Difficulty Settings, practical solution

Valryia

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The crux of difficulty levels. The player doesn't know which to choose. And how could he? He hasn't played the game before. Even worse if they have to prove themselves towards others.


So, i decided to give the player the option after an introductionary sequence, but in a more practical way - instead of choosing the setting, i give the player an bonus dungeon. At it's end, they are given the option to increase the difficulty setting.


Give me constructive criticism.
 

TriceratopsX

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That doesn't sound too bad, though I have a few questions. 1. Is it just like "Do you want to increase the difficulty?" And then increase a fixed amount? Or is it a multiple choice?(Hard, harder, hardest) 2. Can the player increase the difficulty multiple times? 3. Can the difficulty be lowered back down if they later decide that the higher difficulty is too hard? How long is the introductory sequence, how hard is the game by default?


As I said before I like the idea of having the option in game of raising the difficulty(Even more so if it's justified "In-universe" :p ) But I have just a few too many questions to just say "Yeah that sounds awesome do it!"
 

Alexander Amnell

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   While I acknowledge that it is a huge deal for players in general not knowing what to select. selecting normal and then whining that a game is to easy, I never understood why that is. Always choose the highest difficulty, then ramp down if necessary until I find what I want. Seems like a pretty solid standard, never could understand why it's such a failed one.


   The way I did difficulty is change it's format to "lore and story" or "perfectionist", no change in difficulty, but in lore and story you get story relevant 'saving grace' spells that kick in once per battle when you are on the cusp of death (party hp under 15%) that give you a sort of second chance. If you are good enough you won't notice the difference, but if you're struggling it'll save you from having to die and restart in most cases.
 

Valryia

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That doesn't sound too bad, though I have a few questions. 1. Is it just like "Do you want to increase the difficulty?" And then increase a fixed amount? Or is it a multiple choice?(Hard, harder, hardest) 2. Can the player increase the difficulty multiple times? 3. Can the difficulty be lowered back down if they later decide that the higher difficulty is too hard? How long is the introductory sequence, how hard is the game by default?


As I said before I like the idea of having the option in game of raising the difficulty(Even more so if it's justified "In-universe" :p ) But I have just a few too many questions to just say "Yeah that sounds awesome do it!"


1. It will be more fancy then that of course. "Will you release the evil to make your quest harder, but also more fruitful?" The increment in difficulty won't increase basic stats (mostly), but gives enemies new attacks and defenses and allows for completly new enemies to show up. If they can do the bonus dungeon, then they are ready for it. (As in, the bonus dungeon itself is equal to how hard the game is going to be.)


2. Planned, with multiple Bonus dungeons over the course of the game.


3.a If they can do the bonus dungeon, then they won't need to, since the game becomes as hard as the bonus dungeon, no more.


3.b The introductionary sequence ends when a. most of the game mechanics have been explained and b. the player had one or two Dungeons/Quests to get familiar with the game mechanics.


The most important thing to me is to integrate it into the game to not let the immersion break.

   While I acknowledge that it is a huge deal for players in general not knowing what to select. selecting normal and then whining that a game is to easy, I never understood why that is. Always choose the highest difficulty, then ramp down if necessary until I find what I want. Seems like a pretty solid standard, never could understand why it's such a failed one.


   The way I did difficulty is change it's format to "lore and story" or "perfectionist", no change in difficulty, but in lore and story you get story relevant 'saving grace' spells that kick in once per battle when you are on the cusp of death (party hp under 15%) that give you a sort of second chance. If you are good enough you won't notice the difference, but if you're struggling it'll save you from having to die and restart in most cases.


As a designer, i will try make it as player friendly as possible. Some don't like it if they have to restart the game, or going into an game menu midgame. It breaks player immersion.


Your direct approach of either "really easy" or "really hard". But i want the player to grow, so in-between steps are neccesary.
 

Alexander Amnell

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@Valryia My approach is actually more of "I don't want to have to balance the game more than once and most likely break it." The difficulty is still there in either mode, you just get a sort of virtual mulligan if you choose the 'easier' difficulty and play badly, as the player grows and gets better, the mulligans stop happening and the newb turned vet gets the exact same challenge and experience as the rpg vet who instantly chooses 'perfectionist' at the start of the game. The fact I include that muligan is me trying to do the same thing you are, my thought was more along the lines of "I don't get why selectable difficulty isn't player friendly" than "I disparage being player friendly" as I still attempt to come up with an answer for it, but at the same time I think at the end of the day people are both being to knit-picky and to lazy at the same time by disparaging difficulty settings, the most common sense form of playerbase inclusion, as non-immersive and thus ignored. It's no more immersive-killing than controllers or tv screen are, or stats and skillsets for that matter.


   A thought occurs with your idea though: beyond the challenge why would the player knowingly "release the evil"? I can come up with enough games that left me with no choice but releasing evil monsters and having me grinding my teeth in frustration that there's no "you're all being idiots" option to prevent the end of the world cataclysm before it even begins. Without a really good narrative reason to release a greater evil on the world than is already there, there is little chance I'd ever select to do it by choice, regardless of whether or not I want the game to be more challenging. That, to me, is more immersion-breaking than the alternative it seeks to replace.
 
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Valryia

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@Alexander Amnell Balancing the game more then once is a daunting task - which is why i opt to not change the base change upon difficulty change, but instead giving my enemies a new attack / defense - it is simpler, while increasing the strategic implications much more.


You see, my goal is to keep the player under pressure, without him actually breaking - the fine line between anxious and bored. Any break of the player asking himself "is this difficulty right?" moves the player away from the expierence.


Of course the "release the evil" is not only a small example for the purpose of giving an option for narritive - the final version would of course have an much more richer lore behind it. Speaking of which, i understand that the story shouldn't be locked behind difficulty, but for me it is much more interesting then "The Final Worldcutter Axe +99". I completed one or the other game - in the past - at much greater difficulty setting just to see if the ending gets better. Sadly, only Drakengard 2 fufilled that urge.
 

jonthefox

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I'm of the school of thought that if you're going to have difficulty settings (and i do think they're a nice feature to have), you should just have 3 settings.  Whatever you decide to call these settings, they're basically easy, normal, and hard.  


I really think there's a "sweet spot" in terms of difficulty that the human brain enjoys--an experience that is not too easy (boring) or not too hard (frustrating).  You should balance around this and this should be the "normal" mode.   Now, having an easy and a hard difficulty setting serve two useful purposes:  


1) it caters to the people who are outliers.  Some people really enjoy a challenge, and want an experience a lot harder than the average player would.    Others really HATE challenge and just like to get through the game because of the story or other non-combat reasons...or maybe it's a child or someone completely new to the genre.


2) It allows people to replay your game in new, interesting, and fun ways.  Maybe someone wants to try a challenge on hard mode.  Maybe they want to try a challenge of using no magic, which could be very difficult in your particular game, but if they put it on easy mode it'll still be a challenging experience but something they could accomplish.   Essentially, it gives dynamics to your game.


Because of this, what I like to do is simply add a plugin that reduces all enemy stats by X% on easy mode (either 25% or 50%), and increase them by this percentage on hard mode.   
 

Dr. Delibird

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I generally am not a fan of a difficuilty option in a majority of games (especially rpgs). By option I do mean things that are not akin to new game+ as that is a seperate but similar mechanic.


My reasoning for not being a fan of it is I am the type of person who prefers a handcrafted experience that is tailored to be played at a specific level of difficuilty. Challenge modes and new game+ like mechanics can be used to add more difficuilty without taking away from the handcrafted core experience (I am doing something like this for my project). A good example is the post game content in a lot of pokemon games, lets use the battle frontier from pokemon emerald as an example. There are multiple challenge towers of sorts available that offer up different playstyles that completely change the way the game is played, your tactics used in regular play will be mostly irelivant but as it is not core content this does not ruin the main experience (unlike difficuilty settings imho).
 

Canini

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To me it is a pretty nice idea, but can the player skip the dungeon when replaying the game? 
 

HexMozart88

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   While I acknowledge that it is a huge deal for players in general not knowing what to select. selecting normal and then whining that a game is to easy, I never understood why that is. Always choose the highest difficulty, then ramp down if necessary until I find what I want. Seems like a pretty solid standard, never could understand why it's such a failed one
Usually it only fails when the difficulties are not spaced out well. Example, easy will be too easy, but then normal is ridiculously hard. So, I'd say, do normal, hard and insane. Normal is a comfortable playing experience, more like the kind a regular gamer would play. Hard is slightly harder, used either as a challenge or for when you've finished the game (replay value is important). Insane is for the hardcore gamer. Those who literally have nothing else to do with their time. That can be something like the hardest difficulty in games like Kingdom Hearts where you have to start the game over every time you die.    
 
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kaukusaki

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difficulty modes are fun to implement - as long as it's not just simple enemies are just so% tougher and you get so% weaker. I like the idea that the gameplay could be slightly different depending on which mode is turned on. I'm working on an idea for this rpg I'm still working on that has various difficulty modes, and the higher the mode, the enemies change and rarer weapons appear. The storyline is still the same, however. So at lower difficulty enemies are "standard wilderness fare" (wolves, etc) and at higher difficulty inserts demons and such. I think it might work...
 

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