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KoolHndLuke

Game Difficulty- Do You Like it Hard? ;)

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About as far back as I can remember, there has always been a difficulty setting in video games. Doom (original) was one of the first I can recall that changing the ds (difficulty setting) really made a difference. Easy; you're mowing down enemies left and right and basically just playing for the "story" (if there is one) Hard; you definitely like a hearty challenge that tests your skills. Beyond that is pushing yourself to play the game with every little trick you have learned against tougher enemies/deadly environments to survive and record a best time or unlock something.

 

Since your enjoyment depends largely on the game you're playing, why you're playing it, and maybe time constraints- having difficulty settings is a good thing. I like a fair challenge in my games and usually pick a little harder than normal in my first play with new games because I'm not sure if I'll ever play them through a second time. Usually pick "insanity" or "nightmare" for my second run. What is the deciding factor in some games is the ability to evade or dodge. When I can't do those, I play the regular settings to avoid the inevitable frustration and rage breaking my keyboard or something. Dark Souls, for instance, is a no-no for me since imo it's designed to punish you and I'm not into anything resembling masochism. However, I was perfectly fine playing games in the ME series on the hardest setting mainly because enemies didn't re-spawn at all giving me a firm sense of accomplishing a goal and moving on. Doesn't mean I can't see why some games are better with it, just not something I like overall as I think it's a cheap mechanic.

 

My question(s) then is what games did you think did a good job with difficulty settings (the difference between them) and which ones did it bad? And if a game is too easy or difficult- does that stop you from playing it?

 

 

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Witcher3's Death March is the most non-Dark Souls punishing play I've done.  Skyrim 'Legendary' is a joke.  It can be beaten with a lot of running with a torch, Alteration/Illusion/Restoration/Conjuration, a vanilla pet and a vanilla follower.  Just don't rely on combat/magic that does damage since the 'you only do 1/4th the damage' doesn't apply to NPCs.  Just can't play the game the way you want to.  I'll never do it again.

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I honestly can't remember a specific game that got that setting right.  Most pigeon hole you to standing in just the right spot or doing exactly this thing, or just flat out have the ai cheat their ass off to the point of lunacy.  I do enjoy a difficult game, but only if it is logical.  I think the only games that I enjoyed the really hard difficulty were back in 90's.  I can't think of one after that.  

 

I also was not much of a dark soles fan.  I played offline (as much as it lets you do that) and I had a cheat program going.  I used just enough of a cheat to level the game out from impossible to very difficult.  Except when fuckers spawned into my game, then all the cheats went on and I sent them packing.  Got quite a few messages whining because some level 5000 player didn't let them kill me (I was level 3 or 4).  I responded the same every time.  Don't like the way I play, then stay the fuck out of my game.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the game itself and was satisfied with the story and ending.  I just wasn't a fan of dying every 5 seconds.

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I find myself always trying to play harder difficulties in games after I've spent some time with them. I think after you've beaten a game on it's normal difficulty it's somewhat natural to want to see if you actually understand the game well enough to play the more intense difficulties and see where you stand. That being said as long as the increased difficulty isn't just awfully designed nonsense, I think I always try to play a game I actually enjoyed on a more difficult setting. Some games like Dark Souls just don't seem to work with a difficulty setting, but I might just be biased because I loved those games. You could argue they could make things like taking less damage and doing more to enemies an option, but it just clashes with the game's theme imo. I think games that have harder difficulties that introduce new abilities and mechanics to existing enemies/problems are the best for this. As much as everyone rips on Dark Souls 2, when getting to NG+ they started introducing more spawns, both in and out of boss arenas, which I think were a very refreshing addition to the game. But w/e y'all didn't ask to hear me fellate Dark Souls, but those are my thoughts on the subject, if any of that can be called coherent thoughts.

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I like games that happen to be difficult as part of their design philosophies but I can't say that I go out of my way to single out difficult game experiences.

If the Monster Hunter series or Dark Souls games(or pretty much anything made by From Software, really) were less challenging then I'd still play them.

I suppose that my preference in that regard has not really shifted much since the Nintendo Entertainment System days.

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1 hour ago, Kendo 2 said:

Witcher3's Death March is the the most non-Dark Souls punishing play I've done.  Skyrim 'Legendary' is a joke.  It can be beaten with a lot of running with a torch, Alteration/Illusion/Restoration/Conjuration, a vanilla pet and a vanilla follower.  Just don't rely on combat/magic that does damage since the 'you only do 1/4th the damage' doesn't apply to NPCs.  Just can't play the game the way you want to.  I'll never do it again.

Oooh....the mods I have installed fix that for me mostly in Skyrim. Play legendary and adjust the setting back to doing 1 on 1 damage and then added a helluva lot more enemies in encounters- bandits, vampires, dragons- all those factions with each of them having better/more specialized skills (like archers summoning beast companions and warriors using cloak spells). Add the Sexlab mods and things are really, really chaotic fun sometimes with npcs everywhere doing shit. Do you remember the alchemy cheat from vanilla? You could make weapons that one hit kill anything.

 

1 hour ago, gregathit said:

I honestly can't remember a specific game that got that setting right.  Most pigeon hole you to standing in just the right spot or doing exactly this thing, or just flat out have the ai cheat their ass off to the point of lunacy.  I do enjoy a difficult game, but only if it is logical.  I think the only games that I enjoyed the really hard difficulty were back in 90's.  I can't think of one after that.  

Logically difficult. Now there's a concept, huh? I've played very damn few games that manage that. Easier to put a simple mechanic in I guess.

 

1 hour ago, snacksinmoonlight said:

I find myself always trying to play harder difficulties in games after I've spent some time with them. I think after you've beaten a game on it's normal difficulty it's somewhat natural to want to see if you actually understand the game well enough to play the more intense difficulties and see where you stand. That being said as long as the increased difficulty isn't just awfully designed nonsense, I think I always try to play a game I actually enjoyed on a more difficult setting. Some games like Dark Souls just don't seem to work with a difficulty setting, but I might just be biased because I loved those games. You could argue they could make things like taking less damage and doing more to enemies an option, but it just clashes with the game's theme imo. I think games that have harder difficulties that introduce new abilities and mechanics to existing enemies/problems are the best for this. As much as everyone rips on Dark Souls 2, when getting to NG+ they started introducing more spawns, both in and out of boss arenas, which I think were a very refreshing addition to the game. But w/e y'all didn't ask to hear me fellate Dark Souls, but those are my thoughts on the subject, if any of that can be called coherent thoughts.

Played DS for about a few days and just couldn't get into it. Now the difficulty of it was certainly a big factor, but I've dealt with "punishment" from other games because they had enough things that I liked to keep playing- like save points and not having to fight through an entire area/session again and again (Survival mode in FO4 anyone?). Games that scale in difficulty with the player is another mechanic I kinda hate as it defeats the whole purpose of leveling.

 

1 hour ago, FauxFurry said:

I like games that happen to be difficult as part of their design philosophies but I can't say that I go out of my way to single out difficult game experiences.

Well said. I don't mind a game that's "hard" because it forces the player to be clever for instance. Games that give you many different tools/weapons that let you be creative about how to overcome it's rather difficult play is fine by me. Games that straight up murder you for the fuck of it are not.

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11 minutes ago, KoolHndLuke said:

Played DS for about a few days and just couldn't get into it. Now the difficulty of it was certainly a big factor, but I've dealt with "punishment" from other games because they had enough things that I liked to keep playing- like save points and not having to fight through an entire area again and again. Games that scale in difficulty with the player is another mechanic I kinda hate as it defeats the whole purpose of leveling.

I definitely get that second half, enemies shouldn't scale hard enough to erase the feeling that my character is growing stronger. Especially in a game where they want you to feel extremely powerful compared to those around you. I can't tell if it's just a lazy practice or just something devs don't think about and just do without realizing it. I personally lean on the side of lazy, but I also don't develop games.

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Back in the 90's I used to play on higher difficulty settings. Creeping around, trying to be safe and avoiding suicide whenever possible. Finishing a level or game was rewarding, but then - there were fewer games as well.

 

Fast forward almost 30 years and I'm just too old for that shit. I paid my dues and now enjoy being a casual gamer. I play for immersion, and to finish what story there is.

 

I like my "Game of Thrones episode" to last an hour telling it's story, instead of getting the same story taking 6 hours. Plus I have so many games I shuffle between, sometimes it takes a while to get back into a game's particular groove, and prefer some forgiveness as opposed to punishment.

 

If one likes high difficulty and they get it, I'm happy for them. Let them toot their horn and be in a parade - it's deserved.

 

Because my choice reflects the time I'm prepared to invest - don't get me started on the ultimate difficulty - permadeath! Most any game I replay now usually has 'New Game +' allowing me to zip through my favorite parts/story while keeping my progress from earlier game play. Normally this entails the next difficulty level being invoked - but since I have my 'loot/skills' and know what to expect, it's never that bad - so yeah - Casual.

 

>>> Scaling difficulty isn't an issue for me - in the early levels I'm a one-trick pony, so it feels much harder than later, when I have a 'skill arsenal' at my disposal. Hopefully the enemies gain a couple new tricks as well.....

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Assetto Corsa comes to mind when talking about high difficulty being implemented well in a game. Doesn't have any rubber-banding. The Codemasters F1 games also have very good difficulty distribution. From the more arcade side of things, NFS Pro Street and Most Wanted 2005 also had very good difficulty implementation, especially Pro Street. But then there are games like Forza Horizon 4, Automobilista 2 and NFS Rivals that are so crap in difficulty management, especially Rivals.

 

In terms of non-racing games, i'd say Assassin's Creed 3 was pretty good at high difficulty. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was also really enjoyable on high difficulty. All the main GTA games have had pretty decent difficulty as well. I wanna say Skyrim too but in vanilla, legendary becomes an absolute chorefest with damage sponge NPC's which is why TK Dodge is an absolute must. Saints Row 4 starts off as a bit hard but then makes you Neo so by the end of the game you're practically invincible. Very fun game, very bad difficulty application.

 

I don't normally stop playing a game if it's too easy if there's a fun variable to it like Saints Row 4, but if there's nothing to grasp then yeah i guess. And if a game is too hard then i'm more likely to stop playing it very quickly as i have no interest in sinking time into a game that frustrates me.

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Shameless plug for Freespace 2 Blue Planet campaigns.  Descent: Freespace, The Great War was a space sim that came out in 1998, and it's sequel in 1999.  Since then, a modding community has existed ever since, constantly providing graphics updates and gameplay updates to keep the game up to modern specs.  20 years later, it has graphics that look like 2020 graphics, and since Volition released the source code, it means some dedicated modders have modded the engine and AI to provide more challenging and realistic enemies.  The original game suffered from the, "Enemy wing of fighters jumps in, you destroy them, then another wing jumps in," etc, but the Blue Planet campaign (especially War in Heaven) developers did an excellent job of creating realistic, military style missions (to the best of the game engine's limited ability), and Fury, a modder for FS2, redesigned the AI to be more realistic as well.  Now, with redesigned AI and better mission design, fighter wings will defend bomber wings, intercept incoming torpedoes, engage as a unit and run turret disarmament on capital ships.  Better ship designs mean artillery functions like artillery, with long range engagements feeling like you're actually engaging in a colossal space battle.  Even within all that, though, you don't feel like just a cog in the machine (which the original games both suffered from).  You feel like you play an important role in the missions and their objectives.  Fury's AI was intended to be played on medium difficulty, and I highly respect that he actually designed an AI around a particular difficulty setting.  I've never played on any settings harder than that for an extended period of time because it's unnecessary.  On medium difficulty, the missions are legitimately challenging (you have to be good at the game to win), but they also feel rewarding and not ridiculously difficult or cheap.  They reward playing with your AI squadmates (which are actually intelligent and capable of completing objectives independently), and playing to the strengths of your capital ships (for example, the allied capital ships always engage in pairs and excel at creating fire pockets where you can draw enemies to get them killed).  Harder difficulties typically mean higher energy drains from your weapons, but the other thing I really liked about the difficulty setting is that enemies become more accurate, fire faster, and engage with a greater variety of weapons, rather than simply doing more damage on harder difficulties.

 

On top of all that, the entire series has one of the best storylines I've ever played in my life.  Especially considering game engine limitations, I'm thoroughly impressed at their ability to make you genuinely care about the characters.  The entire story is conveyed through either text or the cockpit of a fighter (and a cruiser, in one mission), but it still feels immersive and engaging.  I'd highly recommend it.  The game is $6 on gog.com, and all of the mods are free (and there are over 200 of them, each with their own story, some good, some bad, some absolutely legendary).

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21 hours ago, KoolHndLuke said:

Dark Souls, for instance, is a no-no for me since imo it's designed to punish you

 

I really liked dark souls for "not beeing beatable" just by dull force, its a challange of how you adapt to the given situation and teaching "trigger discipline",

while overall still giving you a choice on how to tackle things.

Its about look > think > act and not the often seen run > shoot > see what happens.

 

What i would like to see in difficulty settings is that enemys actually get more intelligent instead of just getting more HP and do more damage.

 

 

 

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The usual issue with wrong balancing :classic_unsure:

It could be so nice to play on a meaningful difficulty level.

Spoiler

 

 

But, that's what mods are for :classic_biggrin:

Just say NO to vanilla!

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I kind of liked Darksouls. It does lack the ability to refund your stats but it does some things right such as unique items and memorable NPCs including one guy who stares at the sun too long.

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTPZEPIwOoexULyOTCqxGz

 

That and losing souls like it or hate it gives it a sense of risk vs reward. Fun fact: Darksouls is the easy mode. It gets harder after each consecutive play through. Praise the Sun indeed. 

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I prefer higher difficulties but only when it makes sense. For example some high level dude who's a professional ass kicker should be hard to kill if I'm poorly prepared and I suck at the game, but hitting some butt naked forest hobo 50 times in the head is just fucking boring.

 

Dark Souls was fun, difficulty depends on my build and skill, even editing saves to start as Giantdad won't help if I suck and I don't know what I'm doing. Skyrim on "legendary" sucked ass, I'll just get bored and create an iron dagger that can end the entire universe if I'll accidentally drop it on the ground.

Morrowind was my favourite. Use some common sense and simply play the fucking game and you'll wipe the floor with everything that moves. Try to rush through everything with level 1 character and no prior experience and you'll die.

 

There's a lot of issues with difficulty in games that are trying to be realistic, especially WW2/WW1 fps and rts games, but don't get me started on that one.

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As I grow older, completing the challenges the games throw is becoming less and less rewarding. I usually get the fun elsewhere.

 

At harder difficulties, simple games that do not offer those alternative sources of fun become even less rewarding very quickly. So now I avoid many games that I would have loved playing two decades ago. 

 

About Skyrim, any difficulty that is not N:N does not make any sense, and the greater the N, the more punishing one single hit is. I just add mods that increase largely the number of mobs, so one to one engagements are short, whole battles are long, and I just adjust N as needed.

 

For me Skyrim is great because the engine and the correct combination of mods makes me able to change what is happening ingame as much as I want, far beyond what the vanilla experience forces on players by default.

 

I did not bother trying to adjust the difficulty in Assasin's Creed Odyssey, i.e. because very soon I noticed my stealth attacks were not able to insta kill the enemies as in the previous games. Most of the fun of the game disappeared very quickly, just completing quests was simply not enough.

 

Factorio is an example of settings well done imho. You have a large bunch of options and you can tune the experience very very much.

 

 

 

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My absolute most hated aspect of lazy difficulty settings would have to be blasting an enemy's head at point blank range with a shotgun and them just shrugging it off.  I don't feel "challenged", I feel cheated! What's worse is the devs can't even keep things fairly consistent because something like breaking out of a grappling hold with a knife to the temple may be an insta-kill on the same enemy. Not just referring to one game either as I've seen this in many.

 

Some devs did the difficulty of the game well by making most enemies weak against a certain kind of attack- like elemental damage- and you have to recognize what type of enemies you're dealing with and adjust. I like that approach if done reasonably- especially if they're clever about mixing things up.

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27 minutes ago, KoolHndLuke said:

Some devs did the difficulty of the game well by making most enemies weak against a certain kind of attack- mostly elemental damage- and you have to recognize what type of enemies you're dealing with and adjust. I like that approach if done reasonably- especially if they're clever about mixing things up.

The old Diablo 2 Hell difficulty made ALL enemies immune to 1 specific damage type (varied among enemies), but all heroes had access to more than one damage type which needed to be addressed as they approached hell difficulty. Still, with the Randomly rolled champions, sometimes it was best to leave the game, and let a new game be rolled.

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for me it all depends on the game, if its a story based game like say, Dragon Age and ive never played it before? ill probably stay away from hard mode, if there is one even, but if its a game where the fun is in the challenge then im going to play on hard unless im too shit to progress

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If it is a new game or playing for the first time I usually go normal. Once I get familiar with the style and type of game it is I go for more difficult. Once beaten I will play again on the most difficult. Skyrim and Fallout I like to add immersion type difficulties like eating/drinking/sleeping, weather status affects, intoxication, all that good stuff.

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Everyone has their preference. To me it really doesn't matter. Played it all ways and it is just the same thing only more frustrating in higher difficulties. FO4, Witcher 3, Skyrim all the same thing with different stories with repetitious crap of pushing buttons. I use 100+ mods, TGM and set my minions to GM in the last playthrough of Skyrim. I made my minions sex fiends where they fuck the enemy to death, slaves that were raped to death and just about anything sex or non sex that came to mind on over 2000 hours of game play in Skyrim, 1000+ hours in FO4 in which I probably would have stopped at first playthrough. Witcher 3 was to restraining so it got under 200 hours. Doing these things is actually more fun that way than being restrained to just what the developers expected from the player. 

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Maximum options. Not just a linear difficulty level slider, but also tweaks like friendly fire yes/no the 2nd wave options XCOM offers, the additional restrictions and bonuses in Suriving Mars. Etc.

Let the player decide. For RPGs like Skyrim for example, the difficulty options menu should also let you customize mana and stamina regeneration speed in combat. Whether enemies can heal themselves or not. How difficult stealth is. Prices and quest rewards. And I mean vanilla without needing mods.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nintendo_hard#:~:text=In video games%2C the term,%2C and Battletoads (1991).

 

I started gaming back in the 80's before there were difficulty sliders.  overcoming nintendo hard difficulty just became a natural thing for me and its stuck with me even today (its a big part of the reason i get so frustrated playing a f2p game like world of warships; the mechanics aren't that complex and the way some people screw up matches because of, what is to me, an obvious error on their part, just causes a part of my old school gamer soul to shrivel and die)

 

Nowadays I usually crank the difficulty up to max on arcadey type games like call of duty or battlefield.  strategy games, like total war warhammer, i tend to sit the difficulty in the middle.  reason i do the arcade shooter type games on max is because winning is mainly a matter of twitchy reflexes, and the reason i do strategy games in the middle is because winning is based on your thought process (e.g. your strategy).  shooter games up the difficulty by making enemies bullet sponges and do more damage; the trick to winning is just to stay alive and land your shots; but with strategy games difficulty increases are because of giving the AI buffs (or nerfing the player), and with enough of a player penalty bad rng just can't be overcome.  shooters are less rng dependent than strategy games, so with good reflexes you can win no matter how much the bad guys are buffed.

 

finally, rpgs... these i tend to play at mid-high difficulty.  especially ones like skyrim which have elements of fps play in the combat mechanics; but i don't max out the difficulty because i want to push the storylines forward and my time is limited so i can't spend the time to min-max my character builds or cheese fight mechanics.

 

side note; what people think of as cheesing a fight nowadays was once intentional.  back in the day there would often be only one specific way of winning a boss fight.  growing up, in almost every game you had to do something like stand in a certain spot where you couldn't be hit or something and just keep plinking at the boss's healthbar till  you won, and that was by design.  today, that sorta way of beating a game is considered abusing the game mechanics.

 

like dark souls is to me an old school nintendo hard game because its boss fights are basically just pattern recognition (just like the old 8-bit nintendo games).  sure, they're frustrating until you learn the pattern... but i don't consider dark souls a hard game because just like the old games, once you learn the pattern and timing, you can get through it easily.  that's why you can find people playing dark souls blindfolded, just like you can see people doing old school nintendo games blindfolded.  

 

 

 

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I recently ramped up the difficulty settings with SkyTweak and raised the difficulty level in Random Encounters ... I just finished a hellish (in a good way) battle with sixteen bandits (each with 20-30,000 health) and mudcrabs, wolves, and giants joining in (all with really high levels of health); two dragons joined the fray (each with over 30,000 health) and as soon as they were defeated was attacked by Nightingale Sentinels (with 50,000 health each). It was intense and I loved it. Thank god for SkyTweak.

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