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Old 09-04-2007, 07:54 AM   #1
Xerihae
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Declining Challenge in Games?

Something Molly said in the "What is 'Fair'?" thread got me to thinking. Are games less challenging than they used to be? (Games in general).

I remember games like Another World, where you couldn't save and death basically put you straight back at the beginning. I remember games like Flashback where you could only save at certain points and repeatedly dying could be very frustrating as you appeared at that point once more, but was ultimately a brilliant feeling when you finally figured out how to beat the difficult bit. I remember online games such as an old, old game that used to run on BT Micronet here in the UK called Shades, where a death could set you back weeks or even months. It was even possible to go from just below the highest level (which took more hours than I like to think) all the way back to the beginning again because someone killed you. Despite this the people I knew who played carried on and eventually got to the top (where they became immortal), regardless of the fact that when Shades was first running it cost a lot of money because you had to pay for the phone call AND the time you played the game.

These days I feel games are easier. Often you can save wherever you want, the death penalties are minor or non-existent, and the games just don't seem as challenging any more. So, what do you think? Are games easier these days? Why is this? Am I just better at them than I used to be?

I think they are easier, and I believe it comes down to money. You see, hard games are hard. They're not suitable for people with little patience, and because of the "Me. Now" attitude that seems to be becoming more prevalent in our society they're not particularly popular. This poses a problem for games developers (and more so publishers) who are basically in it to make money. It's to their advantage to make things simple, to make things easy, as that widens the potential customer base they have and therefore increases their sales. The occasional niche product may do well, but the games industry by-and-large is run by people who have no interest in games and are only interested in making as much cold hard cash as possible.

A bit cynical perhaps, but it's something I believe to be true. If you think otherwise then I'd love to hear why!
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Old 09-04-2007, 08:28 AM   #2
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Re: Declining Challenge in Games?

I believe that part of it is also a consequence of choice. The games you're talking about, they pretty much had a monopoly (or at least an oligopoly). They could afford to be "hard", because they were there first and there wasn't a lot of competition. If you wanted to play a computer game, you had to put up with the frustration, and ultimately get the reward.

Now, there are thousands of games out there. More come out all the time. You don't have to buy one in order to play it, you can get a free demo, read countless reviews, or in the case of most MUDs - they're free anyway. There's no investment other than your time, so there's no "sunk cost" to playing the game. If you play for an hour and then drop it, no loss to you. The result of this is that people tend to try games for much shorter periods. You can see it on most MUDs, where new players often are on for 5 minutes or less before they decide the game's not for them. No one tries to like anything anymore, because if it isn't perfect, well there are only another 9999 games to try, and one of them is bound to fit you just right.

So why are games easier? Because game developers are wetting themselves that there might be something in that initial 5 minutes of content that the player might not like. They want things to be all fluffy and wonderful so that the player gets hooked. They're scared that if something's hard, people will just go "oh well, this is too troublesome, let's try something else" - and there are thousands of "something elses" out there to sift through, so the player's gone forever. So I definitely think that there's an element of people not wanting to actually have to learn about the game, figure out how a complicated system works, not wanting to spend their precious time on actually solving anything. Time in general is a lot more precious than it used to be: like you said, "me, now" - and as a result people just don't want to put time and effort into something when there's probably something else out there that they can get right away.
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Old 09-04-2007, 12:20 PM   #3
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Re: Declining Challenge in Games?

While I agree with just about everything both Muirdach and Xerihae write, I also believe it is perspective. Take a look at Winning a the Game thread (hope I got that right).

What is it that you are trying to accomplish that seems easier? Become an Immortal? Win the Game? Get all the gear? You see, winning or difficulty is based on what you actually do in a game and that is based on what game you are playing. If you are strictly talking about death and gear, then you may look for a few games that are perma-death. They are out there, though the value of perma-death or punishments in death and levels of punishments is a long and arduous discussion.
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Old 09-04-2007, 06:37 PM   #4
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Re: Declining Challenge in Games?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xerihae View Post
Something Molly said in the "What is 'Fair'?" thread got me to thinking. Are games less challenging than they used to be? (Games in general).
This is easy to answer: YES, most definitely.

Remember when death in MU*s involved losing half of your ACCUMULATED xp? That usually took you from level 20 to like level 15. There was no such thing as PK flags. You were fair game, period.

You really can't find big MU*s like that anymore, and I honestly think it's probably a good thing. Unfortunately, we've gone way too far in the other direction, and lots of games are no longer challenging. I don't KNOW why this is, but my guess that it involves two factors:

1) Many people like online games simply for the social factors. They don't want to actually be "gaming" and perfectly happy just to be "chatting". The game exists just to have something to do while chatting. Thus, there's not actual need for a game to be challenging because the "fun" exists in the socializing.

2) The continual complaints against powerful/power-gaming characters and the eternal cries for "fairness" in all aspects of life impact games as much as they impact things like sports, schools, etc.

MMOs have seem to taken this to the extreme that MU* didn't go to. Several of these games have absolutely no death penalty or one that is so negligible they might as well not exist. Nearly all MMOs forums are filled with requests to nerf this or that class or gloats when the nerfs finally come. I don't know where that trend started, but the "nerf" threads seem to dominate almost all discussion forums for those games. My guess is that it's an attempt to make PvP "fair" rather than based on skill.

So, yes, games have definitely gotten easier, but I think it's on the request of players. Unfortunately, I don't think that this is necessarily a good thing. Balancing the game based on the DEMANDS of players is a bad thing. Balancing a game based on the INPUT of players is a good thing. I definitely think that in the case of many games, "easier" is a bad thing. This is why I find myself less and less interested in the graphical MMOs.

Last edited by Milawe : 09-04-2007 at 06:38 PM. Reason: Left out a key word
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Old 03-12-2008, 03:54 PM   #5
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Re: Declining Challenge in Games?

Definitely easier.
Less challenging.
Dumbed down.

Not entirely a bad thing, as I can recall in the late 70s wishing to meet up with a few game designers and spend a decade with them in a locked room, doing terribly things to their spleen with a meat fork.

Conversely, I've seen a decline in game difficulty, based on every factor listed, and for that reason alone, I don't let my son play them. His 6th birthday is coming up, and I don't really want him thinking you CAN just rise from certain poor judgements, dust yourself off, and reload your last saved existence. The video game market has no obligation at all to teach kids virtues, far more interested in teaching them virtuals, and I have no compunction at all about not trusting them to do it.

In RPGs, I have yet to see a quest that was in any way difficult. In a recent one, the only problem-solving skill required was the ability to type a word correctly, after it had been spoon-fed to the entire playerbase through a consistent plot-heavy. I call it the "Rumplestiltzkin" Solution. Say the right word, and all goodness and light shine forth. I realize that given the medium, it can be challenging to code/paint/write a quest that will challenge the hardest critics, so this topic also introduces a tangential point.

Are game designers now so addicted to major praise for minor or mediocre accomplishments that we as players have forever blunted their edge?
In video games, if the eye candy is good enough, do we turn a blind eye to how lame the -theme- is?
In RPGs, are we sometimes so happy to be included at all, that we don't resist the temptation to heap superlatives on every plot, simply because it existed?
Are plot/quest designers so used to the static of background cheerleading that they've grown accustomed to the idea that -any- quest, no matter how insubstantial it was or effortless to execute, that -any- plot is a good plot?

What models of quests/game challenges stirred your blood the most?
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Old 03-12-2008, 06:27 PM   #6
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Re: Declining Challenge in Games?

This likely is true across the board, but I still think some games hold some difficulty in quests. I do know without giving away secrets, NW has some quests that would make your hair stand on end and many quests that have variant endings. For example, there is a quest that requires you to seek out and murder a close friend and another that requires you to involve yourself with slave trading.

However, in NW, these quests are not shown or part of some "quest completion pad" Everything with quests, guilds, politics, religion, clans, ships, etc, are found in the game not in help files or similar ooc assistance.

Hence the RPEI status of NW.

Last edited by Newworlds : 03-13-2008 at 12:19 AM.
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Old 03-12-2008, 08:36 PM   #7
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Re: Declining Challenge in Games?

Disillusionist: You are a necro postin' fool, my friend.
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Old 03-12-2008, 09:43 PM   #8
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Re: Declining Challenge in Games?

My opinions are like classic fashions. They resurrect well. Kindly ignore the smell from hang-up pine-scented deodorizers, and pretend like these topics are new to me.
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Old 06-24-2008, 05:57 AM   #9
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Re: Declining Challenge in Games?

I personally think games are getting harder. I used to finish games more when i was little, i rarely complete a game now and i play them more now than i was little.
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Old 06-24-2008, 06:59 AM   #10
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Re: Declining Challenge in Games?

Quote:
Originally Posted by morbz View Post
I personally think games are getting harder. I used to finish games more when i was little, i rarely complete a game now and i play them more now than i was little.
If you're talking about 3D games, you're completely wrong

some of the hardest games are flash-based ;

Hardest Game Ever

note: btw, it's said that only three people have finished this game on earth so far..

Last edited by rendekar : 06-29-2008 at 04:58 AM.
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Old 06-24-2008, 04:57 PM   #11
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Lightbulb Re: Declining Challenge in Games?

Are games easier?

Yes for the most part. I don't think we'll ever return to the times of companies like Infocom. The games Infocom made could be amazingly difficult. The problem as mentioned before is that there is too much competition for games to give you the proper time to adjust to the style and skill level of a good game. There are of course many different exceptions, but for the most part games are easy.

Someone mentioned you have around 5 minutes to get a players attention and this is most definitely true. You have 5 minutes to get the Player to empathize with their character. That's about it. Now I firmly believe in EASY early levels on my mud. Then move towards increased difficulty. Until at the end there are a lot of options for the player since the world is big. They can go to "easy," areas , "hard," areas or many in between.

I believe games should for the most part follow this line of thought. "Bioware," seems to be particularly good at getting your attention in 5 minutes, creating an indepth world (for those willing to read books lying about or to find out all they can about planet histories in their space sagas), and offering different levels of difficulty with one thing in common: they all start easy, and you always gain power quickly and then at some point the difficulty doesn't exist anymore and your PC becomes a Super PC able to handle waves of enemies. This to me is fun. I get to enjoy the early levels and feel like I accomplished something during the tedious and more difficult levels, then as a reward you become a badass.

I think there are psychological reasons for the way that Bioware and many, many, many companies go about their designs. The reason the companies use that route? It works.

We live in a day where HYPE is what sells games. The new games are hyped MONTHS before they are released to the public and are generally judged within a day of release as living up to the hype or not. There are games that are ignored in the development cycle and sometimes come out and surprise. These sometimes gain popularity but sometimes don't. Generally those games are more difficult than others.

Plus you have to consider the fact that we've become GOOD GAMERS. We know the tricks. It's incredibly difficult for a First Person Shooter to surprise me with increased difficulty. I've been playing these games since Castle Wolfenstien! So when games like BIOSHOCK come out and I play it at moderate difficulty the first time through and never die, was I challenged? I'd say yes, there were definitely spots that got my adrenaline going.

Generally "Hard," in game levels now means "The computer cheats," and you've got to really outplay the system. In FPS games this generally means they take more shots to kill, and you take less. In RTS games it means they build faster than you (generally instantly) and your chances of winning are severely reduced. In RPG games it means they get bonuses to their die rolls.

What "Hard," doesn't appear to ever mean is "We've added more difficult puzzles and force you to use your noggin."

Remember too, people are dumb. Games are made for people.
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