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Why games should be challenging?


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#1 meeshoo   Members   -  Reputation: 508

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Posted 02 October 2012 - 05:20 PM

Hi,

I have wrote an article on my blog about why do I think indie devs should make challenging games, even if they are little and casual.

http://www.jungle-troll.com/2012/10/03/about-challenge-in-games/

Please feel free to comment on my expressed opinions.

Thank you!

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#2 PSvils   Members   -  Reputation: 135

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 02:51 AM

You mix lots of things that it is difficult to understand your backing points...

First, you say that a player will play the first FPS they buy, but after playing many, they'll throw them away and not want to play anything similar. Then you admit that lots of players like FPS's, CoD and Battlefield, etc.. that don't have much challenge in learning (though they still have lots of challenge that is expressed through situations that happen because of the game mechanics (Unique stand-offs between players in some random location)). Rather than seeing that as a problem, I simply see that as defeating your argument.

Second, you get into the tangly world of "real games". How can you define a real game? Why isn't a real game the infinity runners, the physics shooters, the physics construction? Even while I don't agree with your definition of a game, Angry Birds still qualifies. The player learns the mechanics of the game, and what to do, and later on, the many levels are all tests on how much he has learned the mechanics. Your definition is extremely non-exclusive, but in my opinion at the same time limiting, since it enforces the common view that all games are meant to be built around being FUN, ENERGETIC, and CHALLENGING! (some are, some aren't at all)

P.

#3 PyroDragn   Members   -  Reputation: 404

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 03:24 AM

I'm going to disagree with a few of the points you stated too. The most obvious point is that apparently because I've played a lot of shooters, I'll find any other shooters boring because they're the same. Even if we exclude the fact that Halo is a very different kind of shooter to Sniper Elite, I have played Modern Warfare 1, 2 and 3, and enjoyed them all, and I'm looking forward to the next iteration.

I'm going to say that I don't think games have to be challenging. I like some games to be, but it's not a prerequisite as you seem to state. A game has to be fun. Challenging and fun can be as good as simple and fun. I like spending hours of time building houses in the Sims (on empty plots so there's no money worries). I could do anything I want, there's no way to 'fail,' it's not challenging, but it's engaging and that's the important part.

I dunno, in short I disagreed with most of what you said, although I think I agree with the sentiment. If a game is supposed to be challenging it should be challenging. Not dumbed down to cater to those that don't want a challenge. I just think you should realise that not every game needs to be challenging to be fun. Sometimes it's nice to just play.

#4 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1999

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 03:58 AM

As PSVils said, you have some points that I agree with, but your overall argument is self-contradictory. You attribute opinions to others that can't be justified. For example "down to the refusal of their brain to play anything close to a shooter for more than 5 minutes or so because it’s boring". The AAA market for FPSes and it's "non risky profits" resoundingly disagrees with you there. If you were correct, there would be no market for such games. I'm sure there are people who feel that way, but you can't speak for everybody (or even close). I would also argue that it is almost impossible to "master" a multiplayer FPS because there will always be opponents upping the ante.

Your definition of gamer is fuzzy and exclusionary. You need to keep two things in mind: some gamers are casual due to time limitations (you can't get too hardcore in a 15 minute session), and some casual gamers have little experience with hardcore games so are sufficiently challenged by the controller itself before hitting the complexity of your game itself. I grew up playing games with joystick or cursor keys, then took a few years off gaming, so mastering two thumbsticks, two triggers plus at least 6 other buttons simultaneously was huge.

#5 meeshoo   Members   -  Reputation: 508

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 04:28 AM

Hello,

thank you for your opinions. In my defend, I will say that I stated pretty clear it was a personal view of the matter, and certainly not necessary the right one, that is actually the reason I have decided to share it with you. In my almost 17 years gaming "career" I came to the point described in my post, where i can't play a shooter anymore unless it is a multiplayer game, and even then not for a long time. It is true that a game has to be fun, but for me personally it is not fun unless it is challenging, and I'm always looking for the ultimate challenge when playing a game.

On the other side, as an indie developer for the last two years, since I have the liberty of developing games according to my own vision, I'm trying to envision games that are fun because they are challenging and there is a lot of reward in solving challenges.

It is true that my definition of a game is narrow, I would like to see how you define games, what a game is for you and why do you think it is fun being that way.

Thank you!

#6 PyroDragn   Members   -  Reputation: 404

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 05:07 AM

Of course you're entitled to your opinion, though I'm going to say that I didn't get that it was a personal opinion on your blog. This is more of a critique of your writing than about your opinions on the game design. You started with a personal opinion and view about what game design is, that is clear. But after the third paragraph you outline everything else as fact:

Most modern games suffer from lack of originality,
Players will refuse to play shooters after playing a few because they're all the same,
Most indie games are clones,
etc

That's how it reads to me anyway. Essentially you give your opinion at the start, then state your view thereafter as being concrete. In particular when you talk about during the beta test of your game:

The non-gamer testers would continuously complaining about the difficulty of the game and the fact that they are forced to learn and perform certain actions within the game. Accumulated, these actions ARE the game, if you take those out there is no game to be played at all. By complaining, they only prove why they aren’t gamers in the first place, because they have no satisfaction from playing games at all and every artificial challenge imposed by the game is immediately rejected.


It doesn't read as an opinion here, it just requires more careful phrasing and layout to show that the post is based off of your thoughts and opinions. Trying to find the balance between saying that "Everyone who plays shooters for a while will get bored" and "I've played a lot of shooters, and I'm bored because they're all the same - this will happen to other players."

#7 meeshoo   Members   -  Reputation: 508

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 05:37 AM

t doesn't read as an opinion here, it just requires more careful phrasing and layout to show that the post is based off of your thoughts and opinions. Trying to find the balance between saying that "Everyone who plays shooters for a while will get bored" and "I've played a lot of shooters, and I'm bored because they're all the same - this will happen to other players."


You are right, I presumed that if I start by stating personal opinions people would understand that everything else is based on those opinions.

#8 PyroDragn   Members   -  Reputation: 404

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 05:53 AM

You are right, I presumed that if I start by stating personal opinions people would understand that everything else is based on those opinions.


This wouldn't be a problem if the correlation was more obvious between the two.

"My opinion is RTS games are too hard" therefore "they should make RTS games more intuitive" would come across more clearly.

in your blog you've said:

"My opinion is games must be challenging" therefore "modern games lack originality."

There isn't a proper flow of thought between these two statements. The fact that modern games lack originality is something you've introduced as a fact from elsewhere. Essentially; Because modern games lack originality they're less challenging, and that's a bad thing based on my opinion.

To be clear I actually do think that originality in games is a problem, I'm just trying to help you see where things have gone awry in your writing.

#9 glhf   Banned   -  Reputation: -585

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 04:57 AM

i already made a topic about this before you did and its still active.... lol

#10 Legendre   Members   -  Reputation: 966

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 10:29 AM

There are some very nice games which are not challenging at all.

For example, Journey [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journey_(2012_video_game) ] is widely acknowledged to be well made, but it is extremely easy to finish in a short amount of time. It is also considered quite innovative.

Portal was also very easy. Although it gives players an option to face harder challenges, one can choose to breeze through the basic game and enjoy the nice "script".

#11 dichterKOENRAAD   Members   -  Reputation: 105

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 01:08 PM

I think challenge in video games is important at times, but difficulty isn't a prerequisite for an enjoyable (and even lengthy) game. Often, games with shallow and repetitive gameplay benefit dramatically ramp up their difficulty to have more lasting power - but I think fun and immersiveness are crucial to a good game.

People sometimes look back at early arcade games, using them as a benchmark for 'good, but insanely difficult' games. I think their difficulty is often unforgiving, persistent, and simply not fun at all. But 'back in the days', these games often were the norm, and like all childhood memories we only have fond memories of them. Of course, some people still love those games (much like people who can't get enough of Bullet Hell-style games), but in general, people just want to have fun (cue Cindi Lauper).

Game genres do not have that much of an influence in gamers 'craving for more difficult games', because I think all games are unique on their own. Moreover, gamers who prefer a certain genre won't mind a difference in difficulty that much - just because they love this or that kind of game.

Tom Bissell wrote a funny article about the matter, you might want to check it out.

#12 meeshoo   Members   -  Reputation: 508

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 03:08 AM

@Legendre - I have played Journey and it is a wonderful experience, but I didn't enjoy it too much because it was a bit confusing for me. Anyway, I enjoyed Flower from the same developer and I know what you mean. It is a beautiful and visually rewarding experience, with a nice social component in Journey's case.

@dichterKOENRAAD - Well, in my personal case, it might be related to what you said, because I started out playing very hard games back then. About the article, Demon's Souls still stands as my favorite game of all times (bought the PS3 just for it, maybe played about 2-3 games on the console since then, looking forward to Dark Souls as I didn't have time for it yet). I played that game for so many hours I can't remember, and there is no new RPG that I won't compare to it. For me it felt like the most rewarding game of all times, I played it 3 times in total, 2 on normal and one on newgame+.

#13 Ashaman73   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7100

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 06:35 AM

Nice write up. But IMHO casual and challenging in one game is really problematic.To overcome a challenge you need not only to learn, but to master it.

But this is very time consuming. You need to learn all the time and don't forget already learned knowledge. But the latter is what a casual gamer want to avoid. He want to start a game, play for some time and then will not touch it for an other month. When he picks it up again, most of the knowledge is gone and he finds it incredible difficult to dive in again.

Even if you make a casual game challenging, you will get in trouble. A challenging game requires mastery, which requires dedication. But a player who will dedicate his time to your game expects suddenly depth.

You are trying to pull at both ends of a rope at once. Casual gamers who are looking to have a good pasttime will avoid a difficulty casual game, and a core gamer, who is willed to dedicate his time in a game, will avoid a casual game, because it has not much depth.

A possible solution to this problem is increasing difficulty/challenge over time and don't start with hi-difficulty or the requirement to learn all the skills to play. A tower defense game is a good example. In fact it is a strategy game with resource management. In an endless mode you will survive only if you master it, but at the beginning a casual gamer can success with randomly placed towers.

#14 Luckless   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1765

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 07:49 AM

Games have to be challenging?

Counter point to that idea: Osmos. While I feel it does get somewhat challenging in later levels, I have spent far more time playing the early ones and just relaxing. It is simple, enjoyable, and fun. The only real challenge I have is the new twists that come along in later levels. If thrown in far along the game without having played earlier levels it is down right hard, but by slowly progressing through the game it remains enjoyable without offering what I would consider an exceptional challenge. They usually aren't 'easy', but they are far from being 'hard'.

The point should not be that games need to be Challenging, but rather they need to be Interesting. I will take an interesting and easy game any day over a boring one that is also hard to beat.

(I also didn't click your link, because it feels like spam to drive traffic to your site.)
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#15 meeshoo   Members   -  Reputation: 508

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 06:44 PM

@Ashaman73 I think your points are the best I read up until now on the three forums I've been discussing the idea.

It is very hard and time consuming as an indie developer with limited resources to to design and develop such a game that slowly draws the player in and then if he wants he can spend even more time to master it. You have to dedicate half the efforts into teaching the player everything in the game, step by step, carefully not to lose them on the way, and figuring out how to do that is a hard task in my personal view.

Also the fact that players can forget their mastery of one specific game after a time and because of that they consider it hard to get back to it might be a valid argument since I experienced it too sometimes.

@Luckless I am sorry but I haven't played Osmos, just heard of it, I will try it when I'll have some spare time. Meanwhile, I would like to understand what do you mean by "Interesting and easy" game and also it would be great if you could give me an example of "hard but boring" game, as I don't recall any in my personal experience.

About my link being a spam, well, it would have been nice to get one more visitor on top of my daily ten to see my development blog, but then no big loss there isn't it :) However I still think you should read something before commenting on it as a general rule of thumb :P

#16 Cronnix   Members   -  Reputation: 149

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 01:44 AM

I am under impression that while you may have a point at the core of your post, you phrase in a questionable way. I don't agree that games must always be challenging, they must be engaging. They should engage the user with their mechanics, atmopshere or story, or any other way they can come up with. Fun doesn't always come from challenge, it comes from exploring a new pattern, a new feature that was previously unknown to the player. That is not to say that said features can be mind-numbing easy that they become boring, but they don't need to make you grind your teeth.

For example while Dear Esther (which is questionable if it can be classified as a game, but that's not the point) is hardly a challenge, it was engaging. Same goes for Journey. Fun from games comes in many forms, it can be from sense of discovery, artistic joy, challenge or from many other ways. I don't think you can just sweep all games under "they should be challenging". Sure there is theory of Flow, where a player has most fun when there is nice balance between his skills and challenge, which I fully agree on, but that is not the only way to engage your player.

Another important point you overlook is that not everyone's skill is equal to yours. Why should a more casual crowd be denied the joy of gaming only because they are less skilled, and therefore can't get into the "flow" zone of your standard challenging game? Some people don't have the ability or time to learn advanced games, it's just not their thing, therefore the barrier into flow (where challenge meets player skills) should be lowered to meet those peoples skill. Yes, such games are perceived as casual by you, but my mom is still trying to master angry birds and that is a challenge to her. "Challenge" is a very relative term. This is the main reason where your post comes short IMHO.

Lastly your line about "they arn't real gamers" really gets to me, and I must admit I can't really pinpoint exactly why. Gamer as a word is too overused to use in any argument imho. Because I watch few movies each month, doesn't mean I'm a cinephile, does it? Same goes for games. Games are a medium of entertainment that have stopped being exclusive to "gamers" long ago, and imho there is nothing wrong with developers adapting to a broader audience. It's a dynamic medium that becomes what it's audience and developers wants it to become, it develops together with its audience. There is nothing wrong with casual games; as much as I like dark souls I dont think I would enjoy playing them on a subway to the work Posted Image

Edited by Cronnix, 09 October 2012 - 02:34 AM.

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#17 meeshoo   Members   -  Reputation: 508

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 07:24 AM

@Cronnix - Nice write up. So the first part of your comment is basically about tuning the level of difficulty to meet the player skills, which I agree with. Although for me personally a "grind your teeth" game is the one to play (because I have accumulated to much gameplay experience over the years and I consider less challenging games uninteresting, maybe that is why I never play on the go), I agree that the difficulty should meet player's skill so everyone could enjoy playing.

On the other side, it should also try to challenge players to increase their skill. So it should be somewhere close to their skill level, but a bit harder, so the players have to improve, and I think this situation can also create engagement for the players. My intention when I stated about "educating" players is just that: rising up the bar a bit, of course not to drive the player away, but enough to make him want to beat the challenge. Once he get used to that level of skill requirement, he might want some more, and so he will try something harder (in an absolute way) but with the same relative difficulty when it comes to his available skills. If every developer would try to achieve that, people that previously weren't playing games at will get more and more involved with the gaming world.

The line you are talking in your last paragraph is a bit out of context there. The definition of my version of "gamer" comes out of that context. A gamer is not necessary a person who plays games on a regular basis. A gamer is a person with the right attitude towards playing games. This person must be playful and creative, ready to accept challenges just for the fun of it or ready to learn new things a game would throw at it. It requires a certain state of mind to have fun with a game. Someone who plays a game with an attitude of rejection for any challenge or mechanic or stuff that the game requires him/her to do/learn is a non-gamer in my view.

#18 PyroDragn   Members   -  Reputation: 404

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 08:40 AM

A gamer is not necessary a person who plays games on a regular basis. A gamer is a person with the right attitude towards playing games. This person must be playful and creative, ready to accept challenges just for the fun of it or ready to learn new things a game would throw at it. It requires a certain state of mind to have fun with a game. Someone who plays a game with an attitude of rejection for any challenge or mechanic or stuff that the game requires him/her to do/learn is a non-gamer in my view.


I'd disagree with this in part. I feel that a gamer is someone who actively enjoys gaming as a past time. They could be sporadically playing, ie a casual gamer, or play non-stop. I have friends who enjoy playing games, but aren't gamers. They can sit down and play a game, have fun with it, enjoy it - they have the right attitude - but it isn't something that they would actively pursue.

As an example, a friend of mine adores Bejeweled, plays it a lot, enjoys it, but she's definitely not a gamer. It's just an enjoyable thing to do, but it'd be in the same sect as watching a movie or something.

Similarly, I can enjoy playing a game of football with friends, but I'm not a sports-person.

Someone who plays a game with an attitude of rejection for any challenge or mechanic or stuff that the game requires him/her to do/learn is a non-gamer in my view.


This, I think, doesn't have anything to do with being a gamer or not. It could be a gamer who doesn't enjoy the particular style of game, or it could be a non-gamer. Being a gamer doesn't mean being open-minded, in fact I would say that there'd be a great liklihood of gamers rejecting a game outright, on principle, because it's different to previous experience, or just because it's not "insert their favourite game."

personally a "grind your teeth" game is the one to play (because I have accumulated to much gameplay experience over the years and I consider less challenging games uninteresting, maybe that is why I never play on the go)


I'm going to have to be a pedant here and try to reiterate something about phrasing:

'Personally a "grind your teeth" game is the one to play... I consider less challenging games uninteresting' - That's fair enough. Everyone has their own taste.

'Personally a "grind your teeth" game is the one to play because I have accumulated too much gameplay experience over the years'- this isn't really true, or at least it isn't going to be based on the fact that you've played a lot of games. Maybe you've played a lot of games, so now there are less games that are challenging, and you enjoy a challenge. It isn't that, the more you play games the more you like challenging games. If you played Hello Kitty online continuously for a while would you like challenging games more?

As a comparison, I like sweets. I've eaten a lot of sweets over my life. Some I like, some I don't like. The ones I love aren't because of all the sweets I've eaten in my lifetime, I love them because I think they taste nice. Maybe eating a bad sweet will make me appreciate a good sweet more. But eating a bad sweet doesn't make all sweets bad. Eating a good sweet doesn't make all sweets good. Eating more sweets doesn't make all sweets better.

Playing a bad game can make you appreciate a good game. But playing a bad game doesn't make all games bad. Playing a good game doesn't make all games good. And playing more games doesn't make all games better.

I know this seems a bit like the grammar police going on a rampage, but it seems like you want your blog to go forward, and I'm just trying to help you see where more clarity may be needed.

#19 meeshoo   Members   -  Reputation: 508

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 02:15 PM

@PyroDragn

Well, about the grammar, English is not my first language, so thank you for explaining some of these concepts, I don't mind:)

About "gamer" - I think we have different views on what a gamer is. For me, a gamer is not necessary a person who plays video games, but all kind of games. I play video games, then I play board games, soccer (ignoring here the sports part, just the game part), I play with my kids and then I also play Airsoft. For me all these are games, with rules, mechanics/actions, challenges and rewards. That is why, in this context, I think the definition I wrote above is correct.

About "gaming experience" phrasing - well you are right, it doesn't imply that, although it is one of the things that might imply and for me as a developer those are the only people I consider as a target for my games (but as you said, I should have stated that and make it clear).




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