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Prayer of the Faithless
On the brink of the apocalypse, two friends struggle to find what is worth saving



Stepping Down as a Mod

Aw, sorry to hear that. Get well soon!

Collecting RMN Birthdays for a calendar! Send them my way in this status~

February 29th

hey gamers


Here's the newest screenshot of RMN's Sexy Demographics

2018 gaming Nazis

Players are the Worst

Something interesting about punishing bad playstyles, it can come of as poor balance. I recall back when the optimal strategy was to stack three Guerilla Vests on all characters, that I found the Chain Mail with Mia and noticed, without even trying it on, that it was complete garbage. I thought it was poor balancing, as in the armor was made underpowered, but you explained that it was on purpose, Mia is not supposed to be good with heavy armor.

Yeeeeah, remember what I said a few blogs ago about how I've learned a lot since starting this game? That was one of those lessons. Looking back now, the fact that three pieces of light armor were objectively better in every way than one piece of heavy armor was... lopsided, to say the least. Hell, if Mia should never equip heavy armor, why did I put it in a level where she was the ONLY member of the party at the time?

Now, that problem is fixed by flat out preventing Mia from equipping heavy armor, and putting something else where the Chain Mail was. I'm thinking about going back and retweaking that beginning area again, but only after I've finished everywhere else, first.

Anyway, the reverse targeting algorithm and lowered damage reduction does seem like an improvement, but I'm curious to see how it holds up compared to the old subtractive SP.

I hope you like it!

A Different Approach to Difficulty

Okay, so the idea here ISN'T to remove difficulty options, but to integrate them into the game itself to maintain immersion, am I getting this right? Assuming so, there is one variable that needs to be considered that I don't see either here or in the referenced videos: Player expectation.

Even if the game allows the player to change the difficulty mode later on, it is, in itself, still not a very good idea. For one, explicitly selecting a difficulty mode in a menu-based manner is certainly not an interesting choice that games strive to offer their players. They do not have to weigh anything against anything. They do not have to analyze the risks and rewards coming as a result of each option.

They actually... kinda do. They have their previous experiences with games in a similar genre. If someone goes into an FPS with a lot of experience in the genre and looking for a challenge, it's safe to assume they know enough about the genre that they can jump straight into hard mode. If someone has never touched an FPS before, they'll likely bump down the difficulty to easy so they can get a feel for what's going on.

Yeah, they know nothing about YOUR game, and they'll have to experience your game themselves before they can settle on what difficulty is right for them, but that's going to be a problem no matter what previous experience they have in the genre.

There have been several solutions to negate these issues, of which Mark Brown has gone into depths in one of his videos. However, not one of them was able to solve them all and still maintain immersion.

At the risk of sounding close-minded, I don't believe such a solution exists.

Pretend for a moment that Dark Souls just came out and that a little man named Jimmy just put it in his Xbox. No one knows a single thing about it, not even about its rumored difficulty, so Jimmy is going in as blind as can possibly be. Jimmy picks the Knight class because he likes big bulky armored dudes. Not realizing the massive effect that armor weight has on stamina and movement speed, Jimmy struggled to figure out why his dude kept getting wrecked in the tutorial level because he kept running out of stamina points. Frustrated at dying over and over again in the tutorial level, Jimmy quit the game and went to sleep. The next day, Jimmy talked to his friend and was baffled at hearing his account of how easy and fun it was.

"LOL you picked Knight, Jimmy? I went with Pyromancer. I could blast all the enemies in the tutorial level and I'm already in the Undead Burg! You shouldn't have picked Knight."

Tell me: exactly how Jimmy was supposed to know this? Where was it communicated to him that Knights would be as clunky as they were? Most importantly: how was Jimmy's immersion in Dark Souls maintained?

That last one was a trick question. Immersion was lost. Once Jimmy learned he made a bad choice, he'll either go hollow and quit the game, restart the game with a different class, or grit his teeth and struggle through with his bad choice. In all three scenarios, immersion was lost because of a choice he made using variables he had no knowledge of, and he now views the game through a more sour lens. Oh sure, he can make the game easier by finding the Ring of Life Protection, learning magic, and other strategies, but if he quits the game in frustration before finding them, then that kinda defeats their purpose, doesn't it?

This whole scenario can be avoided by one thing: Proper communication. If Jimmy wanted to have an easier time, he should go with a class with lighter equipment. Or he could strip his Knight character down and run around in nothing but a loincloth (how's THAT for immersion in a grimdark fantasy setting like Dark Souls?).

Small indie devs don't have a massive community. They don't have fans making numerous tutorial videos on what options are best for beginners. They have to rely on their own design skills to communicate to the player what their games do and how to make them easier. The line between helpful and patronizing is going to be different for each player, and so the more options a game has to make it easier for players to quickly get settled, the better. For some games, it's a difficulty selector. For others, it's a class selector. For even others, it's smashing player's heads against the floor over and over again until they find the right setup that they like. For others still, it's a combination of these options.

The common factor in all of this is that players need to understand what they're getting into. If you have to sacrifice some immersion for this, then it's better to do it up front before they get into the flow rather than running directly into a wall mid game and slinking back to a lower difficulty setting. Exactly HOW devs do this is going to vary per game.

While I like the idea of designing your game using in-game equipment, strategies, and whatever, I feel the root of the problem is poor communication from the game to the player. Designing for ludoaesthetics is merely one way to go about this. It's a neat way, and one that I definitely want to explore more, but it has its own share of drawbacks that aren't insignificant enough to replace the familiar difficulty setting. Not yet, anyway.

TL;DR: I think designing for ludoaesthetics is an option to consider ALONGSIDE difficulty selectors, not INSTEAD OF them.