Rampant Games - Variable Encounter Difficulty
Jay Barnson returns to CRPG design in his latest blog post on Variable Encounter Difficulty:
A friend asked the other night about combat encounter difficulty in RPGs – is it better to have the challenge be consistent, or variable? I answered pretty firmly in favor of the latter. I think most people who suffered through the automatic level-scaling in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion would probably agree. But here’s why.
First of all – consistent, linearly-increasing difficulty level in video games is generally recognized as a Bad Thing. It’s predictable, tedious, and causes player fatigue. It’s far more entertaining to have hills and valleys along a generally increasing difficulty level slope. Naturally, the peaks of the hills will often represent boss encounters or other significant events, while the lowest dips will generally follow immediately after as the player is given a ‘breather’ after a major challenge. But a little unpredictability in the pattern helps keep things interesting.