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Default Rampant Games - Difficulty Levels and RPGs

July 6th, 2011, 10:14
Jay Barnson writes about difficulty levels in RPGs:
Should RPGs have difficulty levels?
My knee-jerk response is to say, “Of course!” I generally prefer games with difficulty levels. Especially action-RPGs. Especially for an action-RPG like The Witcher 2, which apparently really wants you to play with a gamepad, when I really want to play with a keyboard and mouse. I have a gamepad. When I get back to playing The Witcher 2, I may use it – much to my annoyance – because “Easy” difficulty was far too easy.
So I’m definitely not opposed to difficulty levels. If done well. But for me, traditional RPGs (and this includes action-RPGs) have inherent difficulty levels built-in. I’ve enjoyed them for years. It’s called “leveling up,” among other things.
Is this encounter too hard? If you are hardcore, you can power your way through it, trying different tactics, and keep going. Or you can wuss out (I often do), get an extra level or two under your belt, get a better suit of armor, buy or quest for that Helmet of Brain Protection to protect you from the encounter’s Brain Burn attack, plus an extra few potions of extra healing, and now the encounter (and everything beyond it) is quite a bit easier. So long as this doesn’t involve hours and hours of senseless grinding, we’re good.
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July 6th, 2011, 10:14
Merge that with character design choices and greater rewards for defeating harder things though and you have a positive feedback loop in the most negative sense.:

Skilled gamers, who would prefer a more challenging situation, might powergame their character builds because they understand the mechanics better. Making challenges easier without having to grind the character, in turn giving greater rewards that make the character even more powerful, reducing still further the challenge.

On the other hand, players who want an easier time end up making things harder for themselves.

That's why levelling mechanics shouldn't be confused with or used in place of game difficulty. The former is a character progression device, the latter is the out of character, player game difficulty.
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July 6th, 2011, 14:36
IMO all RPGs should have only two difficulty types - normal and hard.
If done well, no need to add easy/casual just to hide from the community that the game was published before balancing everything and some encounters are not normal on normal.
Also what exactly is the point of the "insane" difficulty? To artificially persuade players to replay the game once more? Make the game challenging enough on "hard" and interesting enough to replay it, then we won't need "insane" difficulty imported/copied from FPS crap that can't have an interesting story needed for replay.
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July 6th, 2011, 15:50
Different people play games for different reasons. To some, perhaps the oldest type of gamers, getting a higher score or beating a hard challenge is the most fun thing. To others, other aspects of gameplay are more enjoyable, like discovering a story. The former will get enjoyment out of the ability to replay titles at different difficulty levels - like facing the next wave of baddies in old arcade games. The latter are more likely to use difficulty settings at the start of the game, to ensure the maximum enjoyment for their ability level and style of play.
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July 6th, 2011, 20:10
In nearly all RPGs the difficulty levels aren't important for me. Because, I choose the highest difficulty level possible. Nightmare, very hard, insane, you name it. I like my RPGs challenging. Whether they have action or tactical gameplay. Especially at the beginning of the game. I have to reload again and again in some battles, I have to be scared going out of the first village. For me fun comes with the challange. I love Witcher 2 because of that, very hard at the beginning.

I'm not against "easy" difficulty for newbies or who doesn't like to be challenged, but I really hate when game's general difficulty (whether it's in the "easy" or "hard") is lowered by devs in order to avoid general complaining.

Right now I'm looking forward to play Dark Souls (for my Xbox 360, no PC version I'm afraid). I don't have a PS3 so I haven't play Demon's Souls (First game in the series - PS3 Exclusive). But all the reviews in the internet said first game was hard and second game will be as hard as the first one.

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July 6th, 2011, 20:33
My main issue with difficulty levels is not always knowing what to set them at, and choosing poorly can mean I don't enjoy the game. I like games that are hard and challenging….more so then many gamers. But there is a limit….I don't necesarily like them if they get too painfully frustrating.

So I'll usually pick hard and that's usually the right decision. If it's a purely turn based game I might even pick very hard or something along those lines. But it's still an issue that I might pick wrong and not enjoy the game because of an arbitrary decision like that.

But still I guess if the alternative is no difficulty levels at all, most games would probably default to being too easy and I'd be even less likely to enjoy them.
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July 7th, 2011, 00:56
I almost always play at 'normal', as I believe that's the game the devs intended to make.
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July 7th, 2011, 02:07
I'm happy so long as you can change the difficulty level at any time without having to restart. I generally begin on normal for a first playthrough, but if that is too easy then it's good to be able to increase the level of challenge.

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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July 7th, 2011, 02:19
Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
I'm happy so long as you can change the difficulty level at any time without having to restart. I generally begin on normal for a first playthrough, but if that is too easy then it's good to be able to increase the level of challenge.
That's my view on it - if I can change the difficulty at any time, then I can play at a challenge-level that suits my preferences and overall skill-level. That's why I dislike the situation where you have to choose right at the beginning and can't change it later - my first playthrough on The Witcher 1 became too easy half-way through, and it would have been nice to be able to bump the difficulty up. It was way too far into the playthrough to start over, so I had to wait until my second time through to play on the difficulty that was right for me.
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July 7th, 2011, 10:58
I prefer no difficulty level - and just the one vision made real.

But it's not going to happen

Well, not often - anyway.

Demon's Souls did it that way, as a good modern example.
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July 7th, 2011, 11:54
It is supposed that difficulty references here combat difficulty.
Once again funny that so called RPGs difficulty is assessed through combat. But hey, it is all subjective, nothing wrong in assessing the difficulty of car racing games on the difficulty of installing the game. Because installing the game is a game itself, subjectively speaking and well, if a racing game is hard to install, then it is difficult, no matter how easy the driving challenge provided by the game is.
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July 7th, 2011, 12:27
Difficulty levels are very important to me because i play for recreation not challenge , if i learn a game too well for very easy to be interesting i may switch to a different level . It is essential to be able to change the settings at any time because it is always interesting to experiment with AI outside RP .


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July 7th, 2011, 12:57
Originally Posted by ChienAboyeur View Post
It is supposed that difficulty references here combat difficulty.
Once again funny that so called RPGs difficulty is assessed through combat. But hey, it is all subjective, nothing wrong in assessing the difficulty of car racing games on the difficulty of installing the game. Because installing the game is a game itself, subjectively speaking and well, if a racing game is hard to install, then it is difficult, no matter how easy the driving challenge provided by the game is.
You are weird. Whats funny about that? It's a simple fact that the main challenge in RPGs comes from combat. Of course ideally that should be related to character development, loot mechanics, etc. etc.. But wether the game is perceived as difficult or not hinges on the combat. Occasionally difficulty can come through riddles (but thats more an adventure trope) or other - but how many times have you reloaded because you failed picking a lock or convincing a certain character, or whatever?
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July 7th, 2011, 13:29
I'd love it if instead of (or in addition of) difficulty levels, CRPGs would have "rules complexity" levels. That is, have us pick and choose what sort of rules we'd want to have in effect for our playthrough. Much like e.g. F:NV's Hardcore Mode or Eschalon Book 2's different choices.

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July 7th, 2011, 13:49
Originally Posted by joxer View Post
IMO all RPGs should have only two difficulty types - normal and hard.
I could agree with this. I once tried to play BG2 on the 'hard core' setting. While I'm sure people that really enjoy tactical battles would enjoy that, I found it damn near impossible to play. Had that been the only setting, I would never have finished the game.

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July 7th, 2011, 13:50
Originally Posted by blatantninja View Post
I could agree with this. I once tried to play BG2 on the 'hard core' setting. While I'm sure people that really enjoy tactical battles would enjoy that, I found it damn near impossible to play. Had that been the only setting, I would never have finished the game.
Are you sure, though?

If it had been the ONLY way to play - you're absolutely sure you wouldn't have finished it?
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July 7th, 2011, 14:30
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Are you sure, though?

If it had been the ONLY way to play - you're absolutely sure you wouldn't have finished it?
Yup. I detest having to replay a battle over and over to beat it. I want to be challenged somewhat, but if a battle takes more than 3 or 4 tries, I get really frustrated and pissed off (that's usually when I go online looking for the way to win it). If every battle was like in some of the mods (the uber werewolf or the creatures in the library that perma kill you about every one in four hits in the darkest day mod come to mind), it would not have been an enjoyable experience for me, and I would have given up on it.

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July 7th, 2011, 14:34
Originally Posted by blatantninja View Post
Yup. I detest having to replay a battle over and over to beat it. I want to be challenged somewhat, but if a battle takes more than 3 or 4 tries, I get really frustrated and pissed off (that's usually when I go online looking for the way to win it). If every battle was like in some of the mods (the uber werewolf or the creatures in the library that perma kill you about every one in four hits in the darkest day mod come to mind), it would not have been an enjoyable experience for me, and I would have given up on it.
Fair enough.
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July 7th, 2011, 17:48
my biggest gripe is when the gameplay difficulty is a consequence of the way the *control regime* is designed, not because I don't understand what I want the character to do. Obvious examples are games designed for controllers which map poorly onto mouse+keyboard. It takes careful consideration (and a lot of time) to design a good, responsive and powerful control interface, and sadly its a skill most companies seem to lack.

Edit: obviously I'm referring to more action-oriented aspects of cRPGs, not encounter design etc…
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July 7th, 2011, 19:18
My response would be : "Difficulty Levels ? Of Course" ! -

- But I find it much more difficult to *implement* them than to say "yes or no" …

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