The Philosophy, Art, and Social Influence of games
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Erik_Twice
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How hard is "hard"?

by Erik_Twice Sat Nov 03, 2012 6:33 pm

Some games are hard. Some are harder than others. But there's often no nuance.

When you read online about Contra, many will say it's really hard. Incredibly hard, even. But is it really? Because I've read the same thing about Megaman and Golden Axe. And about Mushimesama and Beatmania. And that's just wrong. It seems to me we would really gain from a better understanding of difficulty and not just dick waving because you beat Megaman.

So I wonder, what games do you consider, "easy" or "hard"?


I've to say it's kind of hard for me to get some good examples!

Easy: Kirby games, Portal
-> Mario would sit here
Normal: Sonic, Monkey Island,
Challenging: Contra, Castlevania, Megaman
Hard: Typical danmaku some stages in, Contra: Hard Cops
Tears: Hardest Beatmania IIDX songs, Spelunker

Mario is an odd duck because he has always been slighty easy, and he's well known enough to put him into "normal" territory but newer games are easier so it would lead to error.

How would you categorize difficulty? Sorry fot the poor writing of the post, it was not a good day :lol:
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Luke
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Re: How hard is "hard"?

by Luke Sat Nov 03, 2012 6:42 pm

General_Norris wrote:How would you categorize difficulty? Sorry fot the poor writing of the post, it was not a good day :lol:


That's like defining "expensive" or "good looking". "Difficulty" depends more on the person than the game.

btw, if "fot" was an intentional typo, hats off to you.
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Erik_Twice
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Re: How hard is "hard"?

by Erik_Twice Sat Nov 03, 2012 6:44 pm

Luke wrote:That's like defining "expensive" or "good looking". "Difficulty" depends more on the person than the game.

Oh I know, but surely, there's hard and harder. Nobody in their right mind is going to say Kirby is harder than Contra even if they beat either.

btw, if "fot" was an intentional typo, hats off to you.

:lol:
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Re: How hard is "hard"?

by Valkyrie-Favor Sat Nov 03, 2012 6:48 pm

Hard is a game that I can't beat.
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Re: How hard is "hard"?

by flojocabron Sat Nov 03, 2012 7:44 pm

There's nintnedo hard. Where the game was purposely designed to frustrate you so that consumers could get their moneys worth from the game they bought. Looking at you Ninja Gaiden.

Theres the bad game hard. Where the game was messed up to begin with. Lazy programming, bad hit detection and other delays and quality control that didn't make a good experience. But the game came out anyways.

Theres the I know I can beat this hard The mechanics of the game may or may not be flawed, but there is enough interest from the player to keep going at it. Every time you mess up, it's your own fault and you get better at it eventually. You feel satisfied when you beat the game.

Then there is the Legacy Hard. It may have started as nintendo hard, but people now expect it and its sequels to be just as hard or harder than the game before it. The beginner need not apply. These games evoke the bad game hard, Some will think the game is broken and some will try to conquer it regardless. A true sense of accomplishment is had when one defeats this.

Finally there is the You SUCK hard. Because you are a $hitty gamer. :?
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Re: How hard is "hard"?

by Menegrothx Sat Nov 03, 2012 7:52 pm

There are different kinds of hard. Super Meat Boy style precision timing platforming and incredibly delicate projectile dodging in a bullethell SHMUP are more traditional examples of difficulty. On the other hand a raid boss in a MMORPG might have complex tactics and require 25 or 40 players to play in absolutely perfect sync with no one making a single mistake and every one staying absolutely focused for 8-12 minutes straight under high pressure. There's isn't much of reflex based "miss an inch and you'll die"- type of difficulty you'd find in a game like Contra and the general pace is a lot less hectic, but on the otherhand you have to pay attention to many different things happening at different places at the same time while simultaneously communicating and playing in a smooth manner, doing the correct skill rotation and so on.
And then there are intellectually challenging games that require little to 0 hand eye cordination skills or reflexes. RPGs and Strategy games with a high learning curve and/or a lot of gameplay mechanics that require the player to be smart and have mathematical or tactical decision making skills. Not to mention ultra complex games like rogue-likes and simulation games that are very hard to get into. But there are also intellectually challenging games that have very simple controls and objectives that are very easy to get into, but yet are still incredibly challenging. Super slow paced puzzle games and point & click adventure games that have really hard and challenging puzzles.


I'm not going to get into what are and what aren't legitimate ways to make a game hard in this post :)
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Re: How hard is "hard"?

by J T Sat Nov 03, 2012 8:18 pm

I usually think of games that require fast reflexes when I think of difficulty, but certainly there are games that are difficult in terms of strategy, memory, etc. I think the best hard games look simple at first, but then present a series of challenges that make you really good at playing the game so that after a few hours you are able to pull off maneuvers that you didn't even realize were possible when you started. They surprise you with just how hard they can be, and you surprise yourself with just how well you can live up to the challenge. This can be seen in games like Portal, Street Fighter II, Jamestown, Civilization, Minecraft, Hotline Miami, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, Super Meat Boy, Guitar Hero, CounterStrike, and a host of other games known for being enjoyably difficult.
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Re: How hard is "hard"?

by BoneSnapDeez Sat Nov 03, 2012 9:06 pm

It's all subjective. I find most games "hard." Some games that are impossible for me are easy for other folks.

Difficulty varies by genre and game style too. Contra and Mega Man are hard because they demand that the player adapt and react extremely quickly - timing and hand-eye coordination are essential. Wizardy and The 7th Saga are hard because they require extreme patience, fortitude, and the willingness to repeat repetitive tasks ("grinding"). Then there are the "broken games" - those are are difficult due to programming errors and poor controls - Superman 64, Dragon's Lair, Rastan on C64 (which is literally impossible), etc.
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Re: How hard is "hard"?

by Gamerforlife Sun Nov 04, 2012 12:28 am

While we can say that difficulty is subjective, I think more often than not it's pretty black and white. When a large number of experienced, veteran gamers say a game is hard, more often than not it actually is. Games like Battletoads, Ghouls n Ghosts, etc. have a reputation for being hard for a reason. I can usually get a good idea of how hard a game is before even playing it just by lurking on achievement sites or places like gamefaqs or even forums like this. These are places visited by people who aren't exactly casual gamers. They're experienced veterans. Achievement/trophy sites in particular tend to draw a hardcore crop of gamers. If most people from forums like that say a game is hard, it usually is.

Now for me, hard comes in two flavors. Good hard and bad hard. Good hard is when a game is designed with the expectation that you will learn the ins and outs of its gameplay and get better and better as you do. A "good hard" game will either demand that you learn to play properly in order to make progress, or simply give you incentive to get better(ranking systems, medals, bonus challenges, unlockables, well thought achievements, etc.)

Bad hard is when a game is clearly rigged against you and no amount of skill, practice or familiarity with the game can offset its contrived, cheap, bullshit. Unavoidable hits, trial and error gameplay, awkward controls, enemies who can break the rules of the game, etc. are all elements of "bad hard" games. Some people are in love with games like that though. They love the pain. They praise and seek out difficult games no matter how cheap, contrived and forced that difficulty is.

Then there are the good hard games that are taken to extremes. These games are fair and balanced, but require a level of skill, reflexes and ability that either come from LOTS of practice or unusually natural talent. I would lump bullet hell shooters into that category, or playing 1 on 1 fighting games at a tournament level.

I like good hard games, but not the extreme ones that require a level of ability that I either don't have or am not motivated enough to develop.

Games that I think fall into the good hard category
The Red Star
Contra Hard Corps
The original arcade version of Golden Axe
Ninja Gaiden II on the NES
Tenchu 2
Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit
Earthworm Jim
Contra Shattered Soldier
The Dishwasher Samurai Vampire Smile
Mark of the Ninja (Mistakes are usually followed by swift death, but learn to play properly and the game isn't that hard. That's how stealth games should be)
Most Mega Man games
Punch Out/Super Punch Out
Panzer Dragoon Orta

Good hard EXTREME (for people with insane skills and reflexes or people willing to practice A LOT)
Radiant Silvergun
Devil May Cry games (especially DMC 3)
MOST 2D shmups
Shinobi on the PS2 - Took me forever to master that game


Bad hard
Ninja Gaiden 2 on the Xbox 360 (full of cheap stuff and poor design and that's coming from a fan of the game)
Certain arcade beat 'em ups that are clearly meant to be quarter munchers
Bloodrayne Betrayal
God Hand (I know a lot of people will disagree on that one)
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Re: How hard is "hard"?

by 3DSStrider Sun Nov 04, 2012 4:11 am

Every game.
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