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July 22nd, 2007, 21:34
Hello, everyone.

I was just browsing through the official forums for information on Arena (NASDAQ:TES:ARENA).

I could not believe that so many people have difficulties with it … Which led me to the thought that older games are generally much more harder than current games, and that in terms of "getting into the game" "modern" games are more oriented at casual players and are rather a wishio-washy in terms of difficulty.

But I think I'm telling about an "open secret" already …

I think I'm right. Don't I ?

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July 22nd, 2007, 21:56
You sure do Alrik!

I think you're right too (at least when talking RPG's). At least when it comes to puzzles. Most games I play nowadays you don't really have to think. This is because they want "dumb" players to buy their games too. And those players who likes mental challenges they buy the game too, because there isn't anything else to buy…

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July 22nd, 2007, 22:02
Older games often offer more challenges and are often unforgiving to non-optimal playing.

examples:
Bards Tale 2 (1986)
Wizardry 4 (1986)
Dungeon Master (1987)
Might & Magic 2 (1988)
Champions of Krynn (1990)

They are often harder to play than modern games, because they have to be mapped by pen and paper, saving is often only possible at certain locations (adventurers guild …). Turn based demanding fighting is often the essential element of the game.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
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July 22nd, 2007, 22:07
I finally solved Scott Adam's Savage Island Part I after 20+ years. I still haven't finished Riven and I won't play the rest of the Mysts until I do,

I wonder if I can !'s above the heads for all the characters in these that solve a quest for me - and a compass pointing to them.
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July 22nd, 2007, 22:10
I think you're right, also, Alrik most of the time. I can't speak for the genres I don't play much, like shooters or hardcore RTS, but I know that, for instance, NWN2 is easier than Icewind Dale, and really, even more linear(!) which is hard to believe since IWD was basically a dungeon crawler.

Diablo2 is way way easier than the original Diablo, which was an uncompromising, difficult game.

Heroes V started out on par with Heroes of Might and Magic II-IV, but was dumbed down to a boredom-enducing sleepfest in the Hammers of Fate expansion after too many people complained it was "insanely hard."

Morrowind was easier than what little I played of Daggerfall.

Gothic 2 doesn't seem to be too much easier than Gothic 1, but maybe a little.

In some ways, difficulty can be a bad thing, especially when it is due to unfair stacking or cheating on the part of the AI, but making a game so easy that it is merely a progression of pats on the back as you whizz through trampling all in your path is not fun either.
I admit it— I don't have a mathematical, analytical mind or outstanding twitch skills, but I can beat almost any game made these days. I can't even get past the first fifteen minutes in say, Rage of Mages or Deus X. (—some might say I play like a girl, but I know males as inept )

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
Last edited by magerette; July 22nd, 2007 at 22:32.
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July 22nd, 2007, 22:16
I recently reinstalled BG 2. As I'm used to from the NWN-Games I set the difficulty-Slider to "Difficult"… I set it back to "Hardcore" after the second Battle .

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July 22nd, 2007, 22:18
Not to forget:
We are veterans in crpg gaming - new games are easier for us, because we battled through hundrets of games before.
In my case - subarea crpg: around 140 western style crpgs and 5 eastern style.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
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July 22nd, 2007, 22:30
That's a huge number of crpg's—yes, you should be good by now

Your point is well taken though, HiddenX,. CRPG's do follow certain conventions, and with experience you learn how to build your character to exploit them best. Plus you don't make the noob mistakes, like rushing at the melee mobs and ignoring the spellcasters

But still, I think most games today try to give players a small challenge, a large ego-stroke, and a quick finish.

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July 22nd, 2007, 22:43
Originally Posted by magerette View Post
In some ways, difficulty can be a bad thing, especially when it is due to unfair stacking or cheating on the part of the AI…
I'm glad that you mention that and let me add that the so called "difficulty" of older games very often stems from retarded design decisions like the M&M age example that was mentioned before. If you don't pay very close attention to your character stats you get… *oops* sorry about that, dude, but you've just flushed 80 hours of play time down the toilet.
Or the limited saves example that someone else mentioned. Does it really enhance the challenge or does it just limit and frustrate people (especially those with family or other RL distractions)?
Or stupid death traps as in the Realms of Arkania games (otherwise my most favorite RPGs right after the Gothic series). That was just plain annoying when you reached the end of a path (most of the time near the edge of the map though it was hard to tell at times due to inaccuracies between the game display and the map that was included with the game how close you really were to the edge) and you got a pop-up message "HAHAHA U SIR R DEAD!!!!111". Ummm… yay. How… "challenging" that I get to reload out of nowhere now .

So, while I believe that it is generally true that games used to be slightly harder (I do not think that the difference is overly drastic), the good old times weren't actually as good as it might seem in hindsight. A lot of the "challenges" came from piss poor design, badly thought through "features" and technical limitations.
It's similar to the issue of cut features. Some people will argue that e.g. the necessity to keep track of your character's hunger and thirst levels adds depth to a game while others (like me) can very well do without this (IMHO) unnecessary micro-management. Likewise, I do not believe that instant death traps of the "Haha, boom, you're dead" kind really add to the challenge of playing a game. I'm glad that designers have matured and ask themselves more often (or ideally on every feature) whether it really adds to the fun and enjoyment of a game because -let's face it- games have always been and will always be just entertainment. They shouldn't turn into work or into exercises in frustration. Got enough of that crap in real life .
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July 22nd, 2007, 22:48
I think HiddenX made a good point by saying that we are veterans in crpg. When you play your first crpg, it will always be one of the hardest compared to the new. That's the experience bonus you get from playing them.
About games getting dumber I have to say one thing more: Tomb Raider 4 was designed differently for the Japanese, the European and the US market. For the first, Lara couldn't die and had green blood. The second had more and more difficult puzzles, while the third was action based. So you see that sometimes more difficult games can be found in certain regions then your own.

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July 22nd, 2007, 23:00
Moriendor wrote:
A lot of the "challenges" came from piss poor design, badly thought through "features" and technical limitations.
I have to agree with you there, Mo. Some of the least rewarding moments of my life have been spent trying to figure out what the *@#$ I was doing that instigated a suicidal plunge into that " You Sir Are Now Dead" type cutscene equivalent. (My opinions of the dev's sense of humor will not be recorded in the interests of keeping this a family site)

It's a toss-up whether the gamer is going to be totally pissed off at this and abandon the game, or whether, after perservering, he experiences a higher level of satisfaction than he otherwise would have.

And probably a lot of the hand-holding, exclamation points, self-enscribing journals, pointing compasses, and so forth we encounter now are to alleviate this level of frustration. That's not in itself bad, but many times they also eliminate the feeling of acheivement, of winning out against all odds as well.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
Last edited by magerette; July 23rd, 2007 at 00:45.
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July 22nd, 2007, 23:04
Well, the question is : Where is the line between "tools that makes life easier" like an in-game compass, an automap and an self-scribing journal, and "this's just ridiculous !" like an huge exclamation mark or question mark floating over the top of the heads of NPCS ?

(Sidenote : Exclamation marks and question marks floating over the heads ?? Played too much PS:T ??? [Remember a certain NPC there ? ] )
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July 22nd, 2007, 23:35
I agree..i've been playing games..especially RPGs for close on 25 years and they have definitely been geared towards casual players and the lowest common denominator in the past two or three years.
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July 22nd, 2007, 23:36
I like games were the map, compass, backpack have to found / earned.

I like challenges:
- lethal poison effects / diseases /blindness
- caved in a dungeon with limited food/torches.
- teleport areas
- tactical fighting
- resource / gear / party management -> limited backpack.


I like the feeling to fight with a small group of adventures against deadly cool arch enemies - winning against all odds, I want to achieve something in a game, I want games that demand intelligence and improvisation. I like choices with consequences. I like surprises, ambushes even deathtraps, if they can be solved.
I like to be on the horns of a dilemma.

A game is satisfying for me if and only if
a) it is a challenge
b) it is fun
c) it is not mutating to work

… now I'm feeling like a preacher in the desert …

… I think this is Corwin's part

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
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July 23rd, 2007, 00:34
The "veteran effect" brought up by HiddenX may be part of the story, but not all of it. For example, I am currently working my way through Ultima IV for the first time (played UI, VI, VII, VII/SI, and bits of UVIII and UIX before, some of them long before, but had previously not found the patience for UIV). In some respects, the experience is suprisingly reminiscent of more recent games - now, just before entering the Stygian Abyss, I have to say that I haven't seen that many maxed stats since Morrowind, and combat feels a lot like the one-hit-kill affairs that were to be had on higher levels there.

What has changed - and that is certainly not restricted to these two games - is the level of handholding and direction, i.e., linearity. In UIV, I found myself having to peek at a walkthrough in order to figure out where that black stone was, something I certainly did not have to do in Morrowind (not even for that Puzzle Box). And this is obviously not attributeable to the "veteran effect".

Well, I have not touched Oblivion and do not intend to do so, but from what I have read here and at the Codex, it seems to continue this trend further with its built-in walkthrough. A clear sense of direction, a clear right and wrong (or good and evil) path… in all, this doesn't seem surprising, given that casual gamers, who need to be able to pick up a game for frequent and brief sessions and need to know in an instant where they left off and how to go on constitute a much larger segment of the market nowadays.

So the evolution (or deterioration, if you prefer) appears to have occurred in the aspects of gameplay that require attention, dedication, and time, and not so much in others, such as character progression and combat difficulty. The attribute-maxing of Morrowind, which some probably found to be a design flaw, does not appear to be a recent phenomenon.
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July 23rd, 2007, 00:57
I agree for the most part with HX, but I have nothing against handholding, maps, exclamation points, etc, in a game ( like Oblivion), so long as there's an option to turn them OFF!!!! SP gaming is personal, so like difficulty sliders, having these options allows the game to appeal to a wider audience. All I ask is that they be OPTIONS, so gamers can choose how they want to experience the game!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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July 23rd, 2007, 03:15
This topic is definitely something I've thought about a lot (amazing what wanders through your head when bored, walking to work, at work, lying in bed and can't sleep, and so on!). I tend to think that a lot of the easing up of game difficulty is primarily driven by the market being so competetive and full of choices, compounded by, perhaps, longer work days/weeks.
In Ye Olden Days, the market wasn't so full of games, we had time to really spend on challenges and harder games, but now developers and publishers are so competetive, they want us to stick with their games, buy the sequels and so on. The industry has gone from a fairly small scale one to a multi-billion dollar industry, and few publishers are interested in potential losses due to difficulty. Add in the fact that casual gamers make up a huge portion of the buying audience, and very few are going to risk losing sales because the games are too hard.

Time is another factor I throw in, but that could be just my own perspective. I've gone from being a teenager with time to kill on challenging games, to a working adult with little more than an hour or two (if that) per day to game. And I kind of like the feeling of getting something done in that time frame. I'm assuming I'm not the only one like that. For me, games are just that, games, not a way of life or very serious business, so I suppose I don't have the attention span or dedication that I once had, and again, I'm sure I'm not the only one like that, so it's another factor to consider for the easing-up of game difficulty.

Ultimately, it does seem as though games have gone from being made by that maniacal game master that so loved to torture and challenge his players to being made by people who can see very little beyond a steady income or profits.

All that being said, I'd still love to see an immersive, challenging, *rewarding* and dynamic RPG again.

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July 23rd, 2007, 03:48
Originally Posted by Gallifrey View Post
This topic is definitely something I've thought about a lot (amazing what wanders through your head when bored, walking to work, at work, lying in bed and can't sleep, and so on!). I tend to think that a lot of the easing up of game difficulty is primarily driven by the market being so competetive and full of choices, compounded by, perhaps, longer work days/weeks.
In Ye Olden Days, the market wasn't so full of games, we had time to really spend on challenges and harder games, but now developers and publishers are so competetive, they want us to stick with their games, buy the sequels and so on. The industry has gone from a fairly small scale one to a multi-billion dollar industry, and few publishers are interested in potential losses due to difficulty. Add in the fact that casual gamers make up a huge portion of the buying audience, and very few are going to risk losing sales because the games are too hard.

Time is another factor I throw in, but that could be just my own perspective. I've gone from being a teenager with time to kill on challenging games, to a working adult with little more than an hour or two (if that) per day to game. And I kind of like the feeling of getting something done in that time frame. I'm assuming I'm not the only one like that. For me, games are just that, games, not a way of life or very serious business, so I suppose I don't have the attention span or dedication that I once had, and again, I'm sure I'm not the only one like that, so it's another factor to consider for the easing-up of game difficulty.

Ultimately, it does seem as though games have gone from being made by that maniacal game master that so loved to torture and challenge his players to being made by people who can see very little beyond a steady income or profits.

All that being said, I'd still love to see an immersive, challenging, *rewarding* and dynamic RPG again.
I don't have the time I once did. And when I do play a game I still want the challenge. If all I wanted was mindless entertainment I'd be a fan of another genre (well, not currently, for mindless challenges this is the right genre). But if old working farts like us still want the challenge, who doesn't? The kids. Damn kids. First with the rock n' roll. Then with the drugs. Now with the challengless game. What's next? 10-minute movies about farting that costs $12 to watch?

I think the answer is (and I've been saying this for years) tyrrany of the masses/tyrrany of the center. The same reason why the music top 10 bullets is filled with teeny-bopper hits. The majority of the paying public will get what they want. The rest of the people still get what they want, but on a less grand scale. This is already coming to fruition through indie titles such as Eschalon, AoD, and Broken Hourglass. Spiderweb is selling more, etc. After the indie scene starts making economic profit, the big devs will buy up the small devs and their games will get more mainstream and they will be eaten by the industry. The next wave will start up, etc. Its the same for any market. When there is a demand, there will be a supply. Now, that demand can be met in one or two ways in this case. You have fancy grahic games aimed at the rpg-hungry masses that cost $300 a copy (which won't happen of course). Or you have poor graphic (compared to what the big ego devs are doing) titles aimed at us sold at a reasonable price.

The only real unknown is the same unknown the movie-industry is facing, that being the future effect of the ease of pirating. Music and musicians have alternate revenue streams (such as concert and radio, etc). Movies have tv and hbo, etc, and of course merchandising. Games have nothing. And indie titles will have to bank on a person paying for something they can play for free, and a lot of pc gamers that have similar tastes as ours have no problem stealing a game and do not see any relation with that possibly hurting the hobby the enjoy. So, from an economics or financial perspective, we will be fine, but no one knows how the unknown pirate-factor will affect anything in the future, so who knows?
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July 23rd, 2007, 04:24
I have to agree with Alrik more than HiddenX. Even in the early days of cRPG's they were familiar to most players: they were all modeled after D&D.

There was no blatant handholding and when there was the game results were miserable. People took time when they played games and Lord help us now if game design requires the player to think and take time. In fact, you can't even let a character die if they're level 1 anymore and that's supposed to be the real dynamic levels. And on that not, I may have contradicted myself and supported HiddenX' point: people who don't play RPG's wouldn't know that.
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July 23rd, 2007, 06:00
Originally Posted by roqua View Post
*snip*..The only real unknown is the same unknown the movie-industry is facing, that being the future effect of the ease of pirating. Music and musicians have alternate revenue streams (such as concert and radio, etc). Movies have tv and hbo, etc, and of course merchandising. Games have nothing….
Unfortunately, there actually is an alternate revenue system for games: paid subscription MMO's and paid subscription additional content. If pirating continues to make significant impact on revenue, I expect we'll see more and more emphasis on online games that are self-supporting, as indeed we already are.

But I don't think the rest of the gaming industry will fold up and go away; it will just have to come up with some creative ways to protect itself, and to increase it's market base…and that might mean it would actually have to make a wider variety of games, more "niche" titles and products aimed at specific, predictable, cash-cow type audiences, say addicted CRPG gamers.

Or not. As you say, who really knows which way that will swing.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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