Starting the Next Chapter in my Life

I worked at Age of Learning for nearly 6 years and made the decision to pursue a new opportunity. With a day having passed, I’m reflecting a lot. It’s a strange feeling to let go of something I have invested a large portion of my life to. I have a million memories, but my favorites include some truly amazing people. I’ve met some of my best friends there. I got to check off boxes for a lot of life goals, put myself in the most anxiety-provoking situations, and grew so much. I’m realizing this just now.

I started in 2016, didn’t make many friends at first, had lunch alone for months, and set a goal to be a game designer there. The goal consisted of a 6 month plan and lots of unread sent emails. Those 6 months turned into 3.5 years, but it happened.

In that time, I lost count of how many moments I felt like quitting on my dream. I didn’t and I’m glad I trusted myself.

I went from playing video games, to selling video games, to testing them, to finally help make them.

In 2 days I start a new adventure making more games.

I have a lot of big plans, and I intend to do my very best in order to achieve them.

If I could speak to my 8 year old self after I read that one particular issue of NintendoPower, I’d say, “You read that right! Game designers are a real job and you CAN be one, so don’t listen to the teachers and friends you’ll have that will call you crazy. Not all of course, but the ones that do are going to make you feel delusional for failing as much as you will. And yes, you WILL fail soooo much. It’s gonna be like a Guinness Book of World Records level of failing. Some moments you’re going to embarrass yourself so much, that you become convinced you’re meant to be what society expects of you and not what you dreamed to be. You’ll want to quit in life, but listen….never ever ever ever ever ever ever quit. You will struggle and be horrible in some people’s views, but everytime, push. Push hard until it happens. You will nervously speak and give off rough first impressions. It’s ok! You’re going to seem pretentious, weird, awkward, creepy, maybe scary, and you’re going to feel so alone. It’s all okay, because this dream is going to happen. And you won’t be alone forever. Wait till you meet a crazy cast of people at a place called Age of Learning. Good luck kid. Oh, also watch out for a gothic girl that plays with voodoo dolls in middle school. she might curse you to have bad luck. You’ll know when you see her! Later, Brown Miyamoto!” 


Noodle Nightmare Tonight!

Today marks 2 years since the birth of Anxiety Monster. To briefly tell the story again, in 2017 I was working on a game with my talented friend Allyssa De La Torre for the Indiecade Resist Jam. We needed a team name to submit our game. Anxiety Monster came to me and it just made perfect sense, considering the topics I want to eventually discuss in games. It only made sense to publish a short game I was developing with Allyssa on this occasion. It’s a game about eating Ramen. Yep!

Noodle Nightmare Tonight is a ramen eating challenge game. Race a rival to see who can eat a bowl of ramen fastest. This game is a 2-player only mini-game.

Some things still need to be worked on, but the majority of the experience is there. I’ll eventually add original sound and music, as well as a brief tutorial. Please Enjoy!

Yoshi’s Island Level Design Analysis “1-1: Make Eggs, Throw Eggs”


1-1 Make Eggs, Throw Eggs is the first true level of Yoshi’s Island. Prior, the player goes through a clear tutorial level that functions a bit different from the rest of the game and focuses to teach the player the familiar jumping mechanic. To differentiate itself even further, the tutorial stage is even excluded from the world map. I want to focus this analysis on 1-1, because this is the level that manages to teach the player what the game is really about, throwing eggs. This stage communicates the two fundamental mechanics and a lot of ideas surrounding them.

The first thing the level teaches is how to throw eggs in a variety of ways. There’s a signpost that is convientally surrounded by 3 coins to attract the player towards it, having it seem important. This sign tells the player about eating enemies to create eggs, and then simply saying, “Now try throwing the egg, press A!” It encourages the player to explore the throwing mechanic.

Now that the player has some familiarity with throwing eggs, they’ll soon learn about this mechanic’s versatility, since there are plenty of objects to interact with. The player can try to toss an egg at an object and miss by accidentally releasing towards the ground. This is important because it teaches the player that eggs will ricochet off the ground and solid surfaces. Question Mark Clouds, Shyguys, Piranha Plants, signposts, coins, and puzzle elements like the red flower in the optional section are other objects that can interact with the egg.  

When the eggs collide with the Question mark cloud, a variety of behaviors can come about. The clouds can create bridges, drops seeds that grow into a giant plant for vertical ascension, and drop collectable stars. Attacking them with an egg is always driven by mystery. However only the final Question Mark cloud must be hit with an egg for completion of the level. The others are optional. If the player ignores all question mark clouds, and a signpost that explains the Question Mark Clouds, eventually they’ll progress near the end where they will face a road block, forcing them to interact with the Question Mark cloud. The cloud is at a jump’s distance, so the player can perhaps attempt to interact with it that way. They can try to eat it afterwards, however those ideas won’t work. The only thing the player has left to try is throwing an egg at it. Doing so causes the cloud to drop a seed, which then grows into a giant plant with leaves as platforms. Once the player sees this happening, they’ll possibly want to revisit the question mark clouds that they didn’t interact with.


Shyguys in the hidden optional portion are holding coins and flying. Shyguys can be see walking, and hopping. Each one behaving differently. While they can all be hit with eggs, only the flying shuguys can solely be defeated by eggs, unless a platform is high enough for Yoshi to reach the shyguy and eat them.


The piranha plants block a warp pipe, attracting the player to perhaps want to go through. Since the plants block the way, the player can try eating them, but they’ll fail since the piranhas can’t be eaten. The only other option would be to shoot an egg, the correct choice to vanishing the foe.


Piranha Plants also teach the player patience. Since Yoshi must protect Baby Mario, being separated causes Mario to cry. You then have ten seconds to reunite with Baby Mario, otherwise you fail the level. Piranha Plants appear throughout the level and must be defeated by egg tosses. If you take your time and walk through the level, you’ll see the Piranha Plants emerge, giving you enough time to respond. However, if you decide to speed through the level, you are likely to be hit by the Piranha Plant, thus separating you from Baby Mario and dispersing some of your eggs. Then, when Baby Mario is separated from Yoshi, the player will be introduced to the soundtrack of cries, an alarm, and a blinking arrow pointing at Baby Mario. This creates a tense moment, a bit of panic in the player, and showing how important it is to protect the fragile baby. The blinking arrows pointing at Baby Mario, the descending timer, and the scary jarring sound is the game’s way of telling the player, “Get this baby before this timer runs out, or else you lose.” Through this very simple collision with the enemy, players learn how Piranha Plants behave, how they affect you and Baby Mario, how much time you can be apart from the baby, what happens to your inventory of eggs, how you must pick up your eggs that scattered, how you should choose taking your time over speeding through, and even giving you a clue as to how to defeat them. A lot of situations are covered by this single collision. Now, the player can be introduced to Baby Mario’s separation in the tutorial level, and by colliding with a Shyguy at any point. In my playthrough, I learned with the Piranha Plant. I find this enemy to be a likelier introduction to Baby Mario’s separation due to it’s tricky behavior and difficulty.


The versatility of egg throwing allows interaction with a Baby Mario, the ground, walls, warp pipes, Piranha Plants, Shyguys, other enemies, flowers, Question Mark Clouds, coins, collectables, and of course bosses.

With the exception of bosses, all this is taught in the first level. 1-1 concludes with a break in the ground, going from a yellowish grassy and flowery surface, to a jarring green with white stripes, and a pulsing ring made of blue dots and flowers. With only a glance, players may be able to tell that this is the finish line. And for the players that don’t understand this, they can easily find out by simply walking forward into the finish ring.



Mighty Switch Force Hyper Drive Edition: Level Design Analysis.

Incident 1 opens with a cutscene that says so much in a very brief amount of time. A crashed police vehicle creates an opportunity for criminals to escape. One criminal summons a bunch of monsters and then laughs. This opening teaches us our objective, who the bad guys are, the narrative, and who our hero is, giving us our motivation. It’s simple but very effective.
Tied together with the character’s cry “Stop! In the name of the Law!” gives the player
their goal for the entire game, catch these baddies.


The first level, called Incident 1 begins. A lot is taught by simply looking at the interface without even moving the character. We have a timer, 5 outlines for the escaped convicts, three hearts likely for health, an icon pointing towards the direction of the criminals, and three blocks underneath the player, with one being transparent.


When the level starts, the character has a brief animation where she rolls from the left side of the screen. This is one of the few cues the player has to guide them in the correct direction. Additionally, she faces the right, and we see the escaped convict’s icon pointing towards the right as well. Lastly, if the player moves to the left, there’s nothing to explore. Without ever having played a 2D platformer, the player will very likely know which direction to go with these cues.

If the player experiments with the 4 face buttons on the WiiU Gamepad, they can teach themselves what the game’s core mechanics are; jumping, shooting, and switching. Jumping and shooting will be acted out by the character’s animation, but what about switching? At the start of the level, there are three blocks noticeably underneath the surface the character stands on. The centered block is transparent, and by pressing the A button, the solid and transparent blocks trade places. All solid blocks become transparent and vice versa. Additionally, there is a blue flash that appears from the character’s helmet and a mechanical movement sound to correspond with the action. This teaches the player the switching mechanic in a safe space. Once the player runs to the right, they will continue to see a couple more block sets underneath the surface that can be switched as well. Above the third set of switchable blocks, we see our first escaped convict. She is high above and offers us our first platforming challenge. There are three platforms that we must jump on before regaining convict number 1. The first platform stands above a pit of spikes. There are small gaps on the left and right side of the platform that can cause the player to fall into the spikes and die. If this happens, the players loses one heart, giving room for some error without a lot of pressure. The challenge is very small since the jump arc covers much more space than the gap. The second platform is small, and offers the player the first enemy to shoot. The third platform takes our character right into the first baddie. Shooting her doesn’t work, so we must walk up to her. As soon as she is collected, the main character says “Gotcha” and the screen displays the icon for the next character, pointing to the right.


Here the player will encounter two more enemies blocking the path. This provides a brief shooting challenge, followed by the first switching challenge. Shooting the enemies can commonly release an extra heart in case the player died before.


The second criminal sits on a platform that can’t be reached with jumping. There are a set of three switchable blocks, followed by another set of three switchable blocks. They are opposite to each other, so if the top set is solid, the bottom set is transparent. In between both sets of blocks, there is enough space for the player to stand. Making the top transparent allows the player to fall through, and then must make the bottom set transparent, landing the character on top of a cute dog-disguised-checkpoint.


Understanding how the switching mechanic works, the player must now jump towards the second criminal by switching a block mid air, becoming a solid surface to land on. If the player accidentally switches the transparent block into a solid, while the character’s hit box collides with it, they will lose a heart, and have to start over from the checkpoint.


Heading towards the third criminal introduces the player to the bomb enemies. With a shot, they stumble momentarily and then explode. A few more enemies, another checkpoint, and now the player has reached the next main switching challenge. Six switchable blocks serve as a bridge over a pit of spikes. The two left and two right blocks are solid, while the two centered blocks are transparent. The player must switch the blocks mid jump two times in this challenge; once to the reach the centered blocks, and once more to reach the right blocks. This is followed by a slightly bigger challenge. A much longer pit of spikes must now be jumped over with separated switchable blocks. There is a gap, 2 solid blocks on the left, another gap, a single transparent block in the center, another gap, 2 solid blocks on the right, and a final gap. The same solution can be applied here. There is one final transparent block above a spike pit, however the gap for this jump is slightly longer.


This culminates with another checkpoint. The third criminal stands on a high platform that must be reached by jumping on two switchable blocks. This sequence exists to further challenge the player’s grasp on the switching mechanic.

An icon point upright towards the closest criminal, but at the moment this is unreachable. The player must move rightwards where the next icon points. A group of flying and bomb enemies stand in your way without putting up much of a fight. Two columns of 5 stacked solid blocks stands in the way, turning them transparent and walking through will reveal two more columns of 4 stacked solid blocks, then two columns of 3, then 2, and finally 1.


After this, the player cannot go further right and must jump on these switchable blocks starting with the single ones, jumping and switching mid air to jump onto the column of 2, and so on, until reaching column of 5. Here the player will reach the 4th criminal.


Trekking up left now where the icon points, will give the player a few more baddies to shoot while jumping on small platforms, serving as a final test for shooting. Since the main mechanic of the game is switching, this shooting challenge isn’t much to stress about. Shooting becomes more a tool in later levels. A final switchable block challenge that remains operates the same as the previous challenges prior to collecting a criminal. The 5th one is now collected and a robot vehicle arrives right in front of the character, opening his chest, and pointing at it. Jumping in concludes the level.


Incident 1 manages to teach a large portion of the main mechanics in its first moments. The player learns how switching, jumping, and shooting works in a safe environment, how the enemies behave, and how to defeat them, all while having a clear narrative to motivate your actions.