Jimquisition: A Different Kind of Difficulty

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I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. I think he certainly has improved greatly since his first premere on the escapist. I'm glad I gave him a second shot!

Jim Sterling. The definition of classy.

Really, since when has a game's perceived easiness stopped people from finding it challenging? You have thousands of Final Fantasy fans deliberately handicapping their playthroughs in order to bump up the challenge.

No physical attack runs. No magic runs. All physical attack runs. All magic runs. All summon runs. Low level runs. Base level runs. Speed runs. No death runs. No saving runs. Single character runs.

Or what about Pokemon? Ever heard of a Nuzlocke Run? If you have, you know what I mean. If you don't, look it up yourself, I have other things to do.

A game is just a game, and if you put your mind to it, the game could be piss easy or the hardest game ever made.

Totally agree with this. For example, there is barely any penalty for death in Bioshock, but because the game was so immersive and "scary", I was afraid to die. I didn't want to get hit in Kirby's Epic Yarn, but if I did, I didn't have to restart the level and play the now predictable sections again and again.

The same applies to games like Limbo (checkpoints are so frequent that death means next to nothing) and Braid (you can't die). But both games are far from easy. They require logic and good hand-eye coordination.

wow... never have I agreed with you this much, this is a good EP, I really like the way you describe "game didn't HOLD HANDS to show you a challenge, you have to WANT it." wow, it's like...Extra Credit, with attitude!~

...Huh...Yeah, He's right. So very right. I agree that not all games need to be super hard all the time from the ground up like Demon's Souls.

But that being said, I hope there is a difficulty setting in the next Zelda game. if I take 1/2 a heart of damage from the last boss when it hits me with a super epic looking attack...something just doesn't feel right. Especially if I have 17 hearts and 5 bottles filled with fairies and potions. Allow us veterans to make things a bit more challenging.

EDIT: BTW, if I had KNOWN the boss would be that easy, I would have done a 3-5 heart challenge. But I didn't, so I went into that fight fully prepared.

While Jim does make an interesting point, I can't help but notice that Kirby and all other games with "achievement" or trophy based objectives and levels of difficulty fall in to the same trap as any other games that "hold your hand and force you to face a great challenge". The difference between the difficulty and the challenge of, say, getting the gold or platinum medals in Kirby and finishing a game like Megaman or Demon's Souls is what's required. Finishing a game requires only that: finishing it. Achieving a gold or platinum ranking on a game demands a higher level of skill, yes, but it also demands a higher level of patience, a higher threshold for the player to try the same tasks/levels over and over again and in the end is that much harder to achieve. Which might be a good thing for some players. For others it is the most boring part of gameplay. Personally, I'm not interested in hunting down every single gem in Kirby, for instance, just for a virtual "gold medal". Did it make my play time more fun? No. Longer? Yes. I'd say that a game that offers both challenges is the superior gaming experience in the end. Kirby only offers one challenge, the challenge of "perfection".

I'd say that gold and platinum challenges in games like Kirby are also "spoon fed" to you and "mapped out with tiresome predictability" as well. You know that you need to collect all the gems, a predictable goal in itself!

I like the idea of choosing how you view the challenge of a game. I dislike that Jim felt he needed to insult other games, and by extension the players that enjoy them, to make his point when it just as easily could have been made without casting aspersions.

A game should be challenging straight away, the player shouldn't have to make the game harder to enjoy it more.

Jims argument seems to just encourage achievement whoring.

Seriously, you need to drop the MS Paint pictures. They're fucking irritating and look like the expression of an ADD 5-grader's frustrations.

To me, a game is challenging if it meets two things: There is the possibility of seeing a Game Over screen on most levels, and the chance of winning degrades over time. Difficulty is different from challenge. Difficulty is how close you get to Game Over screens and how often you get close.

I think part of the problem is no built-in difficulty slider and an inconsequential Game Over screen. I get the impression people think difficulty levels should be a standard feature for the main game. If it's not there and people are making their own difficulty, it feels like they're doing the developer's job. Also, I can't think of many modern games with a Game Over screen that carries more consequences than lost time. Game Over screens need more reasons to not want to see them. At the very least make a spectacle out of screw ups. If Game Over only means lost time then any kind of difficulty or challenge feels tedious.

More garbage from Jim. He was starting to.... no not really.

Although hard can equal tedious, tedious does not equal hard.

Congratulations Jim - I think you've nailed the right formula for the show. Keep this episode as a reference point of sort for furture episodes.

I'm of mixed opinion on this one. I have heard the argument before, and the Jimquisition take on it is a good compromise.

However, the score systems in some of these games, Devil May Cry for example, seem insidiously arbitrary. It's the sort of thing a coder would have to go into the game and figure out what the programmers initially intended as a requirement for the S rating.

So you can beat the games now rather easily, but the scores, in the games that take time to have scores, are typically hard to get. Achievements are related in that some of them are off the wall. I remember alt f4ing Mass Effect 2 a number of times because I was bored enough to try for that Highest Difficulty w/No Deaths achievement.

In the end I wouldn't call my final acquisition of that achievement 'skill', or 'difficult', but more tedious, as with most of these so called 'difficult' games.

And on the flip side like some of the harder word puzzles in the earlier Silent Hill games, it just seems like gibberish until you read a FAQ and someone has painstakingly laid out the thought process which brought the developers to the given conclusion. I think one of the puzzles was all about Christianity, but that kind of excludes the alternate religion folks playing the game.

Wow, this episode wasn't bad. In fact, i might even go as far as to call it...good. Well done Mr.Sterling.

YouEatLard:
More garbage from Jim. He was starting to.... no not really.

Although hard can equal tedious, tedious does not equal hard.

Oh shut up, everyones sick of you haters, you know what your getting with jim so why bother watching? The rest of us enjoy it so just leave it

Maybe some people did needed to be reminded that there's more kinds of hard difficulties than getting through without dying, but for most hardcore complainers that is not the case.

No core gamer will put Super Meat Boy forward as an example of games becoming too easy.

The challenge here is getting through relatively short obstacle courses, but you can retry each level indefinitely. There is no death as such, because death is followed by resurrection immediately. The designers expect meat boy to die, alot.
The game is still a good challenge, because the obstacle courses become hard.

The point is that while there is still challenge in new games if you look for it, it is becoming rarer.

What is true for SMB is not true for a game like Assassin's Creed (another game where death is trivial). Getting a 100% there isn't hard; it just takes alot of time repeating relatively simple tasks over and over in many different parts of the map.

So having a game keeping track of highscores isn't enough by itself to make it a hard game. Long + tedium unequals challenge.

You just made yourself another fan ,Jim Sterling.

Not only is this spot on, but I'd like to offer Mirror's Edge as an example of how death and being given the choice to perform well are both implemented to make that one of the hardest games I've ever played. The speed Run challenges in that game were, to put it mildly, absolutely cruel. Sure you could make mistakes, and yes you could complete any sage and say "look at my time, I am awesome!" but really, beating the time allotted for the achievement was both brilliant and agonizing. I hated the game, but more than that I hated my shortcomings and spent nearly three weeks beating this game to perfection, which meant breathing the time, which was almost always impossible if you died, again both somewhat optional means of glorious success.

Jim is right, that game was punishingly difficult, but only because I chose to allow it to be so.

Hmmm, can't say that I agree with Jim here.

I think the issue is that in previous generations of games, a gamer who didn't have a certain degree of skill (which might go beyond practice) simply could not finish the game. If you couldn't beat a level, then you weren't going to be able to see the next level. People bought and played games for dozens of hours without ever seeing all of the major content, and part of what made a lot of gamers good was being able to see all of the major content in their game.

Things like "Kirby" show a modern game developer mentality, of wanting to make games easy enough so that anyone who plays it can feel like they are good at it, and are a winner. Basically, if you buy the game, your thus entitled to playing all the levels/through the whole story, and getting the "you win" at the end. It's sort of like schools catering towards the "self validation" of students, rather than education.

Saying that pursueing things like gold medals, gems, or whatever else makes games "challenging" is kind of silly to be honest, unless reaching those plateaus is required to actually advance. Say needing a gold medal on a level of "Kirby" before being allowed to advance to the next level.

In the end such systems are not really all that differant from one of the oldest video game conventions of all the "Score" which is registered as you play. Argueing that the challenge should be viewed entirely as aiming for high numbers of points, is actually a sort of de-evolution of gaming. In general, rewarding people with progression and making getting to the end of the game the major point (with the score being used to fine tune performance and compete with other experts) was part of the evolution of video gaming away from the simplest games like "Space Invaders".

Ultimatly this kind of conflict is largely between the serious gamers, and the desires of the industry. The serious gamer wants games that they can beat that not everyone out there can (that aren't parodies of the idea like "I want to be the guy"), it to have some meaning to say they actually finished the storyline/levels in a game, as opposed to it being something where pretty much everyone who plugged in the game and was persistant enough could have done so, leading to a discussion involving everything from serious gamers, to little kids, to the elderly about potential plot points or whatever. Your serious gamer wants there to be games that other people want to play and beat, but can't, yet they can. The gaming industry however wants to produce games that are as approachable as possible, to reach as many people as possible, and sell the most potential units, and they won't acehive that goal with games that are too hard for the casuals. Casuals will still play hard games, but there will be less of an audience for a product your typical player can't finish.

It's a big issue, and in the end it's one that won't end well for serious gamers, because there is just too much money for the game industry to make out of holding the hands of causual players, and making games that anyone can beat without a huge amouint of skill or hundreds of hours of time investment. Not to mention that as much as we gamers want long games, the industry seems to realize now that a game that is hundreds of hours long shoots themselves in the foot, after all if people can play the same game for a year or more and be content, they won't be buying more games during that time period usually.

I don't think gamers adjusting their attitude back to the level of "astoids" and playing entirel for score/gems/performance points is really a viable solution, or that the idea adds anything to the overall debate. In the end I think it's just a situation where there is no answer, and the serious games lose because the casual market is too big, and the game companies too greedy.

the real question is..
what kind of hardcore gamer buys 'Kirby's epic yarn'?

Well.....yea I agree....and I tend to like games where the challenge is optional and not so easily defined.....but getting 100% in Kirby was still easy as shit.

masterbazza:
the real question is..
what kind of hardcore gamer buys 'Kirby's epic yarn'?

I resent that.....big time.

A "hardcore" gamer can't enjoy Kirby's Epic Yarn because....because what? Because it's too colorful? Because it has "Yarn" in the title?

bringer of illumination:
And congratulations Jim, you have COMPLETELY missed the point of the people who complain about games being too easy today.

Of course Kirby's Epic Yarn is easy, Kirby games have ALWAYS been easy, and it goes beyond saying that the point of Epic Yarn isn't the same as the point of fucking Ninja Gaiden.

The people who complain about games getting too easy mean that ALL games have gotten too easy and that the "hardest" difficulty settings for games where the point is still getting to the end of a level without dying have become fucking jokes.

So this entire episode was basically a gigantic straw-man argument.

Bravo i say.

And congratulations illumination, you have COMPLETELY missed the point of what Jim said about difficult not being based around death.

Enjoy your incredibly one-dimensional concept of difficulty.

I like how he makes points not every single person agrees with. One of the reasons he is a very welcome addition to this site.

I get your point, but I completely disagree with it. you can make your own difficulty out of any game. sure, megaman may be a stroll down easy street on your third playthough because you already know the proper routs and tactics, but hey, if you want real difficulty, go through the entire game without using any powers, and only a real man plays and never grabs a health pickup. that kirby epic yarn makes an arbitrary grading system for every level is fine and all, but that does change the completely motivationless droll that is your first playthrough, because you can blindly walk into enemies, and still be congratulated with victory. bonus challenge is great for making a tough game have greater lastability, but saying that a platinum rank in kirby: epic yarn is half the difficult of the equivalent in megaman, or ninja giaden, or contra is laughable. Same criteria all around, hit once, restart level. those hard games just became allot more daunting eh?

Yup, I agree with you, having lives are just annoying these days. In fact, I remember a great discussion of the meaningless of death at all in this generation of video games. Oh, and games have had optional difficulties for decades, ever heard of collectibles?
Also, Yahtzee did a better analysis of kirby's epic yarn, or 'Colorful Apartment Management Simulator 2011'.

Yoshi's Story was the Rosetta stone for games like Epic Yarn...eat 30 fruit to clear a level...piece o cake...eat all 30 Watermelons...OMG shooot me in the face this is impossible.

This is the best one I have seen yet and was actually funny.

GrungyMunchy:
Seriously, you need to drop the MS Paint pictures. They're fucking irritating and look like the expression of an ADD 5-grader's frustrations.

Who says Jim Sterling isn't a frustrated ADD 5th grader? I mean, if you look at the evidence...

TheDooD:
Difficulty and Death are a needed thing in games imo. It builds tension in the easiest fashion, it tests that you took what you learned playing through the game and if you didn't learn something you get punished for it. Losing gems that you can get back ain't shit compared of being punished by death. These days you have quicksave and check points that basically make it moot unless you really come unprepared. Then you're forced to either find an earlier save point or just start the game over.

Sonic been doing what Kirby's Epic Yard does for years. You want to collect as many rings as possible because they grant you extra lives, access to the special stage to get chaos emeralds and they keep Sonic alive from everything but pitfalls, drowning and being crushed.

In Demon's Souls you collects the souls of everything you kill so you don't want to die because you risk losing all the souls you collected with only a chance to collect them again after you start a new game plus. In fallout games you have a basically a carved path to take to gain access to beat the game and its normally easier then exploring the world to get weapons, armor or just to discover more about the world you're in.

i don't mean to sound like a dick here, because i partially agree, but death need not be the be-all end-all of difficulty. for example, in audiosurf ninja mono, if you want any chance of being anywhere near the top scores, you have to play without hitting a single grey block. so if you do hit one, just one, even at the end of the song/level, you have failed. you can complete the rest of the song, but in your eyes, and the purpose of the game, you have failed.

i think this was the whole point of this, it is optional difficulty. the idea is that as games have developed, we should have developed as gamers. games are no longer simply a case of play game. beat game. win. the added skill is to be able to beat the game well, in style.

i would equate it to the purpose of side missions. you CAN just beat the story mode, but that's not completing the whole game. if you were to complete all the story mode AND side missions, that is more like it. so think of the collectibles in kirbys epic yarn as the side mission. anybody can beat the game, that is obvious. however to truly complete the game is something entirely different, and as gamers we should be looking for opportunities to do more to complete the game, not just cut out half the challenge and then say it is too easy.

edit: just saw this post

prouler:
bonus challenge is great for making a tough game have greater lastability, but saying that a platinum rank in kirby: epic yarn is half the difficult of the equivalent in megaman, or ninja giaden, or contra is laughable. Same criteria all around, hit once, restart level. those hard games just became allot more daunting eh?

you have to restart the level if you get hit once in kirbys epic yarn, because it is then impossible to achieve platinum rank. that was jim's whole point.

suitepee7:

TheDooD:
Difficulty and Death are a needed thing in games imo. It builds tension in the easiest fashion, it tests that you took what you learned playing through the game and if you didn't learn something you get punished for it. Losing gems that you can get back ain't shit compared of being punished by death. These days you have quicksave and check points that basically make it moot unless you really come unprepared. Then you're forced to either find an earlier save point or just start the game over.

Sonic been doing what Kirby's Epic Yard does for years. You want to collect as many rings as possible because they grant you extra lives, access to the special stage to get chaos emeralds and they keep Sonic alive from everything but pitfalls, drowning and being crushed.

In Demon's Souls you collects the souls of everything you kill so you don't want to die because you risk losing all the souls you collected with only a chance to collect them again after you start a new game plus. In fallout games you have a basically a carved path to take to gain access to beat the game and its normally easier then exploring the world to get weapons, armor or just to discover more about the world you're in.

i don't mean to sound like a dick here, because i partially agree, but death need not be the be-all end-all of difficulty. for example, in audiosurf ninja mono, if you want any chance of being anywhere near the top scores, you have to play without hitting a single grey block. so if you do hit one, just one, even at the end of the song/level, you have failed. you can complete the rest of the song, but in your eyes, and the purpose of the game, you have failed.

i think this was the whole point of this, it is optional difficulty. the idea is that as games have developed, we should have developed as gamers. games are no longer simply a case of play game. beat game. win. the added skill is to be able to beat the game well, in style.

i would equate it to the purpose of side missions. you CAN just beat the story mode, but that's not completing the whole game. if you were to complete all the story mode AND side missions, that is more like it. so think of the collectibles in kirbys epic yarn as the side mission. anybody can beat the game, that is obvious. however to truly complete the game is something entirely different, and as gamers we should be looking for opportunities to do more to complete the game, not just cut out half the challenge and then say it is too easy.

edit: just saw this post

prouler:
bonus challenge is great for making a tough game have greater lastability, but saying that a platinum rank in kirby: epic yarn is half the difficult of the equivalent in megaman, or ninja giaden, or contra is laughable. Same criteria all around, hit once, restart level. those hard games just became allot more daunting eh?

you have to restart the level if you get hit once in kirbys epic yarn, because it is then impossible to achieve platinum rank. that was jim's whole point.

Death is still a good option when those are going for perfection a small example is Metal Slug. Where you'll lose all the bonus points from POW's when you die. Just playing a game for perfection is more or less an extra task it isn't really difficulty it's just busy work. Like getting 100% in GTA you need to do all side missions that difficult because of the factor that you'll die. Even then its all about bragging rights at the end of the day there's little to no point to get a platinum rank or all the trophies. What would make it worth the trouble of all that work if you at lease gain something anything that improves the gameplay for all your hard work by giving items that'll make the challenge really worth it. Then just stuff to brag about.

TheDooD:

suitepee7:
-snip-

Death is still a good option when those are going for perfection a small example is Metal Slug. Where you'll lose all the bonus points from POW's when you die. Just playing a game for perfection is more or less an extra task it isn't really difficulty it's just busy work. Like getting 100% in GTA you need to do all side missions that difficult because of the factor that you'll die. Even then its all about bragging rights at the end of the day there's little to no point to get a platinum rank or all the trophies. What would make it worth the trouble of all that work if you at lease gain something anything that improves the gameplay for all your hard work by giving items that'll make the challenge really worth it. Then just stuff to brag about.

i'm not disagreeing on that though. i agree with you on some level, my point is that the 100% completion thing, the platinum medals and such, is the whole point of this episode.

and if you're going to get into the subject of bragging rights, then that depends on your focus on it. the fact remains, the challenge is there for those who want the challenge. if you can't be assed and just want an experience, you don't have to play it on a harder difficulty.

come to think of it, that is the whole point of difficulty settings. if you want the gameplay to be easier, and just complete it for the story, the setting, or the experience, you can. however if you want the extra difficulty, the extra challenge, you try and beat it on the hardest difficulty. that makes the game more difficult because you choose to find the challenge. just because it is optional doesn't mean it shouldn't be tried.

Best episode so far. Perfectionists know that the real challenge is completion, not surviving the bear minimum.

An interesting theory you got there Jim. I like it. And I also respect how you openly acknowledge and enjoy unique games like Kirby Yarn something. But I have an itch...

Your persona, your intro and music have encouraged me to believe you are quite the fan of games such as the original Fallouts or FPS games like Killzone. Someone with more fond memories of the gore fest Doom over Zelda and Mario Kart. But that doesn't seem to be the case. It appears games like Kirby, Mario and some strange looking childish game titles seem to be your cup of tea... or at least majority of your positive or defensive examples seem to feature such titles...

Are you a bad arse self-obsessed Totalitarian Dictator sort of gamer or the strange cousin playing pokemon I see in the odd wedding, fiddling with his game-boy in the reception?

BloodSquirrel:

Jennacide:
difficulty:
Minor problem with this arguement. The people that don't care about that difference are generally not the people who would whine it's too easy. Unless they just like complaining for the sake of trying to sound old school.

This is just flat-out untrue. Plenty of people are saying "I want the core experience to be a challenge".

Jennacide:

I can't count how many times I will play a game normally, sometimes thinking "well that was too easy, but fun," so what is my next thought do you think? "Well, let's make it harder!" FO3 was too easy, but I love the game. Since then I never use VATS, and mod the game up to put restrictions in areas I believe were to lax, like carry weight. Now I will admit, this is a moddable game, so added difficulty isn't terribly hard. So let's instead look at another game I play the pants off of, Final Fantasy 12.

For FF12 it's easier to add difficulty, play Zodiac style. If you can't get an actual copy of it (there are english patches and instructions on how to do it, if you own both copies like me), just play like you were anyway. Follow strict job classes, and don't use any of the lame auto leveling or early item tricks.

Which brings me to another point, a lot of complaints about how easy a game is come from the same group that will use every cheap trick in the book.

If I have to bar myself from certain tactics, mod the game, and set arbitrary restrictions for myself, then I'm doing the work of the game designer. I'm not just playing the game anymore, I'm making design decisions and playtesting them.

Quite frankly, I probably don't care enough about your game to do that. Jim is actually engaging in a common fanboy fallacy here- "You don't like my favorite game/movie/comic book? Well, you need to work harder at liking it!". No, I don't. I can just move on to something else that I do enjoy.

I like how you use the point of trying to call out a logical fallacy, and then make one yourself. You're basically saying the developer should bend to what you want to play, how you want to play, and allowing people to make it harder if they want is out of the question. Rrrrright. Not every game can be IWBTG, Super Meat Boy, or "insert ancient NES title here." There are much bigger audiences being aimed at. That's why games come with difficulty sliders. Sure, not all of the sliders are perfect, but it's an option. I'd readily wager most of the people whining about "games were harder in my day" didn't play half the hard games they quote.

Yeah, Battletoads WAS hard. For good reasons? Hardly. Same goes for Ninja Gaiden. The NG games were hard back then, but not because it was purely execution.

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