Author Topic: Are Games Crippled By Easy Modes?  (Read 1692 times)

Venks

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Are Games Crippled By Easy Modes?
« on: January 02, 2014, 05:17:16 am »


When you start up some games for the first time you have a very important decision to make (once you've passed the loading screens and company logos). What difficulty to play on? Take it easy and make your way through the story? Or play it on hard to truly challenge yourself?

A rose by any other difficulty would smell as sweet?



Rayman games are known, by the few people who play them, for their difficult platforming. Many platformers allow you to jump at various heights depending on how long you hold the button down, but Rayman is one of the games that will send you to the game over screen if you use your high jumps too frequently.
For a long time, in games, it has been a common principle that there needs to be obstacles for the player to overcome. By learning the rules of a game and honing their abilities, players can surpass any challenge.
But what if there is no challenge?

The original Final Fantasy XIII, which I wish was the last story of its saga, was the worst game I think I've ever played in my entire life. And I've played Barbie Super Model for the Super Nintendo.
In an attempt to make the game more accessible to new gamers, Square Enix cut out practically everything that makes a RPG a RPG. There are essentially no NPCs to talk to in the game, the bulk of exploration takes place in narrow hall ways, and each character only has three stats. The only thing the game has going for it is that its probably the most aesthetically pleasant game on the PlayStation 3. The lack of challenge and depth left me completely appalled and keeps me hesitant from trying newer titles in the Final Fantasy franchise.



There are games without challenge that I find myself able to enjoy. Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing are both games that I enjoy even though I don't have to dodge bullet fire.
These games do a wonderful job at presenting unique themes, introducing interesting characters, and placing the player in a role that generally can't be found in other games. In Animal Crossing I found myself really enjoying coming across the random villagers that made up my neighbors. These creatures all have their own odd behaviors and choice of words.
I could tell the game had a powerful hold over me when one of my favorite neighbors had moved away to a friend's town. I was so sad to see her go, but as an awesome last gesture she had sent me a letter along with a piece of furniture. That piece of furniture just so happened to complete the set I was going for. I couldn't of asked for a better memento to remember my virtual friend.

Master Of Your Own Destiny



The white tanooki suit in Super Mario 3D World seems to be generating some distaste amongst 'retro' gamers. For those of you who don't know, the white tanooki suit is an item that appears after dying multiple times in a row within the same level. The item makes you invincible from enemies and spikes that would normally knock you out. The complaint I see the most is that people who beat levels using the white tanooki suit didn't 'earn' their victory. I honestly look at this as a very out dated line of thinking.
Back in the NES days there were a lot of very difficult games. Not everyone wants to spend hours upon hours learning the exact positioning and timing required for intense platforming moments. In today's age of gaming, developers try their best to make their games as accessible as possible so players of any skill level can have fun.
A very young player might get frustrated with a particular difficult challenge and the white tanooki suit is there to assist him. A more patient player who finds themselves failing a few too many times will also see the white tanooki suit appear, but by no means is the item mandatory. If you prefer the challenge and want to learn from your mistakes you can ignore the power-up and focus on the problems ahead. It's simply a choice for you to make.

It's not always apparent to most players, but ignoring certain items is a great way to ramp up the difficulty if it fits your fancy. I've yet to try a 'No Mushroom' run of a Mario game, but I have tried the 'Three Heart Challenge' in Zelda and 'Minimum Level' boss fights in Kingdom Hearts II. By keeping my health low in one game and my experience down in another, I'm able to turn simple hindrances into nightmare inducing spawns of true evil.
Player created challenges like these really require you to learn the ins and outs of the mechanics of the game. A single missed dodge or mistimed attack can be your last. This maybe exactly what you're looking for if you feel you need more challenge from your games.

Pick Your Poison



Now some developers literally have you choose between modes of difficulty. Far too few games actually change the game in meaningful ways when you choose a difficulty setting. More times then not the game merely alters a few values such as damage and health.
I really enjoyed playing Tomb Raider with my partner in love and crime. When ever she was silly enough to put the controller down I'd steal it for myself and shoot some arrows through some unsuspecting hats. I eventually decided to give the game a go by my lonesome on the hard difficulty. It took me quite some time to figure out what the changes were. I was really hoping for end game enemies and attack patterns to turn up early alongside new threats. Much to my dismay the only differences I could note were my opponents dealt more damage and had more health.
Having already played the game a bit I was more then accustomed to dodging molotov cocktails and enemy projectiles. Increasing the damage of these attacks literally has no effect on me since the attacks are unable to land. I'm no Robin Hood but I was having no problem aiming for instant kills with my bow and arrow. Increased health, or not, a killing blow is a killing blow. Even on hard mode action scenes felt too easy and had become repetitive.



Then we have the beautiful game Catherine. This game has you climbing up a tower of blocks as it slowly collapses. You have to utilize several block pushing/pulling techniques in order to ascend. Trick blocks and annoying fellow climbers will slow you down as the tower seems to collapse that much faster.
If puzzles aren't your strong suit I heavily suggest playing it on easy. This game is definitely one of the more challenging ones made now a days. Rather then just changing the amount of time you have to climb the block towers, the difficulty settings actually have their own puzzles. The techniques you have to employ in order to rise from one level to the next change with each difficulty setting.
I really wish more games had differing content between modes. Not that I'd cheat on Catherine to be with them. That would be would be wrong.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2014, 05:50:58 am by Venks »

tripehound

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Re: Are Games Crippled By Easy Modes?
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2014, 11:15:17 pm »
Quote
What difficulty to play on? Take it easy and make your way through the story? Or play it on hard to truly challenge yourself?

It depends on the game, and how well I know the material. With titles that introduce new methods of playing, or a new structure; I'll start with one of the easier settings, and crank it up as I deem it necessary. It's like training wheels on a bicycle: once I get the hang of it, I'll ditch the hand-holding.

Afterwards, I'll try to strike a balance between outright difficulty and casual enjoyment. I like the game to pressure me just enough to keep me interested, but not so much that I hit an impasse because I'm repeating the same segment multiple times. Make me have to try for it, but don't put the goal on top of an unreachable pedestal.

I play on whatever settings allow me to have the most fun with it. With the vast number of genres, playstyles, mechanics, and whatnot, it's a case-by-case basis as to where that setting falls.

Ramsus

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Re: Are Games Crippled By Easy Modes?
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2014, 10:04:47 am »
This is where good achievements really shine. Imagine getting an achievement for beating a game in one session without saving or dying, or beating a game under a certain level or without using certain items. These are things we can now have show up on online profiles. Too bad most games have mostly meaningless achievements.

Satoh

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Re: Are Games Crippled By Easy Modes?
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2014, 01:42:58 pm »
I think I'm sort of on the fence with what Venks said...

I like a game that can be fully experienced on any difficulty, but at the same time I don't like it when a game tries to shove hints and ridiculous powerups in my face so I'll "JUST HURRY UP AND FINISH THE AREA ALREADY."

I'm that weird sort of gamer who can play a game well enough without cheating, but gets little to no satisfaction from it because the real challenge isn't in breaking minor rules like "use this powerup for this type of puzzle" but in fact breaking the laws of physics by "using the powerup that was removed from the game."

I'm the type of person who creates my own difficulty curve as I like. If I feel like a challenge, I change a few values and make things harder. In some games in fact I've even decided that having party members is a serious crutch, and then removed all their data from the savegame, making it a truly solo crawl.
(You'd be surprised how much unbalanced difficulty a solo Ayla run of CT is. It all seems fine when you start out at level 15 with a healing move... but then you realize you have to find a way to cheese magical enemies without actually having magic...)

I'm ALSO the kind of gamer who loads up a game on any difficulty and plays through with infinite stats on all characters because I only feel like witnessing the story.

Of course in newer games all of these things are increasingly difficult to do because the hacking itself as well as the method behind it are harder to come by, AND the fact that modern games have only about a tenth (1/10) of the content older games had, meaning there's really less to do no matter what difficulty you choose, make, or are stuck with.

Easy mode doesn't cripple a game, easy GAMES cripple themselves. Even when all it is is stat modding, easy and hard modes add to the experience of the game.
However, my opinion of difficulty mode controlled -content- is a bit difficult.
I don't like being punished, and denied content, simply because I'm not NEShard-core. (Likewise, not everything can be cheated). I like having more content, but I don't like it being locked away behind a wall of some kind.

Making a unique story for HELL mode on a game is cool, but it may as well be the same thing as making a unique story for expensive DLC... Neither HELL mode nor paid DLC are worth the time and effort. That is, the ends don't justify the means.

One thing people forget is that a game can have incredibly fun gameplay, WITHOUT difficulty in the traditional sense. Some action RPGs are fun to play not because they're hard or the plot is great (which the ones I'm thinking of do have entertaining plots, but anyway) the combat system itself is fun.

Even when you cannot. Literally. CAN. NOT... lose a battle, it is still fun in these games. Because you ARE in control, and you ARE doing really cool things.

Super Press Space to Win Adventure probably isn't very fun. It isn't because it isn't hard enough... its because you don't really have any control over what happens.

Control is why we play. We want to DO, not just watch. (that said, quick-time-vents can go screw themselves. They are bad gaming. Don't do it anymore. Please. They're just press space to win, but more frequently, and during scenes I'd probably enjoy more if they WERE video.)

Another note, as an aside, is mandatory minigames. They suck. Minigames are cool, its something to do other than the same ol' same ol,' but the problem is that they also require a skill that the player isn't necessarily going to have, or even want. That is, when I boot up an RPG, my thoughts don't wander to "Y'know, this game could use more RACING SIM, or BOXING GAME, or FOOTBALL, or WIN THIS CARD TOURNEY." See... if you had all of those in the game as options, that would be pretty cool.... but if you HAVE to become an expert at them to progress... well you've interrupted our regularly scheduled boxing match with an impromptu hockey game. No one expects or even wants that. Both end with bloody players, but in the end you paid for boxing and had to sit through a bunch of ice skating.

Minigames should be one of two things... Integrated with the game proper so they become a feature, (and not just a RECURRING minigame, but actually something you do during the normal gameplay) or they should be optional.

FF7's bike chase is a classic mandatory minigame... and much as I love it, I hated it the first time, because I couldn't clear it and move on with the game, because my health which carried over from the minigame, was dangerously low for the immediate boss fight thereafter. It was excellent player-involved storytelling, but it was terrible gameplay execution.

The bike race in Chrono Trigger isn't really HARD, but it is long, sort of boring, and you need to be pretty careful at the end and can still lose if you happen to be in the wrong part of ping-pong acceleration mechanics which sort of haphazardly push one character in front of the other.
Its somewhat satisfying to win the race, but I'd say its more satisfying because you don't have to walk and hear Johnny be an ass to you, rather than you feel like you accomplished anything.

Now, while it is mandatory to do it at least once, you can walk across the map after.... except that you're actually punished for doing so, by placing large numbers of enemies with large amounts of health in your way. No matter what you do to pass through this one area, the game is determined to punish you for still playing.

Anyway, it isn't the "easy mode" that makes the game worse, its taking away control from the player.
That's my longwinded feeling.

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Re: Are Games Crippled By Easy Modes?
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2014, 06:37:58 pm »
I actually found it intuitive that Nintendo offered you a "win button" with some of their recent games. Especially since you don't actually have to use it.

I agree with Satoh too: the times where they take control away from the player are stupid. Especially QTE's.