Monday, October 17, 2011

Difficulty in video games.

being a Connosiuer of "electronic entertainment media" I find that in recent years, Video games are becoming easier as they go more mainstream,

no I am not some kind of difficulty hipster, I realize the need for a broader demographic appeal for this fairly new form of media to continue to exist. however, for those of us who take video games way too seriously, "casual difficulty" amounts to hand-holding baby mode that someones grandmother could get through. this won't fly

there is definately a point where the game is "too easy" the line for too easy is not clearly defined, and is sort of vague, basically, its the point where your character is perfectly capable of slaughtering endless amounts of generic enemies, at the same time, this can be quite fun, see for example, Prototype.

barring games that are too easy (which can usually be rectified by some kind of difficulty setting) are games that are too hard.

I love a challenge, and there isn't really a point where the game gets too hard, "hard" in this case, only applies to fair difficulty.

a perfect example of fair difficulty, is Monster Hunter. the entire series is built on the concept of fighting massive beasts that dwarf the player character, defeating these monsters requires more reflexes and cunning then button mashing. every attack can be dodged, and your own attacks must be timed and aimed properly to hit the beast, most of the time, when you get to a new monster, you are almost guarenteed to fail on the first try because you do not know its attack patterns. but through patience, practice, and of course, more practice, it is possible to completely destroy the same monster in under five minutes (time for missions usually ranges around 10-30 minutes for easier quests, and even with 3 other people, high rank quests may take the full 55 minutes allowed) I could go on, but that is for a later blog post.

a great example of fake difficulty, is Ninja Gaiden 2.
Ninja Gaiden one leaned more towards the fair difficulty side, though camera issues prevented it from being a great challenge, NG2 excacerbates these issues.

I do not know for certain, but I am almost positive the enemy is programmed to get out of view of the games camera whenever possible, and then knock you out of your own comboes on the one guy who was foolish enough to get hit, rampant and unavoidable backstabbing is only the tip of the iceberg however.

my biggest issue is the exploding knives, after a certain point enemy ninjas will be equipped with a bottomless bag of these, and their usual trick of backstabbing you becomes "endlessly throw undodgeable (even when you aren't preoccupied) unblockable exploding knives at you that cut off a quarter of your lifebar" these missions become almost a matter of luck rather then skill, naturally your bag of these is limited and the enemy will block them half the time.

even worse, one particular boss is rather easy, until you beat him and he literally blows up in your face on death, you are given no hint that you are supposed to hold the block button, despite the fact your defensive weapon of choice (however magical) has about zero chance of successfully block a massive explosion. its just a random puzzle designed to make you try again. its pointless and merely exists to add frustration.

might I add, this is all on the "easy" difficulty.
essentially, a challenge that is solely of player skill and not how lucky you get with the AI is what I consider good difficultly.

if you have only good and fair difficulty, there is no limit to how hard you can make the game, I relish a challenge like this, sadly games like this are almost the exclusive property of niche markets, Monster Hunter has acheived extreme success in Japan (it sells there like Call of Duty does in America) in America the games sell fairly low, and the last installment (portable 3rd) never saw a western release, which is a shame, those games eat up more of my time then any other series.

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