Difficulty is Hard

December 19, 2007 at 12:30 pm (Difficulty, Game Design)

We usually want games to be challenging, but reasonably beatable:  not too easy, not too hard.  Finding this point can be difficult; even worse, the desirable amount of difficulty varies from player to player, and even for a single player as they get better at the game.  Getting the difficulty right is…well, difficult.  There are several common techniques for trying to produce the right level of difficulty, with varying degrees of effectiveness.

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Those Darn Cheating Computers

December 16, 2007 at 6:06 pm (Difficulty, Game Design, Game Mechanics)

How many times have you died in a video game and thought it was the game’s fault?

How many times when you were sure you pressed the buttons in the right order, but your character didn’t perform the right move?  When you would swear that enemy wasn’t there a moment ago?  When you have accused the game of cheating?

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Accuracy and Reliability

December 14, 2007 at 2:05 pm (Difficulty, Game Design)

Games require players to perform lots of different tasks, and they respond differently based on how the player performs.  Most differences in gameplay involve changing the task, but today I want to talk about judging the player’s performance; how the game decides whether the player has succeeded or failed.

There are two basic requirements a game will generally ask of a player.  The first, and more basic, is accuracy:  did the player do the right thing?  Enter the right answer?  Move in the right direction?  Push the right button?  Act at the correct time?

But accuracy isn’t an all-or-nothing deal; there’s a difference between being a second late and a millisecond late, or being off by a mile and being off by an inch.  While most games expect accuracy from the player, they don’t expect perfection; they’ll consider the player to have succeeded if she acted at approximately the right time, if she aimed in roughly the right direction, if she stood in the right general area.  The degree of accuracy expected of the player can have a profound effect on the game’s difficulty.

The second basic requirement is reliability.  Games rarely require the player to do just one thing; there are many tasks, and the player’s consistency in performing the tasks is tested.

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