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The Difficulty in Today's Games

Gikoku

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Alright, so I have a couple of questions here. Games have definitely changed a lot over the decades, but it seems the difficulty in them has gotten progressively easier. Sure, there's Dark Souls, Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive, and Street Fighter, but those are the only ones I can think of in recent memory that were "controller throwing" hard.

Do any of you guys feel that games today have gotten too easy and if so, why do you think that is and how do you feel about it?

And secondly, whenever you start a new game what is your preferred difficulty? Easy, normal, or do you kick off your first playthrough at the highest difficulty?
 

Tsuyu

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Well, personally I feel like Diablo III was a walk in the park in comparison to Diablo II and I. The new health orbs as well as a lot less forgiving bosses made it feel dumbed down somehow. I had no probems beating the game. In Diablo II, certain areas/bossfights were nigh-impossible if you didn't ace them, even on Normal.

As for difficulty, I always start at Normal. It is what the game was designed for, and without all the nail-biting and hair-pulling of later playthroughs on higher difficulties, it allowes me to focus entirely on the story.
 

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I like my games on normal difficulty, still a challenge but not too hard so you can enjoy the game without wanting to punch a hole in your wall. If a game proves too difficult; I'll take it down a notch and if it's too easy; I'll slot it up. That said, sometimes I'll put it down to very easy on days when I want to feel like a god.

When you think back to the days of the Water Temple from Ocarina of Time, all games feel like Kirby's Epic Yarn. Although, I did want to murder my entire family after discovering the QWOP game.
 

Dark Drakan

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I know what your saying and I guess with companies under so much pressure to make money or fold these days they have to try and appeal to the widest audiences. Max Payne 3 is pretty challenging too as is The Witcher 2, there are games that have the tougher difficulty curves and those that aim to please everyone. The market is more aggressive and with the economy now developers sometimes cant take a risk by narrowing down their target audiences. I normally start on Normal mode as that mode can vary in difficulty from game to game.
 

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I know what youre getting at here, and I sort of agree, most games these days when increasing difficulty only means decrease your hp and increase enemy hp - games dont really have levels that are actually difficult anymore.
 

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Trials Evolution. The Extreme levels are hard as t-rex sh!t. Ive only completed one.
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Azer249

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I don't know, either i have got better at games over the years, or they have became more consumer friendly. I think it's the last one. I think the main thing that has happened with games of this era is the unnecessary dumbing down of features in a game so it can be accessed by a wider range of people. Skyrim did this by taking away some of the more in depth features that were present in Oblivion, such as custom spell making. At the end of the day it comes down to making a game user friendly, in doing so it will produce higher sales because more people will be inclined to buy types of games they previously wouldn't. In turn, in depth features and difficulty are striped from the game.
 

Gikoku

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Well, personally I feel like Diablo III was a walk in the park in comparison to Diablo II and I. The new health orbs as well as a lot less forgiving bosses made it feel dumbed down somehow. I had no probems beating the game. In Diablo II, certain areas/bossfights were nigh-impossible if you didn't ace them, even on Normal.

As for difficulty, I always start at Normal. It is what the game was designed for, and without all the nail-biting and hair-pulling of later playthroughs on higher difficulties, it allowes me to focus entirely on the story.
I do the same as well, I start the initial playthrough on Normal to not only be able to enjoy it properly, but to also be able to get a good feel of the game and controls. THEN I crank it up to max mid-way or in 2nd playthrough in an attempt for a real challenge now that I'm comfortable with it. But the unfortunate thing being is when I turn up the difficulty in a lot of these games, the AI is the same but the stats are modified.. so it's still Normal difficulty just with altered stats. :(
I know what your saying and I guess with companies under so much pressure to make money or fold these days they have to try and appeal to the widest audiences. Max Payne 3 is pretty challenging too as is The Witcher 2, there are games that have the tougher difficulty curves and those that aim to please everyone. The market is more aggressive and with the economy now developers sometimes cant take a risk by narrowing down their target audiences. I normally start on Normal mode as that mode can vary in difficulty from game to game.
I agree and it sucks that they dumb a lot their games down in an attempt to make it more appealing to a wider audience. What I notice though, is that in the event of making it dumber they sometimes end up skimping on the higher difficulties consequently alienating those who are looking for a challenge. There's a fine line between making something more accessible and unnecessarily dumbing down and stripping away depth of a product, thus, these devs really need to take a look at other companies and try to find that line and get more creative with it.
I know what youre getting at here, and I sort of agree, most games these days when increasing difficulty only means decrease your hp and increase enemy hp - games dont really have levels that are actually difficult anymore.
Exactly, it'd be great if more developers put more effort into the difficulties or got a bit creative instead of taking the cheap way out. Improved A.I., more complex environments, deeper strategy, scarce ammo etc.. there's lots of ways they can improve it. But increasing the HP/Health won't do much of anything if the A.I. is still the same, just means I have to go through with pressing the same series of buttons even longer now.. it's tedious and it gets boring.
Trials Evolution. The Extreme levels are hard as t-rex sh!t. Ive only completed one.
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It's like his progression through that level is based entirely on luck, @2:38 .. yeah, I don't even know how the hell that happened.
 

Dark Drakan

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I agree and it sucks that they dumb a lot their games down in an attempt to make it more appealing to a wider audience. What I notice though, is that in the event of making it dumber they sometimes end up skimping on the higher difficulties consequently alienating those who are looking for a challenge. There's a fine line between making something more accessible and unnecessarily dumbing down and stripping away depth of a product, thus, these devs really need to take a look at other companies and try to find that line and get more creative with it.

Just needs to be a better balance between difficulties and not by simply giving the CPU cheap tricks and tactics the higher the difficulty.
 

TRA Rotid

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While generally it is true today's games are easier, I'd say it's not necessarily a bad thing. Due to various technical limitations and overall the gaming industry having not evloved as much as it has in the last decade, older games were sometimes difficult in very frustrating areas. Since most games were mostly very linear and one-dimensional the gamemakers didn't have much room to try and make challenges vary in their nature. At some point you might have this extremely long jump you have to complete in a platform game; then later you might have an even bigger one, which basically leaves no room for other gameplay other than just trying to jump even further.
What I'm saying is that older games usually achieved difficulty in such a matter you were sometimes bound to fail anyway (trial and error).
Today's games, however, seem to be more rewarding in that when you do things right, you can succeed right away.

That said, however, what I think today's games don't do enough is the punishment for failing. Older games (very old in this regard) only had a limited number of lives, probably no save function, so you had to always try hard to survive. Today this has changed, because you're almost never punished for failing and that's something game developers should look at.

I'm currently playing Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II and it has a nice system where you can only do one mission per day. If you fail, you can repeat the mission, but you'll lose a day and the enemy will grow stronger. If you do good on a mission and gather enough points you are awarded an extra deployment for the day and can do another mission on the same day. I don't know if this has any impact other than my score in the end, but nevertheless it always makes me try hard to complete a mission and not just spam Restart every time something goes wrong.

Lets take Mass Effect. There's really no punishment in dying in that game other than having to do some parts over again. However, even though that is the case, I do find the game difficult. And mostly in the sense that I have to think to survive; I can't just blow through every enemy without worry. And at the same time, if I do take bad guys down it feels like I actually did it right - for whatever reasons, perhaps using my skills in the right order or giving my teammates the right commands.

I used to play games on Normal difficulty, but have lately moven up a tier. I started DoW right from the higher difficulty (not sure if it was actually the highest), and I think after completing ME 2 in Normal I went straight to Insanity for ME 3.

Edit: just to clarify I was mostly talking about game mechanics and not necessarily puzzles or mindgames. The latter two haven't been so big in later games anyway I think, mostly due to their main genres falling out of popularity. Games today also tend to explain everything to detail, whereas before you mostly had to figure stuff out yourself.
 

Angel

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Do any of you guys feel that games today have gotten too easy and if so, why do you think that is and how do you feel about it?

And secondly, whenever you start a new game what is your preferred difficulty? Easy, normal, or do you kick off your first playthrough at the highest difficulty?
1)If you're talking to someone who has completed a game well-known for its infernally difficult gameplay then they would probably say that yes, the majority of games produced now are more catering for the masses than the hardcore sup4 1773 h4x0r of yesteryear. If you're talking to me then I would say that I've definitely noticed a change in what I would call accessibility in games but at the same time, I wouldn't go right out and say they are too easy. Thanks to sliders, you can set your game to the preferred level - or you can unlock it a la Diablo III, Gears, Halo etc. And even when they are set to easy, for many titles the challenge is still there - especially if you're a gaming moron like me.

I personally think that in order to progress as an industry, gaming companies cannot simply remain the choice of the elite agoraphobic brigade who can't make a sandwich but sure as hell can uber-micro until their thumbs explode. If your niche market has expanded to include most of the planet under the age of 35 then you're going to need to start catering for a wider range of needs, wants and abilities. I actually like to think of it as games have matured in that sense - we can do so much more than in the past thanks to technology and to limit that to a handful of elitists would be not only dumb business sense but also incredibly exclusive, in a bad way.

I don't know the first thing about making games so I don't know how difficult it would be to make a game inclusive of novices and experts - maybe for some genres or titles it's actually very costly or time-consuming or hard to do this and that's why people complain about how easy something is. But you also need to look at the other side too - not everyone is good at games. It can take a lot of practice, patience and a willingness to persevere even when you want to rip the TV apart with rage. Not everyone relishes a challenge and it's always been my argument that if you have a setting for a novice gamer then the gameplay should reflect that. Similarly if you have some sort of Super Mega Hard setting then there ought to be parameters in place that mean the challenge is not only there but almost unachievable in places.

I love that games are easier. I love that I can get to the end of Gears 2 on the hardest difficulty and feel like I've accomplished something I previously couldn't have done. I love that I can actually progress beyond Viva Pinata and try something else. I love that I'm not necessarily limited by my lack of ability and can also play with other people who are better than me but willing to let me tag along *cough*Azer*cough*. Hell, you need gamers like me - it's the crap ones who hang back and make safe respawning possible. We barely use anything in our inventory because we can't figure out how to do it and we make great bait for the enemy because we're so good at running away. Seriously, you guys would be lost without us idiots being used as packhorses and cannon fodder.

2) I always go for the easiest option. Always. The reason is twofold: I like to be able to get a feel for the game without too much of a headache and I also like to not die within the first 5 minutes. It also gives me a general idea of what to expect on a higher level. If on novice it's nothing short of a nightmare (hello Dragon Age, I'm talking to you) then it would be natural to assume that a higher level is going to make you wish you'd never bought the game in the first place. I only get on harder levels when someone else is choosing the setting.
 

Gikoku

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While generally it is true today's games are easier, I'd say it's not necessarily a bad thing. Due to various technical limitations and overall the gaming industry having not evloved as much as it has in the last decade, older games were sometimes difficult in very frustrating areas. Since most games were mostly very linear and one-dimensional the gamemakers didn't have much room to try and make challenges vary in their nature. At some point you might have this extremely long jump you have to complete in a platform game; then later you might have an even bigger one, which basically leaves no room for other gameplay other than just trying to jump even further.
What I'm saying is that older games usually achieved difficulty in such a matter you were sometimes bound to fail anyway (trial and error).
Today's games, however, seem to be more rewarding in that when you do things right, you can succeed right away.

That said, however, what I think today's games don't do enough is the punishment for failing. Older games (very old in this regard) only had a limited number of lives, probably no save function, so you had to always try hard to survive. Today this has changed, because you're almost never punished for failing and that's something game developers should look at.

I'm currently playing Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II and it has a nice system where you can only do one mission per day. If you fail, you can repeat the mission, but you'll lose a day and the enemy will grow stronger. If you do good on a mission and gather enough points you are awarded an extra deployment for the day and can do another mission on the same day. I don't know if this has any impact other than my score in the end, but nevertheless it always makes me try hard to complete a mission and not just spam Restart every time something goes wrong.

Lets take Mass Effect. There's really no punishment in dying in that game other than having to do some parts over again. However, even though that is the case, I do find the game difficult. And mostly in the sense that I have to think to survive; I can't just blow through every enemy without worry. And at the same time, if I do take bad guys down it feels like I actually did it right - for whatever reasons, perhaps using my skills in the right order or giving my teammates the right commands.

Edit: just to clarify I was mostly talking about game mechanics and not necessarily puzzles or mindgames. The latter two haven't been so big in later games anyway I think, mostly due to their main genres falling out of popularity. Games today also tend to explain everything to detail, whereas before you mostly had to figure stuff out yourself.

I see where you're getting at and you make a good point, I do feel less inclined to try harder in some games because when you die it doesn't mean much of anything, just reload from a recent save and get back to business without the loss of anything (except maybe some locked Achievements). Little to nothing to lose, plenty to gain. Another issue I noticed is where games have gotten too forgiving in other aspects like in a lot of shooters with the regenerative health where you can easily just take cover, and in a few seconds you're good as new again, consequently making it easier to plough through various levels/areas without too much to worry about. Maybe developers decided on such a design to keep people in the game since some people can abandon a game out of too much frustration (something I'm admittedly guilty of when I was younger).

TRA Rotid said:
I used to play games on Normal difficulty, but have lately moven up a tier. I started DoW right from the higher difficulty (not sure if it was actually the highest), and I think after completing ME 2 in Normal I went straight to Insanity for ME 3.
I find myself doing similar, going on Normal at first just to get a feel of the game and learn the controls, then jump it to the highest difficulty for a fun challenge.. consequently making myself better. Which now that I think about it, Azer was right with playing them so much that the higher difficulties just feel more natural, especially since a lot of games of a specific genre tend to use the same or very similar mechanics making the learning curve very small and with AI limitations being a bit predictable to the point they can begin having noticeable patterns. I never really looked at it that way before.

I personally think that in order to progress as an industry, gaming companies cannot simply remain the choice of the elite agoraphobic brigade who can't make a sandwich but sure as hell can uber-micro until their thumbs explode. If your niche market has expanded to include most of the planet under the age of 35 then you're going to need to start catering for a wider range of needs, wants and abilities. I actually like to think of it as games have matured in that sense - we can do so much more than in the past thanks to technology and to limit that to a handful of elitists would be not only dumb business sense but also incredibly exclusive, in a bad way.

I don't know the first thing about making games so I don't know how difficult it would be to make a game inclusive of novices and experts - maybe for some genres or titles it's actually very costly or time-consuming or hard to do this and that's why people complain about how easy something is. But you also need to look at the other side too - not everyone is good at games. It can take a lot of practice, patience and a willingness to persevere even when you want to rip the TV apart with rage. Not everyone relishes a challenge and it's always been my argument that if you have a setting for a novice gamer then the gameplay should reflect that. Similarly if you have some sort of Super Mega Hard setting then there ought to be parameters in place that mean the challenge is not only there but almost unachievable in places.

It's all well and good to cater to those not looking for a challenge, but like I mentioned before a lot of developers tend struggle at delivering on both ends and cannot find that balance. Games that were designed with great difficulty in mind then attempt to make them more accessible, but their mechanics make it difficult to achieve without dumbing it down (a la Dragon Age). Vice versa as well, with games that were designed to appeal to the casual first and foremost, but due to how the game was made cranking up the difficulty offers very little. Maybe it's due to laziness, lack of budget, technological limitations, or they just don't have a clue what they're doing, I don't know. But it's clear that many devs in this day seem to have a hard time offering accessibility without inadvertently dumbing down their product to appeal to the majority.

Good for business? Apparently so, for now, but just how reliable will that same majority be down the road in comparison to the dedicated gamers. Just look at the success of the Wii, granted it was a novelty item.. but the business strategy behind it was to appeal to the majority with a lack of focus on the dedicated minority. Now the majority has left it and moved on along with a lot of the minority. So yeah, if they could find that proper balance without alienating either side, then that would be perfect.
 

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Higher difficulty != Better game
 

Angel

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By definition, accessibility means everyone can get to it - so yeah, certain things are going to suffer as a result. That's not to say how it should be but if there's a way of providing a challenge AND accessibility in one game then that would be ideal. You see, because I'm crap at games, it appears to me that many games already offer just that because I personally cannot play anything over novice difficulty anyway. But for many others, it's just a slightly trickier variant of "I can do it with my eyes closed" and that's where it falls down for them.

I honestly don't know how to manage the two demographics in one title. There must be some prohibitive costs or time factors involved otherwise I would have thought devs would already be trying to accomplish this?
 
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