Do it again, stupid

By Shamus Posted Monday Apr 24, 2006

Filed under: Game Design 177 comments

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?


From The Archives:

177 thoughts on “Do it again, stupid

  1. Shamus says:

    I’ll start: Abe’s Exodus was so amazingly hard that I doubt very many people ever beat it. I saw less than half of it before I just couldn’t go any further.

    1. Matthias the Elf Jedi says:

      Assassin’s Creed for XBOX 360. I had the second Assassin’s creed, and this was my brothers, so i decided to try the first. I actually couldn’t beat the tutorial for “gently pushing” civilians. I tried, and everyone- about 50 people- dropped their jars. I tried dozens of times, but failed. It’s not mine, so i don’t have to worry about wasting money. I stuck with game #2.

      1. WaysideMaze says:

        You hold the ‘Gentle Push’ button down whilst moving. You don’t just keep pressing it.

        In fairness you saved some time, AC2 was a massive improvement on the ‘just do the same mission 9 times, cheers’ gameplay from the first game.

      2. Whither Canada says:

        I did the exact same thing. So don’t feel bad.

        1. Ben says:

          I did the same thing too, although to be fair, I feel like this is more an issue of misunderstanding the controls than it is railroading. In the actual game you don’t need to kill your targets in a specific way, you can assassinate them from stealth or you can just draw your sword and hack at them etc. The game may get a bit repetitive, but it doesn’t force you to restart every time you’re detected or a guard jumps out in front of you.

          PS I love this article, and don’t care how old the original comment was.

    2. TheUltimateD says:

      Of those small amount of people that have beaten it is a blind man named Terry Garret. I was just amazed at this accomplishment and he has done it several times to boot.

      You don’t have to take my word for it just check it out here.

      I won’t say everything about the guy and how he did it. I’ll just leave that to him, the article, and for you to check out yourself.

    3. Paul says:

      I think I know which challenge you’re talking about in Starfox Adventures. The trials of speed and strength, right? I only beat the speed trial because the game let me move around for about half a second after the time expired, then gave me credit for winning anyway.

    4. lethal_guitar says:

      Well, I beat Abe’s Exoddus a few month ago. ;) I didn’t play it continously, though – there were sometimes weeks where I didn’t touch the game at all before I got back to it.

      I can only agree, it is often extremely hard. In some sequences I had the impression of eventually succeeding out of sheer luck. Nevertheless, I found the first Oddworld game (Abe’s Oddysee) much, much more frustrating as it had a checkpoint based save system.

      Imagine Exoddus without the quick save feature! Everyone attempting to play that would surely turn into a madman and kill any living being in sight. After having destroyed his computer/console with a chainsaw, that is.

    1. Sydney says:

      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!

      NetHack was the first thing I thought of.

      1. Phantom Hoover says:

        Even a year after you said it, I still feel the need to point out that you don’t restart the game if you die in NetHack, you start a new game, with different dungeon layouts and item drops and monster spawns.

    2. juanguy says:

      Complaining about a roguelike with permadeath is like complaining about a racing game that has cars. Not every racer has cars, but there’s a better than average chance.
      On the other hand I lol’d.

      1. Corrodias says:

        I don’t see it as a complaint, but it is a very apt description of the genre that takes that approach to design to its logical conclusion. :)

      2. Corrodias says:

        And then I come back to change my mind. A later comment wrote,

        “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.”

        And I suppose I have to concede to this.

  2. DVS says:

    As a young kid: Ninja Gaiden

    More recently, but not that recently: Return to Castle Wolfenstein


    Also, Nethack (and other Rogue variants) need not be a DIAS game, in most personal computer implimentations.

    You can copy your saved game before starting to play, giving it a different name. Then if your character dies, which erases your “official” saved game, you again duplicate the backup you made and rename it back to whatever the “official” saved game is called. On DOS/Windows machines, batch files were often made to do this automatically, asking you after the game ended if you wished to update your backup file or restore your character from the backup.

  3. Pixy Misa says:

    Not that anyone would ever do that. ;)

    Nethack is in a DIAS category all its own, of course, since (a) it’s always different and (b) 80% of the time you had the solution to whatever killed you only you didn’t know it or didn’t think of it.

  4. . says:

    Well, what one person considers DIAS largely depends on their gaming skill.

    I know many people who thought Grand Theft Auto was too easy. I personally thought it was absurdly hard, and often had a hard time beating it even with cheat codes.

    On the other hand, I love to play Halo on Legendary difficulty. Even though I frequently die, I love the tactical play that such a difficulty requires of you, and it really does feel like you accomplished something when you succeed well. (Note: I’d already played through the game on an easier difficulty level, so it wasn’t like I couldn’t access later parts of the game/story. Obviously if there were ONLY the one difficulty level it would be extremely annoying.)

  5. Dan says:

    I’m with the mysterious person named . It depends on what kind of game you naturally tend to be good at. I myself found the Jakk series of only moderate difficulty (the third ones a breeze).
    GTA games don’t give me to many problems, but they can be real inconvenial sometimes. On the other hand I can’t even begin to play most one on one fighting games (Super Smash Brothers is the exception). Wresteling games give me the most problems. While Eric will chew you up and spit you out and then do something vagualy homoerotic to you. Shamus has a tendendcy to make you cry at first person shooters. Pat rocks the sports games and comprehends them in a way that i could never understand. Bogan will just beat any damn thing you put in front of him, esspecialy if you’ve been having problems with beating it yourself.

    Grand Turismo races and driving tests make me want to strangle the life out of all that are near me. Oh! and Mega Man (as much as i love the little jerk in blue underpants) those games are pure madness.

  6. Dan says:

    Your follow up post should be about all the controllers you have maured mutilated and massecered due to these frustrating games

  7. Matt says:

    GTA: San Andreas did it for me… stupid missions where you can’t change into a more suitable vehicle for no readily apparent reason, stupid controls which clearly hadn’t been playtested on the PC version using a mouse and keyboard, impossible-to-fly model aircraft… Why should I need to invest hours and hours to learn how to fly a plane, when the driving came in minutes? Especially when planes make up such a minor component of the game’s playtime (discounting the endlessly repeated missions).

  8. Mark says:

    I always thought the GTA games were a mix between DIAS and genuinely fun play. I’d say that at least 50-75% of the time, I was able to beat a mission on the first try, and most other times I could beat it on the second or third. However, I agree that San Andreas is a lot more than annoying. Not only are the missions more DIAS, but they also included all of these lame, repetitive functions like eating and exercising (exercising!) To me, the game reached it’s zenith with GTAIII. Besides, the fun of GTA is that you really don’t have to play the missions til the end – you can do anything you want. Like load up on weapons and ammo, go to the casino and start taking out people and police helicopters until you can steal a tank.

    Return to Castle Wolfenstein was relatively fun and short, but I can see the DIAS aspects. However the game’s biggest plus was the beach multiplayer map. It’s the best multiplayer map I’ve ever played. Awesome. It’s a shame that the other maps stunk…

    It seems to me that a lot of earlier games were DIAS, but I think that was more because of the limitations put on developers. Today, these games should be less common, but I guess not…

  9. Shamus says:

    Prince of Persia was also very nasty about this, but the more recent iterations have used the “rewind the last 15 seconds” as a brilliant and elegant way around the challenge vs. retry issue.

  10. Bogan says:

    For me since I can apparently beat anything you put down in front of me is Grand Turismo. They are the ultimate dias games. To actually play the game you need to pass a driving test to earn a license. Sure the first one isn’t so bad, but by the third license level it is just sit in front of a tv screen for an hour per obstacle figuring out how to turn just a second later here than a half second later there so that you could make the time limit. All so you can just earn more money by getting harder races that you don’t use your new found skillls in anyway. Your reward for doing this through all the licenses….racing cars that you have no ability to control with a controller and you sit there watching to computer do it for you.

  11. retinaburn says:

    Along the same thread the first computer game I really remember playing was a pirate copy of Kings Quest (I) that my dad had brought home for our PC jr. We would play that game over and over and over again. Why? Because we didn’t know there was a save button. I specifically remember pounding the keyboard in frustration after dying yet again not typing swim fast enough when entering the lake, and loe and behold a save dialog appeared. We had thought the designers expected us to finish the whole game in one shot. I remember reaching the end of the game with an ogre or something and dying, only to have to restart at the very beginning of the game :)

  12. Shamus says:

    KQI without saving? I wouldn’t try that with the walkthrough right in front of me.

    That is, as the young people say, hardcore.

    Please tell me you eventually beat it…

  13. Will says:

    The one that caught me off guard until I realised it was scripted was the beginning of Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault. You just manage to get off the LC and under the pier when Japanese soldiers come swarming down the beach killing everything in sight. For a minute I paused and checked the difficulty setting just to make sure I hadn’t stumbled on some super-secret “big eyes gots to die” setting. I died a few times and instead of just waiting to see what happend I kept reloading. Finally I got sick of it and let the bastards bayonet my corpse for a while. The screen fades to black and suddenly I’m flashing back to boot camp. God I felt like such a tool.

    On the other hand, I’m just like Greg Dean. I had relatively little trouble with the license tests in Gran Turismo. Of course, I also refuse to drive analog, preferring instead to mash the directional buttons at various tempos to achieve the desired turn rate. I get strange looks from friends when I drive like that.

  14. Patrick says:

    I cannot even begin to count how many controlers I’ve lost due to sports games…. mostly because of what my lil bro said earlier…I’m really friggin good at em. So much so when i don’t WIN by as much as I THINK i’m supposed to….well…. lets just say that they really need to come up with titanium controller technology. As for the DIAS games…well… i suppose some people enjoy them, personally I wonder why these people don’t save themselves the money and go buy an old 70’s simon says (you know… four colored buttons? red yellow blue green) cause thats really all DIAS games are…memorize the pattern of obstacles from repeated failures, and win by avoiding these obstacles in an predetermined path/pattern. Personally…. I don’t feel satisfaction… no randomness, no REAL skill involved ( an expert gamer my be able to succeed only slightly sooner than a 8 year old kid, theres no substitute for repetitions) AND MOST OF ALL they make these nissions to try and pressure you into buying their FRIGGIN FRACKIN PIECE OF &$)@$*(@@_*$(_%$_(*@ HINT GUIDE!!!

    I DON’T WANT YOU’RE FILTHY HINT GUIDE BOOK!!! IF I WANTED TOP READ I WOULD HAVE GONE TO COLLEGE!!……..losers….. oh…. ang GTA San Andreas could have been great… instead, they added to much DIAS, and it sucks simply becuase it COULD have been the greatest game ever. Rockstar jabronies…

  15. Patrick says:

    And you need to add a spell check button….homo

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  18. Miko says:

    It’s kind of off topic but I have a game called Wheel Of Time and I could never figure out how to get out of the first room. Had it for years, still can’t figure it out. It makes me feel bad.

    1. jon says:

      Is this in any way related to Robert Jordan’s series of books of the same name?
      just wondering.

      I had the same experience with some N64 game, tower-of somthing or another. I wish I could remember the name. I got out of the first room, only to get stuck in some godforsaken sewer.

      As for repetitive gameplay tony hawk pro skater 4 was a bit annoying in that regard. I could never enjoy it without cheats.

  19. Selene says:

    FFVII: Dirge of Cerberus does DIAS in an interesting way. It’s mission-based, and some of the missions are pretty tough. Fail, and you start over from the last save point. However, based on how well you’ve done within the level, you gain experience or money, and when you die, you get to cash those in. So failing is not a *complete* waste of time.

    Still, experience/money is based on how well you do. If you’re doing really badly, it’ll take forever to build up enough to make up the difference between your skill and the game’s difficulty. And it’s still pretty frustrating to keep on failing.

    There’s a pretty awful DIAS mission early on, where you need to shoot down a bunch of hidden snipers before they shoot you down. And they’re much better snipers than you are. I really don’t see how someone could do that mission on a first try. Some of those snipers are pretty hidden. I ended up using the strategy guide to figure out where the snipers were, and even then it took me several tries to get them all.

    As far as I know, the game doesn’t have a mode easier than its “Normal”, which I think it really could have used. After all, the target audience is people who really liked FFVII. Most of them don’t play shooters at all, and they’re used to the self-balancing gameplay of the FF series.

  20. Kris says:

    Enter the Matrix: The airport car race made me give up. Goddamn.

  21. Yunt says:

    Resident Evil II…

    My brother and I rented it and the Playstation to play it on. Since we didn’t own the system we also didn’t own a save card.

    We played for more or less 2 days continuously before running one bullet short on the very last boss monster.

    I’m not very good at Resident Evil to begin with, those 2 days were excruciating, and to end it all with a loss to literally the last monster was terrible.

  22. ravells says:

    The Lord of the Rings Text Adventure game of circa 25 years ago. You had to re-load the game using audiotape (that took at least 15 minutes)everytime you died. And there was one point where unless you worked out what you had to do (I never did), you got killed by the Black Riders and it was back to reloading the game from the tape to play again. No internet in those days to look for hints either.

    My friend and I must have spent days in waiting for that game to re-load, trying to work out how to get past the point at which we always died (if I remember correctly we had barely made it out of the shire and were under a bridge). The fact that computers were still so new (and we were in our early teens) meant that we somehow had the patience to sit through that frustration for so much longer than anyone would now.


  23. RHJunior says:

    populous:in the beginning. The thing has not one, but TWO levels with beat-the-clock missions. In the first your shaman is captured by an enemy tribe, locked away and completely powerless, and you have to orchestrate a rescue mission with your other tribesmen from an entirely separate island.
    No magic at your disposal, and when the clock runs out your shaman dies and you lose.

    In the second, your tribe is literally getting the ground blasted out from underneath its feet in the very beginning of the level. you have to evacuate as many tribesmen as you can into boats, raise a lost continent, and then stage a counterattack from the lost continent before the time runs out….

    Even in GOD MODE those levels were almost impossible. It took a half-dozen tries each just to figure out how i was SUPPOSED to beat them.

  24. Miral says:

    To this day I’m still only a few missions into GTA:SA. I hit a race I just couldn’t beat (I can consistently come in second, but no matter how many times I try I just can’t make first), and you have to beat that race in order to get any further in the main storyline (and get out of the first city).

    So the game has now been sitting on the shelf for several months, after probably only having done 5% or so of it. Yeah, that’s good game design. Not.

    1. Sojiro says:

      I know what race you are speaking about. I was stuck for a while until I realized I should get myself a slightly slower but much more maneuverable car.

      Eventually I reached the “flying school” part at the 2/3rd mark, and there was ONE trial I just couldn’t pass. I didn’t ever even come close. I ended up just plain giving up on the game, despite loving pretty much everything else about it.
      About a year later, one of my friend (who didn’t even play any GTA at all) passed that one trial for me and I was on my way to finishing the game.

      1. Corrodias says:

        Here’s a fun part: Playing the GTA 3 based games on PC with the frame limiter off messes with the physics. As I recall, some of the license trials in San Andreas are nearly or literally impossible if the frame limiter isn’t on, because of the wonky flight physics. The game does nothing to warn you about this, of course.

  25. Vice City was the top of GTA for me.

    I have San Andreas, but my problem is that I don’t even know if I’m good at it. I don’t mind repeating a mission once or twice, but when it costs me two or three minutes to drive back to the place where I got the mission, then two or three minutes to drive back to the mission, and even if I know exactly what I’m doing, two or three minutes to gear up for the mission that I failed last time (possibly due to lack of gear)… I bailed.

    Who’s bright idea was it to drop the “taxi back to the mission after you fail” from Vice City???

    And I can’t dump it because it’s the “Hot Coffee” version and the stores can’t buy it back, not that I’d get much for it. Bleh.

    Oh, for extra double bonus, the mission that I’m thinking of, the first couple of times I failed is because despite playing all the way through GTA III and Vice City, I still can’t really use the stupid targetting controls. I finally passed that on about the fourth try, then I got inside this building that’s on fire, and you’re supposed to navigate around the flames to save somebody (did I mention you’re the reason the place is on fire? in game this struck me as very out-of-character for CJ to suddenly care about one screaming person in a game that you can’t hardly help but murder people by the thousands…)… but we still haven’t worked out how to actually move around in 3D.

    GTA:SA uses the “spastic camera” approach to blundering through its 3D space, which is when “UP” is always in the direction the camera is pointing, but bearing left or right causes the camera to move. Therefore, when moving around on foot, it is borderline impossible to correctly judge a turn. Normally this isn’t a problem because the game developers, intentionally or otherwise, don’t penalize you for blundering around the world. Nobody even makes fun of you for being unable to move around your own house without using the walls for support while turning. But this does not go well with a fire.

    Put it all together, and it’s one game I’ve shelved. Probably ought to just trash it; anybody who’d be interested in it probably already has it.

    1. Andrew says:

      I could’ve sworn there was a back-to-mission taxi in San Andreas; they just didn’t do anything to draw attention to it, so it was easy to overlook.

      1. Sojiro says:

        Yeah, you could press L3/R3 to do just that, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any part of the game itself mentioning it, so i only learned about it by pressing it by accident.

        A major feature to reduce frustration for the less hardcore players being so well hidden? Whose idea was that?

    2. lucky7 says:

      I managed to get my uncle past the DIAS part of Vice City (car races) by suggesting he bazooka the opposition before he started the race. And it WORKED!

  26. Patrick says:

    I think the ultimate in DIAS games was E.T. for the NES.

    1. Brad says:

      They ported E.T. to NES?!? Good Lord, those poor people. I thought E.T. died with the Atari 2600.

  27. Daniel says:

    Ok, so this whole article reminded me of Simpsons: Hit and Run. And enjoyable GTA clone and one of the few good Simpsons games.

    But in my opinion, it has some things that are sorely missing from it’s inspiration GTA. You can choose “Restart Mission” at any time, and you go back to the start of the mission. Also if you fail a mission, you are immediately offered a chance to retry right away. Finally, if you fail a mission like 5 times or something, you are given an opportunity to skip the mission and move on. It really was a great system.

  28. Katy says:

    Ooh, someone mentioned Prince of Persia. I LOVE the new games! The first one was actually rather short if you sat down and thought really hard about the puzzles. On a second try, it took only 16 hours.

    I really love the sand powers. They make it easy to go back however many seconds you need to fix your mistake and if you end up failing many times in a row, your re-upped character usually starts relatively close to where you died. (I’m sure y’all knew this already, though.)

    The only bitch of the game sometimes is figuring out where you’re supposed to go to next, but puzzles and DIAS are two totally different breeds.

  29. sleepyfoo says:

    In relation to adventure/platformer games like Jakk and such, I have developed a saying. “Remember kids, the camera kills.” Unfortunately this applies to both DIAS games and some that manage to avoid it.

  30. Ralff says:

    Devil May Cry 3. Nothing like getting to the end of a level and losing to the boss, starting the level completely over again. Especially when this happens at least ten times in a row before I figure out that instead of, say, fighting intelligently, I’m supposed to use an otherwise useless weapon and spam a certain attack with it.

  31. Lo'oris says:

    instead of DIAS i called them “trial and error”.

    i hate them much, but maybe for reasons slightly different than yours.

    failure is an important part of a game, re-doing things you failed on is ok, to a point.
    what is BAD here is the compulsory failure. The trial and error. The REASON you fail: if you fail on your lack of ability, ok. If you fail because of many tricks you couldn’t possibly suspect, it’s not ok.

    moreover, flexibility is very important: if a game forces you to solve a problem in *one* way, it’s BAD. Designers should work harder to plan a mission which you can solve using creativity. And if a solution you find is too an easy way of completing it, too good for you.
    if they really want to prevent you on solving a mission in a certain too-easy way, they should find a reasonable explanation for that.

    by the way, i don’t think Prince of Persia (neither 1 nor 2) is trial and error. Automatic failures in that game seldom happened: most of the times you failed, it’s because you (*YOU*) didn’t check if the floor was safe before running accross a room. If you fail because you were too lazy to check, it’s not game’s fault, dude.

  32. Tseecka says:

    In reply to the person who posted DoC, I found the game ridiculously easy. It was probably the easiest game I have played in recent memory…and I agree with the comment on Devil May Cry 3, as well. One word–Cerberus. I never made it past the level following that gorram dog.

    Worst for me, though, is the old Final Fantasy games. “Play through this three hour castle…so you can get to the impossibly difficult boss…oh, and by the way, we’re not going to give you any save points.” Not so much a DIAS game, because really it just depends on being prepared beforehand, but MAN does it suck.

  33. Marstov says:

    This is probably WAY too late to do you any good, but I’m playing Jak II right now, Shamus. That “get somewhere fast” mission isn’t actually doable when it first unlocks. If you do some of the other missions first though, you get a passcard that unlocks the middle portion of the map and it’s suddenly possible since you can just cut across the middle.

  34. Mr. Son says:

    Ugh. “Gameplay” like that is why I only play Halo2 in co-op mode. Die horribly because you forgot that there’s two giant monsters behind that particular door? Respawn near your buddy.

    I loathe replaying the same mission umpteen-billion times with a fiery passion. It makes me want to take a fork and do creatively nasty things to the game developers.

  35. Matt P says:

    You’re right there Mr. Son. I could finish Halo on Legendary but in Halo 2 I gave up trying. Bungie has the WORST idea of difficulty. Every mega-fan of the single-player says the difficulty in Legendary comes from the increasing AI. It doesn’t. It comes from the “Bungie Legendary Difficulty system (TM)”: throw more Elites and Brutes at the player (although Brutes are easy). And make them tougher and stronger than the player when theoretically they have the same capabilities. And their weapons should defy the rules they follow in the players’ hands (overheating and ammo limits).
    It really is down to repeating each fight until you know which enemies to snipe, sneak kill, stick etc in what order. Thank god for the check point system at least.

  36. Anders says:

    Well, I’ve not played that many games like this. I tend to give up on them early but about the whole “Do it again, stupid” part it brings a specific game to mind, Conquest: Frontier Wars. The game allowed saving and such but it had the most annoying “you loose” message made up of sometimes THREE UNINTERRUPTABLE cutscenes explaining how you failed and how stupid you where.

    The first tended to be “Admiral X died. You can’t let that happen”, the second being “You lost the mission, stupid!” followed by “Earth is destroyed thanks to you!”. I gave up after a while, especially when you had up to three Admirals to keep alive and they didn’t really survive that much better than the rest.

  37. ArchU says:

    I recall having a lot of DIAS in RTS games. Especially having saved right after making a critical mistake halfway into the scenario. The remainder of the map would be a gradual downward spiral into failure and I’d have overwritten my save point from before making the mistake.

    Jurassic Park for Megadrive was a bastard for DIAS in every way. Don’t even look at the game.

  38. GJD says:

    Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, with its trial-and-error jumping, Dark Prince sequences (what’s with the hair?), chariot races, and utterly exasperating boss battles has to be the ultimate DIAS game. Right now I’m moving up on my twentieth try at the Twin Warriors battle, and am ready to give up. And it’s not just the battle itself that is frustrating, it’s that ridiculous cut-scene that I have to sit through each time I have to “retry”. Other frustrating DIAS games include Mechassault, Mechassault: Lone Wolf, Legacy of Kane: Defiance, and Kill.Switch.

  39. kamagurka says:

    What really pisses me off is when games that might be awesome have that, and I just stop playing them. The GTA series comes to mind, and most recently I just stopped playing “Beyond Good and Evil” because of those fucking sneak’n’hide missions.

  40. Brickman says:

    I tend to like this type of game, but it depends on the genre and how well it’s done, and especially on how far a loss sets you back. Basically, you have to intentionally design it to work this way or it’ll piss you off. The epitome of doing it well would be the freeware game N (if you want to find it, google Metanet, the creators–I don’t need to tell you why). One hit killed you in physics heavy, fast-paced platforming against enemies armed with lasers and homing missiles as well as simple touch of death ones, and you were expected to replay a given level maybe a dozen times or more to get past. But if time spent losing is “wasted”, you didn’t waste much–the average failed attempt at a level probably would be under 30 seconds, as with the average success, so it was really a matter of spending ten minutes figuring out the easiest/most reliable/fastest way to get past a short series of hard obstacles, rather than most games where you spend ten minutes stumbling, sprinting or brute-forcing through a large number of easy obstacles. If nothing else, they got more bang for the programming buck.

    Of course, what I [i]don’t[/i] like is a boss stuck at the end of a level without a chance to save. Especially when it’s one of those “harder than the whole rest of the level combined” bosses. Ick. Just ick. Megaman and his imitators are especially plagued by it, but it pops up all over. I want a savepoint before a boss, so I can learn to deal without him without running his level ten times. Hell, give me an easy mode with savepoints at the boss’s room and a hard mode without, so I can do it full throttle on my second run through knowing everything. Don’t stick something that WILL kill me the first time after a level of stuff that isn’t likely to.

    That and sticking this in anything that is primarily a puzzle game with some action elements (or even without). Like my big contribution to the “bad” list, The Lost Vikings. Ugh. If any of the three dies you automatically lose the level, the game steadily increases the level lengths until pretty soon they’re ten minutes or more, and many things kill in one hit (or one TOUCH–there’s spots where you have to have the sheild guy fall down a hole without touching any of the instakill death traps that’ll fry him with just one touch), or can hit three times before you can figure out what to do about it. Not to mention trial and error–how was I supposed to know the jumpy guy was the right one to send down that hole? I couldn’t see the room down there. Having a lot of time and genuinely liking the puzzles themselves, I slogged through to the last level, but I will probably never muster up the patience to do the last level–a combination level+boss that’s a total pain.

    Actually, I just realized I could probably totally find that on youtube and see what happens when you finally beat the bastard. I’m glad I typed this comment.

  41. James says:

    One game I own that falls into this category is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (PC Version). I made it to the end fine, but the final battle against Voldemort/Quirrel is a beast. It requires exact timing to beat, something I was just starting to manage when my computer fried and I had to get a new one. I haven’t had the desire to slog my way through it again to see if I can actually ever beat the stupid thing.

  42. Andy says:

    Stuntman: Ignition is a DIAS game. You’re supposed to drive through a scene completing the stunts the director tells you to. You’re only told which stunts to do about a second before it happens, so they’re easy to miss. Miss too many and you have to do the scene again, and again as each time you progress slightly further through the scene. It seems an odd way to shoot a movie. Some of the stunts look expensive to be continually reshooting. When you do complete the scene, you’re given 2 stars out of 5, as an encouragement to do it again.

    Fortunately there’s an option to run through a whole scene without the scene automatically restarting. I turned that option on quickly.

  43. Anonymous says:

    La-Mulana’s Hell Temple. ’nuff said.

  44. Tom says:

    The “Rise of the Witch-king” expansion pack for “Battle for Middle-earth II” has a mission that I can’t get past. It’s something to do with collecting a certain number of “shards” before the enemy does.

    You can’t build a base or recruit more units, and the enemy constantly attacks you while you’re trying to get the shards. There’s NO WAY I’ll ever be able to beat that mission (I’ve tried different strategies at least two dozen times), and there are no cheat codes to help me get past it, so the game is over for me at that point, and I’ve quit playing.

    Which is a shame, because I really loved the games up to this point. I should see if I can get someone to send me a save game that’s past that mission…

  45. Randolph says:

    Wasteland. Good lord that game was difficult.

  46. Nanoswarm says:

    God of war (the first one)
    DIAS combined with an evil camera made one room impossible: the room with the lever that you pull that opens the gate that lets you get to the box that you need to pull a ways so you could jump on it to reach a ledge. The catch? Pulling the lever also triggers a timer for spikes to come out of the floor to come out and kill you. You know what? I don’t care anymore. If the gods can’t be arsed to give me the ability to fly for 2 seconds, I can’t be arsed to continue.

  47. Freggle says:

    Defenitly Nethack and Slash’Em, as in comment nr 1.

    This is a real geek game about getting down to level 64 or so, and back up to -4 and has about a hundred ways to die, varying from getting killed by a monster, to food poisoning, drowning, and falling rocks. You can’t load a game, only save and continu, that means that when you die on level 63 (or even worse: -3), you have to start all over again. I ‘realized’ (understood how many hours of gameplay were necesseray to have a chance of beating it) this when I reached level 3 for the second time, and I immediately stopped playing the game, and I have no intentions of ever trying again.

    O, and I totally agree with James, I came to the exact same point, and never finished the game either. Perhaps now I could finish it quite easilly, since I had quite a problem with low framerate, because of system specs, but I won’t try. What a waste that would be.

  48. Jachin says:

    Breath Of Fire II for the SNES had a boss fight just after the intro where you are basically one shotted by a huge demon.

    My friend and I always figured that the following screens/text was the GAME OVER message so we always used to reset and try to get around the boss or fight him again.

    Then one day he called me all surprised


    So we could finally play more than the first 10minutes over and over. And life was great.

  49. Alex says:

    In case this hasn’t been linked before, here is what may very well be the -epitome- of DIAS, “Asshole Mario 2”:

    Granted he’s got infinite lives it seems, but still. Suddenly that last mission in San Andreas looks doable, don’t it? O_o

  50. henebry says:

    I really agree with your criterion, with the odd exception of abstract games like GooBall, where you’re not really playing a character and where you’re not involved in any social interactions. The challenges are purely physical, due to geometry, not “happenstance” obstacles like cars that cut in front of you. In this situation, repeating the level doesn’t confront you with the Groundhog Day unreality of reliving the same cutscene and the same weird sequence of events.

  51. kmc says:

    so, it’s not a DIAS game, but mmos are sometimes plagued by those types of quests, and it’s always annoying. last night i was attempting my lvl 15 loremaster quest on LOTRO, where i have to go by myself into a room (no fellowship for this one) and find the right bookshelf before goblins break in. you have about 15 seconds, and when i walked into the room i wanted to cry. there were about 40 bookshelves, each of which takes 2-3 seconds to search. you have to know which one it is before you go in. i’ll go on the forums and do the research, but it’s just frustrating that, in order to finish this _solo_ quest, you have to go on a different site and have a big discussion about it. you know?
    my boyfriend likes trackmania nations forever, and he had a similar problem while i was complaining about mine. there’s a level where you have a couple little curves and then a turbo strip, where you jump off the ramp and go through a hole, and then over the finish line. BUT. if you go too slow, you miss the hole, and if you go too fast, you keep flying right over the finish line arch (you basically have to cross the line on the ground). the round doesn’t end until you make a valid cross over the finish line, so if you fail, you have to do it again and again until you get it right. _then_ you have to try again to get a medal on it; otherwise, you can’t unlock the next set of tracks! what fun is that??

  52. Joshua says:

    KMC, that quest *is* frustrating. However, you’re supposed to be able to get by it not by finding the book quickly, or by killing all the goblins, but by *stunning* the goblins continually with blinding flash while you search all the bookcases.

    For my input, I’ll bring up the gold-box games for D&D from the early 90’s, made by SSI. Especially anytime you’re fighting creatures with poison or other insta-kill attacks. Monster Attacks: Hit! Save Vs.X. Fail! Your character dies. Reload! I remember a fight with about half a dozen wyverns in Curse of the Azure Bonds that was like that.

  53. Martin says:

    Call of Duty 4, Veteran level, Television Station map. It took me about 2 days to get through this, by pure trial and error.

  54. Demexii says:

    What games don’t have this type of thing? Even Super Mario Bros. had levels and if you died you had to restart from the beginning. It is like the foundation of the gaming world. Some games are more lenient on how you can solve the problem (Metal Gear Solid 2 was pretty good. You could be stealthy or just blast everyone you saw. Where as Splinter Cell felt like a trial and error thing on how can I get past those two guards). But games need to have this type of thing. If people could beat it in one run that would be kind of boring. Might be fun as a movie but as a game that is pretty lame.

    1. WJS says:

      Strange as it may seem, games where a player wins by being skilled rather than stubborn actually do exist!

  55. Christian Groff says:

    Anything by Naughty Dog or Insomniac. The Spyro games(I still can’t beat that freaking Yeti snowboard race in the bonus world!), Banjo-Tooie(curse you, Witchyworld UFO mission!) and the Ratchet and Clank series(I got bored halfway through Up Your Arsenal and sold it).

  56. Chris Arndt says:

    That reminds me!

    Spider-Man 2 has those with its Mary Jane and photographer missions….
    and the pizza box missions are especially punishing.

    The thing that pisses me off the most is… how the blazing hell is it that I have only two or three minutes to cross half the dang city because my girlfriend is that impatient and if I get there two seconds too late I lose and miss the date?

    Screw her!

  57. Stu says:

    Actually, I think GTA handles the failed mission thing fairly sensibly… particularly in GTA:san andreas. It has a ‘pseudo-branching storyline’ so at most points there are a choice of missions. If I fail a motorbike chase because I keep falling off, well, I’ll do a different mission in the meantime, train up bikes a bit and come back to the failed mission. I don’t lose 3 hours playtime by failing a mission. (of course the frustrating aspects of GTA are things like getting stuck in a pile up, only to have the police simply walk up to the car: busted!)

    I think the joy I get from GTA comes from a life thus far spent watching action movies, and now I can be the guy in the car chase, either running or chasing – the hollywood physics that GTA contains has kept me entertained.

    I’m much more grumbly towards games like Castlevania or Resident Evil (original – 3 ish) where you are limited in where and when you can save, and very likely to die often. Now it’s a case of, do it again but we’re not letting you keep any items you found in the meantime. You have no other options but this current task, so get better and do it. I do love the setting and style of Castlevania and Resident Evil – but darn they sure do put me in a bad mood when that hour goes down the drain!

    1. maninahat says:

      GTA is a horrible perpetrator in some cases. The very worst I remember is from GTA4 bank heist. It goes like this:
      1) It starts with a tedious five minute drive.
      2) Then you have a massive shoot out in which at any point, you can accidentally auto-aim at one of your own men instead of the hundreds of cops, killing them and forcing you to start over from the beginning.
      3) You flee into a subway, in which you can accidentally get instakilled by a subway train whilst pushing past your idiot NPC friends, forcing you to start over from the beginning.
      4) After escaping the subway, you have to speed back home whilst being pursued by cops. Dying here will force you to start over from the beginning.
      5) If you finally make it home, only then will the game inform you that you are supposed to have escaped the cops first (which isn’t always a requirement in missions). If your car has been too beaten up from all the oncoming gun fire, catches fire, explodes, and kills your idiot NPC team mates, you are forced to start over from the beginning.

      I probably lost 45 minutes to that bloody idiot mission and its DIAS gameplay. THe one thing I appreciate about GTA5, more than anything else, is that it introduces regular, sensibly placed checkpoints. A failure usually only means a minute or so of replay at the worst.

      1. WJS says:

        The only part of that that sounds even a little like what Shamus described was the bit with the train.

  58. Rimshot says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the Tomb Raider games. I enjoy them, but get frustrated as hell at some of the repetitiveness. This was especially bad in Angel of Darkness, where there were a number of times where all you did was watch a cut scene and note the ‘clue’ of what control you should have pressed to not die. Took a ridiculous amount of repetition, sometimes, to finally get through and resume play. And don’t get me started on some of the boss fights…

  59. Kizer says:

    I have to agree with Brickman: The Lost Vikings and Norse By Norsewest: The Return of the Lost Vikings are two of the most annoying DIAS games I’ve ever played. Don’t get me wrong, I love the games. However, the DIAS aspects of some levels have annoyed me greatly enough at times that I put the game down and don’t touch it for months years. I’ve had NbN for almost 11 years now, I still haven’t beaten it. I’m stuck somewhere in the last few levels. Similarly, I’ve had The Lost Vikings for two years, and I’m stuck on a level that sounds exactly like the one Brickman describes: ten minutes long and numerous insta-death traps. I’ve played the level so many times that I have the timing for certain parts of the level down to the millisecond in my head, yet there’s always something that kills me towards the end, usually me holding a button down just a little too long. After forty-eight (at least) playthroughs, shouldn’t I be able to just finish the level? I know exactly how to do it, I just haven’t been able to do it in one sitting yet . . . >.<

  60. tepholman says:

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

  61. 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)

  62. 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….

    1. WJS says:

      Hyperbole is fun, isn’t it? You aren’t going to get “microsecond” timing even with a modern 144Hz display, let alone a standard 60Hz one.

  63. 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.

  64. 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.

  65. 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”


  66. 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.

    1. 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.

  67. 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.

    1. Februaryfour says:

      You have obviously never played Harvest Moon before. Clearing the caves of monsters is a classic DIAS moment.

  68. 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.

  69. 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.

  70. 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

  71. 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?

  72. 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.)

  73. 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.

  74. 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

  75. 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.

  76. 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.

  77. 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.

  78. 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.

    1. 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.

  79. Zoro11031 says:

    He better reply to us…

  80. 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.

  81. 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.)

  82. 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.

  83. 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!

  84. 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.

  85. 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.

    1. George Monet says:

      In WoW every single raid boss is DIAS gameplay.

  86. 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.

  87. 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?

  88. 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.

  89. 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…

  90. 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.

  91. 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.

    1. 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.

  92. 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.”

    1. 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…

  93. 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.

  94. 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.

  95. 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.

  96. 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.

  97. 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!.

    1. 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.

  98. 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.

  99. 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!

  100. 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.

  101. 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.

  102. 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.

    1. Februaryfour says:

      Portal is a puzzle game, and the point is to figure out the puzzles. I will agree that some things were incredibly hard, but since Portal lets you save at any point, it’s not really DIAS by definition.

  103. 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.

  104. 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.

    1. Corrodias says:

      Yes! QTEs are the worst kind if DIAS nonsense, and they’re lazy to boot.

  105. 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.

  106. 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.

  107. 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).

  108. 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.

  109. 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.

  110. 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.

    1. 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.

  111. 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.

  112. Bailey says:

    Alice the madness returns (╬ಠ益ಠ) the game looks awesome the story is interesting but the GODDAMN JUMPING I swear the game is laughing at me saying ‘jump monkey jump’ I have had to replay so many sections of that game making it up until the last jump over and over again. I mean come on щ(゚Д゚щ)(屮゚Д゚)å±® I just want to continue on with the story but no no no you can’t until you jump on this invisible platform that you can only see when you’re shrunk and can’t jump…oh and did I mention that they move? GAWD (ಥ”¿à²¥)

  113. TheArtfulNudger says:

    I don’t know if anyone’s mentioned this one but Star Wars:the Empire Strikes Back was, to quote, “Hard as Brass Balls”, especially on the SNES. DIAS doesn’t quite capture the teeth grinding arduousness of the whole experience.

  114. Eva says:

    I just spent 3 hours getting the damn Goran hammer in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. At the end I felt nothing but more anger that I was forced to run up a tiny staircase a hundred times in a timed race with the threat of falling halfway through the dungeon hanging over my head if I swerved too far to the right. I otherwise love this game, but this just about made me rage-quit it.

  115. Anonymous says:

    Devil May Cry as a series does this with distressing regularity. The games (except #2 in the series) are all really well done and fun to play for me, but there’s a huge amount of this design philosophy. Mitigating factors that were used to make DIAS less unpleasant:
    – game fairness: every enemy and boss has audio and visual cues before executing an attack, allowing you to dodge out of the way in time; every enemy is beatable with any weapon setup, though some may work better than others
    – Skippable cutscenes: self-explanatory
    – Dynamic content: boss attack patterns are mostly random or semirandom; enemy spawn points are constant but behaviour is dynamic;
    – Little randomness/luck: Attacks all do a constant amount of damage, with no randomness or variation. Attacks hitting or missing is a role solely of dodging correctly or incorrectly, and if correctly dodged there is a 0% chance of being damaged.
    – Easier difficulties than the default for players who struggle
    – The ability to cheese your way past any fight or point of difficulty beyond the first level (farm red orbs for items and/or powerups if all else fails – 2-3 holy waters will win any boss fight in the game on easy mode without requiring any skill whatsoever).
    Even with these it still is probably not for those who want to see the story unfold or explore the world presented. As the story and plot of the games are largely stupid and terrible from the very outset to the end, this is perhaps unsurprising.

    Fundamentally, to really get into this DIAS game mindset you have to forget trying to view the game as you exploring a world or viewing the plot or cutscenes or whatever, and instead view the game as a method of training you to incrementally become better at whatever the game espouses. In DMC this might be reflexes, game-knowledge (enemies, attacks, defenses, timings, spawn locations,etc), ability to execute strategies. In Starcraft it might be macro/micro/grand strategy.

    People who are really into and enjoy the gameplay in and of itself will have less problem with DIAS scenarios, as they want to play and get better at playing, and the game letting them progress (to later levels, higher difficulties, etc.) is a barometer of their progress. People who want to see the plot unfold, see the rest of the world, etc will be disappointed and hate these games.

  116. Dreadjaws says:

    Jesus, coming back here and reading the comments by those kids from Gamefaqs is painful. I can’t even imagine what those deleted ones said.

    The worst part is that those dingbats don’t even understand the problem here. Specially those that claim that the NES games were the same (and then go and say they were better for it).

    The problem is: DIAS is not difficulty. That’d be like saying that having a test for a subject you never studied would be “difficult”. No, that’s not the proper word. Difficulty implies having a challenge based on knowledge you have. Just like a test, you’re supposed to overcome the challenge by applying what you’ve learned. When they literally don’t teach you what you need to know you can’t claim that’s “difficulty”. That’s unfairness and nothing else. Because once you have the knowledge, playing the stage is ridiculously easy, so there’s really no difficulty involved.

    In the subject of the old NES games. Those games had to do that because the technology for having actual difficulty-based challenge just didn’t exist at that point. They had to do that because there was no other way to include replayability. Games have no excuse for doing such a thing nowadays. It’s like buying a new car that’s made with the most comfortable seats and aerodynamic looks but still needs a horse to pull it. You know damn well there’s no need for such a thing because technology has advanced past it. Including it is pure laziness.

    1. WJS says:

      What’s really depressing is the number of people who are quoting games that they found hard as DIAS, without seeming to understand that most of them don’t count! DIAS is not when a game requires skill, but when a game substitutes memory for skill.

  117. DarthVitrial says:

    Here’s a new entry for this list: ring fit adventure.
    Most of the game is fantastic, but there are some side quests that require a 100% flawless score on a minigame. These minigame can be five minutes long, require split second reflexes, and rely on buggy motion controls.
    So you’ll be 99.9% through a five minute “reflect every projectile perfectly” challenge and then your virtual trainer will suddenly yell “EXERCISE IS GOOD FOR YOUR MUSCLES”, and you get distracted and miss the final ball.
    Do it again, stupid.
    No checkpoints, no way to improve short of literally memorizing the pattern of thrown balls.

  118. Rolf says:

    Well, for start, I really like your work Shamus. I’ve discovered you in the escapist, then your blog, and then read your books. The other kind of life was fantastic for me. Keep up the good work.

    Now, for the game that came to my mind while I was reading this: Black, for the PS2. It was a fantastic game. great graphics, good mechanics, destructive environments, fun gameplay. But the save system was punishing. Often it means losing 1-2 hours of gameplay. Because you could either go guns blazing (it was not ideal, but faster) or carefully gaining your ground. And then some random goons would pop up and spike the difficulty. I remembered I gave up on one particular mission where a heavy gunner would spawn behind me, in an area that I had already cleared. after many hours wasted in the process, I sold the game and forgot about it. Until some years later. I then replayed everything and discovered that this was the very last foe in the game.

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