This post has not been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.
I differ with many game designers and even reviewers very strongly on a very basic concept. I despise games that are designed to be difficult and merciless. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy challenging gaming experiences very much on some occasions and understand the thrill of overcoming stiff opposition. What I do not understand is any game designer that thinks that they don't have to make a game that anyone can beat on at least one mode/difficulty level.
Game reviewers love talking about how they bested a hard game and how rewarding that challenge can be and designers love talking about the old school mentality of game design and how lame hand holding in a game can be.
What they need to learn is that this is just them being up their own ass. The industry is bigger then what people who spend every waking moment playing games want and the industry is better then being a bully pulpit for egocentric game designers who try to prove their dick is bigger than their more casual competition.
I can design a game that you can't beat. That makes me more of a man then you….That's why the first person who designs Tetris where lines don't clear will win the Mr Maniverse contest.
This industry is about gamers having good experiences with games. If a person pays for a game and brings it home, no matter who that person is or what that game is, the end goal is for that gamer to enjoy that game and consider it a good purchase.
I don't understand or respect any game designer that thinks gamers have to rise to their shitty little challenge because I don't believe gamers owe the developer of a game jack shit. If a gamer wants to coast through a game they paid good money for a designer needs to just ask 'how smoothly, master?' and then get down on their knees to start pleasing.
Oh yeah…just like like that.
Gaming has evolved from being designed to eat quarters in the arcade with hard for the sake of hard challenges to being a staggeringly profitable industry designed around experiences that are trying to approach art. It's not too presumptuous to say that every single big positive shift in the gaming industry's money making capability has hinged on games becoming more accessible to more people.
Atari, NES, Wii, Social gaming, iPhone gaming. All of these huge things were about more people being able to get at and enjoy games easier, and all of them find success primarily on the backs of games that were more rewarding and less punishing then what came before. Games compete with movies, TV, and the internet for the time and money of the individual and they compete damn well because of this steady evolution.
Games don't have to be devoid of challenge, but it's fair to say that a game that has an easy mode or is just designed to be beatable by everyone is going to fit into the modern gaming landscape much better then something that people have to warn others to stay away from unless they want an ass kicking.
Some games refuse to let a player continue or insult a player for messing up but people don't really act like this is a problem. I don't think people would go to a movie where they had to pass a quiz to see the ending ten minutes, particularly if after they were kicked out for failing the quiz they didn't get their money back.
Games not only do the equivalent of this, it isn't even easy to tell the games that are easy and accessible from the games that will beat the shit out of you for no reason without doing freaking research! This turns gaming into a disconcerting minefield for people who just want to have fun and locks them away from becoming truly immersed in the gaming hobby. Hard for the sake of hard games don't just create a bad experience here or there, they intimidate people into buying less games and thus they harm the industry!
Still gamers have just have romanticized the idea of making games that some people just can't play. Demon's Souls, rogue likes, ninja gaiden. Games that pride themselves not on how many people they satisfied, but how many people left frustrated and overwhelmed gain far too much praise and tolerance from the industry at large.
A challenge can be an enriching experience, a challenge that a gamer has no easy mode or training mode to learn how to conquer is dropping a baby into a pool and being surprised when they don't swim.
Take a step back for a moment and think about this. When a person is playing the finished version of a game this is something they paid money to experience. Not just a little money, either. Gaming is entertainment's most expensive hobby unit for unit. If the game is too hard for them, regardless of their experience level or gaming literacy, the game designer has officially taken someone's money and provided them with an experience that will remain incomplete and possibly be completely negative.
I love the mechanics of the Ninja Gaiden series, but have never and will never buy one or finish it because the developers cared more about punishing players then letting people learn and enjoy their games.
You can't control what person buys your game. I guarantee every hard for the sake of hard game has had plenty of people buy it thinking it would be fun and then end up quitting in frustration and disgust. So since you can't keep people from buying your game if they aren't good enough for it all you can do is make a game that people of all stripes have at least SOME way to enjoy.
Gamers should not fail on the same section over and over again until they figure out what lame obscure bullshit you wanted them to do to get past it. Gamers should not be expected to keep immersed in an experience when they have to hear the same line of dialog 20 times in a row or walk the same part of a level over and over again because you wanted to keep them on their toes with an ill advised difficulty spike. When a gamer is stuck the gamer is not on trial to be good enough for your game, your game is on trial for having failed to give the player the tools to succeed without trial and error.
I got hopelessly stuck for long periods of time in a good dozen different places in Limbo. and hated the game. I only finished it to complain about it on the internet. I would have quit 5 times over.
No Portal game's puzzle has frustrated me to the point of quitting and I love the series as a bastion of fantastic difficulty balancing. Portal being designed to be beaten made it a phenomenon. More people should test games to death until they know they aren't frustrating.
The developers responsibility to the player's enjoyment is obviously not something that is understood by some because I keep seeing them insult players for not being good enough. Splosion man, for example, calls you a coward and puts you in a tutu for skipping a level. Comic jumper has a character that tells you to 'stop sucking' every time you get hit. Ninja Gaiden: Black, when adding an easy mode to a terribly unfair game, has a character insult you for choosing the 'Ninja Dog' mode and requires you to wear a frilly pink ribbon to gain the bonuses you need to succeed.
The industry is rife with designers who are so full of themselves that they think they can judge a gamer for messing up at their game. "Way to go jackass! Guess I didn't design this part of the game for you huh, Nancy? Way to be a customer that I am failing to entertain, you dickweed."
Not only is insulting a gamer for your game being hard just assholish in general, imagine how a person with gender identity issues feels when Splosion Man equates femininity with failure, then projects that 'femininity as failure' message forcefully onto them. Compound that with Comic Jumper being a hideously sexist game, and the character who insults you for taking damage in that being a bitchy woman who's written to be disliked and I just have had enough of the developer, Twisted Pixel's, ignorant wrong headed bullshit. They come across as sexist bro-style dicks and I'm not even feeling up to being diplomatic after how much they have hurt and offended just me personally. Fuck you, Twisted Pixel. Fuck you hard. If you don't apologize for being so stupid I will dance with joy when your company eventually goes under. *cough* Wow….let this after picture rant go on a little long…sort of a tender subject…uh…back to the article!
Just so you know, designers, the people who buy your games are the reason why you make a living. Insulting them for something that is basically your fault, even in a playful way, is kind of a dick move. It's your job to make sure a gamer can learn how to play your game well enough to not be frustrated by it and give them a stimulating and engaging experience.
The gamer's job is done when they pick up the controller because gaming is a vacation from their probably much less cushy job then you have. They didn't pay money for this relaxation time to involve being insulted and judged. So if that's all you are providing you have failed at your job.
LA Noire is a revolutionary game that simply insults you for doing poorly in it's needlessly tricky cases rather then forcing you to try again. Still, the negativity makes me nervous and OCD while playing their game. I don't want to finish it despite feeling obligated to after paying 60 goddamn dollars for it. Bondi apparently abused it's employees and wasted the better part of a decade to create a game just for the privilege of making me feel bad about myself and making me want to stop playing it. Bravo.
We have plenty of games that have good difficulty settings that allow pretty much anyone to be satisfied. We have co op experiences that are allowing people to play online and have fun with friends without being embarassed by crushing and cruel veteran opposition. The industry has turned the corner and games that are only hard and have no easy and breezy way to play through them are fading away.
Don't force people to not enjoy your games. Include a mode that is easy enough for anyone to play your game on. If you provide this tool and you let the player learn the game and beat it in a way they are comfortable with they could love your series forever. They may then mature into gamers who regularly beat your 'hard mode' you are so proud of because they were given the chance to choose how to play and challenge themselves at their own pace.
Adding higher difficulty levels or special 'expert' challenges are a fantastic idea (indeed probably a must to avoid alienating very good gamers who would be bored by things being too easy) but unless your game is able to be beaten at it's most basic level by a vast majority of gamers you are designing it to alienate a large amount of it's potential audience for no good reason. Games should be experiences first and a challenge second.
Game designers that don't understand this lesson should thank their lucky stars that FAQs and online strategy guides help save the playability of their games when they wont. They should also be thankful that game reviewers hardly ever review games they know they would be terminally bad at. Most of all they should be deliriously thankful that they have managed to survive in the industry at all when they try to build a business strategy around keeping people from enjoying what they do.