SP Games - Time to rethink difficulty levels?

Discussion in 'PC Gaming' started by Albuquerque, Aug 10, 2007.

  1. Albuquerque

    Albuquerque Red-headed step child
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    Ok, so Bitwise XOR got me thinking with this quote from the FarCry 2 thread:
    Specifically, I think the current model of "difficulty" is a little too abstract. For essentially all games, if you turn the difficulty down it does a general "dumbing down" of the entire experience: AI that is less intelligent, more plentiful ammunition and health, and damage to your character is reduced.

    I'm not a game coder, but I do a considerable amount of programming for my job -- these items can't be 100% hard-linked. I'm sure they all reference the same slider, but what if there were THREE sliders instead of one?

    Slider One: AI Intelligence. Are you fighting a bunch of dimwits, or are you fighting an entire legion of SEALs?

    Slider Two: Resources. Are you swimming in ammunition, guns and health galore? Or are you in the real world where that stuff just doesn't go laying around?

    Slider Three: Are you basically the terminator and can take a rocket to the face, fall 50 feet and get pelted by four clips of 9x19mm ammo and still be able to run a quarter mile? Or are you human; being shot once is likely enough to slow you down really well, taking a rocket to the face is grounds for dismemberment of the most grotesque variety, et al?

    I'd love to see these kinds of options in a game. I don't like the fact that I can take 72 rounds to the chest, back, legs and head and still live -- but when I turn up the generalized difficulty slider, suddenly the AI is to the point where they can see you from a half-mile away and can hit you dead-even while running. Why can't I have something else?
     
  2. Davros

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    /me agrees with albuquerque
     
  3. Scott_Arm

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    Sounds great to me.
     
  4. Dresden

    Dresden Celebrating Mediocrity
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    There's a handful of games out there that actually address some of these points. The Metal Gear Solid games would actually utilize bleeding and bandaging. The AI would actually follow trails of blood, which I thought was really neat. Another aspect of the later MGS games I really enjoyed was stick ups, and with the addition of MGS4 there will also be pat-downs. Getting the upper hand in a fire fight and sneaking up on someone should automatically render them immobilized without even having to fire your gun. Instead most games turn the AI into blood crazy, fearless entities that essentially charge you. Also, the Rainbow Six games and the entire "one shot could potentially kill you" was another neat feature, but sometimes frustrating. I never had the opportunity to play "Call of Cthulhu," but from your statements I'm guessing it had a realistic sense of damage?
     
  5. Frank

    Frank Certified not a majority
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    I would like that very much.
     
  6. Graham

    Graham Hello :-)
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    Sorry. It's far, far too logical. :p

    I can't help but think of the stranglehold demo. What I'd give for intelligent enemies, *but for gods sake, 10x less of them!*. I kept thinking I'd cleared an area, only to find there were 3-5 guys right behind me, standing still, shooting (and missing) every couple of seconds. Drove me nuts.
     
  7. Cartoon Corpse

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    personally. HL1 was fine... difficulty levels today are not so much recreational as they are 12yo whining about it not being difficult enough. i want escape (SUCCSESS) not frustration. and it isn't like current 'reality levels' are accurate.
     
  8. hoom

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    Different type of game but Iwar had system damage modelling ie if you got hit in a vital system, you'd be possibly dead in space or spinning out of control until it got repaired.
    Chances of hitting a particular system depended on which part of the ship got hit.

    Oh & there was no difficulty level setting at all :smile:

    Racing games & flight sims have for a long time had the ability for the player to disable & enable various realism/difficulty settings to the players preference.
     
  9. Richard

    Richard Mord's imaginary friend
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    Let me just go on the record as one of those 12yo that whines about games not being difficult enough. Most games nowadays have only two difficulty settings: easy and very easy. Very few games offer a Nightmare mode (as in DOOM) or Ironman mode (as in ToEE).

    While I agree with Albuquerque that games should offer more granular difficulty settings rather than a lever I still think games are generally too easy nowadays. I play old games a lot, whether PC games or emulated games and I'm pleasantly surprised that a lot of the difficulty I remember from first playing them was not just my nostalgy tinted glasses or being an unexperienced player back then. These games were genuinely more difficult and remain so. Here's an example, I've recently bought that Another World 15th Anniversary Edition. This is a game I remember as being very difficult (both because of the puzzles and the quick reflexes needed) and it's still just as difficult. In fact, I spent close to 20 mins just trying solve one of the puzzles in the middle section of the game, even though I must have beat the original like 4 times. Heh, perhaps the years are catching up to me. ;)

    Now the obvious answer to this is not allow anytime saves and similar tricks but these are false solutions since DOOM (for instance) also allowed this and the game was tough on Ultra-Violence and madening in Nightmare difficulty. And that's what I think Cartoon's comment about frustration comes. FarCry having checkpoints instead of anytime saves lead to frustration, not increased difficulty. Likewise, making enemies automatically headshot you from a mile away whilst not being able to see you is not a legitimate way to increase difficulty (yes I'm looking at you Hidden & Dangerous).

    It seems games nowadays are made for ADD people that can't play for more than 10 hours and quit at the first obstacle they find. Or they're trying to appeal so much to the casual gamer that they end up dumbing down. For a few years now whenever I play a game for the first time I go directly for the "Hard" setting when about a decade ago I'd start off at "Normal".

    And the consolitis isn't helping at all. Games that were born with auto-aim and slow moving enemies because of a gamepad and ported with just these things disabled which doesn't increase the overall difficulty of the game, it just compensates for the fact a mouse is so much better. Case in point Halo. Yes the PC version doesn't have auto-aim but you still have shield regeneration, and in CoD2 you actually had to try to get killed. Prey did away with death altogether (albeit in a clever and interesting - the first couple of times - way).

    And it's perfectly fine that some people don't want difficult games but isn't just what difficulty settings are for?
     
  10. Snyder

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    A really interesting topic, too bad I'm just too tired now to write much, so just a few blurbs from me...:)

    Yet there are Metroid and Castlevania. Both series are widely loved for their gameplay. Both have checkpoints AND monster respawn (another feature considered by many as a flawed design to improve difficulty). I simply don't think it's too clear cut when it comes to how to make a game difficult the right way, and I consider Checkpoints (and Respawn, since I mentioned it) as valid options to provide a challenge.
    After all, no one cries for Quicksave in a racing game or a jump'n'run. (and yes, I think that's a viable analogy, but I'm afraid I can't supply arguments for that today anymore *yawn*...:) )

    Indeed. (I'm looking at you, Jedi Knight II, as well...)

    While it's surely a factor as well, I don't think you can solely put the blame on the market. It's just harder to make a hard, but good game, or put another way: it's easy/tempting to cover flaws in a game by drastically lowering difficulty. You mentioned ToEE at the beginning. Yes, that game was fun on hard difficulty. With NWN2 though, I couldn't be bothered (and I really tried...), simply because the interface and the battle mechanics have so many flaws which aren't that bad when playing on normal diff (which is rather easy TBH), but are just a huge PITA and frustrating if you really want to be challenged.

    Quicksave also plays a role in that. IMO, QS, while not inherently bad (->your Doom example), is used far too often to cover up sloppy and thus unfair gameplay. Max Payne, for example, comes to mind. (Maybe it was part 2, it's been a while...) I don't know how often I had to go through the routine "Quicksave-> Enter Room and try to remember where the enemies are positioned (and losing lots of health or dying until/before you've found everyone...)->Quickload->Enter Room again using prior knowledge to kill the enemies quick enough". When a game passage isn't fun even after a only few tries without QS, it's simply bad game design.

    Another problem: I'm afraid people are just spoiled by bad/too simple puzzles. In ye olden days I had some trust that puzzles in games had to have at least somewhat plausible solutions, even if I had to search for hours. Think old text adventures, or the Golden Years of Lucasarts, but also your classic dungeoncrawlers. But then came the Myst revolution with lots of baad (at least when it comes to puzzle design) wannabes, or stuff like e.g. Kyrandia 3 (man, that one had stupid puzzles!) or the later Sierra adventures (the Gabriel Knight series comes to mind) and I lost trust in those kind of games. I just couldn't be bothered to search for hours if the solution was just dumb and moronic. (Like 'How on Earth should I have guessed that!!' instead of 'Of course, why didn't I think earlier of that!')
    But in this case, maybe it' just me. :)

    Oh well, so much for "just a few blurbs"...*yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawn*
     
  11. Richard

    Richard Mord's imaginary friend
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    They absolutely are. I may have come across wrong. To clarify, I mentioned FC's checkpoints because you could spend upwards of 30 mins on a level, die just before the end of level checkpoint and have to do it all again. In Castlevania for instance, the time between checkpoints were fairly short. So, while they were challenging in Castlevania, they were frustrating in FC.

    And btw, I agree with your point about being harder to make games (especially for experienced gamers that have probably played more games than some of these developers). I also completely agree with you on the trust you could put on those old Lucasarts adventure games where you'd know the solution would be logical and make you smack your forehead (well, except with Sam & Max or Day of the Tentacle but if you think about it, the crazy puzzle solutions fit right into their crazy universe!).

    As an example, the end boss in Half-Life. Really, what possible reason could there be for using that technique to beat it? Yes it was hard, but was it satisfying?
     
  12. _xxx_

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    Regarding the damage system: Doom 1 had it already perfectly nailed. Talking about FPS only, mind you.

    All this would-be realism really bothers me. I want to play a game, not simulate the reality and make everything unneccessary hard. To me that is no fun at all, example FarCry.
     
  13. Albuquerque

    Albuquerque Red-headed step child
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    Ah, but see, I loved FarCry for several different reasons -- one of which was the combat. This is where I think SP games need the refit: I could get my "realism" (in terms of quantity, quality, damage) and you could get your "game" (ditto, but at different levels).

    One of my favorite things to do in Wolfenstein - and later doom - was to create a little simple level just CHOCK-FULL of baddies. And then go running through splattering everyone for as far as I could go until either I ran out of ammo or died. Depending on the mood I was in, I felt it was a lot of fun. Granted all the enemies were on complete WUSS mode; it was more the quantity that made it fun for some reason.

    I wouldn't mind having the same in (as an example) FarCry. Maybe one playthrough I could have a crapton of Mercs, but they're not quite smart and there's not a lot of ammo or health laying around. Then I could turn down the number of mercs, but make them insanely good -- and maybe turn up the "resources" bar a little for help.

    And then when I'm really just stpuid in the head, max out the quantity, quality and skill -- and leave myself basically no resources at all; almost NIGHTMARE mode if you will.

    And my weenie brother could turn 'em all way down and waltz through it with a pea shooter ;)
     
  14. NRP

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    Agreed Albuquerque. Allowing the player to tailor a game's difficulty to his/her liking is a great idea.

    It seems like such an elegant "win-win" solution that I'm surprised more games haven't implemented such an option. I guess it is pretty difficult to pull off in practice.
     
  15. I.S.T.

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    I think the type of adjustable difficulty should depend on the genre, to an extent at least. A realistic damage model would really, really suck in a fast paced third person action game ala Devil May Cry 3, or in any sort of turn based RPG(PC or Console style.) A slower paced game, on the other hand, would quite well with it.

    What I would like ot see is a game that hands you a huge moves/attacks list, with no costs or penalties for any of the attacks. The strength of the attacks/moves would vary considerably. With a system like this, a player could choose his difficulty level simply by choosing which move to use in battle. Players wanting a harder game could choose the weaker attacks, and players wanting an easier game can choose the death ray.

    Of course, RPGs already have this mostly, but a third person action game doesn't have something quite like that. I'm thinking perhaps 60 or more different moves/attacks, a really wide selection.

    A system like this would also be a lot more versitle(Think I spelled that right...). What if, for example, you wanted to wear down a boss with a poison type attack/whatever, or if the boss required something like that.

    Requiring players to learn all the attacks would be cumbersome, so I figure a hotkey type system would work best.

    It's not all that unique of an idea, just a slight extention of what's going on now in many games, but if implemented right, it could really work, IMO.
     
  16. RejZoR

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    Heh, Deus Ex "invented" targeted damage in what, year 2000 ? Blow your legs of with grenades or by jumping from too high and you'll be unable to jump, run or even walk fast untill you used medkit.
     
  17. I.S.T.

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    Wasn't Soldier of Fortune out before Deus EX?

    Edit: I just checked Gamefaqs. If they're accurate, it predates Deus Ex by almost four months.
     
  18. Richard

    Richard Mord's imaginary friend
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    IIRC Soldier of Fortune's (in)famous damage system only applied to enemies. RejZoR is referring to the player being selectively damaged in Deus Ex.
     
  19. Cartoon Corpse

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    What about the fact that most people aren't Ninja/Commando in real life? and the fact that even a Ninja/Commando isn't going to survive an encounter with 10's (encoutner) or 100's (level) (or 1000's? in a game) of NME personnel in a given game. i don't think any person has that kind of skill/strength/stamina. that game would be pretty short. i prefer escapism. i don't take this stuff seriously, i don't immerse myself as 'Commandoman', i immerse myself as retarded clown ("take that monkeyface!", etc)

    i prefer NOLF like games (even Postal2)....satirical....tongue in cheek.

    and the games that aren't (GTA, Nightfire) i try to make them that way by playing as, say, the mayor of crazytown.

    if games were 'real' they wouldn't be much fun to most of us.

    ARMA? i didn't like it...was that real? you can't go too far, cause as a game player you are deprived of the senses and strengths that you possess in real life (periferal vision is a big one, smell, sound location (usually), feel)
     
  20. Kaotik

    Kaotik Drunk Member
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    If not mentioned yet, STALKER utilizes bandaging/bleeding, too
     
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