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Should Computer Games Adapt To the Way You Play? 404

jtogel writes "Many games use 'rubberbanding' to adapt to your skill level, making the game harder if you're a better player and easier if you're not. Just think of Mario Kart and the obvious ways it punishes you for driving too well by giving the people who are hopelessly behind you super-weapons to smack you with. It's also very common to just increase the skill of the NPCs as you get better — see Oblivion. In my research group, we are working on slightly more sophisticated ways to adapt the game to you, including generating new level elements (PDF) based on your playing style (PDF). Now, the question becomes: is this a good thing at all? Some people would claim that adapting the game to you just rewards mediocrity (i.e. you don't get rewarded for playing well). Others would say that it restricts the freedom of expression for the game designer. But still, game players have very different skill levels and skill sets when they come to a game, and we would like to cater to them all. And if you don't see playing skill as one-dimensional, maybe it's possible to do meaningful adaptation. What sort of game adaptation would you like to see?"
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Should Computer Games Adapt To the Way You Play?

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  • Configurable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @10:35AM (#29731683)

    I'd like to see it configurable. Check box that allows adaptation, with sub-items that define what type of adaptation will occur.

  • Rubber-banding (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @10:36AM (#29731695)
    Rubber-banding is no different than a golf handicap, tennis ladder, or beginner/expert/pro leagues in most sports. It's simply not fun to play too far out of your skill range. The talk about "rewarding mediocrity" is misplaced in an activity that exists only for fun - it should be rewarding for everybody, otherwise players would (and should) quit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @10:40AM (#29731753)

    Maybe the system works in the long run, but in my experiences over one season of a franchise, the difficulty adjustment is a little too jumpy. If my I.Q. is low, I can absolutely slaughter the opponent, causing it to go artificially high. If it is high, I can't successfully do anything, and I get steamrolled. End result? With one exception near the season's end (as things finally balanced out), I lost every even-numbered game.

    Adaptation is great, but unless you're playing to win (in a Deep Blue style competition), don't let your game adapt too quickly (in either direction). Or better yet, let the user have some control over the adaptation rate.

  • by Tei ( 520358 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @10:41AM (#29731765) Journal

    Most games already have a option to choose how hard or easy you want your game. This works better than autoleveling, because If I set the game to be hard, and I die too much, maybe thats exactly what I want, and If set game too easy and I kill everything, maybe thats what I want.

    Good games, like World of Goo, have options to skip night imposible levels (since is a puzzle game, you could be stoped totally to experience the whole level). This is like these ols space games with "megabombs" that clear the screen. But that "megabomb" is limited.
    Challenge is good wen you want challenge, havin games that kill challenge would be fatal. And this one of the reasons Oblivium was a bad game, and Morrowind was a much better game.

    Also, dificulty is not that all important. Fun is important. Games sould be fun. The dificulty is not the reason. But since we are talking here about dificulty, I have talked about it, and what it means.

  • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @10:42AM (#29731783)

    for a game to achieve a given level of revenue at a given price then you can compute the number of items you need to sell. if you make it too hard, your demographic won't support it. if you make it too easy then you bore the hard core and also may lose the demographic size you need.

    the question is does medium hard work?

    if not then you need to have variable difficulty to capture the area under the demand curve.

    Also if lets freinds and guests compete on the turf of an expert. the expert may enjoy having more freinds than the person at his level.

    Configurable is nice but i'd probably not be an expert enough to know what i needed until I had played it for a while and gotten frustrated.

  • by JSBiff ( 87824 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @10:43AM (#29731797) Journal

    One problem, potentially, if you 'adapt to players skill level' *too* well, is that as they get better (or as their character gets more powerful in an RPG type system), they might feel like they never get to enjoy the increase in either their skill, or power. It can feel like treading water, if as you get better, the game gets so much harder that you never get any feeling of accomplishment, no sense that you are any better or stronger than you started out, even though you *know* you've gotten better, or have more powerful abilities.

    However, at some point, you do want more challenge. The trick will be, adapting to the players, while still giving them some opportunity to experience their increase in skill or strength.

    This could be applied to almost any game genre, btw. I mean, consider an FPS. If you've gotten better at managing your economy, strategizing attack tactics, etc, but the computer remains in lockstep with your real skill increase as a player, then it can be very frustrating. At some point, you want the satisfaction of just slaughtering the AI player that used to beat you on the same 'skill level', because your skill has actually increased.

  • by Pvt_Ryan ( 1102363 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @10:45AM (#29731829)
    Basically WoW has it right. Oblivion was annoying as as soon as i level those "bandits" suddenly had very very good gear. I don't like that it's no fun, sometimes it is nice to walk to an area you have been before with your gear and butcher the low level stuff for fun.
    Bestheda also fucked up Fallout 3 with this, you can pretty much complete the game in under 3hours (iirc) with hardly any leveling as the monsters are pretty much all scaled to the player.

    I do like rubber-banding as long as it is managed (eg a lvl 4 monster, depending on my skill, can have the stats of say a lvl 5 monster but never any higher) this allows for a small degree of rubber-banding so good players will have a harder time but can still return to low level places.
  • Re:Rubber-banding (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Devout_IPUite ( 1284636 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @10:49AM (#29731889)

    Ruberbanding in some games is fucking annoying. Need For Speed? Yuck. You crash into a wall and then they slow down so you blam past them. Now they come zooming up and leave you in the dust. It doesn't make the game more fun, it just 1) teaches you how to race the wrong way 2) makes winning levels an aggravating game of chance.

    Take a game without ruberband racing like Gran Turisimo, there you learn how to race just fine (if you're in a comparable car). If you make a mistake you start the level again because you just lost, and the progression ends up being much more fun.

    And Mario Kart is not ruberband, that's just part of their 'draft' mechanics (a mechanic that helps a player in the back go faster relative to a player in the front).

  • Re:Configurable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DJProtoss ( 589443 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @10:50AM (#29731899)

    but in my experience it just makes the game fun.

    Apart from that ruddy blue shell. A couple of games with friends and that was enough to put me off playing it again. I mean, fine give better weapons / bonuses to the players at the back, but regularly simply bomb the guy in the lead with no recourse whatsoever? Meh.

  • by electrosoccertux ( 874415 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @10:54AM (#29731965)

    The enemies did not "Increase in skill", as if they matured and became better fighters, they simply leveled up as you did.
    That's not adaptive AI :/

    There are 2 things that need work in games-- AI and facial animations. It's been 10 years since UT99 and in UT3 the computer basically rolls a dice that determines if it's going to kill you. If it's going to kill you, it usually kills you on the first shot. Which never happens in real life. Something as simple as this, which would be so easy to get around, makes the game feel so cheap. Yes, I play with people online, but when there's only 3 and we need a 4th for iCTF, having a bot ruins the fun.
    Facial animations-- see Half Life 2 [], in my opinion. Even though the character animations themselves are a little stiff, the lipsyncing is top notch, and the Gman can display emotions such as confusion, malice, irritation, etc. Combined these all work together for a great suspension of disbelief.

  • Re:Configurable (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lord Byron Eee PC ( 1579911 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @10:56AM (#29732005)

    Recourse is in the eye of the beholder.

    If player #2 and I are neck and neck for 1st place, I keep back a bit knowing full well that he will get blue shelled eventually.

    If I'm in 1st, but have some people only a second or two behind me, I'll hit the brakes when I hear the blue shell warning sound, knowing that they'll get caught up in the explosion.

    I think Mario Kart gets a bad reputation because people want it to be a pure racing game, when its really a racing-based brawler.

  • Re:Rubber-banding (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @10:58AM (#29732043)

    Traditional rubber-banding isn't really like that. The problem is that it only takes in to account what you've just recently done. It'd be more like adjusting your handicap every couple holes, based on your score on those last few holes (though not again at the very end after the last hole). What ends up happening is that poor/good performance at the beginning is mostly wiped away so that a tiny mistake at the end can cost you the race/game/etc no matter how well you've done the rest of the time.

  • Re:Configurable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fyrewulff ( 702920 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @11:03AM (#29732115)
    I think you pretty much hit it right on the nose. Mario Kart has never really been about the racing, it's always been unfair and more of a survival of trying to place on the top half to move on to the next track.
  • New add-on device (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @11:04AM (#29732137) Journal
    Heh, how about game difficulty set via Breathalyzer!
  • RPGs (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @11:05AM (#29732149)

    I've always liked the way RPGs and the like handled this, where as you progress in the game, the enemies become increasingly difficult - however going back to an earlier point in the game awards you a clear advantage over anything you may encounter. MMOs work on this principle as well with the concept of "zones." This has always worked best for me.

  • Re:Configurable (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bl8n8r ( 649187 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @11:08AM (#29732185)

    I vote for that one too. The "adjust skill" option is nice when you are doing multiplayer, like Unreal Tournament, so the bots just aren't easy frags. Quake3 Arena lets you add bots (on the fly) at different skill levels so newbie players have something to kill (co-op), but there are still some targets running around that you can't just run down with a shotgun.

    Some games simply suck-ass when the game adjusts to your level: Guild Wars: beating a map, gaining several levels, and then getting a quest later that takes you through the same map. All the monsters are now the equivalent of chuck norris and it takes you two more days to get through the same stupid map.

    Best thing I can suggest is make your game mod'able and offer an editor for download. You gain enthusiasm/publicity that can carry the interest in between releases, and there is a lot of creativity and fun being built in your user base.

  • Re:Configurable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by v1 ( 525388 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @11:10AM (#29732213) Homepage Journal

    I'd like to see it configurable


    Specifically for games that have multiplayer and solo. Solo gaming usually has this where you can set your difficulty level. This allows you to play through it once or twice until it becomes easy, and THEN crank it up a notch. This allows you to play the entire game through at a set pace, so that even the "final boss" is easy until you turn it up. Games that auto-adjust NEVER have an easy boss because by the time you get there the game has already adjusted itself to your skill level.

    For multiplayer, all I've seen in the past are ways to set the overall arena difficulty, not to set the players separately. It's no fun as a new player playing against a seasoned vetran - no matter where you set the difficulty it's not a fun game for either player. Either they just smack you around the entire game, or it becomes a matter of who happens (sometimes by chance alone) to get the drop because everything is instakill. No fun for anyone.

    There needs to be a separate setting for each player, or even a single slider that shifts between the two players, for a "balance of power". So it could start at 50/50, and if player 1 is just more experienced, maybe set it to 40/60 or 30/70 etc.

    I think part of the frustration in games that auto adjust is that sometimes the game plays in unexpected or infuriating ways. If the game decides that you need to be nerfed, suddenly that combo that always was just enough now doesn't work quite as well anymore. Seen plenty of people scream at a game because a move they did that had always worked for them in the past, didn't work or didn't work as well. Makes you feel robbed. Now if you deliberately have set the level up, it's understandable, you did it to yourself.

  • by thisnamestoolong ( 1584383 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @11:12AM (#29732237)
    Yeah, I got completely bored with Oblivion because of the same thing. I think that they should have made the world completely open, but have various areas that you simply will not survive in and enemies you simply cannot defeat until you get to a high enough level -- this would give you a real feeling of accomplishment, and let you stomp all over lower level enemies as well as giving you places to go if you want to be challenged -- which leaves it entirely up to you.
  • Re:Configurable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gorath99 ( 746654 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @11:14AM (#29732249)

    I prefer just simple "Easy", "Normal", "Hard", "Very Hard" settings. Ideally with "Normal" being a little easy, so I get to feel good about myself when I choose "Hard" :-). (Only half joking here. The psychology really does matter.)

    The problem with letting the computer decide what the challenge level is, is that it doesn't have a clue about my preferences. It only knows how well I'm doing, not whether or not I enjoy being challenged. This is not enough information to determine if I'm having fun or not. Doubly so if the system is flawed. For instance, Oblivion takes only your level into account, not your skill, or even your character's skills. This means that if you level up by, for instance, trading, you are constantly hounded by all kinds of nasty critters that you have no hope of defeating with your puny combat stats. Obviously, that's no fun at all.

    Also, in some games it's really inappropriate to change the world for no apparent reason, other than that the player is doing well or poorly. Morrowind (sans expansions) was a remarkable consistent world, and that helped to make it incredibly engrossing. In Oblivion, where you were effectively never getting ahead, and where eventually even the highway robbers were equiped with a king's random in magic items in order to challenge you, I never felt close to having the same level of immersion.

  • Re:Configurable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PitaBred ( 632671 ) <> on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @11:16AM (#29732267) Homepage
    Along with the selectable difficulty, I'd want to see an "Adapt Difficulty" checkbox. That way if you select too high (or too low) of a difficulty initially, you don't have to replay large parts of the game. That's the worst part about difficulty selection... if you choose wrong, you have to re-do a bunch of the game, which is usually only interesting to a small portion of gamers.
  • Re:Configurable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by purpledinoz ( 573045 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @11:18AM (#29732293)
    Personally, I would like to see computer AI to adapt. Otherwise, you find one flaw with the AI, and you can exploit it all you want. That's why I stopped playing single player games. Either the computer AI was too good, too easy, or too predictable. I still love playing Counter-Strike because playing against other human players is just more rewarding and challenging. If I find a hiding spot where I get 10 kills, the next round that same spot won't work. The fun is adapting to the other players, and the challenge of defeating the other players who are also adapting. Also, the teamwork aspect is something that you just can't have with computer AI. I can't foresee any computer AI responding to voice chat, like "Can anyone buy me a weapon? Please?".
  • Mario Kart and F-Zero most certainly are racing games. They're just not racing simulations.
  • Re:Rubber-banding (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chabil Ha' ( 875116 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @11:24AM (#29732377)

    On top of that, what's wrong with teaching a player new skills? I appreciate the Valve approach in games like Half Life 2. They first *teach* you how to use a tool, game mechanic, etc, then leave it up to you to combine your existing skills with the newly taught ones in order to bring about a successful result. It is very satisfying (to this gamer) to overcome a challenge when given the right skills/tools. The game would have been very bland if they had merely expected me to play in the same manner I had before, dynamically adjusting difficulty to just let me pass.

  • Nope, not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @11:27AM (#29732405) Journal

    Except that's yet another case of talking out the arse without knowing what the real problem is.

    The problem is: in many of those games with rubberbanding, there is already another mechanic for those tiers you describe. And the rubberbanding is nullifying the other mechanic. _That_ is what some of us complain about.

    E.g., in the Gran Turismo series (and many similar games), the focus isn't on just jumping into a random race and having your 15 minutes of fun. You have to earn the car and the upgrades to qualify for the next league, and then even more upgrades to win in it. There is already a mechanic to simulate those leagues, and to justify why you should spend several days grinding your way through them. (Read: why you should play each of the few race tracks more than once.) Throwing in rubberbanding is nullifying all that, and turning it right back into a kiddie kart game. Suddenly it's hard not to notice that the whole tuning and upgrading aspect is bogus, since the opponents really are just tied to your car with rubberbands. What's the point in grinding to upgrade your engine HP by 50% when, effectively, every single opponent just got the same upgrade?

    E.g., in Oblivion and generally an RPG, there's already a mechanic for simulating those leagues and tiers. It's called xp and levels. (Or skills, if it's skill-based a la Oblivion.) If your skill is too low to beat this opponent, you're supposed to go raise it somewhere else, and if it's too low, well, then just go fight something higher level instead. Do you understand that crucial aspect? There is no need to simulate those leagues and tiers in a game which already has another mechanic for just that. And adding some form of rubber-banding just makes the other mechanic a pointless waste of time. Why bother grinding your character to level 50, when effectively it gave you no advantage at all?

    And it doesn't help that all too often it's done _badly_ too. E.g., since we're talking about Oblivion, the end opponent is actually a lot easier to beat if you somehow manage to get there as a level 3 character, than if you did all the quests and have a level 30 character. Effectively, you're better off if you skip 90% of the game and just do the absolute minimum that gets you through the short main quest arc. It's not that all that grinding and exploring and getting equipment doesn't give any advantage, it's that it actually becomes a disadvantage.

  • Re:Configurable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @11:49AM (#29732693)

    Simple method of winning in any version of Mario Kart after they introduced the damn blue flying shell:

    - Stay in the high middle (2nd/3rd place) almost all through the race.
    - In your last lap, hoard up a good item (triple mushroom boost, invincible star boost, triple red shells).
    - In the last 1/3 lap, boost/crash/shoot the hell out of the one or two players ahead.

    The lesson to be kids: ride someone's coattails, use them as cover, then kill them when they're not useful anymore.

  • by rotide ( 1015173 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @11:56AM (#29732807)

    You're missing the point of an MMO. If you walked into a dungeon knowing you're going to get an upgrade (if you haven't farmed it all already), you're going to quickly realize that you'll get everything you need in X runs. At that point you're going to get bored and leave the game.

    The developers _purposely_ make it all random in the hope that you'll keep coming back for more, month after month. If they give you what you want too quickly, you'll get bored and leave.

    The same thing goes for difficulty. If they just tuned it so everyone would win, why would you ever do the lower level stuff more than once? You'd just go for the uber difficult stuff knowing that's where the best items drop. So what if you fail? It'll auto-tune to be easier next time and then you'll have every item you want.

    And again, you'll get bored and stop playing/paying.

    Like it or not, the grind is what people _want_ as it gives them a sense of accomplishment. It's what the developers want as well since, at least on average, more people will play longer as they keep _hoping_ to be successful and _hoping_ their items drop. It's just the way it works.

  • Re:Rubber-banding (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @12:00PM (#29732841)


    A golf handicap works to change the game. At the top levels (about 5 or below) it's primarily about skill. Competition between low-handicappers is amazing to watch.

    Between other players, the handicap isn't about "leveling" the playing field, it's about rewarding improvement. The same is true in bowling, which uses a similarly designed handicap system. Your overall team wins not by merely playing the same game at the same level every time, but by getting better consistently. It's not even close to a "rubberband."

    Tennis ladders and beginner/expert/pro leagues are the alternative, they deliberately try to stratify the game so that players of approximately-even skill can play together. Also true of this point is chess point rankings, which again reward improvement - you can't gain points by going around just defeating people way below you, you have to play people who are either near your level, or above your level. You have to challenge yourself and improve your skills.

    Rubber-banding is about "snapping back" the leader. Handicaps, organized-skill-tier leagues, and numeric skill rankings are about determining who the best opponent is to teach you something to improve your skills, while not overwhelming you so much that you feel the game is hopeless.

    Rubberbanding is horrible because it either teaches bad sportsmanship to those in the lead, or it makes people give up the game in disgust [], and it does nothing to improve the skills of those receiving the dubious "benefit" of the rubberband mechanic.

  • Re:Configurable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mikael_j ( 106439 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @12:03PM (#29732887)

    Seconded on "normal" being best when it's a little easy, I always get annoyed at games that are too easy on "very easy", still too easy on "easy" and way too hard on "normal" (especially when they pull tricks like making specific parts harder, like having the enemy in an RTS suddenly get reinforcements right next to your base on "normal" but not on "easy".

    There's also the issue of "normal" being playable but still too hard (as in, having to replay every level a whole bunch of times before beating the game after way too much time). The difficulty levels I'm most happy with are (I mostly play RTS and "god" (Civ-like) games):

    • Very easy - Almost sandbox, computer is inept and makes stupid mistakes.
    • Easy - Playable by just about anyone although a few people may find it a bit hard
    • Normal - Anyone with some experience of the genre should be able to play through the game without too much trouble, may have to replay a few levels once or twice.
    • Hard - This should be pretty hard, as in, most people who beat the game on Normal should have some difficulty but it shouldn't be impossible.
    • Very hard - Like playing against one of those guys who sit around playing Starcraft every day, really tough even for those who beat Normal easily and Hard without too much trouble.

    That said, when it comes to RTS games I always get infuriated when I see the computer clearly giving orders to several groups of units at the same time, while also placing buildings in its base, the computer should be forced to act as a human "commander", one command at a time with each command taking a certain amount of time (with the time being shorter for higher difficulty levels).


  • Re:Configurable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsm_sf ( 545316 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @12:15PM (#29733031) Journal
    It seems to me that a lot of the older first persons really took advantage of a 3d environment, and that modern games go in for a more earth bound or "realistic" approach. Quake, UT and Tribes were all about rocket jumping, grappling hooks, and skiing. CoD has a 'crawl' button.

    DEVELOPERS: Which of these modes of travel sounds like more fun?
  • by Pvt_Ryan ( 1102363 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @12:20PM (#29733073)

    I am fully aware of the side missions etc. I was just pointing out the flaws.

    My point about Oblivion wasn't that it was hard it was that imo the enemy leveling with your char is stupid and not much fun. Bandits kitted out with adamantium gear, come on if they have that sort of gear why do they need to be bandits. Imo Bandits should have shit gear and have patchy equipment, conversly Noble's body guards should have good solid gear, while the top end gear is reserved for champions and nobles that can afford it.

    With regards to FO3, I was pointing out that as a (for the sake of argument) lvl 5 char you could go and complete the game as well as kill pretty much everything including supermutants. Compare this to FO1/2 if you were lvl 5 and came across a supermutant you had to run or you would die. Imo this made more sense and was more fun

  • Re:Configurable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrdoogee ( 1179081 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @12:34PM (#29733265)

    Both CS and CoD seem to descend into sniper contests. It may be more realistic, but I've always preferred the "run & gun" method that UT, Quake ect have. The only FPS I really play anymore is TF2 mostly because that with a few notable exceptions (2fort!) there is no way for a sniper style player to own everybody on the opposite team. Sure snipers get kills, but it's not like in the more realistic FPSs where no matter what I do, I'll get headshotted within a minute of leaving the spawn.

    Yes, I'm 30 and my reaction times have increased somewhat, and I'm sure that's a determining factor.

    tl;dr: I'm old and slow, and snipers piss me off.

  • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @12:35PM (#29733271) Journal

    The underlying issue with fantasy games is that they continue the legacy of D20 based systems.

    You get an *exponential* progression of "skills" with level so there is a narrow window of enemies with close enough levels to yourself to be challenging but possible. Everything past a couple levels lower will be so easy that you won't care to bother, and everything above a couple levels higher will be able to easily beat YOU, no matter how clever you are. (you probably even have a "cleverness" stat that goes into the dice roll, rather than demonstrate actual ingenuity, too....)

    The rate constant can, of course, be adjusted to make the window wider or not, but it still makes most of your progress vain.

    Perhaps, an interesting game would do away with levels and enact some kind of "conservation of skills" such that you never really improve overall, instead becoming more specialized. A sword that increases power maybe is heavy and cause you to need rest more often. A really sharp dagger maybe decays quickly so you have to do frequent, costly maintenance. That super stamina potion you took works great for a limited time period, is costly, interacts poorly with certain other potions, and if you take too many of them your character dies or becomes addicted. You get a bonus in casting time to your top moves based on relative frequency, but *every* move is on the list, so your run speed or punching ability suffers if you spend lots of time on healing spells.

    As long as there is a cost to everything that balances out the benefits, you ought to be able to improve through adapting your skills and gear to your tactics and vice versa, while still having some openings for challenges from enemies of all levels.

    I don't know. It just seems that certain genres are kind of stagnating at the moment and need to drop some basic assumptions to move forward. You're not going to beat WoW by making a WoW clone.

  • Re:Configurable (Score:2, Insightful)

    by elfprince13 ( 1521333 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @12:44PM (#29733409) Homepage
    Only configurable? Did no one else immediately thing of the Fantasy Game and how it responded to Ender's needs?
  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <{tepples} {at} {}> on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @12:50PM (#29733469) Homepage Journal

    I'd specify that "rewarding mediocrity" is a misleading term in a single-player game.

    Single-player games are not as single-player as you might think, with online high score boards and achievements and the like.

  • Re:Rubber-banding (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CorporateSuit ( 1319461 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @01:03PM (#29733655)
    Watching the computer make 23 3-point shots in a row in one game, and then watching star runningbacks fumble every carry and star quarterbacks throw an interception every throw in another, just because you're 20 points ahead, makes a game aggravating, not fun. It doesn't increase the sense of accomplishment when you squeak by mediocre competition. Your sense of accomplishment comes from demolishing mediocre competition, and then toughing it against the tough.

    Players who seek difficult gameplay want it to be difficult, not cheap. If they do nothing wrong, then they shouldn't be punished. They should be rewarded. Otherwise, they'll end up running outside with a kitchen knife and stabbing people.
  • I'd say (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OpenSourced ( 323149 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @01:54PM (#29734391) Journal

    There is a big difference between man-vs-machine and multiplayer games. In multiplayer games, there is certainly the need of a certain handicap to make the game fun to everybody. In man-vs-machine, I'd say that yes, the game can get more difficult, but also that the rewards must increase. So if the enemies get stronger, you have to at least have the option (if you are skilled enough) of getting better weapons or whatever. Also if the measure of the game is the score, for example, then the score should reflect that you have walked a more difficult route.

  • Re:Configurable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by scot4875 ( 542869 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @02:32PM (#29734913) Homepage

    Agreed. When I play solitaire, I just deal myself into a winning position because it's stupid that I paid for the aces, but they're always buried behind cards that I can't get rid of.

    Oh wait, no, that's dumb, because it defeats the purpose of the game entirely.

    Also, if you look at a game purchase as buying "content," you're doing it wrong. If you want content, watch a movie or read a book if what you really want is just passive entertainment. Don't lobby for the video game industry to remove what little challenge is left in my hobby so that you can see all of the asinine, predictable cinematic sequences. If you just want to press a button to move on to the next part, try watching your DVDs chapter by chapter and call it a "game" instead.


  • by IorDMUX ( 870522 ) <mark.zimmerman3@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @02:53PM (#29735131) Homepage

    Oblivion was annoying as as soon as i level those "bandits" suddenly had very very good gear. I don't like that it's no fun, sometimes it is nice to walk to an area you have been before with your gear and butcher the low level stuff for fun.

    And that is why, months after the game was released, some very sophisticated mods began to be released which fixed this "feature". Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul is one of my favorites, and has undergone a massive amount of development work in the past few years. It makes Oblivion feel like a new game each time I return to it, update the mods, and play again.

    To explain, the 'vanilla' Oblivion has an unusual feature where the enemies you face are generated either a few levels up or down from the PC's level, with corresponding gear. Therefore, a level 20 PC (that's fairly high--think more towards D&D, not WoW) can walk out of city gates and find a pair of bandits outfitted in gleaming Ebony armor, Glass helmets, and Daedric weapons which alone cost as much as a small house in-game. One of these, if allowed into the city, could probably take out the entire town guard .... except that they level with you, as well. What the many mods do is, in addition to re-writing the leveled lists entirely, fix the skill and equipment windows of enemies into a small range. Therefore, some enemies are generated at level 8 when you are a level 1, and so you had best stay out of their way. However, when you are level 20, they may only be level 12, meaning that you can rampage through without a second thought.

    I love the game Oblivion. I am under no illusions that Bethesda is fully responsible for that, however. Bethesda designs some very interesting-yet-incomplete worlds and an engine that, though infamously unstable, is tremendously open to modding and design. It's comparable to the Lord of the Rings, in a way... Tolkien's writing style is very dry, and the text is anything but gripping, however the world he imagined has proven to be an incredible resource for plenty of other "modders", from Gary Gygax to Peter Jackson to the individual readers.

  • by evilWurst ( 96042 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:24PM (#29735551) Journal

    "Some people would claim that adapting the game to you just rewards mediocrity (i.e. you don't get rewarded for playing well). Others would say that it restricts the freedom of expression for the game designer."

    What, their freedom to guess wrong and alienate a large chunk of their playerbase? Player skill is going to be on a bell curve, and the best you can do without some dynamic adjustment is to hope to hell you've nailed the difficulty perfectly at the top of the curve; that way you're the least wrong for the fewest number of players... but even then, you're still going to be unplayably wrong for 10% and irritating to another 20%. And this will only reward skill for that narrow slice of players for which the game was initially slightly too hard (and then becomes pefect as the player improves).

    The flaw in rubberbanding is only that it still can't read your mind. The developer's idea of "normal" may actually still be too easy or too hard, and then the game guarantees that it stays too easy or too hard throughout, no matter what you the player do. Really what we need is a hybrid between the old "easy/normal/hard" choice and dynamic adjustment. That puts enough wiggle room back in that the developer can be wrong yet the player can still fix it and have fun. And the holy grail here is to have it require minimal interaction - if you implement this right, it's correct by default for the largest reasonably attainable number of players, and for the rest it's correctable through the simple and well-understood easy/normal/hard mode choice.

  • by Draek ( 916851 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @05:15PM (#29737319)

    Let me explain: what I want is a game where not only the world doesn't adapt to how I play but, also, that it's not even designed to how the developers *think* I'm gonna play. Things like Final Fantasy VII, for instance, where even the strongest bosses in the first few areas would be killed in a single hit from the random encounters you get at the final dungeon. I want a game where I feel I was just thrown in a different world, that I'm merely a participant in something bigger, rather than The One True Hero around whom the whole world is built.

    STALKER did this, to a degree, where in the beginning with your trusty pistol and simple jacket you're forced to run from mere bandits, while in the end-game you can hunt military soldiers for fun and profit with your customized AK-74 and bulletproof suit. It did have an "NPC difficulty curve" (mostly due to quests leading you to more dangerous areas as the game progressed), but it was flatter than most and that worked to the game's favor, IMHO.

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie