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What exactly determines difficulty in a game in your eyes?

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I was talking to a few friends of mine about the NES Ninja Gaiden trilogy and we had many differing views on which one was the most challenging, bringing up this topic.

So, SSMB what are your thoughts on how to determine it (other than a few settings)?

 

For me, I think a lot of it boils down to your personal style of play and even how you react to situations in the games.

 

Another being how well one pays attention to patterns in the area, after all, Dracula's first form in Castlevania is not hard when you have a sense for when he will shoot his Hellfire at you.

 

Which brings me to my next thought, it might also depend on if your reflexes are fast enough for some situations and if the speed is even fair in the first place.

 

Another being (when applicable), are the designers being too strict with time limits to get your task done or even too forgiving?

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One really big example of how not to do difficulty was Kingdom Hearts. Basically, the super hard difficulty levels (At least from Birth By Sleep and onward) just had massive boosts for the enemies and etc. The only reason why it was really difficult was because of enemies taking advantage of how slow the characters use commands, and since the enemies pretty much kill you in one hit, well

 

The problem with difficulty is that it's really hard to scale it in such a natural way that doesn't make it seem too easy or in a way frustrating. Since everybody has different views what difficulty is, it's such a hard topic when it comes to game development, but one incredibly good example of a game that increases difficulty as you get better in such a natural way is Tetris. This video will probably explain that.

 

To me, difficulty is determined by how the developers expect the players to handle a situation.

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In the context of combat:

A combination of tactic, speed, and player skill. If a game makes me think quickly before I go all out on a boss using every skill at my disposal at a quick pace then that is what I define as difficulty, it's a challenge yet still fun and rewarding once you complete it. Stupid difficulty is having a really easy normal mode and then unlocking a hard mode that simply gives enemies a massive power boost and much more armor, and making no other changes. I can see how it might work in some cases, but really, a skilled player will not fall for the same tactics twice. Sadly, this is what most developers seem to be going for nowadays... even Nintendo, though they are a bit more subtle I guess. Even worse is no hit runs... yeah fuck that shit.

In the context of game design: Make me think about where I have to go or what to do next, throw in subtle hints at best. Give me obstacles that have planning and thought as well as player skill to them, don't just put random shit in place or give me constant trial and error stages *coughunleashedcough*

Lastly, set a consistent fucking difficulty curve. A lot of games have difficultt curves that either skew harshly ones way or the other, shard spike or drops and some are all over the place. It's always anticlimactic when a great game has an epic, yet piss easy final boss *coughgalaxiescough*

So yeah, make me think, keep me on my toes, make me have tact in combat and keep getting consistently harder.

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Difficulty stops being difficulty when it impedes on my enjoyment of the game.

 

I don't play games to be hot shit, I play them to have fun. If your bullshit challenges start to affect that then I'm not going to play your game.

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Since getting into the Souls games a few years back, I've found myself consequently enjoying games that aren't challenging less and less. Dificult or challenging gameplay used to be just an option I had if I wanted to run more then one playthrough. Now it's something I look for and evaluate much more closely. A game suceeds at this when the gameplay is constructed in such a way as to face the player with staunch opposition whlie providing the tools to succeed, and then trusting the player to learn and improve. If the player is able to learn, improve and ultimately beat sections which previously kicked their ass, and such successess are accompanied by a sense of satisfaction, you have done well. Difficulty is a means towards making a game challenging, and a challenging game can provide an incredible experience.

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