Today, I wrote my very own level of Super Mario Bros. at E3. Featuring a pyramid of goombas, several randomly placed pipes, a dozen mystery blocks in a row and countless coins scattered throughout, my creation was a jumbled mess; coming up with a cool world for Mario to navigate is a lot easier said than done. But it was mine.
In the first half of next year, Wii U owners will have the same opportunity thanks to a game called Mario Maker. It's Nintendo's first attempt at producing a level creator similar to LittleBigPlanet or Project Spark, and it tugged at my heartstrings. For a brief moment, I shared the same experience as a small group of video game designers: Armed with a Wii U GamePad and its included stylus, I placed enemies, pipes, platforms and other Mario obstacles anywhere I wanted. In my demo, I was allowed to choose between the original game's 8-bit style and the high-def style from the franchise's recent titles. And just to make sure my Mario genesis was actually playable, I was able to play through it in real time.
In edit mode, Mario Maker looks closer to a crude video editor or an early version of Photoshop than an actual game. Items, tiles and enemies line the top of the screen, while your current position in the world sits on the bottom. The mechanics are simple: Select an item from the top and then tap on the screen where you want to place it. If you plant a platform somewhere, you can then dictate which direction it moves in. (Reps told me that there's no way to adjust how far each platform travels, however.) You can add wings to goombas or turtles, and if you place an enemy in a pipe, that enemy will start popping out at regular intervals. Once you hit the Play button in the bottom-left corner, it transforms into a real game that you can actually play through. This is where the difficult part of the process began: Randomly placing items on a level is one thing, but making everything work well together and helping Mario get through it successfully is another.
It took just a few minutes to create a simple level. Satisfied, I saved my masterpiece, but Nintendo hasn't given any specific details on exactly what I can do with it after this point. Reps suggest that there will be ways to share it with others. Hopefully this means you'll be able to upload levels and challenge family and friends. I'd also love to download curated playlists of custom-made levels to tide me over until the next Mario game comes out. The demo shown off at E3 is an early version of the game, which means there should be a lot more options and customizations to choose from when it's ready next year. Sadly, there was no option to create warp pipes, nor were there any underground or water levels. While there aren't many official answers yet, Nintendo has plenty of time to provide them before its general release.