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Classic Games (Games) Entertainment Games

Are Modern Games Too Easy? 179

Posted by simoniker
from the snaaaaaaaake dept.
bippy writes "Game critic Brian Crecente's weblog Red-Assed Baboon asks if modern video games are too easy. He argues, after playing the new Pitfall game, that what made the games from the '70s and '80s such as the original Pitfall! so much fun to play was 'because the game is so hard - brutally, temper-tamper inducing hard' - Crecente goes on to conclude: 'I'm not saying we should go back to the days of Donkey Kong and [the original] Pitfall!, but maybe developers need to worry a little more about challenging a gamer, instead of plopping them into something that is little more than an interactive movie'."
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Are Modern Games Too Easy?

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  • by Dolemite_the_Wiz (618862) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @02:13AM (#8449410) Journal
    I STRONGLY suggest buying or Renting a copy of 'Wallace and Gromit - Project Zoo' and let me know how you do. This game, available on most consoles, is one of the hardest and most intense games ever made.

    Dolemite
    ___________________

    • by Goldberg's Pants (139800) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @06:37AM (#8450397) Journal
      And if you've not seen the movies, rent them too:)

      Games are what you make of them these days. You want hard? Load up Warcraft 3 and choose 11 AI, team them up against you... Now THAT is hard.

      All this whining about games these days is nostalgia and nothing else. Don't get me wrong, going back to the old 8 bit days, games like Auf Wiedersehn Monty were INSANELY hard, but games have gone from being the obsession of the stereotypical loser geek in his bedroom to being a leisure pastime for the majority of people who play them now. If the games were as tough as they were back then, games would not be as big as they are today I don't think.

      The fact of the matter is games are more well rounded these days and can be made excruciatingly hard if you want. (Try Doom on "Nightmare" level for an older example.)

      It seems every few month some cranky old bastard comes out of the woodwork, rattles his walking frame at you, puffs on his pipe, adjusts his glasses and says "Games were tougher in my day sonny" as if that somehow makes them better than newer ones.

      "Don't worry granpa, we'll get you all the help you need..."
    • by PainKilleR-CE (597083) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @08:34AM (#8450743)
      I would recommend R-Type Final and Ikaruga. For comparison, pick up Gradius III & IV as well (the latter being available on one disc for the PS2). In general, there are easier difficulty levels available in the newer games, but the overall difficulty of the newer games is as hard as, if not moreso than, the older games.

      On the other hand, if you look at FPS games, the tendency has been in the opposite direction, with difficulty levels being removed from games and the "Nightmare" type difficulty levels almost completely gone. I think this is probably because these games are developed with the idea that multiplayer will make up most of the replayability, when in reality there are still plenty of people not playing these games online. If they focused more on replayability, that ability to change difficulty levels, and ramp it up to an extreme level of difficulty, could really help a lot.

      Other things that have helped reduce the overall difficulty of games are mostly simple features that reduce the confusion for the players. Indicators for what you're supposed to do next, auto-mapping in the game, and so on. A game is more difficult if you have to map it out by hand or keep the map in your head, but this is an artificial difficulty.

      Of course, arcade-style games also deal with the transition from coin-op, where you're trying to get people to pump more quarters into the machine by killing them quickly, but balancing that with a need to keep them playing. On consoles you don't need quarters, and the constant deaths either do nothing to slow down some players or turn them off of the game completely.
      • What FPS are you thinking of? Because most of the significant ones I know have in fact got a difficulty setting, and challenging ones at that. No matter though, since single player gaming is only one side of (FPS) gaming - if you're looking for the ultimate in difficulty, enroll in gaming tournaments and prepare for your unmaking. ;)

        Of course, multiplayer gaming isn't exactly a new idea, but the sheer scale induced by the Internet and the organisation behind it all makes for a different quality.
        • What FPS are you thinking of? Because most of the significant ones I know have in fact got a difficulty setting, and challenging ones at that.

          I wouldn't be able to say exactly, because it's been a while since I replayed (or even played through) the single player of an FPS. In most cases the default difficulty is mind-numbingly easy or the game is just boring in general. On the other hand, the few I can remember had maybe 3 difficulty levels (which I wouldn't generally complain about), while older games li
    • "Jak II" and "Wipeout Fusion".

      Wipeout starts easy enough, but quickly gets harder than the previous games in the series. (Speaking as a long time Wipeout series player...)

      Of course, it doesn't help that they fscked up the neGCon controller setup so you have to use the dual shock...
  • by Godeke (32895) * on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @02:14AM (#8449413)
    Brutal games are being made today, but the serve a niche, not the mainstream. Mainstream gamers want to *have fun* playing a game, not necessary throw their controllers around in fits of rage.

    I used to have the time and focus to play games like Shadow of the Beast of the Amiga for hours, perfecting my timing. Today, I prefer something a bit less demanding. Prince of Persia was a hit with me due to the magic of the rewind feature: sure, you failed that jump, but you just pressed a button and rewound until *before* the failure, and tried again. Nearly instant "load game", without all the loading fuss.

    Meanwhile, Ikaruga (or however it is spelled) is a great shooter, but I don't think I will be imitating the demo play with perfect *MAX CHAINS* through the level. (I'm in awe of the recorded demos... freaking amazing talent displayed). Still, I can have a blast in two player mode, just trying to *survive* a few levels...

    Really, the reason the old games simply ramped difficulty up to the point of impossibility was they had *nothing else to offer*. With in game movies with semi-coherent plots, lots of variety in gameplay, cool levels and a bit of humor, why would I want to beat my head against the same level for hours on end? Games have moved on from challenge to entertainment, excepting the few titles (Contra for PS2 anyone) that specifically were designed for the hardcore "lets try that a hundred times" gamer.
    • by Jarlsberg (643324) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @04:32AM (#8450021) Journal
      The reason the old games simply ramped difficulty up to the point of impossibility was they had *nothing else to offer*.
      *SMACK* - you hit the nail on the head. In recent years I've replayed a lot of the older games that were nigh impossible to beat, but this time on an emulator with a savestate function, and it often amazed me how little the games really had to offer beyond the really crazy hard initial levels. Games like Bruce Lee, H.E.R.O. (still one of my faves), Jumpman Jr., Paperboy etc.

      Lack of memory was often the reason why they was made like this. Sure, it would have been great to have tons of different levels and enemies in a game like Bruce Lee, but there just wasn't enough memory to support all that. Making games harder was the only way to prolong the experience, short of multiloading disks/tapes, which really were a pain in the a**.

  • Cinematic Trailers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by notamac (750472) * on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @02:15AM (#8449417) Homepage
    But how do you justify that kazillion dollar cutscene at the end if you don't expect anyone to ever finish the game?

    We've got to have something flashy there to keep the average consumer with a five minute attention span playing for a while!
  • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @02:15AM (#8449420)
    Yes, they're getting easier.

    Easier games sell faster cause you have people reccomending games they beat.

    Back in the old days, there wasnt 128MB gfx cache or 2GHz cpu's. You made the games tough as nails.
    • It certainly seems that way ...
      I beat "Call of duty" after just a couple of days playing, and that was even though I didn't sit in front of my comp all the time. The game was great, but I was really disappointed about the lack of real challeneg in it. Also, FFX ... you can play it for 150 hours and still there will be new challenges, but the game isn't really that hard, it's just very very big.
      I have not once actually died in combat in FFX, while older FF games would have you dead in a heartbeat if you ha
      • FF X was actually pretty hard. It had some pretty hard fights that you needed to use strategy for that took a couple of tries.

        Especially if you wern't reading along with a strategy guide to give you the hints/equipment setups/turn strategy

        I've been playing RPGs for year. Every game has some tough bosses, FF X had just as many or more. FFIV had Odin, Bahamut, Borgan and Zeromus (if not playing the SNES US version where he was way toned down)

        FFVI didn't have many tough bosses at all. More tricks than anyth
  • by BigZaphod (12942) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @02:19AM (#8449443) Homepage
    There are different kinds of hard, though. Many of the older games seemed to eventually come down to pure reflexes and sense of timing. It didn't challenge your mind so much as your hand-eye coordination. So maybe this guy just prefers that sort of game over some of the more modern games with puzzles and mystery.
    • brutally, temper-tamper inducing hard

      this may be offtopic... but that Goddamn third level on Burger Time still pisses me off to this day when I think about it... How in the hell are you supposed to get the top bun all the way down? It's freakin impossible!

      I have wasted many... MANY hours of my life and still have yet to see level four...
    • by Molt (116343) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @07:36AM (#8450566)

      I do agree there's different kinds of 'hard', but in my opionion older twitch games (Paperboy etc) were more infuriatingly difficult than the modern twitch games, and the older puzzles and mystery games (Any Infocom, Magnetic Scrolls) games were also more infuriatingly difficult than the modern thinking and puzzle games. Two very different kinds of game, but both now a lot more approachable to the casual gamer.

      • by Sylver Dragon (445237) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @03:25PM (#8454603) Journal
        The thing that strikes me about the older puzzle games (ala Zork, Kings Quest, etc.) was the fact thet you generally had to type in the answer. This meant that you had to be pretty precise in guessing what the game designers wanted you to type. In fact, most of the puzzles were less challenging than trying to phrase it just right.
        For example, one of the earlier games I played was King's Quest 3, in it you had to give some gold over to a pirate to get passage on his ship. I had this figured out and tried every possible combination of english words that I could think of. In the end, I had to buy a hint book, just to get the exact right phrase to type in; once I got past that obsticle, the rest of the game was easy enough.
        I don't think games are getting any eaiser, the interface is. Everything is now point-and-click, instead of read the programmer's mind and type the anwser. Also, with the move away from sprites, movment seems less choppy. For example, in the original Prince of Persia games, you eventually got a feel for how far the character continued to run after you pressed the jump button, before he jumped. In the new Prince of Persia the character is a bit more responsive, and won't wait intil the end of the run animation to start the jump animation. Also, most games now have automapping, which is a bit of a change (and a nice one IMHO), how many of us remember taking up page after page of graph paper mapping the cities/dungeons/etc in the Bard's Tale series? Better yet, if you played the Gold Box D&D games, try mapping the outside in Secret of the Silver Blades, it was a nightmare, and a rather silly contrivance to make the game more difficult.
        As for the difficulty of FPS games, most of them simply involved making the monsters/enemies more accurrate or durable, or just added more of them, and this is still true today. Again, its just a quick hack to make the game harder, and is still done in some games, other have just decided to forego it.
        Also keep in mind that those that tend to think that games are getting eaiser have probably been playing them for some time now, they tend to be better at getting through games, as they have learned to adapt quickly to a changing interface/enemies/siituation. So, in a way, the games are getting easier, because the players are getting better at games in general.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @08:33AM (#8450738)
      I've never really had a problem with "hard" games. What really pisses me off (and I suspect others are the same), is when I start to think that a game is being unfair. For example, 99% of a level is fairly easy, but at one point, it just so happens that you need to make a jump to pixel-perfect precision, and it's not even a crucial part of the game. Or if 99% of a level is made up of tests of your skill, and then you get to the end of the level, and there's a 50% chance of something dropping out of the sky and killing you instantly, no matter what you do.
      • I feel the same way. I also feel screwed over when rules that should apply to everybody involved end up only applying to the human player(s). I felt particularly upset with Soul Caliber 2 on the blade master missions. Some of the levels would have a combat rule in place, such as the edge of the arena supposidly sucks the fighters towards the end, or you and your enemy are sucked towards each other. Unfortunatelly, in the case of the arena edge, only YOU are sucked towards the edge. In the case of the f
  • Not Necessarily (Score:5, Interesting)

    by leadfoot2004 (751188) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @02:20AM (#8449451)
    It is easy to provide examples of modern games that are too easy compared to older games, but let me provide an example otherwise. Take some first-person shooters for example: Wolfenstein 3D vs. Return to Castle Wolfenstein. People may argue that the newer game requires a bit more strategic thinking and better skill at aiming players. Granted, players nowadays have much better video games skill than players 10 years ago. The game itself may be harder, but the improved skill level of players more than compensate the relative difficulty of the game. (Super Mario Bros. vs Super Mario Bros 3, where SMB3 is so much harder)
  • Money.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wronskyMan (676763) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @02:23AM (#8449462)
    In the 70s and 80s a good chunk of the money was made from video games in arcades, etc. or video game rentals - developers had an incentive to keep people playing as long as possible to pull in the quarters/late fees. Now with the advent of the $9.99 CD rack at CompUSA, programmers have a financial incentive to make games easy-keep the user coming back for more games after s/he is bored with the old ones
  • Maybe not pitfall but many other games had few levels or different screens so they had to make it very hard to have long enough play value.
  • Perfect Dark (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 00420 (706558) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @02:26AM (#8449479)
    Perfect Dark.

    Especially Challenges 25-30 in the "Combat Simulator".

    Beating challenge 30 may be the most fun I've ever had playing a video game (or close to it).
  • by schnits0r (633893) <nathannd AT sasktel DOT net> on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @02:30AM (#8449499) Homepage Journal
    Modern games, Like mario bros can be beaten in only a few minutes of playing, back in my day we had simpler games that would take HOURS and HOURS and yu still woulnd't beat it. I mean, ET: The Extraterestrial for Atari 2600 only had 6 different screens, but I don't tihnk anyone has ever beaten it.
    • by josh glaser (748297) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @02:36AM (#8449519)
      ET is widely considered the worst game of all time. I don't think anybody wants to beat it :-)
      • Ironically I tried-

        I spent a whole day on it, then let my dog chew it up. Later, I busted him trying to bury it in the back yard.

      • I actually did finish it on the basic level. It is my secret shame that I actually enjoyed playing E.T.
      • Not the worst game, just the game that sunk Atari. They vastly overestimated the demand for the game and made way too many cartridges. I used to have the game, and there were worse games. ET wasn't super fun, but I beat it, it was moderately fun.
    • by HomerJ (11142)
      I actually finished E.T, as much as one could anyways...

      You had to get the phone pieces from the pits, hardest part was getting OUT of them.. I forget if raising the flower was a requirement to finish, or if was just bonus..

      Then gets to the part few know how to do, actually phoning home. You had to keep walking around, until the symbol at the top of the screen looked like a frog. It actually kinda looked like a hall monster from Venture. then you raised your head, and that phoned home.

      You then went to a
    • Wow, I feel like an outsider. I played, and beat ET for the Atari 2600 many times. In fact, I sort of liked the game. Once you got used to the infuriating controls, it was sort of fun.
      It was actually quite simple, really. Keep jumping in pits until you find all the radio parts, if you get low on health run around and collect the Reese's Pieces. Once you have all the parts, run around until you find the landing spot, then run around until you find the "transmit" spot, I forget the icon, push the button
    • ET: The Extraterestrial for Atari 2600 only had 6 different screens, but I don't tihnk anyone has ever beaten it.

      This is one of the biggest urban legends in nerd-gaming. E.T. is very beatable (and while it is a "bad" game, quite frankely it is nowhere near as bad as everyone whines). All you have to do it randomly run around in pits and find the radio parts and avoid the FBI. When you collect them all you call your ship, they pick you up, and you do it over.
  • by ajd1474 (558490) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @02:30AM (#8449501)
    People still play all the old games that provided so much of a challenge way back in the 80's. The fact that we like to keep challenging ourselves with these old games is BAD news for publishers.

    Why?

    Because a publisher wants you to buy the game, finish it within 3 months and then be buying a new game or (even better) the expansion pack. A publisher doesnt really care if you are challenged or not. They attempt to strike the perfect balance between "value for money" and "quick to complete". It works the same as Poker machines. You want people to shell out their money as quickly as possible, whilst still feeling like they are getting reasonable value for money.

    A game which you play for 12 months before you complete is good value for you, but not for the publisher.
    • I've been playing Amplitude for 8 months now and still haven't beaten it. Actually, I just started playing at the "insane" difficulty. My friends and I have yet to beat Frequency as well, and that came out way before Amplitude.
    • Maybe I'm wrong, but I think a big part of this also relates back to the days when producing games was a lot harder than it is today. I know people who spent a whole year playing Ultima V until they beat it, but it made sense, because there was, as I recall, more than a one-year gap between Ultima V and Ultima VI. Origin, for example, kept people interested enough in that game to keep their attention up until the next one came out, and so on down the line. When so many games today are cookie-cutter style
  • My thoughts... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by josh glaser (748297) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @02:32AM (#8449506)
    Yes, I do think that games, in general, have gotten easier since the old arcade and Atari days. But, well, remember that many arcade games didn't even have an end. They simply got harder and harder until they expected people to lose.

    Also, there are still lots of hard games around...I think some of the Myst-type games are tough, but maybe that's because I'm stupid :-)

    All in all though, I think it's just the price hardcore gamers must pay for having the gaming market "mainstream" (which is a very good thing for games, in the long run). Maybe the industry should adopt some sort of "difficulty rating" so people could see how hard a game was. Some major Japanese releases, such as Final Fantasy IV, were released in "Easy" and "Hard" Types. Perhaps that, too, could be a possible solution...but, really, I think (IMO) that it's a solution to a problem that doesn't really exist...it's not like I just breeze through all the games I buy. But then, I kinda suck at gaming, too :-)
    • by spreer (15939)
      I think you've hit the nail on the head here. In the late seventies and well into the eighties, the place to play games was the arcade. Sure there were (wildly popular) home systems, but many of the most popular games tried to be faithful copies of the arcade version. When you make your money from a machine you put quarters in, you want to make the game hard hard hard. You want to keep people losing and keep them putting quarters in.

      When you are selling games that are to be played on the PC or console,
  • Who wants hard? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rrace (606598) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @02:34AM (#8449510) Journal
    There is a difference between a challenging game and a flawed game designed to infuriate the player. Honestly I've played MORE of the latter. Controls seem to be the biggest problem. Another reason older games were harder were because of the save system.

    I recently played Contra: Shattered Soldier on the ps2 which is supposed to be an old school 'hard' game. I rather a fun experience than a game that requires me the practice in order to have fun. I have stopped playing games simply because of the stress some games create. Aren't games suppose to be a relaxing fun experience?
    • Re:Who wants hard? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by josh glaser (748297)
      I agree. I certainly want a challenge in a game, but some games are so hard that they're frustrating. And any type of "false difficulty" do to a bad in-game camera or cumbersome controls is instantly frustrating.
      • A game can be considered hard, in the good sense, if most people can beat the game in "easy" or "normal", but only the true pros can beat it on "hard", "insane", "impossible".

        For example in the FPS world Doom1 or Serious Sam. The former with "nightmare" mode and the latter with anything above "hard".

        And well.. games like NetHack are hard, but people keep coming back, to try to finish it. If it was just frustrating, they won't have come back.
        • Wing Commander 4 is a great game to show how difficulty levels work... If you play as a rookie, it's hard for anyone to die, but on Nightmare, it's almost impossible to beat the game.
  • maybe (Score:2, Interesting)

    by s0ylentgreen (702926)
    Well, maybe they're getting easier. When I played old rpgs like The Bards Tale or Ultima,I had to draw maps manually which was probably the hardest part but also most exciting.Nowadays,maps are a common feature in rpgs.Sure, it does save us a lot of pain but the challenge and excitement of mapping is being missed.

    In terms of difficulty of the games these days, I dont really see much of a difference.Some games like rpgs,fps are a lot easier whereas other genres like adventure,strategy are quite tough.
  • by Txiasaeia (581598) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @02:47AM (#8449566)
    F-Zero GX. Most difficult game EVER. Check out some of the speed record vids - it's frecking amazing what these guys can do with an analog stick. The nice thing is the game is *fun* on Novice or Standard, challenging on Expert, and just this side of impossible on Master; there's always more to learn.

    There's nothing more satisfying than boosting ahead of #1 racer at the end of the third lap of half-pipe in Emerald on Master (!), or nailing the turns and jumps on Serial Gaps. Unlocking racers, parts, even AX tracks (from the arcade machine) if you don't get arthritis first... It's even more fun tweaking your racer until the speed, weight, boost and accel are perfectly aligned with you and the universe.

    Ah, crap... I was going to go to bed too :) Who needs sleep anyway?

  • BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mitaphane (96828) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @02:48AM (#8449569) Homepage
    Modern games are not too easy.

    Modern games are made more with the non-hardcore gamer in mind nowadays.

    Modern games have much more complex controls thus requiring the game designers to focus more on a learning curve than brute challenges to keep the gamer occupied.

    Modern games have much much more content than 128Kb cartidges thus they don't have to rely on insane challenges to extend a game's length.

    Modern games have much more customizability to fit a gamer's skill level

    Modern games have branched out to different genres that have different challenges. Challenges that don't rely solely on dying over and over to figure out some pattern.

    And that's about all I have to say. If you still don't believe me try playing the original Devil May Cry on Dante Must Die mode then tell me that modern games aren't hard. Games with die-retry-die-retry challenges are still out there but they're shadowed by a ton of different options/genres/whatever. If you want to complaint about how new games are tough enough either change the difficulty or play a different game. I however enjoy the wide variety of games that are out there nowadays.
    • Re:BS (Score:2, Interesting)

      by DarkkOne (741046)
      A note about a few things, such as the customizability. Most games I've seen with difficulty levels still don't offer that level of "perfection or death" that some games challenged you to in the past.

      Whereas alot of "difficult" games nowadays depend alot on chance, and timing, the challenge in older games tended to be a learning issue. If you could recognize patterns, you survived. The development of modern AI has created more realistic and believable enemies, but at the same time, removed a factor of pr
  • Dig Dug: Joystick (digital) 4 direction. One button.

    Grand Theft Auto Vice City: 13 trillion analog buttons, and 15 analog joysticks (approximation)

    Some games are just glorified interactive movies, but the good ones aren't. Remember Dragon's Lair. The amount of coordination necessary for most modern games is prohibitive. I have played video games all my life, and I still have trouble with some, especially games that use the Playstation controller. I have never been able to use 2 finger buttons for each han
    • Hell, THE JOYSTICKS ARE BUTTONS TOO.

      I honestly really despise this trait. The analog sticks feel like a very hollow click and are quite difficult to push down on and get to respond with any degree of consistancy. Any game that makes me push down on them bugs the hell out of me.
      But Anyway, buttons aren't always bad. I played an old Falcon game a while back on my computer that used the whole damn keyboard. Each button had some specific (and very rarely used) function. I had fun with it. Look at that X
      • OCCASIONALLY the joystick 'buttons' get used in a way that makes sense.

        The best use I have seen, is when the joystick that controls movement, also makes your player crouch when pushed. That just makes sense.

  • Hard games? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cecil (37810) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @02:58AM (#8449604) Homepage
    Try Chromatron [silverspaceship.com] if you're interested in a hard game. The best part? When you get bored of trying to beat level 50 (or 39, for that matter), there are two sequels of (I'm told) even more sleeplessness-inducing, head-banging, "this is god damn impossible, there's no way..."-mumbling fun.

    That game has stolen countless hours of my life away, and I refuse to move on to the sequels until I complete levels 39 and 50. So there.
  • Games of yore had much less overall content than modern games, but they needed to have the same duration of playability.

    With a game that consists of 3 or 4 levels each consisting of one screen of barrel lobbing monkeys course the game needs to be extremely difficult or else you will finish it in a few minutes.

    But when a game has a humongous world spanning dozens of expansive maps it needs to be easier or the user will never see all of its content.
  • by jtpalinmajere (627101) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @03:09AM (#8449658)
    Those of us that have been playing games for 10+ years have for the most part become very adept at playing the games we play. However the newcomers don't have our vast vaults of knowledge with which to rely on and find them very difficult. Case in point: both my little brother and my father are fairly new to the gaming scene and they have a great deal of trouble playing many games to completion because they find them too difficult... however I can play through the whole game in a matter of minutes. If developers constantly made games more and more challenging on par to the existing players, they'd never really latch onto newer players in any significant way. They would basically limit their market to one generation of gamers... and then die out because after a while no one is left that can even approach succeeding at any game that is put out. If the company wants to stay in business they have to create games at a fairly predictable level of difficulty and occasionally include an uber hard difficulty that assuages even the most 1337 gamers out there.
  • by gringo_john (680811) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @03:12AM (#8449666) Journal
    I would agree that it's easier to finish modern games now. But you have to keep in mind that when you get stuck, you can just go online and google for a walkthrough or hint. Hell, you can even use cheat codes to get past where you're stuck.

    In contrast, back when I was playing "Infocom" games. I remember getting stuck in "hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy" and having to go out to the public library to look in a computer-game-hint-compilation book to get past a point in the game. If the internet was available back then as a resource, it would have been a trivial solution.

  • by flabbergast (620919) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @03:12AM (#8449669)
    both ways to get to work! In snow! With no shoes on! With a bag full of rocks on our backs! And we crawled over jagged broken bottles with our zippers open! And we liked it! =)

    I'm just a little too young to remember Pitfall! and such, but I think simplying saying "yesterday's games were harder than today's game" is an insult to good designers. One of the author's complaints, that we can save every few seconds, is true in many games, but some games, Splinter Cell comes to mind, have preset save points. And it should, because the game is friggin' long. I doubt most people could finish Splinter Cell in one sitting, no matter how hard they tried.

    Other's here on Slashdot have commented on joysticks and their bazillion buttons. They have those buttons because the real world has more control in it than one button can offer. For instance, Pole Position for Atari 2600 could get away with just the joystick because push forward you go accelerate, back to brake, left and right. And that was a fairly simplistic simulation. Project Gotham Racing 2 has accelerate, brake, hand-brake, upshift, downshift, horn, and view change, along with an analog stick for turning. Splinter Cell also uses both sticks well, one to control world coordinate motion, another so you can rotate Sam around, as well as crouch, open/use, turn thermal cam on, etc etc. They're not there to be useless.
    • Splinter Cell controls are awesome- probably the best camera I have seen in a third-person game.

      It uses most of the buttons on the controller (except the pushing down of the joysticks and maybe the 'back' button) and puts all of them to good use. Even the much-maligned black and white buttons get used.

      And this game IS hard.

      Not hard in the same sense of Robotron 2024 was hard. That game had your blood pressure up by about level 5- which was about 2 minutes after putting your quarter in the machine.

      But,
  • by neostorm (462848) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @03:24AM (#8449728)
    Nowadays the causal gamer audience isn't the only thing driving the difficulty lower in mainstream titles.
    This is just personal observation, and your perspective may differ, but I think the loading times in games are what make difficult titles more unbearable.

    A decade ago you would run off a cliff and the longest you would have to wait was for the screen telling you how many lives you had remaining to fade away. Instant death was around every corner back then. Today most designers caution against any pitfalls in a game that are unexpected to the player, and don't offer a way out. This is reasonable for easing the amount of frustration, but the frustrating element here isn't the difficulty of the game, as much as the duration of time it takes to get back on ones feet after death.

    After looking over so many modern games this way, I really think we could get away with todays games having a much higher difficulty if we were able to load back into the level only a few seconds after dying and try again. I'd say that todays easier games are just a way to offset the frustration of the waiting.
    • Tomb Raider 4 suffered from this problem. Lara would fall to her death and then you'd have to wait about 60 seconds for the whole map to reload to try again. The experience drove me insane.

      But even that was much better than rewinding and loading the start level from cassette on the Commodore 64
  • Saved Games! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Frostbeard (758535) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @03:25AM (#8449736) Homepage
    If there's one thing that makes a game seem much easier, it's the ability to save your progress frequently. For me, it was never the individual challenges presented in a game that made it thoroughly difficult. What presented the real challenge was playing a near-flawless game up until those challenges, and then passing them without a crash and burn scenario. It's a matter of mounting pressure and exhiliration - frustration and glee. Having the ability to save your game eliminates the need to repeatedly have the near-flawless run - once you've done it once, you can just reload from that point and carry on. It also takes all of the pressure off. If you feel like you're too far into it, you can set the game down, dry your palms and come back in a couple hours without losing any of your progress. I still thoroughly enjoy the old twitchy pulse-pounder style of game, but I've also learned to love the modern start and stop style. *shrug*
    • Of course, with such games one can always try some iron-man play. (In case it's unfamiliar, it means saving ONLY at the end of a playing session, and loading ONLY at the start of one. You die, you start over.) Still, the fact that you COULD reload if you wanted to somehow takes off a lot of pressure.
  • "NES Hard" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pluvius (734915) <pluvius3 @ g mail.com> on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @03:26AM (#8449739) Journal
    That's the term I use as the superlative of gaming difficulty, simply because many of the games for the NES were exactly that. Some of them would make much better examples of difficulty than Pitfall does. Remember Ghosts 'n' Goblins?

    As for the difficulty of today's games, it's pretty obvious that it's lower in general. I don't think that necessarily makes modern games "too easy," though.

    Rob
  • Hard games (Score:2, Interesting)

    by yoyhed (651244)
    This article doesn't really touch on the fact that there are VERY hard games out there today. Take Frequency for the PS2: how many games have YOU lost 6 months' worth of contact lenses to because you can't blink without losing? (by the way, if you've played frequency, and want some manly scores to compare yours to: here's mine (the ALEX column.) [dynup.net] I could cite MANY games, but I'll just stick with Frequency, as most people that pick it up won't even beat one of the 27 songs. Brian's article, however, was righ
  • Pointless Article (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mrshowtime (562809) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @03:42AM (#8449813)
    Are there easy games out there today? Yes. Are today's games "easier" than yesteryear's games? No. Why? It's like comparing apples and oranges. Games of the golden years were designed around the 'arcade' mindset, giving the player a fun time, but making it hard enough so that they would have to keep putting their quarters in. Home systems, up to the release of the nes, were just platforms for people to play ARCADE games on, which by their very nature, designed with an (usual) high curve of difficulty. Also, if you were around at the time of the original pitfall you have, oh, almost TWENTY FIVE YEARS of experience with videogames by now and should be much, much, better than you were back then. Personally, I miss the old arcade days, those were really great times. It was great to grow up concurrently with the entire development of videogames and playing videogames back in the 80's was great, but I personally welcome the "movie style" videogames. In a way, it's what I've always wanted out of videogames; to be like interactive movies. Games like the new Pitfall and Tomb Raider are easy because the designers decided to tread the same path that's already been done, over and over. You already know what to do, where to look and how to beat it! A lot of games today just suck, it has nothing to do with difficulty. BUT, I do not want to go back to the days of incredible difficulty to make up for bad gameplay. I destroyed the 2600 cart "DragonFire" because it was too fucking hard and became the antithesis of fun. I also destroyed "Ghost's and Goblins"; a good game, but hard, but after beating it you find out that you have to beat the entire game AGAIN at a much harder difficulty to truly win. Fuck that, Ghosts and Goblins has been "sleeping with the fishes" ever since. :)
  • Games too easy? Play nethack.
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @04:05AM (#8449913) Journal
    I can't speak for console games as I don't play them. However PC games are a mixed bag. UFO Aftermath was widely considered to be impossible while say Deus EX 2 was a cakewalk. Call of Duty on normal settings can be completed in a couple of hours with only a few reloads for when you get hit by mortars or walk face first into a machine gun. On veteran every mistake is lethal and it becomes almost a platform with you learning were enemies are coming from.

    Of course this is just how I experienced those games. Other players may rate them completly differently.

    A good example is perhaps the C&C series. Despite the fact that it is now in its 1 millionth release the games still follows the exact same structure. First mission 2 units. Second mission 3 units. Third mssion 4 units. And so on. Frustating for seasoned players who already know how to play the game but needed to not alienate new players. Some games use tutorials for this. C&C wastes the first few missions on this.

    I recently played the platformer Prince of Persia. Well partially. Upto the second timed bit. 2 tries and then I gave up. To fucking hard I am not a 12 year old boy anymore. That game for me was totally wrongly balanced. To much work to little fun. However the owner of that game had no troubles with it. Faster reflexes the timed bits were easy for him.

    I seen only a handfull of games that really had good difficulty settings. Good difficulty settings go further then just easy normal hard. They allow you to say disable certain aspects of the game that you may find annoying. Flightsims are usually very easy to setup. Don't like blacking out? Disable it. No rudder? Disable drift. The ancient System Shock allowed you to alter the amount of puzzles vs combat vs exploring. If only some designer had thought of allowing me to disable timed sequenzes from Prince of Persia. Had thought of making the first game started in UFO Aftermath not to be on the highest difficulty level or even better have presented the selection screen to the user. Deus EX 2 is probably beyond saving.

    Games that are to hard are usually the fault of the designers being unable to fathom that gamers perhaps do not have the experience with the game that they do. Games that are to easy are either trying not to alienate new players or just lack good coding to have effective AI.

    Oh well thank god for the PC and modding. UFO Aftermath has a lot of mods out that rebalance the game. Making your weapons just a tad more powerfull and the aliens weapons just a little bit less. If you played it then you should be able to appreciate slower alien rockets with less power while your guns generally do more damage. The offical patches also address the game balance but don't go far enough. Perhaps this is the future? Rather then get it right out of the box games will be balanced by playtesting by the gamers?

    • I thought PoP had it just right.
      I got stuck on the occasional bit - am now in fact, but I give it a break for a few days, go back and I can manage it. Even some of the puzzles - one in particular took me a bit of thought as to how to get through.
      This is great, 'cause it means I don't complete it in a day.

      Call of Duty also - fucking difficult on even regular in some places. It is a stunningly well balanced game, getting harded all through, but basing all the difficulties on how you handle situations.
  • by foidulus (743482) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @04:17AM (#8449954)
    What I really liked about FFX was that the main game was pretty easy(had to be since it was like a movie!) and somewhat straightforward. This allows even the most casual gamer to get some enjoyment out of it.
    However, there were a decent amount of very difficult mini games(chocobo taming?) and all sorts of extra aeons, ultimate weapons, etc that entertained the hardcore gamer. I never bothered with most of this, but I know people who have just insane amounts of this stuff and can beat those monsters in the arena. I think that the main game should be easy, but there should be enough optional, challenging(and of course rewarding!) side quests/mini-games etc to satisfy the more hardcore gamer like this author.
    Kudos to Square.
    • FFX-2 had many more mini-games, sidequests and other adventures for you to go on than FFX. I beat FFX pretty easily without getting killed until much later on in the game, almost near the very end.

      FFX-2, if you're not very good with your dress spheres or are just plain to slow, you'll get stomped very quickly.

      I think i was killed more times in FFX-2 than any other FF series, including the original :)

      oh, and want to talk about a hard game! the first FF !!
  • Hogwash! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Domini (103836) <lailoken@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @05:21AM (#8450189) Journal
    Due to limited code space and a small market of extreme gamers these may have been the only type of games out there.

    This does not mean they do not exist, just that modern games must cater for all types of players, and thus they are made scalable.

    Has this person tried playing a multiplayer Warcraft III game against a single insane AI computer opponent? How about tried to beat all the Quake 3 Arena levels on Nightmare? There's hours of trying right there!

    Most games have a Hard/Nightmare/Insane setting which is meant for pitfall/rick dangerous/aztec challenge -like games.

    Also, does pitfall have a PvP setting? No! So once pitfall becomes too easy, where's the challenge? It's boring! I've had the remarkable pleasure of losing countless Quake games to awsome world-ranking players... wanna learn real anguish? ;)

    Anyhow enough ranting... I'm tired of people trying to cling on games "that they just don't make anymore" or "It's not fun" or "It has no story" or "Blah blah blah". Rubbish! Modern games are as good and in MOST cases better!

    Sure I enjoyed finishing Mercenary, Druid, Bard's Tale 1-3, Elite and many more on my Vic20/C64/ZX Spectrum/Spectravideo/Acorn/BBC A/B/Amiga/Atari ST. But I'm happy those days are past and I could play competitive games like Quake/Counterstrike/Starcraft/Warcraft III/Ghost Recon/ etc etc.

    Anyway... enough raving... :)
  • by EnglishTim (9662) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @06:11AM (#8450316)
    Those older games were hard so that you couldn't complete them in half an hour. As result you had to continually play parts of it over and over again until you could complete them. Nowadays as games have much more content they can allow the player to progress faster as there is more game to get through.

    In my opinion this is a Good Thing, I certainly don't believe that Harder == More Fun. This is why I like different difficulty levels - you can tailor the game to the way you like to play. Those with lots of time and few responsibilities are welcome to spend five hours every night on 'Bastard Hard' - however, with a wife and three kids I just don't have that kind of time to play levels over and over again until I can do them. If I play at 'Normal' or 'Easy' I can still progress in the game with only a few hours per week.
    • This is a good point. The original Contra (on the NES) gave me hours and hours of game play. Lots of fun. Fantastically difficult too. However, there came a day when I could play from the first level to the end in one sitting and without using continues or the cheat codes. It would take all of about an hour.

      By contrast, I just finished the most recent Prince of Persia. I clocked in at 15 hours, and I really don't think that I could get under 10 hours if I replayed the game start to finish. That's co

  • Hells Yes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Apreche (239272) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @06:43AM (#8450418) Homepage Journal
    Me and my friends have a phrase that we have been using for years. "Nintendo Hard" Most games today just aren't Nintendo Hard. That's not to say they are bad games, look at something like Wind Waker, fantastic game too easy.

    There are other types of games where the lack of difficulty ruins the game. But I must also note that the wrong kind of difficulty can ruin a game also.

    Look at FF:CC. The game is great and all, but only because its multiplayer gameboy element makes up for what it lacks elsewhere. All the best items and secret happenings can only be found in stupid arbitrary ways. They aren't a puzzle you solve like in Wind Waker, they are something you have to know. Information you can't possibly have unless you read a FAQ or strategy guide or come across completely by accident.

    Another thing I think is that sometimes game quality is not the top priority of game designers. Why make a great game that is hard? People will keep playing it and take all year to beat it, they sure as heck wont give up. If they're still playing that one why would they buy a new one? If people beat their games they'll stop playing them and buy new ones.

    Pretty much I agree with this guy a whole lot. In my /journal somewhere there is an article about RPGs and how they have become movies and not games. That is very relevant.
  • Games are either too easy or too hard, or too far in between. What I mean by this is that they're either hard-too-impossible, or way-to-simple to easy. Why not offer the whole spectrum?

    One of my favorite games ever, Doom, is straightforward on the lowest difficulty setting. On Nightmare! (the highest), it's nearly impossible for mortals. I remember that someone at id Software (Romero?) even stated that he didn't think beating Doom 2 from start to end without dying on Nightmare! was possible. He was eventua
  • If you'd like harder games then that's fine. Just so long as there are cheat codes to get me beyond some infuriatingly complex task that's holding up an otherwise fine story line. I'm still trying to smash up all the god damned stores at the mall in Vice City. And I mean still as in I've pretty much given up on playing the game and just fly the helicopter around and snipe cars from the tall buildings.

    One of the things I hated about the early games was the fact that they are so unforgiving. At some point

  • I believe the worst video game experience I've had was playing 'sewer rat' for SegaCD.

    Now for the time this game had amazing graphics, until you realzied the whole thing was a movie, and all you had to do was press up down left or right, and shoot a couple things the entire time.
  • One of the things I dislike about most of todays games is that any difficulty or challenge can be circumvented by cheat codes or those Game Shark things.

    I don't use cheat codes ('old school' gamer I guess), but my 12-year old son does. Whenenever we get a new game one of the first things he does is search the net for cheat codes. I alwasys ask him 'why do you want to cheat?' and his response is usually 'because the game gets too hard otherwise.' Sigh.........

  • I grew up in the 80's with my C64, despite the fact that the games took about half an hour to load, I loved them, because they were really challenging.

    I also really liked playing games on the Master system, games like Alex Kid were really quite challenging, the controller wasn't great, you had to have real good finger control on the D-pad to be able to get Alex to do a full height running jump, I remember spending literally hours playing that game with a group of friends and we all used to watch each other
  • Oracle (Score:3, Funny)

    by InsaneCreator (209742) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @09:18AM (#8450933)
    He should try "playing" Oracle. It's full of cryptic messages which rarely mean what they say, and every time you think you finally know what's going on, it throws another challenge at you - just like that.

    For an added bonus, the documentation is also one big puzzle full of twisty passages, all alike.

    The fun just never stops...

    (Somebody, please kill me. I hear they use Postgres in heaven...)
    • You need a cheatbook. I recommend "messages and codes", which explains quite a few of the puzzles.

      Of course "messages and codes" has its own puzzles, completely separate from the main game! I especially love those where it says "this error code is system specific, look in your platform documentation" (as if...).

      I've been playing "Oracle" for a long time. Gameplay has undergone a lot of development during those years. For example, in the past I was playing on a Novell system which ran out of memory at th

  • My take (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shoptroll (544006) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @09:21AM (#8450947)
    I think this is fairly true.

    I'm currently playing Final Fantasy IX (I'm a little behind the times still). If you're diligent the game is wicked easy, as you're gaining skills and abilities that make the party incredibly strong.

    I'm also playing Earthbound Zero, which is incredibly hard as the random battles are fairly numerous, and there are a lot of modern conveniences not present in the game due to its age (1990).

    But there are still some games with challenge. F-Zero GX is by far one of the harder games I've acquired recently. I would also put the Zelda: Oracles pair in there as well.

    But in all honesty, I think difficulty is sacrificed for length or story. Who wants to try and beat a 40 hour game if it's going to take you 60 - 80 hours overall due to Game Over screens and reset button hits?
  • Play Viewtiful Joe. It puts you in the most difficult movie ever.
    • VJ isn't that hard on the default levels...

      Now, once you get to V-Rated, it's extremly difficult.

      But I think the point of the article is that it kind of ignores difficulty settings. I think it's assuming that everybody plays on easy..

      Blech..

  • Read Tex's article. (Score:4, Informative)

    by misfit13b (572861) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @09:35AM (#8450997)
    Another article about the topic (focusing on quicksave/load) here [kuro5hin.org].
  • by AntiNeutrino (63802) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @09:50AM (#8451135)
    I used to play a *lot*.

    back when I was in school I used to play 3 hours or more every day.

    Now I havn't played properly on almost 3 years and was greatly looking forward to playing Prince of Persia after the glowing reviews it had received.

    It was a walkthrough!

    I don't mean to say that I never needed more than one attempt, but the jump sequences were ALL too easy. (I needed 6 attempts only once - the timed run with the collapsing floor outside the tower walls - for those who played it).
    The riddles were not riddles but wastes of time... (who ever thought of having a character in the game tell you whenever you were gong wrong - like in the 'arming the palace' sequence).

    I only needed ONE attemt for the last fight.
    :-(

    but I have not had so much fun playing a game for ages and I can't wait for a mission/add-on pack that is hopefully a bit harder.

    cheers

    AntiNeutrino
  • by ArmenTanzarian (210418) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @10:08AM (#8451312) Homepage Journal
    ArmenTanzarian says that all generalizations made are too broad and that everything that's green tastes like sour apple.
  • Brian, stop playing on "Easy". Try switching the difficulty to "Nightmare". There ya' go.
  • after playing the new Pitfall game

    Well there is your problem... You played the new Pitfall game. Come on....
    It's a clear case of PEBKAC
    or in this case PEBCAC

    thats console
  • by WebGangsta (717475) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @11:14AM (#8451917)
    ...from back in the day. For the most part, the focus has moved entirely away from creating a good game to creating an "immersive player experience". Some of this was touched in the earlier /. thread about 25 years of gaming [slashdot.org].

    Yes, there was a time when arcade players loved being able to play forever on a single quarter. How many levels could you go on Donkey Kong? Could you get the high score on Galaga? Did SpyHunter ever end? Sure the levels became repetitive and often insane, but you could play as long as you could survive.

    Games today have morphed into ones with 20 different "missions" or time runs with limited long-play appeal. Granted, there are specific games where this makes some sense because of the nature of the game (you reached the bottom of the mountain) but there's no reason why all games have had to go that route. Don't you love going to Jillians/D&B and blowing $0.75 for 1 minute of entertainment, as is the case with practically all arcade games these days? It's a shame that kids today don't appreciate pinball (what few pinball machines there are anyway), where skilled play usually awards players with a replay.

    Of course home consoles with the ability to save your location have changed games considerably, but (as an example) SSX3 did an admirable job of taking the "race to the bottom of the mountain" concept and throw it on its ear. Lots of variety and ease of going back to the top to rerace as part of the game (instead of having to start over from the main menu) make it seem as if you're continuing one run.

    Publishers need to take into consideration that there are some gamers who don't want games that end. Mission-based games, side-scrollers, and the like are only a subset. The Sims (and various Tycoon/sim games) is popular on the PC because the game is continually changing and infinitely replayable.

    The original MYST was a huge seller for various reasons, one of which was that it took so long to figure out exactly what/how to do *anything*. With the Internet now and all the cracks/cheats/walkthroughs, MYST probably wouldn't have the same sales rate now as it did 6 years ago.

    Should games have difficulty levels to make games harder for more skilled players? Sure. But GOOD games shouldn't need skill levels, cracks, cheats to make the games interesting to all players.

  • I like intense games..

    No, I love intense games...give me games where I'm surrounded and overwhelmed and activty is everywhere..and when I actually have the firepower and the ability to fight my way through it..

    Viewtiful Joe, Ratchet and Clank:GC, Destiny Warriors, F-Zero GX, Ikaragua..etc

    What I don't like is frustrating games...and most of those older games are simply frustrating. They either rely on memorizing patters, or simple luck. As well, often times the controls are just not good enough to handle
  • Oldies but goodies...

    Thief is extremely rewarding when you finish it on expert.

    Rogue Spear - single player custom mission with 50 terrorists. Yeah the AI have sniper abilities with pistols, but it's also a lot of fun.

  • That's not a phrase. Temper-Tantrum. Ahh, journalism these days.
  • by spoodie (641820) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @01:29PM (#8453247)
    Slightly off topic but I've noticed in two games which I've come across that certain puzzles will become simplified or even completed for the player if they're struggling.

    For example in Broken Sword 3 I failed a small stealth puzzle (I've never been good at stealth) about 3 times so I got to see a cutscene of my character completing the puzzle without my assistance. And then in another game which involved memorising a sequence and then duplicating it, the sequence became increasingly simplified until it was virtually impossible to get wrong. Have any other slashdotters experienced this?
  • I complete just about every PC game that I buy, assuming I don't get bored first. It used to be very different.

    On my spectrum, I only ever completed ONE game, Nonterraqueous, and that took me, my dad and my brother, carefully plotting a map and playing for days on end.
  • by rigmort (584960) * on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @03:58PM (#8455070)
    When I was a kid, I got a Pitfall sew-on patch through the mail from Activision. You had to actually take a photo of your TV displaying your score -- I think it had to be over 100k, or maybe 200k points.
  • definition of fun? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spir0 (319821) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @04:02PM (#8455114) Homepage Journal
    the original Pitfall! so much fun to play was 'because the game is so hard - brutally, temper-tamper inducing hard'

    I don't see that as fun at all. When a game is so difficult that I want to smash things, I typically do. If I'm angry, then I'm not having fun.

    Frustrating != fun

    Impossibly hard != fun

    however, if you do want impossibly hard, MOST games have Easy, Medium and Hard modes. Try changing them. Some games have a Nightmare/Insane mode. I think that's what you're after. Quoting one game as being too easy and using that to justify your statement of all modern games being too easy is just bullshit.

  • by DeadScreenSky (666442) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @05:15PM (#8456035)
    ...so cease any complaints about games being too easy nowadays and go buy it instead. :D

    (The best thing is how fair it feels, too.)
  • by still_sick (585332) on Wednesday March 03, 2004 @06:26PM (#8456855)
    Go to any GameFAQs message board, and half of them will be about codes and GameShark codes and whatever.

    Most games have selectable difficulty levels - and for whatever stupid reason idiots like to pick the easiest one, cheat their way through it, and then cry about how much the game sucked because it was too easy.

    As with most things in life, the problem is people are idiots.

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