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Dynamic difficulty discourages success

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I don't want to go into a rant. I would just like to see some counters to this simple point. Every time I play a game that uses dynamic difficulty, I feel like a super hero that can't be caught kicking too much butt. If I'm caught, the game gods will bestow powers to my enemies, or worse, zap away my own. For each fight, I have to make sure I don't do too well, so I won't be tortured for it later on. In some cases, I might even want to lose an easy fight or two on purpose, so I won't have such a hard time with something that actually is tough for me. I hate having this kind of crap circling my head while I'm playing a game. My favorite thing to do in a game is to give it my all. I want to destroy my enemies, and not purposely barely win each fight. I'll wait for responses before I go into any more. Facts are unimportant. Opinions are welcome.

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I've got good/bad news for you: Only game developers have this crap circling our head. It's the same unfortunate gaming trait that makes us quickload to check out the other branches of dialog trees. Pretty much everyone else just wants a decent but not overwhelming challenge. They don't minmax, and they certainly don't minmax by throwing fights.

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I don't get it;

This is (as I see it) the ideal play experience:

You sit down to play "El Game" and you're faced with a non-challenge to begin with, you utterly school it. The next fight is tougher, you beat it. The next fight is a solid challenge, you fail at it once, but get through next time taking a right bruising. The next fight is a good challenge, you don't die, but you get hurt and dish out plenty of hurt. The fights oscillate between slightly easier than your level, and slightly harder than your level. Overall you progress through the game. Whenever you begin consistently failing things scale back to help you get through. Your final score is based on the actual quality of your play, so you're still ranked higher than the lesser players. Overall you always play your best without holding back.

Where's the problem?

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Original post by Sneftel
I've got good/bad news for you: Only game developers have this crap circling our head. It's the same unfortunate gaming trait that makes us quickload to check out the other branches of dialog trees.
I always wondered why nobody else I know does that.


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Quote:
Original post by Symphonic
I don't get it;

This is (as I see it) the ideal play experience:

You sit down to play "El Game" and you're faced with a non-challenge to begin with, you utterly school it. The next fight is tougher, you beat it. The next fight is a solid challenge, you fail at it once, but get through next time taking a right bruising. The next fight is a good challenge, you don't die, but you get hurt and dish out plenty of hurt. The fights oscillate between slightly easier than your level, and slightly harder than your level. Overall you progress through the game. Whenever you begin consistently failing things scale back to help you get through. Your final score is based on the actual quality of your play, so you're still ranked higher than the lesser players. Overall you always play your best without holding back.

Where's the problem?
Well for me, it's the exact same problem I have with level scaling difficulty. Oblivion is the very first game to come to mind ... level scaling difficulty absolutely destroyed my long term interest in the game.

By the end of a game I want to feel some level of accomplishment.

I've spent all this time leveling up, developing my skills, exploring the most dangerous and mysterious places, and gathering the most legendary and powerful equipment ... I kind of expect to feel 'powerful' at this point. But the immersion is totally destroyed as you notice that, for some unfathomable reason, every single enemy you encounter is now every bit as powerful and epic as yourself.


And, most jarringly in Oblivion, the very same type of "awesome", "rare" armor that I was so proud of myself for collecting from the depths of a deep dungeon just a few levels ago ... is now being worn by highway thieves who are considerably stronger than I recall the denizens of said epic dungeon being.

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Original post by brent_w
Quote:
Original post by Symphonic
Where's the problem?
Well for me, it's the exact same problem I have with level scaling difficulty. Oblivion is the very first game to come to mind ... level scaling difficulty absolutely destroyed my long term interest in the game.
Oblivion is terrible in this regard, but that's mostly a matter of (IMHO) them picking the wrong way to resolve paradoxes in the game they wanted. On the one hand, they wanted you to be challenged by the areas you do at higher levels despite being more of a badass than you were when you were lower level; on the other hand, they want you to be able to walk by any given Ayleid ruin, pop in on a lark, and find that the content is about the right level of difficulty. Their solution was to ramp up monster levels while keeping the rest of the content the same. The problem, though, is that the need to keep monster populations more or less constant led to them replacing, rather than simply adding, enemies.

I don't think this is an unsolvable problem. When a character goes into a dungeon, set its difficulty based on the character's level plus/minus some random amount. About 30% of the time, you should be utterly outclassed by the monsters you meet, and need to make a mental note to come back when you're more of a badass. And when you're up in the teens levels, quit just adding trolls and such to the main map, and let the player feel like a badass for not having to bother with the wolves nipping at Shadowfaxmere's flanks. I don't think that auto-ramped content by itself is a problem... it just needs to be carefully done, to still allow players to feel (a) underpowered, and (b) overpowered at times.

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Original post by Sneftel
I've got good/bad news for you: Only game developers have this crap circling our head. It's the same unfortunate gaming trait that makes us quickload to check out the other branches of dialog trees. Pretty much everyone else just wants a decent but not overwhelming challenge. They don't minmax, and they certainly don't minmax by throwing fights.

I think you're underestimating the awareness of typical gamers. It's not that difficult to "feel" what's happening. Especially in games where each challenge is easy to compare to previous situations (fighting, sports, TBS, RTS, RPG).

Quote:
Original post by Symphonic
You sit down to play "El Game" and you're faced with a non-challenge to begin with, you utterly school it. The next fight is tougher, you beat it. The next fight is a solid challenge, you fail at it once, but get through next time taking a right bruising. The next fight is a good challenge, you don't die, but you get hurt and dish out plenty of hurt. The fights oscillate between slightly easier than your level, and slightly harder than your level. Overall you progress through the game. Whenever you begin consistently failing things scale back to help you get through. Your final score is based on the actual quality of your play, so you're still ranked higher than the lesser players. Overall you always play your best without holding back.

Where's the problem?

The first game, you stomp the AI and win. You feel slightly penalized on the next fight, but you overcome the hardship and stomp the AI again. Next time, your speed:99 player is being outrun by speed:77 characters, and your character feels pretty nerfed, but you still manage to bust the AI up really badly with pure strategy. Before you know it, the game has penalized you so badly that you can't compete with it normally anymore. Instead of fighting the characters, the only way to keep winning is to trick the game with really lame strategies that the AI can't figure out.

I stop having fun on the second attempt, where my character is penalized for winning. The penalty is usually difficult to ignore, since you have to change your winning strategy to overcome it (which I guess is the whole point). It's not a pleasant experience, so I expect most people will want to completely avoid stomping the AI the first time around.

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Symphonic, if the AI go better or worse instead of the enemies just getting a damage and health multiplier then maybe it would work that way. i wish it did. But isntead, you school a fight then the next one schools you. then the next three school you progressively less and less. Eventually you play timidly, creeping around corners afraid to walk in the light because 2 hits from out of sight will kill you. Playing this way you find you can get through the fights but barely, and so the difficulty gods are appeased, you are barely making it through, so it must be the perfect difficulty. Either that or it never settles at all and the difficulty of the fights varies wildly and constantly.

In oblivion, I found this wasn't quite true though. The difficulty grew with the player pretty accurately. So accurately that fighting the leveled zombies was the same at any level, 3 or 13 or 23 they were pretty much the same. You could level 20 times and the game didn't really respond to it. I can't say that actively discourages leveling (a measure of success) but it certainly gave me no reason to seek it out.

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Original post by JasRonq
I can't say that actively discourages leveling (a measure of success) but it certainly gave me no reason to seek it out.
It certainly discouraged me from leveling. :-(

My first play-though, for some reason my character leveled very quickly ... halfway though the game it got to the point where everywhere you went, every piece of equipment was top tier. Every enemy was wearing it ... every box had it ... it was mind bogglingly annoying and boring.

I ended up just abandoning that file and trying to start over ... this time going out of my way to level up as slowly as possible in a desperate attempt to keep some semblance of variety in my progression through the game.

(Eventually I just grew too bored and un-immersed to care and gave up on the game entirely.)

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Original post by Sneftel
I don't think this is an unsolvable problem. When a character goes into a dungeon, set its difficulty based on the character's level plus/minus some random amount. About 30% of the time, you should be utterly outclassed by the monsters you meet, and need to make a mental note to come back when you're more of a badass. And when you're up in the teens levels, quit just adding trolls and such to the main map, and let the player feel like a badass for not having to bother with the wolves nipping at Shadowfaxmere's flanks. I don't think that auto-ramped content by itself is a problem... it just needs to be carefully done, to still allow players to feel (a) underpowered, and (b) overpowered at times.

I think another improvement would be to just stop trying to hide the changes from the player. Acknowledge their accomplishment by making the game world visibly change to man up against them.

Have the enemies do something that makes sense in the game world. Have them bring in new vehicles, weapons, or armor, or mix up their strategy. Once the changes are made, and if the player still destroys them, then consider that enemy vanquished. Once they're useless, penalize the player's earned experience/money/points against them, or have them retreat and scatter into distant lands while bringing in something else.

Anything that can be stealthily modified in the background can be made to look realistic in the game world. Have the enemies boast about the change, and taunt the player with it. Give the player a sense of accomplishment for pushing them into the next level. Make it actually mean something to win.

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well, while you might be running into nothing but top tier at level 30, you run into nothing but bottom tier at level 5. there is rarely any variety. what you find is exactly what is keyed in for your level. The system then is basically the same picture at any level, there is almost no change. Thats why I said it doesn't discourage, it jstu doesn't encourage either. It really is quite boring.

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