Experienced Points: Give Me a Win Button

By Shamus Posted Friday Sep 25, 2009

Filed under: Column 87 comments

Wherein I make the case that adding a win button (a game-breaking cheat or hilariously easy difficulty level) will make a game more fun without ruining things for the die-hards.

Heresy. Yet true.


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87 thoughts on “Experienced Points: Give Me a Win Button

  1. Zombie Pete says:

    I wholeheartedly I agree with you. I mean, we OWN the game. We should be able to walk through it if we want to. It’s not like we’re playing an arcade game, and they need to kill us off periodically so we’ll keep pumping quarters into it.

  2. Rosseloh says:

    And oh, how true. Nearly every game I play, I use the “health” or “god mode” cheats. The only exceptions recently have been games which don’t have cheats…..And Left4Dead, which would be ruined with cheats in co-op and versus.
    After beating it with no fear of death, thus enjoying the scenery and learning the story, I’ll usually go back and play it the “right” way. Of course, that really depends on the game itself.

    I think the most recent game I beat completely without cheats was The Witcher, because of the sweet combat system and tons of potions…and Assassin’s Creed, because the counter ability was ridiculously overpowered (and the fact that there were no cheats in either of those, of course).

  3. Danath says:

    Unfortunately I only half agree. Street Fighter 2 Turbo was pretty easy to beat on the easy difficulty for instance… but to see the FULL ending you had to do it on a higher difficulty (Or am I thinking of Final Fight 2? I dunno!), this worked fine I thought. If you’re just there to soak the story up on easy, that’s fine, but there should be some slight incentive, a different ending, more loot, something for choosing the higher difficulty.

    I admit I never liked cheating, I frequently choose the hardest, most soul crushing difficulty for a game and go out to get my butt handed to me because I don’t know all the buttons or levels like the back of my hand yet (CoD4, first playthrough on Veteran was not a good idea.)

    There should be an easy mode sure, but there should be some kind of incentive for doing stuff the hard way if there’s an I-win button mode. Cheating is exempt from this thought process, because its cheating, can’t base a games difficulty or rewards around people who use cheats vs those who don’t.

  4. vede says:


    This is a problem I absolutely hate encountering when I play games.

    It’s even worse when people call you a retarded pussy for not liking hard games, or for not being able to overcome the ridiculous challenges in so-and-so game, which seems to happen more often than not when you get into indie games, since so many indie devs/players seem to think that difficulty equals fun.

    For me, very, very few games are granted an exception to my general dislike for extremely hard games: Rogue, STALKER. The first because the dungeon crawling between the deaths is absurdly fun, and STALKER because it just wasn’t hard for me (coughcough I played on Master difficulty with no crosshairs and it was too easy coughcough). (Although I can sympathize with people who think STALKER is too hard.)

  5. Alan De Smet says:

    Sweet Jesus, yes, Shamus! Every once in a while I hit a game that I cannot or will not beat “fairly.” Sometimes the gameplay just sucks, sometimes I’m not hard core enough. But I’m interested in the seeing the game through to the end. Part of why I play is to see new and interesting things, to be a sort of virtual tourist, to enjoy the clever and beautiful things the level designers have crafted. So give me some bloody cheat codes! I am, of course, limiting myself to single player; the rules are different and more complex when other people are involved. But for a single player game I own it, let me enjoy it hoow I want. The only person I’m “hurting” is myself, and I’ve decided to do so. This usually isn’t as big of a problem for PC games, there seems to be more of a culture of cheat codes. But console games tend to be harsh taskmasters.

    @Danath: The Street Fighter 2 Turbo situation you describe is one of the worst offenders. I’m only middling at video games. Medium difficulty is as far as I go in most games. Knowing that I don’t get access to the full ending, or the best ending, or all of the bonus material just because I’m not good enough is an insult to me. Because I’d rather do something else instead of replaying the game over and over means I’m somehow undeserving to see content I paid for is deeply frustrating.

    Why do the people who can and do beat the game on the harder levels need extra incentive beyond the sheer enjoyment of the gameplay and an achievement or other label that they can show off? if the challenge itself isn’t its own reward, isn’t that an admission that the game isn’t actually very good so it needs to add unpleasant grinding to extend the play experience?

  6. Spider Dave says:

    I miss cheating. I used to do it all the time after finishing games. In Baldur’s Gate 2 there was a sword you could spawn, equipable by everyone, that did thousands of damage on each hit. In KOTOR, there was a delicious cheat that turned Malak into a twi’lek slave girl as soon as the final fight begins. And of course, I’m not forgetting the cheats to add experience, gold, or stats. Wish I’d seen more of this stuff recently.

  7. Nxwtypx says:

    Hm. For me, the game changes completely once an I WIN button is put in.

    Take WildTangent’s diablo clone FATE. This game has an open console for you to spawn whatever item/monster/character what have you. Coupled with game data files that are the easiest to modify this side of a Sid Meier game and Fate lost it’s feeling as a roguelike RPG and became more of a sandbox to me.

    Still fun, just different.

  8. Chargone says:

    much as i love the idea, i have to actively avoid cheat codes. once i know them, it takes a lot for me to Forget them… and it’s very, VERY hard for me NOT to use them. [ones that just make the game easier, that is. not stupid ones like spawning babies on tricycles with guns in a medieval game… or cars with rocket launchers to hold off the roman hordes… ]

    but The Sims was Massively more fun with the money cheat to compensate for the fact that you didn’t have time to work AND keep your sim functional :) [well, i certainly didn’t.] so i do see the point.

  9. Henebry says:

    I don't know what you folks are talking about. I managed to play through the Path without any cheats or Easy mode. Pwnd!

  10. Magnus says:

    I do cheat regularly in games which I get frustrated in. Quite often, you’ll have a game which draws you in, only to set you up with some ridiculous levels which require very specific tactics to beat. It is almost always guaranteed that you will have beaten the other levels by using a completely different set of tactics.

    C&C3 was a particular one for me, since I completed C&C1 and 2 without cheats, I thought I would be good enough to complete the third. However, some of the later levels made me want to throw my PC out of the window, so instead I just cheated…

    Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat got the same treatment, since that game is absolutely solid and theres no choice of difficulty level. Thankfully it’s easy to tweak things in your favour with a hex editor…

  11. Danath says:

    @Alan de smet

    I wasn’t saying you should have to beat the game on the HARDEST difficulty to unlock everything, I was more using it as an example than commending it (I never could beat the highest difficulties in SF2 Turbo). I do believe that doing something on a higher difficulty SHOULD have a reward of some sort beyond just the challenge. Most RPGs for instance hide the infinite+1 weapon beyond some kind of retardedly difficult challenge, that to GET it means you don’t need it in the first place.

    That’s fine, or like Chrono Trigger, undertaking a bit of extra challenge to see different endings by beating Lavos at different moments in the game (where he can be much, much harder). You never had ACCESS to all those, you had to work for em, I am fine with that. Bonus material is a different kettle of fish, but certain in game rewards or fights or endings should yes, only be available if you beat the game on a harder mode or doing it the “hard” way.

    Don’t take that to mean “better” either, just different, a little incentive to try things in a way thats not “easy”, but still leaving the easy option available for those who don’t care. Challenge is enough for me, but a bit of reward for the extra blood, sweat, tears, blood, broken controllers, and blood, even if it’s a little bonus cutscene or a nifty item or a changed ending is enjoyable to me.

    Another example is Breath of Fire 2 (spoiler if you havnt played and actually care)

    You fight an old man surrounded by a bunch of eye things, if you use your gold dragon ability, you can kill them all easily and quickly, but it kills the old man. If you don’t, it turns into a surprisingly brutal boss fight where they cast powerful spells and STILL drain health from the guy in the middle, which means he can die without you ever hitting him. Saving him allows you to turn your hometown into a mobile airship thing, and ends up changing the ending.

    THAT I am perfectly ok with. Same should apply to difficulty levels. Also I said this only applies to difficulty levels, if you want to see it all, then make the game have cheats as well as easy mode.

    TLDR: I disagree, clarifying position, I still think rewards should be in place for people who choose to take the non-easy path.

    Edit: People seem to think that when I say “reward” I mean “THEY SHOULD GET SOMETHING TOTALLY AWSOME”, I don’t, I mean they should get something for taking the extra effort to do it. It’s a fun little bonus for doing something, that’s all. Although I find it interesting that people are saying “Someone is doing something I can’t/won’t do, why should they get anything for it?”

  12. Matt says:

    To those who think there should be an extra reward for playing the hard mode: why?

    Is it because you need some sort of incentive to play the difficult levels? High difficulty is not, in and of itself, its own reward? If it’s not, why do you want to do it at all then? Because the game also isn’t fun when it’s too easy?

    It seems like it’s like this: “I can’t have fun if the game is too easy, but I don’t really find difficult fun unless I’m forced to do it for some other reason.”

    If that’s the case.. that kind of seems messed up.

  13. vukodlak says:

    I haven’t even thought of these in years, but… I still remember them: IDDQD, IDKFA!

  14. Danath says:


    Fail, so hard, I can find fun in easy games, I enjoyed Portal despite the fact I found it easy, I enjoyed scribblenauts, I didn’t enjoy Bioshock, and that had nothing to do with difficulty. I just choose to challenge myself, and I enjoy it, but it’s not required for fun.

    A reward for doing something difficult is always a nice bonus, I can’t any of you felt satisfied when you get determined to beat something HARD, and you work and you struggle… and you get ‘You are winner’, The End. Why not give someone who went the extra mile something minor, like a weapon, or a modified ending? It seems fair.

    Again, rewards not required, but they are a nice bonus when they pop up. Also, do not confuse “hard” with “grinding”. Also ever hear of the carrot and stick? Many people who are happy to coast on easy will actually try and put in more effort to beat something thats challenging for something they want, even if it’s not necessary, side objectives/quests, not required, but if done right, it adds enjoyment. The game should encourage you to try harder, and this doesn’t mean punishing you for failing.

    Edit: Dang, 3/15 posts, time to unplug my internets, I’m moving and have nothing to do since my house is empty cept for my computer! Might as well do it now.

  15. wererogue says:

    Man, those old books should have a version in new language, to make them easy to read. Also, when the content is disturbing or intelligent, there should be an option to get a version that is easier to think about.

    I actually agree with you here – I’m just arguing devil’s advocate. For the most part, games don’t need to be hard, or at least exclusively hard. However, in my opinion some game *are* better because they’re hard.

  16. McNutcase says:

    I know one game series that actually has “win” and “lose” key combos. The Myth series would allow you to automatically “win” that bastard-hard level (without gaining the combat experience that made your units suck less, and not getting any secrets should they be available) simply by holding down Ctrl and hitting the number pad’s +. Ctrl+numpad- to automatically lose. This lets you see almost all the cutscenes, and lets you know all the story. You don’t get to see the level edsign if you do this, though, so there’s still a reward for playing honestly (beyond “not sucking in multiplayer”).

  17. Heron says:

    Metroid Prime is an example of this for me. I found the game quite enjoyable right up until the end boss – it felt like the end boss was an order of magnitude or two more difficult than anything I had faced before, and I just wasn’t skilled enough to beat it. I’d love to enable some cheat mode (or play in some easier game mode) to see the ending, but I don’t think that’s an option.

  18. T-Boy says:

    You know, I did this gamer quiz thing that told me what kind of gamer I was.

    One of the things it told me was that, apparently, I didn’t like being punished in the game. Which makes sense — I get enough guff in real life anyway, and I’m supposed to take more punishment from the bastards who developed this game? Hell no.

  19. LintMan says:

    Yahtzee alluded to a moment in ‘Splosion Man when the sheer difficulty and frustration of the game drove him to keep trying to beat it. I remember approaching games the same way when I was younger, but unlike Yahtzee I never enjoyed overcoming them all that much. Looking back, I see those times as a low point in the hobby for me. Now that I have more than a couple of decades of gaming under my belt, I can revisit my prized memories and see that the moments when gaming really made me happy weren’t the ones where I plowed through some murderously overbearing challenge to reach the finish line. I don’t cherish the times I got stuck for two hours on a boss fight or spent the better part of an hour repeatedly attempting a tricky series of jumps.

    Exactly. I’ve been there, done that, etc etc, and looking back, all I remember from those times is the frustration and then eventual relief once over the hurdle. No fun. No “feeling of accomplishment/achivement”. How is that ejoyable or worth my shrinking spare time? I eventually realized it’s not.

    One thing: You say “Give me a win button”. I know you mean that as a shorthand for wanting all sorts of cheat codes, but I want to point out that to me, an actual “I win” cheat code that instantly makes you win is usually worthless to me. I want cheat codes to give me extra ammo, more money and/or experience, invulnerability, a bigger unit cap, etc. Things I can use to tailor the difficulty to my own taste, remove any “grind” I find boring, and to experiment and play around. Sure you can say that these other cheats still guarantee that I win, but the key difference is that with these cheats, I get to play the game the way I want it, and I’m having fun and getting my money’s worth from the game. With just an explicit “I win” cheat, the level/map ends without me seeing the rest of it. Once I’m at a point in a game where I’m frustrated or bored enough to use cheats, I will use them on every level, so with “i win”, the game would be over in minutes: no fun and I feel like I wasted my money.

    If not for cheat codes, I would have stopped gaming long ago. Sadly, as you say, develpoers seem to be avoiding them more and more for some stupid reason. My personal stand, then, has been to not purchase any game that doesn’t have available cheats. I might not even use them, but they have to be available. I prefer cheat codes, but I’m willing to use trainers, so I became a CheatHappens member. (It was worth the $30 I paid 2.5 years ago to become a lifetime member. Their trainers work well, they support them, and they keep up with the latest game patches.)

    As I see it, cheat codes would be preferable, but if developers decide they can’t be bothered with them or that I must play the game the way they intended, I’m more than willing to support the trainer makers. And if the same trainer makes nightmares for the developer to support multiplayer, well it’s the developer’s own damn fault. The lack of cheat codes makes for a vastly larger demand for a trainer (because of all the SP players wanting it).

    @Danath: If you want a special “reward” for playing on hard? Let the developers hand out achievements for that stuff. Keep the in-game content the same for all difficulties.

    @wererogue: Man, those old books should have a version in new language, to make them easy to read. Also, when the content is disturbing or intelligent, there should be an option to get a version that is easier to think about.

    Nice strawman you got there. The thing is, we’re talking about games (ie: leisure/entertainment) here, rather than learning, knowledge, or critical thinking. I have enough challenge in my real life occupation and activities that I don’t need computer games to make me feel some sort of accomplishment.

  20. Punning Pundit says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I’m very bad at FPSs (you’ve seen my friendly fire on L4D!), and playing them on cheat mode can be a lot of fun. It’s about the only way I got through HL2…

    As for strategy games… I usually play those “straight”, but sometimes I really just don’t want to do resource management. I’m in politics, for gods sake! After a hard day looking at budgets and setting budget priorities, sometimes I want to play a game where I can just have it _all_ without making compromises…

  21. toasty says:

    I can’t play Heroes V Singleplayer because of a lack of cheat codes. The 3rd (or 4th?) level of the Demon Campaign is freaking broken. I’m playing on the easiest setting, and I’ve played it like a dozen times but I can’t freaking win. I tried to do some stupid “edit file for godmod” or whatever crap (I HATE EDITING FILES. I’m always afraid I’ll mess up and screw over my game; forcing me to reinstall) but the stupid computer won’t let me edit “because its a read-only file” or some crap.

    Result? I’m not playing Heroes V anymore. Nor did I buy any of the expacks.

    Edit: Also, I really enjoyed playing Stacraft with cheat codes. Operation Cwal + Show me the Money + Food for Thought + Black Sheep wall = an army of scouts/wraiths/mutalisks pwning my enemy. I don’t care how many hundred I attack with, that’s how I did it. Twas fun. :)

  22. Broggly says:

    wererogue: From what I’ve seen of Chaucer’s work, he was great at getting words to work for him, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want exhaustive annotations, or even better a translation into modern english along the side. And when I get good enough at reading middle english, I can ignore those and just read Canturbury Tales.

    The intellectual and critical thinking aspects don’t really correspond to anything in games. The closest thing is looking up the answer to puzzles, which really only applies to detective works, or the more obscure works like Finnegan’s Wake, House of Leaves, or Primer. Otherwise the closest thing is reading what other people’s opinion on the work is, ie exactly what Shamus has been doing with The Path.

  23. I usually don’t like to use cheat codes, cause they’re cheating, and I feel like I’m giving up and not accomplishing things if I use them.

    But then I’ll occasionally hit places where I swear because there isn’t one.

    I have a PSP game – Wild Arms something. I loved it right up until the first pseudo-stealth level. I can’t beat it – I’m not patient enough, I don’t enjoy it, and I can’t get the hang of it.

    I haven’t played the game since then. What can I do? Waste my time getting angry and hating it? No thanks. Skip it? Oh, no, I can’t. Cheat? Not an option. So in the drawer it goes.

    And more recently, I’ve been playing Wet (which is freakin’ spectacular most of the time – like Quentin Tarantino made a video game). It is interesting, in that it tosses different game play modes and such at you in small doses. Which is nice. Except when 1. You suck at them or 2. You just flat don’t enjoy it or 3. Your visual senses are completely unable to discern what the hell the game is doing.


    There’s a part where you blow up a plane. Then you fall out of the plane. Eventually, you see a parachute, and have to get it. Part of getting it is dodging the debris that’s flying around and getting to the thing it’s on.

    The path of objects was completely unclear to me. I couldn’t figure out their perspective, and even when I did, I would clip something and die. I hated it. I quit three times. My wife told me to leave the game alone for a couple days. Eventually, I simply bashed at it until I memorized the path to the parachute. I felt no accomplishment. I considered not playing. I was soured on the game for another couple days.

    A simple skip would have fixed it all….

  24. MuonDecay says:

    On the one hand you’re right about a lot of cases, on the other hand back when cheat codes were given to games in abundance or they often had these easy-win solutions, it would end up stealing my fun from the game.

    Even knowing it might cut into how long I enjoy the game or how much I appreciate it as a challenge, I have a compulsive metagaming urge to exploit it. For some reason my personality compels me to be a “power-gaming” player even if I don’t really prefer the gameplay experience associated with it.

    I think I agree with you overall though, especially about the need for easier difficulty levels. There have been a lot of more challenging, more beautiful, or more moving games than Total Annihilation, for example… but I spent more time in that game simply enjoying lazily pushing back and defeating low-difficulty AI opponents in skirmishes than I have replaying any other game since. It was easy, I probably could have eked by victories at a harder level, but I never wanted to. I had fun.

  25. Kronski says:

    Why? Why should there be rewards in games for doing things the hard way? The point isn’t to inspire us to greater heights, it’s to have fun. If that means difficulty for you, then go play it on hard mode and leave me alone. Why should one group of people be denied rewards another group will get just because they have different definitions of fun?

  26. Chev says:

    One of the most interesting handlings of difficulty I’ve seen was in The world ends with you, an action-RPG for DS.

    You could choose between easy and normal from the start, and could change difficulty whenever you wished while not in a fight. In a fight, if you were to be defeated you’d be offered to continue either at the difficulty you were at, or switch to easy for the remainder of the fight.

    Once you’d finished the game, no matter the difficulty, you’d be given a chapter select mode to freely roam the quests and try them at different difficulties, and the opportunity to get the hard and ultimate difficulties.

    The trick is, each difficulty had its own item drop table. It wasn’t that higher difficulties yielded more powerful items, but certainly more exotic ones.

    What’s more, there was a handicap system, in which you could temporarily forfeit levels and chain fights without a chance to rest in-between, in exchange for increased item drops (which was necessary because even on easy some monsters had near-infinitesimal drop rates) and experience.

    So the interesting thing is it could be balanced both ways, and encouraged player growth, as players could gain experience and items on lower difficulties before tackling the tough ones, getting more and more familiar with the system. Difficulty choice was itself turned into a gameplay element.

    The incentive to tackling the higher difficulties was, of course, seeing the oddest items, but also that with the chapter selection a number of achievements were revealed, usually focused on stuff you wouldn’t easly stumble of in a first playthrough, which in turn unlocked bonus background materials.

  27. Mephane says:

    Shamus, I wholeheartedly agree. Especially on FPS games, there is often the point where I say to myself “meh, I this is too much hassle dying here all the time, let me just give god mode and mow down the bad guys”. HL2:EP2 had multiple moments like these, so I ended up playing half of the game with invincibility, although I would have liked to do it without any cheats.

    On the other hand, I never used any kind of cheat in a multi-player game/session, because there you *are* cheating other people, not the stupid machine. ;)

  28. krellen says:

    I blame achievements. If it weren’t for achievements, no one would see cheat codes as “cheating”. But since so many games are made for consoles and have achievements – “bragging rights” – attached to them, cheat codes not only cheat the game, but other gamers, giving you achievements you did not earn.

    And you can’t just say “turn off achievements if cheat codes are used”, because gaining the achievements can be part of the fun as well, and this solution will still rob a portion of players from the enjoyment they’ve paid for.

    If we could just stop being so competitive about playing games – letting people claim “skill”, having “hardcore” and “casual” games – we might be able to get past this, but as long as people have to feel superior to others, we’re going to have this issue.

  29. maybe this is an ancillary thing, but I really miss the days where games actually gave you something new for playing on a higher difficulty.

    Personally, I really miss the Goldeneye model, where higher difficulty meant a substantial change in how you approach the level, and what you needed to accomplish. I may have sucked at the game, but I had a reason to get better because there was *more to do*. Course, Goldeneye also had unlockable cheats…

    @krellen (28)

    I think there really is something to your comment… the achievement culture in gaming right now seems to be just another “secret club! keep out!” sign hanging on gaming… it’s great for us gamers, but the cost of exclusion (in terms of the limited discussion before us here) seems to be a little high.

  30. Stern says:

    I’m all for cheat codes. With codes I can artificially alter the difficulty curve and actually enjoy my game. In particular, I would have never finished Half Life 2 if the buddha cheat hadn’t existed. As a result I’d never be a fan of the characters and play through the game multiple times, slowly weaning myself off the cheats.

    Furthermore, these same codes allow me to circumvent the annoyances that I consider bad design by the game. A good chunk of JRPGS have what I feel to be mandatory grinds. If I can’t find a cheat to shorten or skip that grind and get back to actually having fun then I’ll probably shelve that game for good.

    Simply put, if I cannot change the game in some way so that I can enjoy it then I won’t play it and won’t buy any future titles in the franchise regardless of how critically acclaimed it is.

  31. Roy says:

    Man, those old books should have a version in new language, to make them easy to read. Also, when the content is disturbing or intelligent, there should be an option to get a version that is easier to think about.

    They already do. When was the last time you read a bible in Hebrew or Greek? I see kids’ versions of famous tales like Robin Hood, Shakespeare’s play, or the Legend of King Arthur all the time.

  32. Josh says:

    I’m with those who feel that if you complete a game on hard you should get some kind of reward. Maybe not an AWESOME reward, but some small, recognizing your effort and accomplishment.

    Also, I agree nearly all games should have hard and easy modes.

  33. Audacity says:

    @Chargone: In my preteen years it was only because of my army of photon rifle equipped shock troops that Rome was able to conquer the world, much less survive to reach the iron age. :)

    As far as needing an incentive to play on harder difficulties, I don’t understand that position. For me the greater challenge makes the game more enjoyable. Stalker is a good example of how a difficulty increasing/tactical combat mod(Stalker Redux, for those who care.) made the game far more enjoyable for me.

  34. rofltehcat says:

    Reminds me of Street Fighter 4… I can defeat normal enemies in arcade mode on normal difficulty just fine (and Capcom’s definition of ‘normal’ would go in other games for ‘very hard, only players that played the game on other difficulties, spent a few hours in training mode and read guides on the numbers behind game mechanics have a chance of winning), yet every time I face the endboss my normal style of fighting fails, I can barely get combos going etc. and this isn’t even in normal mode, I even seem to struggle against him on ‘childish difficulty’.
    And why? Because he has ridiculous stats. He pushes out moves twice as fast as you, recovers much faster from getting an unblocked hit than you could ever (he can even interrupt normally uninterruptable combos) and has a very unfair set of special moves (basically he copies the best stuff from the other characters). Well, he is very predictable in the way he uses his moves and has some AI weaknesses.
    But I want to have fun beating him, not doing down-HKick-1stepback-repeat all the time (read: laming him to death).

    The difficulty part on this one is waaay off and fighting him really isn’t any fun, having fun fights against the other enemies in the arcade mode is. They should really check wtf their definitions of easy or normal is, players new to the game will get wtfpwned.

    Also this is an example of bad boss design. This boss isn’t hard to beat because he is a bit stronger than everyone else or because he has some cool mechanic. It is just that: He copies the best moves from everyone else, makes them twice as fast and gets a retarded AI script. Making him more fallible by giving him a more reasonable AI would already make him an interesting boss. looks like real fun, doesn’t it?

  35. Decius says:

    The reason that many players want rewards for hardmode/nocheat mode is that they want the challenging gameplay. I want games that are hard to win, or hard to win perfectly, because I like reaching difficult goals. That’s why I do things like Thief (no knockouts allowed), Yeah, I often become frustrated, but just because I’m frustrated doesn’t mean I’m not having fun. I play GH and RB on the highest level, even though I get a higher score (total) on hard/normal, and even though I might have to try a song several times to get it.

    Challenges of the moment: FF1 with 4 red mages; Dwarf Fortress: Build fortress to support the current ultramegaproject (Details of the project vary with time, but rivers, chasms, and long hallways with ballistae at the end feature prominently.

    1. Shamus says:

      I think rather than “rewards” we might call it “recognition”. If I beat Half-Life 2 on hard without saving (soooo close) I put a mental checkmark in my head. “I did that because I wanted to.” It would be nice if these feats has token recognotion in the game or through achievements.

      (Allthough the “no saving” one would be tough to enforce.)

  36. pkt-zer0 says:

    Personally, I feel that nowadays it’s the “normal” and “hard” difficulties that are missing from most games, not the “easy” one. So I don’t quite get where this “give me a win button” thing is coming from.

  37. Andy Adams-Moran says:

    I think the original Elite gave the player a “win” button *and* justified it well within the internal logic of the game. You could buy a single use “energy bomb” for 1000 cr, and your ship could only fit one. When used, it destroyed every enemy craft in your zone (except for the bigger Thargoid ships), a very effective “win” button. There’s also a escape pod, which always gets you to the nearest space station, to start from scratch (or maybe with your ship restored, minus the escape pod; it’s been a while).

    There are some downsides: it takes quite a bit of play before you can afford either of these, so it fails one of your criteria. Still, I like the way they’re /part/ of the game.

  38. Andy Adams-Moran says:

    Oh yes: it case it wasn’t apparent: I strongly agree with you, and have a very similar way approach to games (favoring content over achievement).

  39. Cody says:

    Some people seem to be completely ignoring what difficulty settings are there for. it’s not because some people want to breeze through a game (even though some do) or because some people want a huge challenge (even though some do) it’s because some people have a small amount of skill, some a medium amount of skill, and some a large amount of skill. If I pick easy difficulty and I suck at the game and you pick hard difficulty and your really good at the game, you don’t work any harder than I do to beat the game. Why should you get something and I shouldn’t when we both went through the same amount of frustration and challenge in our experience.

    @pkt-zer0: great, you’re amazing at every game that has come out recently. Some people aren’t.

  40. AR says:

    I play a series of games called Touhou Project that is renowned for it’s difficulty and depth of skill, yet even it has an easy mode that should be beatable by people new to the genre of “bullet hell shooters” with a little bit of practice. This does not even slightly affect it’s reputation as murderously difficult, presumably because the perception is that only Normal and above constitute the real game, and Easy Mode is just something to make fun of people for playing. Nonetheless, you can play it on Easy if you want.

    However, the games of that series do still reserve a small portion of the game for the elite players in the form of the Extra stages, which can only be played on one difficulty level, which is greater than even the Lunatic level of the main game.

    How’s that for a compromise? Most of the game can be played on Easy by anyone, but the completion of one level is reserved for those who take the skill of dodging to a whole new, absurd level.

  41. Chorkie says:

    The counterpoints to Shamus’s point of view as expressed in the article, both here and on the Escapist site, seem to boil down to one (or both) of these two:

    1. “I didn’t think the game was that hard, therefore easy modes aren’t needed, therefore your point is invalid.” (Solipsistic fallacy.)

    2. “If you don’t like the status quo, don’t play video games.” (Nuclear option as the first resort.)

    Games aren’t just for people with a natural talent for playing them. That is one of the facts of life of the past ten years and the foreseeable future. Aren’t you people HAPPY that video games are now bigger than movies? Or do you WANT video games to remain a low-budget OCD clubhouse?

    How many times do Shamus and others have to say, “nobody’s going to make YOU use the IWIN button”? And if you’re that bothered by what other people do, guess what? You don’t own all instances of the game everywhere, just your own copy. Time to grow up.

  42. Jeff says:

    If the Devs don’t put it in, there’s always 3rd party trainers. That can’t be ignored. Everyone who says they shouldn’t put cheats in misses that point. Unless something is actually competitive (and online), those who really want to cheat, can. (ArtMoney and Cheat Machine come to mind, and there’s a site that sells cheats/trainers full time. Cheat Happens?)

    The only valid incentive for playing on hard is to play it on hard, for the challenge. Extras are beside the point, and only serve to annoy those who don’t want the challenge. Not having in-game cheats only serve to annoy those who won’t/can’t find the 3rd party cheats. Especially since while in development/testing, the tools should already be built in, via console commands if nothing else.

    The “no cheats” crowd really has no leg to stand on. Content exclusive to hard mode isn’t, because anyone can see it – regardless of build-in cheats or 3rd party cheats. Exclusive content only serves to annoy a segment of the market.

    If you must have additional incentive to play normal instead of easy, then perhaps you don’t enjoy the challenge after all, hm? I like cheats, but I also like a challenge. When I want to “play the game”, I play it. Yet it’s also nice to occasionally take that difficult game, turn on god mode and unlimited rockets, and just run around blasting the crap out of everything. Just remember not to accidentally save afterwards, though. :P

  43. eri says:

    I like the idea of a game that has built-in cheats, but I don’t think you should be able to plow through the game with them right from the beginning. However, there’s a way to not make the game too hard, which is a dynamic difficulty system. This requires more testing and work than just decreasing enemy damage, but the result can be impressively subtle.

    One game that has really nailed this in my mind is Resident Evil 5 (and the previous one, for that matter). Not only are there cheat codes that get unlocked for beating the game and satisfying other requirements (with the best ones the hardest to get; there’s no immortality, but playing through with fully-upgraded super-weapons comes pretty close), but there’s a dynamic difficulty system in place. If the game finds that you’re less accurate with your shots, it will give you more ammunition. If it thinks your weapons haven’t been upgraded enough for your situation, it will give you more money to spend. If you die, you can almost guarantee that the particular section will become a bit easier – die again and the game really gives you a break. Even the game’s health system is extremely interesting on normal difficulty – often the game holds off on killing you provided you put up a decent effort, with enemies doing just enough damage and attacking just enough times to make you feel mortal and vulnerable, but not enough to take you out unless you make a serious mistake. It’s still definitely a harder game intended for more experienced players, but this behind-the-scenes tweaking also does wonders for instilling a sense of accomplishment in the player – even if it’s arguably a bit “false”. Nothing is more satisfying than just barely killing that boss who seemed impossible at first, and the developers know it, so they aren’t afraid to help you along a bit to get that feeling.

    I don’t know, I’m just of the opinion that if you want to play through a game, you should play through it as intended at least the first time, but that doesn’t mean the game shouldn’t accommodate you – unless you’re playing a game in a genre known for its relentless difficulty, there’s really no excuse in not adapting to the player’s skill level. This can be done discreetly, by offering more critical hits, or reducing damage done to the player; these appear just a little lucky, without devaluing the player’s own skill. At the same time, cheat modes create a sort of sandbox environment for the player, where the game’s rules can be played with or bent or even broken, and that’s definitely a valuable thing to offer to those who want it. The simple point remains, though: if your game is too difficult for its intended audience, you are doing something seriously wrong, and if you don’t have a legitimate easy option that is both forgiving and offers gameplay tips and aids (BioShock did a great job with this), you are limiting your audience unnecessarily.

  44. Cuthalion says:

    My favorite cheats were in Descent and Age of Empires II. I got a kick out of the AoEII gattling cars, and I still remember a lot of the Descent cheats.

    gabbagabbahey turned cheats one, racerx made you invulnerable, bigred gave you all the weapons.

    Starcraft had some fun ones. black sheep wall revealed the map, power overwhelming was actually referenced in-game and made it so only you could do damage. I can’t recall if “there is no cow level” was a Descent or Starcraft cheat.

    Actually, I think it was the taunts more than the cheats that made AoE II for me. Telling people you were going to take their nice town and randomly saying “food, please” in that deep, polite voice were hilarious. “Long time, no siege” was especially clever, and “Start the game already!” got used a little too often in the lobby.

  45. toasty says:

    “I can't recall if “there is no cow level” was a Descent or Starcraft cheat.”

    It was a Starcraft Cheat referencing the “cow level” that was supposed to be in Diablo. FYI, there IS a Cow Level in Diablo II. :p

  46. Unconvention says:

    I mostly play video games to relax and to enjoy myself. Reaching the point in a game where I am being frustrated and not having fun therefore usually means I’ve reached the point in the game where I’m not interested in playing any more. If a cheat code will get me past that road block, then I’m happy to reach for it. Like Shamus, I want to see the rest of the game, and I don’t necessarily want to have to put myself through unenjoyable pain to get there.

    As for achievements, I see no reason why achievements couldn’t be graded (much like the Kongregate badges). Easy achievements for things that can be accomplished with cheat modes on, and hard achievements that can only be accomplished with cheat modes off. I’d have no problem with not being able to rack up the hard achievements unless I worked for them.

  47. Neil Polenske says:

    Here’s a win button I’d like for a particular game: no respawns in Bioshock.

    I’ve mentioned every once in a while my distaste for the combat in that game and how it’s gotten to the point where it keeps me from playing the game. A large part of the problem is that everything associated with the combat takes you out of the experience. From the sillyness of the vending machines in a dead utopia that you have to give money for instead just smashing the ****ing things and taking what you want, to having to juggle which plasmids, weapons and which ammo to use in the middle of a firefight, it just rips me away from the atmosphere that I REALLY want to get into. I could tolerate the combat if I knew I could clear a place out and then go exploring without any hassle, but I’ll leave a place for ten minutes only to go back and hear a bunch of shouting from some thug or even a freaking Big Brother. Where the hell they was HE hiding the last time I was here!?

    Eventually, I might return to Bioshock, but only AFTER I figure out how to hack it for no respawning or just say screw it and turn on no targeting. Cause the parts that don’t involve interaction with the locals looks really interesting.

  48. MuonDecay says:

    The respawns in that sort of environment are a bit important for the atmosphere they were attempting to create.

    In System Shock 2, part of the thing that kept the player on edge and feeling insecure and threatened (it was a horror game after all) was knowing that no area was ever truly cleared. You could never wander without fear. You were always in danger.

    In Bioshock their thorough, completionistic bungling of the important traits of the system shock games makes this a bit of a moot point, but that is why it was likely included.

  49. LintMan says:

    eri wrote: “I like the idea of a game that has built-in cheats, but I don't think you should be able to plow through the game with them right from the beginning.”

    Why not? What do you care how I play the game? It’s a single player game! Why shouldn’t I be able play it the way I want to? It was my $50 I spent, not yours.

    “I don't know, I'm just of the opinion that if you want to play through a game, you should play through it as intended at least the first time,”

    Why in the world should I have to do that? Once I finish most games, I’m done with them and will never play them again (unless there’s an expansion or something). Very very few games are compelling enough to me to make me want to replay them. Without cheats, I would get bored and tired of many games and stop playing before ever finishing them.

    “At the same time, cheat modes create a sort of sandbox environment for the player, where the game's rules can be played with or bent or even broken, and that's definitely a valuable thing to offer to those who want it.”

    Yes, this is exactly what I want. Why should I have to go through the motions of playing the entire game “as intended” first? If you go to a restaurant, do you have to eat your entire meal without salt, pepper, and ketchup, etc to consume “as the chef intended”. And only then, after eating it, you reorder the same meal and put your salt/ketchup/etc on it?

  50. Danath says:

    Well, Shamus had it more on the ball by saying “recognition” that you did something hard.

    And then “If I want to play the game on easy and you want to play on hard, why should you get more?” Well I hate to tell you, even if we were both playing a game on easy that had any kind of branching story path, you would miss out on content by doing/not doing something that I did. Oh you paid for it? So what, you still have to put in effort to see everything.

    And I don’t see any problems with people who choose hard getting extra challenges and rewards for doing the hard mode. If you can never do the hard mode? Then let there be CHEATS, I am all for game cheats that allow people to do this, you can cheat your way to the rewards if thats all you want, while those of us who want the challenge will have it. However you won’t get the achievement because you cheated, while we get that little token that fills us with satisfation. Us hard mode players play for the challenge, and generally feet a great deal of satisfaction when we get some token saying “good job!”.


    Go to a fancy french restaurant in Paris or some such and ask for *ketchup*. You WILL be thrown out for insulting the chef. Not that I agree or care, I don’t compare my points in rpgs or online games to others for the most part, I just enjoy myself and thats enough.

  51. JKjoker says:

    i don’t usually use cheats (and when i do they are usually savestates on emulators) and im rarely stuck on games but i do like to know there is a loophole i can use if i really need it

    what i do hate are the freaking unlockeables, i recently played Resident Evil 5, the game was much worse than RE4 but i thought i could play it again this time with the infinite ammo cheats i heard about, but no, they need a LOT more work getting points and getting money to upgrade them BEFORE you can unlock the infinite ammo (and you need to do this for EACH weapon), youll need to finish the game maybe 50 times to unlock everything, wtf were they thinking ?, they add a somewhat halfassed replay value and then they shoot its legs off in favor of achievements and other crap, Mercenaries sucks too, you need to play it to the point of EXHAUSTION to unlock the cool characters/levels, by that time you dont want to play anymore (RE4 had the same crap, and many fighting games like SF4 or MvsC2 do the same)

    it should be a law to have a password/option to unlock everything without playing one second of the game, savegames get lost, some ppl dont have the time to grind their way into the content for months, and some just dont care enough and will skip it if they cant access it with ease

    and i blame all this on those stupid achievements, as a SP-only player now i am suddenly forced into a competition i never asked for, worst of all, devs have noticed how pointless they are and keep locking content away to justify them, i hate the frinking things and i want to kick those devs, right in the nuts

  52. Sean Riley says:

    I agree with Shamus’s premise… mostly. But I do think there can be exceptions: Some games may use the high level of difficulty to make an artistic point. A good example of this would be… Medal of Honor, I think it was? the landing on Normandy beach, where the difficulty was ludicrously tough and arbitrary. The end result was that you forced your way through by near pure random chance after a heap of attempts — A brilliant way to show the truth of that day.

    I can think of other ways high difficulty could be used to achieve artistic purposes. In those cases, a ‘win button’ would argue against the artistic premise.

  53. Stephanie says:

    Stern 30: “I'm all for cheat codes. With codes I can artificially alter the difficulty curve and actually enjoy my game. In particular, I would have never finished Half Life 2 if the buddha cheat hadn't existed. As a result I'd never be a fan of the characters and play through the game multiple times, slowly weaning myself off the cheats.”

    There’s cheats for Half Life 2? [goes to check internet] Oh hey, I can finish the game now, thanks!

    (Yes, maybe I should have known to look – not an FPS player. Which fairly proves Shamus’ point.)

  54. Jeff says:

    I don’t mind recognition. This should be in the form of vanity things – Achievements, for example, or unlocking new costumes.

    Imagine if, in Fallout 3, you got a set of clothes that make you look like a gangster or something next time you play. As opposed to “we don’t show you what happened to all the towns you interacted with unless you beat it on Hard.”

    Also, some games are supposed to be difficult, that’s the experience. But if you want to ruin it for yourself by being invincible during D-Day and march up to the Nazis firing more rockets then the entire navy possesses, then you should be able to do that too. There’s no reason why you can’t ruin the experience for yourself.

  55. Blake says:

    @eri: Dynamic difficulty is the devil. All it does is force the player to die the number of times the designer wanted.
    If I’m playing a game and die two or three times in the one level I get really frustrated at having to repeat myself. For me dying once in a game is a bad thing.
    Obviously there are other players who if they don’t get killed at least 5-10 times in a level, they’ll think it’s too easy.
    Dynamic difficulty forces those hardcore guys to have their game nerfed so they never get their sense of accomplishment while forcing players like me to have the game decide I’m too good at it and ramp up the difficulty to the point where I do have to die every level (causing me to quickly stop playing).

    I’m all for achievements for playing a game on uber hard without cheats, hell I don’t even care if the devs want achievements only for non cheaters. The point of achievements is to be able to go ‘hey guys, look how awesome I am’.
    Extra actual content requiring the player to play super hard though annoys me. It makes me feel the AU$100 I spent on a new game (which equates to 87 US dollars currently) is even more of a rip off because I don’t have time to unlock those extras.

    One exception though is the super hard level being locked unless you play on super hard. The reason for this is because it’s super hard anyway and only designed as a challenge. Having said that, I still think we should be allowed to god mode our way to it and enjoy it however we like.

    I don’t often want/need cheats in my games but when I do and they’re not available (such as wanting to skip the chariot racing segment of Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones), I usually end up shelving the game and never touching it again.

  56. RPharazon says:

    I love it when games give you the option to fool around within them, pushing the engine and the game itself to new heights that the developers may or may not have intended.

    Probably the best example of this (in the PC world, at least) is Half-Life 2 and its expansions. A simple buddha, noclip, and impulse 101 (maybe with a tad bit of changing the physics values), and the game becomes amazingly more fun. Doing some magic console trickery can even give you the super gravity gun right at the beginning of the game. Pick up that can? How about I pick YOU up and launch you through the roof?

    The closest things to the sandbox-type trickery that console players have is LittleBigPlanet, or the Halo 3 Forge Mode. Forge is especially awesome, since you can smash your friends about by dropping tanks on them, or you can make infinite-explosion death pits in the middle of the level. The sheer amount of original work contained in the Forge community is nearly (but not quite) equal to the general modding efforts that Oblivion carries with it.

  57. Daf says:

    LintMan 50:
    If you go to a restaurant, do you have to eat your entire meal without salt, pepper, and ketchup, etc to consume “as the chef intended”. And only then, after eating it, you reorder the same meal and put your salt/ketchup/etc on it?

    At a decent restaurant, yes. Good chefs know how to cook properly and have already salted your meal accordingly. You should at least try a few bites first before ruining it with more salt/etc, but it is after all your food and your money.

    Of course good developers are a different story so YMMV.

  58. Ranneko says:

    One feature of Naruto Rise of a Ninja was that if you had repeatedly lost a particular fight, it would offer to effectively recharge your lives, allowing you to brute force fights. Helpful if you played it like I do, which is sporadically, forgetting all of the moves in the process.

  59. LintMan says:

    Danath wrote: “Go to a fancy french restaurant in Paris or some such and ask for *ketchup*. You WILL be thrown out for insulting the chef.”

    If it was run by pretentious snobs, perhaps. Some restaurants thrive on that sort of reputation. But you’re not suggesting that game developers should cop the same attitude as some snooty french restaurant, are you?

    Daf wrote: “At a decent restaurant, yes. Good chefs know how to cook properly and have already salted your meal accordingly. You should at least try a few bites first before ruining it with more salt/etc, but it is after all your food and your money.”

    They’ve salted it to how they think it should be salted and to how they think their general clientele will expect it. But people’s taste varies – some like it saltier than others. If you know you like it much saltier than most people, there’s little risk in adding some salt before tasting.

    But I do agree that tasting first is generally the smarter move, and I start playing the games I buy without using cheats. But eri was arguing: “I don't think you should be able to plow through the game with them right from the beginning” and “you should play through it as intended at least the first time”. Hence my analogy to a cook insisting you eat the entire meal before putting any seasoning on a second order of the meal. That is very different from “try it first”, and is the exact mentality that some developers have when they put in some limited cheats and make them unlockables after beating the game.

  60. Coffee says:

    I hate when I find a game difficult, and when I look for cheats, up pops the little page that says something along the lines of:

    Invincibility – complete the game sixteen times one after the next while standing on your nose
    Infinite Ammo – gun down the Russian army while blindfolded and aiming with your penis*

    I mean, surely it’s pointless to say, well, you guys who are really good at the game, you get to not have to worry about being good at the game!

    *I’m a dude, and I think it’s fair to say that it’s generally uncommon for us to be able to aim well with the organ in question.

  61. Stuart says:

    The Sims 2 held my attention for all of around 30 minutes before I became bored of pointing them to the bathroom. (You just went like 2 minutes ago, and don’t leave that half eaten sandwich on the floor!)

    Then I discovered that the game could be put in ‘testing mode’ and all the happiness/health levels became sliders. Many more hours of fun were had! :-)

    This kind of thing needs to be the norm, imho. :-)

  62. krellen says:

    This comment thread is showing the two sides of gamers: those insisting “it’s just a game, and I paid for it, so let me play it how I want” and those insisting “I struggled with the game, I deserve some reward and recognition for that”. It’s actually pretty interesting seeing the back and forth. I’d be curious to see demographic information for posters, to see if there’s any correlation.

  63. Rosseloh says:

    Sean Riley:
    Some games may use the high level of difficulty to make an artistic point. A good example of this would be… Medal of Honor, I think it was? the landing on Normandy beach, where the difficulty was ludicrously tough and arbitrary. The end result was that you forced your way through by near pure random chance after a heap of attempts “” A brilliant way to show the truth of that day.

    While I certainly agree that a level that difficult would be “realistic” in that so many people die, that would be a turn off for me. By the third or fourth retry I’d be tired of the game, and any “artistic” qualities the difficult level had would have disappeared completely.
    Go ahead, make it difficult, but give me the option to have it “easy”, or tweak the difficult bits so they only require one try (I’ll give it two tries, if there’s some trick or puzzle to figure out)…

    The fun thing to do is give them conflicting goals and personalities, and just let them do their thing. They will go to the bathroom and eat and such by themselves….just, not all the time. It’s quite fun. /evilgrin

  64. mister k says:

    I certainly think the artistic argument holds more water than any other. If you have designed a part of a game in a particular way and feel that other approaches would ruin it, then you can enforce it. Usually the reasons aren’t as high minded as this, although I suppose theres nothing technically wrong with someone just ignoring this and plowing through.

    I hate unlocked cheats, as they revel in pointlessness- rewards for hard mode can just be achievements,or possibly cosmetic changes. In fact a lot of games I’ve completed on a reasonable level of difficulty, and got the cosmetic changes rather than the invincibility ones, which irritate me.

    I absolutely utterly detest being denied content in terms of story because I am not willing to put in an absolutely insane amount of time. FFX-2 does this. While its relatively easy to get a good ending, to get a final cut scene you have to complete everything in the game (including talking to people for no real reason).

  65. Oleyo says:

    I think that the lack of difficulty settings is directly tied to the shortened “length” of playable game time due to graphical advancement.

    Where 10 years ago a developer would likely not have a problem if a player picked super easy mode and defeated the game in “only” one day, today I think the same developer would cringe at introducing a mode that would likely allow the games content to be burned through in an hour or so, maybe even less.


  66. Daimbert says:

    I’ll say this:

    I don’t mind achievements being based on difficulty, as long as they don’t actually really impact the game. It would irritate me to not, for example, get a costume that I liked because of that, but it wouldn’t ruin the game for me.

    Other than that, though, there shouldn’t be too much in the game that someone who isn’t all that great at playing those sorts of games couldn’t see if they wanted to. Thus, difficulty levels and cheats come into play.

    Now, Danath, the comment you made about the chef in the French restaurant means one thing: that’s exactly why I would never eat in such a restaurant, since I REQUIRE substitutions, generally, since I prefer plainer food and too many places want to put spicier sauces on everything. I’ll even give you an example: a while back I went with a group of co-workers fopr lunch to an Italian restaurant. One of the entrees was served with noodles in a tomato sauce. I’d found tomato sauces, in general, to be too spicy for me if done by restaurants. So I asked if I could substitute French Fries, which is of course terrible for an Italian chef. But they did it. And because they did it, I enjoyed my meal. And because I enjoyed my meal, I was always willing to go back.

    I think the game designers should aim for that: let customers play it however they want and for whatever reason they want, make that as broad as possible, and then get more people buying the games and playing them to make more money. Now, it’s hard to cater to everyone by default, so adding in the ability to cheat and different difficulty levels helps cater to both the players who want a challenge out of the game, and the players who just want to see how the story turns out.

    Now, for artistic reasons, you do have to remember that you can be artistic all you want, but if no one wants to play it or play past it that won’t do you all that much good. So you need to balance that. Optional cheats allow for that.

  67. Girl Gamer says:

    I have to agree with Cody (40). Most of you are completely missing the point. I’m not very skilled at some kinds of games, but I still want to be able to enjoy them. I might struggle equally as much on Easy mode as some of you do on Super Hard. Why should I go through the same amount of effort and time and be rewarded with less story for it?

    Some games get really freaking hard toward the end game and I’ve put more away unfinished than I can count. This is unbelievably frustrating. I always want to know how the game ends and what happened to my characters, but there comes a point when the frustration overrides the curiosity. This sucks. I also don’t enjoy spending my leisure time being angry and frustrated. That’s not fun.

    Imagine watching the LoTR trilogy, but every time there’s a fight with orcs your dvd player freezes, turns off, gives you an electric shock when you go to fix it, and then you have to rewatch the last five minutes of the movie before the fight again only to have it freeze and crash AGAIN. How long would it be before you stopped caring what happened to Frodo and company and threw the DVDs away? Sure, you could go get a new DVD that might work, but I can’t go get a new copy of Fighting Game 5 where the boss is weaker.

    I’ve been reading your writing on this topic for a while, Shamus. I really like the common sense way you approach accessability in games and I agree with the suggestions you make. I’m glad someone who’s skilled at games still sees the perspective of those of us who aren’t.

    Bottom line: Some of you like the challenge for the challenge, but I tollerate the challenge up to a point in favour the story, and I want to be rewarded for my effort (which was usually equal to or greater than yours even on easy) by seeing the whole damn story.

    Sorry my first comment ever was so tl;dr. This is a subject that really matters to me.

  68. SoldierHawk says:

    I’ve run into this exact problem with the two LoTR games I have (Two Towers and Return of the King.) I find the last levels of each to be absurdly hard (or maybe I just suck), but either way I want to finish just so I can unlock all the extras. Once that was done and the pressure was off, I’d be more than happy to try to get through it for real. But for now, I’m stuck. Why? Well the game has cheat codes…but you can only unlock them after you beat the game. :-(

  69. Kdansky says:

    OT: The d20 TF2 servers seem to be troubled, mind restarting/updating them?

  70. WWWebb says:

    Personally, I like anything that will keep me from having to look up a walkthrough. If I get stuck somwhere and have to look up a FAQ, it’s pretty hard to not read at least a paragraph ahead and spoil the next section of the game too. Being able to slide down the difficulty would keep my eyes on the game instead of the hint page.

    Of course, I can’t count how many times I thought a section of the game was too hard, when really I just hadn’t discovered whatever obscure tactic/weakness/path the designers had intended. Changing the difficulty (or even a cheat code) wouldn’t necessarily work in those cases. That’s just a game design issue.

    Speaking of game design, I have to assume that “cheat codes” are easier to implement than a actual “difficulty” slider. Changing difficulty means coming up with variables. Do you change the number or toughness of enemies? Do you change the effectiveness of the player’s weapons, jumps, etc.? Do you spawn more power ups? Designers spent a ton of time thinking and balancing these elements when they designed it the first time. Do they really want to do it for every difficulty level? Then of course the developers have to spend money and time playtesting each difficulty.

    If there happens to be a cheat code, then hey, it’s use at your own risk and no guarantees are expressed or implied. Now that I think of it though, I can’t think of any actual cheat codes in the current generation of consoles. Are the designers getting lazy or would cheat codes make it too hard to enforce an achievement system in the game? Probably a bit of both. Hmm…thinking about the XBox system…what if you could “spend” gamer points on cheats? I’m certainly not going to spend real money fixing an unsatisfying game, but I don’t particularly care about my gamer point totals, so I might be inclined to take a 100 point hit to my gamer points total to turn on god mode.

  71. Simply Simon says:

    I’m not sure if the first Baldur’s gate game had cheat codes, but it had a win button in the form of a wand of monster summoning. It summoned a bunch of monsters at your desired location, which pretty much killed what you were aiming at.
    If you didn’t want to fight a boss battle, boom, summon a horde of monsters.
    Also you could use the tactic “walk in through a door, hit the enemy once, go outside, save, repeat, reload if damaged”
    These two “cheats” or whatever you are supposed to call them, and some other tricks here and there, is the only way anyone I know has managed to get through that game due to it’s ridiculous difficulty. And It’s also one of my favourite games.

  72. Ergonomic Cat says:

    I’m in the middle here, kinda.

    I 100% agree that sp games should be full of cheat codes.

    But I also want something for tackling harder content. If I go in to the Sith temple and fight 9 Sith Lords bare handed I damn well want an item appropriate to the challenge. I don’t want I Win items tho. And I damn well want you to be able to type “spawnitem Ubersaberkillemall” if you want to. I won’t – I don’t think it’s fun. But you can.

    But I like unlocking harder levels and more stuff. In some ways I don’t see why you’d play with a reward.

    But I want you to be able to do it if you’re broken in that particular way. ;)

    For instance, I have 4 different mods making FO3 harder. Cause I’m a power gamer. I don’t make a character without at least 2 days planning if I can help it. And if I do, I’m just gonna reroll later.

    Shamus, et al: Thoughts on CO’s perks system?

  73. Decius says:

    I don’t mind an “I win” button, and most IG rewards (Like SP skins, costumes, and etc.) should be available to any skill level of player- The same person who doesn’t like “Super twitch reflex the computer is a cheating ****” mode is, in my experience, most likely to want the super-cool costume.

    I want the little star that says “I beat ‘Super twitch reflex the computer is a cheating **** mode’ So there.”

    Because I like that kind of thing. I’d love it if Fallout 3 had some hard things- not fights, not “Speech” checks, but some exploration and problem solving. But that’s too much to expect from a computer game- After all, even the most sandbox of games has to be multiple choice at heart.

  74. Sauron says:

    I’m curious as to why people are convinced that everything in every game should be accessible to everybody. Sure, you paid for it, but I also paid for this book in front of me, a classic, even. If I want to put in the work, I can unlock deeper meanings and look into the truths of humanity or whatever my literary analysis teacher said. If I don’t, I can have a fairly enjoyable story. If I want to unlock the deeper meanings, I should be prepared to put in the relevant work. Or pay someone else to do the work for me, I guess.

  75. PhoenixUltima says:

    I think that this, like many other issues in current games, is caused by lack of time and budget. You know how time-exhaustive and expensive it is to make a game these days, what with the 3D modeling and high-end graphics coders and professional voice actors and dedicated artists and yadda yadda yadda. And the company isn’t going to let you sit around and fiddle with your game until it’s the perfect expression of the developer’s ideas (unless that company is 3D Realms, and look what happened to them). I imagine that someone has already had your “win button” idea, and this is probably what it sounded like when it was brought up in a meeting:

    Developer 1: “I had a neat idea the other day. What if we put in the option to win whatever battle you’re having just by clicking on a menu option? A ‘win button’, if you will.”
    Developer 2: “And why on earth would we do that?”
    D1: “Well, I was just thinking that a lot of people won’t be able to see the game through to the end because of the difficulty-”
    D2: “That’s what difficulty options are for.”
    D1: “Right, right, but see, what if even easy mode is too hard for some people? Not everyone can figure out how to do all the combinations and little tricks that make it possible to come out of a battle with most of your health intact. And some people might be able to handle battle, but decide that they hate this one specific type of enemy because it’s too fast, or blocks too much. With this they could just skip that and say ‘ok, take me to the parts of the game I like’.”
    D2: “And how would this ‘win button’ work, exactly? Does it just make all the enemies on-screen die?”
    D1: “Something like that, yeah.”
    D2: “So, how would this help people who are struggling with, say, a difficult section of platforming, or a rough quick-time event?”
    D1: “Er, well, we could, ah, implement a way to skip sections of the game?”
    D2: “Do you have any idea how much that would piss off our level designer? Especially given that he’d have to put in script tags and such delineating which sections are which and which scripts to skip over? ‘Great work today! Oh yeah, and could you start adding huge amounts of scripting to the levels so we can implement a way to skip over all your hard work altogether?’ Something tells me we’d be looking for a new level designer. He’s pretty temperamental about his work.”
    D1: “Uh-”
    D2: “And how long is this going to take to implement, exactly? We’re already 3 months before deadline and we still have massive bugs to work out of the ‘Wings of Thanatos’ ability.”
    D1: “Er, I can’t be sure, but… maybe 2 months…?”
    D2: “Sorry kid, it just isn’t going to happen. I’ve already got execs breathing down my neck to get this thing finished as it is. Maybe next time.”

  76. Robert says:

    When I play a game I like to be able to wander around and see stuff. I like having the time to think over a logic puzzle. I’m not a twitch gamer, and don’t like trying to do all this while fighting off hordes of monsters.

    So is my playing Lego Star Wars with Regenerating Hearts so I have the chance to find the last canister any more cheating than looking up in a FAQ where to find the canister?

    Why should there be parts of the game locked off from me just because I’m less coordinated? What about the player who’s less good at solving logic puzzles “” why should he get his content because his ‘cheat’ is outside the game?

  77. LintMan says:

    @Sauron: Unless authors start adding chapters to the back of books in Ancient Greek, no content in the book is “locked” from actual access, and even then, that’s just a metaphorical lock: you can still look at every single page, study it, skim it, skip it, or scribble on it as you please. What any reader gets out of the book is purely the reader’s choice, not some mandate by the author of the book.

    Imagine if you bought a book and then found out you had to read the entire book at least twice, the second time with it in a 4 point monospace font, with all the punctuation and capitals removed, in order to be able to read the real final chapter of the book.

    @PhoenixUltima: I don’t think so. A lot of cheat codes get put in as debugging tools to help the game developers and testers. It’s not a strange foreign concept to them or something hard to implement. I think the Source Engine has a bunch of built in cheats that any source engine game can use, but a lot of recent ones took them out. I’ve even seen where they were present in demos, betas, or even the original release, and then later removed.

  78. Daimbert says:


    For the most part, I think about it this way: in order to be the person who wants to go into more depth in the game, I have to put up with all the other things that make it too hard to do so. It’d be like trying to go for that in-depth style with an E-book that flipped the pages for you and wouldn’t go back, so you had to try that by only reading each page for 5 seconds. Imagine how impossible that would be.

    For example, in one of the X-Men fighting games, I ended up having a lot of fun in trying to stitch stories together for each fight (in short, making up reasons why you’d fight each character you fought, and why you’d fight them there, etc). To do that to its fullest, I needed to be able to get through the game. Blob was the easiest character to do that, so I used him a lot, making for repetitive stories, but it worked and was enjoyable.

    Note that in that game I was actually enjoying the main plot progression until I hit an area where you had to defeat a Sentinel, as Forge, with a really low time limit. I wasn’t good with Forge, and the Sentinel was fairly good, and I couldn’t do it in the time limit. I stopped playing the story progression out of frustration, and a FAQ couldn’t even help me. Without the “non-story, create your own story” aspect, I’d have ditched that game and felt like I’d wasted my money. In this case, I still found the game entertaining.

    I think this pretty much demonstrates the sorts of things that can ruin games for people and so why we need easier difficulty levels and cheats for progression [grin].

    As for wanting everything available, I do want anything I might want to get available somehow. I’m fairly willing to take not being able to get things that don’t impact the game much — like costumes or cool items that aren’t any better than what you could get yourself — but things that impact the game I don’t accept. And I’d like those costumes and things too, if I can get them and want them, because it makes me have more fun in the game.

    I am finding the idea that you should have to “earn” things in a game you bought somewhat odd. If you could get them the easy way, but choose not to and get them the hard way, doesn’t that give you enough sense of achievement? Online games being the exception, of course …

  79. Jeff says:

    I concur with LintMan, in that PhoenixUltima has it backwards.

    Cheat Codes – as in, real cheat codes, not fake cheat codes like “You look like a bobblehead!” but things like “Spawn all weapons” – are already functions supported within the game, used by the developers and testers. The only thing they have to do is either grant users access somehow – be it via traditional random letters (idkfa) or actual access to the developer console (ala. Neverwinter Nights, or the Source games).

    Sauron’s book example is incorrect.
    The implication in Sauron’s example is that it is via “skill at the book” that you get the hidden/extra content. This is utterly incorrect if you just compare the two directly.

    You buy the book. You “use” the book – you read it.
    You buy the game. You “use” the game – you play it.

    Your skill at using the book is therefore your skill at reading. Your skill at using the game is your skill at playing it.

    Regardless at how well you read, so long as you know how to read, you have access to everything in the book – what is written. However, with unlockables, your skill at playing the game determines what content you can access.

    Therefore, they are not alike.

    Further, “hidden insights” and “deeper interpretations” into a novel has absolutely nothing to do with your “skill at reading”. Assuming you do indeed know what the author is thinking, this is akin to knowing the programming – that the shotgun fires 15 projectiles of 1 damage each within a 15 degree cone with a deviation of 3, while the rifle fires 1 projectile of 10 damage in a straight line with a deviation of 0. Therefore, you conclude that the developers mean for the rifle to be for extremely long ranges.

    Sure, you know more, but that’s not what was sold to you. When a book is purchased, you buy it for what it printed on the page. When you buy the game, you buy it for the game play. “Unlock deeper meanings” is akin to “make mods for”. It’s not the content as presented, it’s looking behind the scenes.

  80. I think the problem with analogies to books, films and the like is that these are all non-interactive media. Difficulty and unlockable content aren’t really meaningful concepts in this context – the fact that everyone gets to see Luke blow up the Death Star isn’t some deliberate bit of design philosophy, it’s an inevitable consequence of the fact that Star Wars always plays out in exactly the same way regardless of any outside factors.

    When you start to compare gaming to other pastimes that require some level of input, the fact that you need to put in effort to see everything is no longer so unusual. If you buy a guitar, the ability play every song, or for that matter to even make sounds that could meaningfully be described as music is “locked” from the beginning. It takes practice, failures and a progression from easy to hard songs.

    If we follow the same argument from this thread then you’ve paid for the equipment so you should be able to play any piece of music written for a guitar, but that’s not how it works and I suspect many guitarists would think that some kind of auto-playing guitar that allowed this was missing the point.

  81. LintMan says:

    A guitar is not media – interactive or otherwise. It is an instrument, a tool. One that you buy, learn and use explicitly to create your own “content” – music. Other than that you can gain skill at either, how is that at all like a computer game? You can gain skill at reading, solving mystery novels, or film critiquing also.

    When I buy a game or a book or a CD or a movie, I am buying it for its media content. Sure, a game might be “interactive”, but I’m paying for the content – not for some instrument-like tool I can use to generate any content I want, limited only by my skill at using the tool. It’s not at all the same, and no one except your strawman is asking for an auto-playing guitar.

    A computer game has more in common with a “choose your own adventure” novel than a musical instrument.

  82. Daimbert says:

    Let me point out some prime examples of how not allowing cheats or making some elements too hard can, in fact, ruin games:

    1) Suikoden V. One of the key parts of the game has always been collecting all 108 characters that you can have in parties or have doing things. In this game, they ramped up the difficulty in getting them, making it extremely easy to miss them if you don’t read a guide. And then they stole the idea from the first game where a main and likely popular character dies in the game, and they get revived if you have all 108 stars. So, if I DON’T go through the guide and follow it to the letter to get them all, one of my favourite characters DIES. How does that not ruin the game for me, by giving me an ending I don’t like?

    This is the reason I’ve never finished that game, despite liking it; it’s too hard to remember when to stop and get all the stars (or else lose them) and I don’t want my only option in the game to be to have that character die.

    2) Games with “true endings” that you can only get if you win on harder levels. What if I don’t like the ending I get on the lower level, but am not good enough to get the other ending? Great, now my story is ruined, and I can’t ever actually see the good ending as part of the story. Thanks, designers.

    3) The Persona games have two parts: a combat and a social link/story side. You have to complete the dungeons to do the social link side. They’re also noted for trying to ramp up the difficulty in combats. So, if you really like the social side — which is my favourite part of the game — but aren’t good at the combat, you can’t keep doing the social side without beating combats that you might not be good at. Fortunately, they provide multiple ways to get around this, such as difficulty levels (except in the expansion), time to overlevel and overfuse, and so on. But, yeah, could be annoying.

    4) Even costumes can count. Take the Marvel Ultimate Universe and X-Men Legends series. In the first Ultimate Alliance, the starting costume for Wolverine was the Ultimate version. Fair enough. Except I don’t read Ultimate and hated that costume. Fortunately, one of his starting costumes was one I liked, but what if it wasn’t? And it wasn’t the case for all characters that they had a default starting costume that I liked. But you can earn new costumes by doing things in the game. But, oh wait, I either can’t do it or it requires me to have characters on my team that I hate or any other reason why I can’t get them. So, despite being able to change costumes, I can’t pick the costumes I want and so am forced to play with a character I like in a costume I don’t or not play with a character I like. Again, thanks designers.

    Ultimately, game designers are best suited if they can cater to as many different playstyles as possible. Giving cheats and difficulty levels allows both those who want a challenge and those who don’t the ability to tweak what they want seems to do this (for example, giving unlockable costumes but allowing someone to choose the starting costumes they want for a character balances both), and I’m finding it puzzling that it diminishes anything for those who want a challenge if I can get the same thing easier. Aren’t you choosing to make it harder on yourself so that you feel a sense of accomplishment from it? Does the end outcome being available easier really change that?

  83. Sauron says:

    I admit the book analogy wasn’t perfect, but to say that literary analysis is not part of the book, or that it doesn’t require skill at reading, or, even worse, to say it’s just about “what is the author thinking?” shows ignorance of literary analysis as a whole. Ignoring pulp crap (which, notably, I read, just as everyone else does), the analysis and deeper meaning is widely considered the worthwhile part of the book. The skill required may not be knowledge of grammar and vocabulary, but it is definitely a skill at reading, and to dismiss it is akin to saying that all that matters in a game is knowing what controls are what and that what you do with them hardly even matters. And since the prevalent philosophy of literary analysis is “the author is dead”, “what the author is thinking” is far from the point, and literary analysis is nowhere akin to knowing the accuracy of the weapons as programmed. It is far more akin to knowing how the emergent behavior of an AI in a game will act, so it’s not necessarily what the programmers set in stone, but it’s there, and it’s important to know if you truly want to get anywhere.

    And, again, I don’t think that there shouldn’t be games for everyone, but it seems as if everyone is insisting that every single game should be accessible to every single person, and that is just ridiculous. If I want to make T3h H4rd357 G4m3 3v4r!!1!1, and only appeal to the most hardcore gamers, I *could* put in an easy mode or cheat codes, but there’s no good reason to say I really should.

  84. lintman says:

    If a developer wants to make The Hardest Game Ever” and market it as exclusively for hardcore gamers, and they don’t want to “stoop” to condescend to mere mortals with easy modes or cheats, more power to them. I doubt many gamers who’d want an easy mode or cheats would even desire to play such a game.

    But there are hardly any such games. Why? Because almost no one would buy them.

    What we’re talking about here isn’t some niche gaming aimed solely at hardcore players. We’re talking about run of the mill everyday games you buy off the shelf at Walmart and Best Buy. What we want is to not have to play the game over and over at harder and harder difficulties to be able to access the better items or otherwise unreachable game levels.

    Why do you care if a game has cheats that allow this? What does it matter to you? It matters a hell of a lot to me because there’s been plenty of games that I would have quit playing in disgust (due to bugs, annoying gameplay mechanics, boring repetitive play, frustrating difficulty, etc, etc) that instead have been salvaged into decent or even good experiences by using cheat codes.

    Such a simple thing for the developer to include, which can transform their game from “suck” to “good” for some number of people, should be a no brainer. And yet so many developers (and snobby gamers) feel obligated to make me “pay my dues” in-game. Sorry, I’ve been there and done that too many times already, dating all the way back to quarter-fed arcade games, and I’m done with it now.

  85. Daimbert says:


    Let me use a real world example from your analogy. My experience has been that when authors set out to try to make a point — and this is a gross generalization, I admit — a lot of the time what they end up doing is creating a book that is absolutely terrible to read. It’s slow or plodding or boring or sets itself up so much to batter you over the head with the point that essentially you don’t want to read it. It isn’t entertaining at all.

    Now, nothing says that an author can’t say “I don’t care if this is entertaining, as long as the point gets out”. I’d suggest they just write an essay instead, since people reading the essay will know and only be after the point, and not a story that’s fun to read. But, again, the problem is that if the book is in the area where people expect it to be entertaining, if it isn’t saying “But it has a point”. Isn’t all that great?

    All the best books that make a point and have deeper meanings are things that are, themselves, entertaining FIRST, and have the meanings SECOND. See Shakespeare, for example.

    The same applies to games. The best games are those that can be entertaining to those who just want to be entertained and offer other things for other people. So, for example, a game where simply walking through the story isn’t that hard but that there are optional things that have no impact on anything but that someone can use if they want a greater challenge. Like playing the Persona games on Hard mode.

    If a games designer wants to make a game that’s all about hard combat, they can do that and should flag that that’s what the game is all about. The complaint here is that too often we are seeing games that are not, say, all about combat — Personas again being a great example — where helps and cheats are taken away because people — who could simply avoid using the exploits — complain that it’s too easy with them. So I don’t get to do my Social Links because someone else wants combat to challenge them, even though it challenged me where it was. How does that work?

    Again, I’ve listed cases where the difficulty level and no cheats can literally ruin a game, just like making a point can ruin a book (and in some of the same ways, such as screwing up endings). Do you disagree that those simple difficult decisions can legitimately ruin games for people? Do you have any examples where letting people cheat to get things can ruin yours (outside of online and multiplayer games)?

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