Nitpicking

Nit: Difficulty – Labels and the Spectrum

Nit: Difficulty – Labels and the Spectrum

The challenge a player faces in a game is extremely important to consider. After all, video games are an interactive medium and the challenge really frames how that interaction will go. So how can a game find the ideal challenge? Maybe first, what is the ideal challenge? And truly, how can the challenge always remain fun? The Sweet Spot in Gaming The sweet spot in gaming in regards to challenge really means the player feels like there is a challenge being presented so that succeeding feels like they accomplished something, but the player also does not feel frustrated. Yahtzee Crowshaw discussed this same topic including talking about some of the extremes (which we’ll get to in a bit), but his argument was the same: players want the satisfaction of success without frustration. This isn’t perfectly simple to define what exactly the challenge is. For instance, is the challenge in Pokémon the battles or the act of catching all of the critters? In Super Mario Brothers, is it the individual jumping or getting a high score or completing the game faster? My argument is that the challenge and difficulty really targets completing the game. Completion is still a bit fuzzy when there are so many games with emergent gameplay or a concept of 100%. I really mean playing through the story or campaign as is appropriate for the game. Things outside of that target a different demographic and frequently are outside the core experience. There are some games that don’t even have a story at all (like Minecraft), but Yahzee’s game design principles allow us to see we are really looking for the gratification from other contexts. For Minecraft, the difficulty becomes more of a balance between time investment and reward. The sweet spot is when the user feels like they accomplished something by getting all the materials before being able to do what they want. Because everyone gets something different out of Minecraft, it is much harder to “balance” perfectly, but more user driven games also tend to self balance by those who play them (multiplayer is similar, though there also is a degree of match making so everyone feels some success). Take it to the Extreme But some games are hard. Even for people that have a good idea how to play them, there are games like Dark Souls and Super Meat Boy that are just hard. The real trick with games like this is to balance frustration and gratification as Dark Souls does like old Nintendo Hard games. In fact, when someone knows what they are getting into (as the back of the Dark Souls box actually warns), there is a huge pay off for getting everything...

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Nit: Value – Everything has a price

Nit is my series of posts that will nitpick minor or very specific details relating to one very scoped aspect of video games. Our purpose is to always come up with a series of rules or suggestions to guide developers to make even better games in the future. Today we start by looking at the value of a game and why an objective measurement system will always fail. How do others see value? There are a ton of varying opinions about what value is, but there are a couple categories that are repeated a lot. Content length I feel this is supposed to be the “objective” approach to value. In fact, Yahzee Crowshaw claimed this directly in his article talking about the value of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeros: In my opinion, the objective worth of a game should be measured in hours of content, not hours of average playtime – how many hours go past before a game has nothing new to offer and starts repeating itself, because the number of additional hours of fun that can be extracted becomes much more subjective at that point. I fully admit that I tend to agree with a lot of Yahzee’s opinions, but this one seems like solving the wrong problem. Other than functionality, the idea of “objective” evaluations is pretty meaningless for an interactive medium. To put this point in perspective, this observation would mean that, objectively by Yahzee’s standard, Ride to Hell: Retribution...

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