Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Stage Builder

I think the fact that I am going to write about the Super Smash Bros, Brawl Stage Builder is a sign that I need to find more inspiration for this blog soon. Oh well...

I really like that the game designers put a Stage Builder into SSB Brawl. If implemented well, a system that lets a player create more stages for a game can add a bit to the long-term enjoyability of the game. Also, in my opinion, it is both easier to do and more rewarding than a create-a-character system (which usually ends up either with the player only controlling a character's looks, without being able to change anything that affects actual gameplay, or a limited and difficult to balance system). That said, I am not convinced that the designers of this game actually succeeded in making an interesting Stage Builder.

There are at least two big problems with the SSB Brawl Stage Builder, both of which stem from the limited number of pieces with which you can build stages. The first problem is that there are not a wide variety of different gimmicks and special parts that you can add. I have not unlocked any hidden parts yet (and I have heard that there are not many), but so far the choices are very limited. Other than normal blocks and floor tiles, the main choices are ladders, floating platforms (of one size), falling blocks (of one size), ice blocks (mostly of one size), and spikes (of one size). There are no other gimmicks like flaming traps, retracting spikes, larger moving platforms, platforms that randomly drop those standing on them, cannons to launch characters, etc. Also, it seems impossible to control things like gravity, water level (or presence of water at all), upward or downward flows of air, or any of the other effects that exist in various normal stages and areas of the Subspace Emissary mode.

One particularly harsh limitations in the stage builder that relates to the problem above is that it is impossible to layer any kind of block, or even fit anything but normal blocks closely together. Most objects require a very large amount of space (most of the "Structures" require far too much), and this means that it can be difficult to layer in a complicated design. For example, you need a fairly large amount of space to have a block that will fall out beneath you and drop you onto a spike trap, so much space that it prevents such a gimmick from being used in places where it seems logical.

The other, and perhaps even more problematic, problem with the Stage Builder is the lack of purely aesthetic, or at least mostly aesthetic, components for stages. For each of the three stage types there is only one way for any kind of floor or trap to look. The different stage types have different "Structures", but these blocks are all minor variations of "object standing by itself in your way", and can't be used to replace structural pieces. Also, the differences between the three stage types in the main structural elements are very minor. As a whole, there is almost no way to try to create a stage with a unique or interesting look; it is only possible to control a stage's function. I find this to be unsatisfying.

The Stage Builder is a good idea, but it just seems too simplistic and it has too few options for me to like it.

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