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Game Difficulty - Challenge Accepted or Game Over?

by Zubayr Bhyat (plut)  Posted Tuesday, April 29, 2014 12:48:00 PM

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Everyone needs to suffer a little to get better. It's one of those unwritten rules that everyone accepts, but only because they have to. The trick is accepting that you need to do something difficult to develop yourself. My last lesson happened in the form of Dark Souls 2. Like in Dark Souls, I died often. In the second game my approach shifted toward learning quicker, and that was where the real enjoyment came from. Something clicked when I played the second game. There was a level of understanding that appeared after days of struggle and strife. The hardest part of the game was understanding what progress required. 

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It meant practising uncomfortable twitch movements till they became natural. These included deflecting enemy attacks as they were about to strike, as well as dodging to avoid damage. While learning these tactics sounded simple, they demanded observation and even more deaths. Parrying required immediate proximity enemies - and that meant a decreasing health bar. Dodging needed me to know when to get out of the way or face extra damage while risking an offensive advantage. Was the sacrifice worth it? Yes, in the long run - but it did feel unfair in the beginning.

Why leave your comfort zone? Is it worth it?

The question I ask is this: Why is it so important to take on harder enemies with greater restrictions? Well, for a start it forces you to get creative with your tactics. You learn that waiting for a minute to take a head-shot is too long - and that you can be much faster. Also, in multi-player you face human enemies who adapt all the time, and have to think fast to survive each encounter. On top of thinking fast, learning to observe becomes critical to gaining the upper hand over your opponents.

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When you become more aware of your environment, enemy tactics becomes simpler. Enemy vulnerabilities become visible with repetition. We use our ability to learn their patterns after repeated exposure to their habits and ways. This is where gamers develop their problem-solving abilities and keen visual acuity. While the initial phase of our skill-building demands more thinking initially, reactions become automatic.

Find your limits, it's worth it.

Why work under greater pressure? There is one simple reason: We learn our limits, and just how far they are from what we believe.

I am a junkie when it comes to playing games on harder difficulty levels. This means that I fail objectives more often. It also means that my learning curve is quite steep from the beginning. For me, the more complex an action, the greater the sense of achievement - as a result I'm more satisfied with my gaming experience.

No excitement in ease

There are people out there who just want to play games to unwind. I respect and accept that, but what good is a game that doesn't allow you to challenge yourself?

In Gears of War, I unlocked and tried Insanity difficulty and that gave me almost no room for error. Enemies would kill me in one or two shots and I got forced to do more damage since they took far more damage than before. That meant learning to use combinations of melee and ranged combat. Both ballistic and explosive weapons saw use. Lastly, defeating General Raam (the final boss) took at least twenty attempts before I saw the end. Despite the time put in, the game was even more enjoyable after so many retries.

Gran Turismo 6 saw racing assists turned off. Stability control (Keeps your car in line while risking a spin-out) got turned off. I proceeded to disable traction control and anti-lock braking. Rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive vehicles were far harder to handle. GT6's dynamic physics model meant that any mistake meant loss of control at each car's limit. The decreased room for error allowed me to gain far more control than before though, and lap times saw a reduction of over two seconds.

Using a Bonfire Ascetic in Dark Souls 2 respawned enemies who no longer appeared around a respawn point. This meant that they now had increased damage output and had double their health capacity. They also yielded more souls for me to spend on in-game. Talk about a shift in the game's balance. There was less room for error. I had to take the opponents down with more hits - and that meant weapons wore down faster than before. The increase in difficulty led to me fighting with more efficiency. The upshot of that was that the rest of the game became easier to complete due to new skills learned from the adversity.

The masochist in me demands the pain in the end

There are more examples for every genre, not just in racing, role-playing and shooters. The masochist in me justifies the struggles I go through with the rewards that follow on. Whether these comes in the form of relief and joy or in a powerful item, the incentives are always worth it. How do you readers do it? Did you ever complete Battletoads or Demon's Souls? Or do you like things easy?

I'm keen to hear your views, let us know in the comments below.

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd.



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