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gamer_152

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gamer_152  Moderator

Say what you will about that ghost, at least it has very consistent handwriting.

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gamer_152

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I remember having a lot of fun with VoidBurger's old Let's Plays. Very glad to see her aboard.

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gamer_152

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@paliv: Thank you very much. You know, if politics is the power relations between people, I think it is part of every topic. And I think it is important to draw some boundaries. We have to say that we don't have room in our circles for people who are racist or sexist or transphobic. But who exactly people consider part of the "us" and who they consider part of the "them" can change a lot from person to person. And I think that even setting clear political boundaries, we can treat societal issues as complex and textured. In this article, I tried to take a hard stance against fossil fuel companies, but still describe the methods and nature of their destruction as complicated.

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gamer_152

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@therealturk: Thank you. I had to take length into consideration when writing this, so I didn't talk about every one of Hitman's features, but you are absolutely right that escalations and contracts can do a lot to grow a player's ability. Escalations, when done right, do that thing that a lot of wonderful strategy games do where they teach you to tackle a problem one way, and then put some obstacle in your path that means your previous approach is obsolete and you must start thinking about the level very differently. Then there were the Elusive Targets, which were really the apex of the challenges. Levels without saves wouldn't have been appropriate for developing player skill through the bulk of the game, but if you know you're only going to get one crack at a mission, you're going to spend more time in the missions where you can use all the features to practice, to make sure you can nail that target.

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@gtxforza: Thank you.

@sparky_buzzsaw: Thanks. I consider getting someone to play a game again high praise. I'm absolutely with you on the objectives that only seem to have one solution. I can't say I remember a target that you couldn't go after more than one way, but there are non-assasination objectives in 2 that do do that. Another Life is one of my favourite Hitman missions, but it felt so perfunctory to go back to that attic to watch the surveillance tape on every run. There certainly would have been more than one way to get the information from it.

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@sparky_buzzsaw: Hey, I got around to reading this in full a few days ago and wanted to thank you for writing with this length and detail. It was very insightful.

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Depending on the genre, I think the sweet spot is opt-in on-the-fly dynamic difficulty adjustments along with more traditional sliders. I hold the Forza games as one of the high points of gaming accessibility (insofar as the actual racing - the tiny fonts and cluttered menus could definitely do with visual accessibility options). But even with their incredible sliders and the rewind function, a godsend to someone like me who is legally blind, Forza Horizon 4 still makes some glaring difficulty errors. THis is particularly egregious with their Showcase events, which make heavy use of rubber banding to create (in theory) a more stimulating race. The reality is, though, with the difficulty sliders set to baby me, I'm often coming out of corners too slow at the last to theoretically win. It's still doable, but the precision needed to eke out a split-second victory is far sharper than if I actually had the difficulty set to not assist me with braking - which isn't viable for me since I can't see the corners. There are also events involving stunt racing that require you not to hit cars even once or else you have to start the whole thing over - and you're timed, so there's no lollygagging. It's maddening.

So then I propose this. More sliders, yes. Give us all the options to tinker with the difficulty on our own terms. Give us the "normal" and "hard" modes for those people who will invariably complain about the creative vision of the game (though how difficulty adjustment affects them I've yet to see a single good argument). But also implement dynamic difficulty with the option to opt out of it. And of course, playtest with people of as many backgrounds as you can. Get the dad gamer in there, the guy who doesn't have the time to master a game's complex combat systems and just wants to worship the sun. Get the hotheaded teenager who isn't happy with a game unless the difficulty is flaying the metaphorical skin from their bones. Get a sampling of people with disabilities, preferably with the realization that one person isn't going to define the spectrum of challenges the disabilities might entail (my blindness isn't your blindness, etc.). It's going to be a long process, to be sure, but thankfully games have been making huge leaps in this regard lately. The accessibility discussion (difficulty or physically) is working and someday we'll have these options down as pat as we do the current basic control schemes. We just have to go through the process of refinement.

I recognise the need you're talking about to approach any difficult "solution" with disabilities and diversity in mind. Especially, realising that range of disabilities. My current understanding is that most studios that are tackling accessibility tend to think of it with a very "call and response" attitude. E.g. The answer to blindness is a screen magnifier, the answer to deafness is to replicate audio input in the visual UI, when it's a lot more complicated than that. From what I gather, it's customisable systems, maybe a bit like Forza's approach to mechanics, that aid disabled players better than broad, one-size-fits-all solutions, but then I don't have a disability that affects how I interact with games. As always, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts, Sparky.

@sparky_buzzsaw: Yeah in my experience most driving games are bad at difficulty adjustments, at least for beginners. The reason why I do badly in racing games is because I fumble corners or crash into things, not because I can't accelerate fast enough. But more often than not, the only thing lowering difficulty does for AI drivers is lower their max speed. Unless they're capable of making the same kind of mistakes that human beginners make, they're playing a totally different game.

A game I noticed recently that does difficulty very badly is Spider-Man (2018). I was stuck at one of the optional missions, so lowered the difficulty and realized that it did jack squat. I got curious so I spent a couple hours experimenting, doing various missions and switching difficulty back and forth... The only difference I could tell was the amount of damage player inflicts/receives and that's it! There are so many different ways it could've done it, just off the top of my head: make stealth more forgiving, widen dodge/parry timing windows, reduce cooldowns, allow equipping multiple suit powers, make enemies slower (for chase missions), etc... but noooo, they just did the bare-minimum damage multiplier adjustments and called it a day. I doubt they even had people of different skill levels in QA.

@shindig said:

Sometimes the low difficulty drives the car for you. For me, I want the challenge of driving more than the challenge of racing. So a lower AI setting but with assists off does me nicely.

And one thing I would've liked Pro Evolution Soccer to do was use sliders to tweak AI preferences. I play on Top Player but I've done all I can on that difficulty. Stepping up to Superstar feels like it's too tight. One goal normally wins matches and I really can't create that much.

I love both these comments. I think they really reflect the thing I'm trying to talk about with this essay where key elements of difficulty aren't modified by difficulty settings and where a more modular approach could help us find our difficulty sweet spot.

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gamer_152

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@aiomon said:

Love the write up! I actually just played it a few weeks ago and had very similar impressions. If the controls didn't suck ass I would have really liked it, but it feel so mediocre because of them. I really like the format (aside from polyerkitty) tho.

Thank you. I liked the chance to head back through the hotel performing different tasks, but I can see someone getting frustrated at Polterkitty grabbing their reward away from them at the last minute or making them repeat areas they've already beaten.

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gamer_152

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@quantris said:

nitpick: for whatever reason it's called "Lara Croft GO" not "Tomb Raider GO" (AFAIK same name in all regions). For a second there I thought you were talking about a new entry in the series

Thank you for the catch; I've fixed it now.

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gamer_152

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@spiketail said:

Great article! It strikes up a lot of economical resonance, what with a heavier personal background in MMOs. Starts connecting up with other thoughts that are deeper subjects than the more overview coverage you've put forth. Also saw that there is a 2nd currency related post you've put up and about to dig in.

Thank you. There's definitely so much more to say about currencies in games than I've written here, but I hope this gives an accessible primer to some of the basic ideas behind monetary systems in games. If you want to read more on currencies in MMOs, this is one of my favourite pieces on it by Simon Ludgate, an ex-EA and Gameloft guy.