Third Person Platformer
One week fulltime
To analyze how Nintendo made Good Egg Galaxy from Super Mario Galaxy
How Nintendo used their level flow technique - Kishotenketsu - and make the transitions between each act as distinct as possible
Rolling Boulder Spawner
Rolling Boulder Path
Launch Star Fragment
For a level to analyse I picked Good Egg Galaxy, the first ever level the player plays in Super Mario Galaxy. The level acts as an onboarding experience for the player, introducing the player mechanics and how to interact with other mechanics in the game. When analyzing a bit more I realized a lot of the mechanics are just put in the level for the sake of introducing them to the player, and in general lack purpose in the level.
My goal for this project was to pick a couple of mechanics from Good Egg Galaxy and and to use Nintendo's level flow philosophy to create my own version of Good Egg Galaxy. I picked out the most important mechanics, that I felt I had time to script, and those were: star launcher, star launcher puzzle, rolling boulders and moving enemies.
I started scripting the launch star mechanic with splines, and used the same base for the rolling boulder and enemies. In the rolling boulder and enemy script I added that they give the player damage.
Since I made that the player could take damage and die I had to make a checkpoint script, so if the player died from enemies or fell off the ground they would spawn back to the nearest checkpoint
My original idea was to just recreate Good Egg Galaxy, but without the anti-gravity feature. However, halfway through the project the whole level started to feel very lacking in structure. I decided to section up the level in four distinct, instead of six sections flowing into each other. This enabled me to work even more strict with Kishotenketsu, since one of the key-points in the philosophy is to make the transitions between each act as notable as possible. Examples on this is how Nintendo uses pipes to get from one part of the level to the other, to separate the past section from the current one.
The Level Flow - Ki Sho Ten Ketsu
What is Kishotenketsu
Kishotenketsu is a level flow structure made by Nintendo. It consists of dividing the level in four distinct acts, where each part builds up to the next, usually a new feature the player is introduced to. The four parts are Ki, Sho, Ten and Ketsu.
Ki: introduce the feature in a controlled and easy environment.
Sho: the player is allowed to explore the feature so they fully understand it. The difficulty is increased a little bit.
Ten: the feature is introduced in an unexpected way, can be seen as an exam for the player to see if they have fully learned how the feature works
Ketsu: a conclusion, it's used to round up the experience in a non-dramatic way and to let the player breath.
Kishotenketsu in my level
To make it as easy and clear as possible I divided the level in four different floating islands, where each island would represent each act.
Ki - The introduction
The player starts facing two moving enemies. The area is relatively spacey, so the player can avoid the enemies easily if they want to. This is so the player does not feel too overwhelmed from the start by all new features. Placing the enemies close allows the player to test out their jump mechanic on something else than just jumping up on platforms. It also introduces the concept of taking damage, and that the player has three hits before they die and re-spawn from the beginning.
Traversing through the area the player will eventually bump into a launch star, learning that it will take the player to a specific location. The last launch star takes the player away from the island, to the second section, Sho. As mentioned, the launch star is good to separate the different areas from each other and telling the player that the last section is in the past and the current one is what they should focus on.
Sho - Development
Arriving to the second island, the player immediately sees a rolling boulder. The boulder rolls in a circle to let the player learn how the obstacle works, that the player can predict the boulder's route so it will be easier to avoid it. Further into the area the player sees a second boulder, rolling in a different pattern. This is to introduce how the boulders can move differently, and also that the player can take damage, and eventually die, from them. If this happens, the player re-spawns in the beginning of the current section.
Just as in the former section in the end there is a launch star. that takes the player far away to the next island to separate the current part Sho, from the next one Ten.
Ten - The twist
Here the difficulty is increased. Boulders will roll down with even intervals from a "boulder spawner", this is to change how the player has perceived the boulders before, and twist the feature. The player must find five launch star shards to unlock the launch star. This is also done to twist the regular launch star feature that the player has become used to and have gotten bored of by now. A couple of enemies are also placed out to really accentuate that this is supposed to be the most difficult section.
When the player finished collecting all star shards the launch star will be unlocked, allowing the player to travel to the final section, Ketsu.
Ketsu - Conclusion
The last island's purpose to round up the whole experience, to let the player breathe after the last intense island, and to feel a sense of completion. All they need to do is to platform up for the blocks to reach the star in the end.
This project was purely made to analyze an already existing level's flow, and using the level flow structure as a starting point for building the level. I deliberately chose just a few mechanics because of time limitation, however if I would have had more time on this project I would add the classic spinning mechanic, the one that Super Mario Galaxy is centered around. That would have enabled me building more elaborated platforming sections that in my opinion, would have made the level more interesting. It is not a huge problem right now since the experience is relatively short, however, if I had made the level longer the risk of game play fatigue would be big.