Game People Calling: Now You’re Just Being Difficult

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Games never get harder, the game play doesn't change, the complexity of the game only gets harder. If your a rookie, then your going to play like a rookie and get challenged by pros. If your a pro, then against a rookie it not a real challenging game.

It is like the difference between little league and professional baseball. The rules are still the same, but the game is played differently because it is at two different levels.

Game People:
"Even on the Wii, beloved of the newcomer, many games ramp up pretty fast. Showing off Super Mario Galaxy 2 to the family last weekend, they were all enraptured by the way it looked and played. The younger ones among us were soon at the controls and doing well. But fast forward even 15 minutes and they were really struggling with some pretty tricky jumps and enemies."

Yeah, i don't really understand that.

While it may be true that a game with a "kiddy like look" like Mario isn't necessarily only for Kids, but why does a game like that has to have punishing difficulty for kids for wich the game seems appropriate.

---

I experienced a sort-of-related example when i bought Trauma Center: New Blood for the Wii. As my mother (the one true real no-exceptions non gamer in our family) enjoyed Wii Sports a lot and since she used to be a nurse i figured she might enjoy playing the game in CoOp Mode with me.

As a completely non Gamer, she had enough trouble figuring out how the controls work at first and essentially needed a lot of general "how video games work" guidance, she eventually got the hang out of it and, indeed, enjoyed the game a lot.

But since it's Trauma Center, wich is known to be punishingly hard, we eventually reached a point where her newfound skills were not enough, even on "Easy" difficulty, and soon after, a point where even i was struggling with the game.
I wouldn't mind a bit of mindless "grinding", but my mother was frustrated almost immediately, and didn't really understood why the game clusterf*cks you with problems and why, even if she did everything right, it would not be enough thanks to an even more punishing time limit (wich really makes not logic sense, reducing my explainations to "games work this way").

You could of course argue with the reputation of Trauma Center in general to be kinda hard, but then again other than it's reputation among GAMERS there is no real reason why the game shouldn't appeal to non gamers, thanks to being non violent, unique, and having that sort of pseudo-wish-fulfilling "be a doctor" premise.

I am all for games offering challenge as you progress through it because, in my opinion, it makes a lot of what games are about.
But if a game has an obvious appeal to Casual- or Non-Gamers, or younger kids, would it hurt the developers so much to add a "very very easy" mode, in order to appeal to EVERYONE who might like the game without turning away "real" gamers who can take a challenge?

Truly-A-Lie:
I always thought it was a representation of how stories tend to work. Protagonist sets off, does his thing but things get worse before they get better. To quote a certain Gotham DA, "The night is darkest just before the dawn", the hero's quest is increasingly difficult before the "dawn" of the defeated villain at the end of the story. Games have the means to show this literally, by putting the player in the shoes of the protagonist and showing that it is actually harder to save the world/princess/whatever than it seemed at the start.

This, right here. Difficulty curves aren't some arbitrary, abstract decision by developers to please people who want to call themselves "hardcore" (well, usually they're not or that happens with special difficulty modes). Difficulty is about storytelling. I remember a review of the latest Indiana Jones movie that criticized the film because the characters never seemed to be in real jeopardy. I think the difficulty of a game, at its most perfect, needs to be just a little harder than the player is ready for because we need to feel like we're in jeopardy for the game to stay compelling. Obviously it's impossible to match every player's skill perfectly, but that's why we have the different levels. But as has been said before, the only time difficulty is really a problem is when it spikes or drops too drastically. as long as developers are careful and keep each curve manageable (beginner, easy, medium) or at least feasible for the harder (hard, brutal, insane) we're fine. Games should always have a difficulty curve, with few exceptions like solitaire or maybe some other specifically casual fare (although to be fair, even solitaire has changing difficulty depending on the random placement of cards; some rounds are harder, others are easier).

If you try to change the entire paradigm for the sake of new gamers, you're missing the point. I mean, we all became gamers in the midst of some brutal Mario levels, among many other difficult games. Hell, some of those earlier Mega Man levels were relentless... Why should we underestimate today's young gamers?

I can see your point, and your idea of a slider for the rate at which difficulty grows sounds good. The closest thing to that that I can think of is how in RE4 as you die the game lowers the difficulty, so if the difficulty rises too much the game drops it back down if you fail. Then again, it's not a perfect exit because it only happens when you've already died and it only works so far (IIRC RE4 would only get easier five times, so if you were still getting your ass kicked/head decapitated then you'd be out of luck).

However, the argument you proposed doesn't hold up. Monopoly doesn't get harder? Of course it does, when every other space is owned by some other player and you have to pay rents through your nose to get past. (Some friends of mine who are actually good at it say the best thing that can happen to you in the late game for monopoly is going to jail.) Risk gets more difficult as one player may or may not be almost completing his objective. And sports don't get more difficult on their own, but ordinarialy the teams you'll play against in the playoffs are going to be easier to defeat than the teams you play against on the semifinals. So maybe your complaint is that such a rise in difficulty is not intrinsically related to the nature of the game?

GloatingSwine:
The assumption of the difficulty curve is that as the player continues to interact with the game, their familiarity with it increases, and so their ability to judge and execute the correct response to the situations the game presents develops and deepens.

The ideal difficulty curve is one that is unnoticed by the player because their understanding and skill with the game develops at the same rate as the complexity and difficulty of the game develops.

To the person I've quoted: I rarely agree with anyone on this website as much as I am agreeing with you right now. There is nothing about that post that isn't spot on :P.

To the OP: Jesus...Assassin's Creed 1 felt like a job, a punishment for investing in a product, I found myself wondering if there was necessity in playing the game further as it appeared to be a time loop stuck regurgitating the same thing over and over.

Don't get me wrong, many games do that, but AC1 made it so painfully apparent and abused me so heartily with it that I felt like the company was actively out to ruin my afternoon.

Game People:
Card games, board games and sports don't find the need to increase the difficulty as the end draws near.

Wow... this is an incredibly inaccurate statement...

Sports don't get more difficult as the end draws near? So play-offs and championships are just like any other game?

I could also disagree on board games, chess becomes increasingly difficult with the further pieces move and the less pieces you have on the board. Same could be said for checkers. Go is incredibly difficult as the board begins to fill, as is scrabble. Perhaps you meant to say games like Hungry Hungry Hippos and Candyland, which of course don't target a mature audience the way video games do.

Card games would greatly depend on the game being played, and whether or not money is involved, none-the-less the point could still be argued.

Games these days are too easy if anything, most single player games award time spent playing as opposed to actual skill. Let's use Mass Effect as an example. I've played through Mass Effect on every mode, and on insanity three times (twice with fresh characters). Those who have done the same will be able to tell you how incredibly difficult the very first mission is in this instance. However, by the end of the game, things were so easy it's laughable. The same could be said for just about any game with a character building element or upgrades... which is a lot.

And hell, I don't even know how many FPSs I played through, thinking I was smart saving my ammo for the powerful weapons for an impending difficult battle... which never actually came, and I find I beat the game with the starting pistol.

Hopeless Bastard:
The reason games are more difficult now is 3D. In the 2D era, there was one, single camera angle.

3D games are more difficult than 2D games? I'm not sure anyone in their right mind would say this. Ever hear of a little game called Battletoads? or Contra for that matter? Or we could go more modern and say Ikaruga.

I think Valve has proven quite readily with the AI Director used in Left 4 Dead just how intuative difficulty can be, a system similar to this would be appropriate for many games and (I think) solve a lot of the OPs concerns.

Now the one problem I have with the OPs article is the example of Mario Galaxy 2. IF that game did not get any harder it would not be as good as it is. For a platformer like MG2 it's not a simple matter of making the enemies more numberous, or adjusting damage since the enemies play such a small role in what makes it challanging. In order to have a flat difficulty curve the levels would have to never become more complex, or challanging which would ruin the entire experience.

mindlesspuppet:
3D games are more difficult than 2D games? I'm not sure anyone in their right mind would say this. Ever hear of a little game called Battletoads? or Contra for that matter? Or we could go more modern and say Ikaruga.

Context yo, we're talking about non-gamers here. Battletoads may be hard, but thats not because of anything involving the mechanics.

Also, everyone I grew up with could beat contra without cheating.

And let's not forget about people like me - lifelong gamers who are still, nevertheless, rubbish at videogames. It's a curse.

What games need is a difficulty level that makes sense. I can't bring myself to turn the difficulty up to 11 because there's no satisfaction in beating a cheating AI---you're still playing the same dumb computer with the same idiot tactics, you just have to click your mouse faster (or press X to not die in less time, or whatever). It doesn't engage the intellect, and most of the reason I play games in the first place is to pick it apart and figure out how it works, then beat the holy hell out of it and move on to the next game.

Until floating-intelligence AI (perhaps "hard" means the AI uses all known tactics/strategies, while there are certain things it isn't "smart" enough to understand how to do on lower levels) is perfected, there will always be that "either smash it fair or lose because the AI gets 50 units gifted to it every turn/time interval or has unlimited resources or something and ragequit" problem.

Eh, I pretty much disagree.. not that I don't see where you're coming from though.

Thing is, there are tons of games out there that are perfectly suited to casual entry gamers, they just don't play them. I really don't want to have to see most of my games get bland and monotonous/repetitive because the developers feel the need to cater to people who hardly play games. That doesn't make sense.. It's not that they don't play games because they're too hard, they just don't play games, period. Why should anyone cater to an audience that, frankly, just does not give a shit about games.

I don't see the point. For younger gamers out there, there are handfuls of children games, though I can see the point about Mario Galaxy 2 being too hard, fair argument indeed.. it's Mario, come on Nintendo. However.. casual gamers shouldn't just be "catered to", turning great and complex games into nothingness in the assumption that they're even interested in the first place. Meanwhile, gamers like me, are left with a game that doesn't challenge or innovate much of anything.

To be fair however, a lot of genres could use a bit of a simplification by default. It's good to get new blood into gaming.

Hmm. While you make some good points, I honestly can't agree with you here. I WAS going to work out my reasons and explain them, but someone else beat me to it:

Hurr Durr Derp:
The steadily rising difficulty is there for a reason: Once the player defeats one challenge, it doesn't make sense to just repeat that challenge over and over until the game is over. In stead, that challenge increases somehow, either because of changing circumstances or because the challenge itself becomes more complex. This keeps games from getting too repetitive, and keeps the players on their toes.

As others have pointed out above, multiplayer games, boardgames, and sports don't have a difficulty setting, but they certainly do ramp up in difficulty as you get better at them, because your opponents get better as well.

Seriously, does no one play games for the challenge anymore? Over and over I hear people whining about how games are too hard, and how they'd prefer to play the game without any challenge because they only want to hear the story. More and more people seem to be expecting to play a game in the same way they watch a movie. On the other hand, people never stop whining that games get dumbed down too much these days. Take a guess whose fault that is. Stop your whining and go watch a movie if you want a story without any challenge.

I realize that some games increases the difficulty too fast or too irregularly, but that's a fault of those individual games. There's nothing wrong with a game that ramps up the difficulty on a steady pace. To be honest, I'm having a bit of trouble seeing myself enjoy a game that doesn't do that.

Basically he nailed it. Once you've overcome a challenge in a single-player game, you need to provide a new challenge to keep players interested. That's why the hardest song in Guitar Hero was merely "Cowboys From Hell", in Guitar Hero II it was "Jordan" and by the time of Guitar Hero III you had "Through the Fire and the Flames", not to mention the entire final set. Guitar Hero III is actually an example of a game which took it too far, as the last set is, as Yahtzee pointed out, unreasonably difficult, but the point still stands- you have to offer a greater challenge. If you want to start the player off with nothing bigger than a pistol and want them to end the game with a Weapon of Mass Carnage, you damn well need something more formidable for them to fight than the mooks they were using the pistol to kill back at the start of the game.

To me, this article seems more like an argument against BAD difficulty curves. If a game gets punishingly hard for a non-gamer on the easiest difficulty after only a few minutes, then that's a design flaw. The easiest difficulty should be designed with the lowest-skilled players in the target demographic in mind. But, to echo many posters before me, if a game does not adapt AT ALL to the way a player naturally learns, it's going to get laughably easy very fast (unless the game starts off unplayably hard). As soon as the player learns a single strategy, it's a game of following instructions. This makes for boring gaming, even if you're playing for the story (think: if you're not having a good time IN BETWEEN the cutscenes too, is it really a good game?) The trick is just to figure out how fast a player of a certain skill will learn how to play a given game well. Depending on the game, a good difficulty slider may entail adjusting the slope of the difficulty curve (as I believe is proposed in the article), adjusting the... um... y-intercept (as traditional sliders typically do, maybe with a little bit of slope as well), or transforming the curve in a completely different, more mathematically complex way. All this, of course, will eventually be superseded by dynamic difficulty adjustment once developers get that all figured out.

This is how video games work; they go progressively harder so the game maintains a level of challenge. This works for a very simple reason: it gives a feeling of accomplishment. If the difficulty level was static throughout the game, there'd be no real accomplishment; I beat level one, I beat all the levels because they'd all be the same, just with the set pieces in different spots and the enemies had changed clothes. If the game didn't get progressively harder, why would I bother playing past the first twenty minutes?

Also, board games don't count because board games typically don't have much of a difficulty outside of the people you're playing. Your goal isn't to 'win' it's to win before anybody else can. Any difficulty the game may have is far, far out shadowed by two things: 1) Luck, which pretty much throws any concept of strategy or skill out the window, drags it back inside and proceeds to throw it out of every window in the building, ad 2) other people are the main obstacle to over come.

Most games let you go and change or lower the difficulty, but if you use that then you either A) made a hideous mistake in choosing your difficulty at the start or B) should feel slightly ashamed of yourself for taking the cheap way out, like if you ever bought money/coins/gold for one of those farmville type games.

All of the IRL examples are multiplayer whilst the criticism is of difficulty in primarily single player games. The central point of this article seems flawed.

Well, most card games are "multiplayer" in a sense, and TF2 doesn't get harder as you play.

Single Player games exist to tell a narrative, and stories throw new challenges at their characters. And imagine an RPG where the enemies didn't increase in power or numbers...

Games also need to be easy in the beginning so that people can Learn to play.

EG,OM

The underlying problem is that the current generation of adult gamers have never lived in a world without video games. We've come up from Atari to NES and on and on up to the current generation.

There are a plethora of games that come out that assume a body of knowledge that we've gained from now DECADES of playing games in earlier stages of the evolution. But also, people who are our age have kids who are old enough to be REALLY into games.

Yes, they're more familiar with the current tech, since they've grown up around it. But there are some things--assumptions about what to do in some very common (to us) situations, or maybe subtle visual cues that are so cliche to us longtime veterans--that they have not had years and dozens of game experiences to develop.

In addition to being old enough to have kids, we've also gotten old enough to be the ones MAKING the games. And, like many craftsmen, we forget that a lot of our audience is new to our field (or at least newer than we are). We design them for people like US, which may or may not be the people we're selling to.

And when someone makes games that have the complexity WE started with (ie, Mario Bros. or Spyhunter), we think "Wow, what is this simple, casual crap?" Hey, just 'cuz we're grown up and eating steak 24-7 doesn't mean no one should make baby food anymore, right?

Resident evil 5 is actually exactly what he's looking for. The enemies do get harder as the game gets towards the end, but there are actually 10 different difficulty settings hidden behind the 4 options available. Difficulty settings 1-5 are available on novice, 4-7 on normal, 7-9 on veteran, and difficulty setting 10 is professional mode. On all the visible settings aside from professional as you defeat enemies or are hurt or killed you get nudged up or down to each setting, so if there's a boss that's giving trouble it actually does get easier each time you get wiped.

MGlBlaze:
Actually, I think these are some good points. Oddly enough my dad has started playing games more, and seeing him flail about on some of the later stages of games is painful to watch. I understand WHY there is a difficulty curve; to test what the player has learned through increasing challenges to keep the player engaged and feel they are improving and making progress. The problem is when newer players come along and the difficulty curve, for them, ramps up way too fast to keep up.

I think the idea outlined in the article could be a good idea... but then the Fan Dumb would be saying it's dumbing down the difficulty of the game even though it's all optional and they can play it on the harder settings if they want. The announcement of 'Easy Mode' in Mega Man 10 springs to mind.

This^. I totally agree with you and the original poster/articlewriter.

The biggest problem I see with this piece is the lumping of everything together, "videogames are..." or "videogames should..." I think that this kind of generalization misses the fact that there are a variety of gamers looking for a variety of experiences. Some games (and some players) might benefit from a flat difficulty line. Myself, I like a steady curve so that the later sections are more rewarding.

From my perspective, too many games are coddling the player.

Agree fullheartedly, without having read any of the preceeeding comments. YES, yes and a million times YES.

It should be an option... but not mandatory. I, for one, like the progressive difficulty, as it makes victory in the end all the sweeter, especially if I die a lot.

I wouldn't have bought most of the games I own if there wasn't a difficulty curve. If casual gamers want an easier time, they can go buy games from Popcap. I have no use for a game that doesn't constantly challenge me and play on mechanics to make the game harder.

1) I think that altering the difficulty curve is one too many sliders. Many players are aready unsure if the game will be too hard for them if they choose "medium" (hello Dragon Age), but when you add another difficulty curve slider to that, you leave players thinking "ok, I have no idea what to choose now", unless it's your grandma so you set everything to lowest.

2) Many games don't just rely on enemies. Like Mario, that you mentioned, where the game design itself gets harder as you progress (platforming, level design etc), it's not as simple as reducing a slider. You'd have to buy a different game.

3) Games have target audiences. There are games for people who have never played games, games for more experienced gamers etc. You can't expect every game to cater to everyone. I'll refer to Dragon Age again, I gave it to a friend of mine, and she returned it to me a few days later, saying "I have no idea how this game works, there is a billion abilities that are not clearly explained, the combat is too complicated, I never know which is the optimal attack, and I don't understand any of the game's number crunching. Also, what's up with those combat tactics? I can't even begin to describe how much they are confusing me, do I need to learn all that stuff?" And she is right. Why I understand Dragon Age and she doesn't? Because I played Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights and Final Fantasy XII (gambits). Is Dragon Age badly designed? I don't think so, it just targets a more experienced audience.

4) People who dislike challenge are in the wrong entertainment medium. Overcoming challenges is what you do in games. If being challenged pisses you off, you shouldn't be gaming. It's like complaining about the way movies are made, because you hate sitting still in a chair for 2 hours. If you don't like that, then don't watch movies, go play soccer instead.

5) Sometimes, forcing a challenge that at first seems overwhelming on players can have wonderful results. I'll be the first to admit that I find it stupid to increase the difficulty in games, I'll usually just go with medium because I am too impatient to stick to hard. When a game forces me to play on hard though (Demon's Souls for example), and I accept that by buying it, then it feels so incredibly satisfying when I beat it and the game really stands out in your memories. I'm not saying that all games should be like that, but certainly more games need to be like that. Does it take guts from the developer's part to cut down their potential playerbase by so much? Definitely, and that's why I admire their decision and choose to support their effort by buying the game. If a game is well-made and not just pointlessly frustrating, with, like, timed sections tuned to the millisecond and such crap, but genuinely, constantly challenging but not glitchy or unfair, then playing by its own terms can offer great satisfaction.

Game People:

Sports games are an interesting example here, although the bar can be quite high to start playing, once you have the basics down they don't ramp the difficulty too quickly. FIFA or PES are both about using the controls to execute imaginative play rather than facing a spiraling difficulty setting.

Bull.

Fucking.

Shit.

PES is one of the worst examples of spiraling difficulty around. It doesn't even have much to do with individual difficulty settings (except in so far as the higher the level is, the less effort the AI makes to disguise the blatant cheating), but more to do with the phenomenon known as 'The Computer Is A Cheating Bastard'.

Example; start a World Cup (or International Cup as they like to call it) and attempt to get through to the final. It isn't too hard, even on the highest difficulty setting, but by the time you reach the semi-finals you will be screaming abuse at the screen. A lot of it. The AI-controlled players will foul you with impunity while the gentlest tackle from your players will earn a red card. The AI players will all become psychics, and will be moving to intercept your passes the moment you press the button. You'll go a goal down, and as you make a comeback your top striker will be fouled, injured, and have to be substituted. Your players will have a perfect opportunity for a through ball to a striker, and will instead punt it directly forwards and off the pitch for a goal kick. And so on, and so on.

The reason behind all this is that the designers can't ramp up the difficulty in any other way. The player/team stats are set - if you start a tournament playing as Brazil, and the computer randomly selects the teams and gives you a group consisting of Japan, Australia and the USA (not that the selection is random. There always seems to be a roughly 50/50 split between top-class international teams and nobodies who go out in the group stages/semis, rather than having an occasional world cup were everyone sucks) then for a skilled player there would be no challenge. Brazil would plow through those three teams on player stats alone.

The only way to make the game more challenging as you progress is by making the computer cheat. I'd much prefer a different method - maybe the group stages would be auto-set to amateur difficulty level, then the semis the next one up, and so on until the final is top-tier difficulty. It'd be more satisfying than the utterly artifical hikes that are used currently.

TL;DR - Fuck you, Konami, you cheating bastards. Fuck you. You've got me hooked on your product, and I know I'll keep buying however many dick moves you pull.

A good example of a difficulty curve is Mario Brothers Wii. Worlds 1 thru 8 (What you need to beat the game) are fairly balanced difficulty wise, and beating them as a veteran was fairly easy. Then World 9 (bonus world after you beat the game) stomps on your balls.

A Bad example is Bayonetta (As much as I love the game). The normal difficulty will eat you alive for the smallest mistake, while playing on very easy or easy is somewhat boring. No middle ground.

A terrible example is MLB 10. The A.I. is set up to be perfectly realistic... so a person like me who last played baseball in high school is trying to hit a Roy Halladay fastball. It's not going to happen... ever.

I like the option to drop the difficulty of a particular level if I keep getting wiped. Stranglehold did this very well. The new Prince of Persia has the same feature, and even throws you an achievement for doing so, which is kind of cute.

I guess, in a way Dirt 2 already has a system similar to what you want by allowing you to set the difficulty of every race before starting it.
I also know that with some of the PC games that I've played recently, you can go into the menu and change the difficulty at any point in the game.

Sorry Game People Calling but I disagree quite heavilly.

Not only do I feel that the increase in difficulty is vital to the life of a game but I feel the examples you mention as games which don't increase in difficulty are unfounded:

Snakes and Ladders does increase in intensity as you progress up the board. On the first few rows there are no snakes, as you progress up the board there are a few appearing and on the final row the combination of snakes to take you down if you are winning and ladders to help those chasing you catch up is such that it makes the game more difficult to win. In short, the closer you are to winning the lower your chances of that happening. Surely, having played this game as a child and a parents, this is what makes the game exciting?

Likewise in Monopoly as the game progresses and properties are bought there is inversely less properties to buy and less chance of success. Indeed even if your opponents are playing at random your goals become more difficult as the games progress. Again, this creates the race element of the game which makes it exciting.

So too with video games, an increase in difficulty adds to the excitement. I personally feel there is nothing like a game which, upon finishing it, makes you feel as if you earned your stripes.

To be converse, think about the MegaMan series where the difficulty level is steadilly high or haphazard due to the structure of the bosses. With no ability to learn the skills required for the game as it becomes more difficult you are left with a very steep learning curve.

The ideal game in my view has a smooth but ever upward learning curve that keeps the game exciting and rewards you for your playing. No doubt there are games which have this poorly executed, but for the most part I love to start out green and finish as a god...

Another crap article on the Escapist but hey that's how they get views.

Taking the bait you claimed that card games don't get harder as you go along well as a yugioh player I can deny that outright. The card game rewards players who put the most thought into deck building and choose the best cards with synergy to make a deck with the most consistant chance of victory. When you know what you're doing you can challenge others and then everyone gets to build decks to try and counter eachother where a single wrong move ends the game by the fourth turn at most.

When you just start out and throw a bunch of cards together you saw in the anime you won't know what you're doing so people who do won't want to play you. This relegates you to players of your skill and if you do get thrown in the deep end they will go easy on you just so you can show off the convoluted strategy you made before destroying it instantly and calling game.

Likewise in the ds card games you start off with a premade deck against tutorial decks who don't even use effect monsters than the game slowly unleashes new decks against you and you find yourself having to use strategy to win rather than pulling lucky cards when you need them.

This is good game design, allowing the player to progress to the point they can handle, if they want to get better they can work on it if they want to give up and play the beginning of a different game again they can. When kids in the 80's and 90's were losing at games they didn't have a support network of bullshit to elevate them to a point where they couldn't handle basic enemies, they had the dedication to learn the enemies tactics and what worked against them then that unstoppable monster could be killed in seconds and they could get onto the next challenge. This series of challenge and success is what gives people that thrill of achievment and the urge to push on. Giving them a level skip code only drops them into the bigger fire because they never reached that point of competency. To complain because of this only presents two options. You make the game piss easy through and through (as so many devs have done in recent years) so every 5yr old can get a false sense of security or you make the game repetitive as fuck to give players no reason to play past the first five minutes, which was Assasin's Creed's problem.

Ultimately the only victim in these shortcut solutions is the child once they feel like going online and trashtalking their selfimportance before being demolished and screaming at everyone for being unfair.

If you honestly want more whiny children online then you can piss off and take the Mario win button with you.

While I find the premise of your article interesting, I'm afraid I disagree with your analogies. Snakes/Chutes & Ladders is a game designed to teach little kids counting and basic game rules. Incidentally, near the end of the journey (on most boards) there is a snake that goes way back down to near the beginning.
And while it is true that sports games do not have you suddenly battling against superhuman hulking giants in uniforms, or any other impossible feats, what do you have at the end of a season? A playoffs and a championship game! Where absolutely everyone is playing their heart out to win the title, and at the very end the best plays against the best.
This is similar to a poker tournament, where you mow through dozens of rubes and amatures until you reach a select few of gifted, or extraordinarily lucky, players. And of them, down to a final one.
Virtually all games of contest have similar methods of thinning of the herd, or moments of misfortune to the player who is near, but not quite at, the end, which it is why it is all the more impressive when someone actually achieves such feats. It does get harder as the game goes on, perhaps not in that specific game, but in a much broader sense.

I think you made a bad comparison; comparing videogames to sports/board games/card games. They are very different things at a basic level. The videogame is really meant to challenge your skill, while sports, and other games pit humans against humans - there is a need to keep things fair between both sides.

Imagine if goals got smaller and smaller as a [insert sport here] match went on - it'd mean that whoever was behind would have less and less a chance to make a comeback. Hell, look at competitive videogames - in fighting games, whoever is behind can always make a comback, in fact often there are mechanics to give the losing player a fighting chance to turn a round around.

For player vs. computer the traditional model is that you're testing your skill against a set of challenges offered to you by the game. For it to remain interesting in this regard you have to up the difficulty.

Going back to your sports analogy - you don't start by trying to run a marathon, you have to work your way up, by getting yourself in shape, getting yourself to the point where you can run for further and further without stopping, you don't get better if you don't keep upping the challenge, you'll never run the marathon if you stop increasing the distances as soon as you can run 5 miles non-stop.

That said difficulty options are always a good thing, it give the game accessibility to those who don't want to challenge their selves to the same degree as others, at least to the point that it doesn't consume development time that would be better spent elsewhere. People need to remember that developing features for a game takes time - and that game development is balance between what there's time/budget to do and what they want to put in the game.

Game People:

Difficulty settings in games are due a big overhaul to really put the player first.

They've needed an overhaul since nes times. I too find it a bit strange that with everything that they've been able to do with these games, we're still dealing with this archaic easy, normal, hard settings and that these settings rarely do more than make the enemy do more damage OR be quicker. It would be cool if we could scale ai behavior as distinctly as we can set the audio levels in a game. You'd think it would be a higher priority.

To me, part of the problem is when a game has multiple genres combined such as a game that has a driving section, shooting, minigame, and RPG elements such as Mass Effect. I think, there should be multiple difficulty settings for each of the separate game play types in a game. This works well with the increasing voice volume analogy as well, for what if one wants to hear louder music but another person wants to hear louder vocals. I mean, I have played games before when I enjoyed them but some annoying vehicle section just made me want to stop playing them.

If it never got more difficult, then it would naturally get easier. You are supposed to be improving, learning, and getting better as you go along. Just like school. Did you fail at that, too?

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