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Difficulty Level - Where is my Easy Mode!


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12 minutes ago, JPL said:

My son wasn’t an entitled old gamer the last time I looked, but he still wants to play the games he likes the look of.

 

He actually really wants to play Dark Souls, but it’s way beyond his skill level, seeing as he’s only 10. Of course he’s not even old enough to play it yet, but that’s an argument for another day.


My son finished Dark Souls when he was 10. Kicks the shit out of me at pretty much all games. I honestly think that him persevering through something challenging is an important skill to learn, and it helped him be more patient.

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19 minutes ago, bcass said:

There's a streamer on Twitch who was born with a hand missing who is the only person on record to have completed an all bosses + DLC + all chalice dungeons no-hit run. The run took almost 7 hours and they did it using a non-modified PS4 controller. This run is so difficult that no-one else has ever attempted it. Several players have also done dance pad runs of most of the Souls games - that is, they completed the games using only their feet.

 

But that doesn't demonstrate that the games are "easy", it shows that those players are exceptionally talented. It's like saying that desk can perform unbelievable Street Fighter combos using one hand so why is everyone else such a scrub?

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44 minutes ago, chamberlago said:

The accessibility discussion should probably move to another thread if only not to get the hopes up of everyone desperate for Elden Ring news seeing new posts in here but I'm out because trying to discuss anything with some people in this thread is infuriating and I've seen it happen in other threads and I don't know why I let myself get sucked in and being accused of being a white knight/virtue signaller because I care about accessibility is my limit before I say something I regret. 

 

Well, yes.

 

Seeing as the discussion seems to have shifted from the challenge of FROM games to accessibility (which is applicable to all developers) then that makes sense. I think we were coming close to accusing members of being ableist here which I doubt is reasonable.

 

IIRC there is already a topic on the subject...

 

 

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32 minutes ago, Broker said:


My son finished Dark Souls when he was 10. Kicks the shit out of me at pretty much all games. I honestly think that him persevering through something challenging is an important skill to learn, and it helped him be more patient.

Maybe I should set him loose then. Still though, I’m pretty certain he’s not an old entitled gamer and it’ll be too tough for him.

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1 hour ago, K said:

Look guys, this building was designed to be difficult to access. Not every building can be for everyone. The architects - the authors of this structure - built this place based on a specific vision of climbing lots of stairs and having toilets with very thin doors. Sure, you could get a lift straight to the top - but where’s the achievement there? Where’s the sense of accomplishment from earning that view? There are plenty of buildings that are accessible. Let’s not bland out this one by making it just like all the others. 

 

I can see what you're doing here and while very funny, it's still a very reductive argument when trying to define what gamea can or should be. Buildings are (with some exceptions) not usually designed to be an artistic exercise over their intended use. Their purpose is functional, that is, they provide a service. So the question is do we want to treat games on their merits as a service, or their merits as another potential auteur medium like Film or other art forms. Because if we do, then we have to accept that some will be intended to be deliberately as impenetrable as the wildest album you can think of. There is also a difference between what a lot of games have as functional inaccessibility, and inaccessible in an art sense, but that's probably a different argument.

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I'm sure we've been through this in a different thread and this might not be the place for it, but for me the way to progress this topic is to separate out accessibility, approachability and intended challenge. Accessibility is the basics of ensuring that the game hits a checklist of providing default audiovisual and control customisation: no big asks here really, things like button remapping, high contrast modes etc. pproachability is lowering barriers that might exist based on the player's gaming experience and ability. Intended challenge is the difficulty that the game is pitched at.

 

Which sounds nice and simple, but these are three overlapping circles in a line in a Venn diagram. Accessibility should really have no bearing at all on intended challenge, but there's overlap between accessibility and approachability, given that 'gaming ability' is itself a function of sensory, cognitive and motor ability. And approachability can be hard to pull apart from intended challenge.

 

i don't agree that people advocating accessibility and/or approachability in games just 'don't understand gamedev' though. Features that support access and player uptake are really only hard to implement if they're added as an afterthought: if there's a commitment to them during the development process then it's much easier to tie them in with other features and development processes. Maybe that means having input from a dedicated member of staff or a consultant in that time, but it does mean that there's a ROI in terms of more players being able to pick up the game.

 

The other thing I've noticed is that when there's a will to making a game approachable, there's a way. The god mode in Hades is a great example: it's a blunt instrument, that just tweaks some of the game's values as the death count increases, and it totally works. Just a nice bit of lateral thinking.

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My asshole comments about people’s motives were basically that but expressed in a horrible way, there’s a big difference between functional accessibility for people who are disabled and accessibility in terms of difficulty for people who want it. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that people who have disabilities shouldn’t be allowed to play, but offering an option for colour blind people isn’t the same as offering an easy mode for people who don’t like the difficulty of these games.

 

If you presented all the stories in Cloud Atlas in chronological order in single segments for each character, it would undoubtedly be more accessible to the average reader, but it would also be a fundamentally different book. The argument that that specific book should be easier to read for people who don’t want to navigate the awkwardness of understanding that narrative isn’t the same as arguing that it should be available in Braille or audiobook form. I assume we’re all supportive of the idea that people with different levels of physical ability should have the chance to experience that story, but I personally am not in favour of altering that story to make it more palatable to as many people as possible, because it removes the point of that story and the choices the author made to write it that way. 
 

Death Stranding would be unquestionably improved by allowing disabled gamers to enjoy it by adding accessibility options. But I don’t think it would be improved by adding more fast travel options to make it more like most other games because doing so breaks the fundamental point of the game. 
 

There’s certainly going to be areas where those things cross over, but ultimately it’s impossible for everything to be accessible to everyone and I don’t buy the idea that every game developer should suck up every cost associated with not only adding as many possible features to support people with disabilities but also people who don’t like their game. It seems like the best solution would be if Sony, Microsoft, Valve and other platform holders tried to incorporate as many system level accessibility options for disabled gamers as possible so that it wasn’t down to vastly differently sized studios to implement a potentially infinite array of options in every game.

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59 minutes ago, Broker said:


My son finished Dark Souls when he was 10. Kicks the shit out of me at pretty much all games. I honestly think that him persevering through something challenging is an important skill to learn, and it helped him be more patient.

I'm happy for your and your son.

But that is your son. Not everybody's child is like your son. Your son can keep playing Dark Souls at the default difficulty level and learn patience, life lessons and whatnot. What harm would an Easy mode do? It is not mandatory to play on Easy, it does not alter your son's experience in any way, shape or form. Your son can happily ignore Easy mode.

 

Do not get me wrong, I am not saying Dark Souls should cater to the Barbie's Horse Adventure audience. I am saying instead you losing 80% of your default health when hit, make it 40%. Still punishing, still a challenge but a wee bit more forgiving.

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2 minutes ago, Broker said:

My asshole comments about people’s motives were basically that but expressed in a horrible way, there’s a big difference between functional accessibility for people who are disabled and accessibility in terms of difficulty for people who want it. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that people who have disabilities shouldn’t be allowed to play, but offering an option for colour blind people isn’t the same as offering an easy mode for people who don’t like the difficulty of these games.

 

That's the tricky thing: they're not the same thing, but they're also not completely separate. To have a game that's top level, gold standard accessible, you do need to also include some features that affect difficulty and approachability, because accessibility also includes elements of sensory, cognitive and motor function. (As in, at want to be thinking beyond physical disabilities here)

 

I don't think you're being an asshole here by the way, this debate is still evolving even among accessibility experts in gamedev. I think the approachability concept only really started being well defined last year.

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10 minutes ago, jonny_rat said:

don't agree that people advocating accessibility and/or approachability in games just 'don't understand gamedev' though. Features that support access and player uptake are really only hard to implement if they're added as an afterthought: if there's a commitment to them during the development process then it's much easier to tie them in with other features and development processes. Maybe that means having input from a dedicated member of staff or a consultant in that time, but it does mean that there's a ROI in terms of more players being able to pick up the game.


ROI isn’t provable at all though. I’m making a game at the moment, adding any other options than the base ones I have is hours of extra work. I don’t have money to hire a member of staff because I’m making it alone. I don’t know how to make it more accessible without doing all my textures again multiple times to make them readable to colourblind people. You scale that up to a game the size of a triple A one and you’ve got potentially thousands of man hours of work to implement these features that everyone seems so sure are no work, when it seems pretty obvious that they are a lot of work. If you’re working with a budget of millions then yeah, it’s good for people to think about it. But it’s absolutely not free. 

 

Accessibility features should be promoted and celebrated because they’re amazing. Developers spending time and money on them is fantastic, but I don’t think minimising those efforts is helpful. We should be excited and enthusiastic about the developers who are doing these things, not expectant and negative about the developers who can’t or don’t. The whole thing is a million shades of grey but it’s being treated like a black and white binary which doesn’t help, because when you minimise the effort and challenge of implementing these things all you do is create even more expectations of developers whose resources just aren’t infinite. 
 

My friend works in publishing. She works hard to provide a very different kind of accessibility, by providing black authors with a place to get published, and offering black audiences literature that speaks to them. I’m not sure if their books are available in audio or other accessible forms, but I’m pretty sure that if they’re not it’s not because they don’t care about blind people being able to participate. Every decision made in the process sucks money out of another area. Should they focus on providing accessible versions of the books they’ve published instead of publishing more books? I can’t see an easy or correct answer to that, it’s an impossible choice with no correct answer. And before anyone decides to say I’m comparing people who like Dark Souls to marginalised black authors I’m not, it’s just an illustrative point that when you’re trying to make and publish things there’s always costs to everything and the money for them comes from somewhere. The decisions people are having to make when they create things aren’t simple ones and there’s plenty of points along the way where one thing will be sacrificed for another thing. 

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The building analogy is indeed flawed, but mainly because it’s considerably cheaper and easier to make a game accessible than it is a building. For some reason people still argue against it. 

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34 minutes ago, df0 said:

Do not get me wrong, I am not saying Dark Souls should cater to the Barbie's Horse Adventure audience. I am saying instead you losing 80% of your default health when hit, make it 40%. Still punishing, still a challenge but a wee bit more forgiving.

The problem with that is then 'gamers' wont be able to feel super special about finishing a game if just anybody can do it. I mean, it wont affect them in any way shape or form, but why should just anyone be able to see all the content they paid for?

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27 minutes ago, df0 said:

I'm happy for your and your son.

But that is your son. Not everybody's child is like your son. Your son can keep playing Dark Souls at the default difficulty level and learn patience, life lessons and whatnot. What harm would an Easy mode do? It is not mandatory to play on Easy, it does not alter your son's experience in any way, shape or form. Your son can happily ignore Easy mode.

 

Do not get me wrong, I am not saying Dark Souls should cater to the Barbie's Horse Adventure audience. I am saying instead you losing 80% of your default health when hit, make it 40%. Still punishing, still a challenge but a wee bit more forgiving.

 

 

The bottom line is that Miyazaki and co must have concluded that making their games easier in order to reach a wider audience would be compromising on the responses they want to elicit from players. They want the games to be challenging, they want players to learn how to overcome said challenges, they want the player to feel a range of emotions when playing whether that be stress, fear, tension, relief, joy, wonder, whatever and they have calibrated the games accordingly in order to generate those emotional responses. 

 

That said, they still give everyone a get out of jail free card in the form of human or NPC assistance when required.

 

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13 minutes ago, Broker said:


ROI isn’t provable at all though. I’m making a game at the moment, adding any other options than the base ones I have is hours of extra work. I don’t have money to hire a member of staff because I’m making it alone. I don’t know how to make it more accessible without doing all my textures again multiple times to make them readable to colourblind people. You scale that up to a game the size of a triple A one and you’ve got potentially thousands of man hours of work to implement these features that everyone seems so sure are no work, when it seems pretty obvious that they are a lot of work. If you’re working with a budget of millions then yeah, it’s good for people to think about it. But it’s absolutely not free. 

 

Accessibility features should be promoted and celebrated because they’re amazing. Developers spending time and money on them is fantastic, but I don’t think minimising those efforts is helpful. We should be excited and enthusiastic about the developers who are doing these things, not expectant and negative about the developers who can’t or don’t. The whole thing is a million shades of grey but it’s being treated like a black and white binary which doesn’t help, because when you minimise the effort and challenge of implementing these things all you do is create even more expectations of developers whose resources just aren’t infinite. 
 

My friend works in publishing. She works hard to provide a very different kind of accessibility, by providing black authors with a place to get published, and offering black audiences literature that speaks to them. I’m not sure if their books are available in audio or other accessible forms, but I’m pretty sure that if they’re not it’s not because they don’t care about blind people being able to participate. Every decision made in the process sucks money out of another area. Should they focus on providing accessible versions of the books they’ve published instead of publishing more books? I can’t see an easy or correct answer to that, it’s an impossible choice with no correct answer. And before anyone decides to say I’m comparing people who like Dark Souls to marginalised black authors I’m not, it’s just an illustrative point that when you’re trying to make and publish things there’s always costs to everything and the money for them comes from somewhere. The decisions people are having to make when they create things aren’t simple ones and there’s plenty of points along the way where one thing will be sacrificed for another thing. 

I think you're wrong on the ROI point here, even if most of the evidence is currently anecdotal. One difference right now is that the accessibility community will actively work to promote indies with comprehensive features: but a second is that including those features will get you listed on the growing number of databases that tag accessible titles. There are games that have thrived on the back of accessibility, and I don't think we're far off being able to specify ROI reasonably accurately - to a better degree certainly than other features.

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8 minutes ago, K said:

The building analogy is indeed flawed, but mainly because it’s considerably cheaper and easier to make a game accessible than it is a building. For some reason people still argue against it. 

 

 

I don't think anyone here is arguing against accessibility. One poster has pointed out that there are costs and difficulties in implementation but that is a long way from opposing per se.

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8 minutes ago, K said:

The building analogy is indeed flawed, but mainly because it’s considerably cheaper and easier to make a game accessible than it is a building. For some reason people still argue against it. 

 

I'm not sure that's actually true either, at least not when you take into account development and testing hourly costs. That doesn't mean games should skimp on accessibility though, but still arguments about difficulty here seem to be getting mixed up with accessibility, and they are often very different things.

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2 minutes ago, Mike S said:

 

 

The bottom line is that Miyazaki and co must have concluded that making their games easier in order to reach a wider audience would be compromising on the responses they want to elicit from players. They want the games to be challenging, they want players to learn how to overcome said challenges, they want the player to feel a range of emotions when playing whether that be stress, fear, tension, relief, joy, wonder, whatever and they have calibrated the games accordingly in order to generate those emotional responses. 

 

That said, they still give everyone a get out of jail free card in the form of human or NPC assistance when required.

 

Giving players options to tweak their experience won't deprive the majority of players of that core experience. But it will open it up to others who can explore the level at which they find their joy in the game. 

 

Of course it's up to the team if they want to do that or not. But at some point, another series might start to manage this while the souls titles themselves stand still. I don't see why they wouldn't want that audience.

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@Broker - here's a very good interview with Ian Hamilton who is super flighty about the subject on Twitter but very well reasoned here.

 

https://abilitynet.org.uk/news-blogs/accessibility-and-games-design-interview-ian-hamilton-video-game-accessibility-specialist

 

The principle that sticks with me is that designing for access and approachability doesn't just benefit disabled players: it benefits a much wider pool of players because it's a shortcut to clear design and communication.

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Just now, jonny_rat said:

Giving players options to tweak their experience won't deprive the majority of players of that core experience. But it will open it up to others who can explore the level at which they find their joy in the game. 

 

Of course it's up to the team if they want to do that or not. But at some point, another series might start to manage this while the souls titles themselves stand still. I don't see why they wouldn't want that audience.

 

 

As I suggested, they could do that, but clearly they choose not to for whatever reason and I am happy to accept and embrace their artistic choices as I have found them so rewarding in practice. 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, jonny_rat said:

Giving players options to tweak their experience won't deprive the majority of players of that core experience.


It will though, because the majority of players will just stick it on easy. If Demon’s had released with an easy mode we would be having this conversation about a different game because nobody would remember it and it wouldn’t have become the success it has. It would just be another random hack and slash game with a niche audience. The difficulty is what made it the game it is, which is why so many more people played it. 

 

42 minutes ago, jonny_rat said:

@Broker - here's a very good interview with Ian Hamilton who is super flighty about the subject on Twitter but very well reasoned here.

 

https://abilitynet.org.uk/news-blogs/accessibility-and-games-design-interview-ian-hamilton-video-game-accessibility-specialist

 

The principle that sticks with me is that designing for access and approachability doesn't just benefit disabled players: it benefits a much wider pool of players because it's a shortcut to clear design and communication.


That’s fascinating, I’ll definitely be considering that when I’m designing things.

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4 minutes ago, Broker said:


It will though, because the majority of players will just stick it on easy. If Demon’s had released with an easy mode we would be having this conversation about a different game because nobody would remember it and it wouldn’t have become the success it has. It would just be another random hack and slash game with a niche audience. The difficulty is what made it the game it is, which is why so many more people played it. 

 


 

This is sort of why most of the discourse has moved away from easy/normal/hard: the kind of tweaks I'm thinking of are more specific, with the player encouraged to modify the bit of gameplay that's giving them problems. I think I prefer the approach of packaging these tweaks up into a more descriptive profile of settings: eg story, combat-focused.

 

Re: souls games - in sekiro my preference would have been to have a mode with a much more generous parry/block mechanic. I think these are all things you can do while continuing to emphasise that there is a base, as-intended difficulty that is the core experience. I think the souls games could have gotten by  - and still could get by - with something like that.

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I don't think difficulty options would have made any of the Souls games more or less of a success. Halo wasn't seen as "just another FPS" because you could play it on Easy, and people still relish the challenge of playing that game on Legendary.

 

I also don't think most people would play the Souls games on Easy, given the choice. For a start they're already a huge success, to the point where people are buying new hardware for the sake of playing a remake of the original. If Bluepoint had added in an easy mode I'd imagine most players would still be playing it on its original difficulty setting, but maybe a few more people would be joining in if the option was available.

 

Multiple difficulty modes also offer more reasons to replay games. The Souls games aren't exactly lacking here as they stand, but many people would no doubt want to replay the games on higher difficulty levels.

 

I do think some people, myself included, get hung up sometimes on wanting everyone to enjoy the same things we do in the same way. The Souls games are an amazing experience, and part of me would want everyone to persevere with them as they are and grow to love them the way I do. However, not everyone has the time or the inclination to do this, and ultimately it really doesn't affect me if anyone opts for an easier way. 

 

While I'm on the subject, I imagine an easy mode would actually be more satisfying in some cases than making use of the game's existing options. Right now, if you're really stuck on a boss you can probably negate it by simply summoning a bunch of other players and watch them demolish it for you. I imagine it would be rather more satisfying to beat it solo on an easier difficulty setting.

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These discussions always boil down to this bizarre 'but what if other people decide to put the game on easy mode!' hand-wringing, as if that affects their own experience in any way whatsoever. Stop caring about how other people may choose to partake in the experience, you're perfectly free to stick to the default settings. 

 

The only worse argument than the above is someone not wanting easier settings available because they think they wouldn't be able to resist turning the difficulty down. Because other people should be deprived of options because of one's own lack of self-control.

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44 minutes ago, Mogster said:

 

While I'm on the subject, I imagine an easy mode would actually be more satisfying in some cases than making use of the game's existing options. Right now, if you're really stuck on a boss you can probably negate it by simply summoning a bunch of other players and watch them demolish it for you. I imagine it would be rather more satisfying to beat it solo on an easier difficulty setting.

 

This is an excellent point also. Some people love to bang on about how you can summon people to make it easier if you really want but this probably makes the game even easier than if there was an actual properly tuned built-in easy mode in the first place....Some of the people I've summoned in the past have been so good and overpowered relative to me I basically didn't even need to do anything, I just traipsed around after them while they tore the level up. How is this more befitting of the creator's original vision? 

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8 minutes ago, Majora said:

These discussions always boil down to this bizarre 'but what if other people decide to put the game on easy mode!' hand-wringing, as if that affects their own experience in any way whatsoever. Stop caring about how other people may choose to partake in the experience, you're perfectly free to stick to the default settings

Or, alternatively and in the real world, my objection to those wanting an easy mode is simply because the developers do not want one and have design their games accordingly. It doesnt matter what other people are doing, if this is how FROM wish people to experience their games then that is that. 

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6 minutes ago, Majora said:

These discussions always boil down to this bizarre 'but what if other people decide to put the game on easy mode!' hand-wringing, as if that affects their own experience in any way whatsoever. Stop caring about how other people may choose to partake in the experience, you're perfectly free to stick to the default settings. 

 

The only worse argument than the above is someone not wanting easier settings available because they think they wouldn't be able to resist turning the difficulty down. Because other people should be deprived of options because of one's own lack of self-control.

I think it comes across that way but it genuinely isn't that. The vast majority of games have difficulty settings and their existence has never caused me or most any issues by them existing. It's more that this has been a constant continual ongoing debate with the exact same arguments about souls games specifically that cause people to pigeonhole into the dumb territory you are sincerely talking about but its more the fact that the developer and studio created an incredibly unique experience and they haven't done what most other games/studios do despite five plus opportunities to do so. 

 

As soon as you say this really unique experience should be more like other games it gets their backs up and they come up with stuff that comes off as nonsensical. When actually it is saying From have continually chosen to do it this way and they have continue to tweak balance in other ways (Grass to Estus to faster combat etc) and that they trust in the developer than the wider sweeping arguments people make online.

 

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6 minutes ago, Majora said:

How is this more befitting of the creator's original vision? 

It isn't.

 

They would rather you learn to overcome the challenge yourself. Summons allow you to effectively skip a boss if you are at a wall and dont have the time or patience to throw yourself at it yourself... 

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8 minutes ago, Majora said:

 

This is an excellent point also. Some people love to bang on about how you can summon people to make it easier if you really want but this probably makes the game even easier than if there was an actual properly tuned built-in easy mode in the first place....Some of the people I've summoned in the past have been so good and overpowered relative to me I basically didn't even need to do anything, I just traipsed around after them while they tore the level up. How is this more befitting of the creator's original vision? 


Because that’s what the creator decided to put in the game. They’re obviously different because otherwise people would be satisfied with the one that is in the game, so the people making the game deciding to put in one and not the other is what fits their vision of how to play the game. It’s fascinating that people who play games are so convinced that they know exactly how to make the world wide success better, and the answer is so often that thing from literally every other game that’s ever been made. Why even have more than one game really? Everyone should just make the same game and then they could all continually refine it’s set of mechanics until they were identical in every release. 

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40 minutes ago, kris_doe said:

Doesn’t the character type selection act as a difficulty choice in a way? I can never get the parrying timing down so I went for a tank knight walking my way through enemies. 

I've never found the tank thing easier in DS games than a more agile character that can actually avoid stuff. Part of the genius of the games I guess, but few of them (except DeS) have an actual class with an advantage. Mage builds are generally seen as the easiest in DaS1 I think?

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