Looks like gamers got their feathers ruffled over at Kotaku. Writer Luke Plunkett posted some interesting thoughts Alex Hutchinson, the lead designer on Assassin’s Creed III, had about the mechanics of his games when it comes to difficulty (just read the hyperlink). Hutchinson feels the lower difficulty level ruins the game using cover based shooters as an example. Since the post is an opinion piece, Plunkett disagrees sighting personal instances where the difficulty of a game actually brought down the interest of the game. The comments on the piece seem mixed which seems a bit baffling considering the entire debate is around an optional setting.
If you read some of the comments, you would see Dark Souls or Demon Souls coming up a lot as examples of difficult games that achieve a certain effect with gamers. Both games provide a sort of challenge to the gamer and though I haven’t played either game, I do recognize both games are unique in their use of difficulty as the main element. However, because both games are uniquely known specifically through their difficulty both games give off a type of intimidation that is unattractive to a lot of gamers (mostly me). Interestingly enough, director of Dark Souls Hidetaka Miyazaki would rather you enjoy the game than think of it as difficult. So much so he’s thinking about adding an easy mode. Blasphemy!
To be honest, why is there hostility around easy gaming? Why does it matter so much to play a game a certain way or on a certain difficulty level? Most, if not all, games are tailored to fit the gamers’ playing style, and all gamers play a game differently. I doubt I would survive the majority of games if I just jumped in a setting I was unprepared for. Example: after playing Bayonetta on very easy first – mostly because I was not used to that type of combo action game, and I wanted to get the hang of the mechanics – I moved on to the next setting and the next and the next until I reached non-stop climax. Even though Bayonetta was easy on me the first two levels, once I hit normal mode the game slowly introduced more and more difficult situations that challenged me to change my play style and learn new combos. I wouldn’t have reached the highest difficulty level if not for very easy mode (and how fun the game is).
“Sense of accomplishment” is a phrase I hear often when players give reasons to why they continue to play difficult games. I don’t feel that. If anything, it feels more like relief, the same relief one feels when finishing the last of the final exams. The weight of the burden is lifted and I can move on. The feeling of winning is much different than a burden being lifted. But I’m most likely in the minority.
I suppose this bears repeating but what most, I’ll say, “hardcore” gamers forget is that difficulty levels are optional. It is up to the player to play the game they want unless the game does not provide an option on difficulty setting. There really isn’t a right way to play a game since everyone comes in a game with different expectations. I like games with story and for the most part I play games solely for the story. Unless I absolutely love the game, why the hell would I want to play on hard mode right from the get go? Others probably play on the highest difficulty first (my cousin), but if they want that kind of thrill who am I to tell them no. Just don’t go around telling people what setting they need to play on. And if you’re a game developer, stop complaining about your game being ruined by easy mode. Do you want people to play your games or just a small number that already know what to do? Actually that’s another question for another time.