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The great "Difficulty in games" debate

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32 minutes ago, Psychotic Ninja said:

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That was my same reaction as well.

Don't insult me. I have trained professionals to do that.

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What's the intended way to play Garry's Mod? Minecraft? Undertale? The Tony Hawk's series? The Elder Scrolls/Fallout series? The Sims? Hitman?

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"We don't call them loot boxes", they're 'surprise mechanics'" - EA

 

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On 11/1/2020 at 5:10 PM, Arseniy Yavorśkyi said:

[Question 1)] [...] How much should players be expected to invest into a game before they start having fun?

[...]

Question 2) Is Ross having more fun when playing with cheats like he said he is? He just looks bored and annoyed to me, more so than in the first stream.

[...]

 

I don't get the discussion about difficulty in video games. But I'm jaded and cynical and been playing for several decades.

I start with question 2) because that's easy to answer:
If he says he has more fun that way, any further discussion is over. Moot point is moot. What he looks to you doesn't matter, what you think doesn't matter - as long as he says he is having more fun in an non-ironic way, I don't even need to watch the video for that issue.
Are you really going to tell Ross, me or anyone how we should have fun or spend our time, really?

Are you telling us we are having fun wrong?
Are you sure about that?

 

Question 1)

Why are you talking about what's "expected" of gamers?
Arent't we only expected to pay for a "service" rendered? Personally, I wish we would own something afterwards, but let's just pretend for the moment games are just services. Is the service advertised correctly? Does it fulfill its premise? What's its premise anyway?
Let's move along and just say that the premise: "Game is fun" is generally correct for the sake of the argument.
 What makes a game fun?


Boils down to personal preference.

BUT I would love if this would be standardised but considering the abysmal situation the industry and the world is in I doubt that will ever happen.

 

Now, I would love if the game would treat its players as responsible humans.

 

game is wasting my time: NOT FUN

game has shitty controls: NOT FUN

game has a stressful and/or boring primary game loop: NOT FUN

game has not enough options: NOT FUN

game doesn't have an approachable and differentiable difficulty curve: NOT FUN
game's story is from a five year old: NOT FUN

game is unstable: NOT FUN

A couple of these add up and that's it. REFUND, REFUND, REFUND, REFUND!!!


Now I didn't even talk about the core difficulty yet, 
but if games don't let me decide what kind of difficulty and challenge I want, save where I want and instead waste my time instead they fail.

Simple message for the developers: If you don't let me play the way I want to play, you don't get my money.


 

So to answer your question: You paid for a service to entertain you, if the service doesn't deliver in a time frame you set yourself, the service failed.

I've stopped playing games after 3 minutes because they were obnoxious and disrespectful of my time (and money).
I've tried to like games, trying them out over and over again and after hours I decided they aren't my cup of tea and
I've played the same game over and over again because it was enjoyable, albeit repetitive and nothing new but exactly what I wanted the game to be.

Investment depends on how much the player values time and money.


I don't have time for the insulting amount Dark Souls wants from me and I don't like the pubescent advertising coming with it and the lack of choices deliberately forcing me to have fun how the devs want me to have fun is frankly disgusting.

Now in comparison:
Darkest Dungeon is regarded as a tough game and I love it, but you have far more choices how you want your personal challenge to play out and the advertising is around misery and despair of your party/character not about you (the player) failing. I can play the way I want and interestingly I know what I need to have fun.

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responding to Psychotic Ninja:

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On 1 1/7/2020 at 11:12 PM, Psychotic Ninja said:

So, as a (former) speedrunner for Arkham Asylum, me throwing a remote batarang through a tiny gap in an invisible wall, to knock down the giant bell in the Manor, to skip a fairly big chunk of the game. You're telling me that's fully intentional by the devs, cause it didn't crash the game?!

no, I'm not telling you this, and I don't appreciate you putting words in my mouth. in Deus Ex episode of Game Dungeon Ross demonstrated how even doing something completely legitimate (in terms of gameplay) could break that game. the game didn't crash in either of these examples, but in both of them it's obvious that what happened wasn't intended by the devs.

responding to Konrad:

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On 11/8/2020 at 4:25 AM, Konrad said:

If he says he has more fun that way, any further discussion is over. Moot point is moot. What he looks to you doesn't matter, what you think doesn't matter - as long as he says he is having more fun in an non-ironic way, I don't even need to watch the video for that issue.

let me get this straight: observable evidence of him not having fun doesn't matter, but him saying otherwise does? this doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. now, just to be clear: I don't doubt that he had more fun after the first stream — I'm just not sure about cheats being the reason. it's more likely he enjoyed the game more simply because he wasn't streaming.

On 11/8/2020 at 4:25 AM, Konrad said:

Are you really going to tell Ross, me or anyone how we should have fun or spend our time, really?

Are you telling us we are having fun wrong?
Are you sure about that?

I warned him about a mistake he was making. if I was making a mistake, I'd rather have someone warn me.

On 11/8/2020 at 4:25 AM, Konrad said:

Why are you talking about what's "expected" of gamers?
Arent't we only expected to pay for a "service" rendered? Personally, I wish we would own something afterwards, but let's just pretend for the moment games are just services. Is the service advertised correctly? Does it fulfill its premise? What's its premise anyway?
Let's move along and just say that the premise: "Game is fun" is generally correct for the sake of the argument.

"expected" as part of game design. developers make different parts of the game according to what they expect players to do. that's the crux of the problem — games are not movies, and the game working properly and fulfilling its function depends on the player almost as much as on the developer. so a player can very easily ruin his own fun by making mistakes. some games are built to be idiot-proof (at least to some degree), others aren't, and the ones that are aren't always better for it, as sacrifices need to be made to accommodate players that impatient, slow to figure things out, etc. if you've ever heard about a game being "dumbed down" or "casualized", this is it. Ross points some of this out in his reviews of Deus Ex: Invisible War and Human Revolution.

 On 11/8/2020 at 4:25 AM, Konrad said:

So to answer your question: You paid for a service to entertain you, if the service doesn't deliver in a time frame you set yourself, the service failed.

this approach works for passive entertainment, but video games aren't that. imagine if somebody rented a car, but couldn't get anywhere because he didn't know how to drive. whose fault is that? the car didn't fail, and yet it didn't fulfill its function. it's like that with video games, just a lot less dangerous. here's an video on this topic:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax7f3JZJHSw

On 11/8/2020 at 4:25 AM, Konrad said:

I don't have time for the insulting amount Dark Souls wants from me and I don't like the pubescent advertising coming with it and the lack of choices deliberately forcing me to have fun how the devs want me to have fun is frankly disgusting.

the lack of time is understandable, and the fact that the game doesn't explain its mechanics better could be a legitimate criticism. but saying that the game lack's choices is pure nonsense. Dark Souls is one of the most open and free games in this regard. imagine any ridiculous way to beat this game and someone's done it. not all ways provide equal difficulty, of course, but that's what makes these choices meaningful. is it really disgusting that trying to beat the game with a broken sword and without leveling up makes it more difficult? probably not. but the same can be said about ignoring stamina and spamming buttons instead of timing them correctly. Dark Souls is not a perfect game, but *in general* it's only as hard as the player makes it for himself.

On 11/8/2020 at 4:25 AM, Konrad said:

Darkest Dungeon is regarded as a tough game and I love it, but you have far more choices how you want your personal challenge to play out and the advertising is around misery and despair of your party/character not about you (the player) failing. I can play the way I want and interestingly I know what I need to have fun.

a good game in its own right, but not a good one to compare Dark Souls to. Darkest Dungeon isn't really tough, it's just random. while there are some ways a player can mess up, even a perfect run can go horribly wrong at any moment for no reason. to put it simply, it's not a test of skill, it's a test of luck.

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5 hours ago, Arseniy Yavorśkyi said:

no, I'm not telling you this, and I don't appreciate you putting words in my mouth. in Deus Ex episode of Game Dungeon Ross demonstrated how even doing something completely legitimate (in terms of gameplay) could break that game. the game didn't crash in either of these examples, but in both of them it's obvious that what happened wasn't intended by the devs.

You didn't say that, I did. You said

 

On 11/7/2020 at 10:21 AM, Arseniy Yavorśkyi said:

no, that's literally how all games are made. it's just that some games are much better at hiding their limits than others, and some games are bad at enforcing said limits. in an RPG quest, for example, if you manage to break the expected chain of events in a way that wasn't accounted for by the devs, sometimes you don't just lose the game — it crashes, the quest gets stuck, you fall through the floor, etc. haven't you seen the Deus Ex episode of Game Dungeon?

 

Implying if a game doesn't crash, the quest doesn't get stuck, or you don't fall through the floor, etc. then the Devs fully intended for the thing to happen. So, breaking the bell in Arkham Asylum, earlier, must be intended by the devs, cause the game didn't break, and you don't lose the game. Now, while I have seen the Deus Ex episode (all of them), it's been about 4 years since I have. So, mind pointing out the moment in question? Maybe Ross did break the game in some way, and neither you or he realized it? I mean, not everything in a game is intended by the Devs. Just because it didn't break the game in an obvious way, doesn't mean it was intended. Hell, look at Test Chamber 14 in Portal. There's an exploit in the game, discovered by a game tester, that allows you to bypass the entire puzzle, and beat it using, with only two portals used. The Devs loved this so much, they kept it in. Or how about Half-Life 2: Episode 1:

 

 (11 minutes and 5 seconds in, if the timestamp isn't saved)
You know the bit were Dog shakes his head 'no', to the question "You did do the math, right?"

Yeah, totally not intended by the Devs, but they kept it in, cause it's hilarious.

 

Also, if you can't observe Ross when he said he was having more fun, then yes, you have to go by his word. It's his experience after all. Not yours, not mine, but his.  Again, you have no right to say if it's the "correct" experience, or the "most optimized" one, or "the worst one you can possibly have". You can disagree with his experience. You can be like "I don't like the way he played the game" (I certainly don't like the fact that he used cheats on his first play through). However, it's his game, his experience, and no one but him can say "This is wrong, I'm doing it differently". I honestly don't get why we're still having this "debate".

 

 

I never played Dark Souls 2. I can pick it up, follow a guide on speedrunning it, and have my first experience be speedrunning the game.

Edited by Psychotic Ninja (see edit history)
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"We don't call them loot boxes", they're 'surprise mechanics'" - EA

 

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6 hours ago, Psychotic Ninja said:

Implying if a game doesn't crash, the quest doesn't get stuck, or you don't fall through the floor, etc. then the Devs fully intended for the thing to happen. So, breaking the bell in Arkham Asylum, earlier, must be intended by the devs, cause the game didn't break, and you don't lose the game.

obviously not. I was talking about how things like these sometimes happen in RPG quests, how it can go wrong. I mentioned a specific example from Deus Ex, which is an RPG that provides its players with a lot of options, but doesn't always correctly handle every possible combination. I didn't say that's how it always happens in every game ever.

7 hours ago, Psychotic Ninja said:

Now, while I have seen the Deus Ex episode (all of them), it's been about 4 years since I have. So, mind pointing out the moment in question? Maybe Ross did break the game in some way, and neither you or he realized it?

he definitely realized it. he said: "If you try to break this game, you absolutely can." and proceeded to demonstrate how it can be done. "what if I decide to use my cyborg abilities to get over this fence", then "but it appears my new allies were a little too impatient with me", showing a clip of himself being attacked by a very large number of NPCs, which wasn't supposed to happen yet (or ever).

7 hours ago, Psychotic Ninja said:

You know the bit were Dog shakes his head 'no', to the question "You did do the math, right?"

Yeah, totally not intended by the Devs, but they kept it in, cause it's hilarious.

these are examples of design faults turned into features by the devs themselves, which is not really what we're talking about. being able to gain absurdly high speed by repeatedly jumping backwards — now that's a game-breaking exploit, and obviously not the intended way to play the game.

7 hours ago, Psychotic Ninja said:

Also, if you can't observe Ross when he said he was having more fun, then yes, you have to go by his word. It's his experience after all. Not yours, not mine, but his.  Again, you have no right to say if it's the "correct" experience, or the "most optimized" one, or "the worst one you can possibly have". You can disagree with his experience. You can be like "I don't like the way he played the game" (I certainly don't like the fact that he used cheats on his first play through). However, it's his game, his experience, and no one but him can say "This is wrong, I'm doing it differently". I honestly don't get why we're still having this "debate".

as I said, I do believe he had more fun. what I don't believe is cheats being the reason. in the second stream Ross looked like he didn't enjoy what he was doing in the slightest, and was just going through the motions. this leads me to believe it wasn't the cheats that made a difference, but instead whether he was streaming or not, as that can be stressful. I've heard very experienced players of Souls games talk about how going through the game blind, while also streaming or recording can be so stressful it's no longer fun (I specifically recall A German Spy and Rurikhan talking about this).

 

sure, Ross can decide to play how he wants. but the way he decided to play made him miss out on something very valuable and unique. now he's never going to know if it would've been worth the effort.

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Personally, I think that the debate about difficulty is actually a debate about inclusion: those championing difficulty want to keep the communities of the difficult games they enjoy a closed space for "real gamers", while those championing ease of play want those communities to welcome them despite beign unable or unwilling to invest much of their time or identity into the games in question. So ultimately, the right choice to make for a develpoer depends on the kind of community and fanbase they want. While inclusion sound like the better option, I understand the need for a community of like-minded people, so I don't think this desire is inherently toxic; after all, it mirrors that for "safe spaces".

 

Another question that's wrapped up in the Great Difficulty in Games Debate is that of Intended Play: wether games should be played as the developer intended or however the player pleases. Some of these arguments are about inclusion as well: cheating and mods that make the game easier being viewed as ways to intrude in the community of a game without having "earned" it, and about that I still think the same as above.

 

About the arguments on these subjects that are sincere, I believe in the Death of the Author, that the interpretation of a work of art is the exclusive privilege and responsibility of the audience: if the player does not understand how to engage with the game the way the developers intended, it's the developer's fault for not communicating it properly; however, if the player, knowing how the developers intended the game to be played, chooses to engage with it otherwise, wether they like the experience they get rests on their shoulders alone, and cannot be blames or praised on the developer. Mastering a deep and challenging game is a unique and powerful experience, and changing such a game to avoid the challenge is valid, but doesn't detract from the validity of going through with it: calling those who invest themselves out for any reason is like booing at a Conesseour for being knowlegeable about vintage wine, and calling out those who skip the challenge is like the same Conesseour insulting normal consumers for adding sugar to Absinthe.

 

Personally, I think making a game that requires the player to behave in a very specific manner to work correctly is faulty design: a developer should either strive to make their game engaging in as many ways as time and budget allow, and prevent those behaviours that would result in a sub-par experience, or make it as customizable as possible to let the players find their own best experience.

 

So, about Ross and Dark Souls: @Arseniy Yavorśkyi asked "Is Ross having more fun when playing with cheats like he said he is? He just looks bored and annoyed to me, more so than in the first stream."

I think he made an informed decision: he tried playing like From Software intended, and then decided he'd have more fun playing with cheats. It's tue he might have had more fun if he put in the effort to master the game, but his time, as everyone's, is limited. Not everyone can, or should, be a Conesseour. His choice does not reflect negatively on your taste.

 

If we were to actually talk about the validity of difficulty in games, without metaphor or hidden meanings, this is what I'd have to say:

 

There are four certaintities in this debate:

1) Some kinds of game require the player to rise to a challenge in order to make them experience something that would be incomunicable otherwise

2) Many players will try to make the game as easy for themselves as possible, even at the cost of their own fun (for example, by favouring safe but boring startegies to riskier but more exciting ones)

3) Difficulty is subjective

4) Difficulty can arise from errors in developement and miscommunications beteween developer and players, as well as from deliberate intention

 

Now for what I think:

 

It's important to give players some kernels of validation at regular intervals: even if a game is cultivating an atmosphere of dread and confusion, letting the player know they are on the (or at least a) right track is indispensable to keep them engaged.

A well designed game should have a learning curve that starts low, but takes only as much time as it strictly needs to bring the player to it's intended difficulty level. This is accomplished by keeping the skill floor low (at least at the beginning) and the skill ceiling high, so that a player that already knows what they're doing can skip the parts of the learnign curve they don't need.

 

This requires a relatively low complexity, which is the number of possible inputs, including wether an input can be given wrongly (for example: a dodge that has no cooldown and keeps you invulnerable for it's entire duration has almost no complexity, while a dodge that has limited invincibility farames and a cooldown is more complex) but great depth, that is to say, a great number of possible outcomes (for example, an attack that locks you into the animation without being able to do anything else is shallow, but one that allows you to turn during the animation, altering the trajectory of you hitbox, is deep).

 

If you think about the most acclaimed game swith high difficulty, you'll realize that they always give the player milestones and feedback to encourage them even as they put them through the grinder, and ramp up the challenge instead of presenting a wall.

 

Achieving this equilibrium can can be very difficult for the developer for certain genres, or if they lack time or budget, but in my opinion a game should only be as difficult as can be accomplished while respecting these precepts: if you can't make a game that's difficult in an engaging way, make it easier and better, instead of requiring the player to get past your bullshit

 

 

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On 11/10/2020 at 1:00 AM, Arseniy Yavorśkyi said:

responding to Psychotic Ninja:

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no, I'm not telling you this, and I don't appreciate you putting words in my mouth. in Deus Ex episode of Game Dungeon Ross demonstrated how even doing something completely legitimate (in terms of gameplay) could break that game. the game didn't crash in either of these examples, but in both of them it's obvious that what happened wasn't intended by the devs.

responding to Konrad:

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l[...] Damn this formatting system is sucki sucki big timey... Ooph

Let's do this quote thing differently but more approachable for me:

"image.png.79b23c2e161525668a6ef59a51dc4c7c.png"

What you rather would is not part of the debate. It's not your place to say these things.

 

"image.thumb.png.ab6e275d1146adf38c4866da4c90ef0b.png"
Your example isn't working. When you rent a car you have to proof that you can drive it (show actual driving license). It is absolutely clear what you are supposed to do with it. Besides there are clear regulations and government sanctioned rules how to handle cars on state-owned roads. What you do with your own car on your private property is mostly your business. Personally, I wish videogames were clearer about what clients they want cater to oh and I wished that they would be heavily regulated and that there would be more standards and less idiots around, but no one listens to me anyway. But game publishers, especially the big ones are the ones who want to *sell as much as possible* so if they can attract a broader audience they will try that. So yeah. Your car example shows how wrong this is and how they basically sell lies to their customers to sell more. It's like some car dealer selling your blind grandma a car and your dog, even though they are fully aware that it's not meant for those people.

Because videogames and some noisey, inappropriate demographic of players.

image.thumb.png.97fd9a10ea5849f91e5ad51204ad9d41.png

Nope, not the point I made. Games (and Game developers) who treat me disrespectfully can go ffff-them selves. If the game doesn't provide me with the tools to have fun it failed its purpose. Not enough choices for me. End of story. Dark Souls is an excellent example for that.
image.thumb.png.582e5454563d9dc704584d2f0252b961.png
I don't know what you are talking about. I played over 150 hours of Darkest Dungeon backing up my saves, circumventing the shitty rogue-like bit of the game only to have needed to revert to a former save 5 times, maybe. That's one reload per 30 hours. Wow, I wish other games would manage that. And mostly because I wasn't paying attention, or misclicked, so for me it never felt like a test of luck at all. I would have told you to get gud but then I wouldn't be any better than those infantile anal-rententive dark soul-tards, so probably I just had a very very lucky 150 hours with Darkest Dungeon and you just had really bad luck at that game. Sucks to be you, man. You have my sympathies.
 

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Didn't read other posts, just reacting to OP.

 

Difficulty is not the only thing that matters in whether or not player has fun. Some players just don't like certain games even when the difficulty is just right.
It all boils down to why player plays the game. For most people it is to have fun. If they don't have fun and are not willing to give it another chance then it's perfectly fine to just move on. I think it is very rare for someone to suddenly love a game after they hated it for first few hours in. Even then, there is a ton of games now, every one of us is missing out on many great ones without even realizing it, potentially missing out on one more is not worth spending hours in misery and boredom. Anyway, you should continue to point out games you like to others but don't expect them to like them too.

 

Personally, I would say an hour is good enough. If after an hour you have to push yourself to continue, just stop.

 

On difficulty itself, very hard to get it right, too big of a difference between players. Thats why both easy and hard modes are needed. Being able to change it on the fly is useful. Also, I don't like too detailed options in difficulty, new player won't know what to pick.

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On 11/17/2020 at 1:47 PM, Plegyvap said:

Didn't read other posts, just reacting to OP.

 

Difficulty is not the only thing that matters in whether or not player has fun. Some players just don't like certain games even when the difficulty is just right.
It all boils down to why player plays the game. For most people it is to have fun. If they don't have fun and are not willing to give it another chance then it's perfectly fine to just move on. I think it is very rare for someone to suddenly love a game after they hated it for first few hours in. Even then, there is a ton of games now, every one of us is missing out on many great ones without even realizing it, potentially missing out on one more is not worth spending hours in misery and boredom. Anyway, you should continue to point out games you like to others but don't expect them to like them too.

 

Personally, I would say an hour is good enough. If after an hour you have to push yourself to continue, just stop.

 

On difficulty itself, very hard to get it right, too big of a difference between players. Thats why both easy and hard modes are needed. Being able to change it on the fly is useful. Also, I don't like too detailed options in difficulty, new player won't know what to pick.

I've seen so many people say shit like "it gets good after hour 15!"

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1 hour ago, centersolace said:

I've seen so many people say shit like "it gets good after hour 15!"

Yeah, if I have to sit through 15 hours of boredom or pain, I'd rather not experience the "this is not bad" feeling the rest gives.

Don't insult me. I have trained professionals to do that.

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17 hours ago, BTGBullseye said:

Yeah, if I have to sit through 15 hours of boredom or pain, I'd rather not experience the "this is not bad" feeling the rest gives.

Even worse is when a game is good at the start but has moments of slough in the middle or end which kills ideas of replaying the game.

"I don't trust a man that doesn't have something strange going on about him, cause that means he's hiding it from you. If a man's wearing his pants on his head or if he says his words backwards from time to time, you know it's all laid out there for you. But if he's friendly to strangers and keeps his home spick-and-span, more often than not he's done something even his own ma couldn't forgive." -No-bark Noonan

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11 hours ago, Icebox said:

Even worse is when a game is good at the start but has moments of slough in the middle or end which kills ideas of replaying the game.

*cough* Okami *cough*

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@kerdios

greetings. so, I finally watched Joseph Anderson's videos on Dark Souls. I have to admit, a lot of the issues he discussed often get overlooked by fans, and I'm somewhat guilty of that too. I mostly agree with his point of view, with two major exceptions:

1) in my opinion, recycling bosses as regular enemies is NOT fine. it's bullshit when other games do it, and it's bullshit when Dark Souls does it. it doesn't make you feel stronger, it just devalues the weight of the original encounter.

2) I don't think that Dark Souls story is absent, nonsensical, or lacks a solid base. there are gaps, sometimes big gaps in its story and lore, but once you collect enough pieces of the puzzle, putting them together is trivial.

sadly, the things he talked about in the videos don't really explain what happened to Ross when he played this game. in his critique he never touched on anything even remotely related to what Ross had a problem with. or maybe he did, but we don't know for sure because Ross gave up too quickly.

Edited by Arseniy Yavorśkyi (see edit history)

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responding to @StrixLiterata:

Spoiler

 

On 11/10/2020 at 5:00 PM, StrixLiterata said:

Personally, I think that the debate about difficulty is actually a debate about inclusion: those championing difficulty want to keep the communities of the difficult games they enjoy a closed space for "real gamers", while those championing ease of play want those communities to welcome them despite beign unable or unwilling to invest much of their time or identity into the games in question. So ultimately, the right choice to make for a develpoer depends on the kind of community and fanbase they want. While inclusion sound like the better option, I understand the need for a community of like-minded people, so I don't think this desire is inherently toxic; after all, it mirrors that for "safe spaces".

I find such notion to be utterly ridiculous. let me assure you: this has nothing to do with keeping people out. have you ever met a gamer who'd want less people to enjoy the game he likes? I haven't. and "safe spaces"? that's just absurd. I don't see how I, or anyone else, could feel threatened by sharing a passion for a game with more people. I enjoy challenging games precisely because they're not "safe spaces" — because they challenge my ego, instead of placating it.

On 11/10/2020 at 5:00 PM, StrixLiterata said:

Another question that's wrapped up in the Great Difficulty in Games Debate is that of Intended Play: wether games should be played as the developer intended or however the player pleases. Some of these arguments are about inclusion as well: cheating and mods that make the game easier being viewed as ways to intrude in the community of a game without having "earned" it, and about that I still think the same as above.

the only people who brag about beating a game with cheats are "journalists" that have a vested interest in the matter. more on this in the video from my original post.

On 11/10/2020 at 5:00 PM, StrixLiterata said:

About the arguments on these subjects that are sincere, I believe in the Death of the Author, that the interpretation of a work of art is the exclusive privilege and responsibility of the audience: if the player does not understand how to engage with the game the way the developers intended, it's the developer's fault for not communicating it properly; however, if the player, knowing how the developers intended the game to be played, chooses to engage with it otherwise, wether they like the experience they get rests on their shoulders alone, and cannot be blames or praised on the developer. Mastering a deep and challenging game is a unique and powerful experience, and changing such a game to avoid the challenge is valid, but doesn't detract from the validity of going through with it: calling those who invest themselves out for any reason is like booing at a Conesseour for being knowlegeable about vintage wine, and calling out those who skip the challenge is like the same Conesseour insulting normal consumers for adding sugar to Absinthe.

 

Personally, I think making a game that requires the player to behave in a very specific manner to work correctly is faulty design: a developer should either strive to make their game engaging in as many ways as time and budget allow, and prevent those behaviours that would result in a sub-par experience, or make it as customizable as possible to let the players find their own best experience.

well, this isn't really about the blame. it's about value. if a game is good, then cheating ruins it. if the game is so bad that the intended gameplay is not worth preserving, then there's no point in spending time on it in any capacity.

On 11/10/2020 at 5:00 PM, StrixLiterata said:

So, about Ross and Dark Souls: @Arseniy Yavorśkyi asked "Is Ross having more fun when playing with cheats like he said he is? He just looks bored and annoyed to me, more so than in the first stream."

I think he made an informed decision: he tried playing like From Software intended, and then decided he'd have more fun playing with cheats. It's tue he might have had more fun if he put in the effort to master the game, but his time, as everyone's, is limited. Not everyone can, or should, be a Conesseour.

except the way he explained his decision to cheat proves that the decision was not informed. he based it on incorrect assumptions about the rest of the game — that it would just be him bashing his head against the wall forever. in Dark Souls, the first few hours are always the hardest — because the player is learning the basics. and Ross? when he started playing, he was already doing better than most. if he persistent, he'd have no problem beating the rest of the game legitimately, I'm sure of it.

On 11/10/2020 at 5:00 PM, StrixLiterata said:

There are four certaintities in this debate:

1) Some kinds of game require the player to rise to a challenge in order to make them experience something that would be incomunicable otherwise

2) Many players will try to make the game as easy for themselves as possible, even at the cost of their own fun (for example, by favouring safe but boring startegies to riskier but more exciting ones)

3) Difficulty is subjective

4) Difficulty can arise from errors in developement and miscommunications beteween developer and players, as well as from deliberate intention

I agree with this wholeheartedly. in fact, the first two points seem to reflect what I've been getting at this whole time. but, judging by what's been said in this discussion so far, these things aren't as obvious or clear-cut as one might presume.

On 11/10/2020 at 5:00 PM, StrixLiterata said:

It's important to give players some kernels of validation at regular intervals: even if a game is cultivating an atmosphere of dread and confusion, letting the player know they are on the (or at least a) right track is indispensable to keep them engaged.

A well designed game should have a learning curve that starts low, but takes only as much time as it strictly needs to bring the player to it's intended difficulty level. This is accomplished by keeping the skill floor low (at least at the beginning) and the skill ceiling high, so that a player that already knows what they're doing can skip the parts of the learnign curve they don't need.

 

This requires a relatively low complexity, which is the number of possible inputs, including wether an input can be given wrongly (for example: a dodge that has no cooldown and keeps you invulnerable for it's entire duration has almost no complexity, while a dodge that has limited invincibility farames and a cooldown is more complex) but great depth, that is to say, a great number of possible outcomes (for example, an attack that locks you into the animation without being able to do anything else is shallow, but one that allows you to turn during the animation, altering the trajectory of you hitbox, is deep).

I agree with this too, except for the last example. from personal experience, unlocked attack animations feel atrocious, and I don't see how removing the necessity for tactical thinking when choosing the initial attack direction makes the mechanic less deep.

On 11/10/2020 at 5:00 PM, StrixLiterata said:

If you think about the most acclaimed game swith high difficulty, you'll realize that they always give the player milestones and feedback to encourage them even as they put them through the grinder, and ramp up the challenge instead of presenting a wall.

sometimes players see walls where there are none. here's common story: I remember playing Sekiro and having a really hard time, only to later realize that I wasn't playing the game properly. I was stuck in my "Dark Souls ways", relying too much on dodging, while parrying was the primary defense mechanic in many of the encounters. some people refuse to accept the fact that they were wrong — they refuse to learn, and, thus, make the game much harder than it needs to be.

On 11/10/2020 at 5:00 PM, StrixLiterata said:

Achieving this equilibrium can can be very difficult for the developer for certain genres, or if they lack time or budget, but in my opinion a game should only be as difficult as can be accomplished while respecting these precepts: if you can't make a game that's difficult in an engaging way, make it easier and better, instead of requiring the player to get past your bullshit

I suppose that's fair — but only if challenge was never the point in the first place. surely you've been in a situation where an epic story moment is undermined by trivial difficulty of the encounter.

responding to @Konrad:

Spoiler

  

On 11/14/2020 at 4:32 AM, Konrad said:

Damn this formatting system is sucki sucki big timey... Ooph

you can quote by selecting part of the text, and then clicking on the "quote selection" button that pops up near the selection (the quote will be inserted into the current position in the editing box). to "mention" a user, type "@", then space, then part of the name, then select from a list.

On 11/14/2020 at 4:32 AM, Konrad said:

What you rather would is not part of the debate. It's not your place to say these things.

I don't think it's your place to shut me up — but here you are, trying to do it anyway. it's interesting how these things work, isn't it?

 

anyway, I said it to show that I don't have double standards. nobody is above criticism.

On 11/14/2020 at 4:32 AM, Konrad said:

Your example isn't working. When you rent a car you have to proof that you can drive it (show actual driving license). It is absolutely clear what you are supposed to do with it. Besides there are clear regulations and government sanctioned rules how to handle cars on state-owned roads. What you do with your own car on your private property is mostly your business.

not all vehicles require a driving license, but that's besides the point. what matters is that desired result was not achieved because of misuse rather than any faults of the product.

On 11/14/2020 at 4:32 AM, Konrad said:

Personally, I wish videogames were clearer about what clients they want cater to oh and I wished that they would be heavily regulated and that there would be more standards and less idiots around, but no one listens to me anyway. But game publishers, especially the big ones are the ones who want to *sell as much as possible* so if they can attract a broader audience they will try that. So yeah. Your car example shows how wrong this is and how they basically sell lies to their customers to sell more. It's like some car dealer selling your blind grandma a car and your dog, even though they are fully aware that it's not meant for those people.

misadvertisement is a real problem, no question about that. but how are games supposed to explain what type of players they're made for? you'd think a tag line such as "Prepare To Die" would work, but — no kidding — I've seen people confuse lines like these for flavor text.

On 11/14/2020 at 4:32 AM, Konrad said:

Because videogames and some noisey, inappropriate demographic of players.

I don't understand what you mean by this.

On 11/14/2020 at 4:32 AM, Konrad said:

Nope, not the point I made. Games (and Game developers) who treat me disrespectfully can go ffff-them selves. If the game doesn't provide me with the tools to have fun it failed its purpose. Not enough choices for me. End of story. Dark Souls is an excellent example for that.

Dark Souls is an example of a game which doesn't treat you as if you were a small child. it provides you with so much choices it's all too easy to screw yourself over by mistake. on the other hand, you can literally beat this game with your starting gear, naked, without leveling up, or with any other crazy setup. literally everything is possible — as long as you develop enough skill. if you still feel like this game "insults" you with lack of choices, I got bad news for you — you just can't get over the fact that you're bad at something. having the capacity to get over one's ego is a prerequisite for playing this game.

On 11/14/2020 at 4:32 AM, Konrad said:

I don't know what you are talking about. I played over 150 hours of Darkest Dungeon backing up my saves, circumventing the shitty rogue-like bit of the game only to have needed to revert to a former save 5 times, maybe. That's one reload per 30 hours. Wow, I wish other games would manage that. And mostly because I wasn't paying attention, or misclicked, so for me it never felt like a test of luck at all. I would have told you to get gud but then I wouldn't be any better than those infantile anal-rententive dark soul-tards, so probably I just had a very very lucky 150 hours with Darkest Dungeon and you just had really bad luck at that game. Sucks to be you, man. You have my sympathies.

would you look at all that foul language and those personal insults. running out of arguments, are we?

 

Edited by Arseniy Yavorśkyi (see edit history)

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@Arseniy Yavorśkyi I'm glad you answerd me.

 

7 hours ago, Arseniy Yavorśkyi said:

I find such notion to be utterly ridiculous. let me assure you: this has nothing to do with keeping people out. have you ever met a gamer who'd want less people to enjoy the game he likes? I haven't. and "safe spaces"? that's just absurd. I don't see how I, or anyone else, could feel threatened by sharing a passion for a game with more people. I enjoy challenging games precisely because they're not "safe spaces" — because they challenge my ego, instead of placating it.

About the inclusion issue, I didn't mean it as an accusation to you, but I have had the displeasure of meeting gamers and hobbyists who do want to exclude new people from their circles, and I knew if there were such people participating in this thread they would have mired it in double-speak, so I felt obligated to address them before getting to the meat of the discussion.

 

7 hours ago, Arseniy Yavorśkyi said:

well, this isn't really about the blame. it's about value. if a game is good, then cheating ruins it. if the game is so bad that the intended gameplay is not worth preserving, then there's no point in spending time on it in any capacity.

 

7 hours ago, Arseniy Yavorśkyi said:

except the way he explained his decision to cheat proves that the decision was not informed. he based it on incorrect assumptions about the rest of the game — that it would just be him bashing his head against the wall forever. in Dark Souls, the first few hours are always the hardest — because the player is learning the basics. and Ross? when he started playing, he was already doing better than most. if he persistent, he'd have no problem beating the rest of the game legitimately, I'm sure of it.

Most of what I wrote was about difficulty in general and not you or Ross specifically. Having finished Dark Souls 1 & 2 and being about halfway thorugh Bloodborne, the way I see it, in this kind of game the player doesn't really get good at the whole game at once: at first one learns the basics of how movement, stamina management and stats works, then it's almost exclusively learning the behaviour of each new kind of enemy, the layout of each new zone, and the moveset of each new weapon, but not really learning new things about the game in general. It is rewarding, but your progression is reset every time you meet something new, especially regarding enemies. You and I find it fun, but it's reasonable to dislike having your hard-earned lessons thrown in the bin.

 

7 hours ago, Arseniy Yavorśkyi said:

I agree with this too, except for the last example. from personal experience, unlocked attack animations feel atrocious

I was referring specifically to how certain thrust attacks can be turned into swipes if you're not locked onto an enemy and use the left stick to turn while the thrust happens: I've seen it used in Dark Souls III's competitive pvp, and I've learned to do it with Ludwig's Holy Blade to crowd control.

 

7 hours ago, Arseniy Yavorśkyi said:

I don't see how removing the necessity for tactical thinking when choosing the initial attack direction makes the mechanic less deep.

The encessity for tactical thinking isn't removed: there's still timing and range to consider. Also the mechanic I was referring to only works with the Lock-on turned off, so the attack isn't aimed for you.

 

7 hours ago, Arseniy Yavorśkyi said:

sometimes players see walls where there are none. here's common story: I remember playing Sekiro and having a really hard time, only to later realize that I wasn't playing the game properly. I was stuck in my "Dark Souls ways", relying too much on dodging, while parrying was the primary defense mechanic in many of the encounters. some people refuse to accept the fact that they were wrong — they refuse to learn, and, thus, make the game much harder than it needs to be.

Sekiro would have been better if there was an explicit indication that parrying should be your main defensive mechanic. You didn't refuse to learn: you weren't taught, only given negative feedback.

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On 11/27/2020 at 2:25 AM, Arseniy Yavorśkyi said:

@kerdios

greetings. so, I finally watched Joseph Anderson's videos on Dark Souls. I have to admit, a lot of the issues he discussed often get overlooked by fans, and I'm somewhat guilty of that too. I mostly agree with his point of view, with two major exceptions:

1) in my opinion, recycling bosses as regular enemies is NOT fine. it's bullshit when other games do it, and it's bullshit when Dark Souls does it. it doesn't make you feel stronger, it just devalues the weight of the original encounter.

2) I don't think that Dark Souls story is absent, nonsensical, or lacks a solid base. there are gaps, sometimes big gaps in its story and lore, but once you collect enough pieces of the puzzle, putting them together is trivial.

sadly, the things he talked about in the videos don't really explain what happened to Ross when he played this game. in his critique he never touched on anything even remotely related to what Ross had a problem with. or maybe he did, but we don't know for sure because Ross gave up too quickly.

Please excuse me, I might not fully remember all we discussed.
I hope you enjoyed watching the series.

 

The way I see it, part of the blame for what happened to Ross was because he didn't seem to actually want to play rather than it felt he was being coerced by the viewers, and to boot, a large portion of the stream (not necessarily more than 50%)  just wanted to see him getting frustrated (and he probably picked up on that).


Then in the character selection he was pushed to pick a tank, when from all I've seen the best characters are the mages and the game in general is punishing against tankers and relies more heavily on dodging, this exacerbated the feeling of, "eh, these guys are just trying to get a laugh at his expense". (tankers are punished by rolling slowly (with armor on), shield cooldowns, shield/armor piercing damage, and the limit on estes flasks is harder on tankers that are traditionally supposed to soak damage and not avoid it).


Knowing that was his mood, and knowing the game doesn't explain well system mechanics (the best example is the mechanic with the humanity and the kindling increasing the estes flasks, which I myself, after reading the wiki, am still not sure how works) the active viewers (if they really wanted to see him enjoy himself) should have explained system mechanics more in depth and prepare him to the gatcha moments like the bridge dragon and the capra demon.
However the active viewers still came with a mentality of "let him figure it all out by himself" until he dies several times and shows enough frustration to have a laugh and only then explain to him how to proceed, and since he didn't really want to play it in the first place (at least that's what it seemed to me from the video) , it was easy for him to just quit after 2 hours of basically grinding the same path over and over with near 0 plot and stat advancement. Howcome no one suggested, hey you know what? Why don't you take this opportunity to just grind stats a bit more instead of rushing the boss over and over to no avail? At least that would have preserved some sort of feeling of accomplishment and not having to lose all of the collected stuff to random mobs or to the boss time and time again.

On another note, Joseph is actually a supporter of the challenging difficulty in games as opposed to Ross which is why I thought you'd like seeing his videos, however one of the things I did notice that aligned between what Ross and Joseph said was the bad design of the crystal drop after the duke's archives, they basically both say the same thing, the design is boring and confusing  (although Anderson says there are just dragonflies in the depths but Ross also encounters golems/elementals , were those added in the remaster?), and Ross just takes it an extra level by save "scumming" (not sure if what he did counts as such, but close enough) in order to avoid the repetition of going through the library to reach the entrance to the drop.

I'm sorry if this seems disjointed, I've been interrupted both mentally and physically, many times, while trying to write this and I'm not particularly good at expressing myself even at normal circumstances.

edit: one more thing, you could see from Ross's struggle with the inventory the merit of what Joseph said regarding having the player start unequipped and then prompted to equip the default armor himslef slightly later after he sees the base ability of the character and being able to understand how armor affects it after being equipped. (although a skip option should be added for newgame+)

 

Another thing that shows that Ross was not likely to enjoy dark souls was the respawning mechanic, that although I agree with Anderson that it fits very well thematically (and his other praises that I don't remember now), we heard Ross griping in many videos how when he clears a room it should stay cleared and having all enemies respawn whenever he reaches a checkpoint was clearly affecting the way he was playing the game and actively avoiding checkpoints.

Edited by kerdios (see edit history)

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On 11/27/2020 at 2:54 PM, kerdios said:

what happened to Ross was because he didn't seem to actually want to play rather than it felt he was being coerced by the viewers

this may be the case. I didn't think about it this way, but he did say he was "ought to get the Dark Souls experience". what a shame it turned out this way.

On 11/27/2020 at 2:54 PM, kerdios said:

Then in the character selection he was pushed to pick a tank, when from all I've seen the best characters are the mages and the game in general is punishing against tankers and relies more heavily on dodging, this exacerbated the feeling of, "eh, these guys are just trying to get a laugh at his expense". (tankers are punished by rolling slowly (with armor on), shield cooldowns, shield/armor piercing damage, and the limit on estes flasks is harder on tankers that are traditionally supposed to soak damage and not avoid it).

playing ranged characters is easier, and the game often expects the player to have a ranged weapon of some kind, but I have to say — it's not necessarily the most fun way to play. in fact, I'd say playing as a sorcerer is mind-numbingly boring. there are not a lot of spells, and 90% of offensive ones work exactly the same way.

 

as for the chat pushing for a Knight character — this advice is not bad, since most players struggle with avoiding damage at the beginning anyway. aside from basic damage reduction, heavy armor also prevents flinching from enemy attacks, so the player doesn't get stunlocked by some combos. the thing is that wearing heavy armor requires speccing into Endurance (to prevent fat-rolling), which Ross didn't fully understand.

On 11/27/2020 at 2:54 PM, kerdios said:

Why don't you take this opportunity to just grind stats a bit more instead of rushing the boss over and over to no avail? At least that would have preserved some sort of feeling of accomplishment and not having to lose all of the collected stuff to random mobs or to the boss time and time again.

the game is actually designed to work this way. if the player dies while traversing the area, he can get back to the dropped souls and get back what was lost (unless he dies before reaching them). as a result, the player will naturally accumulate more souls, so he can level up and get stronger while trying to beat the area and/or the boss. however, Ross didn't grasp this and neglected to spend the souls he got from failed boss attempts, and ended up losing most of them.

On 11/27/2020 at 2:54 PM, kerdios said:

what Ross and Joseph said was the bad design of the crystal drop after the duke's archives, they basically both say the same thing, the design is boring and confusing  (although Anderson says there are just dragonflies in the depths but Ross also encounters golems/elementals , were those added in the remaster?), and Ross just takes it an extra level by save "scumming" (not sure if what he did counts as such, but close enough) in order to avoid the repetition of going through the library to reach the entrance to the drop.

Remastered version doesn't add any new enemies. what Anderson meant to say is that the player doesn't have to fight the butterflies *as opposed to* other monsters in that area.

 

funnily enough, Ross's invincibility and one-hit-kill cheats didn't help him in a poorly-designed part of the game.

On 11/27/2020 at 2:54 PM, kerdios said:

I'm sorry if this seems disjointed, I've been interrupted both mentally and physically, many times, while trying to write this and I'm not particularly good at expressing myself even at normal circumstances.

don't worry about it. your writing is perfectly fine, compared to some of the utterly-maniacal stuff I had to read in this thread.

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