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Mobile time killer: How fast to ramp up difficulty?

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Hi all,

 

I'm working through some feedback on my mobile game "Ninja Gold Rush". One of the most frequent comments I have received is that the game is too difficult. At the same time some people comment and say this is good because it's a quick game they could see competing with their friends, what you got to level X, I hate you.. etc. 

 

My preference is to keep the game tough as this kind of competition factor was what I was initially going for. I also don't want my a large portion of my audience to dump the game because they get frustrated too fast. I have found watching people play they seem to improve quickly. 

 

I've recently updated the first 2 levels to be (in my opinion) very easy. I'm hoping with a  more gradual ramp up people will be more compelled to play through the difficulty.  The levels are quick about 30 seconds for each one.

 

I'm interested to hear your guys thoughts. Where this is mobile game, and essentially a quick time killer do you think it's best to keep the difficulty tough and market it toward the competition aspect or to make it easier and have people just enjoy the death animations and stuff like that? 

 

The game also resets from the beginning on each death, do you think this may frustrate the player (keep in mind the levels are quick) or will serve as a bit of a practice run leading into the more difficult levels each time? I'm hoping the death animations and look and feel of the game (which I've received quite a bit of positive feedback on) will remove the frustration aspect and rather add to the competitiveness of the game. The reason I have done this is because I think the game may be a bit too easy (even more difficult levels) if you start off in the last "room" prior to death. Especially if I add power ups, etc which the player could grab right before the difficult room.

 

I'm hoping the first couple levels are sufficient practice for the player or do you think it's better to add an optional tutorial? Particularly where the game resets on death.

 

If anyone is interested in trying the game in action the Android apk is here: link

 

Appreciate your thoughts.

 

Hurlbz

http://www.overbyte.ca

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This is a very difficult question, and it really depends on your motivations.

 

Are you making the game to make money, or as a passion?

 

If the latter, as cheesy as it is, I'd say follow your heart.  Make the game you want to make, and just let the target audience enjoy it.  If most people don't like it, that's OK- it's an indie game, it has a specific appeal, and it isn't meant for everybody.

 

If you're trying to make money, then you may want to appeal to the largest demographic, which may mean watering down the difficulty a lot.

 

One thing you could try, is to play both sides, and have an easy mode, and a difficult mode.  If you have leaderboards and a competitive aspect, make sure they're distinct between modes.

 

I find in most modern games, unfortunately, even the difficult setting tends to get boring for being too easy.  So, IMO if your game is difficult, that may be a great niche to target.  Skill gamers don't get a lot of opportunities to play really challenging games, and your game may fill a need that hard to satisfy (and in the process, make money).

Edited by StarMire

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It depends somewhat on the type of game, but generally the first ten to twenty minutes should be trivially easy. Then you ramp up exponentially from there. This is the formula that most mobile games tend to go with. It allows even casual players to get a feel for the mechanic, and then forces them to start working for it before boredom hits.

Remember that as a developer, you have little or no perspective on what your difficulty curve is for an outsider. Beta playtests are necessary to calibrate - ideally across wide audiences.

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If player group A says the difficulty ramps up too fast, and group B says the difficulty ramps up too slow, maybe consider a structure that allows the player some choice in their own progression.  

 

For example, maybe after levels the player can choose to increase, by set amounts, a variety of variables (ninja speed, ninja frequency, etc.)  Amping up the variables leads to better rewards faster, and if you're going for the leaderboards you want to increase it as hard as you can handle each time.  But you can also choose to just increase the difficulty a little bit each time, so if you just want some mindless fun on the bus you're not required to achieve Super Hexagon-like levels of concentration.

 

Or there's an equivalent of warp pipes, shortcuts between rooms that you can take if you think you can handle them.  (Say, there are secret panels in between rooms, and if you've gotten to room 6 you find the panel to room 2, and the next time you conquer room 2 there's an option to skip ahead to 6 instead of plodding through levels 3 to 5 again.)

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If player group A says the difficulty ramps up too fast, and group B says the difficulty ramps up too slow, maybe consider a structure that allows the player some choice in their own progression.  

 

For example, maybe after levels the player can choose to increase, by set amounts, a variety of variables (ninja speed, ninja frequency, etc.)  Amping up the variables leads to better rewards faster, and if you're going for the leaderboards you want to increase it as hard as you can handle each time.  But you can also choose to just increase the difficulty a little bit each time, so if you just want some mindless fun on the bus you're not required to achieve Super Hexagon-like levels of concentration.

 

Or there's an equivalent of warp pipes, shortcuts between rooms that you can take if you think you can handle them.  (Say, there are secret panels in between rooms, and if you've gotten to room 6 you find the panel to room 2, and the next time you conquer room 2 there's an option to skip ahead to 6 instead of plodding through levels 3 to 5 again.)

 

Thanks for the creative ideas. I'll take them into consideration.

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One thing you could try, is to play both sides, and have an easy mode, and a difficult mode.  If you have leaderboards and a competitive aspect, make sure they're distinct between modes.

 

Interesting idea to have dual modes. I'm wondering how I would actually make my game easier for the first few levels and still remain fun. To me the first couple levels have been watered down so much already its hard to think what could make them easier.. Yet i still get feedback even on the latest version which implies this is the case. 

 

Thanks for the comment.

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If its 'fun', then even if they lose they go back to it - the question is how long is that before the player abandons the difficulty (and then hopefully just restarts for another game).  HAve the results have some unpredictability (variability) where things sometimes fall into place to get further.

 

A progression of goals achieved opening up 'tool's to advance ability (and get fiurther with less difficulty) ???  But be ready to have to supply and endless ramp of such things.

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HAve the results have some unpredictability (variability) where things sometimes fall into place to get further.

 

Randomness increases player activity, and this would be no exception, but it can also be very frustrating.  It makes a game more addicting while making it less fun.  

Personally that goes against my design philosophy, but it's very popular due the financial success it can reap, so I think every dev has to make that decision for her or himself.

 

A progression of goals achieved opening up 'tool's to advance ability (and get fiurther with less difficulty) ???  But be ready to have to supply and endless ramp of such things.

 

+1 That's a great suggestion.  People without the skill can put in a little more time or use special items to make things easier for themselves.  I don't know how I missed that one.

Creating items is easy compared to acquiring players.  If you can do it within your game design, definitely go for this.

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