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fearghaill

How hard is too hard?

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fearghaill    244
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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swiftcoder    18439
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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fearghaill    244
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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stonemetal    288
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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fearghaill    244
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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pothb    102
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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MeshGearFox    158
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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Portugal Stew    129
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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Kest    547
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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Hk    132
I think, games can be very, very, very hard. The major problem is to structure the difficulty in a way so it is not frustrating. Take a look at games like "I wanna be the guy" or certain Mario romhacks. Those are extremely hard.

Overall, I think, the maximum hardness is determined by the maximum distance between 2 savespots and the skill of the audience. That is, extremely hard games might appeal even the less skilled players if you only require 1 or 2 hard puzzles/jumps/whatever until the player can save again (or even think quicksaves.) That way, you will need a lot of time to finish stuff, but you wont get that frustrated, because you wont have to redo all the old stuff you already did again. Just keep new extremely hard challenges with lots of savepoints coming and you can create extremely hard stuff.

Greetings, Hk

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Quote:
Original post by MeshGearFox
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.


Really I don't have anything to add except some emphasis and examples.

Commonly games expect you to try something that makes no logical sense, or doesn't fit with the rest of the game. EG: Why, oh why, should I try pushing that gaint rock that looks like it should weigh several tons? Oh, really, I have super human strength now?

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fearghaill    244
Thanks for the replies folks - just wanted to follow up on Iron Chef Carnage and MeshGearFox's comments regarding Nethack/Roguelikes, as that's more what I'm trying to get at. If the game world *is* randomly generated for each new game, and I'm *not* deleting their savegames when they die (but only allowing them to save between missions, not during), how close to a roguelike level of difficulty can I get?

Maybe roguelikes aren't the best comparison - look at X-Com. If you were careful, and didn't send lone squad members charging blindly into buildings, you could do alright, but there was always the chance that an alien would be standing in the wrong spot or get lucky, and your favorite sniper would get wasted. If a game is somewhat unforgiving to players until they learn the "rules" (don't send anyone in without support, don't get too attached to individuals, etc), is that still okay? That is assuming the above factors, like saves between missions, and randomly generated games to reduce the tedium of starting over a little bit wiser.

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Telastyn    3777
The high level of difficulty with NetHack (I've never gotten past maybe level 8) just means I end up playing Moria or Zangband (not quite balrog level) instead.

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Funkymunky    1413
with the industry as it is, games are now entertainment experiences. Its the same with those crappy, formulaic movies that keep getting churned out. Industries go stale; it appears that actual creative talent and big-business budget planning don't always line up. That's why in my own game project, I'm making it solely for my own entertainment. It's going to be really hard, my AI will be instructed to actively outwit and kill the player. And it's going to impose the restriction of being dual-analog gamepad only (currently being implemented as a PC game).

Anyone else beat some seriously hard NES games? I never beat punchout, but I tried for ages. Never beat bionic commando or blaster master. But I beat ninja gaiden II, and I got past the dam stage in ninja turtles.

The new games invite you to beat them. Look at the Wii, their games are so family oriented that they practically coax you into beating their bosses. Mario 3 was way harder than galaxy, given the control interface differences. And Mario 1 was even harder than Mario 3.

I don't want to make entertainment experiences that gamble on blockbuster success. I just want to make some cool shit.

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Way Walker    745
The thing with the NES games I enjoyed (and still enjoy) is that, even though I lose and have to go back through the same content (and I still haven't beaten some of my favorites), they're still fun.

For some of them (e.g. Contra) the first level is the one that's been burned into my memory and I'll go back specifically to play that level.

The Mario games were even better because they had warps. There wasn't much trouble getting to the first warp in Mario 1, getting the first warp whistle in Mario 3 was nothing, and it wasn't much more trouble to get another. The one time I beat Mario 2 I played essentially the minimum number of stages (I forget how it went exactly, something like play three stages, warp, warp, play the last two). One thing I just realized was that Mario was fun because you could play the "good parts version". Don't like water levels? Warp past them. Want to play level 4-3? Warp to it. The Mega Man series even threw this choice in your face. But why would this be a good thing unless it was fun to play that content again and again and again and...?

Zelda always had the stand-by that you could just run around and poke things with your sword. You didn't really progress, but it was enjoyable, and maybe you saw a screen you hadn't reached before. Metroid was similar, with a greater possibility of stumbling on some upgrade.


On further thought, my fond memories of old, hard games are very similar to the attraction of current, casual games. I'm not playing to win, I'm playing to do better than I did last time. If there's any difference, it's that the casual games have a lower barrier to entry in that I tend to have a better idea of what I'm doing wrong and don't have to figure it out through tedious trial and error.

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Funkymunky    1413
I feel like those old games were more beneficial to my cognitive development than many of these new titles. Zelda and metroid, both of which I beat as a kid, really required you to maintain a solid working memory of the level layout in order to win. Metroid you had to explore and re-explore until you'd unlocked everything, and zelda you had to freakin' find the dungeons and do ridiculous things like burn specific bushes. That shit was hard. After playing newer games, I find that when I actually go back and try to play zelda, I get frustrated rather quickly and I give up. As a kid I didn't have an option; zelda was it. (and contra and megaman and final fantasy and rad racer etc) Now I can just go run around in GTA and essentially have fun with a powerful game engine.

I've taken a decidedly aggressive stance as a game designer; My game is more like a challenge to the player, rather than an invitation to a pleasant time. I'm ignoring the desire for commercial success. If you get my game, consider yourself a fool, because it's going to make you its bitch.

*inhaaaaale*

Ha I'm psyching myself up, my game is really a far ways away. Still, this is my discipline for the project.

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