Forums - Gaming Discussion - Revisiting: Difficulty vs Accessibility - A responsibility for the developers, not for the players.

Since the original thread got locked, and had the greenlight from the mods to tackle this again, I'm creating a new thread to discuss this again!

Ever since Dark Souls released in 2011, there have been numerous discussions about accessibility in games; about whether a game being hard keeps potential players from enjoying it and even buying it, since the difficulty might scare them away. Or wheter the player who made a purchase is entitled to have an option which will help him finish the game and thus get his money worth out of the product he bought. Boiling it down, the discussion ends up being “Should hard games have an easy mode for players that aren’t good enough for the standard difficulty?”. I am of the opinion that not only should games not cater to anything but the developer's own creative decisions, be the game easy or hard,  accessibility has nothing to do with the difficulty of a game.

It's easy to imagine why this topic sprang up. Imagine yourself playing Contra, Dark Souls, Blasphemous or any other game known for being hard, and feeling frustrated for not managing to make progress into the game, especially for a game that you have spent your money on. Certainly, frustration would arise from that, given that you aren’t getting enjoyment out of a product that you have paid for, and promised you dozens of hours of uninterrupted fun. So it’s expected that said people would bring their frustration to the internet, trying to make their voices known about their issues; about how they can't enjoy the game because it's too hard, and linking this supposed problem to the lack of accessibility to the game for players like them. But the problem is, this has nothing to do with that. For better or for worse, it’s the player responsibility to understand the game better and to improve, much like you would need to understand a math problem or resolve an issue that would arise in your own personal life. More than that though, accessibility refers to the tools that the game provides you to play it at your best. For example, when a game's standard control scheme is simply atrocious, or the button placements simply don't make sense to you, the game should have an option in-game for you to customize it's layout, so it adapts to your preferred playstyle or physical conditions. Another example would be the standard options that any game would have, such as sound and graphical settings, so that you can adjust the game to the conditions of your house or your senses, either because you're playing the game at night and want it to be quieter, or because your screen is too bright and needs to be adjusted to better see what’s going on. These are true accessibility options; tools that enable the user to adapt the game's overall settings and mechanics to their own preference, so that they can play at their best.

But more than that, the difficulty in these kind of games are more than just an gimmick to either make the game longer or to bar people from playing it. The way it's implemented in these games makes it almost a genre in its own, so much so that when a game is hard, people usually compares said game to Dark Souls, the game mostly responsible to revive the taste for challenging videogames. The developers of such games doesn’t simply increase the health and damage of the enemies and call it a day, but rather it is implemented in its overall design. Take Blasphemous for instance, a game that released last year boasting about how hard and brutal it is. There is a part in the game that you are forced to go slowly down atop a small platform, while you are being attacked by enemies that throw boomerangs, both in your right and on your left. That particular instance isn’t simply hard because of how much damage those enemies do, but rather because of their position and how the whole situation is set up. You are forced to keep taps on how fast you are approaching the enemies, on your own position due to the moving platform, and also at the same time to dodge their attacks, that comes simultaneously from both sites. The difficulty of that particular part then comes from the level design and how well the level blends with the enemy pattern and positioning, making for a tough situation to handle, at least the first few times that you go through it.

Unless you make said enemies do a damage so low that dodging or blocking seems inconsequential, the situation described previously where you are surrounded by enemies is still hard, no matter how much damage you receive or how much more life you have, especially considering that scene I have just described is just a tiny portion of a game that have numerous tough situations, and that it requires for you to tackle them in succession to make any kind of progress. And this is why this whole discussion of hard games having multiple difficulties feels weak in my view: For you to make an easy difficulty of a game like Blasphemous or Dark Souls, it would require more than simply decreasing the damage and health of foes, it would mean to redesign a game completely from scratch. And doing that it's either financially impossible, or it would be simply easier to make a new game that would cater to a different audience altogether, one that does not like games that are inherently hard.

Another point that should be brought up, and that’s personally the biggest reason why hard games should remain only being hard, is the developer own wishes and creative reasons to make the game as challenging as it is. Hidetaka Miyazaki once said he wants his games to be more satisfying than difficult, and the sense of accomplishment is given to the players through overcoming the tremendous odds his games presents. It was due to that creative freedom and the simple wish of creating a game that the creator himself would like to play, without the restrains of “what others might think the game should have”, that these hard games not only became the critical and commercial successes that they are, but also became an identity in and of itself. More than being described as a souls – like game, these games are known and revered for it's difficulty. And said franchises managed to grow based on that reputation. Those games became popular because they were hard. Giving it a easier option, not only wouldn’t it make it more “accessible” to more players, but it also could backfire, and make the game less desirable, given that the level design could end up suffering because of that.

More than anything, games that are especially hard have become almost a genre on its own, and much like that, it won't be able to please everyone, either that be because of someone skills or simply because the game features don’t appeal to that certain individual. But that’s the beauty to it: like we have games that are about racing, platforming or just about the story, we also have games that are about conquering the challenges the game presents to the players, to muster all you have to reach it's conclusion. What we should be discussing is not that every game should be beatable by everyone, but rather how the industry have grown so much that everyone can find a game that they will utterly enjoy.



My (locked) thread about how difficulty should be a decision for the developers, not the gamers.

https://gamrconnect.vgchartz.com/thread.php?id=241866&page=1

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Decided to reuse my original text with a few modifications here and there, because I felt that it already passed the overall idea that I wanted about this subject.


@John2290 Here you go!



My (locked) thread about how difficulty should be a decision for the developers, not the gamers.

https://gamrconnect.vgchartz.com/thread.php?id=241866&page=1

Nautilus said:
Decided to reuse my original text with a few modifications here and there, because I felt that it already passed the overall idea that I wanted about this subject.


@John2290 Here you go!

Nice. I re-read the other thread and my opinion hasn't changed much since my post in that thread, however, there is one thing I'd like to mention that has changed in my mind since replaying sekiro and that is, if you can't get your engine to behave or your camera is clearly broken or terrain is a persistent issue causing death then you need to redisign your set difficulty to adjust or scrap that fight or area of the game. This is a massive problem in the souls games and Sekiro. 

Now, I want to re-iterate one truth that people gloss over again and again. Souls games are not set difficulty games, there is an aspect of luck and the easy/hard modes are tacked ontop through mechanics for example builds, grinding or/and summons. A set difficulty game is something like Supermeat boy or the like in which you have no option but to succeed at an unchanging challenge. Souls games have the easy mode with what I mentioned along with endurance/persistence and just isn't labeled in the main menu. The real discussion we should be having toward difficulty is the nonsense that games like REmake 3 goes on with and adjusts in the background without you knowing or consenting to an option and it does this regardless of the difficulty setting on you choose, no that is the problem. 

Anyway, cheers for the ability to comment on this again. 

Last edited by Bristow9091 - 3 days ago

 

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John2290 said:
Nautilus said:
Decided to reuse my original text with a few modifications here and there, because I felt that it already passed the overall idea that I wanted about this subject.


@John2290 Here you go!

Nice. I re-read the other thread and my opinion hasn't changed much since my post in that thread, however, there is one thing I'd like to mention that has changed in my mind since replaying sekiro and that is, if you can't get your engine to behave or your camera is clearly broken or terrain is a persistent issue causing death then you need to redisign your set difficulty to adjust or scrap that fight or area of the game. This is a massive problem in the souls games and Sekiro. 

Now, I want to re-iterate one truth that people gloss over again and again. Souls games are not set difficulty games, there is an aspect of luck and the easy/hard modes are tacked ontop through mechanics for example builds, grinding or/and summons. A set difficulty game is something like Supermeat boy or the like in which you have no option but to succeed at an unchanging challenge. Souls games have the easy mode with what I mentioned along with endurance/persistence and just isn't labeled in the main menu. The real discussion we should be having toward difficulty is the nonsense that games like REmake 3 goes on with and adjusts in the background without you knowing or consenting to an option and it does this regardless of the difficulty setting on you choose, no that is the problem. 

Anyway, cheers for the ability to comment on this again. 

Yeah, I agree with you.

I don't have problems with some parts of the game being adpative. It could be interesting for an enemy for example, to be part of an hive mind of sorts, and when you defeat one, it informs the others of your fight style, so that they may adapt to it better. So when you face one of those enemies again, they are harder, or at the very least feel like that. But what RE 3 Remake does is something that I don't feel like it's rewarding. I mean, if you play well, you are just going to waste even more bullets on the enemies? Don't think that's fun.



My (locked) thread about how difficulty should be a decision for the developers, not the gamers.

https://gamrconnect.vgchartz.com/thread.php?id=241866&page=1

We should be discussing that there are so many games nowadays that there's probably something for everyone's taste? I suppose that's good when looking for games, but for a discussion it's boring.



Legend11 correctly predicted that GTA IV (360+PS3) would outsell SSBB. I was wrong.

A Biased Review Reloaded / Open Your Eyes / Switch Gamers Club

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This is a tough conversation to have because there are no objective standards of quality when it comes to difficulty. What's easy for you might be impossible for me, and vice versa.

Now, I agree that it's unrealistic to demand an "easy" or "hard" mode from a developer, when that feature is not among its list of priorities. At the same time, I think it's totally fair for a consumer to cry foul if a game is pointlessly easy or painfully difficult -- to the point where it robs a game of its purpose and sense of fun. We evaluate games how we wish them to be, not how the developer intended them to be.



I think that every time you die in a game, you should have to offer up a blood sacrifice to continue. This really helps to immerse you in the hardships of your character, and the harshness of the world. Plus it just adds so much weight to all your decision making.



Veknoid_Outcast said:
This is a tough conversation to have because there are no objective standards of quality when it comes to difficulty. What's easy for you might be impossible for me, and vice versa.

Now, I agree that it's unrealistic to demand an "easy" or "hard" mode from a developer, when that feature is not among its list of priorities. At the same time, I think it's totally fair for a consumer to cry foul if a game is pointlessly easy or painfully difficult -- to the point where it robs a game of its purpose and sense of fun. We evaluate games how we wish them to be, not how the developer intended them to be.

This in particular I agree with, if a game is hard just for the sake of being hard, and no matter after X amount of hours, it can't be beaten, then I have an issue with the difficulty... thankfully I've not come across many games like this, and despite how many people will say the Souls games fall under this bracket, I seriously beg to differ.

I do feel that the difficulty of a game should be left up to the developer to decide, on the other hand, I also think they should take into consideration whether or not their game is TOO hard to beat, unless of course that's the goal they're going for. Again, I don't really have any examples of this off the top of my head, since the biggest example is usually Souls and, well, yeah, I've already said that I beg to differ, lol.

Let's look at a couple of my favourite games... Final Fantasy X (Surprise!), and Bloodborne. One is a Souls game. (Oh shush, not by name but clearly it is!... and the other is Bloodborne, plot twist! :o)

Both of these games can be completed without any kind of grinding/farming, although chances are you're going to die multiple times on each one. How do you make either of these games easier when they don't have difficulty options? Well you can spend time leveling up to make yourself stronger, farming for better items etc. and you can also learn the attacks of bosses to prepare yourself for your win. Basically to make the games easier you have to dedicate some extra time, which I really don't mind.

This, to me, is completely fair... of course these examples are inconsistent since everyone knows that Final Fantasy X is MUCH easier than Bloodborne, but if we're just going with Bloodborne as the example, people may think "But where's the enjoyment of dying to the same boss repeatedly?", well to me the enjoyment comes from the feeling I get after finally killing a boss, it's a nice feeling to be honest lol... also I now have the platinum trophy so I get ePeen and bragging rights, something you'll never take away from me! :P 



Angelus said:
I think that every time you die in a game, you should have to offer up a blood sacrifice to continue. This really helps to immerse you in the hardships of your character, and the harshness of the world. Plus it just adds so much weight to all your decision making.

I agree, it surely raises the stakes! Personally think that it should at least be offered up a finger each time you die.



My (locked) thread about how difficulty should be a decision for the developers, not the gamers.

https://gamrconnect.vgchartz.com/thread.php?id=241866&page=1

Veknoid_Outcast said:
This is a tough conversation to have because there are no objective standards of quality when it comes to difficulty. What's easy for you might be impossible for me, and vice versa.

Now, I agree that it's unrealistic to demand an "easy" or "hard" mode from a developer, when that feature is not among its list of priorities. At the same time, I think it's totally fair for a consumer to cry foul if a game is pointlessly easy or painfully difficult -- to the point where it robs a game of its purpose and sense of fun. We evaluate games how we wish them to be, not how the developer intended them to be.

I agree to a point. I believe that there is a difference betwenn a game being fair but hard, and just being plain hard. If the discussion is about not the difficulty, but rather the game being unfairly hard, then I agree that it's something that I don't think no one wants, be it intentional or not.

But If a game is designed in a way that your death or failure to make progress in a game is your own fault for not understanding the game well enough or not being skilled enough, is it really the game to blame? I completely agree that said player has every right to be angry and cry foul, and even in some cases he has a point, but most of the time that happens, is pointed into games that are acclaimed for exactly the things that those people complain about. In which leads me to think: Is it really the game fault(in it's design, balance, and so on), or is the game simply not for him?

That's what I mean.



My (locked) thread about how difficulty should be a decision for the developers, not the gamers.

https://gamrconnect.vgchartz.com/thread.php?id=241866&page=1