[RMMV] MY GAME IS TOO HARD, WHAT DO?

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So, my game is hard right now, really hard.
I'm a fan of stuff such as Shin Megami Tensei (taking a lot of inspiration from Strange Journey/SMT IV) and Dark Souls, and I love battles with precise timings and the like, where you have to do the right thing at the right turn.

For that, I played around with the regular Guard mechanic in my game, making it so that you can block 90% of ANY damage, and return a counter attack at 100% chance.
There's a variety of both guards and counters depending on the shield equipped. There are DoT Burning counters, counters that heal you back, AoE counters... Well, a lot of them.

So, using the guard is actually useful, very much so. Lots of foes also prepare strong 2-turn attacks in the vein of Pokemon Solar Beam, basically screaming GUARD NOW.
To balance that, guard can only be used once every 2 turns.

Besides all that, using the equipment is also useful; equipment is the way to get new abilities as they don't come naturally through level up, other than being stat sticks.
The way stats are made, if you don't equip your new armor and shields found naturally, you'll quite possibly die. If you don't guard correctly, you'll die.

I've taken a lot of time to make each enemy behaving with its own quirks in battle, they'll rarely behave the same as other enemies. So, my system is really hard because of these details.

The thing is that I can't possibly convince people to use the mechanics the game offers!
I made some tutorial things you can access in the menu explaining everything about the system.
To avoid incomprehensible walls of text early on, I've added easily accesible elements that you pass by in almost every map that teaches you about relevant mechanics one at a time. The very first of these is telling you to use the guard... Some enemies will clearly say "foe is preparing a tremendous hit!" and you should guard in the next turn, right?

But people keep dying and complaining the game is too absurdly hard, and that I should make it easier. I know I've developed it, and I know how to easily get away with the battles without much harm... Foes die quickly as well, there's no grinding involved...

Sometimes even I die when I'm not paying attention to the battles! But I don't want to nerf my game so much because people don't want to use the equipments and the guard... Is there any way I can make it more obvious to everyone that they should use the guard/time it carefully? I'm not quite sure how to make a tutorial battle that doesn't feel stupid, though.

Screenshots below show how these mechanics are displayed on the game.

Ok, lets break this down into bits. Basically what you are saying is...

  • You feel that you have put lots of work into the game
  • People refuse to learn what to do and expect to win simply by attacking
  • You have no idea how to persuade people to the use the mechanics REQUIRED to win battles
  • You don't want to make the game easy

What you should know is that if you can win, so can everyone else. There is no particular reason to make the game child's play just to please those who can't beat certain battles.

For example, in Final Fantasy games, for certain bosses, they have a countdown mechanic for strong attacks. For Bahamut, he has an attack called "Giga Flare" that usually takes 3 rounds to charge up. By this time you SHOULD use common sense and prepare for that attack to hit.

Same thing applies here. In the nice screenshots you have provided, it is clear that you should know when to guard because it clearly says that someone is preparing for a "tremendous" hit or a "setback". It even says that a critical hit will happen on the next hit. What more could you need to know?

Are the players saying its hard simply because they aren't equipping the right stuff and are trying to "blaze" through the game or are they dying because they simply can't follow instructions? Do you have any examples of any feedback from the players? Perhaps a difficulty selection would be great.

By the way, what is the game called? I'd like to give it a shot.

Plus, I know how you feel because I have seen people play my game(s) and it couldn't have been clearer to know how to play, yet they don't seem to know how things work. Certain games are more complex than others and you can't just expect to pick up a game and know what's going on. You have to know the rules and what it takes to be successful in the game you are playing.
I think what i would do is make the equipment appealing to the player. Not just some stat/skill giving items that makes you stronger. Add something that is COMPLETELY USELESS but still appeals to the player. It could change the way the player looks, could trigger some events, i'd add some special particle effect in fight. ALSO since the player can only get skills from equipment, add multiple equipment so that the player isn't just restricted to what's the best. If a player wants to take their time in each fight and not struggle a bunch, they can maybe have a healing build. If a player likes challenge and risk, they can go with a damaging build. If a player doesn't want to be alone, they can have a summoning build. Let the player play how they want.

Of course this is your game and this is only what i would do but please don't make your game too easy, this ruins all the fun. Nothing feels better then kicking the bad guy's butt after many many attempts.
unity
You're magical to me.
12403
Yeah, XBuster's got some great points here.

The thing is, no matter how you fine-tune or explain your game, the fact is that different people prefer different difficulties, and something that you find easy may only be easy for a small percentage of your players.

A good solution, like XBuster said, is multiple difficulties. If you don't want to go that route, at least remember that no matter how you feel about your game's difficulty, most players aren't going to feel that its that easy.

Even if they read and memorize every tutorial, you are still more knowledgeable about the system and how to win than any of your players. If you want your game to be accessible, you'll want to scale back the difficulty a little bit from what feels right to you to account for this.
+1 for XBuster. Maybe you should get a new batch of playtesters.
Just make your game how you want to make it and accept the fact that some people will love it and some people won't. Would I Wanna Be The Guy have as much of it's notoriety if it were a standard platformer anybody could beat in an hour? Probably not.
Keep on being different.
Red_Nova
The all around prick
8611
Bite the bullet and design a "stupid" tutorial battle. One silly battle that teaches players how important guarding works will save them hours of confusion and frustration. You're doing something different with a mechanic most RPG players assume to know something about, so you gotta drill it in their heads that guard isn't going to work the way players think.

Dying because of an incorrect choice is fine. No worries. Punishing the player with immediate death at the beginning of the game due to one small error? Yeah, that's gonna piss people off. A hard game is fine, but make sure players know how everything works BEFORE handing their asses to them. If players go through a tutorial battle and learn to appreciate the guard mechanic, then forget everything they just learned in the very next fight, then that's on them, not you.

You mentioned that guard and counter skills change depending on the equipped shield. Can you change shields during battle? If not, then is it possible that a player can run into an enemy with a supermove that your shield isn't well suited to counter? Because it would be incredibly unfair to die because I didn't have the clairvoyance necessary to know what the next enemy was going to do.
Sooz
They told me I was mad when I said I was going to create a spidertable. Who’s laughing now!!!
5331
Market it as "FOR HARDCORE REAL GAMERS ONLY!!!" and smugly question the adequacy of anyone who admits having trouble with it.
Make a battle right at the begining where the enemy deals a 9999 hp attack that KO's in one hit and can't be avoided and the only way to survive is to guard. If the player dies, repeat the battle instead of returning to the title screen.

Another idea is to strip away all other commands except guard, and not the introduce the other commands until later, and one at a time. (Make the battle end on its own after a few turns)

You could also maybe attach a common event to guard that changes a variable, essentially keeping count of the number of times the player used guard, and having areas locked until a certain number has been reached. (The player should be told of this however, e.g. a sensei character who is in your way or has an item you need)
-deadloli-
Death threats are a banworthy offence.
4
author=Sooz
Market it as "FOR HARDCORE REAL GAMERS ONLY!!!" and smugly question the adequacy of anyone who admits having trouble with it.


This.
Please do keep in mind, however, that just because you know how everything works, it doesn't mean that others will. It's your game. Of course you're going to know the optimal way of playing. Some players will not find all the treasure, some people won't use all the items or bother purchasing them because they spent money else-where. You know whether x armour is needed and that taking x potion along to a fight is a good idea. Are they expected to just know this or are hints given that it might be a good idea to change.

Is what you're telling them easy to understand? Is it presented well and not just an info dump? Is it given at the time that the skills needed show up or dumped at the start when they've forgotten? Is it freely available to look back at if they forget?

Keep in mind that Quality of Life systems DO NOT EQUAL easy play. Being transparent about what skills do, what to do when x happens and where to use x or y is useful information for your players.

Of course, I'm just pointing out generalities. From the two screens shown so far it looks like you're giving them information they need in battle. Have they been given ways to deal with those issues? Do they know how to use them or that they exist? (For example, having a special guard skill for crits does nothing if they don't know it protects against crits and instead use a different skill that seems like it might protect them instead (but really makes them weaker) because the description isn't clear enough.)

And again, even then, you know the perfect way to play - keep in mind that players will make some mistakes when they play. Is the game forgiving enough that if they make a few errors in battle they can bounce back from it?

Also, maybe a straight "You DIE if you don't do X right away" is a bad idea. Give a chance or two (or maybe have the option to restart the battle if you die during it? That might alleviate some annoyance). Also, make sure there's a lot of saving ability around. Going all the way through a dungeon after being killed by the boss over and over is pretty cruel and there's a reason games stopped doing that.


Quite frankly, if even YOU have trouble there might be a balance issue. You're supposed to know exactly what to do to get through. If you're dying even doing everything right? That's a problem. Fix that.

Just a few thoughts.
What Libby said.
Minus the "if you are having trouble", the OP clearly said the problem is when you don't use the system and stop paying attention = loss.
Using system = easy win.
So it may just be balanced already.

You ARE aiming at a specific audience and with specific inspiration (know who likes SMT.. ME! YUSSS!)
What you CAN do is get people to test it who have experience with that and thus tend to use the system a lot knowing they need to. Like SMT fans.
If that doesn't work still you know you desparately need to add more clarity.

If that works you can still tweak the system and get an easier starting point.
A lot of the long-time-series games become easier as you get to know the spells and compositions. You still adjust and add things, but the general gist is known and comfortable, and so needs less explaining in a long-standing series than in a single game.
Even so, the descriptions need to be spot on to describe what exactly you are doing. (and they do in those serialized games too). SMT also happens to have a very simple and intuitive system. Elemental weaknesses GO! Turns GO GET! (plus c-c-c-combo-breaker). That's it. Tho the fine tuning offers a lot more.

You played around and fiddled with some of the standard mechanics that in many games do very little (GUARD is all over the board from game to game)

Does the tutorial clearly tell you what you told us just now?

That it blocks 90% of all damage, has a 100% chance counter and can be adjusted to all kinds of additional effects using different equipment? And that equipment is the only way to get new spells?
Do you see what happens with which equipment? How much damage an AoE does vs the usual counter?
If you tell me it blocks 90% fucking heaven percent damage. YOU BET I WILL USE IT.
(you can even say you need a cooldown period to prepare for the next counter / block .. )

If you say "hey, guard is useful! it reduces your damage taken and stuff" my standard reaction is "ugh EVERY game says that .. we'll see if it actually does anything". If I also know it actually does damage too .. all the better.
Most times guard just lets you "hold on" longer and doing it every second turn feels WAAAAY too counterintuitive without knowing it actually does more than just guard .. IT IS AN ATTACK SPELL O.O mind blown. If I guard every second turn in most games, I will dish out too little damage. I'd run out of mana and die a slow boring death.
Realistically, guards are followed by counters. Realistically is not intuitive for games (where you usually take turns punching each other in the face until one falls over unconscious. And guard is a similar one-way-street)

I'd be willing to give it a go, btw.
It is okay to be targeting a specific audience (Dark Souls / SMT fans) but if even those have trouble with it, question is if you need to do perfect every turn or not.
Did you get people to playtest who are familiar with some of those games? Or random folks? (both are important groups but it'd be nice to see how deep the clarity issue goes)
Also, the longer the fights, the harder such an intricate system gets simply because the player needs to choose the right things over and over and over for a longer period of time (most SMT fights are very short)
Dying when you stop paying attention is perfectly an-okay for me and speaks more in favor of the balancing (also, SMT works like this, but in a fair way. I find the random encounters in IV went a little too heavy on it when you got unlucky .. while bosses were too easy .. oh well)
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6003
Instead of starting the player with Guard at the beginning of the game, make the Guard ability be a reward they earn at a specific point. This will communicate much more clearly, "This is a good ability." The player will instinctively understand, at least on some level, that the ability must be useful, if the game is only willing to give it to players who earned the right to use it.

Basically the way to do this would be to not give the player a shield at the beginning of the game. They would earn the basic version of Guard by obtaining their first shield.

Then, immediately after you give it to the player, and I really mean like thirty seconds later, have a boss where the player has to use it and it's super duper ULTRA obvious. And make sure that boss is unbeatable without using it. Also, if you put a save point in, put the save point before the player earns the Guard ability, so that if they die they have to re-watch the part where they obtain the ability, reminding them about it.

For this tutorial boss I would recommend making the boss use some sort of mechanic that is not deadly to the player if they mess up, but prevents them from winning unless they get it right. For the basic version of Guard, a good way to do this would be to make the enemy immune to all damage except counterattacks. Its attacks should be strong enough to make the player feel badly hurt, but it should wait long enough in between attacks so that the player can fully heal up every time. This will prevent the boss from being actually dangerous, which is good for a tutorial boss. 3-4 successful guards should kill it.

With this kind of interactive tutorial setup, I'm not sure you actually need much of a written tutorial. All you need is one sentence saying "Guarding drastically reduces the damage you take, and counterattacks with a strong blow."

However I would also strongly recommend renaming it. Guard/Defend is the most famously and consistently useless ability in all of RPG history. The name has baggage that you don't want, and players' eyes will simply gloss over it in battle as a result. Something more impressive like Steelguard or Retaliate or Barricade would go a long way towards making players notice and remember it.
Another thing you should definitely consider is the difficulty curve. It is very tempting to make the game too hard right off the bat because you are the one making it and so when you playtest it you find it easy. Since you mention it, Dark Souls is a master class in difficulty curve: The very few concepts you need to win (guard, stamina management, enemy kiting...) are taught in the very first map of the game, and the rest of it is just introducing new situations and slightly increasing the depth of those mechanics.

To make sure nobody can leave unprepared, the tutorial is fine-tuned to perfection so you can't win it before you assimilate those concepts. For example, there is an ambush where you get killed very quickly if you charge recklessly, a section where you are forced to guard and dodge, and a boss that makes sure you know how to manage your stamina.

To make sure nobody can leave the tutorial without knowing what is necessary to progress later, you can do as LockeZ above says: make a couple of stupidly easy and guided battles that force players to learn what you want them to. Also make sure those concepts are not forgotten immediately: Do not put enemies that don't require guarding, for example, until later in the game where players will understand that is an exception and not a rule. If you want players to switch equipment often, rain drastically better loot on them early so they associate new = good. And, if all else fails, unless the high difficulty is crucial to the story and/or gameplay of the game, don't feel above putting a difficulty slider.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6003
Man, there are things that Dark Souls games do well, but teaching the player how to play is definitely not one of them. All it teaches you is a subset of the basic controls. It doesn't teach you what anything does, or how it works, or why to use it. It's the poster child for not explaining incredibly vital shit. The whole game is about forcing people to look up very basic things online just to understand how to play.

Here are some trivia questions for you. When does Dark Souls teach you:
1) That you're immune to damage while rolling?
2) How equipment weight works?
3) What your humanity stat does?
4) What kindling a bonfire does?
5) That friendly NPCs can be reset if they're aggro?
6) What the poise stat is?
7) That hidden walls exist?
8) What covenants are?

The answer to all of these questions is never. The only way to discover these things is to buy a player's guide, look them up on the wiki, or spend hours testing each one. However, the game is practically unbeatable without learning them. Never mind the dozens of smaller things with effects that are completely undiscernable, like the smoke bomb that you can throw at mimics to make them give you an item without attacking, or the shopkeeper who asks where you got a new spell and then kills himself if you answer him, or the fucking invisible crow oh my god. And if you get these things wrong, you often permanently lose stuff in your save file that you can never get again, and have to start the entire game over.

Dark Souls level design is mostly incredibly good. The enemy difficulty is mostly incredibly good. But the way it teaches you stuff... it's some of the worst in all of video games.
^
That.

If you have a few battle concepts that interact together, introduce them one or two at a time. Think of how Zelda does it - you start with the basic sword. You use that against enemies. You then get a shield. You then need to go through an area where that's used. You get a hookshot. You use the hookshot. You get the boomerang to stun enemies that hurt you if you don't use it on them. It introduces new concepts piecemeal and clearly.

Communicate with your player. Let them get used to a small handful of ideas before shoving more at them. Give them a chance to use what they have before you give them something new and evolve their strategies to take on newer enemies. Be a little forgiving and very clear.

Also, I'd worry that if you find yourself getting bored of the battles and slipping up by not paying attention, that they might go too long or not be engaging enough to a player. If even you zone out whilst playing them, it might be a good idea to tinker with that.

From the sounds of it you've got a one-hit KO type feature where enemies will kill you if they use a certain move and you don't parry it in a specific way. Fair enough, as long as battles don't drag. Give your player rewards for doing shit right. I don't mean items or the like, I mean make them feel like doing it right is good because they get to do extra damage or stun the opponent (thus a free turn) or heal more than the enemy takes or something along those lines.

For example, say the enemy has a skill that is like a heavy blow that will stun you if you don't block, then when you block maybe make it so that the enemy is the one that gets stunned for a turn. That way you encourage the player to aim for those special abilities and reasons to use them in battle.

A good idea is to give the player some strategy that they can change up - give them a few skills that protect against certain attacks, which they can choose from depending on the situation. Health low? The guard-defend that adds to your health what the enemy would have taken might be a better idea. But high health? Perhaps the counter-attack that lets you hit them back would be better. A sure-kill attack incoming? Then dodge or parry - one giving a speed buff for the next few turns, the other giving a critical hit certainty next turn.

That way they still have to deal with dangerous battles, but they have a few ways to face it instead of the same pattern over and over (boresville).
author=LockeZ
Man, there are things that Dark Souls games do well, but teaching the player how to play is definitely not one of them. All it teaches you is a subset of the basic controls. It doesn't teach you what anything does, or how it works, or why to use it. It's the poster child for not explaining incredibly vital shit. The whole game is about forcing people to look up very basic things online just to understand how to play.

Here are some trivia questions for you. When does Dark Souls teach you:
1) That you're immune to damage while rolling?
2) How equipment weight works?
3) What your humanity stat does?
4) What kindling a bonfire does?
5) That friendly NPCs can be reset if they're aggro?
6) What the poise stat is?
7) That hidden walls exist?
8) What covenants are?

The answer to all of these questions is never. The only way to discover these things is to buy a player's guide, look them up on the wiki, or spend hours testing each one. However, the game is practically unbeatable without learning them. Never mind the dozens of smaller things with effects that are completely undiscernable, like the smoke bomb that you can throw at mimics to make them give you an item without attacking, or the shopkeeper who asks where you got a new spell and then kills himself if you answer him, or the fucking invisible crow oh my god. And if you get these things wrong, you often permanently lose stuff in your save file that you can never get again, and have to start the entire game over.

Dark Souls level design is mostly incredibly good. The enemy difficulty is mostly incredibly good. But the way it teaches you stuff... it's some of the worst in all of video games.


I disagree with everything you said and stand for in life
One of the biggest themes of Dark Souls is precisely discovery, which is why it doesn't give everything away immediately but lets you figure it out as you go, and even though some things are in fact not very well explained they are not of vital importance and discovering them are part of the joy.

For example, the whole humanity business is clearly explained in every online item description (and can be safely ignored if you don't even want multiplayer), while rolling invencibility and equipment weight is pretty direct - if your armor is bigger than you, of course you won't be rolling as fast. I beat the game without looking at guides and yet I figured out everything you just pointed out without any major difficulties. Hell, if the game told you that some characters would die if you did something or other, wouldn't that completely ruin the surprise and shock when they did? Just my opinion.
Funnily enough, that's the same kind of argument some people were making earlier this week with me about Terraria's lack of information on, well, everything. It's silly to assume that people are going to know about something when they aren't told. You should NEVER have to 'discover' an aspect of battle systems that is necessary for you to actually play a game competently. Ever! That's just terrible.

Now, if it were something optional, sure, let them discover away, but something that they need to know in order to survive your hell-fest? TELL THEM. TEACH THEM.

I tried Dark Souls. I quit Dark Souls. I hated Dark Souls. Maybe I wouldn't have if I could figure out what the hell I was supposed to do in order to survive? Maybe I still would have, but I never got the bloody chance to be any good at the game because it never informed me that doing x or y was, you know, NECESSARY.

That is just bad. Don't ever do that. If it's something the player should know to understand the game mechanics so that they can play without incredible frustration, then tell them. Leave the non-telling for optional stuff, not for Quality of Life stuff.

Teach them that they can use it. The challenge comes in their perfecting the skill and its use, not in learning that it exists at all. :/
Red_Nova
The all around prick
8611
That perfect Dark Souls tutorial level also has a big "fuck you" boulder that appears out of nowhere and takes half your health with no warning whatsoever. What kind of lesson should newcomers take from that?

I love Dark Souls, but I totally agree with Liberty and LockeZ that it's god awful at explaining itself (though I'd argue that only the first point on his list is actually required to beat the game). Especially DS1. I tell people to start with DS2 or 3 if they plan on getting into the series. DS2 had the best tutorial level (a completely optional one at that), but DS3 allowed you to make mistakes without punishing you with max health drops. Even then, though, both games still have plenty of cryptic mechanics that are necessarily cryptic.

That being said, stopping a player's forward motion to shove tutorial boxes in their faces for every mechanic of a game down to the last detail is swinging too far the other way. You learn to play the game by playing the game, not reading about how to play the game.
I don't mind a game encouraging and relying on curiosity.
There are many games where you have many paths to develop your character in (skill-wise etc, like Etrian Odyssey), where you aren't sure what is the most potent, but many work.
I agree it CAN be a little brutal, and it takes a bit to get over the frustration, but having ways to try and see yourself is a very different and fun way to approach things as well.
Curiosity is strong, and - similarily to real life experiences - it takes that extra step to be WILLING to dig into it yourself and try and experience and put together the best you can (tho with intuition and some general game knowledge it does become easier. I know Terrarium was a LOVE for me, but I also played different games of the genre before)

I feel that is (almost like thet experiment calunio ran a little bit earlier) a way to experience and have fun, and while it DOES limit the audience, I feel it is a valid path to pursue if you so choose.
If you do, you still need to have ways for that to be visible and accessible to try out and experience, of course.
To be curious, you have to know what you can and cannot do so that you can check. You can hint at things but the player needs to know that they can do x or y in order to follow through and try out z to see if that does something.
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