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Game Difficulty As a Virtue 204

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-hail-battletoads dept.
The Wii and various mobile gaming platforms have done wonders for the trend toward casual or "easy" games. But the success of a few recent titles, despite their difficulty, has caused some to wonder whether the pendulum has swung too far; whether a little frustration can be seen as a good thing. Quoting: "The evidence is subtle but compelling. For one example, look to major consumer website GameSpot's Game of the Year for 2009: Atlus' PS3 RPG Demon's Souls, which received widespread critical acclaim – none of which failed to include a mention of the game's steep challenge. GameSpot called it 'ruthlessly, unforgivingly difficult.' Demon's Souls was a sleeper hit, an anomaly in the era of accessibility. One would think the deck was stacked against a game that demanded such vicious persistence, such precise attention – and yet a surge of praise from critics and developers alike praised the game for reintroducing the experience of meaningful challenge, of a game that demanded something from its players rather than looked for ways to hand them things. It wasn't just Demon's Souls that recently flipped the proverbial bird to the 'gaming for everyone' trend. In many ways, the independent development scene can be viewed on the macro level as a harbinger of trends to come, and over the past year and into 2010, many indies have decided to be brutal to their players."
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Game Difficulty As a Virtue

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Thursday February 04, 2010 @03:24AM (#31019612)

    Emeril Lagasse suffers from the same problem as the article writer. They both think that one ingredient is the key to a winning formula. BAM! Just add some EVOO or in this case turn the difficulty all the way up.

    The secret, which isn't a secret at all, is that balanced gameplay is the true Sangreal of gaming. Pitting a newbie against a grizzled Korean veteran in Starcraft isn't going to give anyone a challenge or make them feel like they want to come back to the game again. It's only when the players are evenly matched or only slightly mismatched that gameplay becomes exciting. It is the thrill of being able to beat a game but with enough challenge that victory isn't guaranteed.

    • by Yetihehe (971185)
      I still remember my first hard pc game. It was so hard I couldn't even run it. I was so frustrated I made special mount for small electric engine (3v), connected it to 12v, and scratched off all the silver stuff from top of the CD. This was the most fulfilling game experience I've ever had in my life, I can't even remember the game's name.
    • It's not the ONLY road to success. But it's part of the secret blend of herbs and spices.

      It's not about cranking the difficulty up until it becomes impossible. Impossible enough even a bot can't succeed anymore [youtube.com]. That's not enjoyable.

      It's about finding that sweet spot where it is doable but a challenge. This is, of course, something different for everyone. Hell, there's a good reason why difficulty levels are so popular in games. Let's stay with Guitar Hero since it's been the example in the video. Would it

      • by mcvos (645701)

        It's not the ONLY road to success. But it's part of the secret blend of herbs and spices.

        It's not about cranking the difficulty up until it becomes impossible. Impossible enough even a bot can't succeed anymore [youtube.com]. That's not enjoyable.

        What do you mean: "even a bot can't succeed anymore"? There are plenty of games where even the smartest AI can't compete with a human: strategy games. And those are games that have always been about challenge. Has Civ ever been fun at the easiest level, waltzing over stone-age AI civilizations? The fun has always been to crush them at Emperor level. The harder it is, the more satisfying the victory.

        Of course victory still needs to be possible. Playing a game that can't be won soon loses its appeal.

      • Likewise, it's frustrating if a game is so friggin' hard that it simply is not fun anymore either.

        But players' skill levels differ. One person's challenge is another person's so hard it's not fun. This is true of DDR [youtube.com] and Tetris [youtube.com] and even platformers [youtube.com].

      • making something insanely hard "just because" does not make something fun

        1 always have some way to move the game forward (have a couple answers to "what do i do next??" at hand at all times) note going to some distant area of the level ripping a random object off the wall and then using it on some random decoration does not count unless the player could have grabbed it the previous time they saw said object

        2 killing any opponent should be discoverable (use "houses of magic" or a rock > paper > scissor

    • by bronney (638318)

      I cut the bonding plant instead of rooting it and wondered why I couldn't go into the comedy club and had to play the whole thing again hehehe. Quite challenging.

    • by bertok (226922) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:55AM (#31020014)

      Emeril Lagasse suffers from the same problem as the article writer. They both think that one ingredient is the key to a winning formula. BAM! Just add some EVOO or in this case turn the difficulty all the way up.

      The secret, which isn't a secret at all, is that balanced gameplay is the true Sangreal of gaming. Pitting a newbie against a grizzled Korean veteran in Starcraft isn't going to give anyone a challenge or make them feel like they want to come back to the game again. It's only when the players are evenly matched or only slightly mismatched that gameplay becomes exciting. It is the thrill of being able to beat a game but with enough challenge that victory isn't guaranteed.

      I totally agree. One of the brilliant things about Supreme Commander is that it matches you against players of equal skill. When I played RTS games before, games were always one of two types: I rolled over the enemy effortlessly, which is boring, or I got crushed like a bug, which is just as boring, and frustrating too. In SC, once it learns your rank, every game is a constant uphill struggle against an opponent you can almost but not quite defeat. It's brutal, but that's what makes it a fun challenge!

      Meanwhile, games like Valve's TF2, L4D, and L4D2, which are highly dependent on not just your own player skill, but the skill of your teammates has zero in the way of skill level based match ups. There's nothing worse than a game with some 13 year old idiot in it. There's always that one prepubescent who got the game 10 minutes ago, but thinks he can do whatever the fuck he wants, including run the wrong way, ignore his team, etc...

      I like to think of this analogy: imagine how stupid it would be if the world championship game of, say, football, had one team member replaced by a fucktard who just does "whatever he feels like", because, you know, "it's just a game", and there would be absolutely nothing the other players could do about it. Does that sound like a good game to you?

      Unfortunately, this is the state of almost all team PC and Console gaming right now. Players with literally 10 years of experience play side-by-side with mouthbreathers who struggle to tie their own shoelaces in the morning, and have difficulty in grasping advanced concepts like "pressing a button fires the weapon". It's common to see 50:1 point ratios on TF2 servers between players, which is just insane, if you stop and think about it.

      Many people would argue that this is what clans are for, but clan games are usually very small, are played only on a subset of the maps, and are few and far between. There's just no opportunity to play, say, a 32-player game for 4 or 5 hours straight with clan-level players only.

      • by tepples (727027)

        It's common to see 50:1 point ratios on TF2 servers between players, which is just insane, if you stop and think about it.

        Then where are the people with "1", who actually did just buy a copy an hour ago, supposed to play in order to learn how to play the game? I guess one solution is what Tetris DS implemented: a sort of Elo-style ranking of all players, and random matches are with the closest player to your rank.

        • Then where are the people with "1", who actually did just buy a copy an hour ago, supposed to play in order to learn how to play the game?

          Well, that is one of the things the single-player campaign is supposed to do. It starts with beginner tutorials, and if you can finish it, you should have a basic level of competence. Experienced online players will probably still squash you like a bug, but you won't be totally lost.

      • by Bakkster (1529253)

        It's common to see 50:1 point ratios on TF2 servers between players, which is just insane, if you stop and think about it.

        Actually, if you think about it, it's quite reasonable. I've had 150:1 ratios compared to others, because I had played 3 full rounds of Payload (150+ points) and the guy with 1 only joined 2-3 minutes ago, is on defense, and has only had the chance to get a single kill because of circumstances beyond his control. I've never seen two TF2 players who played for the same ammount of time yet had a 50x difference in points.

        I like to think of this analogy: imagine how stupid it would be if the world championship game of, say, football, had one team member replaced by a fucktard who just does "whatever he feels like", because, you know, "it's just a game", and there would be absolutely nothing the other players could do about it. Does that sound like a good game to you?

        This analogy has nothing to do with public servers. Sure, you expect not to get 10-yo n

    • Bingo! Your first paragraph is exactly correct. Whether a game is difficult or easy is independent of whether it's good or not. There are plenty of great games that are easy (e.g. Super Mario Galaxy or Katamari Damacy) and great games that are hard (e.g. Ikaruga or the Megaman franchise), as well as bad games that are easy and bad games that are hard (I'm sure we all have our own examples of those latter two). There are also those that try to walk the fine line in between (e.g. Braid), which are designed to
    • by Gogo0 (877020)

      this is absolutely true.
      part of what made Demons Souls so great was that it was so well balanced. when you died, 99% of the time it was your own fault.
      also, you could play through the game knowing that a pile of rocks wasnt going to fall on you or the floor open up when you stepped on it. there were no cheap hits that artificially added 'difficulty' (frustration).

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Thursday February 04, 2010 @03:37AM (#31019664)

    There are certainly hard games I've enjoyed, but difficulty isn't really a single-axis thing, so I don't find it that useful to talk about in the abstract, and I certainly don't see any benefit to games that are "hard" just for the sake of it. A game might be hard because it has complex puzzles, or because it requires highly honed twitch skills, or because it requires non-obvious inferences, or because it requires acute observation, or any number of other things. Sometimes those are useful, sometimes not.

    Plus, it's not even really something to set in opposition to casual games. It's really hard to get the kinds of low times on Minesweeper that aficionados get, and there are pretty hardcore communities based around such things.

    I do agree that not every game has to be for a mass market. But surely, if you're given the luxury of designing a game that doesn't have to appeal to everyone, there are more interesting niches?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Noodlenoggin (1295699)

      A game might be hard because it has complex puzzles, or because it requires highly honed twitch skills, or because it requires non-obvious inferences, or because it requires acute observation, or any number of other things. Sometimes those are useful, sometimes not.

      I totally agree with this. I've played PC FPS's for years and I don't consider them hard by any means, but the same game on a console with a gamepad makes them impossible. I wouldn't consider them 'fun' on the console just because the difficulty for me personally is way up there.

    • A game might be hard because [list of reasons] [...] Plus, it's not even really something to set in opposition to casual games.

      I think Guitar Hero III is an excellent example of this.

      If you play at the easier levels, you can have some casual fun with friends (if you have two controllers or can put up with using a wiimote.)

      On the higher difficulty levels, you can get some real finger-twitching challenges, topping out at Through the Fire and Flames. I've tried hard, I've only completed it once on Expert. Raining Blood is pretty tough too.

      Plus, if you play in battle mode, you get to exercise your brain---the lefty switch and the amp

    • by Feyshtey (1523799)
      I don't think it's been suggested that you make a game that's just hard. If one were to design a game with that single premise (or any single premise) in mind they would most certainly find themselves in the same boat as so many failed designers; a protracted development cycle that eventualy (maybe) produces a cobble of mis-matched concepts into a craptastic POS.

      Obviously a rounded game design is essential to a successful and interesting title. But designers for years have become convinced that if the pu
    • I agree - I don't understand the marketability of something based on the fact that its "Difficult". ESPECIALLY on such a subjective matter such as that. I have long since been the guy with no difficulty playing video games. Its not that I was always the Best, because I wasn't, but I never had any problems picking up a game and learning its symantics quickly. My friends played Halo 1, 2, and 3 religiously within succession of each other, never spending much time playing online in any other game. I had played

  • Having fun (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darinbob (1142669) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @03:41AM (#31019678)
    The point of a game is to have fun. Period.

    Some players find difficulty fun, and some players find that frustrating instead. Telling people that they must play on higher difficulties to have fun is like proclaiming that football is more fun than baseball or tennis.

    The problem really are those few players who seem to find fun in telling others that they're doing it wrong. People should worry about themselves, not what others are doing.
    • by brkello (642429)
      Well, if they are having fun telling you what you are doing wrong, by your logic, who are you to tell them not to do it. Shouldn't you just be worried about yourself? ;)
    • by Feyshtey (1523799)
      And people should have choices.

      Your premise is sound; The point of the game is to have fun. Your logic is flawed.

      How does one have fun doing what they find fun, if no one makes a product they find fun because the majority (and that's an assumption) demand ease of access and nearly garuanteed progress.

      Quite often the people saying that they dislike the 'easy mode' games or the gimme skill levels are vilified as "telling others that they're doing it wrong", when the reality is those being vilified
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @03:41AM (#31019682)

    People like to win, of course. But if that win is easy to achive, the achivement feels hollow. Anyone could have done it. People also enjoy the feeling of being "special". And I don't mean in the PC sense. They want to have the feeling they did something not everyone could do.

    • by tempest69 (572798) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:10AM (#31019816) Journal
      Yes, the nerdy grail of gaming, escaping the dungeon with the amulet of Yendor. Without the help of a search engine.
      That is no hollow achievement, a total waste of perfectly good time, granted. But boom, dead from food poisoning after getting the amulet. Fifteen years later and I'm still bitter.

      Storm

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by berashith (222128)

        hell, getting the amulet with a search engine is hard enough.

        great, now i have to go try again. see you all in a month.

    • People like to win, of course. But if that win is easy to achive, the achivement feels hollow. Anyone could have done it.

      Seems to me that developers can often hide how easy a win is, making an easy win feel like an accomplishment. Peggle, like many puzzle style games, doesn't require much skill. A lot of it comes down to knowing the ins and the outs of the game, and chance. After you learn how to play it, you'll make a play that happens to come out well by chance. It's easy to feel like you played that well and have an enjoyable sense of achievement, when really you got lucky... although I guess another way of looking at

    • Well, after all... (Score:2, Informative)

      by WaroDaBeast (1211048)
      "To vanquish without peril is to triumph without glory."
      — Pierre Corneille, Le Cid
    • That's what difficult levels are for: Feeling that you could achieve what many couldn't.

      One of my personal favorites, is "Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow". You have the normal mode, and the hard mode. But my favorite part is battling with Julius. There are numerous youtube videos of fighting with Julius in restricted circumstances: i.e. no armor/weapons, all abilities disabled, no healing potions, etc. Of course, the Boss Rush mode is a must.

      Supermetroid also manages to do this, in the form of Speed Runs. The r

  • Similar to HOMM, but more of an RPG/adventure. It has difficulty levels ranging from easy to impossible - but many unfamiliar with the genre will find "Normal" to be challenging.

    I went with easy and challenged myself to lose as few units as possible. A very enjoyable game.

    Right now I'm playing through Torchlight on the hardest difficulty. Good thing there's no death penalty if you respawn in town. ;) I kill enemies in about 4 hits, but they do the same.

  • Fake Difficulty (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Idiomatick (976696) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @03:43AM (#31019694)
    Difficulty is different than fake difficulty. I actually hated the xbox360 because all the games were fucking easy. Or they had fake difficulty. And fake difficulty fucking sucks.

    What I mean is when they use things like... Computers get psychic powers. Or they can 'cheat'. Like bots in a shooter that know where you are at all times. Or bots that have guns that deal double damage. It is a bit hard to define... but generally speaking, any time the game becomes more about w/e coded in cheats the computer gets than about the goals set out in the game then fake difficulty has been taken too far.

    AI can game break in the opposite direction as well. For example... max handicap disadvantage in smash bros melee vs a computer. You are no longer having a match. You are playing a game of fucking with the ai so it falls in a pit (yoshi sucks at this). In many cases, especially games that shoot for some degree of realism this sucks balls. In shooter, base infiltration games higher difficulty should not be merely adjusting their hp level. It should be tightening up their AI, their aim, their placements, hell number of troops and their weaponry. Otherwise the game plays like crap. (Nearly all games do it the crap way)
    • Even this isn't always true though. Serious Sam FE/SE adjusted difficulty by playing with damage, hitpoints, pickups, and I think even the number of enemies that spawn but at the same time the difficulty is still "real" on most levels below the insanity ones.

    • Re:Fake Difficulty (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CrazyJim1 (809850) * on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:00AM (#31020036) Journal
      Warcraft3 AI only was charged like 1 gold per unit or something so you couldn't starve the AI.

      Starcraft always knew all your units and built counter units.

      Starcraft2 they say is supposed to have really keen ai that even needs to learn through fog of war, but we'll see.
      • And I'd suggest that makes wc3 a shittier game. Starcraft while being psychic didn't overly abuse it... Also, Starcraft AI was pretty brutally good compared to most games. I mean hell... look at mobs in WoW, they don't even have AI per say more of a roll the dice for which spell otherwise attack. The feeling of competition is comparatively strong in SC/SC2. You feel like you are playing against the computer as an opponent. In Warcraft3 it feels a bit more like you are playing against your arbitrary limitati
        • by Supurcell (834022)

          Or it is a memorization game: if i wait 3 seconds before running here they'll have their backs turned. That isn't skill or even luck at that point. You've just died and re spawned a bunch so you know when to go like some kind of psychic. Trial and error != fun.

          That's where I think you're wrong. You should be able to observe your opponents and predict what they will do based on that observation. If you die a bunch, then you are obviously having trouble with a part of the game, and need all the help you can get to beat it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 04, 2010 @06:16AM (#31020332)

      That's why I love Nethack. The permadeath gives you plenty of difficulty, but the challenge doesn't feel "false" because there's so much tactical depth. Yeah, sure, there are plenty of monsters that are pretty brutal ("go team ant!"), but if that stupid orc has a wand of death, you *get* that wand of death if you manage to kill him without him killing you first and he doesn't have infinite uses of it. And there are usually a dozen ways you could have survived that last death. Contrast this with, say, Angband (or many MUDs, for that matter), where the trend in many variants has been that "we want a harder monster, so let's give it 50% more HP and make it resist *everything*!" But the only way you could have avoided dying was having more heal potions handy or retreating.

      I used to be an immortal on a MUD, actually. Nobody knew how to write a mobprog except for random drops, or so it seemed at times, so almost everyone who made hard mobs just set them to aggro and cranked up their HP and armor so that you had to heal via potions for 3 hours while they dropped 1% at a time. I made the first actual mob that used intelligent spell selection to target player racial weaknesses and which used debuffs in a reasonably tactical manner, forced the player to solo it, kept the HP, armor and damage reasonable, gave it a limited number of low HP cohorts that allowed for a flanking bonus, and limited the player's ability to gulp potions so you couldn't just set an autoquaff trigger and watch TV while waiting for it to die.

      People had a lot more fun inventing clever tactics to use against it and watching their use of mana for healing vs. damage over a relatively short (~5 minute) fight, vs. other critters where the main challenge was making sure you had enough potions in your bag before attacking and chatting or something while you waited for it to die.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Idiomatick (976696)
        Yeah, nethack is a game of knowledge. While one of my peeves with games is when you die until you figure out w/e they needed you to do as difficulty... Nethack is sort of designed with that in mind from the beginning as it is a knowledge based game rather than one of skill. Like... something a stats major would do well in.

        As a side note wow also hasn't figured it out. Mobs from level 1~80 (excluding bosses) have these strats for each time it can attack:
        - If humanoid and hp under 20% flee randomly for 7 s
        • a lvl10 human charging a lvl 80 orc in full epic gear is pretty retarded.

          It's a problem with the concept of gear, and not skill. Lets face it, intelligence doesnt really factor into a game where a 'level 80' singular entity can walk up to a fortified city and literally walk around as a god as thousands of soldiers are unable to do anything to combat them. I call it the Van Cleef effect. So here is a guy who can manage to organize the near overthrow of an entire kingdom, has armies AND a budding navy at

          • by kalirion (728907)

            A level 10 soldier SHOULD be charging a level 80 orc regardless of his armor. It is just an Orc in armor. The fact that it is completly pointless is just an artifact of the mechanisms which WoW uses to keep your progression (satisfaction) slow.

            Unless said level 10 soldier has just witnessed said Orc in armor punch out a dragon.

    • by hal2814 (725639)

      "Fake difficulty" annoys the crap out of me in Madden. I'd like the AI difficulty in Madden to be the difference between going up against a Jerry Glanville coached team vs. a Don Shula coached team. Instead I get a team that rolls over and plays dead vs a team that consistently gets huge passing plays even when I make the best call on defense to stop them. It's really annoying and the Madden Karma (like if you go for 4th down and fail, something BAD will happen to your team in the next possession) only m

    • by tepples (727027)

      Or they can 'cheat'. Like bots in a shooter that know where you are at all times.

      That's not necessarily cheating. I once watched a Flash animation about scrubs who accuse skilled first-person shooter players of cheating. If you hear step-step-step, and you know it's not a teammate, run around and shoot. If you hear clank-clank-clank in a vent, and you know it's not a teammate, toss a grenade.

      (Nearly all games do it the crap way)

      Because the crap way is cheaper to pull off and doesn't sell measurably fewer copies than the hard way.

    • In contrast to "AI" which is "Artificial Intelligence" I call the thing you're talking about "RC" which stands for "Real Cheating"
  • Developers have to strike a balance between what makes you go "f- this game" and "YES! I CAN'T BELIEVE I FINALLY DID IT!".

    Another problem they face is the fickleness of the community. For example, the Ninja Gaiden games on the NES would not fly in today's gaming community, except among a small, masochistic market segment.

    • by IorDMUX (870522)
      There's a trope for that.

      It's called Nintendo Hard [tvtropes.org].
    • by Lisandro (799651)

      or example, the Ninja Gaiden games on the NES would not fly in today's gaming community, except among a small, masochistic market segment.

      I hear that the newer versions of NG (XBox et all) are insanely difficult, just as the original.

      • by flitty (981864)
        NG1 was great at balancing difficulty, without being cheap. It never felt cheap (other than a single section of the game where you had to jump like a maniac to stop from being frozen by attacks of ghostfish), and it really is a great example for how to do difficult games without being cheap.

        NG2, not so much. It was more frustrating due to bad camera angles, cheap enemy tactics, and broken balance.
  • Difficulty (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @03:47AM (#31019718) Homepage Journal

    I consider a game to be a failure if I can play through the whole thing the first time through without dying. Final Fantasy VII was this way - I only died and reloaded when taking on the optional challenges like Wrong Number or Ruby.

    A problem I've noted more recently is uneven difficulty levels in a game - they're easy hard at the beginning and then trivial by the end (Dragon Age, Mass Effect 1) or games that appear easy in the first couple levels or your first time through so you kick up the difficulty level to give yourself more of a challenge, and they become ridiculous (Halo 3 Legendary Mode).

    Some games also conflate higher difficulty settings with "being higher level", and make the game impossible if you think "Difficult" could possibly be played by an experienced player with a 1st level character. Dark Alliance 2 was this way. Sacred 2 and Diablo 2 were as well, but at least they made you beat the game once before you could turn on Nightmare difficulty. While you could still be underleveled for it, at least you couldn't stumble into it with a 1st level character, like you could in DA2. Even still, I hate game mechanics that have a "you must be this tall to play" mechanic in place, like in Diablo 2.

    • by SharpFang (651121)

      I dislike when games notch up only one factor with difficulty.

      S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: CoP being a notorious guilty: enemy accuracy. I can still step into anomalies (they hurt more but still one medikit later I'm as good as new, and medikits are as dirt cheap as on "beginner"), I can shoot mutants just the same as before, I have 1 minute instead of 5 to hide from blowout what means I can't cross the whole map and finish the current mission at my leisure, but must run to one of few nearby hideouts within range. Artif

  • by PaganRitual (551879) <splaga@inte r n o d e . o n . net> on Thursday February 04, 2010 @03:47AM (#31019722)

    It started off as a cult game that looked really promising in it's original Asian release, then someone in the western gaming community got a hold of it and it became a real bandwagon game, being name-dropped everywhere. With a huge following of people that have probably hardly played it, claiming that they love difficult games, because that's what everyone else is doing. Also see : God Hand. Actually, Demon's Souls owes more than a bit to the Gothic games, for which it plays basically like a linear version of, except with bosses.

    Strictly speaking Demon's Souls isn't a hard game, as once you get into the hang of it you'll find that most deaths come from lack of carelessness. You can't simply rush head-long into everything and know that the game won't hurt you for it, like most games. It's just a very punishing one; when you do make a mistake it really does kick you in the nuts. And someone in the design team has confused flawed design with difficulty. No pausing? No ability to save, even to a single constantly overwritten slot, just in case? There is difficult, there is masochistic, and then there is just plain bad game design. I don't regard having to find a safe spot before being able to take a leak or answer the phone to be 'hardcore', just stupid.

    Speaking of God Hand, it is a much better example of proper difficulty. In Demon's Souls, if you tip-toe around, you'll go okay most of the time, and most lessons you learn once and you're okay from then on. God Hand kicks your ass early on, and you wonder how it got released in such an unworkable state (also, if you're an IGN reviewer, you'll likely go off and start writing at this point), but if you pay attention to the combat system and start out on an easy level, you'll become comfortable with the combat system, and then eventually you'll start tearing up the place, ready to advance in difficulty, and things that once seemed impossible will now merely present a fun challenge instead of sending you back, tail between your legs. Urban Reign did the same thing. They are great games.

    • by Neoprofin (871029)
      This has always been my problem with some Atlus games. Never ending one way doors? Monsters that can instant KO your entire party? A game isn't fun if it doesn't beat me every once in a while. but it's not fun reloading all the time either. Designed to frustrate.
  • by Balinares (316703) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:00AM (#31019772)

    > The Wii and various mobile gaming platforms have done wonders
    > for the trend toward casual or "easy" games.

    Yeah. Care to cite specific examples? Because this, here, until proved otherwise, sounds like gamer nerd handwringing over their hobby's new mass popularity, no more.

    Have you played the new Super Mario game? Care to name some other Mario games that are harder? Take your time, I'll wait. Heck, has there ever been a Mario game where failing one time too many on a single level, no matter how many lives you have, means you can't reach 100% completion unless you trash your save game and start over from scratch?

    Hell, have you played the Wii poster child, Mario Kart? How are those mirror cups going? Unlocked the Rainbow Road expert staff ghost yet? Beaten it?

    Just because it's easy to get into for newbies does NOT make it unchallenging. Seriously, guys, this is the same line of thinking that gives us people who seem to think that user friendly and powerful GUIs are mutually exclusive. It's a real design challenge to reconcile both, I know. This makes it all the more important to recognize and laud those attempts that succeed.

    • by tcdk (173945)
      I agree - I still have a few stars to collect in Super Mario Galaxy. I just don't have the time to reach the perfection it take complete those levels. They are hard!
      • There's approximately one difficult level in the entire game (the one where you collect the purple coins off the 8-bit Luigi planet), and once you beat it the first time, it becomes trivial after that. Of course, I may be a biased source...I've gone through and cleared the entire game, as both Mario and Luigi, twice now.
    • by sznupi (719324)

      Not only that; the submission seems to ignore the wonders that flashagmes, Peggle, Solitaire, etc. have done for the trend toward casual or "easy" games.

    • by Toonol (1057698)
      Fire Emblem:Radiant Dawn. I've put over a hundred hours into that, and still some levels on hard will take a dozen restarts to beat. And the AI doesn't cheat; when you lose, it's because you screwed up.

      There's a lot of punishing games for the Wii (just like all the other consoles) -- and they don't have to be "hardcore" to be difficult. Go watch a youtube video of "We Cheer 2".
    • by crossmr (957846)

      Yes I've played it. It isn't hard.
      As a single player game. It is easy.
      Its the first time I sat down and beat a mario game in a couple of days of casual playing.
      What is hard is when you add 3 people... some of whom may not know what they're doing. Suddenly it is difficult because people are interfering with jumps, etc
      Without doing any life tricks I finished the game with dozens of lives without trouble.

      I really don't get how this is supposed to be some kind of benchmark for difficult mario games.

      • You are either a phenomenally great Mario player, are letting the times you used Super Guide skew your difficulty assessment ("I can skip this hard level so the game is easy"), or a colossal liar. The game is not easy by any stretch of the imagination.
        • by crossmr (957846)

          Never used Super guide.
          I completed all the levels. There was one castle/level that was a pain. Super guide came up, but I never activated it.

          But one difficult castle doesn't make a hard game. Adding players immediately made it hard as there was no coordination and most people were not that skilled, but vanilla, there was no extreme challenge.
          I never said I didn't die, I just didn't find it to be soul crushingly difficult as everyone claims.

          • Then you're simply very good at the game. It really is quite difficult (and I'm not even counting getting all the star coins, which I'm sure will be much harder). I wouldn't quite call it soul-crushing, but it definitely is at the broken-controller level of difficulty.
    • by Simulant (528590)

      Parent is so right. I've been playing Super Mario Galaxy on & off for two years with my daughter and we still haven't beaten it. It's not easy... and I tend to lose interest, at least temporarily, after playing and failing on the same level for the 20th time in a row. Hell, even Bebbled on my Android is a challenge (anyone get past Xmas level 10?). On the other hand I've beaten every FPS I've ever installed on my PC on Normal to Hard difficultys. I suppose I'm a pussy for not playing them at th

    • by tepples (727027)

      Have you played the new Super Mario game?

      No. I'm waiting for time.

      Care to name some other Mario games that are harder?

      1. Super Mario Bros. 2 (J) [youtube.com] 2. Kaizo Mario World [youtube.com] 3. Super Mario Forever [youtube.com]

      • by Yosho (135835)

        1. Super Mario Bros. 2 (J) 2. Kaizo Mario World 3. Super Mario Forever

        To be fair, SMB2J is one of the hardest games ever, and the last two are fangames that were intentionally designed to be sadistic. Just because NSMBW is easier than them does not, by any means, mean that is is an easy game.

    • by brkello (642429)
      Not that I think the guy knows everything, but if you think the Wii doesn't have many games that cater to the casual crowd, you are on crack. Everyone bought them for the casual games that their grand parents could play.

      As far as what you are talking about, that really isn't the challenge of the game. Achievements create artificial challenge. The first Mario didn't have achievements yet it was quite challenging. Does this Mario make you start all the way from the beginning if you die too many times? N
    • Gentlemen, I give exhibit A, Mega Man 9 [wikipedia.org], WiiWare [nintendo.com], a game which I truly think counts as masocore [auntiepixelante.com].

      Trust me, the Wily Wars [wikipedia.org] never ended.

  • by creimer (824291) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:03AM (#31019788) Homepage

    When I was a lead tester at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, two different owners, multiple identity crises), I was responsible for Men In Black (Playstation). Sony had a submission requirement where they wanted a videotaped play through. Normally, it took me eight hours to get through the whole game. The developers made a change for one level just before the final level that made finishing the game impossible. I told them to change it, they told me to screw off.

    I spent eight hours playing that damn level before I could advance to the final level and sent Sony two videotapes with 16 hours of video. My request to duplicate the last videotape and send it to the developers was denied. No one cares about the pains that a video game tester must suffer.

  • I'd have to agree that in many ways games today are easier than in the past, however I too have noticed a swing back towards difficulty in a few titles. Most recently in Dragon Age Origins. Even played on the easy setting, it can be brutally difficult in some parts, the spikes are enormous. I prefer to play my RPG's in real-time, provided the game has such a mode, and while the easy setting in DAO is supposed to allow real-time battles, it is not strictly true. In many cases it still takes a huge amount of

    • I'm playing that these days on the PS3 and I agree, the difficulty spikes are ridiculous and kind of make me hate the game sometimes. What really bugs me is that I know I'd probably love it on the PC, even though the big battles are reportedly substantially more "difficult" there. To my mind there's difficult (every battle is a tactical challenge. Weigh your options, choose your targets and your moves carefully. Fail sometimes.) and then there's difficult (every battle is a nightmare clusterfuck. Target sel
  • latest expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, the endgame has been made substantially easier than before.
    But has been added the possibility for players to unlock "hard modes" that present in many cases a much greater difficulty.

    You know what?
    People complain that the game is too easy (even if they never tried the hard modes).
    Or that hard modes are too hard.
    Or that hard modes are too easy because top world players (not them, someone else!) were able to beat hard modes in few days.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Wildclaw (15718)

      People complain that the game is too easy (even if they never tried the hard modes).

      The problem with World of Warcraft is that the last expansion truly made the game too easy in several ways.

      Outside of dungeons, mobs have simply become ants. Annoying but 100% non-lethal. You almost have to disconnect while fighting multiple mobs to even have a chance of dying. In normal dungeons as well as heroics to some degree, the preferred strategy has become to basically collect as many mobs as the tank (and healer) can handle, have him keep them occupied (which is very simple nowadays) while the rest

      • by Duradin (1261418)

        They probably nerfed the outdoor group quest mobs in the older zones to help people on low pop realms where finding a group can be a monumental task for any zone not in Northrend.

        "This wouldn't be so bad except if you could only challenge yourself by fighting more difficult mobs. But the experience as well as level system in WoW highly encourages people to fight mobs that are at most the same level as yourself, or preferably one or two levels below if they want to level quickly."

        You can fight higher level m

  • Many casual games are an endless highscore hunt that has you struggling until you die, I wouldn't call that easy. Casual gamers develop extreme proficiency at their games like Tetris or Bejeweled. It's the hardcore games that are easy, they are more designed around the spectacle and story now and that's stuff that you can't make the player replay so having him die often and replay scenes over and over again is seen as a bad thing. I don't know about you but to me a game where even a minimally skilled person

  • Demon's Souls was a sleeper hit

    Would I be right in thinking this translates as "Me and my friends liked it, but it didn't sell very well"?

  • I'm not sure I understand what the big deal is with worrying about some "pendulum". Sometimes I have time; sometimes I don't. (Given hard means it requires more time.) I just like games. It's not an either or proposition.

    There is nothing to worry about here. The casual game market was just an expansion to reach a previously ignored segment of players: the very old, the very young, and the very busy. Your hard games aren't going away any time soon and neither will your easy games. Stop fretting over it.

    • by Eudial (590661)

      The problem is that the game industry is to an extent making the same mistake as the film industry: Catering to too wide a demographic with the same product. If you make a 3D romantic comedy in space surrounding a mysterious murder during a high speed car chase and cast everyone as a teenager, you will indeed have squeezed most genres into the film, and it'll probably be watchable for people who like those genres, but it will never surpass watchable. You'll maximize the revenue, but pay a hefty price in qua

  • New games need to get rid of auto health regeneration or at least make it a power up / upgrade that uses power.

    I don't that deus ex 3 will have it deus ex 1 had a good system it was a upgrade that used up power. IF you don't want people to back track a lot add more med kits / have no limit on how many you can carry at one time.

    • by SharpFang (651121)

      I'm not so sure. Call of Pripyat has health regen (which IS a an upgrade, but dirt cheap). It doesn't get in the way of gameplay and provides value comparable to the price: a Fifteen minutes to get from ~zero to max doesn't change results of battles and encounters.

    • by Aphoxema (1088507) *

      New games need to get rid of auto health regeneration or at least make it a power up / upgrade that uses power.

      I don't that deus ex 3 will have it deus ex 1 had a good system it was a upgrade that used up power. IF you don't want people to back track a lot add more med kits / have no limit on how many you can carry at one time.

      Nonsense, auto-regen and more health kits are both desperate hacks to the real problem: Bullets need to stop hurting so much!

      Honestly I'd like to see more games that, you know, actually make bullets lethal and humans much more human. I'd have fun with that.

  • I never get pissed at games, I just can't understand when anyone throws a fit over getting shot or something. I either step away and come back later or push until I succeed.

    What's depressing about how I treat gaming, however, is that it's nothing like how I treat life.

  • Or did he just read some reviews about how difficult it was?

    The game isn't difficult as so much as it is sadistic. No pausing at all, not even when checking inventory. On screen elements that totally block 80% of your screen during battle—effectively making you a sitting duck until it goes away. Remember, no pausing during all this. WTF?! No real story or purpose, so only the masochists will continue to play through if only to prove to themselves that they can beat it. The lack of plot elements mean y

  • And yet even within a single difficulty setting some games can have inconsistent difficulty.

    I recently finished JK2: Jedi Outcast for the first time - used Jedi Knight difficulty. The early levels were just frustrating, considering the weapons sucked for the most part. The one where you have to protect escaping prisoners was especially annoying, I lost count how many retries I needed there. Fun improved drastically once you got the lightsaber and some force powers (force speed especially), and much more

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