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How Nintendo’s Mario Maker Teaches You To Design Crazy Levels (That Are Actually Good)

Nintendo’s new flagship game will teach you to design new levels by purposefully limiting your options.

Super Mario Maker–coming out this September for Wii U–is Nintendo’s most ambitious game in recent history. Utilizing the Wii U’s touchpad and stylus, it gives players control of their own level editor that’s loaded with a hodgepodge of bricks, turtles, and mushrooms from the last 30 years of Mario games.

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Early examples teased thus far look overwhelmingly insane. They’re spectacularly meta, strategically daunting creations that I’m a bit terrified to play. (Let alone attempt to design.)

In its latest promotional video, Nintendo reveals the clever trick the game uses to ease players into designing their first levels: Rather than hand players every tool in the shed on day one–remember the experience of loading Photoshop for the first time?–the software gradually unlocks the myriad of different obstacles, objects, and enemies over a period of nine days. And on top of that, other options, like recording your own sounds for event, appear only over time as well.

Of course, there are lots of other great level design ideas inside Super Mario Maker. Every object is dragged and dropped with a stylus. You can test any level, from where you’re editing, with a button press. The interface automatically overlays Mario’s jump radius whenever you’re building a pit. And maybe, most importantly, the game prevents creators from sharing any level with other players until they themselves beat it. (In other words, you can’t possibly share an impossible level.)

But its approach to graduated UI is the idea that seems most ripe to transfer to other apps. It’s a fantastic idea to lower the grade on the learning curve of a new, feature-laden piece of software. Because even though you can design an interface to be as streamlined as possible, the most powerful software, like video editors and 3-D animation programs, will always be intimidating by its scale alone. Now, if it was only socially acceptable to tell a client you missed a deadline because Photoshop still had you locked out from the Magic Wand.

[via the Verge]

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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