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Difficulty Level - Where is my Easy Mode!


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11 hours ago, Gabe said:

You posted something a little while ago in a different thread that was pretty much the opposite of this - that you didn't care about costs for adding features/testing (you may have even said that's their problem, not yours). It made me chuckle at the time because I recalled posts like the above that you've made (more than once) in this thread. 

 

I'm on mobile so am not going to try and search for it, but your position does appear to change where From developed titles are concerned. 


I’m not sure what discussion that was but yeah, I feel pretty different about games developed by literally my favourite devs than about most other games. 
 

I think there’s very little to be gained from this discussion in its current form on here. People have clearly decided how they feel about this topic and feel strongly about what should be done, and now the argument is escalating into a more grumpy territory so I think it’s probably run it’s course for me.

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So @therearerules mentioned that Returnal doesn’t allow saves mid-run - I don’t know anything about the game, but does it at least let you do the thing where you save when you quit, but then your save gets nuked after it’s loaded? That’s kind of a “thing” in some roguelikes and it would let you step away from the game without committing hours of your time…

 

E: my phone just autocorrected the game’s name to “Returnable”, which seems apt for a game whose difficulty may be offputting… ;) 

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No it doesn't. It's a surprising (and sure to be corrected) omission. The only way to preserve progress is to pause the game and put the PS5 into Rest Mode. As long as you don't 1. Start a different game, 2. Have a power cut or 3. The game or PS5 take a patch, you'll be OK.

 

But it's clearly not the same thing as a mid-run temporary save. Which it really should have.

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7 minutes ago, Qazimod said:

So @therearerules mentioned that Returnal doesn’t allow saves mid-run - I don’t know anything about the game, but does it at least let you do the thing where you save when you quit, but then your save gets nuked after it’s loaded? That’s kind of a “thing” in some roguelikes and it would let you step away from the game without committing hours of your time…

 

E: my phone just autocorrected the game’s name to “Returnable”, which seems apt for a game whose difficulty may be offputting… ;) 

 

Not addressed to me but apparently not. The hardcore way according to the internets is to clear that time or pause the game while you're out. The native "restart from where you turned it off" mode is a little flakey. I guess that adds to the risk/reward?

 

edit what @Uncle Mikesaid.

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I wouldn't change the difficulty in Returnal at all. I've played for about 15 hours and I've managed to get towards the end of level 2 (of 6 apparently). I'm pretty rubbish at it, and it feels very challenging but I'm getting better all the time, paying more attention to the mechanics and enemy patterns. It's a game built on building up skill and experience, so why would you want to start to negate that? I know full well that in another 10 hours Level 1 and maybe Level 2 will be a bit of a doddle. If that's not what you're into fair enough, but that is the very essence of the game. 

 

I think the problem is that a lot of gaming today tends to lean towards cinematic experiences, with players taken on a trip through beautiful environments. But they experience them once, with multiple checkpoints. To me that's a very different experience but I think people carry over that gaming experience to something like Returnal and then feel they're not getting "value" out of the game. But the whole game is about the challenge and replaying sections many times. You've basically bought the wrong game. 

 

Take the argument to an extreme end: a player is so opposed to dying they want it so easy that dying never happens. They waltz through the game and think "well that was very pretty but it was very short". An easy mode is missing the point of the game entirely. 

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I think you could put in a few small options that would preserve everything about the game and its experience, but cater for lower levels of skill/reflexes/co-ordination. You could have a slightly more generous period of immunity following the dash. Or a slightly increased amount of damage per bullet/slightly less damage taken. Obviously each of those would make the game objectively easier. But perhaps the 65-year old version of me would find it equally as subjectively intimidating as the current version does. You don't need to reductio ad absurdum in order to see that.

 

This is definitely a game that is less welcoming and more challenging than, say, Marvel's Spider-Man. And that is by design. It's a game that really doesn't care whether or not you finish it and see the credits. But what harm is being done, and to who, if you let me tweak a couple of sliders?

 

There is presumably a "correct", "intended" amount of difficulty that Housemarque wanted to put into the game. Unless we're suggesting that everyone is equally capable, very few people are going to actually feel that level. Some people are going to be better at the game than others (indeed, in the Returnal thread, there are people that almost breezed through it already) - are the better people being robbed of the intended experience by not being able to make it more challenging?

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Taking the conversation away from Returnal for a sec.

 

Remember when one of the Call of Duty games allowed people the option to choose any level off the bat, like a scene selection menu on a DVD. You'd think that would be a pretty non-controversial feature wouldn't you. Not so, I remember the absolute shitshow of a thread on here (wish I could remember which CoD so I could find it). To this day I don't understand how you could ever object to that option for a game like CoD which is an ultra-linear glorified interactive movie. I remember we had people unironically wringing their hands that people would jump straight to the last level and be confused about the story and ruin it for themselves.

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It's worth pointing out that plenty of Roguelikes have easy modes.

 

FTL is the one that immediately springs to mind as one of the foundational games that define the modern Roguelike. An easy mode doesn't miss the point of a roguelike, and FTL isn't compromised for having one - it's one of the genre's great masterpieces. Providing an easy mode isn't about mitigating challenge, it's about setting the challenge at a lower bar for someone who isn't as good at the game so they get a comparable experience, deaths and all, to other players playing on normal or hard. A good Roguelike will have hooks to encourage repeat plays on completion and hopefully push a player who got through on easy to try a higher difficulty.

 

Alternatively you could go the Dungeon Of The Endless route and have a normal and a hard mode and label them "very easy" and "easy" just to fuck with people.

 

EDIT: Also, why do people care if someone makes a game easier for themselves? Nethack has a built in cheat mode. People used to hex edit their Rogue save files. Roguelikes traditionally, either by design or by player ingenuity, allowed you to tweak the player experience.

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But isn't the whole point of Returnal that you die A LOT and you repeat the same sections over and over. If you have an easy mode you're asking the player to make a decision about the correct point at which they give up on the normal mode and start the game on easy. Many people will have an extremely low tolerance for that and go easy straight away. Fair enough. But many people will simply miss the point of the game and think "OK I've died 5 times, better try easy" and have an underwhelming experience. I don't think this solves a great deal. You're still getting lots of people experiencing a game that was not intended. I'd say it's worse, as many people who could have persevered and beaten it, now play what seems like an uninteresting game. 

 

 

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Just now, Hylian said:

But isn't the whole point of Returnal that you die A LOT and you repeat the same sections over and over. If you have an easy mode you're asking the player to make a decision about the correct point at which they give up on the normal mode and start the game on easy. Many people will have an extremely low tolerance for that and go easy straight away. Fair enough. But many people will simply miss the point of the game and think "OK I've died 5 times, better try easy" and have an underwhelming experience. I don't think this solves a great deal. You're still getting lots of people experiencing a game that was not intended. I'd say it's worse, as many people who could have persevered and beaten it, now play what seems like an uninteresting game. 

 

 

Alternatively, you give them a chance to tweak the difficulty level (whether fine-grained options, sledgehammer cheat code-style toggles or well-thought through presets), and players who who bounced off it without progression would have a chance to have the same experience you did.

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1 minute ago, Harsin said:

Dying over and over was also the point of Hades.

 

Unfiortunately they allowed users to adjust the difficulty to suit them (both ways). Such a shame that game disappeared without a trace and hardly got any notice due to that catstrophic decision due to that one stupid decision.

And what did people who played the easy mode think of the game?

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Dunno ask them. I played it without, but I appreciated having the option there if I did need it to get value for money from my purchase. Also appreciated the option of being able to layer on difficulty when I felt the need.

 

Options eh? There's this weird mentality among a lot of self professed 'hardcore' gamers that if you give customers options they will automatically dash themselves on picking whatever thay can to ruin the experience.

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Also, just to add, this is a really good point to address:

 

Quote

 Many people will have an extremely low tolerance for that and go easy straight away. Fair enough. But many people will simply miss the point of the game and think "OK I've died 5 times, better try easy" and have an underwhelming experience.

So already we've defined one group for who the game has been opened up for: those who just prefer their experiences on easy. The second one deserves a bit more attention, and I think it's a matter of devs recognising the problem and getting better at communicating it. How could they do this?

  • More clearly communicate/emphasise progression: I actually don't know how Returnal does this, but Binding of Isaac (which is pretty harsh in terms of incremental power levels) gives you massive celebratory screens for everything you unlocked, and shows you what else you have to unlock in future.
  • Emphasise the intended experience. Tell players that death is expected.
  • At the same time, don't make players feel bad for temporarily or permanently applying assists. But combine it with the previous points and say, look, turning these on might affect the game in unintended ways.
  • Respect players time: it is okay for someone to spend 70 quid on a game and speed through it.

In terms of actually designing these messages - like, the way that you design the options, and text that communicates them effectively - is quite hard to do well, and is where I think the advances need to happen, and I don't blame devs for not being able to do this well right now.

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12 minutes ago, Hylian said:

And what did people who played the easy mode think of the game?

The feedback I've seen on it (totally anecdotal) has been blanket positive. There's a borderline-rabid fan base of the characters and lore and of them quite a few mentioned the assist modes for getting through it. I've seen a few talk about switching off the assist mode later once they'd fallen in love with the game and world, too.

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17 minutes ago, Hylian said:

And what did people who played the easy mode think of the game?

 

I don't know, but it's not important - for example:

 

What do people who play Halo on easy or normal think of the game?

 

What do people who turn off permadeath on Fire Emblem think of the game?

 

What do people who play a Platinum action game with auto combat turned on think of the game?

 

What do people who use the cheat menus in the recent Final Fantasy releases think of the games?

 

That's not the experience I want from any of those games, but it's on offer for someone else. Arguably Fire Emblem wouldn't exist anymore without it.

 

...

 

EDIT: Edited because the original post felt a bit arsy for no good reason.

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15 minutes ago, Harsin said:

self professed 'hardcore' gamers

I quite clearly said that I was struggling with Returnal and felt I was quite rubbish at it.

 

I am very against having difficulty options in games. I just fundamentally disagree with this idea that all games should be able to be finished by all people. I've struggled through Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Sekiro etc. Do I think they should have some easy mode? Absolutely not. That's the experience the developer intended. I thought Sekiro was definitely "too hard" but that's just what it is (for me it was very hard, and some people struggled more, others less). I definitely would not have wanted an easy mode at any point. At what point do I decide to take the easy mode? How would I feel about finishing it on easy? I just don't want these decisions - I want to play it as the developer intended and if it's too hard, well there's plenty of other games to play. Move on.

 

Also, the whole "well Hades did really well so your argument is nonsense" is a load of bollocks. I'm not saying the game wouldn't do really well commercially with an easy mode. It would probably be more successful. That isn't the point. 

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40 minutes ago, Harsin said:

Taking the conversation away from Returnal for a sec.

 

Remember when one of the Call of Duty games allowed people the option to choose any level off the bat, like a scene selection menu on a DVD. You'd think that would be a pretty non-controversial feature wouldn't you. Not so, I remember the absolute shitshow of a thread on here (wish I could remember which CoD so I could find it). To this day I don't understand how you could ever object to that option for a game like CoD which is an ultra-linear glorified interactive movie. I remember we had people unironically wringing their hands that people would jump straight to the last level and be confused about the story and ruin it for themselves.

 

It was this one:

 

 

This argument has been raging for nearly six years! Next up: why you shouldn't let players adjust the gamma or redefine controls, in case they white out the screen and destroy their TVs, or bind all the controls to the A button and get confused.

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5 minutes ago, Hylian said:

I just don't want these decisions - I want to play it as the developer intended and if it's too hard, well there's plenty of other games to play. Move on.

 

As a thought experiment - along with your earlier post about 'you've bought the wrong game - imagine saying this to a player with a very minor physical disability, or to someone who was in a nasty car accident a few years back and has since found it a little tricky to play faster paced action games, or even just to an older player.

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5 minutes ago, jonny_rat said:

Also, just to add, this is a really good point to address:

 

So already we've defined one group for who the game has been opened up for: those who just prefer their experiences on easy. The second one deserves a bit more attention, and I think it's a matter of devs recognising the problem and getting better at communicating it. How could they do this?

  • More clearly communicate/emphasise progression: I actually don't know how Returnal does this, but Binding of Isaac (which is pretty harsh in terms of incremental power levels) gives you massive celebratory screens for everything you unlocked, and shows you what else you have to unlock in future.
  • Emphasise the intended experience. Tell players that death is expected.
  • At the same time, don't make players feel bad for temporarily or permanently applying assists. But combine it with the previous points and say, look, turning these on might affect the game in unintended ways.
  • Respect players time: it is okay for someone to spend 70 quid on a game and speed through it.

In terms of actually designing these messages - like, the way that you design the options, and text that communicates them effectively - is quite hard to do well, and is where I think the advances need to happen, and I don't blame devs for not being able to do this well right now.

I think the danger here is bundling all games together, as if they could all so the same things without changing what they are, and that risks homogenisation. In Returnal's case, it's actually very clear from the scenario that death is expected, that you're stuck in a loop that will go on forever, that you're at the mercy of a certain randomness, so that no single attempt is meaningful in itself. It's Groundhog Day, and your ability to withstand the horror of that reality, to get your hopes up when you might be nearing a way out, and dash them when you find yourself at the start of the game again. It's a narrative device that builds over time and requires repeated failures.

 

Now, I don't know whether that's the core point of the game for HM themselves, but let's assume it is. Why bother going to all the effort of synergising the story and play experience if players can then completely ignore it? Why not spend the time creating another fun shooter with a plot attached, or a story with some mildly diverting action along the way?

 

Obviously there should be save points, and yes why not some options to at least tweak the difficulty in certain ways? But at the point you say all games should have options that allow people to simply speed through, you make it pointless for a developer to invest time in using challenge as a storytelling tool. That seems to me be stunting creativity in an industry that already takes far few risks at its top end. 

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14 minutes ago, jonny_rat said:

 

As a thought experiment - along with your earlier post about 'you've bought the wrong game - imagine saying this to a player with a very minor physical disability, or to someone who was in a nasty car accident a few years back and has since found it a little tricky to play faster paced action games, or even just to an older player.

Ouch. But yeah, I don't think someone without any fingers should be attempting a Grade 8 piano piece. 

 

Just to be clear - I'm not an awful person. I think gaming is for everyone, and welcome the integration of control methods that allow disabled players to play games. I just don't think game developers should have to focus on making their games accessible (in terms of difficulty) to everyone if they don't want to. And I would argue they should concentrate on making the game a suitable difficulty for their audience. 

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2 minutes ago, BadgerFarmer said:

I think the danger here is bundling all games together, as if they could all so the same things without changing what they are, and that risks homogenisation. In Returnal's case, it's actually very clear from the scenario that death is expected, that you're stuck in a loop that will go on forever, that you're at the mercy of a certain randomness, so that no single attempt is meaningful in itself. It's Groundhog Day, and your ability to withstand the horror of that reality, to get your hopes up when you might be nearing a way out, and dash them when you find yourself at the start of the game again. It's a narrative device that builds over time and requires repeated failures.

 

Now, I don't know whether that's the core point of the game for HM themselves, but let's assume it is. Why bother going to all the effort of synergising the story and play experience if players can then completely ignore it? Why not spend the time creating another fun shooter with a plot attached, or a story with some mildly diverting action along the way?

 

Obviously there should be save points, and yes why not some options to at least tweak the difficulty in certain ways? But at the point you say all games should have options that allow people to simply speed through, you make it pointless for a developer to invest time in using challenge as a storytelling tool. That seems to me be stunting creativity in an industry that already takes far few risks at its top end. 

 

How does a player the ability to speed through a game make it pointless for a developer to use challenge as a storytelling tool? Let me say again:  if the developer is good at emphasising what the intended experience looks like, why worry about what people do when they choose to deviate from that experience? Because the fact is that your players are not always going to play as you want them to: they'll skip cutscenes, turn down the volume, use glitches, use cheese strategies, all of it. Also to say again: the challenge is in communicating this to players.

 

By the same token, you could say that it's not at all obvious to have save points. I'm sure someone at HM thought that these gruelling unbroken runs through the game were the way that the story should be experienced.

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26 minutes ago, matt0 said:

What do people who turn off permadeath on Fire Emblem think of the game?

 

I started Three Houses on Hard mode with Permadeath on as it was apparently the "correct" way to play according to the rllmuk thread. 

This was before remembering that I'm terrible at this genre and can't help doing a Leeroy Jenkins each match, so I quickly ended up with something like 2 useless students left alive after 3 or 4 matches and could not progress through the game any further. 

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If we went with your vision of what games should be and are to treat the 'vision' of developers of sacrosanct and should only ever be played in a strictly proscribed way and fuck you if you have physical or mental impairment that means you can't get full value from your purchase, then Sony should be offering customers automatic refunds on their purchases without question if they buy something and find out they can't enjoy a game. Good job Sony are renowned for having such good customer service chums!

 

Someone is going to say you can mitigate it by advising customer to wait for review (in a business that continually pushes a culture of pre-ordering). Oh wait, Sony embargoed reviews right up until release.

 

Here's a quetion, should hard games without options to lessen the difficulty come with warning labels (physical as well as virtual ones you'd have to click past before you complete your purchase)?

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3 minutes ago, Hylian said:

Ouch. But yeah, I don't think someone without any fingers should be attempting a Grade 8 piano piece. 

 

Just to be clear - I'm not an awful person. I think gaming is for everyone, and welcome the integration of control methods that allow disabled players to play games. I just don't think game developers should have to focus on making their games accessible (in terms of difficulty) to everyone if they don't want to. And I would argue they should concentrate on making the game a suitable difficulty for their audience. 

I don't think you're an awful person! But I mean, that is the difference between the piano as closed system and games. There's little wriggle room  to change how people with access issues actually interact with a device like a piano (though there's actually loads of assistive tech that would allow someone with no fingers to play a grade 8 piano piece).

 

Games are fundamentally malleable and the culture and tech around them is ever changing. It's more than possible to create games that both respect intended experience and are relatively welcoming in terms of access and approachability (and the most impactful changes are the ones that require the least effort).

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15 minutes ago, Kevvy Metal said:

 

I started Three Houses on Hard mode with Permadeath on as it was apparently the "correct" way to play according to the rllmuk thread. 

This was before remembering that I'm terrible at this genre and can't help doing a Leeroy Jenkins each match, so I quickly ended up with something like 2 useless students left alive after 3 or 4 matches and could not progress through the game any further. 

 

Post Awakening Fire Emblem is hilarious because people are constantly falling over themselves to pronounce each new game as the easiest one ever in more and more hyperbolic ways and there's a lot of weird stuff online about how the "correct" way to play them. So you get people saying Birthright is easier on Insane difficulty than Awakenings on Normal. Which is ridiculous, modern Fire Emblem on hard is basically GBA / GC / Wii era Fire Emblem on normal and then they've got a fourth difficulty option which is your old school hard.

 

Meanwhile I recently played genre classic Tactics Ogre, which is never talked about as being an easy game, and once you know how the systems work it's a walk in the park compared to the new FE's.

 

So much of this is about perception and weird imagined consensus.

 

...

 

Also the Wii FE difficulties normal and hard were mistranslated as easy and normal - which I'm sure is a contributing factor to why everyone hates that game.

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40 minutes ago, K said:

 

It was this one:

 

 

This argument has been raging for nearly six years! Next up: why you shouldn't let players adjust the gamma or redefine controls, in case they white out the screen and destroy their TVs, or bind all the controls to the A button and get confused.

 

That thread is somehow even worse than I remembered.

 

Random sample.

 

Quote

How would you know the parts you wanted to play before you'd played them?

 

spacer.png

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5 hours ago, BadgerFarmer said:

The assumption there is that the world and story are somehow separable from the game. It does a disservice to what HM are trying to achieve with a player experience that intertwines with that of the main character. And that includes frustration, resolve, hope and desperation.

 

It's one thing to ask for difficulty tweaks to suit different skill levels, another to expect the developer to just abandon the core idea they've worked to produce. In this case, experiencing the world is experiencing its hurdles.

 

The problem is fundamentally though what might be a hurdle for you is a mountain for some others.

 

And while it's unfair to call you specifically here there seems to be a base assumption in this thread that everyone is playing the same game.

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1 hour ago, Hylian said:

Ouch. But yeah, I don't think someone without any fingers should be attempting a Grade 8 piano piece. 

 

Just to be clear - I'm not an awful person. I think gaming is for everyone, and welcome the integration of control methods that allow disabled players to play games. I just don't think game developers should have to focus on making their games accessible (in terms of difficulty) to everyone if they don't want to. And I would argue they should concentrate on making the game a suitable difficulty for their audience. 

 

Isn't their audience anybody who would like to play their game?

 

re the piano analogy; that's why music books exist with simplified versions of songs.

 

re developers, well yes, lots of times they don't want to focus on accessibility and they don't. And nobody is forcing them to. But it's fine to express the opinion that it's a bit rubbish for those who are excluded.

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