Difficulty: Where Are You?
Many games that are released today feature a simple difficulty choice, implying challenge but what exactly do these choices mean? Easy is usually the simplest way of playing, giving the player enough extra chances. Medium meets a middle ground where it is often cited as the “normal” way to play. Hard mode is the most difficult usually consisting of stronger enemies, less extra chances and an overall punishing environment.
Many games in the past few years have become easier and easier. Not many games are about fun and accomplishment, but profit. The games are made easier to grab a larger audience and can alienate dedicated players.
Though some games are able to actually provide a fun experience, many games treat it as a lazy illusion. In reality they are simply just not capable of being able to create a fun, interesting challenge to the experience. However some games have been able to create a challenging or simple gameplay experience. Without even having to choose a difficulty option, basing it entirely around the players action of play.
Difficulty Choice Through Play
Left 4 Dead was able to manage difficulty through the players actions seamlessly. The mechanic is called “The Director” and it is built around how the players are doing in a certain situation. If the player is able to successfully and easily fight through the zombies then the game makes it so there are less health packs and weapons, thus making it more challenging for experienced players. However if a player is having a difficult time catching up, the mechanic initializes so there are more health packs and fewer zombies.
A more recent example can be found in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Each mission in the game is structured to allow the player to replay them since there are multiple ways to complete each one. The game registers how the player went through the mission, either staying out of sight or going on a full frontal attack. If the player plays utilizing stealth, the game will register this action and will effect future playthroughs. Enemy NPCs will use equipment that will aid them with stealth playing players such as night vision goggles, a different route for their post and possibly even installing cameras.
Challenge Not Accepted
Two examples of games that provide difficulty and they do not have difficulty options. Why is it that most games decide to go down the route of giving three or more options for challenging experiences? Many developers do so in order to appeal to a mainstream audience, giving more flexibility to people who normally do not play games. Following a study done by Spil Games, it was shown in 2013 that 1.2 billion people play video games today with a majority playing mobile games. They are designed to be quick and simple to play, so a majority of developers follow this design philosophy.
Because of this focus, many gamers feel insulted. They desire a game that will test their limits and abilities.
While some developers have followed this route, many others have opposed it. Developer From Software created Dark Souls in 2011 in a desire to give the players a sense of accomplishment. Since 2011, many gamers have desired games that will actually attempt to punish them for not playing to their fullest, giving them a grand accomplishment.
Difficulty has always been a debate in gaming since its beginning. Difficulty is no longer today about three simple choices of how much damage an enemy will do. Instead it is based around how the players play to create a unique experience that players will remember forever.