MeeM’s thoughts on difficulty and continuity

Often, I find myself asking: “why are you still doing this” or “your team isn’t trying, why should you”. And nearly every time I fail to answer, and then consequently die for not paying attention. But that’s the thing. Why did I die? I died because I made myself die. Not directly, rather I made the decision that I should die a couple of hours before playing.

Now, I’m fairly certain most people, at some point in any game, get to a point where they no longer feel challenged and quickly after they become bored. At least this was true for me. I played Medic, I learned Medic and then I got bored with Medic. So what did I do? I went Vaccinator, even when it was really not a good time to go Vaccinator (Cough, Gun Mettle). But then, Tough Break wandered around and said “MeeM, I’m going to make your life easier now”. That’s not fun. That’s not challenging. I did not enjoy that.

So, where did I go next? Well, I couldn’t change the weapons themselves so I changed how I used the weapons instead. I went through three notable keybind changes. All of which got progressively more complex.  And you know what? I found (to my great surprise) that I enjoyed it. I liked the concept of being challenged, setting myself goals, achieving those goals and then moving on to the next goal. (Current goal is confirming that Aaby loves being nude.)

So, how hard are game developers trying to make their games replayable? When you get down to it, knowing the story makes the game seem a tad boring. Making the game too hard means that players struggle to adapt. Too easy and players don’t feel like trying. Sometimes you can’t easily modify difficulty, TF2 for example. How do you make it harder? You can’t. At least, not from a developer perspective. Change weapons and people stop using them. Change class mechanics and struggle with an equal power balance across all players. But… there is one thing that could be changed. Maps. You could have a map favour one side over another. Indeed, Valve have done this and it can be clearly seen in most Attack/Defense maps and Payload maps. Usually the defending side is given the advantage.

Take Pl_upward. The map forces at least one blue member to go through a dangerous, closed tunnel with many corners and a red spawn. A perfect setup for team-wide ambushes. It then makes them go through one of the most open places I’ve ever seen. You have a sentry spot in a window behind a corner, a sniper nest straight ahead and, again, another red spawn. Next, move over a small, albeit potentially difficult bridge. Open from below for easy soldier and demoman attacks, as well as a tunnel for their designated medic to hide in. Take a single explosive hit and you’re off. The cart is abandoned and you need to climb back up again. Then we move on to the second most difficult part. The spiral ramp. A haven for pyros. One puff and everyone’s off the edge and the cart’s back at the bottom of the hill. Why is this place only the second hardest though? There’s no spawn. The reds are delayed. But, once you manage to get through this you move into the final stage. The building has enclosed sniper and sentry positions, a large hole for knockback classes. High ground for demos, heavies and scouts to drop down from and lots of cover for medic and spies. Again, with a spawn nearby. If you’ve ever played a round of upward (assuming you haven’t) you’ll notice this is the point where the game becomes slowed. Too many reds, not enough blues.

Basically, what I’m saying is that it’s not only the developers responsibility to make games challenging and engaging. Even if they wanted to, they only have a limited set of options for how they could achieve this. In the end, it comes down to us, the players, trying to decide when we’ve reached our comfort level and then pushing it away.

At least, that’s how I feel, and that’s what I love about TF2.


One thought on “MeeM’s thoughts on difficulty and continuity

  • March 15, 2016 at 8:38 am

    I like that you bring up that a game can be as hard as you make it for yourself. There’s a lot of joy to found in pushing yourself even if overall it may have been simpler just to use what’s tried and tested. Reminds me off facing off deg/reserve/powerjack pyros before the nerfs (and to some degree, still now.) with the normal flamethrower/flare/ttd and how salty they were whenever I won :> Nice article 🙂


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