Monday, January 11, 2010

The Thin Red Line

There seems to be a fine fine line between punishing difficulty and boringly easy. If developers can get us into this zone of finely polished content, the challenges are just hard enough to stimulate but not so hard they discourage. I.E. fun occurs. They should aim for this at all times. Including in raids, yes.


Anton said...

Hard and Easy don't make something fun. Fun comes when you discover something. And discovery can happen in easy and in trying games. Whether it be exploring a nook and finding something unexpected that the developer hid there for you to look at, or fighting a monster again and again until you memorize every pattern in his behavior in order to defeat him.

Unfortunately, in MMO's, when you're facing a boss, it's usually somebody's 100th time fighting him. And all they want to discover is the loot at the end. But they might discover that you forgot to use one of your abilities and thus it is your fault that the attack failed. You might discover that he's a jerk. Laugh at him. Now you're having fun.

Anton said...

It sounds like I was declaring your post incorrect, but really it's true that developers have to do their best to keep challenges from going over a player's head. If a game punishes you too harshly for failure or doesn't give you just the right amount of preparation before a challenge, it can really slow you down and even get frustrating.

I would cite the example of Puzzle Quest as a game that was incredibly easy, yet kept me entertained for innumerable hours. Something about searching for hidden rows of 3 or more colors can put you in an inescapable, yet blissful trance.

Mega Man I think is the opposite. Those games are really difficult. But as you play, you are always observing the enemies' behaviors. Learning their behaviors is the key to knowing how to fight them. It could indeed get frustrating, but at the same time, it was rewarding.

I'm not sure what to think about MMO's as far as easy vs. difficult. It seemed like if something in WoW was ever too difficult, I'd come back later with a different group and suddenly it was too easy. I think it just depends on the day, so don't get discouraged.

And you can always take a night off of video games and do something different...Design your own game, draw some pictures...Well...that's what I would do anyways ;)

Thallian said...

You may have something there. Reward for challenge is very important and rewards can b in the form of plot discoveries as well as treasure.

Thallian said...

And I will laugh at him, thank you very much. Ha!

mbp said...

"Getting the difficulty just right" is a pretty complex problem because every player is different and even an individual players difficulty tolerance varies as they progress through a game and learn the ropes.

Some single player games use adaptive difficulty settings (as you play better the game gets harder) but those I have played haven't been great.

The funny thing is that mmos could offer a very elegant solution to this problem: They could let players choose their own difficulty by picking the level of mobs and content they are able to tackle. Unfortunately every mmo I have played squanders this opportunity in several ways. On the one hand these games prevent players from tackling content that is higher than their own level through gating mechanisms and also through "resistance" mechanisms which makes it pointless for someone to even try to tackle higher level mobs. In addition to this the rewards for overcoming content above your own level are never worth it. The fastest way to progress is invariably to grind on easy content that is a couple of levels below you.

Thallian said...

I really wish they would do away with "higher level means invincible" and tiny extra reward for huge extra effort. Still some games do reward you better in exp for higher level quest turn ins. Its not enough to really motivate you to do it regularly but its a nice perk.