Understanding Difficulty in Video Games: Problems and Mechanics (Topic)

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Understanding Difficulty in Video Games: Problems and Mechanics


Recently, at the screening of the new trailer for Sekiro Shadows Die Twice, the developers once again reminded us that their next game will be radically different from the Dark Souls series (especially highlighting the respawn system) with an emphasis on the hero's acrobatics, as well as the fact that the game will be much more difficult than its predecessor.

Indeed, lately, complicating games has become a kind of trend, and this is not only about From Sofrware projects, but about the game industry in general. The problem is that not every developer can handle the right difficulty, which makes the game just annoying.

What is complexity in general?


If you believe the developer and founder of the Vambeer studio Rami Ismail, who raised a similar issue in his material for the Rolling Stones, then there is no difficulty as such from a developer's position. The game is a simulation - something that doesn't exist. The developers' task is to create a world in which the player must take on a certain role, that is, pretend that this world exists. And in order for the player not to get bored with pretending, the game must be interesting.

There is a misconception that it is the hardest modes and difficulty levels in the game that are the most complete and not truncated versions of it, but this is not the case. The correct understanding of complexity is how the game challenges the gamer. Low, medium and high difficulty are just the challenges that the game presents to the gamer due to its capabilities.

For the game to be interesting, the challenge must match the skill of the player, so that he does not feel uncomfortable with losses, or not bored with simplicity. Difficulty - exists only relative to the player. This is why balance is so important.

Game balance

It is the balance system that makes the game what it is for the gamer. An example of a good balance is the "hard" mode of Far Cry 3, where the player has more options: stealth, different options, enhanced training. Despite the fact that the enemies become stronger and smarter, the player has more opportunities to outwit them. A bad example is Call of Duty, where a lot of enemies are rushing at the player on "hard", inflicting a huge domag, but the player's position in the game itself does not change.


Only the right balance of the player's strength and challenge for him can make the project difficult, but at the same time smart and interesting. This is what hidden mechanics exist for.

Games are always on your side

Not a single intelligent developer will create a project that is set up to "destroy" the player, no matter how positioned. In fact, games are always on your side, hidden mechanics help you unnoticed to facilitate passing, giving strength to overcome the challenge of the game, creating a balance: an extra cartridge or giving temporary immortality when there is almost no health.

Probably one of the most ingenious of this kind can be called Resident evil 4, which secretly twists the complexity. In it, if you survive longer, dodge, do not take first aid kits, the game becomes more difficult for you in the future, not letting you get bored. And if at the beginning you die several times, the game will remove some aspects of the difficulty, making the passage for you not so difficult: it will remove some enemies or reduce their health. Thus, it makes the passage convenient, making the game accessible to all players.

In 2014, the developers of Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor went further, and instead of introducing a system that would react to your skill, it makes complexity a part of the gameplay and storyline. Thanks to the sworn enemy system, the orcs in the game developed hatred, skills and fears based on meetings with the player. So the GG builds his own story, where he will hate different orc captains, take revenge on them and vice versa. If you die, the game does not punish you; on the contrary, it helps you build your own unique story of revenge.

Talking about complexity, it's impossible not to talk about games from From Software. There is an opinion that they are based on memorizing failures and repeated passage. But despite the daunting complexity, these games give restless players a chance to beat the game. For example, some classes make it easier to get started, and long-range ones take the stress out of battles. Or you are given the opportunity to call on other players to help you. Yes, these games are deliberately difficult, but the developers realized that not everyone is ready to go for this.



All of the above games make it clear that everyone plays games in different ways and for different reasons. As the already mentioned Rami Ismail said in a tweet about one of his games: “Difficulty is a decoration against the background of all-encompassing factors in the game. Gameplay is a delivery method, and grace is the goal. " And this principle lies in many of today's complex games, in which what happens happens because it's cool.

The Topic of Article: Understanding Difficulty in Video Games: Problems and Mechanics.
Author: Jake Pinkman