Video Game Difficulties: Too Hard or Too Easy?

Is gaming becoming too easy?


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Ryukouki

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What is it with video games as of late? It feels like gaming is becoming too easy. Could it be that we as gamers are getting older and becoming more skilled, therefore knowing what to look for in games to progress? Or is it the developers making their games simpler and linear to appeal to the more casual crowd? Final Fantasy XIII, I am staring right at you right now. On the other hand, you get games that are harshly difficult. Early Diablo III and Fire Emblem: Awakening on Lunatic+ difficulty may come to mind here. Where is the proper balance?​
[prebreak]Continue reading...[/prebreak]​
First off, let's start with the games becoming easier. I reference the above image as a perfect example. I do not like the game developers babying us into taking such shortcuts. It removes the rewarding feeling of completion that comes with overcoming a difficult task. In the image above, Mario is in a white Tanooki suit that glows with star power. How is this activated? When the player is deemed "struggling," they have the option to equip a Tanooki suit for that level only, and completely rush through it because the player cannot be killed. In other Nintendo games, you can view guide videos to clear up difficult spots.​
I personally disagree with this method. It makes things too linear, and not rewarding. Games are starting to become a bit simplistic, with a few colorful exceptions, but I actually like those games. It makes the experience more thrilling, and gives me incentive and reason to finish. Sure, I might want to throw my remote at the TV a couple times... or a thousand times, but even so, when I finish a game like that, it feels great. It is one of the reasons why I felt waded out by the newer Mario games. It seems like more of the same old thing, but with shortcuts. Back then, we never really had shortcuts appear in game to help us. You can play a game like Contra and often it feels like a do or die experience. Play a game like the early Ninja Gaiden games (or, more recently, Ninja Gaiden II for the XBOX 360) and they're punishing but completely doable. Play Ninja Gaiden II, and then grab Ninja Gaiden III, and it becomes disappointing. A once brutally hard franchise becomes more of a button mash, and reviewers left scathing reviews about that aspect. Is this where the gaming industry is heading? Are we doomed to see more of these "Quick Time Event" type battles that basically do all the work for us?​
Now, on the other hand, let's talk about the brutally hard games. Some games that can come to mind are early versions of Diablo III, which were almost insane to tackle in later acts. For those of you who are not familiar, Diablo III back when it launched consisted of four difficulties. The first two were absolute snooze fests, requiring absolutely no skill to proceed. The third tier of difficulty was passable, with enemies becoming more difficult and making players learn to use their skills. It was definitely harder to play that third difficulty, because some affixes early on were completely ridiculous. The fourth difficulty was absolutely nuts, with the first act of the game being passable, but the second act becoming a grind fest back in act I due to terrible gear. Early on, it was almost impossible to proceed, unless a player had a lucky day and got a top tier item that could plow through anything. Blizzard later had to revise the game a little bit to make Inferno difficulty a bit more doable.​
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This was from a popular Let's Play! Youtube video stream.
We can also look at Fire Emblem: Awakening, more specifically into the Lunatic+ mode, which is the highest difficulty in the game. Enemies in the first chapters now have the capability to one shot you and counter your attacks with brutalizing damage. Guides for this difficulty even made mentions such as "If My Unit is not getting X stat in a level up, you are recommended to restart." In the early chapters of Lunatic+, there was no specific strategy to proceed. The only way to "proceed" was to constantly soft reset to make sure that enemies had the right abilities to make the stage doable, and on top of that you needed to roll the right stat boosts when you leveled, making the game difficulty practically double. The previous difficulty was entirely doable with a bit of careful strategy, but the jump to the next one was almost absurd. I think I spent 500-800 soft resets making it through the first five chapters. I ended up completing Lunatic+ but it took a freakishly long time to get the exact stats and rolls that I needed. There was no more strategy in Lunatic+ Fire Emblem. It became a game of luck and rolls for the right stats.​
Where do I stand in terms of video gaming difficulty and what would I like to see in future? I feel that games nowadays are moving into easier territory, to grab a hold of the more casual audiences and forgetting some of their more hardcore audiences. I have not encountered a doable, "difficult yet rewarding" game in quite some time, if you know what I mean. It's more of a subjective definition at this point as I am sure we all have different definitions of what hard can be considered. I would love to see more games that can get me going. I would like to see more complex games that challenge the user to actually think a little bit more. I need more of the Ninja Gaiden II type games.​
And to speak more broadly, with the casual and grass root gamers in mind, where do the lines need to be drawn in order to satisfy both crowds? Does the gaming industry need to draw the line to draw in more casual audiences at the price of their hardcore audience? Or does it only need to cater to its hard core gamers and slowly ignore their casual audience? What kind of mechanisms can be implemented in order to cater to both at the same time? Do you think that games are becoming a bit too easy for you? Or, on the other hand, are they too difficult and would you like the difficulty lowered? Where do you stand as a user? Feel free to chime off in the comments, and again, keep it civil!​
 
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Blaze163

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It obviously depends greatly on where you're looking, but as a rule I find modern games much easier than their 'retro' brethren. Enough challenge exists these days to keep it interesting, but I've basically abandoned Nintendo at this point, their 'no drooling mongoloid left behind' policy of making damn near everything almost offensively easy took all the bite out of it for me.
 
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jargus

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Most mainstream games these are easy to just play through but offers greater challenge through online/achievements. Then there are some that start off easy but become difficult like Rayman Origins. Some games offer little challenge the whole way through like AC3. Then there are some that retain a stable learning curve the whole way through (most modern Mario) and others that simply have a difficulty option. Right now there is so much focus on casuals that there is little risk of failure. Indy games are showing a greater balacne right now that won't be seen until the majority of casual gamers become regular gamers and can accept greater challenges.
 

The Catboy

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There are some hard games nowadays, but then you have the FPS market where even in "hard mode" the games just hold your hand for everything.
But I do it's become a more mixed bag of difficulties when it comes down to gaming nowadays
 
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While I don't like the white Tanooki suit no one's forcing you to use it. I never have and I probably never will.
Super Mario 3D Land is rather easy, but once you get to the special levels it starts getting challenging. I like games to be challenging, but not frustratingly so, but it's not like I won't enjoy a game if it's not challenging.

For example Donkey Kong Country Returns, I found too challenging at times. It's worse to have a frustratingly hard game than a ridiculously easy one, if it's too hard I'll eventually give up on it and never play it again. That said I did get through the difficult levels in DKCR even though it made me ragequit more than a few times.

But, it's a difficult question, and the difficulty really varies between different franchises, some are hard, some are easy, some are inbetween, and maybe that's not such a bad thing. It's nice to have some variety.
 

Ryukouki

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While I don't like the white Tanooki suit no one's forcing you to use it. I never have and I probably never will.
Super Mario 3D Land is rather easy, but once you get to the special levels it starts getting challenging. I like games to be challenging, but not frustratingly so, but it's not like I won't enjoy a game if it's not challenging.
For example Donkey Kong Country Returns, I found too challenging at times. It's worse to have a frustratingly hard game than a ridiculously easy one, if it's too hard I'll eventually give up on it and never play it again. That said I did get through the difficult levels in DKCR even though it made me ragequit more than a few times.
But, it's a difficult question, and the difficulty really varies between different franchises, some are hard, some are easy, some are inbetween, and maybe that's not such a bad thing. It's nice to have some variety.


That's the thing I wanted to explore. I see games becoming too easy. The line is more obvious as to where difficulties lie. I wanted to explore whether or not there were ways to possibly blur those lines and make games a complex mix of fun and difficult at the same time. :)
 
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That's the thing I wanted to explore. I see games becoming too easy. The line is more obvious as to where difficulties lie. I wanted to explore whether or not there were ways to possibly blur those lines and make games a complex mix of fun and difficult at the same time. :)
It might be hard to pull off.
I voted no on the poll, but I'm still not sure if I made the right choice. In general I don't think they're too easy, but there are certain games or franchises that are just too easy.
 

DinohScene

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Bioshock 1999 mode.
I died a lot less then I expected.
Also, the Scavenger hunt mode is that you should not buy from vending machines.
Even then, the Sirens where pretty easy to defeat ._.
Died only 3 times at the last battle after you murdered Comstock.

And I'm a noob when it comes to FPSses.
So yes, gaming has become to easy.
 

Tom Bombadildo

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We can also look at Fire Emblem: Awakening, more specifically into the Lunatic+ mode, which is the highest difficulty in the game. Enemies in the first chapters now have the capability to one shot you and counter your attacks with brutalizing damage.

IMO, just ramping up enemy damage doesn't make a game harder, it makes it bullshit.

Anyways, I find games to be a bit too easy, even on the harder difficulties. There are, of course, a few exceptions to the rules (like Dark/Demon Souls [fuck those games, seriously >.<]) but a majority of them are just too...simple, as you said to appeal to the casual masses. While this is nice and all, trying to appeal to more people, it kind of sucks for the more..."hardcore" market. We need more games like Dark Souls/Demons Souls, games that make us want to throw the controller because seriously fuck them hard.
 

Ryukouki

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IMO, just ramping up enemy damage doesn't make a game harder, it makes it bullshit.

Anyways, I find games to be a bit too easy, even on the harder difficulties. There are, of course, a few exceptions to the rules (like Dark/Demon Souls [fuck those games, seriously >.<]) but a majority of them are just too...simple, as you said to appeal to the casual masses. While this is nice and all, trying to appeal to more people, it kind of sucks for the more..."hardcore" market. We need more games like Dark Souls/Demons Souls, games that make us want to throw the controller because seriously fuck them hard.


And those are the games I enjoy the most. I swear I've played Dark Souls with my brother and all we do is bitch and argue because shit like that is fun. :D
 
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Ryukouki

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I agree, I love Dark Souls to death. But fuck that game with a sideways rake :)


Game is fun! I need more Ninja Gaiden type games or Dark Souls games. I don't care if I break my TV, I had fun doing it. :P Simply ramping up damage really is just horse shit because it doesn't even become doable without serious luck. ._.
 

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There are challenging games out there nowadays. Yet most retro games seem so much harder in comparison. They are... Less forgiving. Some games today just help you too much, which can reduce the feeling of accomplishment. It doesn't ruin the entire game but my reaction is like "JUST LET ME DO STUFF BY MYSELF!!!". Luckily there are many games today that ARE genuinely difficult.
 

Gabbynaruto

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Is gaming becoming too easy? Yes, that's my answer. Most of the games I played are easy as pie. I'd really wish there were more games out there with locked hard to legendary difficulty, like Dark Souls. That game sure was fun, because it was so hard. But, no, that's not what people want. Sooner or later, people will complain at a 6 hours "game" because they have to press A once. The laziness... And we wonder why mobiles are taking over the "gaming" market. People are too lazy to bother with a hard game... Unfortunately.
 

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