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

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.

Quick, somebody get this idea turned into a peripheral and on Kickstarter! Like a little pad with a needle sticking out of it, you prick your thumb, it absorbs the blood which activates a new life in game, lol... :P 



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RolStoppable said:
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.

That's more of the conclusion that I end up in. What makes it interesting is that there are some people that don't agree that a game being hard and not having a "breeze through" mode(or something similar) should exist. And that's where the discussion part lies.



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

Bristow9091 said:
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.

Quick, somebody get this idea turned into a peripheral and on Kickstarter! Like a little pad with a needle sticking out of it, you prick your thumb, it absorbs the blood which activates a new life in game, lol... :P 

Imagine a game that you could power up your carachter depending on how much blood you gave him.

People would kill for that LOL



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

Bristow9091 said:
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.

Quick, somebody get this idea turned into a peripheral and on Kickstarter! Like a little pad with a needle sticking out of it, you prick your thumb, it absorbs the blood which activates a new life in game, lol... :P 

I feel like we can do better than a pad. It should be a glove that you can sync with the game, and it will just have little retractable needles built in that poke you to varying degrees, depending on how much damage you're taking. Then on the outside, it can have like a little blood bag that everything gets sucked up into, to make sure you can keep playing for a while without everything getting too sticky and making a big mess. 



My opinion hasn't changed, options are always better.


I'm enjoying Streets of Rage 3 on easy and normal mode.

I'm enjoying Beat Saber on Expert with a lot of stages at higher speed. (I've tried expert+ yet it involves too many moves where the move controllers cross quickly in front of each other causing glitches in the tracking)

I'm enjoying the tutorials in KSP but also enjoy trying out things myself. For example re-entry with a craft that's not designed for re-entry, somehow managing to keep the command pod intact (with the rest blowing up), have the kerbal jump out at 5km and make a 'safe' splash landing slowing down just enough with the maneuvering jet pack.

I still haven't started Bloodborne and will continue to avoid games without difficulty options.
A game should get me interested in taking on a challenge, not force me into it, nor frustrate me with zero fun repetition.



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This is an interesting topic, and I agree with the sentiment in the OP.  However, instead of saying what a developer should/should not do I would prefer to say what is good/bad design.  How do developers approach difficulty in a way that makes a game well designed?

There are a couple cases I can think of where putting in a difficulty setting makes a game better:

1) Games with high replayability like Mario Kart or Civilization.  Mario Kart is designed where a noob comes in and needs a low setting like 50cc, but they'll keep playing and eventually need a 150cc-200cc setting.  Difficulty settings objectively make a game like Mario Kart better because it adds a lot of replayability.  Even if the Rainbow Road track is objectively harder than the first track across all settings, we still get a lot more replayability from the difficulty settings.

2) Narrative focused (non-RPG) games like The Last of Us.  I don't remember if TLoU has setting options at the beginning, but it is the type of game that benefits a lot from them.  Some people just want an interactive story and they need an easy setting.  Some want something of a challenge but don't play a ton of shooter games and need an average setting.  Others play a ton of shooters and need a hard mode.  Everyone wants to experience the story, so the game needs to account for different skill levels.

I have a feeling the OP is not really referring to these types of games though.  I don't think the OP is talking about competitve multiplayer games either, even though these games don't need a difficulty setting, because the other players provide the difficulty.  Instead I think the OP is talking about single player games (or the single player portion) where there is a lot of content, and not a heavy narrative, so the average person will play it only once and they are doing it mostly for the gameplay and overall experience and not for a story.  Does a difficulty setting make this game better or worse?

The simple answer is that a difficulty setting at the beginning of the game makes this game worse. First of all, how does a player even know if "normal mode" is right for them?  I've encountered games where the normal mode is actually pretty hard, and in other games hard mode still feels kind of easy.  Players aren't mind readers.  We don't know what the devs think is hard.  On top of this, the devs resources are better spent making a higher quality, tailor-made, experience for the players who really like their game.  There are so many long, single-player games out there and most of them are forgettable.  The way to make a game stand out is to craft the best possible, tailor-made, experience for the type of players that really want that type of game to begin with.  The game will be memorable for these players.  We know that in clothing, tailor-made means high quality.  It is the exact opposite of one-size-fits-all.  It is the same with games.

However, making a game hard just for people who like hard games is not good design either.  The better way is to design the environment to be hard, but then give the players the tools to both overcome the challenge and adjust the difficulty inside of the game.  See, everyone wants to feel powerful and kickass and awesome.  Games make a person feel powerful when they overcome a challenge that is tough for them.  But everyone is at a different skill level.  What is just right for one person is too hard for a second and too easy for a third.  Games that are too easy are boring.  Games that are too hard are frustrating.  A well designed game finds ways to adapt the difficulty to the player, or more precisely, let the player choose the difficulty through gameplay mechanics.

How can it do this?  There are actually a ton of tools that developers can use to adapt the difficulty.  For example, in Mario games, they often give an easy path and a harder path, but they put better power ups along the harder path.  Letting the player choose the path lets them choose the difficulty.  Also there are things every game should do like make the controls and UI intuitive. 

However, the devs can give players a ton of tools to adjust difficulty simply by making the game an RPG or by giving it RPG elements.  Think about Ninja Gaiden vs. Dark Souls.  Both series are known for being hard.  Ninja Gaiden has been around since the NES days and it has always been hard either as a 2D game or a 3D game.  It never had the breakout success that Dark Souls had, and it isn't an RPG.  Dark Souls lets you level up.  Whenever you level up, the game becomes a little easier.  Dark Souls lets you choose your equipment and your build: Knight, Caster, Archer, etc....  These are common things in RPGs.  Dark Souls even goes the extra mile and lets you get PC or NPC help for boss fights.  All of this lets the player choose the level of difficulty, and they do it in game.  This approach is a lot more nuanced than a simple Easy, Normal, Hard mode at the beginning.  There are a lot more than 3 settings this way, and because it happens in-game, the player has a good idea of the kind of difficulty they can handle.  Most importantly, when the player chooses these things in game they don't even have to know they are adjusting the difficulty.  They can just play the game and not worry about it.

So, in the end, the best single player games are tailor-made to the types of players that like them.  However, when making a game tailor-made, the devs can give the players tools so they choose their own difficulty level while they play.  When players do this they make informed decisions about the level of difficulty they want, while a difficulty setting at the beginning is not an informed decision.  RPG games or games with RPG elements especially give players a lot of tools, because these types of games have leveling up and equipment options.  When a player is allowed to choose their difficulty in-game then they actually have the best tailor-made challenge possible.



What I learned about gamers and myself is that everyone is different. A game that might be easy for me might make one of my friends look amateurish. I've had friends that were good at FPS, GTA V online deathmatch, etc that completely suck at games like NSMBU, Mario Kart and Smash. I've had pros in other games just completely suck at Smash especially chaotic levels. It all depends on person. Someone might be good at one game or genre but completely suck at another. 

It all depends on the person wanting to become good at game.  If they don't like the game or genre then there is no reason to become good.  Like I'm pretty sure I could kick all you guys butt at Worms but I'm 100 percent sure Rol would beat me again in MK even though I kick all my other friends butt at it.   It doesn't even stop at genre  because I have friend that can beat me on MK Wii sometimes but he is terrible at MK8 because apparently his brain can't fathom FZero like levels and it throws him off.

Last edited by sethnintendo - on 22 May 2020

The_Liquid_Laser said:

This is an interesting topic, and I agree with the sentiment in the OP.  However, instead of saying what a developer should/should not do I would prefer to say what is good/bad design.  How do developers approach difficulty in a way that makes a game well designed?

There are a couple cases I can think of where putting in a difficulty setting makes a game better:

1) Games with high replayability like Mario Kart or Civilization.  Mario Kart is designed where a noob comes in and needs a low setting like 50cc, but they'll keep playing and eventually need a 150cc-200cc setting.  Difficulty settings objectively make a game like Mario Kart better because it adds a lot of replayability.  Even if the Rainbow Road track is objectively harder than the first track across all settings, we still get a lot more replayability from the difficulty settings.

2) Narrative focused (non-RPG) games like The Last of Us.  I don't remember if TLoU has setting options at the beginning, but it is the type of game that benefits a lot from them.  Some people just want an interactive story and they need an easy setting.  Some want something of a challenge but don't play a ton of shooter games and need an average setting.  Others play a ton of shooters and need a hard mode.  Everyone wants to experience the story, so the game needs to account for different skill levels.

I have a feeling the OP is not really referring to these types of games though.  I don't think the OP is talking about competitve multiplayer games either, even though these games don't need a difficulty setting, because the other players provide the difficulty.  Instead I think the OP is talking about single player games (or the single player portion) where there is a lot of content, and not a heavy narrative, so the average person will play it only once and they are doing it mostly for the gameplay and overall experience and not for a story.  Does a difficulty setting make this game better or worse?

The simple answer is that a difficulty setting at the beginning of the game makes this game worse. First of all, how does a player even know if "normal mode" is right for them?  I've encountered games where the normal mode is actually pretty hard, and in other games hard mode still feels kind of easy.  Players aren't mind readers.  We don't know what the devs think is hard.  On top of this, the devs resources are better spent making a higher quality, tailor-made, experience for the players who really like their game.  There are so many long, single-player games out there and most of them are forgettable.  The way to make a game stand out is to craft the best possible, tailor-made, experience for the type of players that really want that type of game to begin with.  The game will be memorable for these players.  We know that in clothing, tailor-made means high quality.  It is the exact opposite of one-size-fits-all.  It is the same with games.

However, making a game hard just for people who like hard games is not good design either.  The better way is to design the environment to be hard, but then give the players the tools to both overcome the challenge and adjust the difficulty inside of the game.  See, everyone wants to feel powerful and kickass and awesome.  Games make a person feel powerful when they overcome a challenge that is tough for them.  But everyone is at a different skill level.  What is just right for one person is too hard for a second and too easy for a third.  Games that are too easy are boring.  Games that are too hard are frustrating.  A well designed game finds ways to adapt the difficulty to the player, or more precisely, let the player choose the difficulty through gameplay mechanics.

How can it do this?  There are actually a ton of tools that developers can use to adapt the difficulty.  For example, in Mario games, they often give an easy path and a harder path, but they put better power ups along the harder path.  Letting the player choose the path lets them choose the difficulty.  Also there are things every game should do like make the controls and UI intuitive. 

However, the devs can give players a ton of tools to adjust difficulty simply by making the game an RPG or by giving it RPG elements.  Think about Ninja Gaiden vs. Dark Souls.  Both series are known for being hard.  Ninja Gaiden has been around since the NES days and it has always been hard either as a 2D game or a 3D game.  It never had the breakout success that Dark Souls had, and it isn't an RPG.  Dark Souls lets you level up.  Whenever you level up, the game becomes a little easier.  Dark Souls lets you choose your equipment and your build: Knight, Caster, Archer, etc....  These are common things in RPGs.  Dark Souls even goes the extra mile and lets you get PC or NPC help for boss fights.  All of this lets the player choose the level of difficulty, and they do it in game.  This approach is a lot more nuanced than a simple Easy, Normal, Hard mode at the beginning.  There are a lot more than 3 settings this way, and because it happens in-game, the player has a good idea of the kind of difficulty they can handle.  Most importantly, when the player chooses these things in game they don't even have to know they are adjusting the difficulty.  They can just play the game and not worry about it.

So, in the end, the best single player games are tailor-made to the types of players that like them.  However, when making a game tailor-made, the devs can give the players tools so they choose their own difficulty level while they play.  When players do this they make informed decisions about the level of difficulty they want, while a difficulty setting at the beginning is not an informed decision.  RPG games or games with RPG elements especially give players a lot of tools, because these types of games have leveling up and equipment options.  When a player is allowed to choose their difficulty in-game then they actually have the best tailor-made challenge possible.

Your analogy is upside down

We know that in clothing, tailor-made means high quality. It is the exact opposite of one-size-fits-all. It is the same with games.

You're promoting one size fits all difficulty... Tailor-made is the exact opposite of one difficulty level ;)


Anyway I've gone over dark souls before in the previous thread, why I love the game and why I think it fails at providing 'adaptive' difficulty. It will remain in my top 10 games of all times, but I doubt I'll ever by a game from them again. In the end, the frustrations I encountered while playing the game won. Beating the game didn't feel like an achievement, nor beating ng+.

What the souls fails at, is providing the player with informed decisions. Not until I caved in and accessed a wiki I was able to make informed decisions and get a much better game experience (restarted after 20 hours). Not perfect, but at least satisfying as long as there were no invasions interfering.

It's a challenge for game developers to make a game that can provide a challenge to the player like a good DM. That's what AI needs to be about. A flexible DM that learns as much from the player as the player learns from the game. I was briefly excited when MS announced Kinect 2.0 being able to tell whether players were enjoying what they were doing in a game. That would have been great feedback for an AI game director. Maybe some day.

So yes, responsibility goes to the developer to provide next gen adaptive difficulty. No more one size fits all. And certainly not difficulty levels you can't change during the game. I changed the difficulty in God of War and Death Stranding often. Stuff I liked, make it harder, stuff I dislike, rush through on easy. It would be great when an AI game director can detect what a player likes and provide more of that at a higher challenge while shortening the things the player isn't engaged with or only gets frustrated by.

Maybe I'm weird, yet after a game has frustrated me beyond a certain point, I get zero satisfaction finally overcoming the challenge, and usually only feel more pissed off. Actually I doggedly keep going until I get past the obstacle, then save, turn it off, and have a good chance at never continuing the game. From Software has even succeeded in me avoiding their future output. Love the art style, but not at all costs.



Just try and beat stage 6-2 on Ninja Gaiden NES and then get back to me.