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Difficulty Level - Where is my Easy Mode!


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3 hours ago, Sketch said:

In my house, no slice of pizza can pass one's lips unless adorned with pineapple.

 

I was with you until this. You monster.

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4 hours ago, Sketch said:

 

Could you apply that same belief to the new £70 price point of games - in that it denies swathes of poor people in society (a demographic which is increasing in the current global climate).

 

I agree with accessibility options for games.

 

Not just difficulty, but things like colour adaptation options for colour blind people (stories online of people being tricked in online games because they can't see colours on special items), audio/subtitle options for the deaf, and font size options. My eyes are not what they used to be, and I actually had to abandon a modern game because there was no variable font size which made it impossible to read anything (Star Control Origins).

 

With regards to difficulty, I just want the purest "NORMAL" option that the devs originally envisioned. What I really hate is when there are 4 difficulty options, and they all have stupid names which are comedic and have no obvious relation to what might be Normal. A lot of FPS do this. Irritating. I just want the normal option god damn it. Instead it'll be 4 weird options like: Cuddly Bunny, Buttered Toast, Kick in the Groin, Chainsaw to the Face. How am I supposed to work out the normal option there? There's not even a middle option, like if there were 3 or 5 choices.

 

I also dislike it when they start splitting the difficulty options. Like the action, puzzles, and possibly more options having their own slider. So I can have super easy puzzles but rock hard action, or vice versa? Which is the baseline?

 

As long as there's a tick box which says: "This is the default dev intended mode" then I'm happy and I don't care what else they tack on. Since it doesn't affect me, they might as well tack on whatever other people want. Just give me the option of default purity. And make that option easy to work out.

 

This all stems from an inherent belief that the auteur behind the game is to be held as supreme. It's why I never use custom soundtracks. If they chose a particular music track, they did it for a reason. It's not my place to replace it with J-Pop or death metal or whatever. If the auteur wanted orchestral music, or 80s pop rock, then that is how it is meant to be - if you replace it with John Denver country and western songs you are sullying the purity of the original creation.

 

I never deviate from the default difficulty level. The original experience is what I'm after. The unshakeable belief that the one who created the experience knew what they were doing.

 

Which is weird... Because I keep about a dozen tins of pineapple in my cupboard, so that when I heat a frozen pizza in my oven, I can place pineapple on all of them, regardless of what the original recipe. In my house, no slice of pizza can pass one's lips unless adorned with pineapple.

 

Somehow, these two opposing stances, one seeking purity and another defilement, makes me worry I'm a hypocrite. :unsure:

 

But if there's difficulty levels doesn't it make sense to assume that (if there is a single auteur behind the game) they want you to use them as much as it does to assume that there is one single baseline option and the rest are tacked on?

 

That doesn't mean you're not free to always default to normal, but depending on the type of game, if you feel you want more challenge, if you feel you want less, it feels like you're potentially denying yourself a better experience.

 

Also calling FPS difficulty levels by daft names could easily be a conscious creative choice (also possibly by an individual's singular vision) to say: "there is no 'normal', pick what works for you".

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1 hour ago, Stavi said:

 

I was with you until this. You monster.

There's a little bit of evil in all of us. ^_^

 

 

33 minutes ago, matt0 said:

But if there's difficulty levels doesn't it make sense to assume that (if there is a single auteur behind the game) they want you to use them as much as it does to assume that there is one single baseline option and the rest are tacked on?

 

Also calling FPS difficulty levels by daft names could easily be a conscious creative choice (also possibly by an individual's singular vision) to say: "there is no 'normal', pick what works for you".

 

You mean the developer might want you to experience all the difficulty levels? Sure, I'll buy it. Goldeneye on N64 worked like this. But that's a special case: in that, the difficulty levels didn't simply change the difficulty, they radically altered the play structure of each level, along with mission objectives. If every difficulty level select was like Goldeneye, I would agree.

 

What I find though, almost all of the time, is there is a default difficulty level, and then easy does a cheap and dirty hack (Your HPx2, Enemy attack/2) and Hard does the same (Def/2, enemy HPx2). Or something like that. Reading the notes of game hackers is fascinating because you realise that difficulty levels are not some natural osmotic evolution within the equilibrium of that game's dev eco-system, but actually just some arbitrary number modifications right at the end.

 

The funniest things are the rare edge cases where doubling or halving some intrinsic variable actually does the opposite of what's expected, because some line of code somewhere relies on it (I can't recall examples off hand - but watching Civvie 11 on YouTube he's brought up super weird examples of higher FPS difficulty levels doing wrong things - usually it will mess up the physics in some way, or how splash damage works).

 

It is because of these cases where I am fearful of altering anything beyond baseline. Not every game is Goldeneye, and it's worrying that some devs don't even give alternate modes the needed QA time.

 

The other thing I dislike about easy difficulties, is when it removes content rather than making it easier. I avoid easy modes, but for everyone in this thread wanting them, how do you feel about that? Arena on Game Gear and Valkyria Chronicles on PS3, and numerous others, actually locked out certain levels on easy mode. That always felt like they were punishing those who use easy mode.

 

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6 minutes ago, Sketch said:

There's a little bit of evil in all of us. ^_^

 

 

 

You mean the developer might want you to experience all the difficulty levels? Sure, I'll buy it. Goldeneye on N64 worked like this. But that's a special case: in that, the difficulty levels didn't simply change the difficulty, they radically altered the play structure of each level, along with mission objectives. If every difficulty level select was like Goldeneye, I would agree.

 

What I find though, almost all of the time, is there is a default difficulty level, and then easy does a cheap and dirty hack (Your HPx2, Enemy attack/2) and Hard does the same (Def/2, enemy HPx2). Or something like that. Reading the notes of game hackers is fascinating because you realise that difficulty levels are not some natural osmotic evolution within the equilibrium of that game's dev eco-system, but actually just some arbitrary number modifications right at the end.

 

The funniest things are the rare edge cases where doubling or halving some intrinsic variable actually does the opposite of what's expected, because some line of code somewhere relies on it (I can't recall examples off hand - but watching Civvie 11 on YouTube he's brought up super weird examples of higher FPS difficulty levels doing wrong things - usually it will mess up the physics in some way, or how splash damage works).

 

It is because of these cases where I am fearful of altering anything beyond baseline. Not every game is Goldeneye, and it's worrying that some devs don't even give alternate modes the needed QA time.

 

The other thing I dislike about easy difficulties, is when it removes content rather than making it easier. I avoid easy modes, but for everyone in this thread wanting them, how do you feel about that? Arena on Game Gear and Valkyria Chronicles on PS3, and numerous others, actually locked out certain levels on easy mode. That always felt like they were punishing those who use easy mode.

 

 

It wouldn't necessarily be with the intention of having you experience all the difficulty levels, just that you could find the one that worked best for you. Although when I had infinitely more time when I was younger and access to less games that was how I'd play most games, finish it on normal or easy first and then work my way up. I still do that if a game is short and something exceptional. Recently with Huntdown I went through first on normal, a second run on normal to get 100% completion and then a non-completionist run through on hard.

 

The big assumption in my previous post is that the difficulty levels are actually well implemented as opposed to just a cheap and dirty hack. I'm sure there's some disasters out there, but I can't remember playing a game in recent years that broke down at a harder difficulty and with some games it's obviously a labour of love to provide that range of modes (SOR4 and again, Huntdown).

 

Implementing this stuff properly is important, the idea of stripping out content for easy mode defeats the point imo because like you said, you're punishing a player for choosing it instead of acknowledging that people have different levels of ability. Same with easy modes with insulting titles like the old id games "Can I play daddy?" stuff. Also easy modes that essentially remove the need for players to use in game systems I think are a failure of design too. Like in a hypothetical Dark Souls easy mode, maybe you make the parry window more generous or you add more i-frames on dodges but you don't make combat trivial to the point where parrying or dodging isn't needed. You might give a bit more slack in terms of stamina usage, but you still want players to have to manage that system in their build and in moment to moment combat.

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44 minutes ago, matt0 said:

Implementing this stuff properly is important, the idea of stripping out content for easy mode defeats the point imo because like you said, you're punishing a player for choosing it instead of acknowledging that people have different levels of ability. Also easy modes that essentially remove the need for players to use in game systems I think are a failure of design too.

 

Indeed. My desire for the baseline is an inherent lack of trust in developers.

 

How do people feel about arcade games, where they were made difficult on purpose not to prevent players from reaching the end, but to suck more coins out of you to keep playing? It's a weird feeling now, when you play an arcade that's in a compilation and will have infinite credits. They were often never meant to be balanced.

 

How do people also feel about rebalance patches, where hackers will rebalance old and less forgiving games? I finished Zelda II on the NES the old fashioned way, a long time ago, but I must admit to enjoying the fan-patched "rebalanced" version more, where they very carefully tweaked every enemy HP, magic level, etc. It was a labour of love to make it more accessible and, I'd argue, a better game. It wasn't easy, but it was no longer unfair.

 

Similarly, hackers have reversed what Working Designs did, which was make games more difficult to prevent people completing them quickly if renting the games. As a publisher, they made games harder to encourage people to buy and own them.

 

When you think about it, and look at these examples, has there even been an absolute truth when it comes to difficulty levels?

 

(Sometimes, when I get especially fed up with a game, I'll go to YouTube, find a longplay, fast forward to section I stopped at, and then just watch the rest of the game get finished. White Gold: War in Paradise had an absolutely awful lock/key framework where you needed to grind cash, so I just watched this video.)

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Curious why this thread is fixated on Soulsborne and Returnal whereas Nintendo make objectively the best video games that are perfectly balanced for casual gamers and simultaneously beloved by speedrunners and they almost totally eschew difficulty modes. You generally just press start and get on with it.

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2 hours ago, ChewMagma said:

Curious why this thread is fixated on Soulsborne and Returnal whereas Nintendo make objectively the best video games that are perfectly balanced for casual gamers and simultaneously beloved by speedrunners and they almost totally eschew difficulty modes. You generally just press start and get on with it.

You say that, but my girlfriend and her cousin were both trying to relive their younger days at the weekend via Mario Allstars on the Switch and they just got completely stuck at some penquin race (my girlfriend told me she has been stuck on it since Christmas, though I don't know how much actual time that encompasses).

 

Getting to grips with platforming in a 3d world is a challenge, too.

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12 hours ago, ChewMagma said:

Curious why this thread is fixated on Soulsborne and Returnal whereas Nintendo make objectively the best video games that are perfectly balanced for casual gamers and simultaneously beloved by speedrunners and they almost totally eschew difficulty modes. You generally just press start and get on with it.

It's good that this has come up, and to recognise that no, people asking for difficulty options aren't asking for developers to be Nintendo. This is because Nintendo are super good at this and devote a lot of time and resources in developing their games to the sort of broad ability range you've mentioned (although as @Gabe says this doesn't always work), and no-one is asking - in practical terms - for other developers to make this much change. It's useful to discuss their games as points of good practice but for now the focus is on small, impactful changes that could benefit a lot of players.

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Nintendo might not put a traditional easy, normal, difficult option at the start of their games.

 

But there is stuff like assist mode in Mario Kart and the White Tanooki suit.

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On 11/05/2021 at 09:03, Sketch said:

With regards to difficulty, I just want the purest "NORMAL" option that the devs originally envisioned. What I really hate is when there are 4 difficulty options, and they all have stupid names which are comedic and have no obvious relation to what might be Normal. A lot of FPS do this. Irritating. I just want the normal option god damn it. Instead it'll be 4 weird options like: Cuddly Bunny, Buttered Toast, Kick in the Groin, Chainsaw to the Face. How am I supposed to work out the normal option there? There's not even a middle option, like if there were 3 or 5 choices.

 

At the risk of being horribly obvious is it not "Whichever one is selected when you enter that menu"?

 

21 hours ago, ChewMagma said:

Curious why this thread is fixated on Soulsborne and Returnal whereas Nintendo make objectively the best video games that are perfectly balanced for casual gamers and simultaneously beloved by speedrunners and they almost totally eschew difficulty modes. You generally just press start and get on with it.

 

And that's probably why I have finished very, very few Nintendo games but I've played 100s. The only new Nintendo release in the last decade I think I've "finished" is Mario Odyssey.

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I just think Nintendo are interesting in that they try and balance the core experience a hell of a lot (although granted they tend to include more assist modes these days) without putting it all on the player to sort out with a bunch of sliders and stuff at the start which I can't stand really. I think there is a case for saying that is good because they want to give their players a shared experience (although inevitably they can exclude some players by doing that as discussed).

 

I just wonder if people think Nintendo take the right approach to all this, mainly to expand the discussion beyond this circular argument on whether Souls games should have difficulty modes or not, which seems to get people really upset for some reason.

 

Also is there a split between Western devs and Japanese devs on this with the former giving you loads of options and modes and the latter aiming for more of the shared experience thing or is that just a personal coincidence based on the games I have played lately?

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With Nintendo in a lot of their games they make the hardest stuff optional, and rely on good balancing for the main route. It's worth noting though that there are still some nasty difficulty spikes in stuff like Mario or Zelda. 

 

In terms of accessibility I've not paid much attention to Nintendo recently, do they even have accessibility options?

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Well for many of their platformers now they will often have an easier character that has better movement or if you die too many times you get offered an invulnerability suit, or Mario Kart stops you falling off the edge of the track and in general has rubber banding of power ups so everyone feels like they can compete. Their primary motivation for that is so that kids can play as well.

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Although that rubber banding of the power ups, and the performance, and everything is why I never really did MK8D single player, it was just shamelessly awful.

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On 11/05/2021 at 17:54, ChewMagma said:

Curious why this thread is fixated on Soulsborne...

 

TBF this was originally a discussion in the Elden Ring thread, so the Soulsbros were already making noise. But there's nothing wrong with looking at how other developers approach these issues. :) 

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Because of this topic, I finally bought and played my first FromSoft game, jumping right into the deepest end with Sekiro. 

 

Buyer aware, I’m grateful to play past the tutorial and to see how far I can go. No regrets. 

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On 13/05/2021 at 08:40, Dudley said:

Although that rubber banding of the power ups, and the performance, and everything is why I never really did MK8D single player, it was just shamelessly awful.

 

In MK's case, it's all about how you manage those power ups and shortcuts depending on your position in single player, and multiplayer. I had some great battles with forumites on the Wii U version.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I was thinking about the “but it’s really hard to develop and balance!!!” arguments against easy modes, and I considered how character action games handle things. Something like DMC4 has easy modes, gold orbs (items that instantly revive the player and allow them to immediately continue playing), and even an auto-assist option that enables contextual combos to be performed with one button. However, you can turn auto-assist off, you can choose not to use gold orbs, and the difficulty modes go all the way up to things like Hell and Hell mode, where a single hit from anything will kill Dante outright.

 

It’s awesome, and it takes nothing away from the experience. I can thrash around in Devil Hunter (or even Human) mode and get a challenge tuned to my (lack of) skill, but I can still respect what the Saurs of the world are able to do, and it provides inspiration to come back and up the ante. Nothing is lost, and the game potentially benefits from a wider audience.

 

I mean, if you think about it, Sekiro has gold orbs in its revival mechanic, and gold orbs are generally a lot scarcer in DMC. So I think that From could easily accommodate struggling players if they wanted to; they just choose to limit their accommodation - and that’s fine.

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Was reminded of this topic when tempted to play Pathologic 2 recently.

 

The first game had no difficulty options - it was a vertical climb of nauseating horrific difficulty. It simulated a quarantined plague town in Russia, circa 1920s or so, meaning this was apt.

 

The recent sequel had people complaining about the difficulty so they introduced difficulty sliders. These are even worse than an Easy, Normal, Hard selection. What is is normal on the slider?

 

I find myself never playing the game itself, only forever staring at the option screen, sliding the dial back and then forth again, as if silent hip-hop music were emanating from it, unable to know what is the true difficulty.

 

Then again, I also used an Action Replay cartridge to bump the levels of all my troops in Shining Force III, because I didn't feel like grinding roughly 10 more hours just to beat the last battle.

 

What is everyone's thoughts on grinding? It's meant to be a means of making games easier if they don't have a selectable difficulty, but it's tedious. It's also there for deliberate padding. Meaning they balance the game to be difficult on purpose, they make it imbalanced, so that even if you kill every enemy you encounter normally going from Point A to B, that won't be enough, so you need to wander for extra time, killing more than you'd usually find, just to be levelled correctly. Is this good design? I'm pretty sure if RPGs had selectable difficulties, or sliders, we'd all get to the last boss, find we were under levelled, then just drop the slider to super easy and call it a day. (I was so under levelled for the last boss in Terranigma I said "fuck this shit" and just watched the ending on YouTube).

 

This topic haunts me. Between options, sliders, cheat codes, watching longplays instead of playing, and the need to discern the originator's true wishes, how can any of us even know what is real any more? As we've all said, often the original creators will make a game harder to pad it out (RPG grinding) or harder so as to bleed money (arcade games, mobile games where you pay for perks, etc.).

 

Isn't grinding just keeping out people who lack time, in the same way high-dexterity difficulties keep out less abled people? I mean grinding adds nothing to a game. Go to a field and kill 1'000 easy and generic enemies just you have enough EXP to kill the final boss? That just sounds ridiculous.

 

The best RPGs I've found are those where you can beat a boss even if under levelled, through clever use manipulation of equipment, potions, and other stat augmenting things (who else here drank a hundred bottles of sujamma then punched the god-deity Vivec in the face to kill him? :D).

 

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5 hours ago, Sketch said:

What is everyone's thoughts on grinding? It's meant to be a means of making games easier if they don't have a selectable difficulty, but it's tedious. It's also there for deliberate padding. Meaning they balance the game to be difficult on purpose, they make it imbalanced, so that even if you kill every enemy you encounter normally going from Point A to B, that won't be enough, so you need to wander for extra time, killing more than you'd usually find, just to be levelled correctly. Is this good design? I'm pretty sure if RPGs had selectable difficulties, or sliders, we'd all get to the last boss, find we were under levelled, then just drop the slider to super easy and call it a day. (I was so under levelled for the last boss in Terranigma I said "fuck this shit" and just watched the ending on YouTube).

 

Grinding is kind of a two-way thing - you don't want to make the player run around a room triggering random battles... but at the same time, you don't want a player fleeing every encounter on their way to the boss. There are a few approaches I like:

 

Displaying enemy levels when you encounter them. Think about encounters in Borderlands - it's a very transparent way of telling the player that they aren't ready to venture into a certain area, so it helps dictate the pace a bit more clearly.

 

Letting players experience the whole gamut of difficulty at once (sort of.) In Persona 3 there's a huge dungeon you explore throughout the duration of the game; it gets harder as you go further in, but you have teleports that warp you to different areas you previously cleared. And there are loads of these teleports. Essentially, you can find a "sweet spot" between grinding fodder enemies and finding a manageable challenge without getting yourself killed.

 

Outright telling the player when they're at the right level to take on a boss. Half-Minute Hero:

 

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:) It's a great post @Sketch and really interesting game design questions, BUT in practical terms I reckon you're definitely overthinking it! In terms of the normal experience, and the stress of adding options and the existential questions about the nature of the game/challenge posed by the game, that core experience will always be there and will always be what game designers and devs spend most of their time crafting: it will be what you get when you press the start button and don't change any options. 

 

If you can add other options/modes that offer alternative crafted experiences - eg assist mode, Vs survival or hardcore mode - great. But having all the tweaks available are nice easy alternatives to implement if creating those is impractical (in most cases you're just letting players scale internal values, hence why sliders are popular here).

 

sliders probably do make more sense to devs then they do to players for this reason. But I dunno, I think that granularity might actually be something that's requested quite often by players with accessibility needs? Couldn't say with confidence though. 

 

Grinding has the same issues when it's used in taking about a way of modifying difficulty in dark souls. Getting players to invest time in a tedious task sucks for everyone, especially the players who don't have long to okay or worse, experience pain and strain issues from playing.

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  • 1 month later...

Here are three videos I watched recently, showing how a From Software newbie reacts to the opening sections of DS1, BB and Sekiro - the aim is for her to defeat the Taurus Demon, Cleric Beast, and Chained Ogre respectively.

 

They are funny videos. But I've persuaded myself that this Official Soulsbornekiro Game Difficulty Thread is the most relevant place to post them, because it's interesting to see how she reacts to some of the game mechanics and design decisions.

 

There are things that she gets first time, and other things that should be obvious that she completely misses. (e.g. often continuing to play while an the item pickup message covers a third of the screen. Also she reacts with fear and suspicion to the Messengers and Abandoned Doll in her first visit to BB's Hunter's Dream - though that's arguably a rational response to anyone who claims to be an ally in a From Software game!)

 

It really highlights the places where those games use conventions that we're all familiar with and take for granted (like the bit at 11:00 in the DS1 video, about the player's restricted jumping, followed by the overwhelming RPG stats on the Level Up screen).

 

 

^

Spoiler

She's right about the Furtive Pygmy being "just Gollum"!

 

 

^ Skip to 22:55 for her reaction to the doll moving between visits to the Hunter's Dream! :lol:

 

 

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