The Super Mario games have always been extremely well received and praised for their creativity, especially concerning level design. An excellent video by Mark Brown in the Game Maker’s Youtube series looks at how co-director Koishi Hayashida of Super Mario 3D World tackles the introduction and refinement of new game mechanics.

Hayashida is influenced by the narrative four-part structure called kishōtenketsu used in Chinese, Korean and Japanese stories. This is often used in four-panel comics: a situation is 1) introduced, 2) developed, 3) a twist occurs, 4) the conclusion is reached. This is interesting when compared to traditional Western storytelling which usually focuses on conflict to make a story interesting. Check out still eating oranges for a closer comparison and explanation of the concept.

Hayashida says for his level design he has been influenced by this method of storytelling. First a new mechanic is introduced in a level in safe way (e.g. Mario cannot die), then the mechanic is used in a more difficult manner, then a twist happens (the mechanic is used in an unexpected way) and finally the level concludes with a final demonstration of the player’s skill in regards to the new mechanic (i.e. a boss fight or flagpole jump).
This way the player is never overwhelmed trying to understand a new mechanic, and the player learns by doing and not by playing an obvious tutorial or having to read in-game instructions.

As mixed reality games are still new for many players (which means there isn’t really a large canon of expected interactions), teaching them how to play the game is a crucial element of good game design. The Super Mario way of applying kishōtenketsu might be a good solution for mixed reality games as well!

Level Design in Super Mario
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