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Difficulty setting pointless in my game?

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Hi

Im making a single-player ww2 adventure naval game (just for fun, not commercial). Its sort of like sid meiers pirates. You start with a small ship and run missions and loot to get more wealth, upgrade your ships and gear and get higher ranks with different wartime nations, which unocks new missions and ships.

 

Much like diablo-kinda games, would a difficulty option make any sense? It seems changing health/damage of you and enemies (typical difficulty setting) would only make different parts of the game longer or shorter. Or am I missing something? Any ideas or input?

 

Thanks

Erik

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In my opinion. some difficulty settings in many games these days are stupid. 

Making enemies hit for more damage or have more HP doesn't make it harder... it makes it more annoying. And cheating.

 

Civilizations series can't make enemies smarter, so they just flat out give them more Production/Food/Research bonus to them instead.

 

To me, higher difficulty means enemies are more intelligent. Maybe they know how to flank/ambush you. Maybe they have more abilities to use. Or maybe more enemies (archers behind swordsmen, ie.)

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I think there are a few ways to go about it. If you have various resources in your game, you can make them more/less scarce. Simply lowering or raising the player's health pool/defenses while leaving the enemies alone shouldn't change the pace of the game all that much. You could also just ramp up damage (both the enemy's and the player's) to make the game less forgiving while actually making the pace of the game quicker (or adding more enemies, etc). If it's turn based, make it real time, or vice versa. If it's real time, speed up or slow down the enemies. I mean, pretty much every variable in your game could be used to tweak the difficulty in some manner. Also, I like games that have a little fun with the difficulty. Permadeath? Starting out in a rowboat? Cthulu mobs in your ocean? Have fun with it :P

 

If it feels perfectly balanced as it it now, then I'd recommend just starting with some obvious tweaks to the variables to make it easier/harder. See how that affects things, then adapt new settings until you get the difficulty level you're looking for.

 

It's pretty dependent on the specifics of your game though, and would be a little tough to say without some hands on experience. You'll likely need to do a bit of testing with different variables tweaked until you find a nice balance for difficulty levels. I'd also seriously recommend getting friends/family/people on game-dev to help you test it. I know personally, I have a hard time gauging that for myself since I'm so familiar with the details of my games, that it's hard to really get a good sense of balance without other people's input.

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I might look at anything that would turn the game from a quick one where you can just go in and blast the hell out of everything you see to one that's a longer campaign where you need to make careful decisions . Though I suppose it's not as much changing the difficulty as it is changing the mode of play.

 

Some simple adjustments that I can think of might be:

Unlimited ammo vs limited.
Weapon cool-down time required required or not.

Friendly fire.

Unlimited cargo space vs limited.
 

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Take a look at how fallout new vegas handled the hardcore mode
It added new mechanics that added fun as well as difficulty such as needing to eat and drink regularly and rest regularly without it becoming a chore.
In my opinion a great example.
Much better than just making enemies stronger...

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Do not try to overcomplicate it. First tune it so it will be "just right" for you. - You can call it "hard" difficulty ;)

Then let someone who doesn't know it play and see what they have the most problems with. Tuning down that parts would make "easy" or "normal" difficulties.

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In my opinion. some difficulty settings in many games these days are stupid. 

Making enemies hit for more damage or have more HP doesn't make it harder... it makes it more annoying. And cheating.

 

Civilizations series can't make enemies smarter, so they just flat out give them more Production/Food/Research bonus to them instead.

 

To me, higher difficulty means enemies are more intelligent. Maybe they know how to flank/ambush you. Maybe they have more abilities to use. Or maybe more enemies (archers behind swordsmen, ie.)

 

Rather than have functionality that only occurs at higher difficulty settings, I propose changing the percentage chance that a unit will do something smart.  Halo, for example, at harder difficulty settings, the chances that a enemy will roll out of the way of an incoming grenade is higher.  

 

They also muck with health/shields, which, I think can be done without too much aggravation, but it depends on the setting of the game, and how much health one is talking about.  A WWII shooter, where it suddenly requires five headshots to the face to kill an enemy, really is aggravating and feels more like cheating.  That enemy robot, alien, or shielded ship, tends not to bother me, to a point, if it's not scaled up to the point where it becomes a chore, because the AI is still stupid and easy to beat, but just takes longer, than the scaling doesn't work.

 

Of course, the same goes with scaling reaction times and whatnot, if the enemies become omniscient, then it feels more like the AI is cheating.  If on the other hand, they are just more likely to use their grenades if they have them, it's less of a problem.

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It could be that, with your structure, you can get away with difficulty areas rather than modes: a fairly calm starting area (but with relatively low profits and rewards), the general "medium" core, and a "hardcore" area where conflicts are frequent and difficult but there are lots of good rewards for doing so.

 

Another possibility is to have a hard mode, but only have it turn "on" when you're running contraband or something similar.  Let the player know in a loading screen or something ("If you want a real challenge, try running some contraband...")

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