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NaturalNines

Unique vs Challenging

18 posts in this topic

I was wondering what everyone's opinion was regarding the importance of a challenging game compared to a unique one.

No matter your preferred game type, if forced to choose would you rather the next game you play be ground breaking/unique yet easy or challenging yet hackneyed?
(including the game category you're referring to would be nice as well, for the sake of reference)
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Challenging.
I strongly believe that a lot of the good games out there are gemstones crafted from old ideas. Take a look at Starcraft II. It is really just a heavily competitive, challenging and balanced game whose mechanics date back to the Dune II days.
That works for proven genres of course, niche and emergent gameplay needs to exist still and I believe Kongregate is a good example of new ideas, and generally bad execution.
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At the moment, I prefer uniqueness, just 'cause so many of the genres we're familiar with are kinda generic now. The three-member party RPG is so standard that half the time you don't even need to pay attention to the tutorial, and ditto the shooter, the hack-n-slash down to button layout. Games used to take more risks to emphasize their theme; Vagrant Story went for a tactical approach targeting different limbs that had different resistances to different damage types with weapons you could customize blade, hilt and handle, capped with timing-based attacks like Paper Mario and an adrenaline system to balance risk/reward. It was some crazy-deep stuff .-. And it suited the character -- a cool-headed sellsword from a group that prides themselves on tactical knowhow. Everything matched thematically, and while the convoluted crafting system and bizarre real-time-turn-based combat likely turned away thousands of players, the ones who stayed on for the ride got a consistent, literary experience. Difficulty was simply a bi-product.
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Neither unique nor challenging are really what I look for - I look for artistic/literary value, wish fullfillment, and the types of gameplay and story/worldbuilding I like vs. types I'm not interested in. But if I have to pick between the two options here, I'd rather have unique. I think all games should be possible to win and not excessively frustrating, so I'm not a big fan of extremely challenging games. Edited by sunandshadow
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Challenging usually means doing nothing for an hour and then looking up the unintuitive solution from the internet so i dont like that. Uniqueness is just interesting for a while, it doesnt necessarily make the game fun...


But interesting is better than frustrating so ill go with that.
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[quote name='sunandshadow' timestamp='1345930049' post='4973337']
I think all games should be possible to win and not excessively frustrating, so I'm not a big fan of extremely challenging games.
[/quote]
[quote name='Waterlimon' timestamp='1345930612' post='4973339']
Challenging usually means doing nothing for an hour and then looking up the unintuitive solution from the internet so i dont like that
[/quote]
I should clarify. Both unique and challenging, in this hypothetical, are assumed to be achieved well. Challenging as in it strains your skills, forces you to react, makes you think. Orymus3's example of Starcraft II is a perfect example of challenging, in multiplayer if not the campaign. It's not impossible to beat your opponent, but if he utilizes his skills and resources moreso than you do you will most likely lose.

For unique, though, a great example is Chrono Trigger. Definitely not a challenging game by any means, but the unique inclusion of euclidean based areas of effect and the enemies that alter their behavioral patterns and stats mid-battle made it an incredibly fun game despite the lack of difficulty.

Either way thanks for the responses. I'm on the fence on this issue, personally.
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[quote name='NaturalNines' timestamp='1346253172' post='4974449']
Orymus3's example of Starcraft II is a perfect example of challenging, in multiplayer if not the campaign. It's not impossible to beat your opponent, but if he utilises his skills and resources moreso than you do you will most likely lose.[/quote]
It's also a perfect example of "get your arse kicked for a week, and then go read a solution from the wiki". Just memorising a single build sequence is enough to take you from the bottom of Bronze up to Silver/Gold.

I enjoyed StarCraft, but only when I was playing all day, every day. Now that I have stopped playing competitively, attempting to win a StarCraft match is an exercise in futility.

'Challenge' should not be confused with 'Complexity'. The former requires skill, while the latter just requires rote memorisation (StarCraft obviously has both challenge and complexity, but it is heavily weighted towards the latter).
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Neither. For me unique usually means the game is weird and uplayable and challenging means I can't play it because it's too hard. By default I categorize games with these words as bad (althrough there are plenty of exceptions, maybe more precise would be to say I approach such games with high suspicion). If I had to choose I would go for challenging (in the sense of Civilization, where you have 9 levels of difficulty, so even I can find one lousy mode I can beat).

Personally, I prefer games that were designed to be fun at the absolute top priority.
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Challenging. Uniqueness does not mean good. Plus, there are very few things that haven't been done in some form or another, and what is unique to one person is worn cliche to another. Get the execution right and give me a game that will make me work for the win.
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Generally, I think a lot of users like to say that they like challenging games but what they really mean is that they like games with gameplay that feels really challenging but that they nonetheless completely kick ass at. I think that nobody likes a game that kicks their ass all the time. What this means for developers, in my opinion, is to err on the side of too easy but not the kind of "too easy" that comes from nothing happening -- lots of things need to be going on but the user needs to be able to take care of it. In other words, if we define "uniqueness" as "lots of interesting things going on", then err on the side of uniqueness. Edited by jwezorek
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Player vs. player games always suck challenge-wise. They are simultaneously too easy for the better player and too hard for the worse player. I like the campaign modes of RTS games like the warcraft/starcraft series, but I never play against other people. It's for exactly the same reason that even though I like Magic The Gathering, I don't have any desire to play in tournaments. If you go to one of these events it's immediately obvious that 80% of the players are stressed out and not having any fun.
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[quote name='sunandshadow' timestamp='1346272727' post='4974563']
Player vs. player games always suck challenge-wise. They are simultaneously too easy for the better player and too hard for the worse player.
[/quote]
I find that games with matchmaking and ratings can be quite challenging even if you are one of the top players. Competitive games seem to be more tense, but they can also feel very rewarding on levels that, for me at least, can't be matched by any other game type. So I'm definitely into challenging. Edited by Mussi
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[quote name='jwezorek' timestamp='1346271343' post='4974553']
I think that nobody likes a game that kicks their ass all the time.[/quote]
I know a couple of hardcore 'Dark Souls' addicts who would disagree with you, and probably a handful of DwarfFortress/rogue-likes as well. I don't think your generalisation extends to the (albeit likely to be fairly small) perma-death community. Edited by swiftcoder
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[quote name='swiftcoder' timestamp='1346274523' post='4974574']
[quote name='jwezorek' timestamp='1346271343' post='4974553']
I think that nobody likes a game that kicks their ass all the time.[/quote]
I know a couple of hardcore 'Dark Souls' addicts who would disagree with you, and probably a handful of DwarfFortress/rogue-likes as well. I don't think your generalisation extends to the (albeit likely to be fairly small) perma-death community.
[/quote]
You're probably right but not sure what kind of lessons can be extrapolated from the kind of gameplay these guys like from a developer perspective, I mean. The thing is is that it's really easy to parametrize a game such that lots of stuff is going on and it's way too hard. Much more difficult to have lots of crazy action and it is *not* way too hard. In my opinion it's actually harder to make a [i]good [/i]game that is slightly too easy than to make a good game that is too hard.
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Based on the responses, and thank you all for your participation, it seems that most of the dissent against challenging games is based on the practice or effort necessary to compete. A challenging game requires an investment, a period of work before one sees results, but those results are earned. Whereas a game without that work requirement is more immediately entertaining but lacks the ultimate feeling of accomplishment when one overcomes a former obstacle or ineptitude. Not to say that those who prefer unique are lazy in any way, but rather are seeking immediate gratification as a basis of what they want from videogames in general (entertainment, not work).

Do those of you who prefer unique to challenging disagree with this assertion?
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[quote name='NaturalNines' timestamp='1346956406' post='4977314']
A challenging game requires an investment, a period of work before one sees results, but those results are earned.[/quote]
Every game requires learning, that's inherent in the definition of a game as an 'activity bounded by a rule set'. The distinction I'm looking at is between up-front learning (for example, learning the rules of Chess), versus continual training (i.e. a Gymnast must train constantly to remain competitive).

Call of Duty is a game with an extremely simple rule set (point, shoot, rinse and repeat), but to remain competitive requires continual training of aim, reflex speed, etc. StarCraft has a giant rule set, but it's the fact that these rules are regularly tweaked (balance changes) that requires continual training - you have to stay cognisant of the dominant strategies after each patch.

Why is this a problem? I'd argue that neither game is terribly fun unless you are able to compete effectively (as jwezorek said, continually getting your arse handed to you is not fun). Which means that even if you enjoy the game when you are playing 10+ hours/day (say, right after launch), as soon as you step down to playing a couple of times a month, all the fun goes away. And that is really bad for your player retention...
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[quote name='swiftcoder' timestamp='1346957613' post='4977322']
Every game requires learning, that's inherent in the definition of a game as an 'activity bounded by a rule set'. The distinction I'm looking at is between up-front learning (for example, learning the rules of Chess), versus continual training (i.e. a Gymnast must train constantly to remain competitive).
[/quote]
Exactly my point (though I would rate Chess more along the lines of Call of Duty in that the rules may be simple, but the execution much more difficult). Obviously any game, easy or hard, has a set of rules to be learned before one can play.

Nevertheless, I still see the distinction between the two being the degree of effort one wishes to put into their gaming experience. Challenging games require more effort to remain competitive, whether that's training your reflexes, memorizing the maps, studying strategy, whatever. If a gamer is looking to overcome challenges, or to better their abilities, then clearly a challenging game is what they're looking for as the time they spent will be rewarded with achievements that not all gamers can complete. If that work is not put forth then the player will get their asses handed to them.

Which is not to say that those unwilling to put that work forth aren't looking for a challenge, but rather the focus of their gaming experience is not overcoming challenges but rather the joy of having fun, solveable tasks being placed before them to be completed before they proceed. Whereas a challenge-oriented gamer may receive additional rewards from the obstacles they overcome (through knowing that not all can achieve them, that work was required to accomplish them), the unique-oriented gamer sacrifices a portion of that reward for the immediacy of the accomplishment (as in not spending hours on end training).
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[quote name='NaturalNines' timestamp='1347040810' post='4977759']
though I would rate Chess more along the lines of Call of Duty in that the rules may be simple, but the execution much more difficult[/quote]
Maybe I'm not being quite clear about the point I'm trying to make: it isn't a question of rules complexity versus execution complexity.

You learn to play Chess, you practice enough to be pretty good. Then you go away and don't play any Chess. A year later, someone challenges you to a game of Chess, and you can hold your own pretty well.

Now do the same with CoD. I can pretty much guarantee that if you take a year off from playing it, and then jump into a free-for-all, you will get your arse handed to you.

My point:[b] the skills you master in learning a game like Chess, don't expire over time. Many other games require constant time investment.[/b]

I don't have the time to constantly re-invest in maintaining my CoD skills, therefore even though I love a challenge, I don't play CoD anymore.
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