Skipping Bosses and removing all difficulties from Bosses? Is that where we're at?

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golguin

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Talk of difficulty and bosses seems to be the rage right now with the release of Cuphead. Rock, Paper, Shotgun put out two articles last week dealing with those topics and the reaction appeared to be mixed. I always imagined that difficulty and bosses would be found in games where people seek those kinds of experiences. If that isn't you cup of tea then a game with a narrative focus would probably work better.

Why would it make sense to remove or water down the elements in a game that defines the genre? Would Super Meat Boy work without gameplay that demands precision platforming? What is Cuphead if you could skip the bosses you didn't like? Does it make sense for devs to feel obligated to divert time and resources for people that aren't their target audience? Isn't there a "Let's Play" of most games on youtube so you could experience watching games you are unable to complete?

I feel very confused.

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TobbRobb

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#2  Edited By TobbRobb

The thing that happened with Cuphead is that people that normally don't look for hard games wanted to play it because of the art style. Games like meat boy or bullet hell games have much more of a niche look where you know what you are looking for when you get into them, while Cuphead has a nostalgic old cartoon look that is appealing to a huge range of people. Many of which are not ready for how hard it is, and will then complain on the internet.

I definitely understand that perspective. Wanting to play something for it's style, but realizing it demands more investment than you want to put in, does not feel great. An example from my history would be a game like Guilty Gear or other anime fighters. I'm ass, they look great and I like them, but I put my effort elsewhere. And that's kind of a bummer.

However for my money. Developers should be able to make the game they want. If that's hard as balls then that's cool. Just be clear upfront that it will be hard (I think they were good about that). They aren't obligated at all to cater to people they didn't intend to if they feel it compromises the experience. As you said, there are always let's plays. And in my own personal example, the difficulty of Guilty Gear is also part of the charm and the package. I wish I could play more of it casually, but respect that it just isn't made like that.

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soulcake

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#3  Edited By soulcake

I Didn't buy this because of the hard difficulty. And i Finished most off the Dark Souls games, but hard shoot em ups aren't my thing and i have zero problems with games being to hard, it's that we life in a world where every video game feels dumped down or made easy so everybody can finish it, Gone are the days of Shinobi bs hard difficulty to "extend" the life time of the game, i wonder if that's what cuphead was going for ? Let's make it hard so people would do longer over it ?

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viking_funeral

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Well, if nothing else, this shows that there is a market for games with this art style that don't necessarily have this level of play. The developers probably could have made more money by doing something like that, but they made the game they wanted, and I respect that.

I also suspect the complaints about difficulty in this game are bit exaggerated, but I haven't played it yet, to be fair. My hunch could be completely off.

@tobbrobb said:

Developers should be able to make the game they want. If that's hard as balls then that's cool. Just be clear upfront that it will be hard (I think they were good about that). They aren't obligated at all to cater to people they didn't intend to if they feel it compromises the experience.

Got it in one.

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hippie_genocide

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@golguin said:

Isn't there a "Let's Play" of most games on youtube so you could experience watching games you are unable to complete?

This is pretty much how I feel. If you want to see a game because of the art or cinematics or whatever but don't dig the gameplay just watch it on Youtube. Also, Cuphead isn't that hard. It's difficult but it's fair and if you learn the enemy's pattern and how to exploit it, it's fine. I don't like the sense of entitlement that says "I should be able to experience every game I want, regardless of the developer's vision". Screw that, man. Let people make what they want to make and people can play it or not.

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echasketchers

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I've seen this conversation going around on twitter a lot lately. The way I see it, it's never a bad thing for devs to include more options in games. Customization in difficulty options allows for people to play the way they want to play, and doesn't have to be a huge sink for developer resources necessarily. As long as games that are meant to be hard still have that option, who cares if there's a mode that takes away all challenge? Some players will greatly value that mode, and others can ignore it and enjoy the difficulty.

I look at games like Dishonored to see difficulty done right. Those games can be extremely punishing, they allow you to control all facets of difficulty beyond just a simple "easy, normal, hard" option. If someone loves the world and control scheme, they can turn all the knobs they have to in order to make it a fun experience. But it also goes to the other extreme, and can be very punishing if that's your thing.

The whole argument that some games are just meant to be hard, or that people afraid of challenge should play story based games is something I just don't see. Why shut people out of something they might really enjoy if they could just get past that one stupid boss, or not keep dying to those same enemies? Sorry for the ramble but I'd like to think there's room for more games to allow for more easy mode options without compromising the level of challenge for others.

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Teddie

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The sense of entitlement emerging under the guise of "accessibility" and "anti-exclusion" is stupid, yes.

I wasn't planning on picking up Cuphead but with all the lootboxes going around lately I just wanted to support something cool, and I've been enjoying it despite not being big on difficult games (and it's really not all that difficult, from the perspective of someone who never plays bullet hell/shoot 'em up games). It's super obvious that game was entirely designed around bossfights and getting to see a new form and new animations is a reward for progressing, and it's also a smart way to make you pay attention to all the hard work put into the game since it's vital to stay focused on the animations and attacks to properly avoid them.

Saying developers should let you skip bosses in Cuphead isn't any different than saying a game is bad because they suck at it, so don't come at it with some big "but it's exclusionary" thinkpiece and expect to be taken seriously, especially when you have every physical capability to do it as the average human. Accessibility is important and games should support as many input possibilities as feasible, but outright skipping the core of the game seems more insulting/condescending to those unable to participate than it does "inclusion".

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deactivated-6050ef4074a17

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Honestly I've really found the entire conversation on this topic different levels of disgusting and disingenuous as I've watched it unfold over the last couple weeks, because it's pretty much exclusively been completely able-bodied people using handicapped gamers as a way to basically shame any game that is too hard for them to complete without much effort. It's this increasingly common thing these days where there has to be some sort of psuedo-moral or political angle to why you dislike something so you can paint not doing what you want as some sort of transgression. It can't just be a game not for you.

A couple years back I read through "WTF Is Wrong With Video Games" and posted about it on the forums here and I've really been thinking about it again lately because so many of the arguments people have for "Why does a game have to be hard? Games should be for everyone! Everyone should be able to easily complete everything!" hearken right back to the author's central thesis, which effectively boils down to "Games are better the better they sell" or "The easier and simpler a game is, the more it's like art, because more people will be able to appreciate it." It's an argument I just find baffling. I guess The Big Bang Theory is high fucking art, then.

It also baffles me that we keep having this argument around a shockingly low percentage of games that come out. Like, the tiny percent of games that are actively difficult and have tight gameplay requiring patience are not taking over the medium. If you want an easier game play nearly anything else that exists. It's weird to me how often I've seen this debate turned into a "but I'm a casual person, I'm not great at this stuff, why can't I enjoy it too?" because then you should completely understand how everyone else who wants games designed around challenge to exist for them should feel. We live in a gaming landscape, particularly on consoles, nearly completely dominated by loads of paint-by-numbers, focus-grouped, heavily streamlined, casual experiences where the harder difficulties are just shitty modes with the numbers tuned way up.

I personally have no problem if developers want to include "super easy" modes for some games designed like Cuphead, or character action games like Bayonetta (which has a totally functional, if mechanically simplistic, touchscreen mode) but the important thing to remember here is that games tend to get designed just one way. That's just how it works, usually. Difficulty modes usually end up being modifiers on health and damage, or altering the amount of enemies spawned, and nothing else. Something like the way Dark Souls' levels are designed, for instance, are designed one way or another. Either you have those pits and harsh turns and obscured areas, or you remove them. Either you design a gear acquisition system in an MMO to take a lot of time for everyone, or it's really simple for everyone, with a really low ceiling. The best "hard" games are the ones designed from the ground up to be that experience from the get go, with everything informing that approach, not just how much damage you take. Asking "games should have modes more accessible to less skilled players" often just means "games are designed first for the less skilled players, and a shitty hard mode is tacked on after the fact" in practice.

It's like someone saying "actually, microtransactions could be fine. They don't necessarily have to inform the way the game is designed," except they basically always do. This is more or less how we've gotten to the point that designed-to-be-hard games like Cuphead end up as headlines now just for existing.

It's weird, man. If I picked up a game and found it so easy that it impacted my ability to enjoy it, that I didn't find it satisfying anymore, I would just put it down. Maybe a slightly wistful "Man, wouldn't it have been nice if ____ was a little tougher?" but nothing much more than that. I'd just move on. But if a game is ever too hard for someone, it's like a barrage of editorials are spawned from the aether.

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Redhotchilimist

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#9  Edited By Redhotchilimist

One of those articles is literally just there because that one dude hates boss fights in anything, which isn't something I'm just saying, it's something he wrote in that story himself. So pardon me if I don't feel like that's a conversation really worth having because one dude dislikes an increasingly rare aspect of games. They are essentially limited to Japanese games and retro-styled games at this point, with AAA western games basically not having any for most of their runtime. I think the Bioshock trilogy had like two. The Mass Effect trilogy had like 4, depending on how you feel about regular enemies with another name over their head constituting a boss. And of course there are tons of genres that traditionally don't have them at all, as well as all those new experience-style indies that are all about accessible gameplay that anyone can pick up and play. If you want easy, bossless games, you're good. They're everywhere.

Games like Dark Souls, Cuphead and Titan Souls make headlines specifically because they're catering to people in a different way than the biggest, most popular trendsetters. While I don't think it's unreasonable to wish for more accessibility options so you can enjoy playing them at whatever skill level you're at, I think it's super annoying to have a go at games for a niche crowd because they aren't catering enough to your tastes(specifically, when it's my niche crowd, I absolutely love boss fights). If you like what you see(graphics, artstyle, atmosphere etc), try to meet them halfway. Or play those of them that do have difficulty sliders, which are most of them. God Hand, Devil May Cry 3, you can get lots of hard games to a managable level with just the sliders. Even when they don't have a slider, you can look up guides, ask for help and check out in-depth fan tutorials on youtube, or in Dark Souls, do co-op. Play it with a friend, even. There are always ways to make something that seems impenetrable easier, and I'm not just talking out of my ass. I've done all of this for games that seemed very difficult but that I still wanted to get into. It's absolutely worth it if the barrier to entry keeping you away from something you'd otherwise love is the difficulty or obtuseness of a game. I'm awful at games, but I love these kind of challenge-based games with tons of bosses, so I do what I gotta do to make them paletable.

If you still can't stand playing them but wanna see all the animations, just pull them up on youtube. You get what you want out of it and you don't have to pay a dime. If you feel bad about it because the developer isn't getting any money, buy the game anyway. I've certainly done stuff like that for story games I've watched let's plays of.

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Bollard

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@tobbrobb said:

Developers should be able to make the game they want. If that's hard as balls then that's cool. Just be clear upfront that it will be hard (I think they were good about that). They aren't obligated at all to cater to people they didn't intend to if they feel it compromises the experience.

I want this statement framed and put on the wall of every game journalism outlet in the world. You can also cut and replace "hard" with basically any controversial topic in games in the last 5 years and it still applies.

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RIDEBIRD

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I wouldn't really listen to anything RPS says on this topic. They are not the only ones that have discussed this, but RPS is borderline notorious for hating difficulty in games. This normally only was John. Judging by the new guy Matt, it seems to have become more of a core ethos for their team. Others on RPS have written about similar things recently as well.

I love difficulty in games if it is correctly balanced and doesn't just end up being tedious. I especially like XCOM and Original Sin style difficulty - turn based tactics (normal here is fine for me and often challenging enough til mid-late game where it gets too easy).

When it come to boss fights though, John has a point, but the wrong solution. Most boss fights in games are absolutely horrible - according to me - and I would love to skip them, while playing the rest of the game on hard. What I would much rather prefer is that developers have less bosses, and focus more on creating memorable and varying boss fights - if they are not good at it. I love Dark Souls and similar games, as well as WoW, as they actually spend some time creating memorable, balanced and fun boss battles that play more like puzzles rather than hit the loot pinata for about five minutes while occasionally avoiding some garbage. Almost no other games succeed with doing this. Nier perhaps, but I couldn't stand the overcooked spaghetti feeling combat (again, my opinion) so I never really got to see them.

If a game like Cuphead names it's easy difficulty Simple, cuts content, and in other ways incentivises to try the regular mode, I am totally on board. That sounds like a great way to nudge players in to giving it a shot. Personally, I loathe difficult 2D platformers like Meat Boy, as well as spongy boss fights where the boss has like 80000000 hp to your 30, so of course I will not waste my time trying to like Cuphead. I think most disagreeing with this design choice should probably realize they love the artstyle and not the game, and leave it at that.

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tatsuyarr

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@viking_funeral: I don't think the difficulty is exaggerated, or maybe I'm really, really bad but to give you an example I played 15 hours, beat 13 bosses, 3 "run and gun" and died more than 600 times. I played all "soul" games even "The Surge" lately and I usually beat a boss, at worst, within 15 tries. Cuphead is on another level, for me at least ^^

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ivdamke

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@tobbrobb said:

Developers should be able to make the game they want. If that's hard as balls then that's cool. Just be clear upfront that it will be hard (I think they were good about that). They aren't obligated at all to cater to people they didn't intend to if they feel it compromises the experience.

Should just close the thread after this.

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TheHT

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On the dev side I think it's a matter of how much you're willing to budge to get your game to be experienced by as many people as possible, while maintaining whatever feel of gameplay you want. Maybe gameplay isn't an equally vital part of the experience you're trying to convey so you throw in a "cinematic mode," or maybe you just want people to play your thing no matter what form it takes with regards to difficulty.

On the player side it's a matter of how much you want to put into a game to get better at it. Maybe you've got other time commitments and really wish you could play through the whole thing at a good clip, maybe you just don't enjoy difficulty-checks.

However, the balance (or imbalance) between accessibility and challenge ultimately comes down to what the dev wants to evoke from the player, and how. I'm not enthusiastic about players explicitly governing game design. You come to a work and it's either for you or it isn't. You're either willing to take it on or you aren't.

That said I also don't think a developer's design decisions are necessarily best. It's theirs, and that is good in a sense, but not necessarily good outside of that as a work that's consumed by others. Video games are different from other mediums, yes, but there are measures of difficulty for those others just as well. It seems more often questionable to me that desire for a movie to be simpler or a book less dense. Editing is obviously a sensible and vital process, and it's possible for further edits to be seen as potentially beneficial after the fact. Where video games differ is that you can have difficulty options and still generally maintain the spirit of the work, but even that range can be extended enough to such a severe degree that the work begins to fray at the edges, losing significant experiential value or become something else if it's lucky enough to retain some.

Perhaps the easiest way to notice this is to play something with godmode on. An extreme disruption, but one that I think shows most plainly how integral something like difficulty can be to the experience, and that hopefully gives a better sense of how tilting it too far in one direction or the other can strip away so much.

It's worth noting though that there are some games with systems that essentially allow the game designer to have their cake and eat it too. The Souls games are the best example of this by my seeing. While the level design and enemies are unchanging, you as the player are able to shape your character to not only express your particular playstyle, but to also be underleveled or overleveled for your ventures. For all the haranguing and sensationalizing about difficulty in those games, it's no wonder they're still ultimately accessible to such a large audience.

Games without levelling (or opportunities for overlevelling) are without that intrinsic benefit of putting the shaping of difficulty on so fine a level in the hands of players.

In those cases where it is in the hands of a developer and they've opted to not cater to a player's preferences, it's most appropriate for the choice to be whether the player would rise to the challenge or cut their losses and move on.

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bicycleham

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People are really into exaggerating how hard Cuphead is.

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Shindig

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I'm kinda surprised all of these articles have come out in the wake of Cuphead. Did we get a ripple of this when Furi hit? Personally, I love seeing different developers tackle the idea of challenge. Even as a player, I like surpassing my own expectations, even if I have to put a game down for months. Execution always gets better. Always. To throw in the towel or play armchair designer is a little petty. Especially if it's a game like Cuphead where plenty of people have risen to the challenge.

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an_ancient

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"[insert game here] is the Cuphead of [insert genre here]."

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Shindig

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Mugaman X is the Cuphead Sequel We've Been Waiting For.

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deactivated-6050ef4074a17

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@shindig: I think for whatever reason some people just kind of got fooled into thinking Cuphead was basically Kirby's Epic Yarn. A cute platformer with a really unique art style to it, but then it turns out to be more complicated than that. Cuphead's main initial appeal, if you're just looking at trailers or ads for it or whatever, are pretty purely aesthetic, and people who are way into the aesthetic side of games probably just have a disproportionate lack of experience with games deliberately designed to be challenging.

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Shindig

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I guess. To be fair, I don't think the press had much chance to play it during development. Although I could be way wrong about that.

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SchrodngrsFalco

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#21  Edited By SchrodngrsFalco

I don't understand how this argument is any different than arguing against any game having difficulty settings. What game was it that you could just set it to "story mode," and pretty much cake-walk it? With that said...

No game should or shouldn't be anything that the developers don't want it to, in terms of playstyle and difficulty, but it is also clear why some people would want an easy mode for the game. My stance is that no player has ground to stand on to argue against a developer's difficulty design decisions, and if the vision of the game is to be hard, it should be designed from the ground up with that in mind (like another used). Though, I also see nothing wrong with players desiring and even suggesting/entertaining the idea of easier modes (even at the sake of cutting content, so long as the player knows they may have a poorly designed experience; I'd say put that in the description of that option). It's when they demand it or suggest the game is flawed for it. A game should be judged for what it is designed to be.

With that said, I have some devil's advocate responses below:

@teddie said:

Saying developers should let you skip bosses in Cuphead isn't any different than saying a game is bad because they suck at it, so don't come at it with some big "but it's exclusionary" thinkpiece and expect to be taken seriously, especially when you have every physical capability to do it as the average human. Accessibility is important and games should support as many input possibilities as feasible, but outright skipping the core of the game seems more insulting/condescending to those unable to participate than it does "inclusion".

People don't have the same dexterity with controllers as others. Every person will have to put in a different amount of hours to build up that dexterity based on how well they learn. Reflex, dexterity and learning ability also changes throughout a lifetime. It's no different than saying everybody has the physical capability to to climb to the top of a mountain to see the view.

@golguin said:

Isn't there a "Let's Play" of most games on youtube so you could experience watching games you are unable to complete?

This is pretty much how I feel. If you want to see a game because of the art or cinematics or whatever but don't dig the gameplay just watch it on Youtube. Also, Cuphead isn't that hard. It's difficult but it's fair and if you learn the enemy's pattern and how to exploit it, it's fine. I don't like the sense of entitlement that says "I should be able to experience every game I want, regardless of the developer's vision". Screw that, man. Let people make what they want to make and people can play it or not.

Because the fun part of video games is the interactivity and feeling of control, no matter the difficulty. Cuphead being a video game with this art style may lose the astonishment of the subject if they just watch it. Why were we all amazed at the art style when there have been plenty of cartoons with this art style, and we could just watch those? It was because we were amazed that we were going to be controlling it all.

It is too bad that a lot of people will miss out on the experience but thems the breaks! There's so many (non-accomplishment) experiences that we miss out on because of our capabilities and/or our value of the time investment needed to experience it, compared to the value of the experience itself. I'd sure love to get to experience seeing the Earth from a moonwalk but I don't think the time (and life) investment into getting to experience such a view is worth the single experience. On a less extreme note, I'd love to experience dunking a basketball (not for the accomplishment but just doing the act) but I don't value it comparitively to the amount of time/dedication necessary for be able to do it.

Some people do just have to let it go that not everything is made for them, as much as they want it to be, or else they come off as entitled. But hey, it would be nice if the devs had the ability to allow us to experience

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deactivated-6109c8479bb3d

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A few quick things from me:

  • To say that "is this where we at?" is implying that there is a perceived shift in the way games's difficulty is presented OR a shift in how people perceive difficulty in games; it's saying that this disparity between expectation versus reality is a trend.
  • I think Cuphead is a very special case, because it attracted a wider audience due to its art style, including the unsuspecting passing video game enthusiast, who didn't account for what the game actually was. There is a separation between "loving the art" and "loving difficult games", and this caught many by surprise. Even when Cuphead was initially presented as a "boss-rush" game, no-one had a grasp of how difficult it was.
  • If pandering to "videogame tourists" was a trend, I'm having trouble thinking of a plenty of games do. Yes, there are a few that come to mind. Mass Effect 3 introduced a "Narrative" mode and Horizon: Zero Dawn added an Easy Mode post-launch. There are plenty of arguments to be made that a developer "would like you to see the work put into the game." I still think that many more games stick to their designed difficulties (like the Soulsbornes), while some even chide you for going easier (like Ruiner).
  • Should developers actively pander? That's harder for me to say, but I will always ask if the game has a clear vision of what it wants to be (regardless of what the perception ends up being). It's easier to excuse narrative-focused games. However, if the lingua-franca of your game is the actual challenge itself, then I think they should do right by the original designed difficulty, even if it alienates some of the audience.

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TheHT

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As for the question of whether "wanting easier games" is a trend, I'd say it'd be more the invocation of another trend: that every game should be everything to everyone. Some players wanting the experience to contort itself to their whims and sensibilities, in this case concerning difficulty.

Can't say I've witnessed much hubbub though myself. I'd heard a lot of surprise expressed about the difficulty, but not an overwhelming amount of condemnation.

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GenericBrotagonist

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This is a similar conversation to the one that happened around Gone Home when that came out but in reverse. The people who wanted story heavy "experience" games rightly expressed that not every game has to be for everybody, but now that the tables are turned they do have to. I thought the experience lovers were in the right and the gameplay lovers were being entitled jerks then. Now I think the gameplay lovers are in the right and experience lovers are being entitled jerks. If someone wants to make a game, they should be allowed to. A developer shouldn't be forced to put in an different mode to appeal to an audience they never intended to appeal to. You wouldn't expect Gone Home to have a hard mode where suddenly it's a completely different experience from what the developer intended just to appeal to the people who have no interest in playing that sort of game anyway.

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DrM2theJ

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#25  Edited By DrM2theJ

Well, I suppose that is where we are at. Many game developers want their games to be experienced and enjoyed by as many people as possible, and to accomplish that requires accommodating both people who want a challenge and people who don't.

I'm not certain why this is being framed as something new. Games have had difficulty settings for years. I seem to recall Mario games going back quite far that would enable an "easy mode" after a few deaths. Go back far enough and you start having cheat codes everybody knew about that completely nerfed very hard games.

Hell, you all are talking about shooters--the Konami code is probably the most famous cheat code, and it was literally invented to enable the developer of Gradius to be able to complete the game for testing purposes because he found it too difficult for himself!

And as others have mentioned, a few games now essentially have "tourist mode" added to them (Horizon Zero Dawn, Assassin's Creed Origins) while at the same time keeping in the more challenging modes they're known for.

The original post asks if it makes sense for the devs to feel "obligated" to put in modes (and specifically difficulties) for people that aren't their "target audience". I think the answer is pretty straightforward: If the devs want to be more inclusive and reach a potentially larger audience, they'll spend their time and resources making the game more accessible. If they would prefer a more niche, "core" audience, then they will spend their time and resources fine tuning that instead, or releasing sooner without accessibility options.

One of the major things I see in these conversations is that some "core" gamers seem to almost feel threatened by accessibility options. Somehow there is a fear that implementing accessibility means games suddenly won't be catered to them. I hate to say this, but it reminds me of the fear a lot of gamers have of feminism--the backlash a lot of gamers have when their games are criticized for sexist tropes. They clutch their pearls and holler about how "these games are mine, they're not for you!" because, I guess, they're afraid they're going to lose something?

Why?

How would an easy mode of Cuphead that basically cruise controlled through bosses at all impact you if you enjoy it the way it is now? I mean, assuming that nothing else changed and it was just in addition to what's already in the package, difficulty-wise? How would that take anything away from you?

A relevant example is the colorblind options in PUBG. Many of us have watched the GB crew play that game and we're aware that Vinny and Jeff need to use those options. If those options weren't there, they'd be handicapped trying to play this game. And in fact, in Cuphead, it seems this is the case--parry-able objects are pink, which is not a friendly color for most colorblind people.

I feel like most of us would agree that solving this would be in the best interest of both the developers and the affected gamers, no? Colorblindness is a simple example because it's a binary trait and, frankly, it affects a lot of men. But it's really just another barrier, not unlike difficulty.

As for the suggestion of "just watch a let's play"... maybe people who aren't good at the game actually want to play it in some form. If the devs give them the ability to do so and they buy the game as a result, isn't that a win-win? Who is that taking away from?

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Ungodly

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I mean, didn't Nintendo introduce the idea of giving players an item that trivialized difficulty if you lose a few lives? Either way people have always complained about difficulty in games, and Cuphead is no different. Reminds me of those old Treasure games, like Gunstar Heroes or Dynamite Heady, and those games are a kick in the balls too.

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GenericBrotagonist

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@drm2thej: I don't find it to be about the existence of easy modes in games. It's about a developer choosing not to include one and getting shit for it. That's why this hasn't cropped up around games with easy difficulties or tourist modes in them, because the developer wanted them in there. But the Cuphead dev intentionally did not put one in and everyone is acting like they're entitled to something he didn't want to do. The focus of this game is the gameplay, and it's possible the dev felt an easy mode would be a sub par experience. Or it could be another reason entirely. But instead of asking him about it the masses instead immediately jump down his throat because they didn't get what they wanted.

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deactivated-5a923fc7099e3

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I am playing Divivinity Original 2 at the moment. It's another game that is too hard for many players. I happen to like the challenge this game provides on classic mode. I do not feel that the inclusion of the explorer mode has any negative impact on my enjoyment of the game. In fact I think that even that mode might be too hard at some points for some people and I'm sure that it would have sold more if they had included an even easier mode.

I'm not saying that developers should cater to a broad spectrum of players as a matter of law but if they do their game might sell better and have a longer tail. People might start out playinga game on easy and then try it again on a harder setting. More options only make a game better. If a dev doesn't have the desire or resources to cater to those people then that's their loss.

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@teddie said:

Saying developers should let you skip bosses in Cuphead isn't any different than saying a game is bad because they suck at it, so don't come at it with some big "but it's exclusionary" thinkpiece and expect to be taken seriously, especially when you have every physical capability to do it as the average human. Accessibility is important and games should support as many input possibilities as feasible, but outright skipping the core of the game seems more insulting/condescending to those unable to participate than it does "inclusion".

People don't have the same dexterity with controllers as others. Every person will have to put in a different amount of hours to build up that dexterity based on how well they learn. Reflex, dexterity and learning ability also changes throughout a lifetime. It's no different than saying everybody has the physical capability to to climb to the top of a mountain to see the view.

I'm speaking in regards to those articles, because it's absolutely just whining that a game is too difficult/not something they like, so they should be catered to, and then using a moral high ground to try and justify acting like a spoiled brat.

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deactivated-6050ef4074a17

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@drm2thej: I just think the main issue I have with this is the conflation between people who are literally physically disabled in some way (such as people who are colorblind, or people who may have less functioning in an arm, or even lack an arm, things like that) with people who are just either inexperienced at a game, or lack the patience to just spend time getting better. There's a sort of moral indignation toward people who like designed-to-be-hard games, specifically around this game, when nothing in this conversation started there.

The debate around Cuphead's difficulty started with two main catalysts. First, the games writer who did poorly at the tutorial in his coverage of the game and was mocked for it (mostly unfairly), and secondly, the main Rock Paper Shotgun article ranting against the existence of boss fights just because he hates them (who went on to say this on Twitter about people who seem to value gameplay over art/story). None of this was ever really about the physically handicapped, to my knowledge. I follow halfcoordinated on Twitter and the most I saw from him was talking about game-control accessibility options, more than anything else, things like rebinding buttons or speed options or whatever, not "the game should be easier." These people only get brought up after the fact.

Options for the handicapped are not at issue for me, just people who use the handicapped as a way to guilt developers into making games easier for their able-bodied selves.

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SchrodngrsFalco

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@drm2thej said:

of Cuphead that basically cruise controlled through bosses at all impact you if you enjoy it the way it is now? I mean, assuming that nothing else changed and it was just in addition to what's already in the package, difficulty-wise? How would that take anything away from you?

The potential affect on the game, if designed with these options from the start, is the developers might have to design the game slightly differently to accomodate for the option. In contrast, if they only designed around their vision of the game, it would be the experience they want it to be. That is one of the arguments. It all depends on how the accessibility of difficulty is framed into the game.

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burncoat

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I'm a bit confused, I thought at issue from the RPS article isn't the lack of easy mode, but the complete removal of content for its "simple mode". Like, the game has an easy mode in everything but name.

The gating of some content behind a difficulty wall isn't anything new, a lot of true endings and unlocks from a lot of games have this. I think some people are just especially miffed about Cuphead because they were enraptured by its amazing visuals. News of the difficulty of the game actually came across as a shock to me since I was only barely keeping tabs on it.

Also I didn't take the article as "demanding" anything. It came across as a criticism as valid as any other. I think developers should make their games how they want, but they don't really lose out on much by making it more accessible. I know I probably wouldn't have enjoyed the Souls games if they didn't allow friendly summons, for instance, and me using summons doesn't stop others who beat it naked from enjoying their experience.

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To the people arguing that devs should be able to make the game they want and not have to cater to those wanting an easier experience, I present the Game Genie. Back when most games were designed to be hard, those of us who wanted an easier time used the Game Genie, the Game Shark, or just plain cheat codes. Nowadays you really can't do that. And since there's no easy way to get something like invincibility in Cuphead, some people are lobbying the developers to create an easy mode. Do we really need to treat that as some sort of controversy?

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duke_of_the_bump

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It takes virtually zero effort to put an option in the menu that says "invincible mode" that lets people who want to play that way do so. Invincibility cheats have been in games for decades. Why not just make it an option for people who want to play that way? Was id's design process somehow sullied by the existence of IDDQD? Would the game have been tarnished if they just made god mode an option in the menu?

Should devs be obligated or forced to put this option in their games? Of course not, and no one is suggesting that. But it doesn't make sense not to. Saying "just watch a let's play" is insane. If someone wants to give you money to interact with your product, just let them. Getting mad at people who request this feature is elitism, plain and simple, and it's one of the things that's fucked about video game culture.

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RiotControl

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The better option would be to do something like Nintendo where they add optional challenges that only dedicated players will acquire while still being able to complete the game. An "invincibility" option is a no-go for most any developer because it would allow the player to far too quickly finish their game.

But to the point about a consumer being able to get what they want out of a product they paid money for... gaming has changed. It is NOT all about the consumer anymore. You don't want a player to one and done your game in a span of a few hours. It seems like the entire industry is shifting towards maintaining player activity in a game. It used to be to hold off trade-in's, but now it's mostly for "games as a service." In fact, very few games just offer a basic single-player game to play through anymore. You could view the difficulty of the now sadly abnormal release of a standard single-player game like Cuphead as an avenue to gain a large blip on the internet of players conversing with each other and sharing their struggles. Hell, I'm half-convinced that it's why From Software never fully explains anything in their Souls games. The community goes wild piecing their games together for months, keeping the attention from dying out.

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Darth_Navster

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The better option would be to do something like Nintendo where they add optional challenges that only dedicated players will acquire while still being able to complete the game. An "invincibility" option is a no-go for most any developer because it would allow the player to far too quickly finish their game.

But to the point about a consumer being able to get what they want out of a product they paid money for... gaming has changed. It is NOT all about the consumer anymore. You don't want a player to one and done your game in a span of a few hours. It seems like the entire industry is shifting towards maintaining player activity in a game. It used to be to hold off trade-in's, but now it's mostly for "games as a service." In fact, very few games just offer a basic single-player game to play through anymore. You could view the difficulty of the now sadly abnormal release of a standard single-player game like Cuphead as an avenue to gain a large blip on the internet of players conversing with each other and sharing their struggles. Hell, I'm half-convinced that it's why From Software never fully explains anything in their Souls games. The community goes wild piecing their games together for months, keeping the attention from dying out.

Game developers have always been concerned with players beating their games too fast; that's exactly why older games were made to be hard! But that didn't stop players from using non-standard means to reduce that difficulty, like cheat codes. Maybe the Cuphead devs don't want a top level menu option to turn on invincibility. There's nothing stopping them from unlocking it via a cheat code, or the player dying too many times, or simply by burying it in the options. They have every right not to include such an option, but players are also within their right to ask that the developer include it. I just don't see how anyone can oppose them for asking for an option that presumably keeps the original vision intact for those that want it.

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Dixavd

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#37  Edited By Dixavd

Developers are free to make their game as difficult as they please. They are entitled to cater to whatever kinds of play-styles they wish their game to be played with. They're also free to be criticised for their choices. Just because every player isn't entitled for every game to be made to suit their playstyles, doesn't stop them having legitimate complaints with a game. Authoral intent has never superseded the right to criticism.

Cuphead is an example of a game whose visual design captivates a wide audience. The game turns out to be difficult and supposedly this is a key design feature central to vision of the game. They then failed to effectively advertise the difficulty as being a key selling point. Looking at the steam store page as I'm writing this (long after they have recieved complaints for difficulty) and there are only three tip-offs before sale that the game is difficult. Two of these are from users (not the game's description): The first is the user-tag "difficult" which is suggested by Steam users to describe a game (and has, in the past, been misused by users to spread falsehoods). The second are mentions of difficulty in user reviews (which is notorious for unreliability with Steam's latest "fix" leading to further confusing on the validity of the claims used by players). The only allusion to difficulty from the direct advertising/description of the game is the phrase "classic run and gun action game" which requires the extra knowledge from player's that "classic" in this case translates to difficult. The same is true for the Microsoft/Windows 10 store page. Plus, neither the "Announcement Trailer", nor the "Launch Trailer" (the two trailers from this year used for sales) use difficulty as a selling point in the marketing.

The lack of use in advertising makes the argument that difficulty is a key selling point for Cuphead a questionable position. It also means a backlash of customers surprised by the difficulty should be expected. I'm personally of the outlook that developers should be more willing to take risks with difficulty, and if they are willing to alienate customers, I can respect that decision. But they should at least make it clear on the outset what the game is. If they are specifically catering to a certain type of player/play-style, make this abuntantly clear on the store page and in the advertising. If nothing else, failing to do so just leads to unhappy customers, and doesn't bring in the specific players they hope to covet.

I, personally, find it a little disgusting when people use disabled people as an excuse for their own wants. However, I do not think they shouldn't be allowed to express their wants (just not in such a plainly false way). Further though, the framing that the entirety of the accessability arguement is purely of this type is simply untrue. Responding against the criticism that "this game alienates certain kinds of disabled people" with "they're only bringing this up to disguise their game prefences" isn't a defense.

Edit - spelling/grammar mistakes.

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Justin258

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Criticizing a game because its difficulty is unbalanced or unfair for some reason is valid.

Criticizing a game because its difficulty prevents the reviewer from being able to finish it is not.

To the people arguing that devs should be able to make the game they want and not have to cater to those wanting an easier experience, I present the Game Genie. Back when most games were designed to be hard, those of us who wanted an easier time used the Game Genie, the Game Shark, or just plain cheat codes. Nowadays you really can't do that. And since there's no easy way to get something like invincibility in Cuphead, some people are lobbying the developers to create an easy mode. Do we really need to treat that as some sort of controversy?

It takes virtually zero effort to put an option in the menu that says "invincible mode" that lets people who want to play that way do so. Invincibility cheats have been in games for decades. Why not just make it an option for people who want to play that way? Was id's design process somehow sullied by the existence of IDDQD? Would the game have been tarnished if they just made god mode an option in the menu?

Should devs be obligated or forced to put this option in their games? Of course not, and no one is suggesting that. But it doesn't make sense not to. Saying "just watch a let's play" is insane. If someone wants to give you money to interact with your product, just let them. Getting mad at people who request this feature is elitism, plain and simple, and it's one of the things that's fucked about video game culture.

If I were a developer and I happened to be making a game centered around difficulty and challenge, I would not want an "invincibility mode" or "cheat mode" or whatever in there. We praise games that are "difficult but fair" because being able to make something hard without making it feel unfair is the mark of really good game design and mechanics, and I'd hate to see all that effort and work go to waste when someone picks an "invincibility mode" or something. That's definitely a compromise that I, personally, wouldn't want to make. Call it elitist or fucked up or whatever you want to, I just wouldn't want it in my game.

It's no different than people asking an author to just write a two page summary of their newest book and post it on their blog because those people don't have the time or energy to actually read the book. "Can you just give us the plot? Because that's all we're interested in, we don't really care about your characters or any effort you may have put into good form or pace or any nuance, we just want to know what happened".

I understand that what a lot of people want out of Cuphead is to look at it, but actually playing the game is part of the package. "The look" is great, but they put a lot of effort into other aspects of the game and I imagine they'd really appreciate it if people gave some thought to everything else that's good about the game.

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Capitalism works. If you want it and it’s worth the cost, pay up. If not don’t and move along. I spent hours and hours with Ori because of the art and music despite being terrrrrrrible at 2D platformers. I eventually beat it and actually got pretty good at the game. Yes parts were frustrating in ways that seemed broken but mostly it was just real hard and I conquered it to be rewarded with the experience that game provides. Same with Dark Souls, I HATED that first game the first few times I played it. Went on to beat it many many times and even ended up buying copies of the sequel for friends just to experience it with them.

People are entitled to their opinions, just not the results they may be seeking with those opinions.

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@justin258: So I have to ask, are you ok with people modding video games? Or how about the tools certain speedrunners use to do crazy stunts in games? Or how about developers releasing their remastered games with such features as skipping random battles or faster leveling? All of these scenarios involve an alteration of the developers' original intent not unlike the situation you present here. Do you really want us to live in a world where we must only play games in a strict manner that the developer dictates? Because to me that scenario just seems so dreary.

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Some of this feels like apples and oranges, no? Like, if someone wants to see the story of Mass Effect, what is the harm in adding a story mode or super easy difficulty for players with poor reflexes, people who are new to videogames, or what have you? One of the reasons I haven't finished The Witcher III was because I had a hard time with the combat (Here's an old thread I wrote about this experience). And this happened to me, someone who has been playing games for 20+ years. I can't imagine if my dad (who has never played a videogame) tried to pick this up, or if someone had disabilities who had even more trouble with the combat. I think it makes sense for these games to have a story mode or other things to help the player out. On the other hand, you have stuff like Geometry Wars, Resogun, and Nex Machina, which are arcade games based on high scores. Mastering the controls, the mechanics, and getting better and better is the game. Sure you could have an easier difficulty, but skipping bosses or making it so you can't lose is not how those games work. In fact, Nex Machina hides some bosses and levels behind higher difficulties and other circumstances, so if you want to see everything, you need to be at a certain skill level.

I think Cuphead falls into this category a little bit. The game is meant to challenge your platforming and shoot em up skills. That said, if there was an easier mode that gave you twice the amount of HP or something, I don't think that's necessarily bad. Where you draw the lines can be weird, but having these features on certain games is a good thing, at least in theory, even if it trivialises some bosses or gameplay mechanics.

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htr10

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I feel like we've seen this debate before on the forums. There isn't a right side to this. Players want easier difficulty because it would make them enjoy a game more, can't tell them they are wrong for feeling that way. Developers want a game to have a certain minimum level of difficulty as a defining feature of the game, nothing wrong with that.

Personally, I think people are dramatically overselling Cuphead. I really like the game, but the people who are turned off by the difficulty aren't missing as much as people seem to be saying they are missing. This is a very good game, but by no means a generational experience. People will not still be talking about Cuphead 6 months from now.

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#43  Edited By duke_of_the_bump

@justin258 said:

It's not different than people asking an author to just write a two page summary of their newest book and post it on their blog because those people don't have the time or energy to actually read the book. "Can you just give us the plot? Because that's all we're interested in, we don't really care about your characters or any effort you may have put into good form or pace or any nuance, we just want to know what happened".

Not really. What you're arguing for is more like an author releasing a novel only as a proprietary e-book reader that forces you to stay on each page for 5 minutes, just to make absolutely sure you read it. Or releasing a movie as a standalone executable file that prevents the viewer from fast-forwarding. And prevents you from rewinding a few seconds if you miss a line of dialogue or want to re-watch a part that confused you, but forces you to start over from the beginning of the scene

Video games are the only consumer entertainment product where people will argue that they want less choice. It's totally mystifying.

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veektarius

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#44  Edited By veektarius

People have a right to complain about a thing they don't like. However, that does not make them right to say that it should be different, only that they'd prefer if it were.

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Justin258

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#45  Edited By Justin258

@justin258: So I have to ask, are you ok with people modding video games? Or how about the tools certain speedrunners use to do crazy stunts in games? Or how about developers releasing their remastered games with such features as skipping random battles or faster leveling? All of these scenarios involve an alteration of the developers' original intent not unlike the situation you present here. Do you really want us to live in a world where we must only play games in a strict manner that the developer dictates? Because to me that scenario just seems so dreary.

If we're sticking with my comparison to an author, modding games would be analogous to someone else writing a 2-page summary of a book and posting it on Wikipedia or their blog or whatever. That analogy kinda starts to fall apart in some ways, but here my point is that someone else is taking something they paid for and doing what they want to with it. If someone were to mod an invincibility mode into my game, I'd be disappointed but it would be out of my hands at that point. Still a slap in the face, perhaps, not something I'd concern myself with too much. I wouldn't personally want to stop any of that because I do believe that you should be able to do what you want with something you paid for.

As far as developers or publishers changing the game after release - well, that's their choice. If that's what they want to do, do it. FFXII: The Zodiac Age has a fast forward button (and has actually had one since the original IZJS release in Japan), Divinity: Original Sin got controller support at some point, and CD Projekt Red made major changes to The Witcher 1 and 2 after release. None of these things bother me, they're additions that make those games better. If the developers of Cuphead want to put in an easy mode or a mode where you're just invincible, more power to them. I won't be bothered if they do. I, personally, would not want it done if I had just released a game, especially one that I'd worked on as long as Cuphead, and especiallywhen part of the reason development took so long is because people wanted more gameplay and not just a boss rush.

(The following paragraph went off on a tangent that maybe doesn't have much to do with what I've said previously but I feel strongly enough about it to leave it here and it's {just barely} pertinent enough to work in the context of this thread.)

Still, I find myself disappointed every time someone seems to be uninterested in the "game" part of video games, and that includes challenge. We've got this great interactive medium, and sometimes that interactivity involves asking players to play and learn and get into the game part, and then people just want the story or just want the look instead of the interactive part, the thing that makes video games special. I saw the same thing when that writer from Bioware (Hepler was her name, I think?) wanted a fast forward button or something akin to an "autowin" button for any challenge and any interactivity because she was just looking for a story. And that totally baffles and disappoints me because that completely defeats the purpose of playing a video game. Why would you want to make the act of playing a video game as passive as possible? So you can enjoy the stuff surrounding the interactive part? I mean, sure, if you're primarily looking for some pretty art and some science fiction/fantasy stories, that's fine, but why would you purchase a video game looking for those things and then complain when the video game turns out to be a video game?

I'm not necessarily talking just about challenge and difficulty here, there are different kinds of interactivity, but we're specifically talking about difficulty so it's what I'm mentioning.

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Justin258

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@justin258 said:

It's not different than people asking an author to just write a two page summary of their newest book and post it on their blog because those people don't have the time or energy to actually read the book. "Can you just give us the plot? Because that's all we're interested in, we don't really care about your characters or any effort you may have put into good form or pace or any nuance, we just want to know what happened".

Not really. What you're arguing for is more like an author releasing a novel only as a proprietary e-book reader that forces you to stay on each page for 5 minutes, just to make absolutely sure you read it. Or releasing a movie as a standalone executable file that prevents the viewer from fast-forwarding. And prevents you from rewinding a few seconds if you miss a line of dialogue or want to re-watch a part that confused you, but forces you to start over from the beginning of the scene

Video games are the only consumer entertainment product where people will argue that they want less choice. It's totally mystifying.

Nonsense. Cuphead isn't forcing you to continually dodge a boss's attacks for five minutes after you've beaten it.

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TobbRobb

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@justin258 said:

It's not different than people asking an author to just write a two page summary of their newest book and post it on their blog because those people don't have the time or energy to actually read the book. "Can you just give us the plot? Because that's all we're interested in, we don't really care about your characters or any effort you may have put into good form or pace or any nuance, we just want to know what happened".

Not really. What you're arguing for is more like an author releasing a novel only as a proprietary e-book reader that forces you to stay on each page for 5 minutes, just to make absolutely sure you read it. Or releasing a movie as a standalone executable file that prevents the viewer from fast-forwarding. And prevents you from rewinding a few seconds if you miss a line of dialogue or want to re-watch a part that confused you, but forces you to start over from the beginning of the scene

Video games are the only consumer entertainment product where people will argue that they want less choice. It's totally mystifying.

I really dislike this argument, because it doesn't apply 1:1 like that. Games are an interactive medium, so by reducing or severely altering the interaction you change the impression and emotion it was supposed to evoke. Making a game easier is not the same as fast forwarding a movie. Making a game easier is like rewriting scenes to be clearer and easier to understand, changing it to a new work entirely.

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Nonsense. Cuphead isn't forcing you to continually dodge a boss's attacks for five minutes after you've beaten it.

It forces you to dodge boss attacks for five minutes to finish a level.

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If a solution to this is literally just some sort of trigger in the game where, after you've died enough times at a particular level, you're given the option to hit a button that effectively makes you invincible for the duration of that level all Super Mario 3D World style, then I don't really mind much. Go for it, why not. But there's really no way to please everyone in this, because some people would just find that condescending instead. "Oh, so you're just going to tell me I can't do it and do it for me?"

At the core of these objections, what you have are people upset that, unlike the vast majority of big games made anymore, there's one that, instead of being designed from the ground up for the casual consumer, you have something designed to be more challenging than average. What these people want is the game, top to bottom, to be designed for them, because there are more gamers that just want to bang the game out in a few hours and move on than there are people that want the game to test them, and since there are more of them than the other folks, their interests matter more. This isn't really about people with disabilities, this isn't about just throwing in the ability to glow gold for a few seconds and God Mode your way through a level, it's about wanting to feel like you're having the game made for you. You're still seeing all the content, you still get to get all the achievements, you still get to feel like you beat it the "intended" way. This is why most games have been super streamlined and made fairly generous and forgiving with necessary precision and how fail states often work now. They don't want people who play easy games to feel like they're playing easy games. It reminds me of a story recently on how apparently something like 90% of first-time Gears of War players wouldn't play a second match if they didn't get a kill on their first time out.

Honestly, like I said earlier, at the end of the day I just don't know why it upsets people so much that a fraction of the market isn't catering to them. I don't get enraged that Kirby's Epic Yarn isn't Kaizo Mario levels of difficult, I just shrug my shoulders, knowing it's not made for me, and move on. Why does it upset people so much, in a world with more games than any one person could ever play?

@dukeofthebump: I just find this comparison silly because movies are passive and videogames are interactive. You sit and watch a movie unfold and a video game is typically an ever increasing incline of a skills test over many hours to keep moving from one chapter to the next. There's no real way from a production standpoint to make it so you can't skip pages in a paperback, and movies are so short in comparison to games, who cares. To me it makes sense why videogames "force" you to play from one section to the next. If a game came out from the get-go that just let you start an hour from the end, with absolutely no explanation of the increasing layers of gameplay complexity, it wouldn't get praised for its accessibility, it would be pilloried for being confusing and complicated, and then we'd wind up right back where we are, with people now saying "Well if they're going to let you skip to the end, they shouldn't make the gameplay so hard to understand if you go right there. Don't they understand people have lives?"

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duke_of_the_bump

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@tobbrobb said:

I really dislike this argument, because it doesn't apply 1:1 like that. Games are an interactive medium, so by reducing or severely altering the interaction you change the impression and emotion it was supposed to evoke. Making a game easier is not the same as fast forwarding a movie. Making a game easier is like rewriting scenes to be clearer and easier to understand, changing it to a new work entirely.

No it's not. It's giving people the option to play the game in a way that's more accessible to them. If you put an invincibility toggle in Cuphead's options menu, the main game is completely unchanged. Most people will play the game that way, since they will likely find it a fun, rewarding experience. But people who prefer can play the game a different way. I don't see what's so hard to understand about this.

If people were saying "the developers of cuphead should change the entire game to make it easier for everyone", then yes, that would be ridiculous and those people should be rebuffed. But LITERALLY NOBODY IS SAYING THAT. You're arguing with a position that DOESN'T EXIST.