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Game Levels - Easy, Normal, Hard... Or Alternative?

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I am thinking about the possibility to replace game levels with something else. The game is RTS with some elements from other genres. It is too specific and much different from other RTS so the player will definitely need a tutorial.

What I am thinking is: tutorial as easy level where the players learn the basics of the game (and eventually the genre) and then maps which difficulty will vary and each next map will have more elements of the game. I think that in most cases the player is playing the game on easy level until he become more familiar with the game. But would it be interesting to play the same maps?

If I can sort that it will look like this:

map 1, level 1, small map

map 2, level 1.5 + 1 more game features (imagine tower defence game or Rise Of Nations wonders), small map

map 3, level 2 + 1 more game features, larger map

map 4, level 2.5 + 2 more game features, larger map 

map 5, level 3 + 2 more game features, large map

map 6, level 3.5 + 3 more game features, huge map...

("more game features" means there are more factores to deal with or to use. For example on some maps I have storms.)


Alternative map "world" with map 1, map 2 etc.


The game have some tower defence and RPG elements so these worlds will be different in some aspects. More features, larger map will make the game harder to play.

What do you think - would it be better for the player to play these maps also in easy, normal, hard modes? Definitely even the best player will fail in anything else than easy until it got some experience; jumping on map 4, level 2.5 will be a fail too. And tutorials are usually boring. To provide more fun on the same map, player could start at different places, can play different doctrines (races) in different way, so the enemy, althought the enemy is randomly controlled on the map. Only the enemy race is defined so there is a chance that AI (so called) could play in similar ways sometimes.

Another problem is that I dont have betatesters and "easy" and "normal" is something very uncertain, unclear. Trying to make the game much different and unusual I jumped into deep ocean and cant really compare it with something existing (well that is not enought to declare it as good or interesting, I just hope so).

Edited by Pleistorm

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I'm rather confused by this post.  In an RTS, more features never make a map or mission more difficult, unless it's the first time the player has seen a specific feature.  Instead difficulty is about how fast and accurately/efficiently the player has to play to make their resources in/damage out exceed their resources out/damage in per amount of time.  Difficulty is thus adjusted across a game by making the player's units or buildings 1. cheaper to produce 2. more efficient at gathering or at least not losing resources 3. tougher or 4. faster at dealing damage.

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It is not usual RTS. More features means more things to deal with simultaneosly and more enemies. For example the storm appears from time to time and deals damage to units in some areas. In larger maps some new enemies appear specific for the map. Larger maps are more difficult because the game has some relations with tower defence and this means the enemy may become strong. Unit production requires more place so in small map is almost impossible to build all factories and building types except when the player controls 2/3 or more of the map. The same is valid for the enemy. In larger maps the enemy could build few types of infantry, tanks, ships, submarines, planes, long distance rockets, spies, and to use specific terrain options. In smaller maps the enemy can build few of them and eventually no ships, no spies, less terrain options.

If I make a comparison with the chess, imagine that you play:

- 4x4 table with 5-6 units including 3 types of units;

- 5x5 table with 6-7 units including 4 types of units; the horse is available;

- 6x6 table with 7- 8 and the queen is presented, when your unit reaches the end of the table you can replace it with anything...

There is a difference - in the chess you know the rules and figures, in my RTS some features are new in some maps, it is somekind of campain like and TD, more enemy types will attack you.

Sure enemy weaves and types could be controlled but larger maps with more features to deal with will make it difficult anyway. The problem is when the player become good small maps with less features (well known already) will be too easy and the difficulty could be controlled by other things. Maybe I should combine them.

Edited by Pleistorm

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In terms of RTS, difficulty usually doesn't refer to more features.

You could do a tech locking system, where on easy you have basic options, and as you raise the difficulty, all players have access to more and more specialized units. Notice I said specialized, not more powerful.


If you had to make a map version for each difficulty level, then you'd quickly clutter up your workload.



Same map, but there is a raised area that is unable to get to with easy level forces, allowing for higher ground bonuses. If you raise the difficulty, then the factions get access to aircraft transports, or infantry with jetpacks that allow them to take advantage of the higher ground.



Making at minimum 3 versions of each map multiplies your work, you’re coming at it from the wrong end.

What if players don't like the map? and then you just wasted your time.\ making 3 versions of the same thing.

If you build it into the faction tech tree system, you can be more efficient, and balance things accordingly. If you build it into the map selection process, you’ll run the risk of doing more work than is needed, and make a non standardized balancing system.

Edited by GeneralJist

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but it almost sounds to me like you want to vary the level of difficulty with the tutorial, which sounds like an oxymoron.

That's like saying people who go through pilot school have different levels of difficulty in the same curriculum based on whether or not they're a good student beforehand, not piloting skills.


My suggestion would be to leave the tutorial alone, and keep it simple.  Make it mandatory if you must, but remember, you want the player to understand the basic game mechanics, not use the tutorial as a difficulty-based task they have to clear just to play the game.  Granted, once the tutorial is learned, some may grasp the idea faster than others, and some may not realize what difficulty the game is set at on startup, and therefore want to change it.  But, that's okay!  If you teach the basics and then find ways to hint at advanced techniques later on, you can encourage players of all skill types to play and invest into your game, and eventually get better.


Good luck!

Edited by sixteenbithero

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I prefer having checklists (and drag bars) of features I can turn on and off.


And maybe assign each feature a "difficulty" scoring (for a beneficial feature, it can be a negative score), and display a "Easy/Medium/Hard/Very Hard" label to the user based off of all the features he has enabled, prior to him generating the map.

[ ] Fog of war
[x] Neutral AI
[ ] Carnivorous plant life
[ ] Storms
[x] Floods
[x] Forest fires

Resource scarcity:

AI intelligence:

AI speed:

Resulting difficulty: Stupidly Hard

Ready to play? |[BEGIN GAME]|

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