On Difficulty Levels

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This is so true. I am currently replaying a game I had beaten numerous times in the past on "Normal".

I picked normal because I am playing it on a different and fairly new to me platform and didn't know if I was good enough with the controller to go straight to hard.

Now I feel like I need to go back in time 20 hours to swap to hard. So dumb.

I'd like to hope Mr. Croshaw reads this far in the commentary; I hadn't had a chance to read this article until now. Here goes:

Personally, I sorely miss the selective difficulty that was commonplace in simulators prior to the whole FPS genre of games. *Red Baron* for example, had easy, normal and hard, but those were preset configurations of their "realism settings" page that would allow you to toggle things like flight engine complexity, frequency of gun jams, skill of opponents, mid-air collisions and so on.

In the FPS genre, this form of configurable difficulty would translate fairly easily, such as ramping up the AI of the monsters, the accuracy of snipers, toughness of heavies and bosses, the blue sense of guards (to discern your sneaking missteps from other background noise), length of time-limit countdowns and so on.

I also fantasize about the same thing applying to RTSes in which not only can the AI be customized (preferably with personality variances) but common cheating devices (bumper crops in unit manufacturing, resource bonuses, build speed adjustments, damage handicaps and peeks into the fog of war) could be individually turned on or off.

That said, many of these things could easily be adjusted on the fly, so there's no reason why not.

Around the time of Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, there seemed to be a convention for FPS difficulty that I liked. It worked as follows:

EASY didn't require tactical savvy. One could run and gun freely and (mostly) live. Mockery of the player by the game is optional.

NORMAL required tactical savvy. One needed to use cover, exploit terrain and so on.

HARD required taking advantage of in-game bonuses such as shortcuts and secret caches of weapons (usually to get newer weapons sooner, and to replenish health and armor) to get through.

VERY HARD required speed run tactics. There isn't enough ammo to take down all the bad guys, ergo one has to find ways to evade or circumvent some of them.

IMPOSSIBLE (INSANE, NIGHTMARE, etc.) was not adequately playtested, and was not guaranteed by the developing team to even be possible. This is for someone who wanted to break the game, or break their own sanity.

It'd be cool if we returned to using a convention like this when it came to defining our difficulty levels.

The real interesting part to me was that a long rant about difficulty with some not-so-blatant bragging about gaming skills with an emphasis on how most folks could probably "do it" if they "stuck with it" is then followed up with talk about FSG:The Hiatus wherein you basically say the same thing. That Yahtzee could do it if he wanted but don't feel like "sticking with it."

"It's just a hobby project." Sounds like my exact take on video gaming. It's just something I do for fun. I never really thought about difficulties in depth until that Ninja Gaiden remake hit and tried to use "it's really hard!" as a selling point. At that time I realized that I didn't have to automatically throw games in on "hard" difficulty and, in fact, went the opposite and started always beginning them on the easiest setting available. And I love it!

I cut my teeth on 2600 and "Nintendo hard" games so fuck just about any attempt these days at calling something "hard." It's really rare that there is any actual gameplay difference in a harder difficulty setting anyway. Notable exception(s)? Rock Band style games where you have more to do and more ways to do it. If anything, harder difficulty usually remove the options of doing longer and more intricate game play options. Most shooters you find yourself unable to use any of the weaker weapons because the enemies wont die or most "like God of War BUT" games you can't use any of the longer combos or wind up attacks because you will be interrupted, etc. A lot of games confuse "hard" with "boring" IMO and just jack around the hit point and damage modifiers making things take longer.

Great topic though, going to cut myself off here since I'm just ranting on a comment board!

I really disagree with Yahtzee on being able to change difficulty settings midway. I find that difficulty settings are more for a feeling of accomplishment, rather than to make the game harder. Like, try saying to yourself, "I just beat game X on insane difficulty!" Then try saying, "I just beat game X on insane difficulty! Except for the last room on the second chapter, and the mini boss on the 6th chapter, and the final boss!" In my opinion it just makes it feel much less rewarding that pretty much anyone could beat the game just by switching around with the difficulty switch a few times.

God Hand had a cool way of determining the difficulty. When you start a new game you get the "Easy - Medium - Hard" choice (and depending on which you pick, Gene will either call you a wimp or tell you you're a bad ass). But then, in game, you have this little level metre with a picture of a skull in it. It goes "Lvl 1 - Lvl 2 - Lvl 3 - Lvl DIE" and changes corresponding to how much ass you kick in game. And beating an enemy at higher levels equals more cash at the end of the chapter. It also dictates how much damage enemies do, what attacks they'll be able to use against you, how many will attack at once, and if they attack you from off screen or not. Taking a few smacks yourself will lower the level if it doesn't kill you first.

But if you're always feeling you can Grovel at their feet to put it back to Lvl, at which point everyone laughs at you and you hear the crowd boo. Fair enough seeing how you're a gigantic pussy.

I miss creative difficulty names. I also like being able to change the difficulty on the fly.

If it hasn't been suggested in the last few pages, and Yahtzee would be up for collaborating with a load of internet wierdos (and maybe having to change the title of Actually Scary Game), it would be right interesting to see what treatment he'd make of SCP Foundation: The Game.

It's probably quite weaksauce horror compared to what kind of primal fear stuff he's thinking of, but it gave this self confessed horror-pussy serious mindfuckage being alone in a quiet, dark house after several evenings of noodling through their articles. There are be several very rich veins of creep-out waiting to be mined within said archive, even if sturgeon's law is ruthlessly applied. The one concerning a device that lets you pass through a mirror into some parallel, post-space-apocalypse/holy war/kafka-meets-giger cataclysm earth (with the destination changing based on the holder's karma) would alone make for a considerable and complex subgame.

Also mining the annals of gurochan's /f/ board could bring serious results. I know that on the "artistic thread" there at the moment there's some seriously fucked up shit, including a picture whose thumbnail alone chills me slightly, because I've seen the full size one before and ... well, the artist must have some kind of direct line to the brain's terror centres because they created a still image, from oil paints and animal hair brush, that damn near made me crap myself. The Alt and F4 keys of the keyboard I was using probably still bear the scars of me panic-quitting the browser with unreasonable force when my mouse hand froze. Closest thing yet experienced to the "basilisk" image... all that from an arrangement of pixels... crikey. It's embarrassing is what it is. Imagine the power to spread said terror and subsequent embarrassment on a global scale.

Also, even though the quality of FSG would probably be excellent, the world can probably wait longer for a highly polished Asteroids clone than for something offering true ball-shrinking scares, taking silent hill and eversion into an ex-nazi science camp experimentation room and blending their freak-DNA in some kind of occult ritual and adding plenty of other ingredients for spice.

The World Ends With You allowed you to change the difficulty at any time between easy, normal, hard and ultimate. It also allowed you to adjust your level downward. Playing at lower levels and higher difficulties just got you better items.

Apparently Amnesia The Dark Descent has user friendly map creator and all the other stuff necessary to make a mod for it, its attracting alot of attention from modders.

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