Gaming Thoughts... 10/15/11 Game Difficulty

So, recently I loaned out the game Splinter Cell: Conviction to a buddy of mine at work and he made a comment to me about how he put it on the easiest level of difficulty to beat it. This is something I have found myself doing a fair amount over the last few years as well. Sometimes, it is more fun to get through the storyline and not deal with frustrating death after frustrating death. I did the same thing, playing through Splinter Cell: Conviction in an afternoon. Sometimes, not always. Sometimes I will give the game a second playthrough at a higher level of difficulty.

I admit that sometimes achievements and trophies can affect my difficulty decision. When I played through Halo: Reach I choose the normal/default difficulty in part because the achievements for completing chapters could not be earned on easiest. I am currently slugging away at Record of Agarest War one more time - having gone through Normal already but on Hard now to see the true ending. Then again, sometimes for games like Madden, I turn up the difficulty most/all of the way just because there is no storyline really, and I need a good challenge.

When talking to my buddy at work, he said he plays most of his games on easy - like Call of Duty. It is not that he is a bad player -in fact, in multiplayer he's about the best I know in Black Ops and Modern Warfare, often finishing tops on the map, but for him he just wants to sample the storyline in single player and then move on.

I also really like difficulty adjusters in general. Would games like Demon Souls be less appealing to people if it had an easier mode? Probably, but does that make it the right choice? I don't know to be honest. I have some friends who proudly puff out their chests at having beaten the game, and I have others who gave up on it or refused to play it due to the difficulty and reputation the game carried. The software developer is obviously fine with this choice as their spiritual follow-up is supposed to be even harder. Will I purchase it? Probably not - the first one frustrated me a LOT at times, and I would rather just play something else despite the fact I did enjoy Demon Souls. If the game had an easier mode where you could still earn trophies and get through the storyline? I'd probably pick it up. It's an interesting dilemma the developer gets to figure out for themselves.

I read a report a few months ago that most players do not finish their games. The vast majority of games have something like a 30-40% completion rate, and many of them in the 20's or lower. If I was a developer, I would be a bit disappointed if I put all of that work into a game knowing that most players never saw the content I made. Personally, I like the idea of multiple difficulties and still offering 'rewards' for people who best the easier ones, though there should be better rewards for the greater levels of difficulty.

What about you? Do you like multiple difficulties? If so, are you someone who always goes for the hardest, sticks to the defaults, prefers less of a challenge or vary it by title and number of playthroughs? Any games out there you wish had variable difficulties but did not?


  1. I personally think the best approach to difficulty would be if there was no difficulty options, but the game itself had the smarts to adjust difficulty based on the player's ability.

    Stuck in an area? Keep dying? Adjust difficulty down a notch. Flying through with ease? Kick it up again. That way the player can still make progress, without necessarily feeling like they're *just* playing it on easy.

    The other option is to make a game that is hard by default, but have an option like what Nintendo has to have the computer take control and ease you through the bits you're stuck at.

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  3. I do like multiple difficulty settings, probably dating back to GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64. I liked that the game required completing it on each difficulty, to unlock all the cheats in game.
    I know when I played through Killzone 2, I actually started the game on the hardest difficulty setting that was available...which was above "normal", but not the hardest one in the game...because the hardest one in the game was only unlocked after completing it.

    I don't remember were, but I had read that Call of Duty: World at War was ridiculously hard on Veteran, so one day I decided to give it a try...just to see what they were talking about. IT WAS INSANE! It was crazy hard: extremely accurate enemies and GRENADES like crazy. I seriously have been debating on recording footage from one of the levels, just to show how many grenades the enemies throw.

    So yea, for me, I like multiple difficulty settings, but also like GamesAndBiz, I think having the game have built in "tips" of sorts can be useful for some people as well.

  4. Some sort of in-game adjustable difficulty would be handy - if it was done right. I remember Oblivion had this sort of system in place where the creatures you fought leveled up as you did, and people had a lot of mixed feelings on the matter.

    That would be a fun video, Coffee - I had heard the same thing, never actually tried it/seen that though. LOL. I know some games have difficulty and offer to adjust. I think one of the first instances I ever saw of that was the original God of War - if you died too many times, it would ask you if you wanted it to roll back to an easier difficulty


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