Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Hart-Hunt

Difficulty Scope and Difficulty Curve

11 posts in this topic

So, we like games. We like good games more, generally. And a game feels good to play when it feels like it has an appropiate difficulty, well planned and executed throughout the game. "Well planned and executed" is what we called "Difficulty Scope", and "Throughout the game" is called "Difficulty Curve".

Those are basically the briefest definitions (or maybe explanations?) I can give about those two terms. With that in mind, we video gamers know quite a few of them. Which games are the best examples you can think of regarding good Difficulty Scope and good Difficulty Curve?

Keep in mind a few things when posting:

1. We are not necessarily discussing the  balance of the game. A game (especially a vanilla game) might have done overpowered or abusable mechanics, but the concepts might still apply. Also, this is not to show off e-peen points. Be objetive and rational.

2. Mods are included to add as examples (of course they are)

3. Optional / side / post game content can be excluded from your game if that makes a case for the game you're hinting.

4. Try to post opening it for discussion. Don't throw names without justification if possible.

Ready? Go!

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure I understand your definitions of difficulty scope and curve, but I'll try anyway.

I think that vanilla Chrono Trigger had a good difficulty ... thing ... for a mainstream, vanilla, game.

The "curve" is probably pretty flat for people here. I'd say the difficulty only really increases (slightly) once you open up the end-game sidequests. There are a few battles throughout the game that are more like difficulty "humps," rather than a steady increase. But I think the baseline difficulty is high enough that having it increase throughout the game would be bad for a mainstream audience.

If you think about the difficulty from the POV of a non-serious gamer or kid, there are plenty of battles that are tough: The dragon tank, with its stupid healing head; Yakra if you don't pay attention to positioning, Masa + Mune, Magus, Golem Twins, Nezbel, etc. Most bosses have a trick or two to make them easy, but if you're casually playing through, they're not easy at all.

 

Now, if you asked about *bad* difficulty curves, that would be easier to discuss *cough* FFTactics *cough*

Edited by pogeymanz
1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

FFT (vanilla) has one of the worst difficulty curves I've seen.  Assuming the player doesn't grind excessively in the beginning, ch1 is one of the hardest parts of the game due to the player essentially being even with one of the best AI's in video games.  Both the player and the AI has starter classes and only a few, likely not optimal, abilities learned; random br/fa, and are approximately at the same level.  AI has a terrain advantage in Dorter, and the advantage of not having Algus or Delita as its allies.  When the player starts to know what they are doing, which usually coincides with when they start to unlock more classes and/or have more abilities learned than the AI, the game becomes easy.  AI still is primarily knights and archers and has no relevant abilities learned, while the player usually has access to overpowered classes such as Ninja or Calculator.  Outside of a few difficult battles such as Wiegraf/Velius and the rooftop, the rest of the game is trivial.  This is the exact opposite of what you want as a difficulty curve.  A good difficulty curve is relatively easy in the beginning, and becomes harder in the end.

On difficulty scope, the best way to do a high difficulty game:

1. No surprises in terms of mechanics - No "kaizo blocks,"  traps where the game will softlock if you do something wrong, run killers, things that can't be figured out from in game cues or a faq packaged with the game.  The game should be consistent within its own rules.  Not everything needs to be spelled out to the player in some genres but it should be easy enough to figure out (for example, spikes killing you doesn't need to be explained, since the first time the player dies on one should be enough explanation).  If it's not easy enough to figure out without an explanation, it warrants one, whether in a faq or in game tooltips or tutorial.

2.  Absolute hardest stuff should be optional - sidequests are a good place to put borderline bullshit level difficulty, if you must.  Some players will say "there's no such thing as optional content" in the sense of, everything must be attempted at some point, but a player should be able to beat the game without doing these.  Note that if an item, ability, switch, etc. is required for any non-optional fight/level in the game, that makes it not optional anymore.

3.  Introducing a concept and then building upon it - I see this a fair amount in platformers, but this could apply to other genres too.  Usually would make the first level have some easy to avoid hazards, such as spikes, pits, or mediocre enemies that are very easy to avoid; and then later in the level and/or in later levels you'd see harder to avoid spikes/pits and enemies that are less mediocre.  How this could apply to something like an rpg would be the introductory enemies/bosses designed to teach the player how basic ai scripts work before introducing a more dynamic ai script.

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Other than combing "best game of all time" listings for ideas, Gradius 5 comes to mind.  Going to focus on Normal difficulty of the game here though easier and harder settings exist.

     With a bit of experience and practice, the first two stages are routine and feel like busywork.  Stage 3 is consistently survivable though does ask for being more awake.  Stage 4 has a number of tricky setups and the dreaded regenerating wall though a plan and execution will save the player's lives.  Stage 5 and it's asteroid hell will put reflexes to the test and the boss is a real skill gate in the context of beating it without dying.

     The next stages manage to up the challenge.  Stage 6 is green goop hell and proves a challenge even with foreknowledge.  Very easy to trap oneself in the stage and some of the bosses at the end of stage boss rush have really tricky patterns even when one is familiar with them.  Stage 7 is a long endurance test.  Swarms of enemies, sometimes combined with tricky placements; multiple navigation challenges (including a high speed zone); and multiple bosses, nearly all of which have tricky patterns to survive.  Stage 8 is not nearly as tough but still has a number of tricky setups and, in the context of a 1cc, the player is likely to be nearly out of lives by this point so the pressure is on.  It also open with a squad of option thieves and powerup capsules are scarce.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's easy. Streets of Rage 2. It has the best difficulty curve of any game when it comes to giving difficulty. Easiest is so easy that you can basically beat it with your eyes shut, and Mania mode is so freaking hard that anything less than your A game is a ticket to netting a game over. Stage 1 expects you to learn the controls, and has a boss that basically throws you, and teaches you that you can catch yourself from a throwing attack. Incidentally, him throwing you will also result in your character doing extra damage to adds for the boss. 

None of the stages have any of the silly gimmicks that are from the other games, like stage 4 of Streets of Rage 1 where they put pits that have enemies that can do knockdown attacks and instantly kill you by knocking you in a hole, or silly counter-intuitive stages from Streets of Rage 3 like the bulldozer stage where you have to PUNCH A BULLDOZER TO MAKE IT STOP ADVANCING (granted you can see the demo show you how to do this, but that is completely and utterly unfair).  

 

I could go on and on about how I love SoR2 the most. 

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

actually i like all stage gimmicks found inside SoR games, actually it would disappoint me a bit to know that in the 2 stuff like that is missing,

basically they are double edge gimmicks, both you and enemies can use it to kill the other side easier(ps. you don't have to stop the bulldozer, you have to run away from it)

aside that, i agree that SoR games in general have a good difficulty curve

Edited by Tenkarider
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/12/2017 at 3:21 PM, Tenkarider said:

actually i like all stage gimmicks found inside SoR games, actually it would disappoint me a bit to know that in the 2 stuff like that is missing,

basically they are double edge gimmicks, both you and enemies can use it to kill the other side easier(ps. you don't have to stop the bulldozer, you have to run away from it)

aside that, i agree that SoR games in general have a good difficulty curve

 

Two has gimmicks, they are just more intuitive and not things that can kill instantly you. IE, the explosive items in Stage 3 don't kill you, and have a life up right next to them. The boss of the stage 2 is best beaten by backthrows and Jump attacks. Properly spacing and you can leave him locked down. 

I like that idea of using hazards to your advantage, but in many cases a man with a knife that hits you from off screen can result in an instant death. The bulldozer running isn't really feasible on harder difficulties if you're say... Skate for instance. 

Me too. I'm not saying SoR games are bad. Just that SoR2 is on point with it. 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, Augestein said:

 

The bulldozer running isn't really feasible on harder difficulties if you're say... Skate for instance. 

Me too. I'm not saying SoR games are bad. Just that SoR2 is on point with it. 

actually you can pass bulldozer without even losing a life, with any character at any difficulty: the best way to do that is using the special attack to get invincibility frames right before the bulldozer hits you, even in case the gauge isn't still filled(always better to get the small damage penality than being hit from the bulldozer)

you know what's better than SoR games? SoR remake, which combines all the stages plus some extra one from who made the remake: http://www.sorrcommunity.com/t27-downloads-streets-of-rage-remake-v5-1-ports-and-soundtrack

don't know if that link is good, btw

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/14/2017 at 11:44 AM, Tenkarider said:

actually you can pass bulldozer without even losing a life, with any character at any difficulty: the best way to do that is using the special attack to get invincibility frames right before the bulldozer hits you, even in case the gauge isn't still filled(always better to get the small damage penality than being hit from the bulldozer)

you know what's better than SoR games? SoR remake, which combines all the stages plus some extra one from who made the remake: http://www.sorrcommunity.com/t27-downloads-streets-of-rage-remake-v5-1-ports-and-soundtrack

don't know if that link is good, btw

Fair enough. I might be forgetting because it's been awhile since I've gone through SOR3 (I usually just play BK3 nowadays or SORR). And yes, I love that remake. It's so good. With mods, it can be even better. I prefer the 5.0 over the 5.1 version though... Maybe I should make a middle ground of those two. 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

which difference exists between the 2 versions? never figured it out, actually i don't even know which one i played :P

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, Tenkarider said:

which difference exists between the 2 versions? never figured it out, actually i don't even know which one i played :P

Btw where are you from tenka? Europe?

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0