free advertising and have taken that into consideration. And they’re specifically targeting demographics that are least likely to be discussing this subject, so reactions on gaming forums or tech sites are not reliable predictors of its impact on sales.

      2. Viktor says:

        The problem with Nintendo’s attempts to control everything is that, right now, #Toad is trending. Specifically the Mario Toad, too, not a generic frog. And it’s trending for reasons that are very much not family-friendly and not politically neutral. All of Nintendo’s controlling of their narrative fails in response to one person writing a book and using them for a clever turn of phrase. So what’s the point of being so controlling if it doesn’t work?

        1. guy says:

          Some things can’t be helped. But at least it’ll pass quickly and everyone who becomes aware of it will know it is in no way Nintendo’s fault.

    2. guy says:

      Nintendo thinks having Youtube videos of people playing their games and swearing is bad for the brand, I think. It becomes comprehensible when you realize they sell games to kids and don’t want their parents, who may not be very into gaming, to think they’re not for kids. So Nintendo wants all streams of their games to be on-brand and under their control.

      I’m hardly sure they’re weighing relative factors correctly, but they have a different market from many other game companies and the optimal policy for them is not necessarily the same. So they have reason to think that just because other companies are benefiting, that doesn’t necessarily mean they would.

    3. Chad Miller says:

      Aggressively going after people on copyright grounds has been a part of Nintendo for about as long as Nintendo has made video games (e.g. they went after Game Genie and Blockbuster back in the NES era). For whatever reason it’s deep in their culture.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        This is a good point that I’m glad you made first.

        They have always been extremely aggressive in fighting any third party creation that is even tangentially relate to their products, always with the thinnest of justifications for doing it.

        1. guy says:

          I’m pretty sure they want to make sure that if something is remotely considered a Nintendo product, including by total non-gamers who aren’t paying much attention, they have 100% control of it so as to keep it entirely on-brand.

          Also video game companies generally hate rentals and the second-hand market.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            Right, but GameGenie? That’s taking obsession with control to a whole new level. I’m pretty sure they literally said “We don’t want customers to play the game in a way that was not intended by the developers” as a justification

            1. guy says:

              Well yes, what if said unintended way resulted in something bad Nintendo was blamed for?

              I’m not saying they’re necessarily making the right call, particularly there, but it is a coherent strategy and it’s so far served them well enough. Maybe they could make more money with a different strategy, but then again maybe they wouldn’t have pulled off the NES’s success if they hadn’t been as picky about third party games and ensured the Nintendo Seal Of Quality meant something.

      2. Zak McKracken says:

        I read somewhere, in relation to a completely different story that usually once the legal department (or legal counsel) gets involved, and they bring up the possibility of suing, threatening lawsuits or using any other legal instrument to minimize some particular risk, it’s almost impossible for a large corporation to not actually do it because nobody would want to be the person who decided to ignore the advice: You were given the opportunity to stop X from happening by letting someone else do their job. If you decide not to go ahead and something bad comes of X, it’ll be your fault. But if you follow the advice, it’s somebody else’s fault. Deflection of liability is a huge factor in building a successful career.

        So I’m kind of guessing that for some (historical?) reason*, the legal department in Nintendo has a more important standing than in other places — and getting it out of that situation is probably again something that no person in the company has enough incentive/opportunity to do…

        * the “no kid-unfriendly content” policy might well have to do with it. Also, their tight brand control means that everyone associates them with video games but nobody, not even people outside of the “scene”, associates them with FPSs, moral panics or any of the “video games corrupt our children” ideas. They have probably done a lot of work to stay out of that sector.

        1. guy says:

          I wouldn’t be surprised to learn their legal team gives the same sort of advice as everyone else’s but Nintendo is a lot more likely to give the green light when the legal team tells them it looks doable but will cost money, annoy the EFF, and not give much in the way of damages. If the legal team is any good they’ll lay out the full range of consequences so the executives know what they’ll be in for if they say yes.

  7. Redrock says:

    But is the PC a better platform for 2d platformers? The beauty of Mario Maker was the the Wii U, while being a pretty conventinally designed console, also had a touchscreen that was handy when designing levels, although, of course, inferior to a keyboard and mouse setup. The Switch could be a good platform for a new Mario Maker, or an indie version of such thing. But the PC? While the PC probably has the biggest community of dedicated level creators, modders, etc, it doesnt have a big enough audience of people who play 2D platformers. Even Hollow Knight, which is considered a huge success on PC, sold around a million copies over the course of a year and a half, while the Switch version sold 250 000 in two weeks.

    That said, they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Release your game on both PC and Switch with a shared level repository and you’re set.

  8. Dev Null says:

    I would have said that most if not all of these elements existed for the Portal 2 shared levelly marketplace thing that I can’t remember the name of. And yet for some reason that never seemed to catch on too widely. I did go investigate it a year or so ago and found some pretty cool player-made levels out there. I haven’t played with the editor though, so possibly it was a pain to use?

    1. Matt Downie says:

      Without new mechanics or new GlaDOS dialogue, more Portal isn’t a very exciting prospect.

    2. baud says:

      I never played with the editor, but one problem with streaming or videos of Portal is that it’s way harder to follow than a 2D platformer, especially since not all the game space is visible at once: a portal might be behind the player or in another part of the level and still play a part.

      Also I think the level editor arrived before streaming was any big.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    My suggestion is that we make a Super Mario Maker knockoff, except our game will be targeted at PC / Xbox / Playstation.

    Something similar that already exists.Its called minecraft.

    1. Redrock says:

      Minecraft… Isn’t a platformer. Mario Maker is about making levels with gameplay, not just projects.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Thats why is said SIMILAR,not exact.Besides,you can replace minecraft with a ton of other games that allow lots of user content.Starcraft 2,skyrim,or a bunch of other games.

        The thing is,other consoles arent that good for platformers as Shamus thinks.There have been a bunch of good ones for pc,but none of them were that streamable.There are a ton of I wanna be the guy ripoffs that lots of people are playing and streaming,but not many outsiders are watching those.

        1. Redrock says:

          I mean…that’s pretty much precisely what I wrote earlier. So no argument from me.

    2. Kylroy says:

      I don’t think anyone would argue that Minecraft has a “strong set of platforming mechanics” that are “tight and responsive”. Minecraft has all the ease of customization and sharing that Shamus is looking for, but it’s in a different genre.

  10. stondmaskin says:

    Hunt: Showdown is the new CryTek game which has been in early access for a while but I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say anything about it except that it looks absolutely gorgeous (which, of course it does, it’s CryTek)

  11. Gabe Glick says:

    I think Levelhead from Butterscotch Shenanigans may be the closest to what you describe (and ironically(?) it’s coming to the Switch in addition to PC, PS4 and Xbone).

    1. Aspeon says:

      I was coming here to say this- I’ve seen people talking about it on Mario Maker Twitch streams I’ve been following.

  12. Syal says:

    You should get the Bleed guy involved, a player-level platformer based on a quadruple jump and guns could be impressive.

  13. germdove says:

    You spelled Ryukahr’s name wrong.

    CarlSagan42 and Grand POOBear are another two really great Mario Maker streamers if you somehow haven’t already seen them.

  14. 1. GTA?
    2. GTA!
    3. GTA!
    4. GTA! (sort of, the lap times of races is broken/hacked)
    5. GTA! (you have to replay your race track even for minor changes like changing the default starting vehicles without changing the track itself)

    GTA also has a instant replay feature as well as recording ability and editor for video recordings and it’s export/upload. The Rockstar Editor has several issues that really should be fixed IMO, but its’ simple and it works more or less as expected. So noobs can easily get started.
    Now for most games something like this makes no sense, a 2D sidescroller won’t need camera placements and such, although zoom or highlighting and some effects stuff could be nice. Being able to export in a [email protected] resolution with all settings maxed possibly slower than realtime would be a nice bonus and does present the game in the “best light” possible.

    “offline rendering” using recorded game session data dates way back, I think early Quake games had it (my memory might be wrong though). I can’t recall modern games really doing this, if they have/had it it was part of the developer console commands or toolset instead.

    Then again, latest Spiderman has a “photomode” so there seems to be a slight resurgence for stuff like this.

  15. Ed Lu says:

    Dustforce, which you mentioned in the article, already meets almost all of your five criteria. The only one it doesn’t partially match is 4: “give non-textual feedback to creators, and keep track of who has beaten which levels”. So why hasn’t it done as well as you’d think?

    I never got into the Dustforce speedrunning community, but I do have a couple hundred hours in it. It was painful to see it come to AGDQ one year and get a collective “meh” in the livestream chat. To me, someone familiar with the mechanics, the speedrun was an incredibly thrilling display of skill. To (most of) the livestream chat, the speedrun was… well, just another nice-looking platformer. Albeit one with nice music.

    Dustforce still has a solid core of a community that persists today, but it sure is a small community – even smaller than Mario Maker’s. I think the well-known mechanics and sprites of Mario may well play a large part in its popularity, despite it being locked to the Wii U.

  16. Dreadjaws says:

    …mushrooms that enable you to shoot fire…

    M-mushrooms? To shoot fire? That’s it! Hand over your gamer card right now! How dare you being wrong about one small detail on a franchise you’re only a very casual observer of? Poppycock!

    But seriously, this is yet more evidence that Nintendo’s corporate side is many times their worst enemy. I’ll call it right now, silly as it might sound: if they weren’t deliberately stopping people from sharing Nintendo games Let’s Plays the Wii-U wouldn’t have failed. It just wouldn’t have. The major reason it failed was that most casual fans were entirely unaware that it was indeed a new console. Everyone just thought it was an extremely expensive accessory for the older one. And the casual fanbase was an absolutely major player for the Wii.

    Another funny detail: there’s a version of Super Mario Maker for the 3DS. Do you now what that version won’t allow? Sharing levels. Yeah, good job on that one, Ninty. Well, at least that was the case last time I checked. If they were any smart they should have patched that in, but I never heard of them doing it.

    1. guy says:

      I’m pretty inclined to blame the WiiU failure on the WiiU. The specs were unexciting, we expected a lot of games to use the pad badly, and the one-pad-per-console limit meant only specific uses of it were suited to couch multiplayer.

      I’m pretty sure that was the prevailing opinion of people who watch streams.

    2. baud says:

      > The major reason it failed was that most casual fans were entirely unaware that it was indeed a new console.

      I think that one possible cause for that was the central gimmick of the console didn’t allow the type of TV ads like the ones showing players playing with motion control, which (I think) were central in pushing the console towards the casuals.

  17. WWWebb says:

    Based on what my son is watching these days, A Hat in Time already has an editor and people stream it a lot. That’s a 3D platformer instead of 2D though. I’ve also seen him watch plenty of “parkour maps” made in Minecraft. Is 2D so much easier than 3D that it makes a difference?

  18. Paul Spooner says:

    Love the idea. While we’re at it, why not have the game procedurally generate platformer worlds composed of lots of levels? Then each player-made “level” could be placed in an appropriate context. And you could use the procedural tools to start your level, or make sub-components with them.

  19. CliveHowlitzer says:

    I am always slightly hesitant to judge the success of a game based on how many people are watching it on Twitch. Twitch viewers are extremely fickle and whether or not something is popular on Twitch will change entirely based on some random streamer doing a run of a game. Sure, it does help publicity but I’ve heard many people refer to games as “dead” simply because no one is streaming them on Twitch when that isn’t always the case.

    Then again, I strongly dislike Twitch and outside of watching fighting game tournaments, I avoid it like the plague. So I am biased.

    1. Preciousgollum says:

      Mirror’s Edge (2D) with Level Editor, anyone?

  20. MadTinkerer says:

    I am already in the middle of doing this. It’s sort of the second time, actually.

    This was my first attempt: my amateurish failed Kickstarter

    The main cause of failure was that it was too rushed, but at the time I was under severe financial pressure to put it out and see how it did… even though it was clearly not ready for primetime. A secondary cause of failure is that it wasn’t distinct enough from Mario Maker and didn’t stand out from the crowd of clones. Thirdly, which is related but distinct to the first problem, I didn’t have enough momentum built up prior to the campaign to actually get people interested and talking about it.

    I was pretty proud of the rotating mechanic (turn a character upside-down and they fall up, turn them sideways and they fall sideways) since that wasn’t something you could do in Mario Maker, but it wasn’t enough.

    So, in the months since then I’ve participated in a couple of jams, taken a few more classes, restarted the project in GMS2 a total of three times. I also crash-coursed my way through learning App Game Kit is a few months before realizing GMS2 was a better tool for this purpose (even though AGK does have some features which are superior to GMS2). Learned a lot, but made no progress in terms of production. :(

    Anyway, the current one is still… super rough, but I think in a few weeks it’ll be worth showing off.

    1. MadTinkerer says:

      Oh, and you can still download my magnificent failure for free. https://madtinkerer.itch.io/game-blocks

      I guess I should post the trailer as well:

      Game Blocks Trailer 2

  21. Urthman says:

    I think I get what “art-forward” means from from the context, but I’m not sure. Is it more of a “art is the first thing you notice” or “platformers are a genre where you have to up the ante in the artwork to be relevant”? Does “forward” refer to advancing the cutting edge or first thing people see?

  22. Rane2k says:

    Super Meat Boy had something like this for a while: http://supermeatboy.wikia.com/wiki/Super_Meat_World

    I remember trying it out back then, and being annoyed by the difficulty of the levels… as someone who beat the full original game (106%) and dabbling in speedrunning it.

    So, an additional criterium for the game would probably have to be “can be fun when played casually or hardcore”.

    Anyway, I think it is actually a really good pitch, I would kickstart something like this.

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      SuperMeatWorld could have had a really vibrant community if the developers had actually encouraged it in any way. As it is, it feels like the game almost wants you to forget about the “create levels and play others’ creations” feature.

      Also, as far as I remember there almost no curation and most levels are horrible.

  23. AndrewCC says:

    Too late Shamus, someone did it already: Pewdiepie. Game is called Animal Super Squad (get it?) and it’s on Steam and Android and Switch I think. Haven’t played it myself but it ticks nearly all your boxes.
    Since we’re sharing ideeas, have you considered using something like Disqus for your comments? Checking every post regularly and individually to see if there is discussion on my comments is tiring, and it just leads me to drive-by comment on your site, or else to keep every post open in its own tab for days until the discussion dies down.

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