#1 Edited by Seppli (10250 posts) -

I'm currently replaying Skyrim with a new character in order to play the few questlines I haven't completed yet in my initial playthrough. It reminded me of how badly Bethesda Softworks handles difficulty in their open world RPG games, and made me think of more successful examples.

Batman: Arkham City has to be one of the most accomplished examples in regards of difficulty scaling. I've yet to tackle it in earnestness, but from what I've seen of it so far, its NG+ and higher difficulty settings are nothing short of astoundingly well-made. Essentially Rocksteady has redesigned and rebalanced every encounter in the entire game for NG+, adding more and more diverse enemies to every single fight in the game, whilst only moderately tweaking their attributes. Ontop of that, it has removed all the HUD indicators, forcing players to properly read their foes on their own, and *feel* and anticipate their next moves, much like the real Batman would. Now that's a great example of accomplished difficulty scaling!

I find the willy nilly increase of statistical attributes, of things like damage values and survivability stats, as seems to be the case in all of Bethesdas open world RPGs, and many other games, to be lazy. There are proper ways of doing these things, and I think we, the core gamers seeking tightly balanced gameplay experiences and challenges, deserve better than that. I believe developers have to strive for the hardest possible even and fair playexperience for their gameplay mechanics, and scale the game down for easier difficulty, rather than the opposite approach. That would alleviate much of these problems from the get-go, and make retro-active difficulty scaling a cakewalk. Smart production procedure.

Have you got any good examples of accomplished difficulty scaling? Of how to do it right, rather than lazily cranking up the attribute sliders?

#2 Edited by JasonR86 (9728 posts) -

Portal 1 and 2 come to mind. At the beginning of each of those games I would have never imagined I would be doing the things I was doing at the end of those games. But they developed those games in such a way that I was able to accomplish those tasks without feeling overwhelmed.

#3 Edited by mwng (956 posts) -

Didn't left 4 dead attempt to screw you over more if you were doing well? Unsure how well it worked, as I wasn't exactly great at it.

#4 Edited by Seppli (10250 posts) -

As far as smart production procedure goes. Do you think (or know, if you work in the field), that good gameplay designers first build *challenge rooms*, as seen in Rocksteady's Batman games, or Koji Pro's Metal Gear Solid games? To first finetune and hone their designs and mechanics, and come up with interesting and meaningful ways of gameplay progression and difficulty scaling?

I bet that's how the best in the biz go about it. First build a meaningful progression of 100 challenge rooms, then translate that into a proper game.

#5 Edited by Nottle (1915 posts) -

Vanquish and Bayonetta are the two that come to mind. Bayonetta makes enemies that show up later show up sooner to give you more of a challenge earlier on, also the telegraphing of enemies attacks are reduced to the point where they attack without warning and on the hardest difficulty you no longer have witch time activated by dodging so you have to resort to new tactics and items.

Vanquish makes enemies more aggressive but Sam isn't some clunky asshole so you learn how to adapt to the new challenges.

Halo was also pretty good.

The thing devs should never do is just make enemies have more health.

#6 Posted by ImmortalSaiyan (4702 posts) -

God Hand and Ninja Gaiden black are both excellent examples on how to handle this. In the former the game will adjust to how well you are playing and balance the challenge accordingly. In Ninja Gaiden Black each new difficulty has brand new enemies, bosses, item placement and so on. Making it feel fresh and actually requiring you to be a better player.

#7 Edited by mellotronrules (1250 posts) -

@jasonr86 said:

Portal 1 and 2 come to mind. At the beginning of each of those games I would have never imagined I would be doing the things I was doing at the end of those games. But they developed those games in such a way that I was able to accomplish those tasks without feeling overwhelmed.

absolutely- there's a subtle brilliance to the portal games. it's one thing to design a difficult game- but it's another thing entirely to design a difficult game, and then incrementally teach the player how to beat it.

#8 Edited by GERALTITUDE (3507 posts) -

There are some really great examples here of good difficulty scaling but, to go back to the OP...

Comparing difficulty scaling in Ninja Gaiden, Portal, Vanquish, Halo, Bayonetta or Batman to a game like Skyrim is... madness. The sheer amount of calculated variables (class builds in combinations with skills, items, weapons and armor) in Skyrim probably outnumber many of these games combined. None of the posters said "Hey, these are better than Skyrim!" but to really answer the question I think we need to find a more similar game to the one in question. Nearly every single game mentioned so far has stock protagonists whose abilities will barely differ from player to player: the developers know what the player can do (action list) at any given moment, and that action list is relatively short compared to ESV.

Right now, I can't think of an RPG the same size as Skyrim (rare enough) that did scaling better... other than, I guess, Morrowind. I can't remember Oblivion well enough to say...

Don't be so hard on Skyrim. Yeah, I wish it would work better, but calling it lazy is, you know, unfair. Theoretically, I agree with you about development starting with a super hard game and scaling it down, but this is way easier said then done, especially with something like Elder Scrolls, where you cannot count on players having the same abilities, weapons or statistics.

#9 Posted by Veektarius (5024 posts) -

@nottle said:

The thing devs should never do is just make enemies have more health.

The worst example I can think of this was in Dragon Age 2. Some of the boss fights in that game on hard take forever.

#10 Edited by Morbid_Coffee (955 posts) -

I haven't played the full version, but Etrian Odyssey IV's casual vs normal mode does a really good job of this. Instead of making the game easier or give enemies more health, the game stays exactly the same. The only difference is on casual mode, death just warps you back to town rather than make you lose all progress gained, and you have an infinite supply of escape items so you don't have to spend 100 gold every time you exit the dungeon.

Easy modes should just give a player a more convenient way of playing through a game. Not dumbing it down.

#11 Posted by rolanthas (256 posts) -

God Hand does this beautifully with a real time difficulty meter. It fills up when you land hits without getting hit, and drops when you take a beating. Killing peeps on higher difficulty levels reward more coins etc. It's fully transparent and very much controllable by the player should the need arise, with clearly defined risks and rewards.

#12 Posted by ArbitraryWater (12119 posts) -

The reason Bethesda games have such crummy difficulty scaling is pretty much just because of how large and complex they are. I can't think of a RPG on that scale that doesn't have those problems.

#13 Edited by Seppli (10250 posts) -

@arbitrarywater said:

The reason Bethesda games have such crummy difficulty scaling is pretty much just because of how large and complex they are. I can't think of a RPG on that scale that doesn't have those problems.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning came pretty darn close to nailing the balance between character progression and difficulty scaling, whilst being similarly ambitious in scale and scope - if not quite - as your average TES game. Its only failure in that regard was, that it didn't commit fully to its strength, and allowed character progression to outpace its challenge. I think it's safe to say that both Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, if one defines them as RPGs, are quite successful in never turning into child's play ever, whilst always remaining somewhat fair.

It's certainly smart to look at character action games and at how that genre achieves character progression and difficulty scaling, to find the means to achieve a much more even and lastingly rewarding gameplay experience in RPGs.

I think it's all about focusing more on execution driven gameplay, and reducing the reliance on attribute progression in the core design. The game being more about *moves* and *ressources*, rather than *passive attributes*. Like if Skyrim had decent active dodge mechanics and it, as well as block/parry, would be execution and not stats-driven, that would already make a lot of room for more meaningful encounter design, and better difficulty scaling.

Instead of cranking up health and damage sliders to silly levels, execution driven gameplay is about wind-up and recovery frames. Frequency of attack patterns. Doing tit to counter tat. Higher difficulty tightens up the required timing, adds more enemies, more deviously put together groups, with new synergies, and new behaviours - yes also by screwing around with health and damage values, but certainly not as its only means, and not carelessly. It can be a lot more involved than *hurr durr* this creature now one-hit kills you through your block, kill 100 bores, come back after. *That's difficult, isn't it?*

#14 Edited by GERALTITUDE (3507 posts) -
@seppli said:

Instead of cranking up health and damage sliders to silly levels, execution driven gameplay is about wind-up and recovery frames. Frequency of attack patterns. Doing tit to counter tat. Higher difficulty tightens up the required timing, adds more enemies, more deviously put together groups, with new synergies, and new behaviours - yes also by screwing around with health and damage values, but certainly not as its only means, and not carelessly. It can be a lot more involved than *hurr durr* this creature now one-hit kills you through your block, kill 100 bores, come back after. *That's difficult, isn't it?*

The right answer to improving a game's difficulty scaling is not to change what kind of game it is.

I cannot agree with you at all .

While I love the kind of game you are talking about, and would love a Skyrim-scale version of it, The Elder Scrolls has never been that and should never to be. On PC there are mods that accomplish what you want, so it's doable, but it would suck if even more games played like you propose.

edit: only god and dave know why that text is red.

#15 Edited by Zekhariah (695 posts) -

I think 007 Goldeneye (N64) still has the best setup for scaling that I have seen; and it is in such a way that has not really been fully duplicated.

The individual missions are broken down with both objectives and par times (to unlock interesting "cheat" modes, so there is also a cool persistent reward system). Stacking on completely new objectives while also substantially cutting permitted mission length made it so the mission had to be played completely differently (highest difficulty was essentially a speed run).

And after all that was done, you got to play multiplayer with big-head mode. Admittedly, the game itself really does not hold up to modern games due to the controler and N64 graphics. I'd have loved to see this sort of structure imposed over Crysis 4 or similar.

#16 Edited by Seppli (10250 posts) -

I think 007 Goldeneye (N64) still has the best setup for scaling that I have seen; and it is in such a way that has not really been fully duplicated.

The individual missions are broken down with both objectives and par times (to unlock interesting "cheat" modes, so there is also a cool persistent reward system). Stacking on completely new objectives while also substantially cutting permitted mission length made it so the mission had to be played completely differently (highest difficulty was essentially a speed run).

And after all that was done, you got to play multiplayer with big-head mode. Admittedly, the game itself really does not hold up to modern games due to the controler and N64 graphics. I'd have loved to see this sort of structure imposed over Crysis 4 or similar.

I remember having obsessed over Goldeneye's singleplayer, until I beat everything on the hardest difficulty level. Moon Raker level and everything. I didn't remember what exactly that was about. Thanks for reminding me. God, at that point in time, Goldeneye was truely not to be missed.

#17 Posted by bluefish (556 posts) -

From my personal perspective, Bayonetta and Halo:CE invite the most rewarding subsequent playthroughs based purely on rewarding difficulty escalation. That and their both great games.

The Batman games also did an incredible job like the t.c. said. Totally agree.

#18 Edited by Example1013 (4807 posts) -
@seppli said:

@arbitrarywater said:

The reason Bethesda games have such crummy difficulty scaling is pretty much just because of how large and complex they are. I can't think of a RPG on that scale that doesn't have those problems.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning came pretty darn close to nailing the balance between character progression and difficulty scaling, whilst being similarly ambitious in scale and scope - if not quite - as your average TES game. Its only failure in that regard was, that it didn't commit fully to its strength, and allowed character progression to outpace its challenge. I think it's safe to say that both Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, if one defines them as RPGs, are quite successful in never turning into child's play ever, whilst always remaining somewhat fair.

It's certainly smart to look at character action games and at how that genre achieves character progression and difficulty scaling, to find the means to achieve a much more even and lastingly rewarding gameplay experience in RPGs.

I think it's all about focusing more on execution driven gameplay, and reducing the reliance on attribute progression in the core design. The game being more about *moves* and *ressources*, rather than *passive attributes*. Like if Skyrim had decent active dodge mechanics and it, as well as block/parry, would be execution and not stats-driven, that would already make a lot of room for more meaningful encounter design, and better difficulty scaling.

Instead of cranking up health and damage sliders to silly levels, execution driven gameplay is about wind-up and recovery frames. Frequency of attack patterns. Doing tit to counter tat. Higher difficulty tightens up the required timing, adds more enemies, more deviously put together groups, with new synergies, and new behaviours - yes also by screwing around with health and damage values, but certainly not as its only means, and not carelessly. It can be a lot more involved than *hurr durr* this creature now one-hit kills you through your block, kill 100 bores, come back after. *That's difficult, isn't it?*

You've listed nothing but third-person games. Come back with a first-person example and you'll have an argument. The entire issue with Elder Scrolls games is that they are designed as first-person experiences, which allows for none of the fine-tuned control of any other game ever. Try to imagine playing Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or Street Fighter IV from the perspective of the character, while the other person plays from the side. That's basically the analogy for playing an Elder Scrolls game. You have no way to gauge spacing or aim spells and such properly because there is no way to calculate it just from the image presented on screen. You obviously haven't spent much of time analyzing the complexity of this. Why do you think TESO is third-person only?

#19 Posted by Ares42 (2797 posts) -

I wouldn't be so eager to write off "more numbers". With the new standard for "normal" I've played plenty of games where the game didn't really present it's features before I played them on higher difficulties. It's quite common these days that you can get through games without learning or even knowing about important features to their gameplay. Sure, it's great if there's another layer on top of that with fresh designed challenges, but the existence of a mode that's properly tuned to force people to learn the game is not a bad thing.

#20 Edited by Seppli (10250 posts) -

@example1013 said:
@seppli said:

@arbitrarywater said:

The reason Bethesda games have such crummy difficulty scaling is pretty much just because of how large and complex they are. I can't think of a RPG on that scale that doesn't have those problems.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning came pretty darn close to nailing the balance between character progression and difficulty scaling, whilst being similarly ambitious in scale and scope - if not quite - as your average TES game. Its only failure in that regard was, that it didn't commit fully to its strength, and allowed character progression to outpace its challenge. I think it's safe to say that both Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, if one defines them as RPGs, are quite successful in never turning into child's play ever, whilst always remaining somewhat fair.

It's certainly smart to look at character action games and at how that genre achieves character progression and difficulty scaling, to find the means to achieve a much more even and lastingly rewarding gameplay experience in RPGs.

I think it's all about focusing more on execution driven gameplay, and reducing the reliance on attribute progression in the core design. The game being more about *moves* and *ressources*, rather than *passive attributes*. Like if Skyrim had decent active dodge mechanics and it, as well as block/parry, would be execution and not stats-driven, that would already make a lot of room for more meaningful encounter design, and better difficulty scaling.

Instead of cranking up health and damage sliders to silly levels, execution driven gameplay is about wind-up and recovery frames. Frequency of attack patterns. Doing tit to counter tat. Higher difficulty tightens up the required timing, adds more enemies, more deviously put together groups, with new synergies, and new behaviours - yes also by screwing around with health and damage values, but certainly not as its only means, and not carelessly. It can be a lot more involved than *hurr durr* this creature now one-hit kills you through your block, kill 100 bores, come back after. *That's difficult, isn't it?*

You've listed nothing but third-person games. Come back with a first-person example and you'll have an argument. The entire issue with Elder Scrolls games is that they are designed as first-person experiences, which allows for none of the fine-tuned control of any other game ever. Try to imagine playing Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or Street Fighter IV from the perspective of the character, while the other person plays from the side. That's basically the analogy for playing an Elder Scrolls game. You have no way to gauge spacing or aim spells and such properly because there is no way to calculate it just from the image presented on screen. You obviously haven't spent much of time analyzing the complexity of this. Why do you think TESO is third-person only?

That's because execution driven First Person games are extremely rare, ouside of First Person shooters.

So you believe First Person games are incabale of execution driven gameplay? You cannot have execution driven dodge and block/parry mechanics? That it is impossible for a first person game to give you tools to reliably handle any given number of telegraphs - let you answer tit for tat? That that's unimaginable to you? It isn't to me.

Simple additions like a Metroid Prime-esque lock-on system could be used to design more responsive and predictable, and all-out better designed combat encounters in a first person game. Dodge rolls, lunges, sidesteps, backsteps, charges, leaps, stomps... you name what you want to do, with lock on mechanics, that stuff's a cakewalk to execute - even in first person perspective.

Skyrim and its gameplay mechanics itself would already work quite well in regards to that, if block and parry would be handled less as a mathematical mitigator of damage, and be a more reliable and dependable means of defense.

In TES games, a block and a parry ain't a block and a parry. They're merely moves that initiate math. Mitigate this attack value with this defense value - and that math is broken way too often. This stats driven element has got to be toned down in favor of more execution driven mechanics, where-in a block is a block, and a parry is a parry - lest TES games will never accomplish decent balancing - and in the end, only good balancing makes games play great.

.

#21 Posted by Example1013 (4807 posts) -

@seppli: If it's such a cakewalk to execute than you must have some sort of case-study game to demonstrate it, right? You're completely underscoring the difficulty in design here. How do you block and parry when you have no peripheral vision, and can't tell when someone comes up behind you? How do you make fair mechanics for a Demon's Souls-esque game set in first person, when half the time the player is going to die from being shot/stabbed/lightninged by people he can't even see and missiles he can't even know about to dodge? When you're against archers in Skyrim and one lands a hit on the part of your model that's exposed behind the shield, you can't do anything but fucking take it, and it's extremely frustrating because the shield does nothing. Now you're going to ratchet that up times 10 with timing-based attacks while you can still just get Fus-Ro-Dah staggered or knocked down?

How do you parry/dodge a lightning bolt? Or a dragon's bite/tail? How do you dodge-roll effectively enough to manage 3 archers, 4 melees, and a mage? How do you make a punishing but fair combat system when you're going to get hit, you're going to take full damage from said hits, and it's going to happen multiple times in a fight? How do you make it fair that you can pull back for a power swing and have your sword hit a rock on the way forward that you can't even see because it's past your peripheral vision? How do you make it fair that you can get caught on a six-inch high step and be unable to move because you can't see or feel your feet? How do you sidestep an arrow? How do you create dodge rolls without disorienting the player?

Find me one first-person game with satisfying, skill-based melee combat. Just one.

And FYI, Oblivion had rolls, backsteps, and sidesteps. The combat was still shit, because you could never tell whether or not you were going to get hit anyways. The fact that you're viewing a screen and not actually looking through eyes is a huge problem, because the distances that you need to judge are extremely fine, and unlike in real life (or a third-person game) you have nothing to measure them against eyeball-wise. It's basically like trying to fight without depth-perception. Third-person games cheat by giving you the character's model to base everything off of at all times, so you make up for the lack of perception by getting an above-angle or side-angle view so that you're able to rely more on a two-dimensional measuring scheme without such a heavy focus on nothing but depth.

It's the same exact shit that makes first-person platformers with timing-based mechanics so fucking frustrating. You want a good idea, check out the Quantum Conundrum Quick Look at 39:30. Same exact shit.

#22 Posted by BisonHero (7054 posts) -

@seppli said:

@example1013 said:
@seppli said:

@arbitrarywater said:

The reason Bethesda games have such crummy difficulty scaling is pretty much just because of how large and complex they are. I can't think of a RPG on that scale that doesn't have those problems.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning came pretty darn close to nailing the balance between character progression and difficulty scaling, whilst being similarly ambitious in scale and scope - if not quite - as your average TES game. Its only failure in that regard was, that it didn't commit fully to its strength, and allowed character progression to outpace its challenge. I think it's safe to say that both Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, if one defines them as RPGs, are quite successful in never turning into child's play ever, whilst always remaining somewhat fair.

It's certainly smart to look at character action games and at how that genre achieves character progression and difficulty scaling, to find the means to achieve a much more even and lastingly rewarding gameplay experience in RPGs.

I think it's all about focusing more on execution driven gameplay, and reducing the reliance on attribute progression in the core design. The game being more about *moves* and *ressources*, rather than *passive attributes*. Like if Skyrim had decent active dodge mechanics and it, as well as block/parry, would be execution and not stats-driven, that would already make a lot of room for more meaningful encounter design, and better difficulty scaling.

Instead of cranking up health and damage sliders to silly levels, execution driven gameplay is about wind-up and recovery frames. Frequency of attack patterns. Doing tit to counter tat. Higher difficulty tightens up the required timing, adds more enemies, more deviously put together groups, with new synergies, and new behaviours - yes also by screwing around with health and damage values, but certainly not as its only means, and not carelessly. It can be a lot more involved than *hurr durr* this creature now one-hit kills you through your block, kill 100 bores, come back after. *That's difficult, isn't it?*

You've listed nothing but third-person games. Come back with a first-person example and you'll have an argument. The entire issue with Elder Scrolls games is that they are designed as first-person experiences, which allows for none of the fine-tuned control of any other game ever. Try to imagine playing Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or Street Fighter IV from the perspective of the character, while the other person plays from the side. That's basically the analogy for playing an Elder Scrolls game. You have no way to gauge spacing or aim spells and such properly because there is no way to calculate it just from the image presented on screen. You obviously haven't spent much of time analyzing the complexity of this. Why do you think TESO is third-person only?

That's because execution driven First Person games are extremely rare, ouside of First Person shooters.

So you believe First Person games are incabale of execution driven gameplay? You cannot have execution driven dodge and block/parry mechanics? That it is impossible for a first person game to give you tools to reliably handle any given number of telegraphs - let you answer tit for tat? That that's unimaginable to you? It isn't to me.

Simple additions like a Metroid Prime-esque lock-on system could be used to design more responsive and predictable, and all-out better designed combat encounters in a first person game. Dodge rolls, lunges, sidesteps, backsteps, charges, leaps, stomps... you name what you want to do, with lock on mechanics, that stuff's a cakewalk to execute - even in first person perspective.

Skyrim and its gameplay mechanics itself would already work quite well in regards to that, if block and parry would be handled less as a mathematical mitigator of damage, and be a more reliable and dependable means of defense.

In TES games, a block and a parry ain't a block and a parry. They're merely moves that initiate math. Mitigate this attack value with this defense value - and that math is broken way too often. This stats driven element has got to be toned down in favor of more execution driven mechanics, where-in a block is a block, and a parry is a parry - lest TES games will never accomplish decent balancing - and in the end, only good balancing makes games play great.

I agree with Seppli on basically every point he just listed. The fact that his examples are third-person games doesn't invalidate his complaints about Skyrim. The entire issue with TES isn't that it it's first-person, it's that the system lacks nuance, and relies so much on stats that it doesn't have the same impact as the combat in Dark Souls or Mount & Blade.

Anyway, Seppli, sounds like you want the combat in TES games to be Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, which is a great idea.

#23 Edited by Example1013 (4807 posts) -

@bisonhero: Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is an interesting point, but I'm still not sure it satisfies all my problems with the issues presented. I'm going to try to play it, along with another trip back to Demon's Souls, because this is actually an issue I've been thinking a lot about.

And anyways, as I said, Skyrim's defense mechanisms are still frustrating even as mitigators. What if an arrow hits you in the head? Or goes just around or under your shield? You can't do anything to block it, and you can't parry something that moves that fast. Same with lightning, same with AoE, same with poisons.

Like, in Chivalry, what do you do when you have two people swinging at you at the same time, one of whom you can't even see because he's behind you?

#24 Posted by dudeglove (8295 posts) -

Resident Evil 4 didn't so much as make the game difficult as the game went on, but constantly brought you up to the point where you're almost running out of ammo or health. It also had the amazing thing of letting you sacrifice cash to flat out buy a one-time one-hit-kill rocket launcher if you couldn't be bothered with a boss, such as being chased around by that H.R. Giger Alien thing in the sewers waiting for an elevator.

@mwng said:

Didn't left 4 dead attempt to screw you over more if you were doing well? Unsure how well it worked, as I wasn't exactly great at it.

L4D1 & 2 uses a level AI called the "Director" in which depending on how well you were doing (and the difficulty) it would sometimes try to balance stuff out to mix things up during the main beats of a campaign. So, if the whole team is on full health with medkits and good weapons, it might decide to make certain routes through a hotel inaccessible (e.g. blocking off rooms) and force the players into choke points while throwing down a couple of uniques. One the flipside, if the team decides to risk taking on a witch, then there's a chance the team will be rewarded further down the line.

#25 Edited by rentacop (107 posts) -

I agree with those that said Portal 1/2. The game just felt completely natural and I wouldn't consider it difficult yet they could have easily changed that by removing the steady progression.

#26 Edited by Seppli (10250 posts) -

@example1013 said:

@seppli: If it's such a cakewalk to execute than you must have some sort of case-study game to demonstrate it, right? You're completely underscoring the difficulty in design here. How do you block and parry when you have no peripheral vision, and can't tell when someone comes up behind you? How do you make fair mechanics for a Demon's Souls-esque game set in first person, when half the time the player is going to die from being shot/stabbed/lightninged by people he can't even see and missiles he can't even know about to dodge? When you're against archers in Skyrim and one lands a hit on the part of your model that's exposed behind the shield, you can't do anything but fucking take it, and it's extremely frustrating because the shield does nothing. Now you're going to ratchet that up times 10 with timing-based attacks while you can still just get Fus-Ro-Dah staggered or knocked down?

How do you parry/dodge a lightning bolt? Or a dragon's bite/tail? How do you dodge-roll effectively enough to manage 3 archers, 4 melees, and a mage? How do you make a punishing but fair combat system when you're going to get hit, you're going to take full damage from said hits, and it's going to happen multiple times in a fight? How do you make it fair that you can pull back for a power swing and have your sword hit a rock on the way forward that you can't even see because it's past your peripheral vision? How do you make it fair that you can get caught on a six-inch high step and be unable to move because you can't see or feel your feet? How do you sidestep an arrow? How do you create dodge rolls without disorienting the player?

Find me one first-person game with satisfying, skill-based melee combat. Just one.

And FYI, Oblivion had rolls, backsteps, and sidesteps. The combat was still shit, because you could never tell whether or not you were going to get hit anyways. The fact that you're viewing a screen and not actually looking through eyes is a huge problem, because the distances that you need to judge are extremely fine, and unlike in real life (or a third-person game) you have nothing to measure them against eyeball-wise. It's basically like trying to fight without depth-perception. Third-person games cheat by giving you the character's model to base everything off of at all times, so you make up for the lack of perception by getting an above-angle or side-angle view so that you're able to rely more on a two-dimensional measuring scheme without such a heavy focus on nothing but depth.

It's the same exact shit that makes first-person platformers with timing-based mechanics so fucking frustrating. You want a good idea, check out the Quantum Conundrum Quick Look at 39:30. Same exact shit.

Are you making a case for turning TES into a pure 3rd Person Perspective game, because you make a strong case. First person is great for immersion, and hence for TES's pronounced exploration aspect - but weak in terms of combat gameplay.

I believe a game can be built around those weaknesses, and give the player the illusion of being in control. Is it really necessary for an arrow to be 100% simulated? Why not have every arrow be deflected by the shield, if the block is up, regardless of the arrow's trajectory? The player certainly can't see where the arrow hit. The game just needs to make the player feel like he has deflected the arrow. With animations, screen shakes, sound effects.

Simpler systems, better illusions, less simulation, and certainly less crazy variables in their frikkin' math.

It's not even that the randomness introduced by the simulation is TES's main problem, it's the randomness of the math behind it. Fight dudes for hours on hours, have a good time doing so, then suddenly some random dude - wham bam one-hitkills you through your block with a warhammer. That's ludicrous. If gameplay is unpredictable to the point of the player being squished to death like a mere bug by an NPC, against all prior experiences and expectations, then that's bullshit.

There are games out there that do simulation-driven melee combat, like Chivalry and War of the Roses, I haven't played those, so I can't comment on it. I think however that there are ways to take more system-driven combat found in 3rd person character action games, action rpgs, and mmorpgs (even if widely different in execution) - and transalte it into first person perspective melee-centric combat. Z-targeting is the key to pulling that off, in my opinion.

Metroid Prime was quite successful in that, even if it is more of a shooter than a brawler. It certainly brought the style of combat to a format, that usually comes with character action games, and not first person games.

#27 Edited by Seppli (10250 posts) -

I recently wondered why nobody ever took the 3rd person perspective to its natural extreme. In a neutral position, when standing still, the camera is in extreme close-up, right behind the player character's ear - being as close to first person perspective as 3rd person perspective can get. The camera however pulls-out relative to movement speed. So when you walk, you'll see a bit off your shoulder and back. When you run, you'll see almost all of your body. In this case, I was thinking of a shooter intially, so the camera would snap from the back of the player character's head straight onto the gun - proper Aim Down Sight aiming.

In the regards to a melee centric game, it would just fully commit to doing combat in 3rd person perspective to the point of detaching the camera from the player's movements for big fights - making it a full-on isometric arena cam - whilst exploration still happens, for the most parts, in *as close as 3rd person perspective gets to first preson perspective*. I've done a mock-up with my first grader's Windows Paint skillz! Enjoy.

Extreme Close 3rd Person
Full Aim Down Sight First Person
Normal Direct 3rd Person
Arena Style Detached 3rd Person Isometric Cam

.

Having had this on my mind (for some reason the Phantom Pain trailer made me think of this), it just came to me now, such a thing could fit the TES bill perfectly, if it was to change up its combat gameplay. Extreme close-up 3rd person being its neutral state, and dynamically zooming in and out, from Aim Down Sight to Detached Arena Cam, depending on what's going down, and relative to movement speed.

#28 Edited by Example1013 (4807 posts) -

@seppli: In essence, yeah, I'm making the case that TES games would have better combat as third-person joints.

Anyways, to talk more about Skyrim: there is precision and timing required. Every weapon has a speed value (how fast you can swing it), a damage value, and a range value (how wide your swing will hit). It's actually entirely possible to dance outside of the ranges of certain creatures. For instance, you can completely avoid damage from hagravens in melee range, because their claw attacks have extremely short range, so you can move in and hit them, then back out before their animation finishes. There's also the fact that you can't block for a certain number of "frames" after swinging your weapon, necessitating awareness of how many swings you can put in before needing to bring up your shield.

Part of the problem with your idea is that a lot of the melee combat games that use z-targeting systems are also combo-based. KoA and Arkham City, for example, are both combo-based, which doesn't really work in a traditional, semi-serious high-fantasy setting like an Elder Scrolls game (for one thing, where would the combo meter go?). Demon's Souls is interesting in that it's not combo-based, but that game is also extremely reliant on one-shot kills. It works fine in the context of Demon's Souls, which is a third-person game, but how do you translate all the darting around to a first-person game without making it extremely disorienting?

And then there's the issue of taking on multiple enemies. Playing Demon's Souls in first-person would be a nightmare, and playing a game with as many ranged attacks as Skyrim in first-person would be like having a nightmare within a nightmare while on shrooms, as you'd constantly die out of absolutely nowhere.

I don't have anything more to write atm, kinda too tired to keep thinking and forming arguments, but this is definitely something I'm interested in discussing. I really think it'd be interesting to figure out a way to make Skyrim's combat more interesting, responsive, and fun without just putting in a VATS-style mechanic or copping out by just going third-person only, and I haven't really seen, heard, or thought of a solid, fleshed-out solution.

#29 Posted by ArtelinaRose (1857 posts) -

@seppli said:

@example1013 said:

@seppli: If it's such a cakewalk to execute than you must have some sort of case-study game to demonstrate it, right? You're completely underscoring the difficulty in design here. How do you block and parry when you have no peripheral vision, and can't tell when someone comes up behind you? How do you make fair mechanics for a Demon's Souls-esque game set in first person, when half the time the player is going to die from being shot/stabbed/lightninged by people he can't even see and missiles he can't even know about to dodge? When you're against archers in Skyrim and one lands a hit on the part of your model that's exposed behind the shield, you can't do anything but fucking take it, and it's extremely frustrating because the shield does nothing. Now you're going to ratchet that up times 10 with timing-based attacks while you can still just get Fus-Ro-Dah staggered or knocked down?

How do you parry/dodge a lightning bolt? Or a dragon's bite/tail? How do you dodge-roll effectively enough to manage 3 archers, 4 melees, and a mage? How do you make a punishing but fair combat system when you're going to get hit, you're going to take full damage from said hits, and it's going to happen multiple times in a fight? How do you make it fair that you can pull back for a power swing and have your sword hit a rock on the way forward that you can't even see because it's past your peripheral vision? How do you make it fair that you can get caught on a six-inch high step and be unable to move because you can't see or feel your feet? How do you sidestep an arrow? How do you create dodge rolls without disorienting the player?

Find me one first-person game with satisfying, skill-based melee combat. Just one.

And FYI, Oblivion had rolls, backsteps, and sidesteps. The combat was still shit, because you could never tell whether or not you were going to get hit anyways. The fact that you're viewing a screen and not actually looking through eyes is a huge problem, because the distances that you need to judge are extremely fine, and unlike in real life (or a third-person game) you have nothing to measure them against eyeball-wise. It's basically like trying to fight without depth-perception. Third-person games cheat by giving you the character's model to base everything off of at all times, so you make up for the lack of perception by getting an above-angle or side-angle view so that you're able to rely more on a two-dimensional measuring scheme without such a heavy focus on nothing but depth.

It's the same exact shit that makes first-person platformers with timing-based mechanics so fucking frustrating. You want a good idea, check out the Quantum Conundrum Quick Look at 39:30. Same exact shit.

Are you making a case for turning TES into a pure 3rd Person Perspective game, because you make a strong case. First person is great for immersion, and hence for TES's pronounced exploration aspect - but weak in terms of combat gameplay.

I just woke up so I may be misinterpreting what you are saying, but making your game first person does not mean you need to have awful melee combat. I always cite Dark Messiah of Might and Magic and Condemned as examples of very well done first person melee. I would also say that TES games can be played in third person, but anybody that does that is crazy.

#30 Posted by Example1013 (4807 posts) -

@artemesia: I'd be interested in seeing some gameplay from Dark Messiah that demonstrates your point.

#31 Posted by Chibithor (573 posts) -

Wasn't Dark Messiah of Might and Magic thought to have pretty good first-person melee combat? Anyway @example1013: I feel like most of your concerns are already covered by the example games mentioned, especially Chivalry. Most of the questions posed can be answered with 'well, in Chivalry...' Obviously bolting some new mechanics on top of Skyrim won't work, but designed from the ground up I think taking cues from Chivalry and Dark Messiah would make for a much more interesting game.

#32 Posted by Aterons (197 posts) -

Hmh, I don't think a lot of game do really, is more of "is the game made for scaling ?" rather than "is the dev putting time into scaling".

Like with Batman for example, you mentioned reducing the UI... that's good scaling for a 2nd playtrough, but for first playtrough that's just bad luck based difficulty for you, it's only a good layer of difficulty if you played the game, is like Skyrim removing mana, health and stamina bars on master.

A stealth game for example is easy to scale because you basically increase the view distance and accuracy of the guys, that can go very well... (see Deus ex )or very shitty ( see Hitman:Absolution) depending on the mechanics but in my experience it works for most stealth games and even for most fps.

An RPG like Skyrim is hell to scale because the player can literally go any-fucking-where while only really having a very limited number of attack choices, thus limiting the options of the player to "strategize".

An RPG like dragon age( origins ) for example scales the exact fucking way as skyrim, but since it's very much based around you having time to think and hundred of combinations in terms of strategic choices the game can get away with that because harder enemies are "challenges" rather than broken and "to-easy" enemies fell like a well deserved break.

Both those game put the exact same amount of effort into scaling and you can see in both cases that 1 of them is very good at it and one of it is very bad.

And that's from my point of view, someone who always plays highest difficulty first, for someone who expects good scaling to be something that allows him to enjoy a playtrough on higher difficulty while being able to do it Dragon age might suck ass because you learn nothing you need to know about on nightmare if you play it on normal. And in examples like the one you gave it can be vice versa.

#33 Edited by SuperJoe (899 posts) -

A couple things came to mind regarding difficulty scaling:

  • Mark Of The Ninja's NG+ removes radar indicators for enemy field of view and noise radius. Initially this works fine until you encounter enemies with night vision goggles who raise an automatic alarm, then it becomes annoying since you can't see their detection cone and get caught more often. You can sorta eyeball it but in tight quarters it's a guessing game and I ended up reloading much more than the normal game. Those HUD indicators were essential in removing trial & error gameplay unavoidable in stealth games.
  • In Punch Out Wii when you become champion it unlocks a hard mode where you have to defend the title against everyone you fought. All the boxers now have different abilities and patterns. For example, King Hippo's weakness is his belly but in the NG+ encounter he has a manhole cover taped to his stomach that you have to pry off with repeated body blows. Enemy patterns in hard mode are still based on their normal patterns but iterated on, and often their timing is off which messes with your twitch memory.