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fearghaill

How hard is too hard?

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I've heard it suggested in the past that games tend to be much easier than they used to be because mainstream audiences equate not being able to "beat" a game with not getting their money's worth - i.e. they paid to see the ending. Whether or not this is the whole reason, truly difficult games are getting more and more rare, with games like Ikaruga, God Hand, and You Have To Burn The Rope becoming cult hits at best. I found myself waxing nostalgic about Nethack the other day, and while I know that combination of difficulty and savegames deleted on death would never fly today, I wonder how hard a game can be without driving too many people away? I know the rapidly growing casual gamer audience would never have the patience to start over and over and over as they learned the "rules" of the game world, but how close to Nethack's level of cruelty to new players can a game get without making people hate it? Are there things that can be done to make a steep learning curve more tolerable?

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Quote:
Original post by fearghaill
Whether or not this is the whole reason, truly difficult games are getting more and more rare, with games like Ikaruga, God Hand, and You Have To Burn The Rope becoming cult hits at best.

I am wondering whether I missed the whole point of You Have To Burn The Rope. I read it as a commentary on the ridiculous ease of modern computer games - what gives with it appearing in that list?

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Quote:
Original post by swiftcoder
Quote:
Original post by fearghaill
Whether or not this is the whole reason, truly difficult games are getting more and more rare, with games like Ikaruga, God Hand, and You Have To Burn The Rope becoming cult hits at best.

I am wondering whether I missed the whole point of You Have To Burn The Rope. I read it as a commentary on the ridiculous ease of modern computer games - what gives with it appearing in that list?


An attempt at a tongue-in-cheek reference, in keeping with the spirit of it.

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There is a paper out there and a game called flow. Basically you have to have an "average" gamer in mind then keep the game challenging enough that they want to keep playing and easy enough so that they make progress. So let me ask you this. Is there a point to making your game harder? Is there a point to making your game easier? Who is your target and what do they want?

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Quote:
Original post by stonemetal
There is a paper out there and a game called flow. Basically you have to have an "average" gamer in mind then keep the game challenging enough that they want to keep playing and easy enough so that they make progress. So let me ask you this. Is there a point to making your game harder? Is there a point to making your game easier? Who is your target and what do they want?


The point to making it harder is realism - the inevitable zombie apocalypse is no laughing matter. I know the precise balance between realism and fun will only be found through tons of playtesting, just wondering how many false starts the average gamer would be willing to put up with as they learn how to survive. I want to give the player a fair bit of freedom, and with that there will be a fair bit of room to bite off more than they can chew, leading to them being bit and chewed.

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too hard is something that is undefendable and unbeatable. I mean literally unbeatable. Like a boss that moves faster than you, blocks everything you throw at him and kills you in one hit and have a decent AI.

Also depends on how good they make your controls as well.

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Fun should never be sacrificed for realism.

Whether or not a game is too hard is difficult to ascertain, but it is easy to tell if the game is difficult properly.

If the player ever loses and it's not their own fault, the game isn't properly difficult.

If certain viable strategies are intentionally disabled to shoehorn the player into a forced brute-force scenario, the game is isn't properly difficult.

If the player is expected to do something they have no rational reason to expect to work, the game is improperly difficult.

If the game relies too much on knowledge that the player can only get about a situation by being killed, the game isn't properly difficult (Exemption: Roguelikes, games where this is actually a developed and intentional mechanic).

If the game relies too much on pattern memorization and less on skill, it is improperly difficult.

If the game is massively unbalanced to give the enemies a huge advantage, it isn't properly difficult.

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While I'm personally the type who will devote hours and days to an extremely difficult game, I'm in a minority. The general rule of maximum fun is to keep the player at the point where they're on the edge of failure, but never fall. I personally don't like this approach, philosophically (as it removes self-improvement from the mix), but philosophy only gets in the way of practical things like marketability.

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Ninja Gaiden is too hard.

I never finished Blaster Master.

The zeitgeist has changed. You can't make a game like Blaster Master, where you work your ass off for an hour, and then die on the last level, and then go back to level 1. You need save games and passwords and whatever else.

NetHack doesn't even count, because it's got randomly generated levels. If you had to play through the exact same dungeon every time, there wouldn't be as many fans.

But playing Ninja Gaiden, knowing there's a fucking eagle above that pit, then getting knocked into it anyway, then doing it eight more times, then having to play through the first four levels again to get murdered by that eagle a few more times... How did we do it?

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Simple solution. Build the root of your primary game as a medium to easy challenge, then add several optional quests/stages/minigames that are impossibly difficult. For example, within an RPG, there's no reason a side-quest can't be more epic and challenging than the main quest. You can even disguise the beginning of such a quest as a "don't go this way" game area, where only hardcore gamers would dare to enter, in hopes of finding incredible rewards and treasure.

Casual gamers may argue that they shouldn't have to pay the full amount for a game they only get to experience half of, but isn't that a bit like me complaining that I didn't get to see what happens when all of the quests in a game are failed? Who cares; I didn't want to see it, so I'm happy with my experience.

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