The Philosophy, Art, and Social Influence of games
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Sarge
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Re: Why are games easier? My take on the subject

by Sarge Mon Jun 04, 2018 4:45 pm

I don't know if it was here, or somewhere else, but someone made the point that games often fall into a couple of different categories when it comes to difficulty. They revolve around the combination of how forgiving they are, and how fair they are. The example was that Ninja Gaiden would be an example of a game that was unfair, but forgiving because of the unlimited continues. Something like Dark Souls might be an example of a game that is unforgiving, but fair. (And still difficult, of course.) Then you get to stuff like Battletoads or Ninja Gaiden III's US release, which were both unfair and unforgiving.

I think we've gotten away from as many titles that are blatantly unfair, and the ones that are are typically very forgiving. Think of something like the Mario games, even. There are sequences where you'll die quite a bit in a new Mario game! But since lives are so copious, they are quite forgiving. Same deal with Shovel Knight; you're gonna die a lot on the first time through, but the only penalty is losing cash, and depending on how you play, a chunk of the stage.

However, even with these things in place, I do think there are a lot less games that really challenge the player significantly in the AAA game space. NES-hard is still absolutely a thing. But they're not completely gone, they just changed their structure a bit.

Apologies if I ripped off what someone else said here! I seriously can't remember where this argument was made, but it makes a lot of sense to me.
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isiolia
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Re: Why are games easier? My take on the subject

by isiolia Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:59 am

Sarge wrote:I think we've gotten away from as many titles that are blatantly unfair, and the ones that are are typically very forgiving. Think of something like the Mario games, even. There are sequences where you'll die quite a bit in a new Mario game! But since lives are so copious, they are quite forgiving. Same deal with Shovel Knight; you're gonna die a lot on the first time through, but the only penalty is losing cash, and depending on how you play, a chunk of the stage.

However, even with these things in place, I do think there are a lot less games that really challenge the player significantly in the AAA game space. NES-hard is still absolutely a thing. But they're not completely gone, they just changed their structure a bit.


I think a lot of this goes back to what at least a couple folks mentioned about checkpoints/saving. Like you say, games with unlimited continues and the like are more forgiving, in a sense, and that's basically the norm these days. Even many of the more difficult games on the market today are unlikely to dump you back to the title screen to start all over if it isn't a core part of the genre (roguelikes for instance). There are reasons for that beyond making things more difficult or not, but it is still a difference.

To a fair point though, even that is creating a narrow focus on what constitutes a challenge in a game. NES hard is still a thing, sure, but there are entire genres now that were basically science fiction when the NES was king. The ways that those games could be crushingly difficult, in turn, may not be the way a massive open world game, MMO, survival game, or whatever else has the potential to be.
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Re: Why are games easier? My take on the subject

by marurun Tue Jun 05, 2018 2:58 pm

You know, I had another thought on this as well. If you think about it, challenge, or hardness, in games is about teaching players a set of skills or responses. In some games, like R-Type, you're teaching a certain amount of memorization, being in the right place vs being in the wrong place. In others you're teaching particular tactical skills. And you're always teaching the player to have a particular kind of muscle memory for quick, instinctual control responses. But challenge sometimes boils down to HOW you're teaching those skills. Sure, there are indeed some games that are harder than others, because they demand tighter timing, more precise memorization, or simply more different techniques to learn. Fighting games are illustrative of the last point. Not only does your character have a ton of moves with parameters like startup time, damage, hitbox, and recovery time, but you also have to know all your opponents moves and how they work do know how best to counter them. But even massively difficult challenges can appear less challenging if the game is doing a good job teaching you along the way and easing you into those challenges.

Modern matchmaking systems in fighters, for example, when working as designed help players slowly learn their own abilities and the abilities of others as they fight progressively more difficult and experienced opponents. And by the time they are in the top tiers they have slowly learned a lot of what they need to know for mastery. The same can be seen in many Nintendo-designed games. I would argue that early on, Breath of the Wild is actually a very difficult game, because you don't fully understand the world, your enemies, your skills, and you have only lower-grade and low-damage weapons. I died a ton early one. It felt far more foreboding challenge-wise than any Nintendo title I'd played in a while. But over time, as my skills improved, so did my equipment, and so did my enemies, but as they got harder, I was also more prepared. Nintendo excels at teaching players how to interact with their games.

Some games are very bad at teaching you skills. These games are often called unforgiving. Like games that force you to perform a whole series of interactions and make you start over every time you fail. It's very common that the string of actions or interactions you have to perform start easy and get harder until the last few actions, which are the ones you need to learn, crush you. But if you are constantly started way back at the beginning, you're getting practice with the stuff that's not a problem more than you are the stuff that is. Now, this is less of a problem IF the string of actions or interactions all are related, meaning that the easier interactions use the same skills and are leading you in. It's still annoying, but it isn't unhelpful. But many designers aren't that thoughtful. You may have to perform a bunch of actions unrelated to the thing that threw you off, and when you die or fail and have to start over, you're back to doing the stuff that you can easily complete and having to slog through it for a chance to do the thing you can't, that those easier actions aren't properly preparing you for.

tl;dr A game is a teacher, and the challenge is how it teaches you the skills you need. Good teachers lead you from one thing to the next, slowly developing your skills to prepare you for the next thing. Bad teachers constantly hop around, don't teach good or logical skill progressions, and generally don't understand the learning process.
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Sarge
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Re: Why are games easier? My take on the subject

by Sarge Tue Jun 05, 2018 4:32 pm

I've seen this argument applied to the Turbo Tunnel in Battletoads. The game changes the rules for the last segment, no longer blinking the walls but having them instantly appear on screen. So everything you learned from there is actually moot, and you have to rely on something else entirely to get through. (I use the audio cues to know when to lane-shift.)
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Re: Why are games easier? My take on the subject

by benderx Fri Jul 20, 2018 10:58 pm

I'm not sure if games are becoming non-games, but more of open world design. I see more games being made on Unity to port games out fast. I also prefer games to be complete edition no downloadble dlc.
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