On Difficulty Levels

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On Difficulty Levels

Yahtzee plays his games on "Homicide."

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The only game I can think of off the top of my head that lets you switch difficulties without starting a new game is Red Steel 2. I didn't use it though-I like to play a game all the way through on the same difficulty (I'm weird).

That bit about an NPC offering to weaken the enemys by poisoning their water could be a clever implementation-A bit 4th wall breaking, but it could definitely be useful to a struggling player or one that finds the game too easy.

Maybe you should make Fun Space Game: The Actually Scary Fun 90s Shooter? Just a suggestion.

I prefer difficulties where you can alter them mid-game, but I do think you should be able to change back sometimes, because some games the shift from one to the next is enormous, as you mentioned in one of your older reviews (don't remember which one). I also think Max Payne didn't do too badly, as when you did better the enemies did become noticeably harder and better at killing you, then eventually they got too good at their job and scaled back again. It was a little blunt at times, but it worked as a system, along with the standard 'easy, medium, hard' malarky.

Maybe a little of both is the answer, don't overwhelm a new player, but equally don't let them fall into the trap of going too hard before they're ready for it.

Infamous has the option to ramp up the difficulty if you're doing to well. I was playing the game on normal and the game seem to notice that I was impaling every challenge it threw at me on a gigantic lightning rod. It prompted me to play on Hard Mode instead, which I did. Sadly, the majority of the game was still piss easy.

But it is one example that what Yahtzee mentioned has been implemented. They were even kind enough to still give me the gold trophy for beating it on hard, since the game changed the difficulty for me.


Whatever happened to those awesome difficulty settings...

Once upon a time I played Sonic Rush for the DS, and was in the fight with Blaze the Cat. The rest of the game was pretty tough, but this one part was simply physically impossible. The game wanted me to button mash two buttons on the DS simultaneously at such a rapid speed that I actually burned my thumb in the numerous failed attempts. Maybe years of inactivity have left my hands a miserable husk of flesh and fat incapable of just the slightest quick action, or maybe the developers of Sonic Rush are EVIL HORRIBLE PEOPLE. I don't know.

Thank God that you can change the difficulty at any time, or else I never could have beaten the game.

I typically set my difficulty to normal and just go with it. Even if it winds up seeming easy, I'm more interested in seeing the plot progress than I am having a harder time to kill the bad guys. At the same time though, I don't play on Easy as I want some challenge.

Personally, I think it's a great idea to allow switching of difficulty at any time. Based on reviews I've seen of the latest Splinter Cell, that would be a good option there, as several reviews have mentioned that there is one boss that if you've taken the wrong mix of skills will just constantly chew you up.

I'd be wary of a one-time difficulty change, as maybe in the early game you're just mowing through the bad guys, so you change the setting. Then 10 more hours into it, you realize that you're getting your head handed to you, you've used your one difficulty change, and you're left with the option of starting over entirely or a painful slog through the rest of the game.

Shame about Fun Space Game. I hate to say it, but your policy about not talking about a game until you are done was probably a good one. Peer pressure is a poor substitute for genuine interest.

I am always just trying to get through the story usually so for Bioware games I always am on casual.

I do like the opening bit on difficulty naming. I forgot how much I missed it until now.

I am bummed that thie FSG:TG update I have been waiting for is so negative.

I'm surprised I didn't see mention of Doom's "I'm Too Young to Die!"

That's why I appreciated Half Life 2 so much; it just had the perfect difficulty level for me! But I agree that in action games, there should be some imagination with the settings; more choice is good!

The only problem I have with difficulty settigs on some games is that they don't seem to scale with friendly AI.

Some sports games (NFL / NBA) the computer will become unstopable but your own computer controlled friendlies are still moronic. Same goes with some shooters and upping the difficulty means that the enemy becomes inhumanly accurate and aware while your own squad mates seem to remain the same.

I did like the difficuly settings of 'Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising' - instead of making the AI harder / better / more accurate etc it simply removed more and more of the HUD (and reducing save points) meaning that the player had to be more aware of the surroundings etc.

Shame the AI on that game was already pants on head retarded :(

The one problem I have with people naming difficulties something other than "easy, medium, and hard" is when they pick things names so vague and let you scroll both ways without stopping (putting them in just an option block so you can't see them all at once, just what's selected) that it's sort of hard to tell "Okay, which one is easy? Which one is medium? I hope I didn't just start on hard..."

While there have been a few games (I think Devil May Cry did it first) that offer to ease up a bit if you're dying too often, very few have an equivalent prompt if you're doing too well.

That game I hate with a passion, inFamous, does that. But it's just another reason I hate it: First of all, it didn't actually ask me as much as say "Okay, you did so well, we just put the game on hard for you. Don't want it there? Don't care, you can drop it back down again yourself." And the second part of why it pissed me off is, it did it right after the game's first mission. Yep, I did so good at the combat tutorial that it decided I should play on hard mode. Great thinking, game.

I rather like the idea of being able to work shifting the difficulty into the game though. That's nifty. I hope some game devs are paying attention to this one.

I think Bayonetta was the hardest to adjust to in terms of hiking up the difficulty with each mode. One I unlocked "ultimate climax", the first 10 minutes made me cry and feel slightly useless. It felt like trying to stop a speeding train with a paintball gun.

Well if anyone wants an awesome space game to look forward to, Infinity seems to offer that.

More on topic, I too miss the funny difficulty names. What ever happened to good ol' fun?

The only game I can think of off the top of my head that lets you switch difficulties without starting a new game is Red Steel 2. I didn't use it though-I like to play a game all the way through on the same difficulty (I'm weird).

That bit about an NPC offering to weaken the enemys by poisoning their water could be a clever implementation-A bit 4th wall breaking, but it could definitely be useful to a struggling player or one that finds the game too easy.

you could switch difficulties in fallout 3.

...and it's why I should probably have stuck to my usual policy of not telling anyone when I'm working on a game.

And then you tell us you were also working on a sequel to Art of Theft.

Yahtzee: Have you heard of Amnesia: The Dark Descent? It strikes me as a horror game that you would approve of (at least in concept) . . . pretty sure you play the entire game without using weapons.


Fun thing, this article reminded me of Pro Evolution Soccer 3, a football game that would ask to change the settings when the game was easier, it helped in keeping me entertained and I'd love for more games to have that feature since I usually end up finding the game easy and not doing anything about it.

I like MelasZepheos idea of Fun Space Game: The Actually Scary Fun 90s Shooter.

After the mention of Silent Hill 8, I looked up the trailer on YouTube, and I have to agree that it doesn't look scary. Constantly swirling cameras, 'spooky' sound effects, and they practically made the graphics glitter, they were so showoffy. Looks like yet another shooter that throws in cheesy horror elements (though, I'll probably give it a rental, at least).

At least Shattered Memories attempted to be subtle and psychological.

I forget which game it was, but it had separate difficulty sliders for "action" and "puzzles." Something I wish more games had.

There was another one that had separate sliders for "items" and "enemies" so you could adjust how many health kits and ammo you got versus how tough the enemies were.

I like the idea of a game that suggests you should be playing on a harder difficulty. "What's the matter...pussy?"
Though some games have hard modes that are just bullshit, like doubling all the enemys defense and health so the game takes four times as long for no real reward.

I disagree on any system that allows you to choose a difficulty, I'm not thinking of FF "no difficulty setting" but like Unreal tournament where you get the option for the computer to decide how good you are depending on your performance through out the game (match) which will prevent those insanely difficult parts of the game where you either have to start all over on a lower setting or cheat to progress however the system would have to be perfected first before as it may make the game too easy a few deaths lowers or the difficulty takes a very long time to reach higher difficulties

Far from only giving the player the choice to change difficultly once, I think every game should come with the difficulty slider Bethseda put in their games. If you want to coast through a section, slide it down to easy but get less xp as a result. If you want to make a fight challanging, push it up to hard & get bonus xp if you pull it off.

When games have easy-normal-hard settings, I tend to find normal is easy & hard is just that little bit too impossible to be worth the time. But then i don't measure my self-worth by what difficulty setting I can beat games on, which frankly is the only reason I see for preset & labelled difficulty modes existing anymore, since very few change anything but buff enemy stats/reduce your own etc.

Maybe you should make Fun Space Game: The Actually Scary Fun 90s Shooter? Just a suggestion.

Cursed ninja!

hmmmmmmmmmmmm. yahtzee, you should go work for valve. i'm sure they'd love to have you. or if that doesent apeal to you, mabey get your long lost good twin brother to do it for you (you are the evil twin) I think he is calling himself Chess.

Silent Hill 2 is the game (or at least one of the games) that lets you separately adjust the difficulty of the puzzles and the action.

I'd also like to add Thief to the list of games that lets you choose the difficulty of each mission separately, and i am eternally grateful that they do. Haunted Cathedral...I'm looking at you.

And on the subject of difficulty levels, I'd like to add that the Thief series (not including the mostly irrelevant third title) had an approach to difficulty level that you don't see too often, but which is personally my favorite. In many games, Expert mode makes enemies retardedly strong, gigantic sacks of hit points that are as tedious as they are challenging. The real struggle of these types of games is overcoming the frustration of taking down endless waves of too-strong enemies, and restarting the mission over and over again. In Thief, normal mode is your standard video game mode where it takes about 4-10 hits to kill you, and one or two hits to take down an enemy. Expert mode, on the other hand, is basically like real life. Your enemies go down in one or two hits, and so do you. Everything else remains the same, but this simple re-balancing of hit points makes the game much harder, while at the same time forcing you to play much more like the game is designed to play. It makes you hide more carefully, run faster, sneak more quietly, and aim better. For me, I love playing this way as it makes an incredibly immersive game that much more immersive.

I think Dragon Age: Origins offers you the option to crank down the difficulty mid-game. It's a grand RPG so I guess that's quite alright and actually needed. I never done it though, it feels like 'cheating' either way.

As always, an excellent read!

I agree with basically everything except woth only changing the difficulty once during gameplay.

It should always be entirely up to the player himself to judge. I simply don't see the reason for an arbitrary restriction on how many times a player should be able to switch difficulty. If he chickens out and starts playing it easier than his capabilities allow, then it's his own loss.

The alternative is that a player could lock himself in a difficulty that ended up too hard for him (either because he misjudged his abilities, or because the difficulty curve of the game is a pile of poo, which ultimately isn't the players fault). And then instead of being able to go back to an easier difficulty, he will either resort to cheating or simply just lose interest because he keeps dying again and again and stop playing the game. Hell this could happen the other way around too, that a player locks himself in a difficulty that is too easy, and he also loses interest and simply stops playing because he can't go back to normal/hard mode.

You should remember those feeling yourself, based on your reviews of Demon's Soul (hard) and also Dante's Inferno where you went to easy-mode and were suddenly playing... what was it again? Baby's first vagina adventures?

I'm one of the players who appreciates playing games on easier difficulty settings (i never even played Half-Life 2 on anything than easy), mostly because I'm in it for the experience itself. But even i sometimes appreciate challenge and managed to beat Mass Effect 2 on Insanity without chickening out at any point, even though i did die quite a few times. One of the reasons i didn't chicken out was that the difficulty curve was "okay" (besides the fact that upgrades are too powerful, which makes insanity a pain in the ass in the early game, and actually too easy at the end of the game given it's the fifth and final difficulty setting). Most players who want a challenge can actually appreciate difficult games if designed well.

But at the end of the day, there simply are too many games out there who not only may have terrible difficulty curves, but also terrible difficulty tunings. One of them is Crysis. On Crysis you have 4 different difficulty settings, but in fact, for the most part they don't change the difficulty as much as they change the gameplay. The higher you put the difficulty setting in Crysis, the more it changes from "Shooter" to "Stealth Shooter" because the only way to survive is to snipe all the enemies from cloak mode, something which could have been quite fun, but in Crysis simply just reduces the pace of the game for the worse of it. Luckily you can modify the difficulty settings in the .ini files of the game, and that way make the game difficult while still maintaining it as a pulse-pounding action game, but it's really annoying the devs couldn't get that right from the start.

Mass Effect 2 allowed you to change difficulty any time, so it seems strange that you called that game too easy.

Sir John The Net Knight:
Infamous has the option to ramp up the difficulty if you're doing to well. I was playing the game on normal and the game seem to notice that I was impaling every challenge it threw at me on a gigantic lightning rod. It prompted me to play on Hard Mode instead, which I did. Sadly, the majority of the game was still piss easy.

Ninjas! I noticed that on my second playthrough, when the game quite courteously told me I was too awesome to be playing on that difficulty, and politely invited me to step it up. Whereupon I did, and had roughly the same experience as perfect-aiming enemies on any setting will allow, breezing through some parts and getting squashed by others. And then came the final boss fight, whereupon my reflexes were tested by something that felt like fighting an excitable teleporting orangutan with a sledgehammer in each hand.

I've been becoming less and less a fan of difficulty settings. Probably stems from my childhood hours (or months) playing the first Rogue Squadron. I don't remember there being any start-of-the-game decision to set the difficulty, but you did have to up the ante to grab that gold medal, which had a great amount of replay value without shuffling around how hard it was.

I don't mind it as much, however, on games like Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. Basically any game that can creatively make things harder, rather than just giving the bad guys massive health and x-ray vision.

I don't see why a limit should be kept on the number of times you can change the difficulty.
When I played played Bioshock on my second run, I kept the difficulty at normal, but pushed it up to survivor whenever I encountered a Big Daddy, becuase they were just too easy on normal. I thought the whole point of the Big Daddy fights were to have you on the edge of your couch and heart thumping like a horny 14 yea-nevermind, why bother if the fights only lasted a minute? I didn't want to stay on Survivor mode becuase I didn't want the experience to be spoiled by struggling through the rest of the game.

I've since gone back a third time and done the whole thing on survivor.

Edit: Hey I'm new, though I've been lurking for like a year, only checking the posts on the widget thing on the homepage and the articles.

I'm actually farely sure most Black Isle and/or BioWare games had the ability to change difficulty on the fly, and I am very sure it was in Baldur's Gate.

I think letting players change whenever they want is perfectly fair. What if the game has an obnoxious difficulty spike and one battle is far harder than the rest of the game? I don't want to have to play the rest of the game on easy just to get past a part that is no fun. And if I start on normal can I really risk ramping up to hard? What happens if the games difficulty curve catches up to me?

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