Half the fun of gaming is the challenge it can bring. Like climbing up a cliff face to stand at the top, victory in video games is as sweet as the difficulty. As an upcoming game developer, I see difficulty in video games tackled mainly from two angles, bigger numbers versus different strategies.
Enter The Division, A triple-A title released from Ubisoft across all platforms. The setting is set in post apocalyptic New York. As an agent of The Division, you are to secure order in the city, entailing shooting looters and stopping gang wars and restoring a sense of government for the city that remains.
A major collective community complaint is the “spongy-ness” of the enemies. The extremely high health bars your enemies have create a dissonance against the level of graphical sophistication this game brings.
Imagine being immersed in a rich rotting New York set in the cold of Christmas, with your footsteps creating footprints in the snow. Now imagine unloading 10 buckshot shells from your fully customized M870 into the face of a scrawny looter rummaging through the trash only to have him shrug it off and kill you with a single bullet from his pistol. Granted, The Division is classed as an MMORPG-Third-Person-Shooter, an odd mix-up of gaming genres in and of itself that will come with some wonky combinations. Unlike World of Warcraft you aren’t battling giant dragons and goblins – you’re shooting regular people in Manhattan!
All in all, simply upping the number of hit points and damage an enemy has doesn’t create a challenge in an engaging way – causing backlash from the community.
Compare this to the Devil May Cry series and the recent reboot DMC…
…a thrilling hack-and-slash type of adventure game putting you in the shoes of the demon killer, Dante.
Dante has a variety of weapons at his disposal from swords to scythes to shotguns and more – his kit was created for versatility! This enables the player to experiment with multiple combos and styles. With these weapons, the game designer can create interesting enemies to throw at the player which can only be completed in certain ways. For example, red enemies can only be defeated with demon weapons and blue enemies with angelic. As these enemies are numerous and their weaknesses narrows through the progression of the game, a engaging and creative difficulty ramp can be built – capturing player’s interest and successfully rewarding them.
To me, both higher health bars and a great battle system can be used to create great challenges in video games if executed properly! I love both of these games and spent many a night up late playing them.
Stay tuned for more difficulty rants!