Monday, 1 August 2011

The Difficulties of Difficulty

Big post, but if I'm going to rant about videogames, here's a good a place as anywhere to do it. Here goes, internet!

It’s been my little project for the last few vacations to complete Halo Reach on the hardest difficulty by myself, for a cool 275 gamerscore. I’m just over halfway through, and progress thus far has involved dying an awful lot, moving through the campaign inch by inch. And this is confusing- aren’t the Spartans meant to be genetically modified indestructible super-soldiers, whose very presence inspires hope in his allies, and fear in his enemies? And yet, here I am, hiding behind a brick wall, because if I pop my head out to take a shot, I’ll be decapitated faster than you can say “This does not make sense!”

Yet another, more glaring problem is that making games harder by giving you less health is that it’s just dull and frustrating. For the most part, a hard difficulty run is a playthrough of a game that has already been completed, thus meaning the player is familiar with the surroundings. However, at the moment, all the harder difficulty means is that you spend more time either respawning, or analysing the excellent textures of the cover you’re using. It’s not offering you a new experience, or challenging you to employ all the skills you gained the first time round. Instead, it’s just an exercise in how many times you can throw yourself at a room of enemies until you load the next checkpoint.

And this has been the case since the dawn of gaming, when harder difficulties meant less health, fewer continues, and it’s an all-round archaic and outdated system. Personally, I feel that innovation in this field needs to move away from making the player weaker and less effective, to steepening the challenge the game presents. This could be as simple as adding more enemies, decreasing the amount of ammo dropped or making headshots count for more, in order to make gameplay more deliberate and considered, whilst not being outright frustrating.

Timesplitters on the PS2 had an excellent mechanic in which harder difficulties not only meant less health, but extra objectives, leading to extra experiences and challenges. I feel this could be taken further, by actually modifying the levels in the game, to give the player positional disadvantage in a firefight, as well as causing lack of familiarity with the environment, making the game more challenging. The AI could even be altered, making the enemies more aggressive, ready to flank and rush, and present a sterner challenge to the player. Also, the allied AI could be made nervier, so that the player also gains the experience of leading an army into battle, instead of hiding behind them because to rush in would spell certain death.

Needless to say, there are players that relish the challenge that harder difficulties currently bring, but I for one find them find them too repetitive and frustrating to rival the enjoyment I got from the first, easier playthrough. It’s basically the gamerscore and bragging rights that get me through the slogs of top-difficulty gaming.

Thank you for your time guys, tune in to see our attempt at magicka. And with my router problems, this could be very interesting.

No comments:

Post a Comment