Sunday, 10 January 2016

The Difficulty Of Difficulty

The Difficulty Of Difficulty

The keys to making a highly challenging game that’s still fun to play

For most game designers, homing in on the right degree of difficulty is akin to discovering the Holy Grail. Make a game too easy, and players breeze through its forgettable challenges with little sense of accomplishment. Make it too difficult, and players may quit out of frustration or feel too intimidated to pick up the controller in the first place. Finding the right balance is an art form in its own right, and for most modern games, the perfect difficulty setting blends seamlessly into the background as players steadily and successfully fight their way to victory.

Not every designer follows this playbook, however. Over the years, a growing number of games have opted for the punishing difficulty old-school games used to dole out with impunity, and a particular segment of players have embraced these demanding titles with open arms. From the tortuous locales and towering bosses of the Dark Souls series to the deadly labyrinths of Super Meat Boy, we spoke with a number of modern-day difficulty masters to find out how they maintain the player’s enjoyment while still plying them with sinister challenges.

Nintendo NX: What We Want?

Nintendo NX: What We Want

The next console from Nintendo needs to be a winner. We have ideas for how the company can modernize its approach

Nintendo is at a crossroads. New president Tatsumi Kashimi has taken over the leadership role following the passing of the late Satoru Iwata. After a previous reluctance, the company is moving into the mobile market thanks to a deal with free-to-play specialists DeNA. The Wii U is last in the three-horse home console race, and delays to some of its software like The Legend of Zelda and Star Fox Zero haven’t aided its cause. The 3DS library is also drying up rapidly.

With so many things in flux we have a lot of questions and hopes for Nintendo’s next system, codenamed the Nintendo NX. Not much is known about the NX at this time. Nintendo has promised to deliver more details about the platform this year. However, with the PS4 at the top of the console mountain and Xbox One finally finding its way after a good holiday season, all eyes are on Nintendo to see how it responds. Given the company’s state of affairs, gamers hope the NX is successful enough to help Nintendo rebound from the Wii U. Here are some of things we think the system needs to do to make that happen.



Making allies to confront the supernatural

What if you combined a John Hughes movie with a Wes Craven film? This is the essence of Oxenfree. The complex relationships of ragtag teens mixed with supernatural elements reminds me of scary movies from the ‘80s, but Oxenfree also tries to be a narrative game that reacts to your decisions. It is a dialogue-heavy experience, and a lot of its success depends on that. The character interactions are the best part of the journey, but like a lot of games that delve into choice, the results of your decisions aren’t always satisfying.

For Honor

For Honor

Capturing the thrill of swordfighting

When For Honor was announced at E3, I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I knew the man on stage presenting it, creative director Jason VandenBerghe, had a lot of passion for a game that casts you in the middle of epic swordfights. After playing through a competitive multiplayer match at PSX, I caught up with VandenBerghe to discover more about For Honor and was pleased to find his enthusiasm hasn’t faded in the slightest.

A Legend Reborn


A decade is an eternity in technology. When Doom 3 released in 2004, Twitter didn’t exist, there were no YouTube celebrities, and Apple had yet to invent the iPhone. In the 11 years since, Activision has released 19 Call of Duty games, the motion-gaming fad has come and gone, and console dominance has shifted from PlayStation to Xbox and back to PlayStation again. But some things are timeless, and regardless of era, seem comfortable in their own skin. Count Doom among those rarities.

The first-person shooter credited for popularizing the genre, Doom introduced many gamers to shareware, 3D environments, modding, and multiplayer deathmatches when it released in 1993. The breakneck pace of its combat, the colorful enemies, and explosive gunplay all left an indelible impression on gamers, becoming so popular that it was estimated to be installed on more computers than the Windows 95 operating system in late 1995. Mothers and politicians raged against the ultraviolence, yet the game’s allure was undeniable. But with only three numbered entries in the 22 years since its debut, it holds a unique position in the genre it started. Few first-person shooters today play like Doom, having grown in new directions by introducing more tactical gameplay, creating open worlds, or focusing solely on multiplayer.