Do it again, stupid

By Shamus
on Apr 24, 2006
Filed under:
Game Design

There are some games that really, really annoy me. Popular games. Games that have sold well and are beloved by millions. Some of these games I hate with such intensity that it’s difficult to talk about them without employing profanity. I find myself shaking my head at these games thinking: Why did they MAKE it this way? And who PLAYS these games, anyway?

I’m noticing that there is an important distinction between the games that I like and the games I hate. In games I like, the appeal is a steady march to the end of the game. There is no failure (or failure is rare) but only minor setbacks. The very best ones are self-balancing. Barring that, they should at least allow the careful and thoughtful player to proceed through the game with minimal use of the “reload” and “retry” options.

The OTHER type of game, the kind that has always perplexed me, is something my brother and I refer to as a “Do it again, stupid” game. The game will pose a challenge, and the player is almost certainly doomed to fail on their first attempt. And the second. And maybe a few subsequent attempts as well. Usually we’re talking about a “mission” of some sort. As in, “do something quite difficult before the time runs out”.

If I have to do the mission twice, it must be twice as fun, right? So if I have to do the mission ten times…

It becomes clear when you do this that the designers never intended for you to succeed on the first try. They intend for you to do the mission over and over until you meet some arbitrary goal or time limit. Often the mission with have some sort of surprise “gotcha” moment that foils you. You must then remember this and plan ahead on your next attempt. An example: In Grand Theft Auto you have a street race where on one particular corner a car will ALWAYS jump out from a side street and pull in front of you. Once this happens a few times you realize it isn’t a fluke: It’s scripted, and you need to avoid it by driving on the sidewalk in that area.

I cannot describe how much I hate this. Every failure feels like wasted time to me. As in, “Hey, I’m doing this mission again. I’ve seen the cutscene. I’ve heard the dialog. I’ve seen it. Now I’m done with it and would like to move on. The Tony Hawk, Jakk, and Grand Theft Auto franchises all come to mind. Too hard. Too frustrating.

But other people love this sort of game. I’m guessing that for them the appeal is the thrill they get when they at last beat the mission. The harder the mission, the more rewarding it is when they at last pull it off. They seem to dislike the “steady progress” games that I love, because to them victory is inevitable.

For me, the do it again stupid (DIAS) games are horrible. I don’t get any sense of satisfaction when I beat a mission. I’m still ticked off that I just spent twenty minutes replaying the same three minutes of the game over and over. I resent the wasted time. I think to the one attempt ten minutes ago when I almost beat the mission but missed the goal by a quarter-second, and I’m even MORE bitter about the time spent re-playing the mission since then. More importantly, the misery I get from my half-dozen failures far outweighs the pleasure of the one final success.

Some examples:

A while back I picked up Starfox Adventures, which is supposedly a kid’s game. At one point there was a challenge I couldn’t beat. I’ve been playing video games for a quarter century, now. I’ve beaten my share of video games and proven myself to be an above-average player, but this mission was beyond me. I couldn’t do it. I got sick of trying. I never beat the game, and took it back to the store in disgust. Nothing like being beaten by a “kid’s game”.

Jakk II did this to me as well: The game came highly recommended and had fantastic visuals, but there was a “race over here real fast” mission about an hour in, and I couldn’t even come close to beating it. I realized that I was still in the early “easy” part of the game, and that the difficulty curve was only going up from here. I quit playing, and in the end I saw less than a tenth of it. (Luckily Jakk II was borrowed so at least I didn’t waste my money.)

That’s right, I’m wasted. Just like the last twenty minutes.

The thing that annoys me with these games is that there is no fail-safe. No matter how many times you fail, no matter how badly you fail, and no matter how long you remain stuck, you are never any closer to beating the mission than you were the first time you tried. There is no system to help frustrated players along or let them skip after so many attempts. There is no consolation prize. You have no new items or stats or experience to show for your work. You’re in stasis until you can jump through these hoops. It really is time wasted.

If every mission takes an average of 4 attempts for every success, then to me 80% of my playing time is being wasted. It also seems arbitrary: Like, if they want to make the game more “fun”, why not make it twice as hard? Why not just have the whole game as one long confusing mission, and every time you fail you go back to the very beginning of the game? Just think of it! Hundreds and hundreds of hours of gameplay! Think of the thrill when you at last beat it! Yay!

It sucks, and games like this need a warning label so I know to avoid them.

Over the years I’ve grown more and more wary of these sorts of games. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older and I’m not as sharp or a quick as I used to be. Maybe it’s because I have less time for games than I did when I was twenty-two, and I’m more careful about how I spent my limited gaming time. Maybe I’m just cranky. :)

Just for fun: List any DIAS games that really ticked you off in the comments. What games were the most heartless and frustrating when it came to wasting your time?

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From the Archives:

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  1. […] used to savotage the player’s progression and to stretch gameplay time with what Shamus calls DIAS (Do It Again Stupid). Even today developers don’t want their players to finish their games, […]

  2. tepholman says:

    What annoys me are games where they try to cram in another genre.
    “Hey, hero guy, beat up these peoples!”

  3. […] Twenty Sided » Blog Archive » Do it again, stupid – I can't stand these DIAS types of games. I've dabbled in Tony Hawk, but only when I can beat levels on the first or second try, or when I can make my character fall in fun ways. Shamus perfectly explains why these games annoy the hell out of me. […]

  4. Chuck Wilbur says:


    I hope you’re still monitoring comments on this old post ’cause you gotta see this:

    Warning: Language. LOTS and LOTS of language. Like, I think every other word starts with ‘f’ (if you know what I mean)

  5. Sam says:

    Psychonaughts – most of its fine until the final level which requires almost microsecond timing for a 10 min stretch – (i think it was about 10 min) it took me the better part of a morning…. a Lot of fun (the game in general) but the final level was torture, or maybe that’s just me. good game though….

  6. Yar Kramer says:

    Rayman 2. All those little “vehicle” sequences where one false move means instant death. And then the penultimate level is one continuous such level.

    Still haven’t beaten it, and I uninstalled it.

  7. Yar Kramer says:

    Oh yes, another game like this: “Shoot the Bullet,” a spinoff of the Touhou Project bullet-hell series.

    A bullet-hell game is a shoot-’em-up in which the screen is almost filled completely with bullets (the link is to a screenshot from Perfect Cherry Blossom, which is approximately the second-hardest bullet-hell game I’ve played), moving relatively slowly; I’ve often said that they are not dodged so much as navigated. Furthermore, your character’s hitbox is only a few pixels wide. The Touhou games are usually arcade-style, in that they consist of six levels, each with a boss at the end, and when you die (even if you’re continuing after running out of lives, in all but one or two cases), you don’t move to any previous point in the level, but merely to the bottom of the screen. For the most part, I usually stay there, because that’s where the bullet-patterns are typically the least dense (there are exceptions). Also, the characters and bosses are all cute girls, most of whom are “youkai.”

    Shoot the Bullet, numbered “9.5” in the series, is mission-based, with no lives or continues. Yep.

    If that wasn’t enough: instead of shooting back at the bosses (there are no levels per se, you begin at the boss), you must snap photographs of them and their bullet patterns; your camera causes their bullets to vanish, and you must snap five photographs per mission (there’s ten regular stages and one “extra” stage, with eight missions per stage), with the pattern changing to something harder partway through. You must also get really close to them, since the camera’s “field of vision” is relatively small and only a hitbox’s-throw away from your character. It takes a large amount of time to “recharge” the camera, too, unless you focus, which causes you to move a lot more slowly (which is typically a benefit in bullet hell games to give you more precise movements, but in this case if you want to charge up really quickly, it slows you almost to a complete stop). The bullet patterns are a lot more fast and dense than usual, too; the difficulty settings of each Touhou game affect how dense and fast they usually are, whereas Shoot the Bullet has only one difficulty level, and I’m not sure whether it’s meant to be Hard or Lunatic (the highest difficulty in the Touhou games). Instead of being fixed, they are also aimed directly at you: in order for you to be able to catch every pattern, they repeat after a few seconds, and you’re not safe just because you dodge’d the last pattern. And that is just Mission 1-1.

  8. […] on a series of missions. However, this may not appeal to you, as the core missions resemble the do-it-again-stupid kind of gameplay. I’m not really perturbed by this. Previously, my zealousness for perfection […]

  9. Lashenya says:

    Welcome to the NES and Genesis Era. Where games were actually good, had some difficulty to it, and required to have some skill when playing it. Even if it meant restarting a couple times because that one part was designed to be difficult. If you are going to say that these games are poorly designed when they freakin made the damn market, then you have some problems. The games (and gamers) of today are geared towards the hand it to you on a plate and hardly do anything kind of difficulty. Where you’re not having any problems, any challenges…and in my case…any fun. A video game, in my mind was originally meant to be challenging and was to create a whole new competition for people. If the game doesnt require any skill or practice, then where’s the competition? there isnt.

    Games in the past that employ this kind of “DIAS” idea.

    Super Mario Series
    Sonic Series
    Ninja Gaiden Series
    Mega Man Series
    There are some moments in Final Fantasy that do this to you
    Half Life series
    Grand Theft Auto series.

    All these are hugely popular, hugely entertaining games. That require you to have some knowledge and have some skill when playing it. I believe that you are falsely accusing these games of “Poor design” when the case is more likely “poor playing”


  10. Shamus says:

    So… what excuse can you offer for not giving less-skilled players a way through the game? Why not offer an “easy” mode? Why not make death less punishing?

    You’re just saying you don’t want games that can be for for older people, younger people, newcomers, or casual players. You’re thinking small.

    What makes YOUR definition of “hard” better than anyone elses?

    Put your fanboy jabbering aside. The world of games is bigger than you.

    • Steve says:

      Also he said Half life…How exactly does Half Life have DIAS? You CAN reload and retry something but you don’t really have to unless you make a major screwup…And it has easy mode :D.

  11. Andronian says:

    What you fail to realize is that the world of games is bigger than YOU, as well. There are different types of games for different types of gamers. The kinds of people who like Halo are probably not going to like an RPG like Final Fantasy or Fire Emblem. It would require too much thinking.

    But that’s why there are so many different kinds of games, so that everyone can be happy with their purchase. It really comes down to people actually bothering to do research before buying a game, instead of playing it for a half and hour and then coming to complain on forums “its 2 hrd omg”.

    So there are tough games, such as MegaMan 9 or Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia that employ the kind of DIAS tactics you were talking about, but that just means that people like you should avoid them. It does not at all mean that they suck.

    Personally, I recommend something that is more open-ended since you don’t enjoy losing. Pick up Animal Crossing: City Folk or Harvest Moon if you want uninterrupted gameplay that you can’t possibly fail at.

  12. TupperWare says:

    “I’ve been playing video games for a quarter century, now. I’ve beaten my share of video games and proven myself to be an above-average player,”

    If you’ve been gaming for 25 years, how the hell did go through the NES-SNES era without kicking and screaming? You seem to desire a level of hand holding that doesn’t even offer the slightest bit of gratification or feeling of accomplishment. I’m not talking about finally completing some odd task after 45 minutes of frustration and the relief of it being behind you, I’m talking simply about the feeling of having actually DONE something. A game that doesn’t discern playing excessively sloppily from playing with any degree of skill is nothing more than a cinema with required button commands.

    If you really think the world of gaming is bigger than one person, then how about speaking for yourself and coming to terms with the fact that you’re a shitty gamer than labelling any game that doesn’t let you win regardless of your actions as a waste of time? If you’re 25 or older you’re a big boy now, and should have stopped being spoonfed over two decades ago.

    Needless to say, even with the steady drop in challenge developers have been making in order to appeal to a wider audience, they are still very far beyond your grasp. You were never meant to play games.

  13. Shamus says:

    You people are ignoring everything I’ve said.

    You’re arguing that EASY mode should be left off, because you don’t want those dirty non-hardcore players to be able to play your games. ALONG WITH YOU.

    Why is YOUR definition of “hard” more valid than anyone elses?

    You can answer my questions, or piss off. I’m not going to argue with a wall.

  14. TupperWare says:

    DELETED FOR: And the coward cusses me out and runs away. Saw it coming. – Shamus

    Addendum: And then he tries to sneak back in and get the last word. No, you don’t get another chance. Go on your own blog and bitch about me. This is my house, and you’re not housebroken. Piss off. – Shamus

  15. Andronian says:

    I’m not going by my definition of hard. I’m going by your definition. I believe you coined a term for it. DIAS?

    And I do not believe that easy mode should be left off of games. Never once did I say that. I may have mentioned that there are different games out there for different people. This is a fact, and cannot be disputed. However, there is no reason that these games should NOT have had an easy mode. I would simply elect not to play that mode.

    I would like to reiterate the many games that already exist that you can’t lose while playing. There are many games for the Wii that are geared towards everybody playing. Take Wii Music. That is nothing but open ended fun. Unlike Guitar Hero, which actually has some sort of difficulty involved and could make you angry.

    We wouldn’t want that now, would we?

  16. Shamus says:

    No no no. The answer I want is not “go play another game”. Those games are different. They offer a different experience. I play them sometimes, but sometimes I want some one of these other games, but they have time-sucking hurdles and no way around them.

    The process of learning is fun. If you’re practicing free throws, you take a shot. You miss. You pick up the ball and try again. It’s a cycle of action and feedback.

    But in these DIAS games, you take the shot, you miss, and you get teleported home. You have to walk back to the gym and do 10 other simple tasks you’ve already mastered before you can try another free throw.

    I’m not arguing against challenge. I’m saying the same action can be more much more challenging for others than it is for you. And I’m saying games should not waste the player’s time. (The recent Prince of Persia games are a great example of this philosophy.)

  17. Crash says:

    What are some games that you like that don’t employ this DIAS tactic, besides the aforementioned Prince of Persia? Oh, and the game’s called Jak II, not Jakk II.

  18. Maestro says:

    For: Another kid who can’t discern between insults and debate. Keep it right up, punks. You’ll learn how to behave in public eventually. – Shamus

  19. Shamus says:

    Do note this original post is 2.5 years old.

    I don’t know what forum sewer you brats are coming from, but you guys aren’t going to get anywhere around here. This blog is about gameplay mechanics. What makes games fun, why people play them, and how they could be better. Not one of you has even TRIED to make the case as to why games should work like this. You’re all angst and insults.

    You can join the conversation, or you can fling poo like a bunch of monkeys and have your stuff deleted.

    It’s your call.

  20. NaturalChemical says:

    So, you want the experience of a difficult game without the difficulty? What, were you playing D&D for the last quarter century? That’s not how these things work. If a game doesn’t have an easy difficulty, it’s because the game is intended to be hard. The player is supposed to learn the mechanics of the gameplay and be able to deal with a few deaths. All games used to have this “DIAS” gameplay. Haven’t you played Mega Man or Super Mario Bros?

    Furthermore, you seem to be more of a casual gamer who hasn’t really been playing for 25 years, or you’d know this. I think your real problem is that you some issues with losing at anything and the only way to get your self-satisfaction is to be able to get instant gratification while playing a game with minimal interference.

  21. Shamus says:

    1. “Difficult game” is a relative measure. What’s difficult for A is impossible for B and piss-easy for C.

    2. It’s not the difficulty, it’s the time-sink punishment. If a failure doing something means I heave to spend 2 minutes doing a bunch of crap I already know how to do, then something that requires 5 attempts for me to learn will take 10 mins. 10 minutes burned so I can learn a five-second task. The punishment breaks the action/feedback learning cycle, which makes it even harder for new players to get the basic practice they need. And it’s usually just a stupid move used to pad out a game.

    3. I’m not a casual gamer. I was a PC gamer, exploring consoles. (This began three years ago, now. Since then I’ve picked up a PS2, PS3, Wii, Gamecube. XBox 360 coming soon.) I didn’t play console games between the Atatri and the PS2. (Although I’ve been going back and playing a few.)

    4. All games should ALWAYS have difficulty adjustment. It’s stupid not to. You say the developer “intended” the game to be hard, but who are they to judge? If they’re willing to SELL me the game then they should give me (and old folks, and young people and casual gamers and newbies) a way through the game. This is entertainment, you know?

    5. Achievements and trophies are there for the skilled players. I actually don’t like how games give out trophies for piss-easy things. THOSE are what should be earned, and out of reach for new players, to give them something to shoot for. But the end of the game should always be reachable. The best trophies should be reserved for beating the game on harder difficulties and such.

    Early PC games had a massive challenge spread. You could play on “super-Christmas-easy”, or “crazy hard”. EVERYONE could get the challenge they needed to have fun. Which is the goal.

  22. Zoro11031 says:

    I don’t know what forum sewer you brats are coming from, but you guys aren’t going to get anywhere around here. This blog is about gameplay mechanics. What makes games fun, why people play them, and how they could be better. Not one of you has even TRIED to make the case as to why games should work like this. You’re all angst and insults.
    GameFAQS, if you must know.
    Personally? I love DIAS games. You wouldn’t believe how elated I felt when I finally beat Mega Man for the first time. Oh, the joy. And another great thing about DIAS games:
    Once you beat it once, it’s cake. 1 year after beating Mega Man I for the first time, with thousands of Game Overs, I can now beat it without getting hit. My second playthrough I beat it without getting a Game Over. What’s great about this is it makes it easier to beat your times/scores, without the trial and error aspect.

    • xXDarkWolfXx says:

      Further proof that gamefaqs forums are in a massive state of decline. Why must all the sewer brats come climbing out to spam blogs. Im just waiting for the day my GTA 4 review comes to there eyes and i get harrassed for it. Maybe if one day im feeling particularly bitter and need to delete comments ill post it myself.

  23. Zoro11031 says:

    He better reply to us…

  24. Bostich says:

    Different games offer different experiences. They are fun for different reasons. Some games are fun because they are challenging. Does this mean ALL games should be tough as nails? Certainly not, as this would get old. Sometimes I just want to kick back and play something fun without having to work too hard at it. Other times I like to have a good challenge. The point is, it is good to have variety.

    To claim that hard games are poorly designed simply because they are too hard is a little ridiculous. The thing you seem to forget is that modern games are already much more forgiving than many retro games were. You complain about a 2 minute setback for dying? Seriously? Losing 2 minutes of progress doesn’t seem too bad to me when you’ve just died. Maybe you forget that back in the day, games often gave you a set number of lives and once you ran out, that was it. You had to start the entire game over. Some games gave you continues, but they were often limited. Having some sort of punishment for dying should cause you to be more careful, and of course there needs to be a good balance.

    A game that is filled with lots of instant death, take Mega Man 9 as an example, shouldn’t be too penalizing on you when you die. And in the example of the Mega Man games, they aren’t. Every stage has a halfway checkpoint, as well as a checkpoint right before the boss. And these stages aren’t more than a few minutes long, even if you aren’t speed running them. Sure it’ll take a lot longer than that your first time through, since you’ll likely die a lot, but the point is you’re not losing that much each time you die.

    To contrast that would be a game like Perfect Dark (my favorite FPS, by the way). It has fewer sources of instant death and consequently, when you do die, you are going to get set back more. You have to complete the entire mission on 1 life, with no health restoration items. There are shields you can pick up on the easier difficulties to help you along, though. The longer setbacks never seem unfair though, because one mistake usually doesn’t cost you your life. Unless you’re careless enough to shoot a computer terminal while you’re standing right in front of it, but then you deserve to start over. ;-)

    You say less skilled players should always be given a way through the game. That would imply that games are only fun if you can beat them, which I would disagree with. For example, I’ve never beaten Battletoads. Most people haven’t. Does that mean it’s not a fun game? Not at all, I’ve had lots of fun playing just to see how far I could get (Level 11 currently). I will admit that limiting the continues was probably going too far for a game like that. However, sending you back to the last checkpoint when you die is completely reasonable. I wouldn’t recommend the game to you though, since you don’t seem to like these sort of games. There is a lot of “wasted” time as you develop your skills and work on memorizing the levels.

    You say all games should have a Easy mode. I don’t see anything wrong with that in and of itself, but Easy mode shouldn’t get the real ending. Think of it as a training mode. It should be a way of preparing the player for the “real” game, i.e., Normal mode. Just don’t water down the Normal mode just to accomodate the less skilled players.

    And again, that’s not to say all games should be hard. Some games don’t need to be hard to be fun. It all depends on the style and atmosphere of the game. A good example of this would be Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. The game was quite easy, but it was a blast to play with all the different combinations of powers. I had so much fun with the game I played through it about 4 or 5 times in a row before moving onto my next game.

    On the other hand, some games are less satisfying when the difficulty is toned down. I recently played through the first Gears of War co-op with a friend. It was my first time playing the campaign so I picked Casual, not knowing what to expect. “Hardcore” sounded a little hard for the first playthrough. As it turned out, I was able to trudge along without putting too much care into my playing and we steadily progressed. My friend had never beaten the campaign, but had started it a while back. I would have to say the final boss was one of the must underwhelming final boss fights I’ve ever encountered (no doubt because of the Casual difficulty). Both of us reacted like, “Huh? That was it? The final boss??!!” I didn’t even feel like I had really accomplished anything. Games like this benefit from having a little more difficulty while games like Kirby 64 are fun despite lacking difficulty. It just depends on the game.

    Games like Ghosts ‘n Goblins obviously weren’t intended to be beaten by very many people. I’d guess less than 5% of people that have played those games have actually beaten them. Does that mean they’re poorly designed? No, they are just made for people looking for an insane challenge. I’ve only managed to beat Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on the Beginner difficulty, and let me tell you, it was still insanely tough. But I don’t think any less of the game for being that way.

  25. Shamus says:

    Zorro11031: I “better” reply to you? I got this website with thousands of readers – reading the NEW posts. I got a webcomic to run. And here I am mucking around on this two-year old post, just so I can talk to this small number of people. I’m spending a lot of time on you guys, and you’re not even regular readers and you’re not even going to stick around after this discussion.

    Having said that, both Zorro and Bostich have made a good case. Zorro actually spots the fundamental gameplay aspect: Memorization.

    Yes, I do believe that punishing the player by making them go back is bad game design – particularly in games aimed at a wider audience and with a clear story arc. DIAS is mostly a relic from the early days of coin-operated gaming. I’m glad SOMEBODY enjoys it, though.

    This whole discussion on “difficulty” is a tangent, started mostly by the visitors from gamefaqs. The real aim of this post was about games where they insert “gotcha” moments into a given series of challenges, and then force you to re-play the whole sequence. (Gotcha meaning an event that requires foreknowledge or to overcome.) In a five-minute level, with a gotcha once every 15 seconds, a flawlessly skilled player will need 52.5 minutes to beat the level. Which gives the game a punishment / rewards ratio of 95:1. (47.5 minutes being punished, 5 minutes spent experiencing new content.)

    I never, never play Mega Man, or Ninja Gaidan. I know they are DIAS and I’d obliterate my controller before I saw my first boss. Those aren’t games for me. I even said in the post that I know some people like this sort of thing, and I’m not one of them.

    What I was railing against above is a game like GTA, which is more or less freeform, but has DIAS missions built into it. (Not all GTA missions are DIAS. Some are just a task based on already established gameplay. But some are memorization challenges.)

    DIAS sections built into otherwise more “normal” games insert an impossible wall that simply blocks a certain percentage of players. This is where the bad game design comes in. The designer of a more normal game will throw in a DIAS section just to pad out the length of his game. All those players that came for the REST of the game are going to break on that challenge, and you end up with hundreds of people posting “How do I beat X”, and “are there any cheats?” Coming from gamefaqs, you’re probably familiar with this. A large part of the audience has stopped having fun.

    At the very least, these games should offer an alternate route for people not up for the challenge. Maybe it takes longer. Maybe they don’t get a trophy. Or whatever. But in a story-based game, the end of the story should be reachable.

    No, I’m not suggesting they should take DIAS out of MegaMan or whatever. (I wasn’t even aware they still made those games. They just aren’t on my radar. You can check the “game reviews” section to see a list of what I DO play.)

  26. Azshade says:

    Originally, games didn’t have much memory to play with. The concept of “hitpoints” was more so lives, and when you died, you went to the start of the level. This meant that in linear games, you had to proceed past a level before the next.

    This did 2 major things.
    – Introduced the DIAS game mechanic
    – Create game ‘bragging’ rights of “oh yeah finished” X.

    You need to remember though, these games weren’t complex. There wasn’t difficulty settings, and most games consisted of 4 directions, shoot and maybe an action. This meant every gamer was on even playing field.

    Fast forward a few years and games have become more complex. There’s difficulty, there’s hitpoints (where if you do take X damage you don’t reset), and there’s savegames. The problem started to become the quicksave-oholic. No matter how hard a game was, if you could quicksave, you could beat it. Shoot 1 bad guy shoot 2 get killed reload. Rinse and repeat.

    To counter, and make games more difficult, some games introduced the checkpoint system (such as Far Cry, for example) where it’s a DIAS system of sorts. These meant a nice blend between starting any particular level/mission etc over, but still not being a quicksave marathon.

    The problem, though, is balance. On the one hand a game like Farcry where, if you die, you can change tactics, have the “for knowledge” of what’s comming etc, to make it easier. On the other, games like GTA:SA where not only is it the exact same task, but often there is a host of pre-emptive driving etc.

    I’ve recently started playing GTA:4 and even in that right at the start (where you learn to disarm) I took 3 attempts and was getting rather frustrated.

    All in all, games will always struggle to balance difficulty. The multiple difficulty settings helps in spades, especially when they cover the ground (Such as halo from cakewalk to beads of sweat on ever kill Legendary).

    For the record, my personally most LOATHED DIAS is a old relic called ELMA (elasto-mania) moto-cross platformer. An equally old relic that I found annoying, but amazingly wonderful on conquering, was Sky Roads.

  27. Arxes says:

    Well said, although I think there’s another category of gamers that dislike both ‘steady progress’ games and ‘do it again, stupid’ games – the ones who want a true open ended game with multiple ways of accomplishing goals, and this lack of multiple methods is really evident in DIAS games. Sure, I’ll play a game for a great storyline, and linear is ok in that case, but if you’re making me do arbitrary linear missions upon missions, doable only the ONE way the (bad) game designers intended, no thanks!

  28. […] great value for entertainment dollars, but making games that abuse customer schedules with grind or stupid “gotcha” design is a mentality that should be left in the 20th century.  (If you haven’t read that article […]

  29. avoidingreallife says:

    Mario Kart Double Dash really pissed me off; mostly it was that damned Mirror Mode All Cup Tour. 150CC was difficult, but Mirror Mode took so many tries, most of them lost by less than ten points, and each requiring a good 45 minutes of time sink. Sometimes DIAS mechanics do make victory sweeter. (See Portal’s later testchambers, where looking around after you die can sometimes give you a very valuable new perspective.) But Mario Kart DD is one of those cases where the misery of wasted hours outweighs a bitty little Parade Kart reward. (Especially when the Bullet Kart has the same speed and acceleration, and Baby Bowser/Paratroopa is almost as fun a combo as Bowser/Boo or Bowser/Wario anyway.) I can chalk up at least one busted controller to Mario Kart.

  30. Danath says:

    I know this is old, but World of Warcraft has this “Race” against a guy called Captain Skyshatter. Now this is a flying mount race that lasts about 5 minutes, the boss shoots meteors that follow you and will knock you off your mount (resulting in instant failure), he also tends to fly in straight lines… and he moves faster than you, so if your following him, you lose, theres no track, so you HAVE to follow the boss, or lose. He will turn instantly on a dime, and if your flying “ahead” just so that he doesnt pass you, youll end up out of range, and lose instantly… you have to memorize his whole route, stay in front of him, and avoid the RNG of meteors that are trying to hit you constantly (that also appear from the empty void of the sky, so you can have as little as 0 forewarning if a meteor spawns on you). The reward for beating this race is an item that increases your mount speed by 10%, but it was almost deemed required that you buy a 10% mount speed increase item just to win, and they dont stack. He even has a period where for 30 seconds all he does is fly back and forth and spams his meteors constantly, trying to avoid meteors, lag, instant spawning, and his ability to fly out of range if you fall behind him made this absolute hell.


    Also personally I am a quick-saver if there is the option, simply because if I get past a particularly difficult part and die, I am not interested in doing it again, unless there is a SUCCESSION of difficult parts, in which case I have to make sure I do each one extremely well, or by the time I reach the end boss with his 11 gattling guns and hyper laser attack and 40 foot tentacles as well as hundred little monsters teleporting in, I will have 13 hp, a pistol, and 6 bullets. Difficulty is not affected by quick saves, it just means people have the capability of actually passing stuff without having to waste excessive amounts of time.

  31. Knaight says:

    It really depends on how it is done. I am a huge fan of the DROD series, which can seem like a DIAS game, but it does it properly. Sure, you will probably fail most rooms the first try. But you can usually see why, and you see the whole thing from the beginning, meaning that if your good enough you can plan for even the most complex rooms. The game uses simple game elements and controls for complex puzzles, meaning the puzzles with only one real way to beat them aren’t totally cheating you out of the game. Plus its not a twitch game, being turn based.

    For instance, a recent room I had trouble with was one with 2 serpents, snakes that you can only kill by getting them to run into walls. What it looked like was leading one serpent into an area with multiple doors, dropping a door on it, then getting the other through careful timing(in turns). But you don’t have enough time to do so. What it turns out you do is you let the first serpent get ahead of you at one point (there is something that you can cross that the serpent can’t, it looks like a shortcut). Then let it through the area where it looks like you should trap it, let the other one out, and both of them can’t get back at you, and get stuck, then die. Finally beating that level is awesome. If it was a twitch game where the reason it was hard was because you had next to no time to hit a switch twice and run past a serpent, with a hard to avoid attack, it would have been extremely frustrating.

    Basically figuring out what to do is fun, provided you have the information before hand, or a way to get it easily, and the game doesn’t try and cheat you out of odd methods through total BS. Figuring out how to do something is also fun. Running through something multiple times so you can memorize a bunch of random traps the designers throw at you isn’t fun.

  32. […] was originally that you’d learn by doing.  Shamus Young characterises this sort of gameplay as Do It Again Stupid and, although it’s the kind of gameplay that drives me mad in single player games, there’s a […]

  33. Caylex (yes, really) says:

    RAYMAN. RAYMAN, RAYMAN, RAYMAN. By god, RAYMAN. No, not the Rabbids one, or the third one, or the second one. The first one. Another “Starfox Adventures”, if you will. Beautiful music, cute, kid-like graphics, and interesting characters.

    But it is also designed by SATAN.

    No game has brought me closer to a busted controller without any trauma in my everyday life. All is good right now, I’m doing fine, but Rayman will always be there, haunting me, daring me to try god-damned Eat at Joe’s again. You know what’s really offensive? The hardest part is not the spiky threats, or the giant bosses, or the legions of baddies attempting to thwart you. It’s a couple simple jump puzzles, and a fanged fish at the end of one level. The aforementioned Eat at Joe’s is the very worst.

    Joe is a cute little alien, who wants his shop sign to light up again. All you have to do is mosey into the cavern of death, dodge the falling rocks and spikes, and not fall a thousand feet to your death. But this is the easy part. When you get the power back on, Joe is hopping up and down happily, and happy music is playing, but the level is not over. Since you helped him, Joe has placed some advertisement balloons in the deadly water next to his shop so that you can get across.

    You will never reach the other side.

    In the water in a couple of areas is what I like to call the, “speckled bitch-fish”, which looks somewhat like a saber-toothed lion’s face on a trout. One hit from this guy will knock you into the water to drown. The balloons are very small, and you are also dodging giant bullets. If you fail, the first thing you hear is laughter, the joyous laughter of Joe that his stupid little sign is back on. One time I missed the first jump and drowned two steps away from that little hopping jerk, and he didn’t so much as break his stride.

    Anyone know what part I’m talking about?

  34. Jon says:

    I like DIAS games, once in a while – it really depends on what kind of mood I’m in. I will say that playing these games with friends greatly reduces the frustration. My friends and I spent a decent amount of time beating Ninja Gaiden, and at times the only thing that kept me from walking away was the knowledge that the next person who played would fare no better. I can remember staying up almost all night with a friend to beat that last CoD 4 mission on Veteran, something I never would have done by myself.

    So perhaps some of my patience for these games derives from the sadistic satisfaction of watching my friends fail, but I think most of it is my stubborn nature – I don’t like to admit defeat at the hands of a video game, so I’m more likely to spend time perfecting my runs, inadvertently discovering new and unforeseen ways to stay alive for a few more seconds.

    I agree that all games should have an easy setting – some people just aren’t willing to play the same missions over and over until they succeed. But I think the underlying problem is not with the “difficulty” of the game – it’s the linearity with which we’re forced to solve problems in games. In certain games scripted missions do not always present themselves as such, and it may require several trials just to understand what you’re “supposed” to do (this hearkens back to your plot-driven doors post). I would argue for a more open-ended problem solving environment. If my goal is to open a door, I should be able to accomplish this in as many ways as my imagination allows. Rather than frame-perfect reactions, players should be rewarded for trying different things. If you want to take on the final boss with just a sword, feel free to do so and boast about it – but you can also drop that giant stone column on him and avoid the fight altogether (a bit anticlimactic, I know, but I personally would love to see a game that offered more than one method of killing a boss). In this way, the “Do it again” portion of the game is only limited by your imagination.

  35. People seem to only remember Ninja Gaiden for its ball-strangling difficulty. But that series was amazing precisely BECAUSE it was more than DIAS. First of all, those early games were as much skill as memorization games. I can’t put my finger on it, but I think that the NES/SNES era had less egregiously arbitrary limits on victory, even though the amount of memorization and unpredictable obstacles was at least comparable if not higher than modern games. More importantly, though, Ninja Gaiden had a beautiful, rich story, compelling characters, chilling villains, and amazingly cool concepts. With tinny 8-bit music and graphics, they made stories more gripping than most of the modern Final Fantasies. I loved Tactics Advance 2, and it had excellent dialog, but I could frankly care less about half of the main characters and a lot of the story. But with Ninja Gaiden, as a young boy, I was waiting every second for the next cutscene, hoping to see the story unfold, waiting to smack Jaquio or Ashtar or Clancy’s face right up. Not to mention that the Ninja Gaiden 2 Nintendo Power guide was amazing, with incredible artwork, comics…

  36. James says:

    I despise DIAS games. I never finished GTA4 because of it. I see my games as an “experience” rather than a challenge. I’m more inclined to set my challenges and goals on real world problems. A game is my chance to relax.

    inFamous and Prototype were two similar games released recently. In Prototype, you die a lot. You will see that death screen many times on Normal, and decently often on easy. This sends you back to the last checkpoint, and you learn until you beat the part. In inFamous, you are only sent back about one minute. In a generally short mission structure (they’re about 10-15 minutes a piece), this is no big deal. I absolutely adore this. Miss your fall? At least you only have to do 1/3 of the platforming again, instead of all it.

    Your articles are great Shamus. I honestly believe you are one of the most educated people in the gaming community in this sea of filth.

  37. Feb says:

    Revisiting an old favorite essay – I think this was the one that made me bookmark the site – to say that Batman: Arkham Asylum was the best game I’d played for a very long time… until I just died fighting Bane for the tenth time.

    I see what I need to do (and the game is nice enough to tell me on the reloading screen), I see how I’m getting myself killed, but I can’t seem to fix the problem. Although in my professional life I can be trusted to perform surgery on living human beings, I apparently haven’t mastered the split-second timing and finger dexterity required to beat this level. I call BS.

    Mass Effect, one of my top five games ever, allows the stymied player to ramp down to a lower difficulty setting almost anywhere in the game. There’s a penalty, as you collect many fewer XP, but it’s worth it to keep the game going. Batman:AA is failing me miserably right now – I refuse to think that I’m failing it, because that’s drinking a brand of Kool-Aid I don’t enjoy.

    Weirdly, the most DIAS game I can think of was Portal, but that’s one of my all-time top five as well. Exceptions to every rule, I guess.

    • WJS says:

      I wouldn’t say Portal was DIAS at all. I don’t recall it ever springing that kind of trap on me. You can typically see everything in a room before you start. I wouldn’t have called the AA fight with Bane it either. I found it pretty easy myself, but that’s not why I say this – DIAS is more than just “it’s hard and I die a lot”, it means there are sudden “gotchas” that you can’t reasonably be expected to react to, but must anticipate instead.

  38. Ell Jay says:

    Not overall a DIAS game, but the podrace in Lego Star Wars really tried my patience. Call me ham-fisted if you like, but I completed every other part of the game no problem. When I’d been working on it for the better part of an hour and I’d finally succeeded at passing the first lap out of a successively harder three? In the words of Yahtzee, “broken game gets to @#$! off.”

    • AnonymousGirlGam3rKid says:

      There is an adaptive difficulty option in most LEGO games… I don’t know if that would have helped if it were off, but Just So You Know…

  39. Otters34 says:

    Worst DIAS experiences would be the Challenge of Hades in God of War, where you have to carefully make your speedy way along squared wooden logs while rotating bladed posts swing to knock you off, and Klungo’s arcade game in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts where you learn the meaning of ‘old-school’ platforming. You have one life, unlimited continues, and you die in one hit, which includes running into walls. The boss fires one random fireball that is totally impossible to predict, and you can only jump once on that entire level. If you beat it, you get an Achievement, and a couple hundred in the game’s currency. I hated it dearly.

  40. A Reader says:

    golden sun: the lost age, my level 79 group could not beat the repeated spamming of djini storm and charon from dullahan.
    (djini storm makes all your djini in ‘recovery’ which means you can’t use them and they don’t benefit your statistics AND you can’t use them for summons, THEN he uses charon which has a chance to instant kill along with massive damage (30% of their health + 500 Venus damage) so if you DON’T get instant killed (and because he djini stormed you you get no bonuses to luck (which increases chance to unleash with a enchanted weapon (EG Sol blade) or critical hit and decreases the chance to be effected by instant death effects such as charon or magic blocking spells such as bind), he ALSO has formina sage(Fulminous Edge) which deals 700 jupiter damage to a single target. AS WELL AS THAT he gets 3 moves per turn and gains 200 hp per turn PLUS gaining all his pp back at the end of the turn. so yeah the toughest boss in the game (but thankfully not nessacery to win) is overpowered. he DOES give you iris though which deals 40% of the foe’s total health PLUS 2000 mars damage AND it’s a full revive and heal for everyone in the group.
    Not DIAS but still really annoying.

  41. […] Another great category is the one I’ve already talked at length in a previous post: to require from the player a string of not very challenging tasks before she can advance. One thing I didn’t mention though, is that the GTA series suffers from this in their mission structures. You died or got caught by the police? Do it again stoopid! […]

  42. […] Young wrote an influential article some years back called “Do It Again, Stupid!“, that tackles the growing trend in forcing the player through unreasonable hoops, under […]

  43. Kimagure says:

    For me, it was Kingdom Hearts. There’s some really annoying jumping/platforming in the Tarzan stage. After failing to make the jump for the fifteenth time, I found myself thinking that I could either throw my controller through my TV or walk away and put the game down forever. And I liked my TV. I quit then and there and have never regretted it.

  44. AnonymousGirlGam3rKid says:

    I have discovered that while I dislike redoing the same mission, there are games where you can turn on/off “adaptive difficulty” (LEGO star wars and Indianna Jones games being the owners of this name, even if they are not examples) that are MUCH more fun… These allow the players to choose whether they want to play a “Do It Again, Stupid” version of the game or a “steady progress” version… I believe this is one of the best types of games, and I would like to know if anyone else has come across any games like this… Or not…

    Thank you for reading this comment.

  45. Steve says:

    Demon’s Souls painfully hard game that sent you back oh about half a hour to your last boss fight. And you lose half your health. You only get it after a boss monster. A game that takes away your healthbar and gives it back to you when you prove you don’t need it is one that does not fuck around.

    Jak 2 bothered me some sections but I can’t remember any now. But seriously Demon’s Souls You suck!.

    • Corrodias says:

      Seven years later, I come looking for mention of one of the Souls games. Reading this article reminded me of them but also got me thinking about how they avoid some of the “you accomplished nothing and just have to try harder” frustration.

      Death is expected. It’s not necessarily a personal failure. It’s healthier to think of it as a learning experience, an expected method through which the game teaches you how to play. There are traps that you might not notice… but generally, if you proceed cautiously, if you’re observant, you will see the traps coming. For enemy attack patterns, there’s nothing for it; you have to learn on the fly, and you’ll probably get wrecked sometimes. But you don’t die empty-handed; you’ve learned more about how that enemy moves.

      You can then use different approaches. You’re not stuck just learning to race better, or memorizing an intersection with a car getting in your way. You can learn to watch the ceiling and look around corners; you can use tools (bows, magic, throwing weapons, other consumables) at your disposal to manipulate an encounter; you can (if someone’s available) summon assistants to help if you simply can’t power your way through something. You can even go farm experience if you want to, though its usefulness is less significant than in some games. Every bonfire or shortcut you reach is permanent progress, and they’re usually not *super* far apart. Every little segment is a repeating challenge, but you have many options; you don’t have to simply “git gud” as San Andreas demands.

      Dark Souls 3 is a little weaker in this regard because, in my experience, the magic and tools usually don’t make things any easier than simply swinging a big sword does, but some of these aspects are still present. Demon’s Souls could perhaps have used more frequent checkpoints, or ones placed immediately before the bosses, although there is usually a fast (not 30 minutes) route to the boss from the nearest archstone if you’ve opened the shortcuts and explored all the paths.

      When I played Demon’s Souls, long ago, I fully felt this DIAS frustration, and I quit playing about halfway through. But now, as I have played the more refined versions of the formula, and I understand more about the expectations and mechanics, I love these games that I view as deeply flawed yet overall enjoyable. One thing that would have helped me in Demon’s Souls would have been a better explanation of the mechanics. I went in thinking a sorcerer would be the most fun, but as it turns out, it’s much more forgiving if you have strong armor and weapons with maybe just a touch of magic. As a complete newbie, I think I would have had a much better time with a knight-style character.

  46. Mormegil says:

    X-Wing Alliance had an interesting way of dealing with this. If you ran into a mission that you simply couldn’t beat then you could “go on leave” for that mission and skip to the next one. You could only do this 3 times though.

    No explanation was offered for why Luke didn’t just go on holiday whenever a death star appeared.

  47. patschef2 says:

    In Gran Turismo 5 I stop playing at event A8. Impossible without cheating and hours and hours of trying. No point. Disgusting. Frustation. Plain stupid game. You play to enjoy, not to become miserable. Waste of money and time. Life is too short!

  48. Jonn says:

    God of War has a “do you want to switch to easy mode” option come up after the 50th time that frakkin’ floor drops out from under you. They do that with all the “you can’t leave” combat areas, I note. You’re screwed on the puzzles, though.

  49. Thomas says:

    Strangely enough, I’ve finished GTA III, Vice City, San Andreas and the others at least three times each. And Jak, Jak II (a great experience), Jak III (adaptive difficulty, which made it a bit disappointing) twice. And the Ratchet and Clank games, twice. And Psychonauts, but just the once. I wonder what a psychologist would say.

    By the way, the key to any GTA 3-series game is to be a diligent fireman.

  50. Kel'Thuzad says:

    Just got Portal on steam for free with their offer. Would Portal be an example of this type of gameplay? I don’t really understand why everyone likes it because, for me, it’s an exercise in keyboard-breaking frustration.

  51. […] for Prototype as it was due back yesterday.  I had a good time with it, despite the frustration of DIAS gameplay it was enjoyable, but what did I rent next?  Wouldn’t you like to […]

  52. Joshua says:

    Does “Do it again, Unlucky” count? I remember playing some of the original D&D computer games back around 1990 or so, and some of the fights were basically reload and repeat until you got lucky enough to not fail a save(this was 1st edition, which had a lot of Save or Die opportunities).

    One bad example I remember was in Curse of the Azure bonds where you fought a battle against six or so wyverns in a tower of a Red Wizard of Thay. If any of the wyverns hit you, you had to make a saving throw versus poison. If you failed the save, your character died. So, it was basically replay each battle until you were lucky enough to have all of your characters roll well enough in initiative to go first, hopefully kill off most of the wyverns, and then either have them miss you with their attacks or successfully roll your save in case they hit. I think it took me about 20 tries.

  53. Twad says:

    Resident evil 4 (Wii) QTEs in cutscenes and arbitrary instant-death ennemies everywhere? No thanks.

    Lester the Unlikely (SNES) The worst game ever. The ultimate rotten trial-and-error game i know, and poorly designed too.

  54. RCN says:

    Hate DIAS-type games. Most of them seems to be platformers though.

    I did like one of them though: Captain Claw. I guess it just had the right conditions.

    First off, it is a platformer with saves, so once you reach the 9th level you don’t need to do all 8 levels before it you next try. Also, each level has a few saves within it and a lot of checkpoints.

    Still, the game was hard. And would kill you instantly if you tried to resort on things like timing and predicting outcomes.

    However, I think I know why I like it. Unlike most platformers, Captain Claw rarely rushes you. Most of the time you can sit around and have a good look at what is happening ahead of you, and even look further up or down in the segment you are, to figure out what to do. That means, most of the time, if you fail, it is because you didn’t pay close attention to your surroundings or you were impatient and tried to extrapolate the timing of a few jumps without knowing what was ahead.

    Sure, the game also have quite a few instances where you have to jump on unstable platforms or moving platforms and had to think on your toes, but to the game’s credits, except for the last couple of levels most of the time it only got cheap like that in segments where you were taking a detour from the main game looking for secrets. That is: it only really tried to frustrate you if you really ask for it.

  55. RCN says:

    Also, I’d like to add that those kids really are brats. I hate those console fans who can’t bother to get the whole picture and believe Mario is the best thing ever (a game and character I can’t stand). They come here, on you site, insult you, and then try to bait you over to their territory because they think you ought to be “taught a lesson”…

    The confused you for a 12 year old who knows nothing about games and the industry just because you can’t stand the kind of gameplay design that was originally made to just add artificial length to a task (or eat quarters) so people thought they got full value for their money (or paid more than it was worth it). Like you pointed somewhere else in the Escapist, the adventurer style is dated and they died for a reason. This is also dated and people somehow still mistake it for fun.

    I think: “Hey, it is nice that you get skilled and you learn and you get past that part that was so hard… but… what kind of fun/experience or insight you’re getting from the 15 minutes prior to your second and subsequent tries? Good, you jumped that dog for the 500th time, it’s mechanical to you, this previous part literally offer you nothing but artificial padding to the part you’re getting screwed over… and you call that legitimate game design?”

    I also never could agree with the prejudice that only the japanese make good games. The japanese don’t make good games. They don’t even try. They do precisely two things, that are not games: Movies disguised by sporadic interactivity and pointless timesinks for their huge incidence of OCD.

    The worst part? Those people came from the Mega Man 9 board. Which means they’re the sort who completely endorse gaming companies for retroceding in time and then standing still, shamelessly culling on their nostalgia.

  56. Soylent says:

    I dislike games with too much of a persistent state in general and games without DIAS in particular.

    What’s the bloody point of slowly accumulating “achievements”(which paradoxically are almost never achievements), gear and wealth over months?

    I understand why kids might like this kind of gameplay but adults? As an adult I already collect achievements in the real world(C.V.) and I slowly grind for gear and wealth over years(job). When I play a game I want something challenging, something high density of awesome; this necessarily means fairly smallish maps, which necessarily means DIAS because otherwise the game is too short. When I fail I want to learn from my mistakes and give it another go.

    Unlimited saves anywhere sucks all the fun out of the game. If something bad happens am I going to just accept it and make the best I can of it or am I going to mash quick-load and do the last 20 seconds over again? I’m going to load; and because I can load at any time I’m not going to care to be attentive. And because I don’t have to be attentive there’s no excitement or feeling of danger. The quick-save/quick-load silly-walk ruins games.

    Multiplayer games, in particular mods, is almost the last refuge. There’s no persistent state to speak of, you can just log in and play a couple of rounds. Why mods? Because commercial games have been infected with console crap(regenerative health, top run speed slower than grandma, sluggish controls and gameplay that hinder those who are dextrous and good at multitasking).

  57. Toby says:

    Well, I would say that I completely disagree here.

    Maybe I’m just some super gaming prodigy, which I highly doubt, but I never have this problem, save for a couple genres of game I never play and never intend to. (i.e. Sports and racing, though GTA helps with the latter.)

    In any other type of game, the only DiAS moments I have are on the hardest difficult settings. I may fail sometimes, but it’s usually because I made some sort of mistake and learn from it. Most missions, challenges, etc. only take me one try, and the rest take two, sometimes three. Of course, there are exceptions, such as the brand new Force Unleashed II with it’s challenge maps. Those are intentionally supposed to be hard as fuck, though.

  58. Februaryfour says:

    Someone else linked me here, and I couldn’t agree more. There are some games that annoy me to no end, but at the moment all I can think of is OMG, Okami. The race against Tobi on Demon’s Island. DIAS in a nutshell.

  59. The Cheshire Cat says:

    Wow this sure is a popular post for being 4 years old (I’ve been trawling the game design archives since being linked to it from a discussion about AI).

    It’s already been mentioned, but the ultimate DIAS game is NetHack except… it actually does it right.

    Every game is randomized. The particular elements are always going to be the same; the monsters and items are all drawn from a fixed, relatively small list. The items themselves have randomized appearances, so that when you pick up a scroll, you won’t know exactly what it does at first. Once it’s identified as being say, “a Scroll of fire”, it will function the same as a scroll of fire from any previous iteration of the game. The levels themselves are randomized though, save for a few special ones, and item generation is done entirely without factoring in what level you’re on, so something you found early in one game you might not find until much later in another (monster generation is affected by both your character level and the dungeon level you’re on, for the sake of balance).

    So rather than having to memorize “okay in level 3 there’s a trap where if I try to grab the sword it will spawn a horde of monsters that will kill me”, you still gain a measurable sense of progress each time you die, because you’ve learned from whatever killed you and will pick up new tricks and interactions between the various elements that you can use in your next game. Additionally, because the penalty for death is so harsh, it means the game is designed in such a way where there are very few “unavoidable death” scenarios. Yeah, sometimes the RNG will decide to just screw you over and create a gnome with a wand of death on level 1, but it’s extremely rare and is only possible in the very early game, when you don’t have much to lose ANYWAY, since defenses exist later on that will protect you from such instant death attacks.

    That sort of thing is one of the things that makes roguelikes (at least the good ones) much less frustrating than their “you start the entire game over when you die” mechanic would suggest. Dying is highly consequential, but also much less sudden than in most modern action games where if you strafe out of cover at the wrong time you get surrounded and murdered in a hail of bullets in 0.2 seconds. I suppose part of this is based on it being turn-based rather than real-time, allowing you to stop and consider all of your options for as long as you like (which, for most players, is just slightly less time than they SHOULD have spent, as they read over their post-death inventory list and realize they had the perfect solution to their problem sitting there in plain sight).

    And hell, even if you still find that too frustrating, you can always just enable “Explore mode”, which asks you nicely “Would you like to die? (y/n)” each time something kills you. It disables the high score list, but if you’re playing just for the experience of rather than to prove you can “beat” it, there’s no harm. It also serves as a good way to acclimate yourself to the various trick mechanics without the risk of dying and losing your character while experimenting, so that you’ll be better prepared if you choose to make a “real” run.

    To put it in context, I’ve played NetHack for at least a few years now, and ascended (beaten the game) once so far, yet I still enjoy it.

    • WJS says:

      I would disagree quite strongly that Nethack is “DIAS done right”, because 1: there is no “right” way to do DIAS any more than there’s a “right” way for a game to crash and delete all your save files. It’s a fundamentally bad thing for a game to do. Also, 2: Nethack isn’t DIAS anyway. The essence of DIAS is pre-scripted sequences that the player has to learn with events that they can’t reasonably react to, and must anticipate. This isn’t what a roguelike is about, even if their “learning by death” style is superficially similar.

  60. B says:

    DIAS games are bad, but what is worse are “get that key over the pit of lava” games. The best Example of this is C&C Renegade, a game I played until the disk broke. You see C&CR is like Unreal in that you carry all the different weapons at once. This lead to many situations where I was stopped by a locked wooden door when I was carrying not one but two missle launchers and a high-powered laser. This situation is also common in mass effect when you fail at hacking a container; I am armed to the teeth and I can’t open a box. And you can’t attempt a hack AT ALL if your skill is two low. What, I can’t just take the crashed probe with me back to the ship and open it there!? Frustrating, it is.

  61. […] but they never really got boring; the minigame sequences at times were a bit annoying (what Shamus calls DIAS), but weren’t too hard to solve in the end.  So overall, pretty […]

  62. […] focus a lot on the difficulty.  While I don’t have to go a whole lot into Shamus’s Do It Again, Stupid to make my point, if you look at a number of older games, that was the “difficult” […]

  63. […] My first indulgence is gonna be on the Learn through Death mechanics or as Shamus Young puts it Do It Again, Stupid […]

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11 Trackbacks

  1. […] used to savotage the player’s progression and to stretch gameplay time with what Shamus calls DIAS (Do It Again Stupid). Even today developers don’t want their players to finish their games, […]

  2. […] Twenty Sided » Blog Archive » Do it again, stupid – I can't stand these DIAS types of games. I've dabbled in Tony Hawk, but only when I can beat levels on the first or second try, or when I can make my character fall in fun ways. Shamus perfectly explains why these games annoy the hell out of me. […]

  3. […] on a series of missions. However, this may not appeal to you, as the core missions resemble the do-it-again-stupid kind of gameplay. I’m not really perturbed by this. Previously, my zealousness for perfection […]

  4. By Choose Your Own Adventure « Tish Tosh Tesh on Wed Mar 11, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    […] great value for entertainment dollars, but making games that abuse customer schedules with grind or stupid “gotcha” design is a mentality that should be left in the 20th century.  (If you haven’t read that article […]

  5. […] was originally that you’d learn by doing.  Shamus Young characterises this sort of gameplay as Do It Again Stupid and, although it’s the kind of gameplay that drives me mad in single player games, there’s a […]

  6. By Respecting the player’s time « Indigo Static on Tue Dec 8, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    […] Another great category is the one I’ve already talked at length in a previous post: to require from the player a string of not very challenging tasks before she can advance. One thing I didn’t mention though, is that the GTA series suffers from this in their mission structures. You died or got caught by the police? Do it again stoopid! […]

  7. By Half-Masked » Archive » Trained Poodles on Tue Jan 5, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    […] Young wrote an influential article some years back called “Do It Again, Stupid!“, that tackles the growing trend in forcing the player through unreasonable hoops, under […]

  8. […] for Prototype as it was due back yesterday.  I had a good time with it, despite the frustration of DIAS gameplay it was enjoyable, but what did I rent next?  Wouldn’t you like to […]

  9. By It’s good to be bad « Thoughts from Mirality on Mon Feb 28, 2011 at 2:56 am

    […] but they never really got boring; the minigame sequences at times were a bit annoying (what Shamus calls DIAS), but weren’t too hard to solve in the end.  So overall, pretty […]

  10. By Good, Hard, Dumb? « Knight of Fools on Tue May 24, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    […] focus a lot on the difficulty.  While I don’t have to go a whole lot into Shamus’s Do It Again, Stupid to make my point, if you look at a number of older games, that was the “difficult” […]

  11. By Gameplay Part 1: DIA,S « Rivers Musings on Fri Jun 10, 2011 at 11:46 am

    […] My first indulgence is gonna be on the Learn through Death mechanics or as Shamus Young puts it Do It Again, Stupid […]

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