Practitioners Report – Unit 12 1.1, 1.2

Recently we have been looking at developers of our specialist areas focusing on how they have worked in their areas and how it has affected other developers. This will help us understand the principles and practices used by our specialist area. To do this we will be looking at two practitioners of our specialist area and writing about their work, processes, materials and techniques, we are doing this to help us learn about other developers and how their work can help me find other ways to create my final major project.

Early Practitioners – Early Level Designer (1980 – 2000)

Shigeru Miyamoto (Super Mario Bros – 1985)

The early practitioner I will be looking at is Shigeru Miyamoto, while he is still currently working with Nintendo, he has made a big impact in the game industry beforehand in the 80s with games like Donkey Kong, Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda and has since become “one of the creative world’s most important and influential figures.” (Success Story, 2017) His journey to becoming a well-known games designer started off while he was a young child, commonly exploring the countryside, forests and caves that surround his home town of Sonobe, Funai in search of adventure (Success Story, 2017).

Shigeru Miyamoto started working with Nintendo during the company’s time developing playing cards and board games that was looking to advance in to the newer gaming market at the time. Shigeru Miyamoto’s career in the gaming industry started with sheriff, a western themed arcade game that was created in 1979, it was a simple game that followed the same style game as Space Invaders but as a top down perspective instead, (BeforeMario, No date given) but this was only the start as his first breakthrough game was Donkey Kong in 1981 which originally had two levels that involved rolling barrels, fire enemies and ladders that the player can climb up to reach the top of the stage and save the damsel in distress from a large gorilla named Donkey Kong. The success of Donkey Kong led Nintendo to move in to the home console market, selling the Nintendo Entertainment System as a toy than a gaming device, following shortly with the release of Super Mario Bros in 1985.

Super Mario Bros was designed with fun and new players in mind, using its first level as an example, he developed that level to teach the player the basics of the game, starting with the first enemy (A Goomba) walking up to you giving you time to think about what it does and how to avoid it after the first death of walking in to it, this is shortly followed by a set of 7 blocks, 3 of which have question marks on them so that the player would think about what could be in those blocks with two having coins in side them and a one containing a mushroom that will make the player grow and become stronger allowing them to break certain blocks using Jump. Further on in the level the game introduces you to another enemy (The Koopa) which will retreat in to its shell if jumped on by the player, and if the player moves towards it to trys to jump on it again the shell would move forward possibly defeating other enemies in its path. Continuing through the level will lead you to a set of stairs with a small gab in between them, if you fall down the first one you will land safely which allows you to move towards the next set of stairs that introduces you to pits with no ground underneath them leading cautious players to try and avoid them.

Super Mario Bros. – World 1-1 Level

Using this as the starting level, both teaches the player how to play the game but also teaches you a few mechanics and enemy behaviours without even using any dialog explaining what to do just by using the level design. This has created a standard for all beginning levels that most game developers follow.

Contemporary Practitioners – Current Level Designer (Present)

Mike Herbster (Shovel Knight – 2014)

The current practitioner that I will be looking at will be Michael Herbster, but while there aren’t many sources at this current point in time that tells us about Mike Herbster, he was known for creating games for Wayforward games before moving on to work with Yacht Club Games. While working for Wayforward games, he worked on a few notable games like Mighty Switch Force!, Bloodrayne: betrayal, and Double Dragon Neon among others. He left Wayforward game with the last game he developed for the company being Mighty Switch Force! : Hose It Down! Which was released in 2015 after leaving the company.  Once he left the company, he joined up with a few other Wayforward developers to create Yacht Club Games with their first game of focus being a kick starter campaign for Shovel Knight which was said by Kickstarter (2017) to have had “14,749 backers pledged $311,502 to help bring this project to life.” which allowed the game to be released in 2014 with two more expansions being released as of 3rd March 2017.

Michael Herbster and the team behind shovel knight designed each level based on a theme and a few “Napkin ideas” and a few large ideas that comes to mind and then take those ideas in to the level to see if they would fit the theme, this was stated in a Question and Answers topic within the Nintendo Switch Subreddit called We are Yacht Club Games: Creators of Shovel Knight: Spectre of Torment! Ask Us Anything! by yachtclubgames (2017) which explains that they designed the objects and the boss of the stage around those themes, the example they gave was their first level designed, Pridemoor Keep, a level based off of a castle with multiple ideas that they used and didn’t use like “Suits of armor that would spring to life and attack” or “A lavish banquet hall with food on the table” which were not used and “Bubbling oil to stop invader” that was used in the level. They also design levels to teach the player game mechanics and the controls without adding any dialog or tutorials explaining how to play to the player, instead those levels are designed by object and enemy placement with a progressive difficulty, this is further explained in the video below as it talks about the first level and how it explains how to play the game.


Shovel Knight – Tutorial Level


Comparison of practitioners

Both practitioners work within the same specialist area that I am looking at. I wanted to understand what they do differently so i decide to create a Venn diagram to base on the designs on the first level of each stage to understand what they did differently but what they also did similarly. The image below is the Venn diagram that shows all of the elements that each level uses within both Super Mario Bros for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Shovel Knight for Multiple Different Platforms. This diagram allowed me to think about what they do to make themselves different from each other but what they also have similar towards creating a beginner level.



From the conduction of this research I have learned about the creation of levels, particularly the first level of the game and how it should teach a player the basics without holding their hand throughout the experience of the level. I found it really enjoy to look at both the practitioners and how they had designed their levels, which would help me in the future by making think about the layout of the game, thinking about the mechanics first and then decide how the level is created around the game mechanics based on teaching the player those mechanics.


SuccessStory (2017) SuccessStory – Shigeru Miyamoto. Available at: (Accessed: 20th February 2017).

Wilson, M. (2015) Super Mario’s Creator Reveals The Design Secrets Of Its Famous First Level. Available at: (Accessed: 20th February 2017).

Vox (2017) How the inventor of Mario designs a game. Available at: (Accessed: 20th February 2017).

BeforeMario (2012) Nintendo Sheriff (シェリフ, 1979) Available at: (Accessed: 20th February 2017

Albert, I (no year given) Super Mario Bros. Maps Available at: (Accessed: 20th February 2017)

Polygon (2015) Shovel Knight Level Designer Plays Mario Maker – Devs Make Mario. Available at: (Accessed: 20th February 2017)

Yacht Club Games (2017) Kickstarter – Shovel Knight. Available at: (Accessed: 5th March 2017).

MobyGames (2017) Michael Herbster. Available at:,472020/ (Accessed: 20th February 2017).

snomaN Gaming (2014) Good Game Design – Shovel Knight: Teaching Without Teaching. Available at: (Accessed: 20th February 2017).

Amiibo Wiki. (2017) Shovel Knight logo.png. Available at: (Accessed/downloaded: 20th February 2017).

Nintendo. (2017) Super Mario Bros. Logo.svg. Available at: (Accessed/downloaded: 20th February 2017).

VS battle wikia. (2017) ShovelKnight-01-Plains-AssembledSecretsRevealed zps904054c7.png. Available at: (Accessed/downloaded: 20th February 2017).

yachtclubgames. (2017) We are Yacht Club Games: Creators of Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment! Ask Us Anything! Available at: (Accessed: 5th march 2017).