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Tag Archives: difficulty

“This game is just unfair! I’m not even sure you can get past this part.”
“What? That bit was easy! There’s no challenge in this game at all.”

Challenge is a tricky term to discuss in video games. We probably all recognise exchanges like the one above, which demonstrate the relative subjectivity of the matter. Balance and difficulty present a complex riddle for game designers.

One of the important factors involved is the “punishment” for failure. Usually the player character will die and be sent back to the last checkpoint. The player then has to replay up to where they were originally.

It’s tempting to say no one likes doing that, but that would be ignoring the fondness for ultra-difficult NES era games and the slightly-more-than-cult following of Demon’s Souls.

But most have probably seen the human reaction when someone watching a game being played loses interest as soon as the player dies and is reset to an earlier position, like you rewound a few minutes of a film they were watching.

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You versus them.

It would be an interesting challenge for game developers to try and make a game with this single criteria:

  • Every single person the player kills should have a name and a personality.

Allow me to over-explain the point while you think about that. In write ups about Crysis and Splinter Cell Conviction, I criticised the games for throwing too many nameless meaningless disposable enemies at the player. Surely we’ve all experienced the eye-rolling moment of “There’s more of them?!” one time or another. Whether they were copy and paste thugs, soldiers or aliens. This is a freakishly common practice in video games and I really don’t care for it.

First of all, it’s a cheap way of adding difficulty. Ideally, I’d want fewer enemies that are more dangerous.

Second of all, it breaks immersion and any sense of reality. From the ridiculous piles of bodies in Splinter Cell Conviction, to the bizarre realisation of just how many people you just killed – Nathan Drake has a higher body count than a number of historical wars.

Not to mention the consideration of just how many villains there was in the first place. The amount of PMC soldiers and general henchmen in Splinter Cell Conviction made the idea of this covert conspiracy a little hard to swallow. While Modern Warfare 2‘s “local militia” had me convinced I was single handedly waging war on the entire nation of Brazil.

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Photoshop skills level down

Use it sparingly.

Imagine you are stuck on a boss in an RPG. No strategies or walkthroughs will get you past this boss. Maybe you’ve attempted the fight several times. Every single try results in zero HP, a game over and some loading screens.

You have two options – you can give up and stop playing the game. But if you really want to get past that boss and enjoy the rest of the entertainment product you’ve spent your money on, or if you just want to see the story – you can run back to the area just before the save point and ‘grind’. Run in circles, repeating the same fights with the same monsters to make numbers slowly count up on a screen. You put in potentially hours of work in the hopes that you make your characters strong enough to beat this boss. Maybe you try again afterwards and find you’re still not strong enough. Back to the grind again.

Does anyone actually enjoy this?

I’d like to see a game where a person in this scenario could simply go into the profile of their characters and hit a nice shiny “Level up” button. It would be perfect for casual players, people just there for the story, or those of us who don’t enjoy slowly leveling up in the same place.

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