How Hard is this Game?

By Shamus Posted Saturday Apr 21, 2007

Filed under: Game Design 55 comments

There are lots of interesting comments in this post, where GTA fans stand up for the gameplay I obviously loathe so much. This one in particular caught my eye:

[…]I've never had any real trouble with the missions in any of the GTA games, and I've actually thought that they should perhaps include a “hard” difficulty setting as well, where the bad guys are a bit harder to kill, the cars a bit quicker, and that sort of thing. By the sound of things though, it seems like there should be an “easy” difficulty, too.

I've never had any problem with the storylines, either. Sure, they're about stealing, killing, extorting and whatnot, but if they weren't it wouldn't be called Grand Theft Auto. I find it quite refreshing to play as a “good guy” who isn't actually all that good.

I do agree, however, that it'd be nice to have some sort of “sandbox mode” as has been suggested, where it acts as if you've effectively finished the game already – be that through a cheat or some menu option, it'd be fun. I know that that's what gives GTA games their replay value for me.

So what we have here are different groups of players, some of whom think the game is infuriatingly hard and other players who find it to be a little too easy. Part of this has to do with the frustration threshhold of the player. When playing a videogame, do they think:

That game is easy. I only died every once in a while. Maybe a couple of times a level.


This game is frustrating. I died twice on just about every level.

ESRB Timesink warning label.

Some players (like me) see death / failure as something that should only happen if you are careless. Other players see death or failure as inevitable part of the game. Beyond that, different players have different expectations for the penalty they expect to endure for failure. Some players are comfortable with replaying the last five minutes. Others resent the setback and would rather simply retry the game from the point just preceding their failure. (See also Jay’s post on saving the game, which outlines the fiendish details of this problem that game developers face when letting the player save the game or otherwise negate or minimize failure.)

So, to various readers of both stripes: How many times do you have to fail a mission before you think, “This is too hard”, or you feel that your time is being wasted?


From The Archives:

55 thoughts on “How Hard is this Game?

  1. Patriarch917 says:

    I can’t stand the sort of game that requires, in order to beat it, a process of trial and error. I prefer to be able to look at a challange, think about it, and solve it.

    For someone with an opposing view, check out this guy:

  2. Retlor says:

    I think dying/failing is the sort of thing that should happen to even the best player once in a while. When I fail, I realise that I’m doing something wrong, and often teach myself new tricks to deal with that. If it gets to the point where I can complete a game without dying/reloading I tend to give it up as too easy.

    There is a certain balance though. If I fail too much, I get annoyed. If I don’t fail enough, I think the game is too easy. Basically, like most gamers, I’m hard to please!

    That said, I like the feeling of finally completeing something I’ve been stuck on for a while.

  3. Patrick says:

    I’m generally pretty happy with the “I only died a few times” theory. GTA is about doing something several times until you get it right, that’s why there’s no penalty for failing a mission (and only a minor one for dying/getting busted). I remember the very first bird’s-eye-view GTA game where you could only try each mission once – now that annoyed me.

  4. Mark says:

    I’m not a big fan of that sort of “do it again, stupid” type of gameplay, though I think I have a decent tolerance for it, and sometimes once you get past that initial learning curve, the game can be loads of fun (i.e. the Hitman games). But then there’s stuff like the Hades level of God of War. Goodness, why would anyone think that was fun?

    The thing that really frustrates me is when I know I did everything right, but I die or lose anyway. This happens to me most often in the context of sports games. For instance, I’ll be playing a hockey game and I’ll lose 2-1 even though I outshot my opponent 57-10, doubled them in hits, and won more faceoffs. What the heck? Their goalie had 56 saves, while mine had 8. Ostensibly, they have the same rating, so why the huge discrepancy? This is how people come to hate the computer – it sometimes seems like it decides the outcome of the game before you even start playing, and that is obviously not fun.

  5. Smileyfax says:

    Whenever a level proves too difficult, I simply ramp up my efforts and scream louder. That eventually does the trick.

  6. thark says:

    It’s a hard to answer question, because, consider this:

    If I’m playing a racing game, I may run the same track time and time again trying to improve my time. Some DDR tracks, I’ve probably done fifty or a hundred times trying to improve; and even if I’ve gotten the perfect score on one, I may keep playing it because I’m still far from being able to do so regularly as opposed to just on that one lucky attempt when my my concentration didn’t flag.

    On the other hand, playing GTA, certainly, I don’t want more than a couple of tries on a mission, unless it’s one I’m really having fun with and I’m really feeling a sense of improvement with each successive try. And some ARE just frustrating.

    If I’m playing Baldur’s Gate (or whatever) and it’s just a matter of reloading a combat until I get that lucky streak of consecutive critical hits, I’m going to snap the game disc and stomp on the pieces.

    So, uh, it depends. :-)

    I could see myself being the guy in the SMB video–there is sense of doing better on each attempt and eventually succeeding. (Except of course not enjoying the type of game, and the fact that it’s just WAY to ridiculously difficult and I wouldn’t get past the first jump a hundred tries…)

  7. Dan Morrison says:

    My RSS reader played a trick on me and this giant post about GTA and saving
    was supposed to be in this thread :-}

  8. Skip says:

    I don’t mind a few restarts, as long as I could have avoided them if I were more skilled. What drives me nuts are the games that seem to use save/reload as a game mechanic. Certain RPGs get bad about this at the end, where you reach a point where you do:

    1. Try an encounter.
    2. Fail horribly, but note the oppenent’s spells they used.
    3. Reload the save, and cast the appropriate ‘protection versus ‘.
    4. Repeat as necessary.

  9. Rebecca says:

    When I couldn’t figure out NetHack I got the same reply from a gamer – I shouldn’t be concerned about not dying, which is inevitable when you first play the game. I don’t mind dying occasionally, but I find it much more rewarding when I don’t have to – not to mention more realistic.

  10. Dev Null says:

    I hate saying this, because I’m annoyed by RPGs where the challenge level of a fight is just within doability for you no matter wether you’re level 1 or 98. But my first reaction to this post is that perhaps they need an automatic difficulty adjuster. You know, the kind of thing that takes it up a notch if you do too many in a row without a single mistake, but ramps it back down the third or fourth time you go down in flames.

    But then – as we can see from the comment you quoted – everybody has a different idea of what “too hard” is. So maybe you need the auto-scaling AND a difficulty setting: Easy = auto-scale at the first death, Medium might be 3 or 4, and Hard just leaves you to bang your head against it forever…

  11. Shamus says:

    Dav Null: What we really need is Self Balancing.

  12. Hamish says:

    I’d prefer to get through most missions without failure, but I don’t mind having to repeat the odd mission once or twice. Any more than that, and the game gets flicked. So, in GTA, I tend to play in the sandbox rather than advance the game.

  13. Leigh says:

    I don’t mind having to re-try missions, it’s usually a pretty good feeling when you beat it eventually and the GTA games have taught me quite a bit about perseverance (as strange as it sounds). If it seems like I’m getting nowhere after 5 or 6 attempts, I’ll usually put the game to one side, play something else for a while and come back to it with a fresh outlook.

    I must admit though, I’ve destroyed at least 3 controllers in sheer frustration while playing Vice City and San Andreas (the speedboat missions, and learning to fly missions). Nothing has annoyed me quite so much since those old platformers that would make you start from the beginning of the level each time you died.

  14. Arson55 says:

    Just to expand on GTA difficulty from what I (Patrick 3) posted on the last thread about the topic. Almost all of the missions I complete without having to retry. There are a handful of missions that I retry once or twice and then complete them. Then there is usually one or two missions that I have real problems with. I try the mission over and over; sometimes to the point that I give up for awhile…a few days, maybe a couple of weeks. Then when I come back to the game, I usually fail on my first two attempts while I’m still readjusting to the game. Then, on my third try, I complete it. I don’t know why I do better after that short stop, but I usually do.

    That is why, overall, I say that the difficulty isn’t too bad. However, there is the one, sometimes two or three missions, that give me a hard time. And I wish they weren’t so illogical because it is always some stupid, nonsensical thing that makes it difficult.

  15. Ralff says:

    For me, it’s always depended on whether it feels like I died because I screwed up or didn’t plan well (Maximo/Ghosts & Goblins, most RPGs, Deus Ex) or because the game is too goddamn hard (GTA, Devil May Cry, anything with an over-abundance of bottomless pits). Dying in the first doesn’t really bother me, but in the second I usually feel like the game’s just being unfair.

  16. Depends on the mission, IMO. And a lot of that depends on the length of the mission: A mission that takes 2 minutes to replay doesn’t bug me. A mission that takes 15 minutes to play and you only learn you fail in the last 30 seconds will drive me absolutely batty with wasted time.

    The missions that really drive me nuts, though, are the ones which don’t feature the core gameplay. The boat race mission in GTA Vice City caused me to shelve the game for several months on no less than three different occasions before I finally managed to get past it. Why was this one so frustrating? Because racing a boat was just different enough from the normal driving mechanics that it just wasn’t any fun.

  17. Nick says:

    Mark: That’s the reason I don’t play sports game anymore, except against another human. And hockey (and I’m sure it’s the same for soccer games) is especially difficult because, as the physics and “realism” of the game gets better each year, so is the expectation of the AI to keep up, and that simply hasn’t been happening especially for a very open game like hockey. Hence, you will see your computer-controlled players doing rather stupid things especially on defense, like simply stand there and watch the opponent skate around them, or never clearing out the guy parked in front of the goalie (thus freely allowing him to deflect shots into the net at leisure), or players not automatically clear the puck in the right situations (Soo many times, I’d hit the button to switch players when trying to get a loose puck, just to watch in horror as the player becomes activated in in control of the puck as I hit the now “pass” button and watch him pull off a beautifully executed pass to the opposing team player at the backdoor…). But truthfully, I can live with these, as they are technical limitations, though it’s annoying that your opponents have a very easy time of knocking the puch away from you…

    No, the worse has to be the “come back” code that EA seems to have in all of their hockey games to some degree to make up for the AI deficiency. The final straw for me was in NHL 2001, when I was up 2-0 in what was a pretty hard fought game (OK, so I did have 60 shots to their 10). But with 5-minutes left to play, I take a shot on goal, the opponent’s goalie blocks it and the puck manages travel the length of the rink, right towards my goal. My goalie, DIVES OVER THE PUCK and it trickles into the net, netting a goal from the opposing goalie. Fine, bad flukey bug. It happens. I’m a bit upset, but I’m still up 2-1. A couple minutes later, an opposing player lobs the puck into my zone towards my goalie, and again, my goalie does a diving leap OVER THE PUCK as it trickles into the goal behind him. Now I’m getting mad. Then, with about 20 seconds left in the game, an opponent player passes the puck back to his goalie, who clears the puck right at my goal. Again, my goalie takes a FLYING LEAP OVER THE PUCK, the opposing goalie gets the game winning goal with 5 seconds left.

    At this point, I ejected the disc and shattered it in my hands. Got a small cut from doing that, and I was finding CD fragments all over my room for months, but that was the worst a game ever got me irate. I haven’t touched a hockey video game since, which is just as well. I never got that angry playing hockey for real. And I prefer playing it for real.

  18. Hal says:

    I’ve encountered this in a number of games, to be honest, although as other people have pointed out it’s for different reasons.

    Take KOTOR, for example. My first run through that game, I had to fight the final boss many times over, using every last health kit and stimulant buff to beat him. The only reason is because I had a poorly planned character.

    The original Half-Life, on the other hand, doesn’t suffer such a fate. However, the last level, when you go to the alien planet, was wicked hard. I found myself lacking ammo and health very often, and even then, I often died because I didn’t know quite where to go. Turn a corner and you fall into a pit, or rush into a tentacle. That, or the bosses would just eat me alive because I couldn’t figure out right away how to fight them effectively.

    So, DIAGS? Meh. If you have a save system like Half-Life, where you can save anywhere and load immediately, then it’s not so bad. Games with stricter saving schemes make that entirely too frustrating, and games like KOTOR where past actions influence future encounters even more so.

  19. RibbitRibbit says:

    Totally depends on the game, this.

    In Angband, dying means losing the game (= starting all over). Sure, it can be cheated out of (backup save swaps), but the REAL mastery of the game is no-death start to finish. And this means luck (especially at lower levels) AND skill.

    In LucasArts quests, you cannot die, period.

    I love both, for different reasons.

    What I DON’T like is having to do the same LEVEL(/other part) of the game over and over again in order to advance.

  20. Chaz says:

    GTA has pushed the limits of my abilities/perseverance. I don’t mind doing fun stuff over and over, but there was one mission fairly early on in Liberty city, where I had to get a car resprayed, and then drive it somewhere without getting it scratched, against the clock. NOT fun, and held me up for about 3 months, coz I just couldn’t be bothered turning on the X-box just to do this one again.

    I also have a poor sense of direction (in real life and in GTA), which adds to the difficulty level for me.

  21. Deathblade_Penguin/aka Minion of Darkness says:

    For me it’s a time thing. I expect a game to challenge me and i am willing to accept what i consider a fair death, eg beaten in combat, killed by a trap i did not see, unestimating the enemy etc.. but after 30-40 minutes, if i just seem to be hitting the wall in a fight.. i get completely frustrated and just quit. I dont mind having to work put a pattern or strategy but when it seems pointlessly hard and time consuming.. i get no enjoyment. Often this happens with the last battle in a game for me (Luigi’s Mansion springs to mine.. i worked out how to fight the last ghost but was so frustrated by it i never went back). others like GTA:LCS i quit because of the spawning problem on a rampage i was trying to do.. but something like (and i know you have this coming in the mail Shamus) the Prince of Persia:WW or SoT or TT – i kepy trying and trying because i felt the challenge was worth it.

    I very seldom go back to any game that i’ve quit because i think the AI or a task was just pointlessly unfair.

  22. Spiral says:

    I don’t really like dying in a game, but it really depends on context.

    In GTA, I don’t mind dying when I did things wrong, like a previous poster said. If I missed something about it or didn’t see the right way, okay, I died, now I see it. But when I am doing everything right, and I still end up dying, that infuriates me. Particularly in GTA when I lose because a random AI car swerves wrong or a cop ends up to be accidentally during the gang war, that pisses me off. Especially since I need to either reload a save, or gear up, get body armor, drive to the mission contact, and then drive to the mission.

    That said, games like Ratchet & Clank/Jak, death is much more forgiving. Sometimes I’ll jump off a cliff to see if there’s a ledge there and end up dying. But they start me pretty close to where I died, and there’s really no penalty for it. Those deaths I don’t really mind, but they could get really annoying if I kept dying very quickly at the same part.

  23. Ace says:

    Much like some of the replies sent in before, it all depends on the genre I’m playing.

    I generally don’t play timed games, since losing those is a pain and you have to start all over again, most of the time from scratch.
    When I’m playing an RPG like Final Fantasy, dying is a pain, since you have to reload from the save point and do it all over again. Luckily, this rarely ever happens.
    When I’m playing shooting games, it’s okay if I die, I mean.. sometimes the enemy gets you just a bit quicker than you get them. Most shooting games have checkpoints or ‘save-where-ever-you-like’ systems, so no problems there. Just reload and shoot sooner.
    Games like GTA (however little I play them) usually end up in my -trying- to die while doing as much cartheft, motorjacking, cop-killing and hooker-slaughering as I can. I always die, but I make sure I have a hell of a time doing that.

  24. empty_other says:

    Ive just finished playing the Aliens versus Predator 2 expansion. OUgh! Horrible. Bought AvP2 a couple of months ago on an advice from a friend, we played it multiplayer for 3 straight days (including even some coop). Well, i also got to try the singleplayer. Rocked! Especially the Predator storyline.

    Well, the expansion (Primal Hunt) was something else entirely. They had upped the difficulty to the unplayable (i had to play on easy, and barely made the last boss in Corporate). And i couldn’t find all the goddamn well-hidden entrances to the next place without a walktrough. And the Predator, who before was all about sneaking and backstabbing, now had suddenly become just another “shooter”. Nowhere to hide. Boring.

    To sum up what i hate in games:
    * Locked up in an area where i HAVE to find a friggin malplaced hidden hole or vent.
    * Difficult areas where i get no chance to re-supply right before.
    * Enemies which the only way i can take them is to know where they are, which essential means i have to die at least once to find them.
    * Games where i have to be exactly perfect on the pixel. Again and again. The reason One why i dislike Formel 1 racing. And loves GTA, its more room for failures than most other car-games.
    * I hate when there is ONLY one damn skill to beat the game. Reason ONE why i hate CS. Way to limiting, as the only skill you really need to be good in is to be able to hit your opponent instantly in the head/chest region.

    Another thing: How much i hate to die in games are also a bit relative to how long it takes to load. Made me hate to die in Oblivion or NWN2. And GTA have close to no loading time, so death there aint really a problem. But i usually doesnt redo the mission until i am close to the area again, driving around in the city just taking my anger out on any poor game-entity who was unfortunately to pass me by.

  25. ngthagg says:

    The worst thing about a situation like shown in Shamus’ video is that there is no need to perfect the skill. You only need to be good enough to do it once out of a hundred times, because once you do it once, you’re done. (Unless there happen to be many other jumps like that.)

    Challenges like that are going to be inherently frustrating because the player leaves them as soon as they are accomplished. It’s always going to be a situation of fail-fail-fail- . . . -fail-succeed. These sorts of things drive me nuts because it’s not a matter of mastering a skill, it’s a matter of acquiring a basic proficiency. I’m okay with spending time to master a game (that’s why I play DDR regularly), but I hate spending time just to become competent.

    I think it reminds me too much of gym class in elementary school.


  26. Jeff says:

    Two to three times.

    The first failure, I use to adapt.
    The second failure, I start thinking, “Dang, I overlooked something. Maybe if I did this…”
    The third failure, I start going, “What? I knew what was going to happen! I planned against that already!”
    The forth failure, I think “WTF? Stupid game.”

  27. Jim says:

    I really cut my chops on GTA III: I could fly the plane effortlessly and had perfected a series of crazy jumps so I had save games with complete side missions: Police, Fire, Ambulance, all 100 Packages with no failures/deaths and having only completed the first “mission” (the one where you drive down the road to your base). Then with all 3 games (III, VC, and SA) I obsessively went through and finished with “perfect” 100% games: 0 deaths, 0 arrests, and in SA no friendly gang deaths (that was a nightmare).

    All that said I would be really disappointed if I didn’t fail quite frequently. I think at this point my expectations are that I’ll get through about 30% without dying (or failing in some other way) once. About 50% I’ll fail once or twice. About 15% I’m going to fail around five or six times, and the remaining 5% I’m probably going to need way more chances to get through.

    As long as that last 5% isn’t part of the core storyline, or it doesn’t seem completely hopeless after 10 tries, it doesn’t bother me. However I credit part of my acceptance as part of the obsessive way I play the GTA games. If I didn’t fail around this rate I’d feel like I had gotten kind of ripped off. I see the goal of 100% being that I basically get a Sandbox game. I have access to everything the game can offer (money, weapons, vehicles, outfits).

  28. Kevin says:

    It kind of depends, but it’s generally the point where I’m sitting there thinking, “This isn’t fun anymore.” After all, I didn’t spend my money on the game in order to feel frustrated, I wanted to enjoy myself. If I die 30 times trying to beat the final boss then the final victory comes not as an immense feeling of achievement but as a release from the pain. GTA in particular is irritating to me because I do so much love the concept. But I won’t spend my money on it anymore because I just walk away feeling angry, and that’s just not fun.

  29. Stranger says:

    Missions which I consider “too hard”. . .

    X-Wing – “The Redemption Scenario”. Protect a medical frigate receiving wounded as the fourth mission in the first campaign. Survival is not necessarily based on SKILL so much as LUCK.

    Mega Man X6, Gate’s Lab #2 – Do not make the level a deathtrap survivable ONLY by one particular armor, and then make the boss hard to beat with that armor.

    Morrowind: Tribunal – There’s a little Bosmer beggar who appears, begs you for money until you refuse or can’t pay anymore . . . and then returns two days later in full ebony armor and at level 50, being nearly impossible to damage. Oh, and he can drop you in two hits . . .

    In general, missions which have more than one part and end up with essentially “save or die”, or “be lucky or die” instances irk me. The sort where planning, thinking ahead, or even building yourself up in an RPG, aren’t going to save you. Those aren’t missions, those are lotteries. I despise them, even more when they’re central to the plot and game.

    I like challenges, but usually I’d like them so LUCK alone isn’t going to dictate whether I win or lose. I also like it when my potential failure won’t wipe hours of play away. However, starting me back right at the moment of failure is in my opinion . . . too close. Put me back a bit before it, so I can possibly fix what might have made me fail.

  30. braincraft says:

    I’d like to have the option of enjoying my game without cheating.

  31. Farvana says:

    I’d personally rather have the game be too hard than too easy.

    Provided it’s not a case of sloppy controls (which GTA has), I find it immensely rewarding when I finally overcome some huge obstacle. Finally taking down boss-mode I-no in Guilty Gear after three weeks of practicing with a particular character, triumphing after a 4 hour battle in Dawn of War: Dark Crusade, going 5 levels farther in Lumines than I’ve ever managed, shredding through a song in Guitar Hero with a 95% when I used to fail halfway through… All leave a bigger impression on me than a game I can sail through.

    Beyond Good and Evil would stand in my book as one of the greatest games of all time if I wasn’t able to beat it in my sleep. Action/adventure games in general tend to be extremely easy; racing games tend to become obscenely hard rather quickly. RPGs you just plug away at; RTSs, it depends on your strategies (I turtle up and climb the tech tree ASAP), but for me they tend to go from yawn-inducing to absolutely frustrating in a matter of seconds.

    *shrug* I don’t mind dying at all, as long as it’s clear that it’s my fault I’m dying. If what I should be doing isn’t completely cryptic, I think it’s just part of the game.

  32. T-Boy says:

    For GTA?

    The game’s too hard if I try it for than half a dozen times and no one actually dies during the course of the mission.

    I’m there to either kick ass or get my ass kicked.

  33. Mr. Son says:

    I think more games should have Morrowind’s easy/hard setting ability. From -100 easy to +100 hard. I liked to keep it firmly on 0, but that would allow every player to choose they difficulty to a very precise level.

    Personally, I resent dying in games with a burning, passionate loathing. And the longer it has been since I had saved, especially if the game only allows saving at certain points, the more I want to throw the game across the room and go back to playing Pokémon, which is so bloody easy It doesn’t even kill you and make you restart from a save, it just sends you back to the last Pokécenter you’d used and otherwise keeps almost all of your progress.

  34. Jeremy says:

    Personally I’m much more inclined to be frustrated with a multiplayer game, against opponents who are either clearly hacking or spend too much damn time playing the game! >_

  35. Jim says:

    “X-Wing – The Redemption Scenario”

    Ugh that brings back some painful memories, that level is why I never finished the game. Its a shame because I loved the controls and nearly every other aspect of it to death.

    I bought an anthology a few years later that included the full X-Wing game again (I originally bought it on 16 floppy disks). I hear they really toned down the difficulty in that mission, but I couldn’t bring myself to start the campaign again.

  36. Luke says:

    Wow, first comment and I get a post about it. :)

    When playing a game I expect hard bits every now and then, but not too many – if I die on every level then I get frustrated pretty quickly, and either turn the difficulty setting down or just stop playing. I don’t mind playing a particular bit a few times, as long as it’s not tens of times. The level of relief, and sense of achievement, after finishing a particularly difficult bit seems to be turned into “Thank f***ing god that’s over, I hope there’s nothing else like it” if I have to do something too many times.

    A perfect example I can think of is in Zelda: Twilight Princess, on the Wii. Anyone who’s played it will know the “Rollgoal” game, which entails twisting the Wii remote to simulate turning a board on which a ball is precariously balanced. The aim is to get it into the “goal” without it falling off the track, and each level is more difficult than the last.
    I swear I did the last few levels somewhere around 60 to 100 times, for very little reward. I don’t know why I did it either, apart from some sense of achievement at the end. I think I just wanted to prove that I could.
    I really didn’t enjoy that part of the game. The rest was brilliant (and coincidentally, I don’t think I died once), but that bit drove me up the wall.

    I also prefer it if my deaths are the result of some sort of lack of skill, rather than some random, could-not-possibly-be-foreseen event. I really don’t like my games to be like this Mario level, for example (as hilarious as it is):

    In summary: dying a few times every now and then, due to some lack of skill – slightly annoying, but for me it’s part of the deal. Games that didn’t have some difficult bits would get boring pretty quickly.
    Dying, or failing some quest repeatedly, due to some arbitrary mechanism that isn’t related to skill, or requires you to work out exactly the right way to do things – really, really frustrating, to the point of not playing any more.

    Oh, and Mario Kart, as fun as it is, annoys me when the racers at the back get an artificial speed boost so they catch up. I like to be able to crush my opposition every now and then. :)

  37. ngthagg says:

    “I also prefer it if my deaths are the result of some sort of lack of skill, rather than some random, could-not-possibly-be-foreseen event.”

    Exactly. There is nothing worse than knowing you could get past a part of the game if went and looked up the walkthrough online.


  38. mr k says:

    Eh, it depends if it’s my fault sometimes. In GTA I didn’t really think it was sometimes, it was the control system not doing what it needed to do, specifically locking on to the wrong bloody person…. Also in those kind of games, and Godfather suffers from this too (although the missions have checkpoints, a wonderful idea that GTA should definitely implement, capturing enemy turf does not), when enemies have one shot kill (or close to) weapons like shotguns that mean if they get a lucky hit in you have to start all over again. I know this is realistic, but when I’m fighting about 50 people in a row, It’s a little annoying when number 49 gets you…

  39. Joshua says:

    Not much original here, but I like the type of game where I will die at several times, but if I’m careful and have learned the mechanics of the game, death will be much less frequent, and I will get through missions at a time without dying. Having to replay a mission just because you didn’t know the exact position of a sniper or that the ledge you’re about to walk on will suddenly plummet you to your death is just cheap.

    I don’t see it mentioned much anymore, but one of my pet peeve games for the DIAS and “What were they thinking?!?” gameplay is The Legend of Zelda II: The Adventures of Link for the original NES and Gameboy Advance. Especially towards the endgame, where you have to navigate tons of instant-death fire pits, enemies can knock you into said pits, your controls and weapons just suck, and running out of your meagre amount of lives forces you to go back to the original starting point of the game to try again. It makes you wonder if they ever have anyone playtest these through start to finish.

  40. thark says:

    Frankly, out-of-vehicle combat was HORRIBLE in GTA3 and somewhat so in VC as well (whereas SA felt more reasonably balanced in this regard; have yet to try LCS/VCS). Enemies fired very accurately, weapons had very high rates of fire and hurt like hill; often it felt like the moment you saw an enemy with an SMG you were dead before you could react, much less try to target them.

  41. What killed San Andreas for me was the difficulty of retrying the mission. Even though the missions didn’t seem grossly more unfair than the previous GTA outings, it took so long to retry them I didn’t care.

  42. Dix says:

    I think what *I* like is a large ‘get stuck’ factor. Challenge that doesn’t kill me – just stymies me. I will stand around staring at a mysterious room for hours if I need to, or leave it and go do other things and come back… consult my partner on her opinion (it’s amazing how a non-gamer can look at a game and say ‘try X?’ and it’s good advice from left field)… whatever. I like being stuck, as long as I feel like I might be able to get unstuck if I’m clever.

    I do not like dying. Games which knock the character down and then let him/her immediately get back up with less XP, less HP, less whateverP, don’t bother me so. But GAME OVER with a picture of a dead character… oh, man. For some reason that makes my spine cold and I get a horrible flush of OMG FAILURE.

    Doing the same thing a million times to try to get it right also cheeses me. Whether it’s avoiding cows in Katamari or trying to land on top of a gas station (?) in GTA, tasks that take oodles of repetitions to perform bug me. I can do anything 3 times, maybe. If the task is sufficiently interesting or new stuff is opened up by failures (Katamari is particularly clever at this), 12 reps may be okay. More than that is really not okay.

  43. DaveJ says:

    The one time I died in Jade Empire was in the Arena against the champion. He was immune to my favourite attacks and non of his moves could be interupted. So after wasting all my chi and most of my focus, I spent 30 minutes hitting him with my staff, hit dodge hit dodge forever. I eventually won, just barely. That kind of tedium is the real difficulty in games.

  44. Alexis says:

    Mainly related to:

    but hey, who’s going to read it if I post there? :)

    You gotta wonder what the designers were smoking when fans make pages explaining how the levelling system works, and how to stop it breaking your game. The spellcrafting system was unimaginably broken as well, although you could make gems like this:

  45. Stranger says:

    Wow, someone else actually KNOWS “The Redemption Scenario”. A side-note, I like it in the novels how that scenario is considered a valuable training exercise for pilots. And it’s generally not considered possible for people to really win it without following a specific plan.

    Too bad the original game, that plan didn’t work so well!

  46. Stranger says:

    As a note, I played Morrowind ONCE, no experience and no previewing FAQs about “effective custom classes” or anything else. I took an Imperial Knight, with the sign of the Thief. I “found” myself some Imperial Steel, and pretty much after doing quests in the Legion I use that armor exclusively.

    Once I hit Level 20 or so, most random enemies didn’t kill me. At level 30, I was slapping random enemies around with impunity; it took a Daedroth to really make me think about engaging, and single Atronachs usually went down before I needed to worry about healing. I have yet, I suppose, to go after the “big guns” of the game . . . I really don’t have much problems now after raiding a couple tombs in particular for gear.

    Vampires, Ash Vampires . . . unique enemies. I haven’t really started in on these yet. Casting enemies are a pain in my side, but that’s because the game is very favorable towards Computer characters and spells as opposed to players with spells or ranged attacks (NEVER actually have gotten a ranged spell to hit the target correctly).

    For the first part of the game, it was all Steel Saber for me. I prefer to take my Sword of White Woe to tough monsters (or to the Umbra Warrior), and after scoring Umbra the sword it became my go-to weapon for beating down things in a hurry. Such as Ordinators.

  47. Deathblade_Penguin/aka Minion of Darkness says:

    “Joshua, post 39) makes a brief mention about playtesters.

    THIS, i think , is one of the biggest problems with most games. I dont think they are playtested enough or not by people who think “what happens if i do this?” -my example is when I played Oblivion (having not played any of the others).. i started investigating the possibility of Chameleoon.. I had found a couple of items that gave me 30% Chameleoon and then i found out had to make my own items and BAM – i made enougth items to be 105 % Chameleon (without using the spell that gives you an extra 50% anywaY).. so noithing saw me, nothing attacked me and i could steal what i want… it jst made the game completely rortable… THat should have been spotted in playtest.

    just who tests these games anyway?

  48. Cadrys says:

    GTA3:SA The D*mn RC plane mission. Yeah, you know the one. Taking out all 5 couriers, and running the stupid thing out of gas 10 feet from the roof on the tenth try. That cost me a controller.

    When sheer random chance [what path the couriers take, how spread out they get] dictates success or failure at a mission and you don’t know about it until the end…

    I can think of less frustrating ways to waste my time.

  49. theonlymegumegu says:

    “So, to various readers of both stripes: How many times do you have to fail a mission before you think, “This is too hard”, or you feel that your time is being wasted?”

    It really depends a lot on whether or not the game is engaging enough to me to want to work past failures in order to continue playing. But, once I am playing a game that is hard and I encounter a lot of failure, I usually continue playing because I feel the game is fun and I’ve conceded that difficulty and failure is *part* of the gameplay. Also, I regulate how much I will continue playing my how well I can gauge that I will actually be able to eventually succeed at any given task that is giving me trouble. There’s an aspect of “practice makes perfect” that I will concede to as well, so long as I can believe that enough practice really will get me through the trail. If I get to the point where I feel like it’s a crapshoot, then I just give up and move onto the next game (unless I like the rest of the game enough and it’s just the one part that’s bugging me).

  50. Rick says:

    For me, the threshold is: do I know I’m doing it right? Am I still dying, or otherwise somehow failing? Then it’s starting to be too hard.

    Super Mario: The Lost Levels, level C-4 is probably the worst I can think of for this. There’s one spot in that level that requires absolutly precise timing to pass (unless you manage to be Super Mario at that point, which… ha!). I must have tried it 100 times before I finally got through… only to die to something else on the level, and have to get through again. Argh.

    Well, maybe that one mission from Wing Commander…

    I appreciate games that make death hard to achieve and/or reduce the penalty for dying. But I also grew up playing games like SMB and Mega Man, so I don’t mind the die, retry, repeat model either, as long as it’s not too much.

  51. Noumenon says:

    I like games to be so easy that when I die I think, “Gee, I died, but I won’t next time, because this is so easy!” Like Ratchet and Clank and Ultimate Spider-Man.

  52. Joshua says:

    Up,Up,Down,Down,Left,Right,Left,Right,B,A, Start. Anyone remember that game for insane difficulty? :)

  53. Felblood says:

    I’m not the only one who never finished C-4 because of those stupid fire wands at the beginning!

    Of course, I tried to come back to it years later, but the save data had degraded by then. :(

    It’s too bad becuase the game up to that point was only occasionally frustrating, once I trained up on Super Mario Brothers, and there was a real sense of accomplishment when you solved a puzzle level or beat a really tricky swarm of Hammer brothers for the first time.

    The old, use up lives at the checkpoint and then continue from the level start had a lot of virtues in the frustration department. If you got stuck on the second (usually harder) part of a level, every few lives you’d get a break to do the more straightforward part over, to cool off and sort out your thoughts.

    The use up you lives and then start the whole world over strategy has less appeal, and is the reason I eventually got farther on LL than in normal SMB.

  54. dyrnwyn says:

    It depends on the effort I’ve put into that part and the precious time I waste doing it again. If I haven’t saved for awhile or I’m dying a paticularly stupid death, like say lasting for awhile then losing all my health at once as enemies asail me en masse. I’ll stop and probably come back later. however most games I consider the best games ever earn that title through replay value and something really difficult and time consuming won’t be played too many times while my favorite game ever Paper Mario is quite doable without dying once.

  55. NBSRDan says:

    Failure should simply not exist, regardless of player carelessness. If I’m being careless, then I obviously prefer a careless playing style, atleast at that particular time. No game should punish me for playing it a certain way.
    However, that is not to say that their should be no penalty. When a game is indifferent to the player’s shortcomings, it almost always removes the incentive to do well. I’d bet that you’ve found and used obvious exploits in some games, even when those games would probably be more fun if you ignored the exploits.
    Hopefully, there will be some kind of gaming Enlightenment, and then every game will have a Braid-like death system. Braid is not a great game of course, but maybe its success will send the right message to the gaming industry.

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