Are you bored by playing the same level twice? Let us take a look at how a level editor allows us to create our own levels.

Even the greatest games can become stale when we play them countless times. In Game Randomizer I explain, how some games spice things up by shuffling the order of their contents. However, changing the order of content is not quite the same as offering new content. This is why many gaming communities have found ways to create and share their own levels for their favorite games.

In recent years, Nintendo has embraced this concept and released Super Mario Maker for the Wii U in 2015. Its sequel for the Switch followed in 2019. What makes the game’s level editor special, is its easy-to-use “What You See Is What You Get” system. We can select platforms, pipes, or enemies, and place them where we want them in our level. Since the editor uses a grid, it is easy to place elements at constant distances from another and make the level look nice.

At any point, we can easily switch from editor mode into play mode, to quickly test what is displayed in front of us. For example, if we realize, that a bottomless pit is too large to jump over, we can just as easy switch back to the editor and adjust it. Additionally, the game supports us by displaying a trail of our movements. This allows us to place a platform directly in our jump path to make sure we land safely next time. Particularly, it reduces the frustrating use of trial-and-error.

What we create, is up to us. Of course, we can recreate our favorite Super Mario levels and add a twist to it, like ten Bowsers. Furthermore, we can even combine elements that have never been combined in the main games, give Bowser wings, and let him fly. However, with this degree of creative freedom it would be a waste not to exercise our own skills as a game designer.

Of course, many have created seemingly impossible levels stacked with countless enemies and hidden blocks over merciless pits that require a series of pixel-perfect jumps without a moment to stop. Others have created clever puzzle levels that require little motorical skills and resemble room escape games, or levels with Rube Goldberg machines that keep you running to guide a key through countless obstacles. However, some of the hardest levels to create are tutorial levels that consciously introduce new players to game mechanics, as I explain in Stubbornness of Turtles.

If you want to keep your players engaged, offer them a level editor. As a game developer, you can even use the editor yourself to test its quality. Is it frustrating to place the same enemy multiple times, because you have to dig through deep menus over and over again? Add a duplicate feature! Your players will encounter the same problems as you. So, whatever improves the editor for you, improves it for them as well. Let them share their creations and let others rate them. You may discover ideas, you never had yourself, and include them in your next game.

What are your favorite experiences with a level editor? Share them in the comments below! I look forward to reading them. In the mean time, I will build a castle in the sky for Bowser.

(Photo by Verstappen Photography on Unsplash)