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What do you enjoy in the original levels?
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Blyka Offline
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Post: #1
What do you enjoy in the original levels?
There's been lots of discussion here in regards to fan games and their levels, but I'm not sure I've ever seen discussion of the "source material" in that way. So...

In the official Classic-series Mega Man titles, what level design did you actually enjoy?

What levels or level segments do you still enjoy on subsequent playthroughs, and why?
What did Capcom do right back in the day that made you love the original games?
I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on this subject.

If there's something you'd like to groan about in the original games that's fine too, though I'm much more interested in what's actually enjoyed in MM level design as I suspect bad parts are more obvious/commonly agreed upon.

Maps for easy reference:

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22-02-2017 04:50 PM
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Flashman85 Offline
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Post: #2
RE: What do you enjoy in the original levels?
This is a great question, and I think it helps inform future discussions about level design.

One thing I love about Mega Man in general is the amount of freedom you're given. Even when there's a "right" way to do things, you're seldom forced to do them that way.

Can't get past these spikes? Just get hit and damage boost past them. Too impatient to wait for shielded enemies to become vulnerable? Switch to Laser Trident. Having trouble with a Yoku puzzle? Hop on Rush Jet.

For me, conquering challenges in Mega Man isn't only a matter of skill; it's a matter of thinking creatively to close the gap between my skill level and the skill level required to succeed. Sometimes that means practicing more, but often it means examining the situation more closely and trying new weapons or different strategies. Mega Man is an action-platformer, but it can often be played more like a puzzle game, and that appeals to me as a problem solver.

On a first playthrough, I'll accept any method of success. On subsequent playthroughs, I'll challenge myself to look for new ways to succeed, and I'll push myself to refine and perfect the old ones. For as difficult as Mega Man can be, it tends to be lenient about letting the player slip through with a performance that's "good enough." Allowing the player some flexibility in how to succeed provides far more replay value than any DLC, and feeling like I could do better is sufficient encouragement to replay a game if I had any fun at all the first time around.

I also appreciate when Mega Man games let me get away with goofing around. Maybe you've seen one of my Bloopers, Glitches, and Tricks videos on YouTube; it is a joy to discover things you can do that have nothing to do with beating the stage at hand.

Dive Man's stage in MM4 is a good example of what I like in a Mega Man stage. A buster-only run is satisfyingly tricky, but you can get some great mileage out of the special weapons (Skull Barrier, Flash Stopper, and Rush Marine in particular); destroying enemies and evading enemies are equally valid strategies most of the time; and you can damage boost past a lot of the challenges if you're desperate. It's a bit of a puzzle to reconcile the timing of the rising/lowering tide with the jumps you have to make, and there's a reward for attentive and adventurous players who try to see what's down the stage's only "bottomless" pit. There's some fun to be had with letting Eddie waltz right off the platform and off the screen, firing Flash Stopper at just the right moment to keep the room lit up when collecting the Wire Adapter, and riding Rush Marine so close to the top of the water that you float in the air as the tide goes down. Dive Man himself can be handled in a few different ways, but now that I've found a pattern that works and practiced it extensively, it is SO satisfying to pull off a perfect battle.

There's plenty more I could say, but I'll show some restraint for a change. Smile

No matter where you go, there you are.
(This post was last modified: 23-02-2017 07:42 PM by Flashman85.)
23-02-2017 07:24 PM
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Kunosachiaka Offline
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Post: #3
RE: What do you enjoy in the original levels?
^Good post. It's hard to make my own without sounding redundant after that.

First off, good visuals and aurals. Music that gets your heart pumping on an awesome-looking stage aren't the most important factors, but they definitely help add to the enjoyment.

As for the actual design though, it needs to mainly /feel/ good to play. Having to be cautious and take your time on the first few runs while things are still mostly new to you, but also being able to bypass these challenges much more quickly once you have more weapons and more knowledge of the stage. Being able to run almost non-stop through the stage IF you have the quick reflexes for it, but also being able to stop and take your time to evaluate the situations if you need to. A challenge where you're not just putting on a shield weapon and walking through 20 screens effortlessly, but also not so difficult that you're surrounded by mandatory pixel-perfect spike jumps while enemy spam is all around you. A good balance of difficulty helps the challenge feel rewarding, as you aren't breezing through while mashing B nor are you pounding your head against the wall at that same conveyor belt spike jump.

Options, variety, diversity. The most difficult challenges in the game should be optional, so you don't have to do them if you can't, but can go back and do them later when you're more confident. Even the moderate challenges need multiple options to get passed, but also should be entirely doable without the extra help. Long jump on your first run? Use Rush. Long jump on your 2nd-3rd run? Inch your way forward, then jump. Long jump on your 4th+ run? Run full speed never stopping and leap that pit like a boss. Being able to make this jump every time, with different methods that vary in difficulty. If I'm forced to use a special weapon, give me plenty of tries to go through it in case I make some mistakes; basically do not be the Boobeam Trap. The stage should compliment the weapon selection and have challenges in different sections where different weapons perform well in. If you have Gemini Laser, put some areas where enemies are difficult to hit with your regular buster but are easily dispatched with GL if you shoot at a wall that slightly stands out. If you have Magma Bazooka, put enemies in a column of three where you can kill all three with one shot if you're in the right spot when you fire it. If you have Drill Bomb, put enemies that have a hefty amount of health but take lots of damage from DB. Even if you could do the whole thing buster-only, make it so the stage is either easier or more satisfying to use special weapons in. Also, have gimmicks mess with the regular mode of playing. Gravity-reverse switches, the levers in Drill Man's stage that "turn on" the ground, stage hazards like the oil in Flame Man's stage that go from making adorable splooshy sounds to being instant death fire, etc.

Enemy and gimmick layouts need to look more difficult than they actually are. The most satisfying challenges are the ones that look the most intimidating at first, but can be beaten flawlessly after practice and concentration. A good example of what I mean is the tomato section at the end of Charade Man's stage for Rock Force (not an original game example, but I'm cheating). Exploding tomatoes are constantly being thrown at you, but you have enough of a visual tell to know where they're going to land and as long as you keep moving, you should be ok. So if you're skilled enough, you can do some pretty fancy footwork that is nice to look at and fun to pull off, and if you're still new to the challenge, you should be able to still get by without being decimated.

Freedom is important. Let me play the stages in any order I want. If I can't beat a boss, or get passed a certain obstacle, that's fine, but at least give me the chance to do it, even on my first try. Try not to be like Elec Man or the mini-bosses in MM9, where you need to spend plenty of lives to reasonably beat them without special weapons, or rather, where you can't reasonably beat them at all buster-only without looking up some fancy method online to trick their AI into derping out. I also don't like having to play a stage in a specific order due to needing certain weapons to earn important upgrades, or to fight optional bosses; this is something the X series does quite frequently. One or two important rewards are ok, but I think most of the rewards that require special weapons shouldn't be that special, such as E Tanks, etc.

Some ideas off the top of my head.
(This post was last modified: 01-03-2017 10:38 PM by Kunosachiaka.)
01-03-2017 09:29 PM
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Kallisto Offline
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Post: #4
RE: What do you enjoy in the original levels?
I've pretty much enjoyed every official game in their own way, but I think the only issue I would have would be Mega Man & Bass difficulty because of it's brutal damage, and level design, I really considered that game to be the hardest Mega Man game, and Mega Man 9 would be the 2nd hardest.
02-03-2017 12:18 AM
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Heihachi_73 Offline
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Post: #5
RE: What do you enjoy in the original levels?
The ability to be able to start on just about any Robot Master stage and not have to backtrack all over the place like the way the X games are made. Yes, some bosses or even the stages themselves (Ice Man, Heat Man, Gemini Man to name a few) can hand you your arse if you go to them buster-only, but it's still optional and they can still be done.

Of course, it doesn't really work as well in Megaman 1 or 6 as you have to get certain items in order to go the right way, but with the others it's fairly open (MM7 is more like the X games however, with quite a bit of backtracking required for 100% completion). With MM1 you always have to beat at least Guts Man before starting on Elec Man, and and with 6 you should always get Flame and Plant out of the way before going to the four RMs which are hiding the BEAT plates and the Energy Balancer, as they all require either the Power or Jet Adaptors; of course if you don't need Beat and/or the Energy Balancer you could still do the eight stages in any order and continue to Wi-- Mr. X.
07-03-2017 07:39 PM
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Blyka Offline
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Post: #6
RE: What do you enjoy in the original levels?
There's definitely some very good analyses regarding game design and what generally makes a MM game enjoyable (which is certainly useful discussion in its own right), though I'm not seeing an abundance of levels from the original games being cited as successful examples of these ideas. You know, what spots specifically do you feel Capcom best implemented these principles in ways that made/make you happy to play the original games?

Which, I will admit, is a difficult question to answer.
Especially when you've just always enjoyed all the games in general and haven't really considered why, like me. XP

Thinking about it myself for a moment, I could mention Napalm Man's level as one I really enjoy from start to finish. It's very run-and-gun with minimal gimmick usage, yet it's clever about its enemies. Several (Sumatrans and Jet Bombs especially) pose quite a threat and can really trip you up before you figure them out, but once you know how to deal with them you can fly through their segments and feel like a boss doing it.
Which I think is something I generally enjoy in MM these days; sliding, jumping, dodging and blasting through as quickly and smoothly as I can once I've learned how it's done.
I also find the music and graphics top notch here, and I like how they transition from a jungle to an underground base and utilize the environments in the level design as they go (Sumatran in the jungle, Rolling Drills and moving floors via waterfalls in an underground cavern, more missile-oriented enemies in the base segment, etc.).

Another example of a specific segment I've enjoyed could be Wave Man's rising bubbles. Seems odd for an obstacle without enemies that hinges on waiting, but it's over in a couple of screens and it was satisfying overcoming what I perceived as tight timing back in the day. I love the music there too, which is a nice accompaniment to the charming background waterfalls as you wait for giant bubbles to appear. As a kid I used to like jumping up and down on the big bubble to watch the sprite change as well. ;D

I'd also concur with Flashman that Dive Man has a fun level; I think the water is a fun gimmick that drastically changes how the entire level is approached, yet doesn't hijack the classic MM experience of intense enemy combat and precision platforming.

And I'm sure I could go on (and on) if I sat on it longer, but there's a start for me.

(01-03-2017 09:29 PM)Kunosachiaka Wrote:  First off, good visuals and aurals. Music that gets your heart pumping on an awesome-looking stage aren't the most important factors, but they definitely help add to the enjoyment.

It's funny as it almost seems a shallow point to consider, but I agree this can be a surprisingly important factor in overall stage enjoyment. An epic theme and rich location can make semi-blah levels a pleasure to play through, but that annoying tune or ugly environment can equally sour an otherwise fine level.
For example I've never been wild about Bright Man's level as MM levels go, but I love the music there. And the rich blue background, flashy lights and overall atmosphere. Keeps it a fun ride even if a 100 Watton knocks you from glitchy platforms into the pit right near the boss door.

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09-03-2017 12:22 AM
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Heihachi_73 Offline
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Post: #7
RE: What do you enjoy in the original levels?
I kind of think of Napalm Man's drills as being the predecessor to the thing from X1 in Armored Armadillo's stage, right down to the underground part. Not a bad stage, although the Mizziles (basically nigh-invulnerable Up-n-Downs) near the end always get newcomers. And that last gap with nothing at all, which is probably a callback to Bubble Man's stage where more often than not crabs don't appear near the last platform, unless you wait or you used Time Stopper and it ran out there.

Wave Man's stage focuses too much on the wave bike segment, the platforming areas being too short and with the first section having only a single enemy which cannot even be damaged as no Robot Master weapons in this game can take out the Gabyoall analog that's in that part of the stage. While I'm fine with most of the wave bike section and the miniboss Octoper OA, the area just drags on for too long; there probably should have been a land-based section immediately past the miniboss serving as both a checkpoint and an area with a few enemies so you can recover some of your energy. The fact that you can't pause whatsoever in the entire wave bike section is another annoyance with this stage. Also, if you get hit by a dolphin right before collecting the E letter (or O in Rockman 5), it forces you to miss it as you can't jump while Megaman is taking damage, and you can't go back since the entire wave bike segment is an auto-scrolling area which takes you to the very end of the stage. I'd rather have the Guts Man, Quick Man, Boobeam, Doc Robot, Ring Man, Bright Man stages and Wily Machine 4's second form any day. I have no complaints about the actual Wave Man battle, it's actually interesting that he won't send water immediately underneath you if you aren't moving, although defeating him using Charge Kick may actually be harder on a no-damage run than using the buster, as more often than not he will put the water right where you are sliding, even right underneath himself in some occasions, and like Top Spin, you take damage from projectiles when performing the special move (I really can't call either two items "weapons", it's not like you can throw tops or harpoons when not jumping or sliding).

I think Wave Man's stage should have also had some underwater sections to go with the wave bike area - the pipes could have lead to an underwater area where you had to ride the bubbles back to the surface, especially when there were spikes in the area (because, high jumps), as the bubbles make absolutely no sense being in the air above ground. In fact, Sonic 2 on the Master System/Game Gear did just that, complete with a similar pipe gimmick and the rising bubbles, but also had enemies around the bubbles on the second part of the stage (and some spikes for good measure) - get hit while inside the bubble and you lost your rings and had to hope you landed on one while falling all the way back down in case you landed on another enemy further down, as Sonic was not in his Spin Attack animation. Sonic 2 had the same scroll-back-on-screen enemy spawns as Megaman. At least Megaman didn't need to breathe underwater though...

That One 100 Watton, haha! Skull Barrier never became more useful (if only Megaman 3 had a Leaf Shield analog). I compare that section directly to the bolts in Spark Man's stage near the boss door.

Speaking of Spark Man, it's one of my better stages. I like the fact that it's almost perfectly set up for a speed runner, with the exception of the first Electric Gabyoall area, as you have to climb a ladder to get there - once you have gone past that first one, if you are moving non-stop you can just jump through every other Electric Gabyoall trap in the room without having to wait or time anything, the only other enemies in the area die in one hit and are pretty much all within your line of fire despite coming from the ceiling (Shadow Blades can take them out even quicker). Stop for even a split second and you will get zapped by almost every one. Of course, you can also scroll the things off the screen if you know where their spawn points are, although that is more of a glitch than anything else, as with the bees and Holograns in other stages. Likewise, you can also speed-run the first set of platforms (the ones which attempt to squish you into the ceiling spikes), simply walking off the higher ones will make you land on the lower ones - not so much when they put the aforementioned Nutton and Bolton enemies in the mix (I prefer to use Rush Jet through that part just because it's quicker and saves you from being knocked to your death if you do hit one).

The same can be said about the Needle Press segments in Needle Man's two stages - it's only if you hesitate that the needles become annoying as their timing changes. Roahm Mythril hesitated around them on one of his failed perfect run attempts of Needle Man ("In fact, I don't think this stage has any death spikes [gets hit by Needle Press, falls backwards into bottomless pit] to speak of - oh, well, OK, maybe it does!")

Flash Man's stage is another good one. It is designed like a maze, but you can go almost any way (provided you have the Crash Bomber to break some of the walls), with various results - some areas lead to an extra life or an energy tank, others lead you right into enemies, and others are empty with nothing at all or give you a way to avoid enemies e.g. the Joe mechs. It's a pity Flash Man is weak to half a dozen things though, right down to taking double damage from the buster (he was beefed up in the Wily Wars however, where his AI was swapped with Doc Robot's tougher, Time Stopper-spamming version and only taking 1 damage from the buster, although at least both Flash Man and Doc Robot will jump when you fire unlike Doc Robot on the NES who only jumps to get to the higher platforms).
(This post was last modified: 10-03-2017 10:06 PM by Heihachi_73.)
10-03-2017 12:17 PM
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