On Difficulty Levels

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008Zulu:

ArmorArmadillo:
Well, that isn't strictly true. If your tactic is running head on and pouring fire, it won't work if you have few bullets and the enemy is tankish. If your tactic is careful and well thought out, then it'll work, but only because you were using tactics sufficient to beat very hard enemies.

If the game was using scaling AI, then wouldn't the tactics that beat Very Hard AI beat easier AIs too?

Tactics against smart enemies would most definately work against the dumber ones, but in truth such tactics wouldn't be needed.

Say for example you are fighting a boss equiped with a rocket launcher. At the easiest setting throwing a smoke/chaff grenade to blind the missles detection systems allowing you to move about for a better vantage point while he looks around in confusion. On the hardest setting once you throw your grenade he instead disables the targetting sensors and then spams the area with rockets in the hope that the splash damage or a stray will hit you.

It would make for a more challenging fight than adding 1000hp to the bosses health meter.

Makes sense, although that sounds more like giving the boss immunity to a certain type of stun/disabling attack than improving AI (which is kind of an ubiquitous term)

bioshock 2 and red faction guerrilla were the only games that let you (and forced me) to change your difficulty level and keep going.

On the topic of interesting names for difficulty levels; the saboteur had a difficulty setting of "feckin' hard"

Yahtzee Croshaw:
In Alan Wake,for example, it was foolish of me to automatically pick "Normal" out of "Normal," "Hard" and "Nightmare," because this is doing the Burger King "Medium," "Large" and "King Size" thing where the real medium is obviously the one in the middle.

I don't think that is foolish, I believe that's the developer tacitly acknowledging that the experience is more valuable than the mechanical challenge of the game. I think the same goes for Burger King's shifted naming scheme - a medium coke is a generous portion for an 'average' 2,000-calorie-per-day human. A large is suitable for an over-sized appetite and a king-size bucket is just about right for a 300 pound Samoan who consumes more than 5,000 calories over the course of 16 hours. In other words, normal-excessive-ridiculous. Since you spend many many hours playing games, excessive or even ridiculous difficulty is what would offer you a comfortably engaging playing experience. But as a reviewer you should probably evaluate the game as it is intended to be presented, a.k.a. normal. I know I've played games before where the normal difficulty was designed perfectly but harder difficulties were terribly unbalanced and only enjoyable for self-loathing masochists - I wish I could remember what game that was, I'd recommend it to you!

Makes sense, although that sounds more like giving the boss immunity to a certain type of stun/disabling attack than improving AI (which is kind of an ubiquitous term)[/quote]

Yeah, it can be hard to define the difference between AI and limiting the attack chain.

In games I have found altering the difficulty doesn't alter the tactics of the AI, unless it is a specifically scripted event during the fight, and harder usually means a longer/drawnout fight which is ultimately boring. Looking directly at Dawn of War 2 there. Oblivion's AI was meant to be the be-all-end-all, kudos on screwing that up Bethesda.

Yeah, I'm really jaded. There is no AI, only scripted enemies.

I like that idea of switching the difficulty midway in the game. I don't think I've played a game that did that on it's own.

Cousin_IT:
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.

The problem with that system is that players can set the difficulty to its lowest, hit enemies till they are near-death, and then change the difficulty to maximum in order to get more XP for a kill that they don't deserve. Whenever I'm trying to level in Bethesda's games, I have to push that fact to the back of my mind in order to keep myself from exploiting and ruining the game.

MrNickster:
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).

I did. Freaking Payne...

OT: It's not a bad idea. Although, it might get a little annoying for the game to keep asking you 'would you like to play on Hard?' just because you want to have fun killing.

Another classic one from the golden age: Hexen's highest difficulty level was "Black Plague Possesses Thee"

First post here, but I've been reading and watching for quite a while. It's ironic you'd mention scalable difficulty here and nobody would think to bring up Disgaea. Yes, understandably, it's a bit of a grindfest, but giving the player not only the ability to scale dynamically during progress, but rewarding you for raising it is something I've loved about the series since its first iteration.

As I went through the first game, any time I realized I was out gunning the AI, I'd ramp up the difficulty to encourage a little more critical thinking during my play. Post-game, I refused to take on any of the extra challenges until I had successfully maxed the difficulty cap, and loved every second of the battles I had up until I cleared the final challenge.

One really strange kind of "difficulty" adjustment I know of, although I dont know what kind of category it would afll in but Crash bandicoot even though it was an action-platformer that used a checkpoint box system. If you kept on dying continuously the location of the checkpoint would change, usually it would swap places with a box that was more closer to you to make it easier, this is one of the only examples I can think of when a platformer has kind of a difficulty change.

I kinda feel bad now. In my Doom 2 campaign I haven't really balanced it for different difficulty levels. You alter what levels a certain monster will appear in. (So a Imp might spawn on Easy or a Baron of Hell on Hard.) I sort of just balanced it around Ultra-Violence and my goal was to just make a difficult campaign. Guess when I finish all my levels there will be a hell of a lot of play testing and balancing.

I think the game that have solved the difficulty problems is Godhand ( im almost sure that few have heard of it because its kinda old and not very popular ). Not everyone will agree with me but i find the difficulty settings in Godhand to be quite unique . In the begining of the game you can pick easy , medium and hard . During the game u have something ill call dificulty meter . It has lvl 1 then level 2 then level 3 then level die , and die is F*CKIN HARD. On easy the difficulty meter will go to level 2 and not further. On normal it will go all the way to die and on hard it will remain only on die . When you beat your enemies and avoid hits , taunt them and doing well overall than the meter will go up the enemies will get tougher and fight harder . When you get beaten up much or die the meter will go down making the enemies easier . There is also a special move which lowers the meter all the way to lvl 1 (you cant use it on hard). Also the enemies that you deafeat on die will give you more money in the end of the stage than the enemies you defeat on the other lower difficulties and in the end of each stage there is a big reward if you havent died through the whole stage , and for me its satisfying to beat a stage with all the enemies on level die without dying , kinda makes me feel like a god and almost makes me have an orgasm.

I find this way of solving the difficulty settings quite nice and interesting and i think it can be used in other games aswell. I never have seen such thing in other games ive played.

ldwater:
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 :(

I count on my allies being "pants on head retarded" and run from there. Not saying I like it, but it's one of those blind spots. Everything from sports to action to puzzles, I even get blindsided when the AI is worth a damn.

On the flip side, it pisses me off when the enemy AI can headshot me through cover from 100 yards away with a handgun. Making the AI Godly instead of smarter is annoying.

Adaptive difficulty is great.

Your horror game sounds a bit like the fantastic penumbra, and penumbra black plague.

I think a better solution than allowing only one difficulty change would be to give any rewards for completion (achievements, leaderboards, unlocks) only for the lowest difficulty used through the run. Even if you only turned the game down to easy for one little scene, you get none of the rewards for a "normal" completion unless you start over, and force the player to save before they can resume playing after a difficulty change, so they can't turn down the dial, "preview" the next couple rooms, then reload their save with no consequences. I think that would be an effective enough deterrent to keep people on their chosen path without restricting those that would rather just see the game.

Y'know, Yahtzee is one of the few people I would trust to make an actually scary game. Kudos to you, ya limey.

I know Dragon Age: Origins lets you change the difficulty setting at any time, letting you make bosses/enemies harder/easier and then letting you switch back or leave it to change it later. For example, many people can play the game on the the hardest setting without much difficulty, yet when they fight the High Dragon (optional boss) they are either destroyed or just barely beat it. I know a lot of people who toned down the difficulty for that fight and then cranked it back up afterwards.

Changing the game difficulty only once after starting the game is a nice idea but it only works if the game has a good difficulty curve. There are some that start out way easy and then get incredibly difficult by the end and even a few games where I remember the beginning being kind of hard to get past but it being alright after that.

The problem is you don't know where the game is going to go or how you're going to cope later on so having only one chance, after the initial option, comes with extra frustrating baggage.

The "creative name for difficulty settings" is fun. I also remember when playing Quake that whenever you tried to quit it would call you a weakling pansy bitch, which was fun.
I had been wondering how you found Alan Wake so easy, my policy is to pick the middle one each time.
Pity about Fun Space Game but Actual Scary Game might prove interesting, and scary presumably..

My two favorite naming schemes for difficulty levels are MGS and Bayonetta.
In No More Heroes I always get confused if 'mild' is supposed to be harder or easier than 'sweet', because 'mild' is commonly known as the easiest difficulty of salsa.

And... ok, you can yell at me, but Super Princess Peach actually got a little difficult, at least in the 'bonus' content at the very end. Of course, the first 90% of the game is easy as a cake, and Peach doesn't die, she gets sad and has to start over.

So I'm currently playing Ninja Gaiden II for the first time. I played the first one a few years ago, so I thought I knew what I was doing. When I start up the game, it asks me to choose between the path of the acolyte, and the path of the warrior. I thought it would be an insult to Ryu Hyabusa to lower himself to the level of an acolyte. He's a ninja, dammit! Not some pussy samurai!

Well, I think I spoke too soon. This game is kicking my ass. I've made it through to chapter 4 so far, but I'm typically broke from buying so much healing grain. I've thought about going back through on acolyte. However, I've decided to soldier on and go as far as I can. If it was way too difficult I wouldn't have made it passed the first level, now would I?

Not that both aren't great, but these days I'm enjoying Extra Punctuation more than Zero.

Fallout 3 had an interesting system. You could adjust the difficulty through the pause menu to one of 5 settings (V.Easy/Easy/Normal/Hard/V.Hard) and on the harder settings enemies award more EXP, creating a sort of risk vs reward system.

OceanRunner:
Fallout 3 had an interesting system. You could adjust the difficulty through the pause menu to one of 5 settings (V.Easy/Easy/Normal/Hard/V.Hard) and on the harder settings enemies award more EXP, creating a sort of risk vs reward system.

Or you know, totally breaking the game... Very Hard enemies when you can easily heal, and switch it down in more perilous areas. It's practically begging to be exploited.

I believe that one of the Lego Star Wars games actually gaged how many times you died and adjusted the difficulty level from that. You could also manually change it any time in-game, and also choose to turn the difficulty gauge thing off. Every game should have something like that.

Actually, Mario Golf on the N64 did do something like that. You could use two of the C buttons to either compliment or insult the other player(s), and that would make them easier or harder to play against respectively. It would be good to see it used in a proper game though.

sketchesofpayne:
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 think it was Silent Hill 2.

could run around asking what happened, but istead I answer: the way games are made and understood on other than player side are gone too far from where it all needs to be.

Personally, I love difficulty settings. I would never have been able to get through Saint's Row 2 without it's retard mode- I'm just not great at that kind of game.

That said, I don't think I've ever switched difficulty mode at a mid-point in any game where its been an option (except maybe Tekken when I was about 10) so personally, I don't see the point of it. Maybe this is just something that applies to Yahtzee's profession, as I can be an utter gaming wuss when it comes to some genres, and you'd think if anyone'd chicken out of Hard halfway through, it'd be me.

As for the concept of the game picking your mode based on your performance, in my opinion, that's an idea that can truly go and fuck itself.
Just because I have the capacity to 98% or better playing Hard on Rockband does not mean that I should be forced to sing Number of the Beast on Expert as our Saturday Night/Sunday Morning piss-up finale when I'm fucking 12 pints down.

Hey, Croshaw. We don't want to play your games any more than we want to read your books. All we want is for you to dance and make stupid faces for us. You know, like you made a career out of doing.

If the current one is normal, I would very much like a Brutal for Assassins Creed 2 ... 0_o

Nice article.

Hey Yahtzee,

You've made more than one comment that you would like to see a non-serious FPS where the protagonist essentially picks up a gun and shoots. Well then I would recommend any of the Timesplitters game. In case you haven't played them already, the Timesplitters franchise consists of three games which essentially clone the gameplay mechanics of Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64 and allow you to play as one of over 100 entertaining esoteric characters with fully customizable weapons and maps. Best of all, you need no mates, for you can place bots in the game to fight alongside or against you.

It's definitely not a perfect game. Neither the gameplay or the story is very in-depth, but it is exactly what you are looking for, a non-serious 90's shooter.

So I suggest you check it out and humbly request that you review it.

I think of the Metal Gear Solids came pretty close to that.

I think some* of the Metal Gear Solids came close to that.

Ah dammit, those last two were meant as a response to another reply. Disregard.

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