Difficulty level in games

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  • HI,i would like to know your opinion about difficulty level in games.Nowadays most games, like those in facebook and all over the net are mostly for casual gamers, i don�t know if there is still a place for games that requires more skill and logical thinking.I�m working on a project and i have already 30 levels in my game, but my wife can only beat 3 levels!, so it is not only a game design decision to lower the difficulty, because this kind of games lose all interst if they are to easy.

    Are people willing to play games that take several attempts to beat one single level?


  • I believe if a level seems like it can be beat, but the player fails due to their own lack of knowledge or skill, then it can be considered challenging and fun. The player knows that if they learn that skill or knowledge then they can beat the level.

    On the other hand, if the player feels that their inability to complete the level is due to forces outside of their control, like random death or knowledge that is not generally available or available within the context of the game, then they will get frustrated and the game won't be fun.

    So, in my opinion, what makes a game fun is not as much about the level of difficulty, but is more about giving the player the feeling that they can beat the game if they can just improve their own skills or use/expand their own knowledge, no matter the difficulty.

    One personal example that comes to mind is 's The Convergence. There wasn't much help at the beginning, and it took a while to figure out what to do, but everytime I failed, I knew it was my fault and that it was possible to beat. If there had been randomly appearing wormholes that killed me, or I needed to know how to calculate the integral of a multi-variable function, then I would have angrily stopped playing.

    The key is to make the player feel like they are in control and that they have everything they need at hand to beat the game.

  • I would say that you can still have a game that ends up being difficult and still appeal to a broader market then just the hardcore/oldschool gamer...although there is a market for hardcore games, don't think you have to appease a broader market of casual gamers.

    I'm not sure what type of game you are making, but one of the more important things is to make sure that players have the basics down properly before throwing the massive difficulty at them, this way, as Wastrel mentioned, it would be viewed as a player skill issue, not a game issue.

    So perhaps add a few more levels at the beginning to gradually raise the difficulty and make sure the players get the basics down properly.... also if you introduce more game mechanics later on, you can ease up on the difficulty for a few levels to make sure the player has the new mechanic down, and also makes it feel like they are making some progress. After the player has had some practice, re-introduce the brutal difficulty.

    This gives the games 'peaks and valleys' and not just a constant upward trend in difficulty. Which may be the way to go if trying to appeal to broader audience without compromising how difficult the game would be to ultimately beat...

    Extra credits had a good episode on pacing, which applies to many things: Pacing

  • Thank you guys for those great thoughts.

    That " Pacing" video is fantastic, im a music composer and i already use this concept for years, but i dind�t realize that it can be used for game design and...everything else! thank you!

  • Braxmule, awesome find on the Pacing video. Every game designer should watch that.

  • As long as it is YOUR fault that you fail, and not the GAME's fault, then make the difficulty as high as you want, as long as you get the feeling that "I could finish this level!".

    Think Super Meat Boy.

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  • Difficulty is all a matter of what your goal is. Games tend to be easier these days because that is more accessible and they design their games around different psychological hooks than things like flow. Big Triple A games tend to focus on the experience. The game shouldn't usually be hard because that only stops you from seeing their best work -- their highlyc cinematic action set pieces.

    Free to Play to Play games on facebook rely on psychological addiction hooks to keep people playing (and hopefully convert them into paying customers). For their purposes, difficulty is not necessary and if it exists, it should be a fake type of difficulty meant to trick the player into thinking they're being clever (which is a very very strong psychological hook when done right).

    Of course, in the triple A, you got games like Bayonetta, or even more extremely, Demon's and Dark Souls. Dark Souls, despite it's crazy difficulty, sold an ass-ton of copies, because both games new how to craft an amazingly challenging and rewarding experience (See: the psychological state of flow again). I personally don't find those games to be as absurdly hard and soul crushing as people make them out to be (though they are still very hard), the idea that players THINK that adds to their mental reward after they succeed at a task. If you can get a player into Flow and have him leave Flow to pump his fist give a victory scream, well, you've done good. That's part of what made I Wanna Be the Guy work.

    Another bit on this is, by definition, you are an indie/small tiem developer. Wide appeal is not always the most optimal course of action. Often focused niche appeal can give a piece of work the eyes it needs to get noticed. And if a game flourishes in a niche, it gets exposure to the mass market.

    So basically, there is no right answer for difficulty, but you should be deliberate in your decision. If you want to do something hard, just make sure it is fundamentally enjoyable. Because even if dying wasn't the player's fault (like what happens in the Souls games of IWBTG at times), if the player is sold on the experience, they won't care. In fact, they might even laugh about it.

  • And just to shamelessly plug the Fun Chowder game competition, there is a competition field for games of any sort to be entered. At the moment there is no prize for this field, but it could bring some attention to your game.

    If you were interested you have up until December 2nd 4pm GMT if you wanted to make any tweaks before entering.

    Fun Chowder competition

    Edit: When writting this post it never even occured to me that the game may not be made using construct 2 :P If that is the case please disregard this post. <img src="smileys/smiley2.gif" border="0" align="middle">

  • The first game I did was unbeatable. I alone had lots of troubles to pass the first level; I show that to casual gamers and they all said "this is impossible, I don't like this way".

    So as I was bluring the level of their pleasure was rising... In the end it's an option we have to do.

    It's like, for example, infinite lifes vs fixed number of lifes?

  • I feel that for certain games with more of an arcade-like focus, set number of lives is way to go. If it's a short game by design, give a reason for coming back to it, aside from how obviously fun it is (ha). I like fixed lives + limited continues, but not all games call for that.

  • Braxmule, yes the game is made in construct2, i will consider to take part in this competition if it's finished in time..Tks

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