Well, it’s been a while hasn’t it? The last developer interview on Gaming Reinvented was the one with Jay Pavlina, and that was all the way back in May! Oh how the months fly by!
But let’s back get to interviews shall we? So first up, an interview with a Mario Fan Games Galaxy creator known as Chaoxys. Chaoxys, in case you don’t know, is the artist and co-creator of a game called Super Mario Bros & the Midas Machine. Sound familiar? Of course it does, since we interviewed the other developer a while back (look up our interview with Guinea for that one).
Either way, here’s our interview with him about the game, Mario Fan Games Galaxy and life in general…
1. So, one to start. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Aw, now I’m not one to talk about myself. Actually, I’m not sure there’s much to say on that. I like to play video games, cook, sprite, and sketch. I also enjoy listening to various video game remixes (generally while I’m spriting).
2. And how did you start playing Mario games? What generation do you start with?
I’ve actually been playing video games since I was only two years old. My sister used to babysit me when I was young, and we’d play SMB3, SMB, Duck Hunt, Doctor Mario, and Pinball on the original NES. She and I would often try to beat SMB3 on the two player mode, and we’d always lose at the door maze in the last world.
Dark Land was brutal in Super Mario Bros 3
3. Fan game stuff now. How do you learn about Mario fan games in general?
It was actually through a friend of mine when I was in Middle School (back in the summer of 2006 actually, not sure how I remember that). He proposed the idea to me to make our own Mario game. At the time, I was like “WHAAAAAT? You can MAKE you own Mario games? What is this witchcraft?”.
4. How did you learn about Mario Fan Games Galaxy? What’s your history on the site?
This answer sort of piggybacks off of my last one. My friend knew that I couldn’t program worth a spit in the dirt, so he suggested I try my hand at making the graphics, both making, and finding ripped ones (this is also how I got into spriting in general). Well, one short Google search later for some Shy Guy sprites, and I ended up on a little site called MFGG.
5. How did you get involved with Midas Machine? Did you just decide to join when it was a collab? Were you invited by anyone specifically?
I think I jumped on board early on, and at the time, I think I was mainly tossing ideas into the mix as I wasn’t confident in my spriting abilities. Well, it was around that time that I won one of the MFGG sprite comps, and that little boost in my moral prompted me to take a shot at making a sprite sheet for Midas Machine. My first sprite for it was actually a Buzzy Beetle. Heh, I remember getting really frustrated with it, to the point that I almost gave up, because I couldn’t get the shell spin animation right.
6. And what inspired your graphics style in this game? It certainly looks very colourful, a bit like a GBA era game…
The style is mainly inspired from the original style, just enhanced. My goal with the graphics was to capture the character’s design clearly, while making sure they keep their bright and cartoony style that the Mario series is known for. I will say, part of my inspiration was the original SMB3, but in an odd way. When I was little, I would sometime just look at the game without actually playing, and I’d focus on all the enemies, and Mario, and everything else, because I just loved their designs. There was so much thought and care put into them. In the end, I wanted players to simply be able to enjoy looking at the graphics in the same manner.
An impressive looking bonus room in Chaoxys’ style
The ship is impressive too. Same with the captain.
7. Did anything get added to the game specifically because you drew graphics for it? Or were the mechanics/technical side implemented first?
Pffff, hahaha… Ooooooh yeah, a LOT, much to Guinea’s dismay. I seriously have a lot of respect for Guinea for putting up with me for this. Basically, for the longest time, I’d just sprite new enemies and objects, then send them to Guinea and be like “Hey Guinea, lets add this enemy into the game”, or “What do you think of having a level themed to this gimmick?”, but I have stopped doing that since then (for the most part). But yeah, a lot of elements in the game started from me just spriting something, however a lot of other ones were planned out first, usually the bosses.
8. Midas Machine uses quite a few visuals reminiscent of the Wario Land series, like the casino level. Were you specifically inspired by those games?
I took inspiration from all over, but Wario Land was a really big one. Anyone who played one of the earlier demo’s that included most of world 3 probably noticed a level with a strong SML2 vibe. But yeah, there are clear nods to all sorts of series throughout the game, as well as some original things.
A level here takes a lot of inspiration from Mario Land 2
9. Level design stuff now. What inspired the level design in Midas Machine?
Sigh… This is the part I’m not super proud of. Truth be told, Midas Machine is the first time I’ve designed levels. Granted, I think I’ve improved since the start (some of the levels I originally made and have since replaced were terrible). Oh, I guess that didn’t really answer the question, did it? Lets see, as far as inspiration goes… I don’t really have any to be honest, I try to pick a gimmick for a level, then I’ll think of how I can use it in different ways. I will admit, I’ve gotten lots of ideas for how to use enemies and objects in unique ways by watching raocow’s videos on Youtube (mainly his MaGL (Make a Good Level) videos).
10. What was the logic behind the game’s bosses? I recall a skeleton fish and a weird forest imp creature, so what’s their deal?
There’s two types of bosses in the game. I’d call them “Opportunity” types, and “Pattern” types. Opportunity bosses have a large medley of attacks that they will use at random, and the player can counter whenever they are able. Pattern bosses on the other hand will generally do a planned attack/series of attacks, then leave themselves open for a counter attack, in true Mario fashion.
Super Mario Bros Crossover is a name that quite a few Nintendo fans likely know of by now. A Super Mario Bros remake where you can play as characters from other games (like Link, Mega Man and Samus Aran), it’s notable for also featuring various other extra features like stuff from the Lost Levels and character skins. And well, it became pretty popular as a result. It’s been covered on Kotaku, it’s been on Destructoid, heck, it even has a Wikipedia page!
Above: A trailer for version 3 of Super Mario Bros Crossover
But how do you want to find out a bit more about its creator? Or its development in general? Because we now have an exclusive interview with Super Mario Bros Crossover creator and Exploding Rabbit owner Jay Pavlina! So here’s the interview…
1. So, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get into playing video games?
I’ve always loved playing and reading about games, though I never thought about making them until I was in my mid-twenties. I spent much of my childhood making funny short films, and I went to school to become a filmmaker. I was good at it and enjoyed it, but I didn’t really know how to make a living from it. I was also very focused on music performance during my middle school and high school years, so that is another strong passion of mine, and it’s something I almost went to college for instead of filmmaking. Another thing I’ve always loved is drawing and writing stories, but I haven’t really drawn for a long time, so my skills are very weak in that area now.
It’s always been in my nature to be a creator. It doesn’t really matter what the medium is to me, which is probably why I’ve explored a lot of different creative areas, but I’ve had most success with creating games. Games are my favorited art form to experience, so I think it makes sense that I get a lot of satisfaction out of creating them. They are the most challenging media to create as well, and I’ve always liked a challenge.
2. How about the Mario series? Did you grow up with the NES games, or rediscover them later?
I grew up on Nintendo games. I wasn’t that drawn to the Mario series until Super Mario Bros. 3 came out though. My favourite Nintendo game was always The Legend of Zelda because of the exploration involved. The console that influenced me most was definitely Super Nintendo though, and I love Super Mario World, Mega Man X, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Chrono Trigger on there.
As for the Mario series, I will always love Super Mario Bros. 3 the most. Lately I’ve become less interested in the series because I feel that the games have become more and more kiddy. I think it’s both the graphics and the simplified gameplay that I’ve been turned off by lately. Super Mario Maker was the first Mario game that legitimately excited me for a long, long time.
Above: Maybe he’s referring to games like this as slightly kiddy…
3. And what about fan games? What were your experiences with them before Super Mario Bros Crossover?
I didn’t really have any experience with fan games before Super Mario Bros. Crossover. I don’t think I even knew what a fan game was at that point. I think it was like 8 years ago now that I started working on it, so it’s always hard to remember that far back about what I thought about things. I think I was searching for other fan games while I was working on it to see what other people were doing, and I remember coming across one called Mega Man X: Corrupted that I thought looked awesome. I think I was mostly looking at what other flash games were being made at that point, since I was working with Flash.
Above: Mega Man X: Corrupted
4. Onto Super Mario Bros Crossover now. What inspired you to make a version of SMB 1 with various other gaming characters as playable in addition to Mario?
I was always fascinated about the worlds that games take place in, and I thought about how each game takes place in basically its own universe, and you don’t really see different games combined. It seemed like it would be cool if the stuff I liked from different games was all combined into one game. To me it just seemed like a thing that should exist, and it didn’t really feel like a unique idea to me. I just really wanted to play it, and I also wanted to know what it was like to make a game, so I decided to make it.
5. How about the character choices? Why say, Ryu from Ninja Gaiden or SOPHIA III from Blaster Master rather than the likes of Arthur or Wario or whoever else?
I chose those characters because I thought they would be fun, and they’re also games I played a lot growing up. Characters that are a lot different than Mario were ones that I was most interested in, because then you have a more unique experience with them. Arthur would be fun too, but his abilities are not really that unique, and I already had the double jump in for Simon anyway. Wario is similar to Mario, so again, it just doesn’t seem like it would be that novel of an experience to play as him in SMB 1. I just did the characters I was personally interested in playing with.
Above: Arthur and Wario weren’t added because they were too similar to Simon and Mario respectively.
Bass and Luigi were only added because they were easy due to the work I already did on Mega Man and Mario. For all of the other characters though, I feel that they are classic and novel. For me, they represent the Nintendo era of gaming.
6. So why are all the levels remakes of those from Super Mario Bros 1 or the Lost Levels or the likes? Was it to avoid some of the level design issues found in certain other fan crossover platformers?
The levels aren’t remakes; they are the actual levels from Super Mario Bros. The idea was to play Super Mario Bros. with characters from other games, so the levels were only modified when a character couldn’t complete the original level. We later added levels from The Lost Levels and Super Mario Bros. Special. We also made hard and easy versions of the levels to make them more fun. I personally enjoy hard mode, since some of the levels are too easy with the characters besides Mario.
Above: Hard mode in Super Mario Bros Crossover
7. On another note, how do you balance these characters so they don’t utterly break the game or end up useless? Because that was a big problem with Mushroom Kingdom Fusion, and I’d have imagined it’d be even more difficult to balance when all the levels are from a game specifically tuned to Mario’s abilities.
Balancing is an organic process. Basically, you play the game, and if it feels too easy or boring, you modify things until it doesn’t. Super Mario Bros. Crossover is a little different from other games though, because the goal is just to make it fun. I don’t really worry about making it too hard or too easy, since it’s just an online game you play in the web browser, and it’s unrealistic to make it balanced with such different characters in one game. We have modified the attack power of some characters to make them feel better relative to other characters, but you can’t really have all of these characters without some of them being overpowered. It’s just the nature of this type of game.
The only requirement I had was that every level is completable by every character. As we started to add more levels, this became difficult, but we still did it. Sometimes levels were impossible for characters without us realizing it, but people told us about bugs like this on the forums, and we were able to fix them.
8. And what are your plans for the game in future? Content based off Super Mario Bros DX on Game Boy? More art styles? Extra characters? Or is it feature complete now?
I stopped working on the game about 2 and a half years ago. At that time, I was working on a spiritual successor called Super Retro Squad, but we had trouble with development. I think the game will return in some form, whether it’s in a spiritual successor or a similar game. I was also working on a game that combined other games besides just Super Mario Bros. called Super Retro Crossover, but had to stop so that I could work on projects that make money. When you’re dealing with fan games, money is a big issue, because you can’t make money from them directly.
I have been doing quite a bit of work on an online multiplayer platformer-style game that hasn’t been announced yet. I’ve been thinking about using that engine to port Super Mario Bros. Crossover to Unity. I might do that, or I might do something like Super Retro Crossover, or I might do something original. So I think you will see some kind of crossverish game from me in the future, but it’s hard to say exactly what it will be and when. It’s highly likely it will have online multiplayer, since I’ve already spent a lot of time on that for one of the projects I’m working on.
9. HTML 5 port question now. How hard has it been to port it from Flash to HTML 5? Any major technical problems when doing so?
There weren’t technical issues, but everything takes time. It was really just a question of if it was worth it to port the game to HTML5. Making a game is a huge investment in time, and time you spend on a fan game is time you can’t spend on projects that pay the bills. I explored a lot of different options for porting, and none of them were as simple as I hoped. Instead of porting only this game, I wanted to have a platforming engine that I could use on multiple projects.
I do contract work to pay the bills, and I was lucky enough to get a client that wanted an online platformer made, so I expect to use the code from that project to either do a fan game or an original project. There are basically 4 platformer projects I’ve dabbled in over the last 4 years. Their names are Super Retro Squad, Super Retro Crossover, Operation Pyxel, and Super Mario Bros. Crossover. These are all different games, but none of them have been released except the last one, and if I try to explain the differences between them, I think people will just get confused. They are all basically different takes on the multiple characters in a platformer idea.
Above: A video showing some of Super Retro Squad, from its Kickstarter
Above: Vinny from Vinesauce playing Super Retro Crossover
Above: A preview video for Operation Pyxel
10. Did you ever expect to see Super Mario Bros Crossover becoming as popular as it did?
At the time I released it, I didn’t really have any expectations, since I had never made a game before, and I didn’t know what it was like to release a game. It’s safe to say I didn’t expect it to be anywhere near as popular as it was, but I was really pleased about the reception. People really love the game, and I still get positive comments about it nearly every day. It’s nice to know I’ve made something that so many people love and feel passionate about.
11. Were there any ideas or concepts that were scrapped when making a version of Super Mario Bros Crossover? What were they?
The biggest thing I can remember is that we were going to have a mode that let you switch between Game Boy palettes. When the Super Game Boy came out, it let you play Game Boy games with a lot of different palettes, and we were going to put all of those in and allow you to switch between them. It ended up being complicated because different objects used different palettes, so since it was taking so long, we scrapped it. There are a few other things that were cut like Rad Spencer (Bionic Commando), a few other characters, and a challenge mode. There are also a lot of features that were added that were never planned, so it sort of balances out.
Above: Rad Spencer from Bionic Commando was planned. Yes, trailer is of the Game Boy one, where his name was changed from Ladd Spencer to Rad Spencer.
12. A general fan scene question now. Are you a part of Mario Fan Games Galaxy? Have you ever considered submitting one of the SMB Crossover versions to the site, or any of the resources from it?
I’m not familiar with Mario Fan Games Galaxy, so I haven’t considered submitting to it. I haven’t been that involved in the fan scene besides talking to a few other fan game developers and answering questions I get through email. I think I was trying to stop being known as a fan game developer because I wanted to do original stuff and be known for that instead, but I don’t feel that way any more. I took a lot of stuff for granted after having such success with Super Mario Bros. Crossover, but have grown up a lot since then.
13. And have you played any of the other crossover Mario fan games? Like Mushroom Kingdom Fusion, Mario’s Nostalgic Worlds or Brutal Mario? If so, what did you think of them?
I’ve watched videos of a lot of Mario fan games, but the only other one I’ve actually played is Super Mario Bros. X, and I think it’s great. I especially liked the 2 player coop and the way it transitioned from single screen to split screen. I’ve played some hacks of Mario games, like The Tale of Elementia, and I thought that was a lot of fun as well. I’m aware of Mushroom Kingdom Fusion since it’s somewhat similar to my game, but I haven’t played it. I sometimes watch videos of it just to see all of the crazy stuff that game is doing. It’s fun to see all of the games they’re combining.
Above: Jay has tried out Super Mario Bros X before.
Above: And Tales of Elementia. That’s even on video, as seen above.
14. How about Super Mario Maker? Have you played it/made levels for it?
Yes, Super Mario Maker is the first Wii U game that has excited me for some time. I bought it just to play an unlimited supply of Mario levels. I experimented with making a few levels for it, but I found it cumbersome to use the low resolution screen of the Wii U gamepad. It made me wish the game was made for iOS, so that I could use an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil to make levels. That would be amazing.
A general feeling I’ve had about Nintendo lately is that they should stop making their own hardware since it’s generally inferior to other hardware and it holds back their games. It always feels like a chore to turn on my Wii U. The console is only a few years old, but somehow it feels dated and clunky to me. At least they’re finally starting to open up a bit and they’re beginning to make games for iOS.
I was never that interested in making levels in Mario Maker since I can do that with my own games. I was mostly just interested in what Nintendo was doing with their level creation. I appreciate the simplicity and fun of it. I was initially disappointed that they didn’t allow checkpoints, but I’m glad they fixed that with an update. I was also kind of bummed out about not having slopes. I don’t expect them to add that though.
15. What do you think of the Costume Mario/Mystery Mushroom stuff anyway? It’s a bit like the SMB Crossover concept, except without the unique abilities…
When footage of the costume mushroom was first released, many people made the connection to SMBC. It was the first time we could see other Nintendo characters, like Link, officially in classic Super Mario Bros. games. I think it’s kind of lame that the costumes don’t change your abilities, but I understand why they did it. It’s an easy way for them to integrate amiibos into the game, and since there are no gameplay changes required, they can make as many costumes as they want with minimal work. So I totally understand why they did it this way, but I don’t like it. I’m more disappointed that they didn’t include multiplayer than I am about the lack of more playable characters though.
Above: The Costume Mario forms in Super Mario Maker are often compared to Super Mario Bros Crossover, but they don’t have the special abilities of the latter’s characters.
16. Has anything from Mario Maker inspired you in regards to Super Mario Bros Crossover additions?
I stopped working on Super Mario Bros. Crossover before Mario Maker was announced, so nothing in the game was inspired by it, but if I was still working on it, there is definitely stuff I would add. The cool thing that Mario Maker would bring to SMBC is the addition of new enemies and hazards, since they are now in an official version of Super Mario Bros. I generally only add things that are in official games. I like how you can make any enemy bigger by giving it a mushroom or make it fly by giving it wings . I probably would have made an option/cheat where random enemies have power-ups, and in the hard mode versions of levels, there would be powered-up enemies scattered throughout.
17. Outside of Mario Maker, have you tried any other level editors for the Mario series? Like Lunar Magic or Super Mario Bros X or the Hello Engine?
I haven’t actually used them, but I’m familiar with both the Super Mario Bros. X level editor and the Hello Engine. It seems like you can do quite a lot with them.
18. Some site related stuff now. Why Exploding Rabbit? Is there a funny story behind that name?
During the development of Super Mario Bros. Crossover, my roommate had a pet rabbit named Squid. I used to play with Squid during breaks. We would let him out of his cage and I would chase him while he’d jump around. I wanted a name that sounded kind of funny, and I liked Squid the bunny a lot, so I came up with Exploding Rabbit.
19. And what does the future have in store for your site and forums anyhow? Anything interesting planned for it?
It’s hard to say exactly what the future of the website is. I’ve debated for a long time about getting rid of the forums and just making it a blog again where I can post updates. My main feeling right now is that the website is too complicated and I’d like to simplify it. I haven’t been focusing much on it lately though. I’ll probably change it next time I release something.
As for Exploding Rabbit, I’ve mainly been working on other people’s projects lately. It’s been good getting experience not being the person in charge, so I know what it’s like to be the person receiving orders. And I’ve been working on many different projects, so I’m a much more well-rounded developer now. I still prefer working on my own stuff, but I’m okay with working on other people’s stuff until I have enough money to survive on my own for a while. With that said though, I do still work periodically on Super Retro Squad, but there isn’t much time for it. Since I share code between projects as much as possible, I’m indirectly working on my own stuff any time I’m working on a game.
20. Finally, what advice would you give anyone wanting to make a Mario fan game like Super Mario Bros Crossover? Especially a crossover fan game of some sort…
My advice is simple. Just do it. I used to give more complicated advice, but 8 years of game development has taught me that simple is best.
And that wraps up another interview. Thanks to Jay Pavlina for agreeing to it, as well as answering all our questions and making Super Mario Bros Crossover in the first place. If you want to try it for yourself, get yourself over to Exploding Rabbit or (the older version at) Newgrounds and play the game right now, it’s definitely worth it! Or just give us feedback on the article, that’s cool too!
It’s time for another interview here on Gaming Reinvented! And like a couple of the previous ones, this one is with a member of staff at Mario fan gaming website Mario Fan Games Galaxy.
But wait, it’s a bit different this time around! You see, this interview with VinnyVideo isn’t really about the games.
It’s about the website and its day to day operations as a whole. Want to know how often a game gets rejected? What sort of content just didn’t make the cut over them? Whether Nintendo knows about Mario Fan Games Galaxy as a whole? If so, this interview is right up your street. So let’s see how MFGG works, in our exclusive interview with site administrator VinnyVideo!
1. So first up, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself? What got you interested in the Mario series?
Let’s see… I’m 27 years old, I’m from Jacksonville, Florida, and my name might or might not actually be Vinny! I finally earned my bachelor’s degree a year ago, graduating with a 4.0 GPA but taking considerably longer than I should’ve. I’m starting grad school this fall.
I’ve had an NES since I was just a baby. I believe it was a gift from my grandfather, who owned an independent pharmacy, back when independent pharmacies were a lot more common than they are today. He was a great pharmacist and small business owner, but he wasn’t so well-versed in the new digital technology that was rapidly transforming his industry. He wanted his family to understand some of this new technology, for both business and recreation. This NES came with one of those Super Mario Bros.-Duck Hunt-World Class Track Meet combo cartridges, and from there, we got most of the other major Mario games from the NES and Super NES era. One of my earliest memories is watching my brother play Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES, and pretty soon I was playing these games too.
2. And how about fan game development? Why not say, fan fiction or fan art?
I wrote a bit of fan fiction in a former life. In retrospect, a lot of it was probably rather boring, although I’m sure that far worse fiction has been written. I like drawing silly things on occasion, but visual arts really aren’t my strong suit. I spent more time making games than fiction or art simply because that’s what I was most motivated to do. I remember playing the Super NES-era Mario games and thinking that there were so many cool ideas in those that weren’t fleshed out very much – Kuribo’s Shoe comes to mind – and that I’d love to make a game that builds on some of these under-appreciated characters and mechanics.
3. Mario Fan Games Galaxy stuff now. How did you originally find the site?
On one slow day in December 2006, I was Googling random things, curious if anyone remembered obscure video games, characters, and levels, along with some equally obscure musical things. I’m pretty sure that MFGG came up in one of these searches. I didn’t click on the link because at the time I didn’t believe that mere mortals were capable of making games on their own, at least games that were actually worth playing.
A few months later, I was looking at old Mario guides on GameFAQs and I stumbled upon spacepope4u’s Mario Series Character Guide, which mentioned a ROM hack called Mario Adventure (the one from Dahrkdaiz). Curious about this interesting-sounding project, I Googled around and found a bunch of different fangames that shared the name Super Mario Adventure, including Edweirdo’s, before unearthing the actual ROM hack. Later that week I downloaded a lot of other Mario fangames, mostly older games. Most of these games were actually hosted on Caiman Games, but their attached help files mentioned a bunch of awesome-sounding things that piqued my interest, including Game Maker and TGF/MFA.
One of these help files also mentioned a site called MFGG. Unfortunately, the URL was for an ancient, pre-IPB domain, but a Google search led me to the actual, modern MFGG. From there, I downloaded a bunch of libs, sprite sheets, and games, and the rest is history. I didn’t actually register an account on MFGG until 2008. I lacked high-speed Internet access at the time, so I wasn’t always around, but I started visiting more actively and more consistently in 2009 and 2010.
4. How about your staff role? How did that come about?
Back in 2011, MFGG had been through a lot of change. The Split had happened just a few months earlier, and MFGG was still trying to solidify its vision for the new era of fangaming. During that time, I was one of the most active contributors on the MFGG community, and the staff agreed that I was relatively intelligent and level-headed. DJ Yoshiman and Black Squirrel, two of the most well-known names in MFGG’s history, were about to retire as admins, and another admin, Char, also left around that time. I started off as a mainsite QC staffer, but I quickly got promoted to new roles including forum moderator, forum administrator, mainsite admin, and wiki admin.
5. Submissions now. How often do you have to reject fan games submitted to MFGG?
We probably accept the majority of games submitted to the MFGG mainsite. We exercise a certain degree of curation when it comes to games hosted on the site, however, so we do decline some games. A lot of the declined games are engine tests or very short demos made with premade engines. Of the games I’ve declined, Toad Simulator is my all-time favourite.
Above: This is Toad Simulator. It got rejected from MFGG, but hey, at least the eShop and app store would still accept it!
6. How about other submissions? Do any graphics ever get rejected?
MFGG accepts six different types of submissions – graphics, games, reviews, how-tos, sounds, and miscellaneous content. Of those, graphics account for the majority of declined submissions. We see some tremendously useful rips and original sprites in the graphics queue, of course, but we also see a fair amount of stuff that doesn’t make the cut. A lot of the declined graphics are palette swaps and other quickie edits, but every once in a while you’ll find something that simply leaves you scratching your head!
Another one already? We only had an interview with Guinea a few days ago!
Well yeah. This interview has actually been in the works for a while, but things have been a bit too hectic to get it posted. None the less, today’s interviewee is levelengine (aka SMCsLevelEngine on Youtube). Don’t know him? He’s a bit of a minor celebrity in the Super Mario World ROM hacking scene, being someone who reviews Mario ROM hacks from sites like SMW Central and ROM Hacking.net. In addition to this, he’s also been responsible for some major hacks of his own, like Colossus and Bits & Pieces (the latter has him make levels out of resources that other people suggest at random).
So enough backstory, let’s start the interview!
1. First up, what go you into reviewing ROM hacks? Why not any other type of game?
I mean, I did enjoy playing them, so I figured, let’s eventually review them to try and help people improve. The trend really took off after watching another SMW hack reviewer, Azentiger, do the same thing, having gone though a whopping 165 hacks, or something like that.
I don’t do other games really because this computer’s old, like from 2008, so that restricts what I can do unless I get around to upgrading. A sad thing is that when I do want to step out of my comfort zone, I don’t get nearly as much approval for doing so; see the like-dislike ratio on my most recent fanfiction reading.
2. On a similar note, what was your introduction to the Super Mario World hacking scene?
Very stereotypical, really. This was back in 2008, somewhere around the peak of the ProtonJon era of Let’s Players. I believe Mario’s Wacky Worlds was what he was playing at the time. This led me to try and create my own hacks, which weren’t very good mainly because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. For the first 3 years of my SMW hacking timeline (2008-2010), I was making hacks with the goal of sending one over to ProtonJon to let’s play.
Above: ProtonJon was a massive influence on levelengine
3. Onto reviews now. What’s the reason you decide to review one hack over another one?
Romhack reviews actually started out only in 2012 and took a long while to pick up. I have no real rhyme or reason. Sometimes I get requested a hack to play, sometimes I find something interesting by myself, or through word of mouth, and other times I do romhack roulette, the risky practice of playing a romhack on SMW Central before it’s been moderated.
4. How about your scoring system? What counts towards a game getting a good review score?
This is a simple percentage, ranging between 0 and 100. There are key areas on the scale, 60 being the cut-off point between bad and decent enough, 80 being a point of excellence, and 30 being a minimum unless I’m forced to give lower.
A romhack is consisted of many overall parts, but what I always look for is how it actually plays, which would heavily depend on how levels get designed. As I once wanted to say, “Gameplay and fun factor are king and queen, and graphics is the royal guard. Everything else is a peon.” Essentially, this means that if a game doesn’t play well, the fancy gimmicks and aesthetics will have been wasted.
5. Why levelengine anyway? What’s the engine thing a reference to?
Well, there’s the “level”, which is essentially the maps or objectives a player takes on throughout the game, and then there’s the “engine”, which processes, produces, and breathes levels/level design. Not just that, with how much content I’ve built in 2014 and 2015, it’s clear that I do live up to my pseudonym. And there’s no sign of me stopping anytime soon.
6. As for SMW Central, what was your story there? When did you first decide to register and why?
I registered after having gotten back into the hobby in 2012, after having completed Luigi’s Adventure OSE and Rise to the Challenge savestateless. I also decided to submit one of my old 2009-2010 hacks thinking it still had to be good in some way. While I was wrong, I think that was one of my best decisions I’ve made. Or possibly even one of my worst.
When it comes to interviews here on Gaming Reinvented, popular fan game and ROM hack developers are common choices. We’ve interviewed everyone from Fusion Gameworks, we’ve interviewed MFGG celebrities like Thunder Dragon and DJ Coco, heck we’ve even interview WwwWario about his interests in Wario Land fan game development!
And today, we’ve got someone else with an interesting story to tell. Step forward Guinea, one of the main administrators over at Mario fan gaming site Mario Fan Games Galaxy! Well renowned for making such great games as Super Mario Bros DDX and Super Mario Bros & the Midas Machine, Guinea has been involved in the community since all the way back in 2005.
So let’s see what he has to say about Mario fan games, MFGG and game development in general!
1. Okay, so as usual, let’s start off with a personal question. Can you tell us a bit about yourself in general?
This is always one of the hardest questions to answer! *laughs*
I am somebody who loves games of all kind (video games as well as board games) ever since I can think.
I was always interested in technology, but also do other stuff like sports, cooking, and not to forget I am also a huge movie buff.
Those who want to know more can find me on MFGG, or read the rest of this interview.
2. So what initially made you interested in the Mario series? Any one game in particular, like Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, eh?
The first time I came in contact with Mario, it was on the SNES of a cousin of mine. He had Super Mario World and I immediately fell in love with Yoshi.
Above: Not in the original Super Mario World, but it’s a great video to show off the game regardless.
At age five, I finally got my own SNES from my parents. It came bundled with Super Mario All-Stars, however, none of the four SMB games had Yoshi in it! As a kid, this was quite disappointing for me. *laughs*
The more I played though, the more I started to appreciate the games I had, especially Super Mario Bros. 3.
The very first Mario game I have ever played is now proudly sitting in my library; my cousin gifted me his copy of Super Mario World when he sold his SNES years later.
3. How about fan games? What made you start making those?
Around the time when I got a Nintendo 64, I started being more creative.
I designed board games using pen and paper and also sketched down ideas for Nintendo 64 games that I wanted to make. Those ideas included Mario themed games, such as a Yoshi’s Island sequel in which Bowser rides Yoshi instead of Mario, as well as original ideas.
Unfortunately I had no means to make any of these games back then. *laughs*
Fast forward to the era of Game Maker 4.0 and RPG Maker 2000.
My first video game I made in Game Maker was actually an original game called Ginni Pig Adventure, starring my own guinea pig. I used Mario sound effects that I got from themushroomkingdom.net, and then I got inspired to make an amazing Mario fan game.
Years later, I found MFGG and submitted it there and later joined the forums.
4. Your first games… had a bit of a mixed reception (especially ‘Super Mario Bros 4’). What were the mistakes made here that your later works improved on?
Well, I would not call Super Mario Bros. 4 a mistake, but a learning experience. I was new to game making, and I was happy that I could slap together any game at all!
I did learn a couple of lessons though, such as: do not use a *.wav file which is larger than the entire rest of the game, even if it is the amazing theme of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show.
Above: The Super Mario Bros Super Show theme (from the intro)
Also, learn to properly pick your sprites and make sure they don’t clash. And don’t call your fan games “Super Mario Bros. 4”.
5. Now onto Super Mario Bros DDX. What inspired you to make this title? It’s not your typical remake of Super Mario Bros?
The story of the making of Super Mario Bros. DDX is a very interesting one.
I started out with the desire to code the ultimate 2D Mario engine, filled with a ton of features and lots of power-ups.
As I aimed to combine elements from all the mainline Mario games, including features from 3D games like Mario’s special jumps, I called it AME, the All-Mario-Engine.
It was one of the first engines on MFGG (or even the first?) that had pixel perfect collision code that made it impossible to get stuck in walls.
I also kept a development log using a forum thread, creating very high interest in AME. In the end however, I focused so much on the features of the engine, that I forgot to think about the game I want to make with it.
Some time down the road, I put recoloured SMB sprites into AME for fun.
At the time the more serious looking SMB sprites appealed to me and I got hit by inspiration. So after all this time creating an engine with all the features, I threw 90% of them out and used it to make a Super Mario Bros. 1 clone. *laughs*
However, my goal was not to merely recreate Super Mario Bros. I wanted to take the classic gameplay and use it for an epic story with cutscenes and bosses.
If you pay attention to the cutscenes, you will also notice that I had played Metroid Fusion around that time.
Inspiration also came from the famous “Super Mario XP”, a crossover between SMB and Castlevania.
Above: Super Mario XP was an influence on Guinea
6. And how about that final boss? Where did you get the idea of making Bowser turn giant and Mario have to fight him in a kaiju style boss battle?
Super Mario Bros. DDX was in development for quite some time, and I made the story up as I went.
The very first boss is a regular Bowser which you can defeat like in the classic Super Mario Bros. For the second boss though, I wanted something more original. There has never been a Blooper boss (in a 2D Mario game), so I wanted to make one.
I ended up resizing a Blooper and I liked how the fight played out.
Above: The level with the Blooper boss mentioned
I decided to stay consistent and make the other bosses huge pixelated versions of smaller enemies as well.
Thus the obvious conclusion was to fight a larger version of Bowser in the end.
However, since that was not yet epic enough for my tastes, I cranked it up to eleven and made it a multi-phase boss fight, in which you first have to fight a regular Bowser, then run away from one that’s larger than the screen, and finally you get to rise to the challenge and fight him one-on-one, with the screen shaking on every jump and everything!
Above: The last boss in Super Mario Bros DDX
If you pay close attention, you will notice that the final battle arena is actually a miniature version of the previous level.
This was obviously followed by the mandatory escape sequence together with a cameo appearance of a very confused bounty hunter.
To this day, I still enjoy going to YouTube and watching the video of someone playing that last boss battle. *laughs*
It’s my first rule of fangaming: make the game you would want to play yourself.
7. A few questions about Mushroom Patrol the Midas Machine now. What even is a Mushroom Patrol? Or a Midas Machine?
Note: It’s been changed to Super Mario Bros. & The Midas Machine to avoid exactly this question.
The Midas Machine part is easily explained. It refers to the name of the machine which is powered by the Hand of Midas.
The machine can be used to turn anything into gold, with the added benefit, as Captain Syrup explains it, that the user is not affected by its curse.