Game difficulty

| Friday, November 18, 2011
This post was supposed to come before yesterday's. I apologize for self-contradicting in the wrong order.

My game would not have trivial mode. Or story mode, whatever you want to name it. It would, however, have easy, normal, and hard.

- Low twitch requirements
- No need for outside research on optimized builds, but talents or the equivalent are not random. Sorry, necromancy archer thief.
- Pulling cannot be reckless. If there are a dozen enemies, you still need to wait for some to wander away or use some sort of crowd-control to deal with them.
- This is for people to just jump in and play, without spending time planning out every last step, but while they are playing they will still be thinking.

- You have to be somewhat quick, but not like a Korean Starcraft player.
- Some outside research will be necessary to avoid mistakes* but you won't need to perfectly optimize everything.
- Those dozen enemies will need to be dealt with even more carefully, possibly requiring clever use of the game environment for concealment or as an opening attack, such as making heavy things fall on them.

* By mistakes I mean running into unexpected mechanics, such as the leveling system in Oblivion that had me leveling up from marginally useful skills while enemies got stronger much faster.

- I personally do not expect to beat this. Nor would I want to, because for me personally, this is the point at which a game ceases to be fun.
- You will need to be fast and constantly aware.
- Failure may have significant costs.
- Outside research is absolutely necessary.
- You may need to play through areas at lower difficulty to get a feel for the environment before you play again on hard.
- You don't get any additional shinies or lore. You just get the satisfaction of knowing your capabilities. And getting to brag to others. If they care.


Kring said...

You should be able to select a different "difficulty" for the various tasks. The following things have nothing to do with each other:
1) Do you like twitch or not?
2) Do you like out of game research?
3) Do you like to optimize?
4) Do you like to pull carefully or do you prefer to rush in?

1) I'm not going to play a game with much twitch. That's probably the reason why I liked DNF on normal. Things like the 3 princes in ICC on normal is too twitchy for me, I don't have fun there.

2) In WoW I love to do out of game research. For a single player "play through" game (a game which you play once for the "story") it would be a game stopper for me.

3) I love to optimize as long as it matters. I hate to micromanage. Optimization is fun if you can get done with it (= achieve something). If it's a repeating task like controlling city tiles in Civ it's micro management which I don't enjoy.

4) Difficult pulls all the way. That's why, for me, challenging trash (which I haven't seen since TBC heroics without raiding gear) is always much more enjoyable then a dancy-boss.

Ahtchu said...

Is this a solo game, LAN, or MMO? If it's the final on the list, twitch should never enter the design equation. There are entirely too many variables that cannot be properly weighted when determining the value of the outcome of the play. Is 'fast play' truly synonymous with 'better play' or 'difficulty' for that matter?
Cowboys might have been tested on their ability to quick draw in a duel, but were they not tested in myriad of other ways?

Klepsacovic said...

@Kring: We can see that a little bit in Starcraft where you can pick game speed and handicap levels. It's too bad those settings are set aside for anything beside custom matches with friends. I might like a slightly slower speed of Starcraft.

@Ahtchu: I'm thinking of this in the context of a solo game, possibly a LAN or Starcraft-style random group. For a MMO I'd definitely reduce the twitch, for reasons ranging from lag to an older audience.

Fast play can mean better play if that is what the devs decide. That's the thing, they are the 'gods' of their game and get to decide what is good or bad. They could decide that twitch is good, or patience, or any sort of arbitrary criteria, such as our ability to quickly estimate the magnitude of numbers raised to a power. If we disagree too much, we find other worlds. I imagine the mathmancy game would not be very popular.

Andenthal said...

I mostly like your proposed difficulty levels, except for one nitpick. If instead of saying "outside research" and instead said, "additional research", I could completely agree.

A game should provide enough feedback within itself (or manual) on how/why talent X is bad, and how/why talent Y is good. If there isn't enough feedback and you have to go to an outside resource, that a -1 for that game in my book.

I can't speak for your Oblivion example, as I never played the game and don't know if the leveling system is explained anywhere. Regardless, I think we can agree it's a silly mechanic.

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