萬字長文,關於遊戲中的難度曲線設定和用戶體驗,中篇

篇目1,舉例分析遊戲難度的設計要求

作者:Dylan Woodbury

遊戲的難度是一個非常令人困惑的話題。設計師甚至在開始設計以前就要明確自己希望遊戲達到什麼程度的難度。難度決定了你的目標受衆是哪些人,休閒的還是硬核的。

許多設計師有這樣的誤解:爲了迎合最硬核的玩家,難度必須上升,以便排除大部分非硬核玩家。與這種做法相反的是,把遊戲做得儘量簡單,使所有人都能上手。事實上,近來遊戲公司一直在讓玩家作弊。在《超級馬里奧銀河2》中,任天堂允許玩家跳過玩家認爲太難的挑戰。不!糟糕的設計師。

作弊是遊戲的大敵。允許玩家作弊是設計師的失職。在學校,有些老師總是人爲“扭曲”測驗得分,即去掉大部分學生都不會做的題目。這種“扭曲”正是教師承認自己教得不夠好,學生不應該對此負責。如果學生被要求使用這些他們沒有學會的技能,他們可能就會不及格。在電子遊戲中,能夠跳過這些旨在考驗你的技能同時教授/訓練你的技能的挑戰,導致你錯過重要的概念等,更別說讓玩家心生反感。

在線攻略也是如此——它們破壞了玩家本應該感覺到的成就感。許多技能是通過嘗試-犯錯學習到的,單純地閱讀攻略可能讓玩家錯過重要的知識。這表明遊戲設計中存在重大缺陷,也提供了一個非常重要的信號。

如果玩家絕對無法克服這個挑戰,以至於放棄或求助於在線攻略,上述信號就是,學習曲線有缺口。玩家不能夠利用他所必需的技能或知識。我們怎麼解決這個問題?更多挑戰。

Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess(from zelda.com)

Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess(from zelda.com)

例如:在《塞爾達傳說:黎明公主》中,有一個非常小的挑戰給我帶來麻煩。目標:到地底下去。障礙:通向地底的兩個洞被蜘蛛網蓋住了,導致不能通過。我嘗試了我能想到的一切辦法——拋回力鏢、射箭、用彈弓。我用回力鏢彈牆上的火把,希望燒掉蜘蛛網。我滾到蜘蛛網那裏,希望用我的體重破壞它。都不管用。

我不想這麼做,但最終我還是做了——我看了在線攻略。說出這件事讓我很羞愧,不過總有那麼個時候,遇到實在太讓人受挫的挑戰,爲了繼續玩下去只能作弊,否則就永遠玩不下去。解決方案:拿出你的燈籠,滾到蜘蛛網的地方——火會燒掉蜘蛛網。

出於某些原因,我對這個方法很鬱悶。那時候我不明白我爲什麼鬱悶,不過我現在明白了——遊戲並沒有告訴你在蜘蛛網前面滾你的燈籠(搖動遠程控制器)就能破壞蜘蛛網。在整個遊戲中有足夠的挑戰讓玩家記住這點。在這個挑戰之前的部分,遊戲從來沒有要求玩家通過滾動某物來解決挑戰,也沒有要求玩家通過除了搖擺控制器以外的方式來使用燈籠。

所以有些人可能會馬上指出來,沒有經過足夠的訓練使大部分人理解這個挑戰,怎麼能指望他們解決這個挑戰?如果在這個挑戰以前添加許多需要搖擺操作的挑戰呢?這不能讓答案明顯,但它對發現這個解決方案且後來覺得了不起的玩家沒有提出很高的要求。它只是給玩家他們想出這個解決方案所需要的完整技能——既要想到新技能,又要懂得如何用它解決新難題,這對玩家的要求可能太高了。

這些問題大多是可以通過測試發現的。設計師應該發現哪些挑戰太困難或太簡單,爲什麼太困難(以至於玩家放棄、完全不理解或尋找在線攻略、破壞了長期體驗),如何通過提前訓練玩家以幫助解決困難。

挑戰的難度應該由問題解決方案、模式識別和橫向思維(或其他思維)等產生的,且玩家有一套特定的技能和工具來解決這些挑戰。挑戰不應該來自要求玩家使用自己還沒有學過的技能解決問題(正如《黎明公主》這個例子所反映的)。挑戰也不應該要求玩家使用自己剛學會不久的技能(人是見忘的)。

half life 2(from the-ripple.co.uk)

half life 2(from the-ripple.co.uk)

《半條命:第二章》提供了一個好例子。在接近結尾時,在黑森林裏,玩家遇到一個要求使用蒸汽閥的情境,玩家學習這個技能還不久。在真正的行動開始前,設計師安排了一個小挑戰,要求玩家從散出蒸汽的管道的一另爬到另一邊。玩家無法忍受高溫的蒸汽,但能看到紅色的大轉盤,操作它,蒸汽就被關了。玩家已經學習了許多關於某個技能的東西,突然從腦海中回想起來。玩家不必在高溫的折磨中思考轉盤和蒸汽的關係,因爲他之前就知道了。所以,這個挑戰就顯得更合理、更有趣了。

這個例子解釋了我的觀點,讓我想到另一個重點。挑戰應該要麼關於解決挑戰,要麼關於學習新技能(遊戲邦注:用非常簡單的挑戰,如上述《半條命2》的小挑戰)——通常不能二者兼有。當玩家面臨挑戰時,他不會嘗試解決它且通常不會想出什麼新技能(新工具),而是希望用自己已經知道的辦法解決挑戰——這是我們大腦的運作方式。如果夠明顯,玩家可以學習技能(如用轉盤關掉蒸汽),且這類挑戰通常應該讓人有成就感。這類挑戰最需要測試(以便確定是否需要修改或刪除)。

現在可以總結我的觀點了——難度不應該只關於亂按鍵、定時等。難度是使用技能完成挑戰,使用新技能完成新挑戰。在《塞爾達傳說》中,當你得到一個新工具時,遊戲就會給你一個非常基礎的挑戰教你學習基本技能。與此類似,當玩家學會新技能,遊戲就可以拿許多需要這種技能的挑戰來考驗玩家。

令一些驚訝的是,遊戲的相對難度在整個遊戲過程中應該保持一致(不能比開頭難上10多倍)。當你玩一款設計良好的遊戲時,你對遊戲教給你的技能會越來越上手。你會不斷地學習新技能,爲了解決新問題,你會不斷改良舊方法。出現在遊戲結尾的絕對難度的挑戰是非常困難的——把新玩家折騰得非常厲害的挑戰。但是,如果相對難度是基本一致的,那麼從頭到尾玩到這裏的玩家感覺到的困難應該與解決第三關的挑戰差不多。

設計遊戲的一系列挑戰是很困難的——每個挑戰都需要加強技能、啓發玩家以新方式使用技能、教玩家組合某些技能或學習全新的技能。遊戲必須在之前的挑戰中教會玩家當前挑戰所要求的技能/知識——這個難度在於使用這些工具(無論你是以不同的方式還是以更困難的方式使用它們)。

如果學習曲線和個人挑戰不存在斷層,那麼困難的程度應該既適合休閒玩家,也適合硬核玩家,且這兩類玩家仍然從中獲得樂趣。

篇目2,分析遊戲難度之主觀難度的優勢與挑戰

作者:Josh Bycer

我在“達爾文難度”這篇文章中以《惡魔之魂》爲例,提出了“主觀難度”這個概念。但這個概念並不僅適用於那極爲困難的遊戲,甚至是《超級馬里奧》這種自1996年問世以來就一直以易用性而著稱的遊戲也不例外。

在深入探討這個問題之前,我們得先解釋兩個定義:

主觀難度:根據玩家技能水平而設計的挑戰。

安全度:玩家歷盡艱辛,但最後仍能克服特定挑戰的程度。

從技術上講,我們可以說遊戲中的任何挑戰難度都取決於玩家主觀技能水平,《街霸》高手玩家面對街機模式,當然不可能像從未接觸過格鬥遊戲的玩家一樣蹩腳。主觀難度的關鍵元素在於,同時根據玩家的不同技能水平設計特定挑戰。

要實現這一目標,就得讓玩家在遊戲開始之初就接觸其中涉及的所有機制。要設計適用於不同技能等級玩家的關卡,就一定要呈現所有的機制供他們選擇。如果某些關卡僅圍繞一兩個機制而設計,那麼這就不叫主觀難度,因爲新手和高手玩家在這種情況下都只能接觸同個難度的內容。

因此我們需要考慮到設置主觀難度需釐清的一些問題。首先,隨着遊戲進程解瑣機制並不能算是主觀難度。玩過《銀河戰士》或者2D《惡魔城》的人就會發現,這些遊戲中總有一些關鍵路徑衍生出的有待解瑣的分支。玩家一路探索遊戲時,將通過與boss過招或者找到一些能量補充道具以解開新機制,以便進入之前那些限制訪問的領域。

問題關鍵在於,玩家無法進入那些領域並不是他們水平不濟,而是設計師有意所爲。無論《惡魔城》的高手玩家有多厲害,他們也只得跟新手一樣以同樣的方式通關玩遊戲。

其次,傳統的難度等級設置也不能算是主觀難度。從“安全度”這個概念可以看出,如果狀態值(遊戲邦注:例如,在“簡單”關卡,敵人的殺傷力較小,在“困難”關卡,敵人殺傷力上升)成了決定不同難度等級的唯一要素時,那麼所有的設計師都只要增加或者降低“安全度”,就可以完成難度設置了。

《神手》中的主觀難度

神手(from gamasutra)

神手(from gamasutra)

PlayStation 2遊戲《神手》有兩種難度形式。剛開始,玩家可以選擇一個難度等級。在遊戲過程中,屏幕左下方有個儀表會始終顯示當前的難度等級。

遊戲難度會根據玩家的表現情況,在0級和死亡級(6級)之前浮動。如果玩家不慎受重傷或死亡,就會降低儀表中的數值,並因此而降低等級。玩家在遊戲過程中受到的損害越小,其等級就會晉升得越高。

難度等級會帶來兩個影響:首先,它會影響AI的攻擊強度。難度等級越小,敵人進行反擊、羣攻或使用必殺技的機率就越小,而高難度等級則與此相反。其次,高等級(尤其是死亡等級)關卡中會出現更多(和更困難)的敵人,迫使玩家提高適應能力。

《神手》會通過提升或降低難度來匹配玩家的技能水平,新手或高手都會經歷同個關卡,只是新手遇到的挑戰與高手不同罷了。

挑戰的變化

主觀難度的另一種形式是提供同個挑戰的不同變體。例如《託尼霍克計劃8》或《班卓熊:神奇螺絲》,這兩者的挑戰都含有基本、高級和專家級目標。

遊戲中的每個挑戰都會向最低限度地完成遊戲(這也是最易完成目標的方法)的玩家頒發銅牌獎章,如果以更困難的方式克服挑戰,就有可能贏得銀牌或金牌獎章。例如,玩家在《託尼霍克計劃8》中的競賽中取得第五名,那就可以得到銅牌獎章,第二名就是銀牌,兩分鐘內完成任務的第一名就可以拿金牌。

這種更困難的選項可以鼓勵樂於參與挑戰的玩家進行嘗試,但只要拿到銅牌(或銀牌)就已足夠說明玩家已經“完成”挑戰。

這種獎勵系統在許多智能手機遊戲中也很常見。有不少《割繩子》玩家總希望在每個關卡中都拿到3顆星——這並非完成挑戰的必要行爲,但卻是完美主義者的必要選擇。

3D版《超級馬里奧》

《馬里奧》是自NES時代以來一直備受歡迎的遊戲系列,1996年3D版本的《超級馬里奧64》的遊戲設計變化較大。在之前版本的遊戲中,每個關卡的路徑和機制都完全採用線性設置,而3D版遊戲則以開放式的關卡形式呈現了非線性特點。

《馬里奧銀河》系列和《惡魔之魂》的難度設置特點相當於一枚硬幣的兩面。

首先要申明一點,這兩者都允許玩家在遊戲開始之初讓角色發揮所有的核心技能。在《馬里奧》中,水管工的技能主要是跑、跳和旋轉攻擊等方式。

在《惡魔之魂》中,技能和機制主要根據與攻擊、防禦、精力管理和反擊等與戰鬥有關的元素而設計(遊戲邦注:值得注意的是,玩家在《馬里奧銀河》中可解瑣一些提升能量的道具,但這僅限於一些特定的關卡或遊戲場景)。

這兩款遊戲系列之間的偏差——《馬里奧》可成爲主觀難度的典型而《惡魔之魂》不行的原因就在於,兩者之間的關卡設計特點。《惡魔之魂》玩家一開始就可以接觸所有的機制,遊戲之初時就會遇到各種技能考驗。但《馬里奧銀河》玩家雖然也能使用所有的機制,但可以在必要情況下才使用某些機制。

在達爾文難度概念中,玩家一開始就會接觸到所有遊戲機制(至少是多數遊戲機制),並在隨後的任務中有效使用這些機制。以下是該篇文章中的難度曲線圖:

達爾文難度曲線(from gamasutra)

達爾文難度曲線(from gamasutra)

在這兩種類型的遊戲中,玩家在剛開始時都能接觸到所有遊戲玩法,所不同的是,採用達爾文難度的遊戲要求玩家使用所有技能,而主觀難度卻允許玩家在高效體驗遊戲的情況下,自由選擇要不要使用某些技能。這能夠讓不同技能水平的玩家體驗同種內容,但可根據自己專長以不同的方式體驗遊戲。

《馬里奧銀河2》第一關就是主觀難度設置的完美典型。在遊戲半途中,馬里奧需使用升降平臺爬上一座山,高手玩家可使用較少的時間,以三級跳和高跳技能組合攀上山頂。

在該關卡接近尾聲之時也出現了類似情況,玩家需跨越移動平臺以穿過無底洞,新手可以僅使用基本的彈跳能力闖過這一關,但高手卻可以使用遠跳技能越過這個區域。

新手和高手在此面臨的是同種挑戰,但卻可根據自己的技能水平以不同方式解決問題。除非新手之前就看過遊戲指南,或者玩過《馬里奧銀河》,不然他們根本不知道怎麼使用遠跳技能。因爲這種遠跳技能考驗出現在之後的遊戲內容中。該遊戲每次引進新技能都會顯示一個指示牌,指導玩家如何操作新機制,並且會附上一個簡單的小測試。

以下是遊戲主觀難度設置的曲線圖:

主觀難度曲線(from gamasutra)

主觀難度曲線(from gamasutra)

從中可以看出,對於新手玩家來說,難度曲線會隨着遊戲進程而逐步上升,其中會伴隨幾個小起伏。而高手玩家的難度曲線起點較低,隨後會持續穩步上升。

也許有人會問,“如果高手執行的是更困難的任務,其難度曲線不是應該比新手更高嗎?”這裏的原因就在於,即使高手應對的是更困難的挑戰,他們的技能水平也足夠令其輕鬆應對。舉例來說,我們要是讓從未接觸舉重的人舉起40磅,讓專業舉重運動員舉起60磅,缺乏經驗的新手肯定會難以勝任,而這對身經百戰的舉重運動員來說卻是小菜一碟。

隨着遊戲進程的發展,新手及高手的難度曲線最終會產生交集,這可以反映兩種情況:

1.新手技能已經接近高手的水平;

2.遊戲此時爲新手、高手呈現的是同種內容。

在《馬里奧銀河》的常規遊戲內容將盡之時,玩家應該已經完全瞭解馬里奧的技能組合,也已經在最後一個階段接受過所有的考驗。這時遊戲雖然仍在使用同種關卡設計方式,但其特點已接近於《惡魔之魂》的設置,並希望玩家能夠把馬里奧所有的技能都派上用場。

新手玩家在《馬里奧銀河》中獲勝後會發現,遊戲難度是根據自己的情況而發生變化。他們現在已經知道馬里奧的不同技能,可以在遊戲中的任何關卡使用這些技能。這與RPG遊戲中的情況相似,高等級的玩家可以重返之前令自己恐懼的區域,然後徹底擊敗其中的敵人——不同的是,在《馬里奧銀河》中實現能力提升的是玩家本身,而不是遊戲角色。

隱藏高級內容

在討論主觀難度的正反作用之前,我們得先看看《馬里奧銀河2》之後的內容設置,及其呈現的主觀難度特點。針對不同玩家的技能水平,遊戲在每個關卡中的一些難以進入的區域隱藏了一些特殊金幣。

玩家找到一個金幣就可以解瑣彗星挑戰,將自己返送回之前的關卡中,並用修改器增加舊關卡的難度。例如,第一個世界的彗星挑戰要求玩家在倒計時環境中闖過第一關,這就促使玩家去尋找獲勝的捷徑。

新手的技能還達不到可找到特殊金幣的水平,所以他們無法解瑣這種挑戰,但高手卻可相對快速地找到金幣。參與彗星挑戰並非玩家通關的必要條件(因爲玩家都可以通過常規玩法達到最後一個臺階並贏取足夠的星星),但這卻是增加高手遊戲樂趣的元素。

隨着新手技能的提升,他們之後也會開始找到隱藏的金幣,並解瑣彗星挑戰。與玩常規遊戲內容一樣,新手最終也會晉升至高手玩家的行列,並解瑣更多額外挑戰。但高手玩家因爲技能水平相對佔優,他們不需要循序漸進地探索,在一開始就有可能解瑣彗星挑戰。

Super Mario Galaxy 2(from gamesradar.com)

Super Mario Galaxy 2(from gamesradar.com)

主觀難度的優勢和挑戰

主觀難度設置的優勢在於其靈活而易用的特點。一方面,《馬里奧銀河》剛開始時很簡單,降低了新玩家體驗遊戲的門檻;另一方面,這種設計風格也允許高手玩家一開始就體驗挑戰,提供額外內容考驗他們的技能。

但問題就在於,設置主觀難度並非易事,它需要融入不同設計方法。在一般遊戲中,設計師只需關注每個挑戰的漸進式發展,鎖定同種用戶即可。大家都清楚,多數遊戲剛開始的內容都比後面要簡單得多,但主觀難度設計卻有所不同。

此類設計師需兼顧不同技能水平的玩家需求,並以此設計每個關卡,這就需要他們投入更多時間創造額外內容。正因爲如此,帶有主觀難度的遊戲通常都有一些捷徑和隱藏區域以供玩家探索,並使用所有的遊戲機制。創造這種額外內容要求設計師吃透所有的遊戲機制,設置可讓不同技能水平的玩家以多種方式解決的難題。

作爲設計師,你還得根據複雜性來排列遊戲機制,以便玩家更好地理解遊戲內容。《馬里奧銀河2》的設計師通過設置挑戰,逐步引進每個機制,預留了充足的時間以便玩家消化每個遊戲機制。不過有人可能就會發問,“三級跳轉向高跳,然後再旋轉跳,或者側邊彈跳轉向旋轉跳,再接着高跳,哪一種方法更復雜?”

主觀難度與達爾文難度一樣,如果使用得當,就可以讓不同技能水平的玩家都獲得豐富的遊戲樂趣,同時又能在遊戲過程中不斷提升自己的水平。這類同時吸引多種玩家羣體的遊戲,無需簡化設計就能收穫大量用戶。主觀難度的目標是讓新手玩遍遊戲中的內容,在通關之後以自己升級後的技能,再以全新的視角從頭體驗遊戲。

篇目3,分析兩種遊戲難度設置的差異與優劣

作者:Paul Suddaby

在我們討論高難度的概念之前,首先要解釋一下難度的定義。

難度與玩家推動遊戲進程所需掌握的技能水平有關,高難度意味着玩家需要掌握更多技能。在此值得一提的差別就是,技能不只是與玩電子遊戲涉及的肢體內容有關,例如反應時間——它還與記憶力和策略等其他許多方面密不可分。

電子遊戲中的高難度有兩種形式:人爲難度和設計難度。我承認這只是我自創的術語,那就來看看我對它們的解釋吧。

人爲難度

讓我們先從人爲難度說起,要實現這類難度需要修改較低難度遊戲中的一些統計元素。

這聽起來很複雜,但其實只是增加了一些類似於遊戲從“標準”模式切換到“困難”模式的難度。普通的難度調整包括增加敵人命值和破壞力,更多時間限制,更少的生命,以及減少金錢或彈藥等資源。最重要的是,遊戲的核心體驗,例如關卡設計、敵人行爲和謎題解決方法保持不變。

dead-space-difficulty-select(from gamedev)

dead-space-difficulty-select(from gamedev)

第一和第二部《死亡空間》就屬於這種系統的典型案例。在標準難度模式,遊戲呈現相對持平的難度曲線,以及合理的挑戰性。而在更困難的模式中,難度曲線並不平穩,玩家的命值和彈藥都更少了,敵人卻更爲強悍,遊戲中其餘元素則保持不變。這就是我所謂的人爲難度增長。

設計難度

設計難度則是哪些根植於遊戲系統的難度——例如之前提到的關卡設計、敵人行爲和謎題解決方法。

這可以表現爲多種形式,例如複雜的敵人,微妙的攻擊模式,以及精心設計以令玩家受困的迷宮。這個理念有點難以解釋,就讓我們以包含這類難度的遊戲爲例進行說明吧。

《暗黑之魂》可能就是設計難度的一個絕佳例子,遊戲中所包含的一切幾乎都是爲了讓玩家備受摧殘而存在。這款遊戲一開始讓人覺得難以接受,其教程幾乎沒有對遊戲背後的系統進行任何解釋,玩家只能自己去下琢磨該如何行動。

Dead-Space-2(from gamedev)

Dead-Space-2(from gamedev)

《暗黑之魂》中的戰鬥也極爲困難,極端強大的敵人通常會扎堆出現,這對羣體戰鬥非常不利。更令人雪上加霜的是,玩家死亡還會受到懲罰,他們死後身上所有的資源都會掉落在地。他們只有在原地復活,並且不再死亡時才能找回這些掉落的東西,假如他們再次死亡就會永遠失去這些東西。

遊戲中還有其他細節也增加了難度,例如非敵對方的NPC會在沒有任何預兆的情況下殺死對玩家有幫助的NPC,或者遊戲讓玩家永遠無法找到大量有用的道具。《暗黑之魂》是一款困難無孔不入的遊戲,是圍繞充滿挑戰性的理念來設計,所以我將此稱爲設計難度。

兩種難度的優劣

我們已經確立了人爲難度與設計難度之間的區別,現在就來看看這兩種不同系統對玩家體驗的影響。

人爲難度比較膚淺,它提供的是既無法令人滿意又不愉悅的玩家體驗,通常令人覺得比較廉價和不公平。而設計難度通常卻可爲玩家提供很棒的滿足感,因爲其提供的挑戰會令人覺得自然而公平。以上提到的兩款遊戲最能說明問題。

《暗黑之魂》是款非常困難的遊戲,但這只是因爲遊戲迫使你進行這種體驗。客觀地說,如果你是在最高難度的關卡玩《死亡空間》,它的每一部分都和《暗黑之魂》一樣困難。但如果真這樣玩,《死亡空間》就一點都不好玩了。這是因爲它人爲地增加了難度,正如之前所言,這極大分離了玩家的遊戲體驗。

每款電子遊戲都是基於一套系統而設計,這些系統都會經過調整以便合成一個完整的遊戲體驗。在標準難度模式中,這些系統一般都很平衡,允許玩家以相對公平的挑戰性來體驗遊戲。檢測自己駕馭這些系統時的技能。但在人爲難度增加時,這些系統就會脫離正軌,出現紊亂情況。

例如在《死亡空間》中,標準難度模式的設計就恰到好處,這樣當敵人突然從陰影中跳出來時,玩家還不至於嚇一跳,至少還有足夠的時間調整狀態,並策略性地肢解敵人。這是遊戲的核心玩法循環,適當的執行方法正是多數遊戲的趣味來源。

但隨着難度上升,這種模式就不再可行了:敵人太強悍,玩家太弱小,根本無力招架敵人。從暗處中跳出來的敵人,多半意味着玩家死期將近,所以玩家只能靠無先見之明和不斷試錯來度過難關。這種系統對多數玩家來說十分令人抓狂,它讓遊戲變得一種折磨,而基於不斷試錯的遊戲進程通常也容易讓人覺得不公平和不自然。

You-died(from gamedev)

You-died(from gamedev)

所以這些極端困難的模式通常是服務於一些已經通關玩完遊戲,尋找更多刺激的玩家。事實上,玩家也只有通關一次,才能解瑣《死亡空間》中最困難的模式。

遊戲爲何要有難度

現在我們已經瞭解了好難度與壞難度之間的差異,好難度不僅僅是調整一些數據的滑動器,它是遊戲的核心設計環節。但爲什麼我們要製造難度的電子遊戲,爲何要這樣“折磨”玩家呢?

這是因爲難度可爲遊戲設計帶來的不僅僅是令人受挫的感覺。

首先,征服遊戲中的困難環節,有可能爲玩家帶來一種極大的滿足感。如果事情很有難度,克服困難就會讓玩家覺得是一種真正的勝利,並且這種感覺還可以極大增強玩家的遊戲體驗。但開發者要謹慎行事,因爲在這方面的表現好壞或者就只有一線之差。

impossible-dark-souls(from gamedev)

impossible-dark-souls(from gamedev)

《暗黑之魂》則與之相反,它從玩家一打開遊戲時就向其灌輸難度理念,但卻能夠呈現趣味性,不會讓人覺得有失公平。這是因爲《暗黑之魂》的核心玩法循環是圍繞困難而設計。遊戲中的一切,從持續的敵人佈局和行爲,到復活點系統,再到在線功能都圍繞着不斷試錯的理念而設計。《暗黑之魂》中的困難很有趣,但與《死亡空間》不一樣的是,它並不會破壞核心玩法循環。

在《暗黑之魂》中,玩家經常遇到勢不可擋並且看似無法阻止的障礙,征服這些困難也極爲考驗玩家的技能。這是因爲這些挑戰乍一看似乎無法征服,但經過反覆戰鬥的玩家會從混戰中發現一些模式,並發現情況其實沒有那麼困難。《暗黑之魂》極少要求玩家擁有驚人的技能,它只要求玩家付出耐心,並理解這種試錯法。事實上,你要是理解了其中的挑戰性,第二次再玩《暗黑之魂》時就不會那麼困難了。

如果遊戲要求玩家擁有不可思議的特技,讓他們去做超出自己能力範圍的事情,那就不好玩了。舊版《Ghosts and Goblins》就屬於這方面的典型,這款遊戲對玩家技能要求甚高,除了高端的硬核羣體之外,它無法取悅任何玩家。

除了帶來滿足感之外,難度還是一種創建遊戲沉浸感的強大工具。當遇到困難時,遊戲進程通常就會減緩並且更講究條理,玩家此時就會花些時間細細體會和理解遊戲的各個元素(遊戲邦注:包括敘事和主題內容)。

雖然《暗黑之魂》教程的解釋內容不多,但其中的荒蕪的氛圍,以及被拋棄的世界仍然令人難以忘懷,因爲玩家一開始投入大量時間經歷這種感覺。其關卡的複雜設計也讓這一切特點更爲明顯,因爲玩家會在多次試圖闖關時牢牢記住自己發現的每個捷徑和祕密通道。

這並不是說每款遊戲都應該很困難,這裏我無法界定嚴格的標準,但難度應試與設計融爲一體,能夠給遊戲體驗帶來價值。若只是爲了難度而設置難度,那隻會毀了遊戲。

總而言之,遊戲設計之初就應該考慮到難度。它應該成爲體驗必不可少的一個環節,與遊戲系統的其他元素一樣能夠加強和提升核心玩法循環。這一點很重要,要知道我們很容易做出只會令人受挫和心煩的遊戲,而對多數玩家來說,這並不可取。

篇目4,如何在遊戲中創造更出色的難度

作者:Taylor Bair

那些穿着裝甲背心的人一直用短槍朝我射擊;狙擊手們使用內紅點瞄準具對準了我那寶貴的頭蓋骨;Aztecan的死亡音樂不斷迴盪在我那亂成一團的腦子裏。於是我便打開了《神祕海域3》的菜單並向下滑動到難度選擇中,然後做出了一個難以想象的選擇。

我深吸了一口氣並點擊了“非常簡單”選項。

它先後帶給了我一些困擾,但卻是基於不同原因。

你看這並不只是關於電子遊戲難度級別的問題—-如果它們是多餘或必要的話。這是有關動機的問題—-不管是源自開發者還是遊戲玩家的角度來看。這是關於什麼元素激勵我們去玩遊戲,最終這也是關於什麼元素從心理上激勵到我們—-在關係中,決策制定方面以及生活中。

Uncharted(from gamasutra)

Uncharted(from gamasutra)

難度選擇的傳統模式會傳達並激發玩家心中的某些感受,這不僅會帶給玩家不利影響,也會影響到遊戲設計。所以讓我們通過分析我自己的開發以明確這一問題,我偶然發現一些對於遊戲設計師和玩家的深遠影響能夠改變我們創造遊戲與體驗遊戲的方式。

這又回到了激勵層面上—-我們對未來的渴望,對自己的信任以及改善的意義。所以一開始我們將先說說傳統的難度選擇系統以及它對於我們的意義。

大家都在走的路

遊戲開發者有許多害怕的事。這大多是隱藏在表面之下並會在我們經歷充滿壓力的一天並躺在牀上準備休息的時候冒出來。因爲我們的生活非常多變,所以我們總是想要獲得保障。而我們能夠獲得的最好的保障是什麼呢?即我們的遊戲對於所有人來說便是一切。

但是我們卻不能都創造出《俠盜獵車手V》這樣的遊戲,所以開發者還需要發揮一定的創造性。我們理解有些玩家想要看到一個可靠的故事,有些玩家想要一些刺激的挑戰,也有些玩家想要我們提供給他們的任何內容。

因此便誕生了難度選擇。玩家能夠通過按壓按鍵去改變一系列較容易執行的編輯器。如此每個人便都能夠獲得勝利。

或者我們都會遭遇失敗。

我們可以通過理解玩家動機去尋找原因。

玩家動機的核心

如果你是Dracula,你便擁有一堆的祕密。但我並不是Dracula,所以我只擁有一堆的願望。

這也是我接近電子遊戲的原因,我想要獲得某些東西。樂趣嗎?當然。娛樂?差不多。時間消耗?可能。

但是我們不能錯認爲這便是自己想要的一切。我們想要財富,快感,陪伴,談笑,爆發,眼淚,逃避,以及一大堆其它東西。

而這些願望的核心在於動機—-即能夠一直推動着我們前進。它能夠不斷且有效地提供給我們願望與執行,我們會在遊戲未能做到這點的時候停下來。

這一切的核心非常簡單:我們將基於不同方式得到激勵,這些激勵因子會影響我們對於挑戰的反應。心理學家將動機分解爲一些核心類別,其中兩種類別引起了我們特別的關注:

“自我”激勵因子

這種動機是源自我們的自我感知,當玩家以“我真的只關心故事”或“我沒有時間去應對這些衝向我的愚蠢的射擊手”或“你知道,如果我擁有更多耐心的話我便會更喜歡這款遊戲”等方式去判斷決定時,你便能夠看到這種動機發揮作用。這通常會導致玩家選擇降低難度級別。

那麼誰會提升難度級別呢?也是基於同樣的概念。即那些會說:“我喜歡挑戰”或者“我是個偏執的完成主義者”或者“勝利的獎盃在召喚我”的玩家。

這些表達中的共同思路是:他們考慮的都是自己而不是遊戲。玩家是核心。我們必須瞭解自己或組織有關自己的看法。

NatureofSelf(from gamasutra)

NatureofSelf(from gamasutra)

你經常會在帶有難度級別選擇的遊戲中發現這種激勵因子,這是因爲這種激勵因子同時也是受到難度級別選擇的激勵。作爲玩家而不是開發者的我們現在能夠決定如何適應遊戲中的挑戰,這也能夠將我們進一步帶到遊戲中。

這種自我評估是發生在遊戲前。我們需要判斷自己是否足夠硬核?是否屬於休閒玩家?在這一領域屬於哪個立基羣體?隨着我們在遊戲中的不斷前進,這樣的問題也會反覆出現。這裏始終都會呈現出各種選擇,所以這便是一種自我反思的狀態。

“改善”激勵因子

處於對立面的改善激勵因子是以進程和技能爲基礎。

經歷這種動機的玩家將作出這樣的評價:“我已經識別出這種攻擊模式”或“如果有更多錢的話我便能夠得到更厲害的盔甲去對抗boss”或“
所以這次我選擇潛伏在他周圍並將劍插進他的內臟將其消滅掉。”

你經常會在基於技能和記憶的遊戲或者帶有RPG元素的遊戲中看到這種激勵因子。特別是現在,這兩者更是進一步融合在一起。這些動機工具瞄準了我們心理元素中的複雜部分,包括我們如何衡量風險和不確定性,如何解決謎題以及如何在長期目標中衡量短期收穫。

FlightSchoolImprovement(from gamasutra)

FlightSchoolImprovement(from gamasutra)

長話短說,概念激勵因子能夠讓我們基於複雜的方式進行更多的思考。就像劍士需要經歷幾年的訓練才能真正精通劍術一樣,改善激勵因子也是通過重複,技能和屬性改善而提供給我們同等的電子遊戲體驗。

相對於自我激勵因子,這種類型的激勵因子具有一定的內在優勢,讓我們着眼於一些使用了“改善”的遊戲例子。

關於挑戰的一些典例

你可能聽過有人說一款遊戲並不複雜但卻具有挑戰性。儘管這是語義的問題,它卻揭示了一些遊戲激勵因子的內涵。

自我激勵因子傾向於讓玩家做出反應並將遊戲變成是更加靜態化的體驗。比起提升難度去應對挑戰,玩家將只會喃喃道自己能夠做到,如果出現更糟糕的情況,他們只會選擇降低難度級別。這也許能夠明確玩家當前對自己以及願望的看法,但這卻不能帶給他們挑戰並將其引至自我改善的階段。

以下是一些相關遊戲例子。

《血源詛咒》

我曾一度好奇爲什麼From Software的遊戲會如此受歡迎。人們說《Souls》系列和《血源詛咒》非常複雜但也很直接,這是因爲它使用了改善激勵因子。

《血源詛咒》中經常出現的場景是:你死掉了並失去了所有的進程。這聽起來真的很糟糕。但你要想想,至少我發現了一些捷徑並清楚如果射中敵人的內臟,這便是致命的一擊。

所以你能夠使用這一的智慧快速回到遊戲中並抄捷徑去延伸你的進程。但如果失敗了,你便可以通過提高屬性或購買更厲害的裝備去獲得優勢。

這些都說明改善激勵因子在發揮作用。它們並不會提供給你難度級別選擇,但它們會提供給你其它選擇。這是關鍵。這裏的選擇是關於更復雜的內容(多條改善路徑),這取決於開發者創造出讓玩家能夠以更具創造性的方式獲得優勢的系統。

這樣的挑戰是From Software遊戲的核心,這意味着他們是圍繞着這樣的框架去創造遊戲—-這需要計劃與緊密的測試。這同時也能夠促進玩家的反應,也就是更深層次的滿足感。這能夠呈現出玩家的自我形象,並讓我們能夠變成更棒的人。

《合金裝備:原爆點》

所以你沒玩過RPG以及最近基於RPG的一些遊戲?沒事,因爲還有許多基於技能的遊戲體驗能夠讓我們以各種方式去處理問題,而難度的存在與方法一樣多變。

我敢打賭有人在嘗試了《合金裝備:原爆點》後會說“我害怕潛行”,然後便退出了遊戲。爲什麼?這是我們猜到的事。我便是這樣的人,即玩過之前的《合金裝備》遊戲並只是想要在經歷了4個小時的爬行後掏出一把槍射殺眼前的所有人。

在這方面上《合金裝備》真的很酷。但更吸引人的是什麼?它讓潛行變得非常有趣讓你會更喜歡它。這是我第一次欣然俯身爬行,擊退一個又一個可憐的守衛,並拉出雙筒望遠鏡去標記任何移動的事物。

原因很簡單:它會給予任何風格的遊戲別出心裁的獎勵。潛行將獲得武器,彈藥和對話獎勵。而炮轟將獲得純粹的歡笑獎勵。不管怎樣你都能夠獲得可開啓的額外任務獎勵以及背景故事卡式磁帶去填補更多角色和背景。

儘管《合金裝備:原爆點》擁有可選擇的難度級別,它卻幾乎不需要它們(遊戲邦注:直到你完成基本模式後才能看到複雜模式)。這也是Kojima所創造的遊戲的優勢—-純粹的挑戰需要玩家不斷改善自己,並始終以讓人驚訝的方式去獎勵玩家的這種改善。

改善的結果

所以問題是,這對我們來說意味着什麼?

首先,它並不意味着:可選擇的難度級別是好的。自從1981年《Tempest》發行以來它們便存在着,並且是作爲一種必要的功能。換句話說,它們將提供給人們反覆回到遊戲中的藉口。我理解開發者擁有有限資源這一事實,有時候有將一個可選擇的難度級別整合到遊戲中是一種實現目標的明確且快速方式。

生活就像一條漫長且崎嶇的道路,我不會責怪那些選擇最短路徑的人(也許我也做了同樣的選擇),但是我認爲當我們這麼做的時候其實也失去了一些東西。

毫無疑問,改善的道路非常艱難。它需要開發者事先規劃挑戰以及通向成功的多條道路,並通過開發不斷重新做出評估。

但是改善的結果總是會變得更好,因爲它擊中了克服困境的核心。它讓遊戲成爲玩家感受到勝利以及靈魂上的滿足感的墊腳石。

比起只是表現出我們的偏見,它能夠改變它們,這真的非常厲害。作爲開發者的我們有機會根據玩家去創造挑戰,並推動着他們去改善自己。

因爲除了提供給他們輕鬆,中等或複雜等選擇外,我們可以提供給他們一些更棒的選擇—-即讓他們能夠按照自己的想法前進的選擇。

這也是生活的真諦所在:通過一次又一次的試驗讓自己不斷變得更好。

篇目5,開發者應根據整體遊戲體驗設置難度

作者:Paul Suddaby

每個玩家和遊戲記者談到電子遊戲時總是不免提及該遊戲的難度。最後人們的結論不是“太簡單”就是“太困難”,但實際上我們應該更深入探討這一話題,因爲它的處理方式可能徹底改變玩家的遊戲體驗。我將在本文闡述低難度對遊戲體驗的多種影響。

難度的定義:玩家完成遊戲體驗所需掌握的技能。

易用性陷阱

我曾在之前的文章中提到,難度(應該融入電子遊戲設計的核心之中。更準確的說法是,高層次的複雜度,以及出色的挑戰爲遊戲體驗帶來的好處。

但這並不意味着所有遊戲都應該很困難。事實上,過去幾年的遊戲設計還出現了一個愈發容易的趨勢,以便吸引更多並不擅長玩高難度遊戲的休閒羣體。

這種情況產生了一種有趣的爭論:更簡單、更通俗的遊戲是否就比更復雜、困難、晦澀的遊戲更易吸引大量用戶?我個人認爲兩種體驗在遊戲領域都有各自的空間。但如果開發者試圖爲遊戲增加更多易用性,而遊戲本身的設計並不支持這種設置,那就會產生許多問題。

也許在這方面沒有哪一款現代遊戲系列會比《刺客信條》更可惡了。這個系列是複雜的遊戲,擁有豐富的可探索世界,精緻的故事情節,充滿許多需要玩家理解和掌握的多種不同遊戲機制。這是休閒玩家不會嘗試的遊戲類型,它們是專爲硬核羣體而設計的遊戲。

不幸的是,每款《刺客信條》遊戲都有同樣的致命弱點,而這又嚴重威脅了遊戲的基本核心——這些遊戲太簡單了。

《刺客信條》的敗筆

assassin_come_at_me(from gamedev.tutsplus)

assassin_come_at_me(from gamedev.tutsplus)

《刺客信條》有三個基本的玩法支柱:戰鬥、自由奔跑以及潛行(遊戲邦注:不過隨着該系列的發展,潛行的重要性日趨削弱)。除了一些在更新的遊戲中所出現的元素,例如海戰或塔防,你在《刺客信條》中所做的一切都可以歸結爲這三種玩法,或者這三者的合體,儘管遊戲中並沒有明顯強調戰鬥元素。

在過去幾年中,該系列的這些玩法備受詬病,有人認爲其中的潛行元素令人抓狂,認爲自由奔跑過於機械化。本文則將主要討論這三者中最重要的一個元素:戰鬥。

《刺客信條》中的戰鬥是件令人愉快的事情,充滿野蠻手段和快速的連擊,但卻太過於簡單了。你在《刺客信條》的遭遇戰中幾乎不可能失敗,無論你面對多少敵人。

這其中有多個原因,但主要還在於你實在是過於強大了,擁有快速殺死多個敵人的能力,在自己倒下前能夠得到數量驚人的命中率。因爲你可以通過掉頭與追蹤者打鬥而避免多數潛行和自由奔跑環節,所以這種輕鬆的戰鬥常讓遊戲體驗變得無足輕重。

例如,在《刺客信條3》中,玩家很難在自己的角色能夠幹掉一隻熊的時候,覺察到自己正受訓成爲刺客高手。其他場景則讓人覺得是在浪費時間,例如等待暴風雪降臨以作掩護,潛入英國哨所,而是事實上你的角色完全可以輕易打敗那支沒有什麼武器力量的軍隊。

《天空之劍》的無趣

另一個讓遊戲因易用性而受困的例子就是最新版《塞爾達傳奇:天空之劍》,這款遊戲中充滿許多謎題——如果你有機會破解那應該會很有趣。

不幸的是,你有太多可提供幫助的同伴,它們會積極提供謎題解決方法,經常在你還沒有意識到之前就告訴你如何解瑣最後一個房門。你無需聽取她的建議,但她仍會一直提醒你,她有話要跟你說。

這種提供幫助的夥伴一直是《塞爾達》3D版問世以來的設計慣例,但其中表現最爲典型的當屬《天空之劍》中的同伴。

首先我要聲明《天空之劍》和《刺客信條》都是質量上乘之作,我指責的是它們缺乏難度,或者說是其難度並不適用於遊戲機制或主題,其休驗也會因此而受害。

fi_thanks_for_that(from gamedev.tutsplus)

fi_thanks_for_that(from gamedev.tutsplus)

《刺客信條》的人物設計很強大,《天空之劍》的地下城設置也很符合該系列的歷史,但它們也不是毫無瑕疵,難度就是其中之一。

簡單的遊戲就很糟糕嗎?

這裏我們提到的只是那些過於簡單,或者因爲缺乏難度而影響整體效果的遊戲。但這並不意味着挑戰性較小的遊戲就沒有生存空間了,也不是說任何真正的“硬核”遊戲體驗都要很困難。這裏的結論是:設計核心遊戲系統時,一定要將難度銘記在心。

實際上我並不是說要把困難的遊戲做成簡單的,或者將簡單的遊戲做成困難的。我們在這裏所舉的遊戲之所以存在敗筆,是因爲其機制和主題無法兼容缺乏難度的特點。它們簡單化了玩法的“遊戲”元素,稀釋了交互無素,導致其他遊戲體驗無法相容。

成功案例

現在讓我們看看成功利用了簡單優勢,提供了無挫折體驗,沒有因爲難度而產生敘事或主題干擾元素,並且對技能不佳的羣體極具易用性的遊戲典型。這就是thatgamecompany推出的《Journey》。

《Journey》是一款關於兩個陌生人之間美妙的人際互動。遊戲很短,僅持續兩個小時,基本上由前進和爬山組成。你也可以根據自己所蒐集到的物品飛翔一小段距離,但這些都取決於你的選擇。

這款遊戲也不存在時間限制,你不會死亡,也只有一種讓自己受害的可能,並且這種影響只能算是一種心理上的感傷,並不會對遊戲進程造成任何影響。這款遊戲極其簡單——它基本上是在自娛自樂。

但它一點也不無聊,因爲遊戲中的每一樣東西都很令人激動。它擁有精妙絕倫的圖像,音樂插曲也頗令人陶醉。但這些都不是遊戲的關鍵所在,真正讓你無法自拔的卻是其他玩家的行爲。

journey_beauty(from gamedev.tutsplus)

journey_beauty(from gamedev.tutsplus)

你在這個遊戲世界中旅行時會遇到其他玩家,你不會知道他們的在線ID,除了你的角色所發出的一些聲響之外,你也不會同他們進行什麼交流。但由於遊戲中的所有設計都支持玩家進行合作,你們就會一起旅行,會對這個你一無所知的眼前人產生依戀,這種感覺很奇妙。

但我並不是說《Journey》以及所有的這一切同難度有直接的關聯。可以說,它如果沒有這麼簡單,《Journey》就行不通了。這款遊戲關注的是人際互動,美麗的場景和音樂,而這些元素都無法因更具難度的玩法體驗而獲得提升。

事實上,如果遊戲更具挑戰性,玩家在與他人互動時的出發點可能就不是自己的實際需求,而是自己身爲遊戲玩家所能發揮的作用。如果《Journey》中充滿複雜的謎題,有心幫助玩家解謎的其他人可能會束手無策,而玩家之間的互動可能會由遊戲系統所主宰,而不是由玩家自己來決定。通過讓一切簡單化,《Journey》成功避開了這個問題,讓玩家根據自己的意願彼此互動。《Journey》實在不能算有什麼難度,它只存在於遊戲背後核心設計的執行。

這裏的經驗就是:設計遊戲核心系統時一定要將難度設置牢記在心。不要考慮你的遊戲是否太難,缺乏易用性。如果你想製作一款人人都可以玩的遊戲,但不考慮遊戲體驗,那就設計一種符合這一目標的體驗吧。不要試圖在明知遊戲核心設計無法兼容的情況下,削足適履地強塞易用性。

但是,也不要認爲難度與易用性就是矛盾的對立面,它們通常都有交集。記住,即使是最複雜和引人入勝的遊戲也可能非常簡單,而極爲簡單的遊戲也可能極具挑戰性。重要的是根據整個遊戲體驗設計有意義的難度。

篇目6,分享設計師平衡遊戲難度的4大技巧

作者:David Maletz

平衡遊戲難度是件非常困難的事。不同玩家將帶着不同技能水平進入遊戲——取決於他們之前是否玩過類似的遊戲。而他們在遊戲中的學習曲線也是多種多樣,這便導致開發者在遊戲創造過程中很難把握遊戲的難度——太困難會讓玩家感到沮喪,而太簡單又會讓他們感到厭煩。

difficulty_curve(from gamasutra)

difficulty_curve(from gamasutra)

上圖是基於玩家技能和遊戲難度的平衡區圖表。我們可以發現,隨着玩家技能的提高,遊戲難度也必須相應提高,如此才能確保遊戲整體的平衡。平衡區主要包含如下內容:

沮喪——太複雜以致感覺不到樂趣。

艱難的樂趣——非常困難,但是有些人就剛好喜歡這種困難。

挑戰的樂趣-—–對於那些喜歡克服挑戰的人羣而言。

平衡的樂趣——最適宜的區域(不太困難也不太簡單)。

休閒的樂趣——簡單,不具備多少挑戰性,但卻也不愚蠢。

愚蠢的樂趣——玩家只是想要玩而不願意思考。

無聊——比起玩遊戲我更想睡覺。

爲了平衡遊戲我們可以採取測試,以及收集玩家的反饋意見等方法,而我將通過本篇文章闡述我在遊戲開發過程中所明確的遊戲難度設計4大技巧。

1.瞭解你的用戶。

在每一個遊戲開發過程中,瞭解用戶這一點總是非常重要,在遊戲平衡中也不例外。誰希望玩你的遊戲?在玩你的遊戲前他們玩過哪些遊戲(這些遊戲與你的遊戲有何共同點)?找出這兩個問題的答案能夠幫助你明確玩家一開始的技能水平,併爲他們選擇最合適的平衡區。就像休閒遊戲將假設大部分玩家擁有較低的遊戲技能,並不希望面臨太過複雜的挑戰。細分市場的遊戲應該假設每個玩家都喜歡這類遊戲,並且之前已經玩過許多類似的遊戲,擁有較高的技能水平並喜歡接受挑戰。瞭解目標用戶是平衡遊戲的起點,將能幫助你更準確地完成最初的平衡工作。

要點在於,如果你能更好地瞭解你的用戶,你的遊戲便能更好地迎合他們的喜好——這一點不只適用於遊戲平衡中。

2.不要高估玩家的學習曲線

隨着遊戲的發展,玩家的技能將不斷提高,所以遊戲難度也必須進行相應的提高。但是比起高估玩家的學習曲線,低估將會帶給你更多幫助(很多開發者都會高估他們的玩家——但是事實上卻不是每個人都和你一樣擅長玩遊戲!)如果你高估了玩家的學習曲線,那麼學習能力較高的玩家便能夠獲得有效的平衡,但是其他玩家卻只能被學習曲線遠遠地甩在後面,而這時候遊戲將會繼續提升難度,並最終導致這些玩家難以繼續遊戲。而如果你低估了玩家的學習曲線,那麼學習能力較強的玩家將繼續平穩地享受遊戲(遊戲邦注:儘管遊戲可能不再具有多大的挑戰性,但是他們可能會覺得自己非常厲害),而與此同時其他玩家也將能夠有效地追趕上游戲的難度變化。

可能一開始玩家會覺得遊戲很有趣,但是隨着難度的不斷提升可能到最後他們便不再能夠感受到遊戲的樂趣了。最後的boss非常無聊,導致玩家只能選擇放棄遊戲。而這也是開發者必須想盡辦法避免的情況。

要點在於,比起復雜的遊戲,簡單的遊戲更能留住玩家的心。所以毫無疑問,低估比高估有效。

3.不要用降低遊戲難度來獎勵技能型玩家!

許多遊戲都會給予那些表現出色的玩家更多升級的機會。但是這種做法就等於讓那些攻克遊戲難度的玩家只能面對更容易的遊戲,並且不能給予那些不斷努力着的玩家任何幫助。許多這類型遊戲便是通過提升遊戲難度去彌補這種升級獎勵,但是這麼做雖然能夠平衡技能型玩家,但卻爲那些不斷努力的玩家設置了更多挑戰,導致他們更加難以升級了。這也是導致遊戲用戶流失的最快速的方法。你必須提供給表現出色的玩家更加複雜的遊戲並“懲罰”那些表現糟糕的玩家較爲容易的遊戲,即有針對性地爲不同玩家設置不同難度。雖然這聽起來有點矛盾,但是的確存在一些方法能夠幫助我們創造出具有獎勵性的高難度遊戲以及具有懲罰性的低難度遊戲。例如我看過的一款遊戲便獎勵那些表現良好的玩家直接進入第二個關卡結尾的機會。第二個關卡結尾的遊戲玩法總是難於第一個關卡的結尾,但是至少玩家能夠獲得進入第二個關卡的獎勵,而面對更加複雜的結尾,沒準是件好事。

你同樣也可以隱藏將更復雜的遊戲作爲獎勵的做法。例如你可以讓表現出色的玩家獲得升級,但同時去提升他們所面對的遊戲難度(高於他們所獲得的級別),並且不改變其他玩家所面對的遊戲難度。這看起來像是在欺騙玩家,但是大多數遊戲既讓玩家獲得升級也相應提高了遊戲難度,並且這種難度提高僅面向獲得升級的玩家。

要點在於,給予玩家獎勵固然重要,但是從長遠角度看來,讓那些表現出色的玩家面對更簡單的遊戲並不能算是一種真正的獎勵。

4.允許玩家去改變遊戲難度。

我們總是很難面向所有潛在玩家而平衡遊戲。所以讓玩家自行選擇遊戲難度能夠幫助遊戲吸引更廣泛的玩家。那些喜歡休閒樂趣的玩家便能夠降低難度,而喜歡迎接更多挑戰的玩家則可以提升難度。如果玩家能夠在遊戲過程中調整難度,那麼他們便能夠更好地適應學習曲線。切記不要因爲玩家降低了難度而懲罰他們。這只是他們爲了完善遊戲體驗所做出的選擇。他們可能是因爲支撐不住了才選擇降低難度的,你又何必在他們面前喋喋不休呢。如果你真的想要做些什麼的話,就給予那些提高難度的玩家獎勵吧。要點在於,只有玩家最瞭解自己,所以讓他們選擇難度可以有效地平衡遊戲去適應他們的需求。

結論

測試與修改始終是平衡遊戲的最重要的方法。不管你如何擅長遊戲平衡,你都需要明確別人對於遊戲的看法,除非你只是爲了自己而創造遊戲。讓好友去玩你的遊戲並做出評價(即哪些內容簡單哪些內容複雜等等)是你需要邁出的第一步。如果能夠發行測試版並獲得目標用戶的評價就再好不過了。但是以上的4大技巧則能幫你儘早平衡遊戲,並將幫助你更加專注遊戲設計。

篇目1篇目2篇目3篇目4篇目5篇目6(本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao)

篇目1,The Difficulty of Difficulty

by Dylan Woodbury

Difficulty in games is a very confusing topic. All designers must know how difficult they want their game to be before the design process even begins. It decides what kind of audience you are shooting for. Casual vs Hardcore.

There is a major misconception that in order to please the most hardcore, the difficulty needs to be raised, shutting out a large part of the market. The alternative to this would be to make the game so easy that anyone can beat it. In fact, companies have been cheating lately. In Super Mario Galaxy 2, Nintendo allowed the player to skip over challenges the player deemed to difficult. NO! Bad designer.

Cheating is the enemy of gaming. Allowing the player to cheat is the designers not doing their job. In school, some teachers are always “curving” test scores, getting rid of problems that most students missed (pretty much extra credit). This “curve” is the teacher acknowledging that the teaching was not good enough, and that the students should not be held accountable for it. If they are required to use these skills that haven’t counted, that they have not correctly learned, they are going to fail. In a video game, being able to skip challenges, which are designed to test your skills while teach/train your skills, leads to you missing out on important concepts and such, not to mention the terrible feeling the player has inside.

The same goes for online walkthroughs – they ruin the satisfaction that the player is supposed tofeel. Many skills are learned by trial and error, and the player may miss out on important things by just reading the solution to the challenge online. Although this is a very big pitfall of video game design, it is a very important signal.

If a player absolutely cannot solve the challenge, to the point where they give up or look it up online, it is a signal that there is a gap in the learning curve. Something is not clicking, and the player is not able to draw on a skill or piece of knowledge that is required of him/her. How do we solve this? More challenges.

Example: In Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, there was a small challenge that gave me trouble. Goal: get to floor below ground. Obstacle: the two holes one can use to get to bottom floor are covered in spider webs, making them impossible to go through. I tried everything I could think of – shooting my boomerang, arrows, and slingshot at the web. I tried shooting my boomerang from the torch on the wall to the web, hoping to burn it. I tried rolling onto the web, hoping my weight would break apart the web. Nothing worked.

I didn’t want to do this, but I eventually had to – I looked at the walkthrough online. I am ashamed to say it, but there is a point where you become so frustrated with a challenge, that cheating is the only thing that can keep you engrossed in the game, as not doing so would lead to you not being able to play it anymore. The solution: pull out your lantern and roll onto the web – the fire will break open the web.

For some reason then, I was frustrated with this solution. I did not understand why at the time, but I think I do now. In the game, they taught you that swinging your lantern (by shaking the remote) infront of a web in your way will break it. There were enough challenges here and there for the player to remember this throughout the game. In the entire portion of the game before this challenge, the player was never required to roll to solve a challenge, nor was the player required to use a lantern in a way besides shaking the remote in front of a web.

So some people may have figured out, maybe right away, but there was not enough training beforehand to make that challenge reasonable for many. How could they have solved this? How about a couple challenges prior to this one that require rolling to complete the challenge. This doesn’t make the answer obvious, but it doesn’t take much away from the player who found the solution and felt awesome afterwards. It simply gives the player the complete skills they need to figure out the solution – it may be to much to ask from the player, figuring out both new skills and how you can use them to solve a new problem.

Much of these problems are found by just testing. Designers should find out which challenges are too difficult or broken, why they were too difficult (to the point where the player gave up, now completely unabsorbed, or looked up the answer, hurting his/her experience in the long run), and how to help this by training the player better beforehand.

Challenge’s difficulty should arise from their problem solving, pattern recognition, and lateral thinking (amond others), with a given set of skills and tools to work with. Challenges should not arise from solving a problem with a skill that has not been well established yet (Twilight Princess example). Challenges should also not require the player to use a skill that has not been used in quite a while (people are forgetful).

An example of this is seen in Half Life 2: Episode 2. Near the end, at Black Forest, the player was thrown into areas that required him/her to make use of the steam valves, which had not been utilized in quite a while. The designers through in a mini challenge before the real action started, requiring the player to get from one side of a pipe shooting out steam to the other. One cannot get through the steam, so the player would see the big red wheel, interact with it, and what do you know, the steam is shut off. Suddenly, the player has learned a lot about a certain skill, recalling from memory. Instead of the player having to figure out the corrollation between the wheel and steam and such during the heat of battle, he/she is taught it beforehand, makingfor a more pleasurable, and rewarding, challenge.

This example shows my point well, and leads me to another important point. Challenges should either be about solving a challenge or learning a new skill (with a very easy challenge, like the Half Life 2 example) – not both… usually. When a player is given a challenge, he/she is going to try to solve it, and usually, he/she will not figure out a new skill (a new use of a tool/asset), as he/she expects to be able to solve the challenge using only what he/she knows already – it is the way our brains work. A player could learn a skill if it is obvious (like turning the wheel to stop the steam), and these type of challenges tend to be very rewarding. These kind of challenges require the most testing (be prepared to change or throw them out).

Now to finish my point – difficulty should not include only button mashing, quick timing, etc. The difficulty is reliant on using skills to complete challenges, with the occasional new skill introduced to open up new kinds of challenges. When you get a new tool in Zelda, you are given a VERY basic challenge to learn the basics of that skill. When given the hookshot, you are in a small room, and must shoot the hookshot at the red dot to get out of the room. Just like that, the player knows a new skill, and many challenges that require this skill can be thrown at him/her.

The relative difficulty of the game, surprising to some, should remain about the same throughout the game (it does not get 10X harder – in may even be harder in the beginning). As you play through a well designed game, you get better and better at the skills it quizzes you on. You tackle new skills constantly, always improving on old concepts for new ways to tackle solutions. The absolute difficulty of a challenge at the end of the game is very hard – a brand new player would have a extremely (it is almost impossible) hard time with it. But, if the relative difficulty is about the same – a player playing the game all the way through that point will have about as hard of a time as he/she did solving a challenge from way back to level 3.

Designing a game’s series of challenges is very difficult – each challenge needs to reinforce skills, open the player’s mind to using skills in new ways, teach the player to combine certain skills, or learn entire new skills. The skills/knowledge a challenge requires must be well taught through previous challenges – the difficulty lies in using these tools (whether you use them in a different way, or in a more difficult way).

The level of difficulty can be suitable to both the casual and hardcore audience, and still be wildly fun for both, if the learning curve and individual challenges are not broken.

篇目2,Examining Subjective Difficulty: How Plumbers Can Fight Demons

by Josh Bycer

In my previous article on Darwinian Difficulty, there was a brief look, relating to Demon’s Souls, at the concept of Subjective Difficulty. However, the concept of Subjective Difficulty is not restricted to brutally hard titles, and one of the most famous and accessible franchises of all time has been an example of this since 1996.

Before we continue, it’s important to define two terms for the sake of this article:

Subjective Difficulty. Designing a challenge so that its severity is based on the player’s skill level.

Safety Net. The degree to which the player can mess up and still succeed at the specific challenge.

Technically, we can argue that any challenge in a game is subjective by skill; someone who is a grand master at Street Fighter is not going to have the same problems with arcade mode as a player that has never touched a fighting game before. The key component in Subjective Difficulty, however, is that specific challenges are designed for different skill levels at the same time.

To achieve this, the player must have access to all (or most) of the available mechanics from the get-go. In order to design levels that allow different levels of skill to work, the player must have the option to use all the mechanics. If the levels are only designed around using one or two of the available mechanics, then it’s not Subjective Difficulty, as both the novice and expert players are limited to the exact same thing.

With that said, there are a few considerations to understand about Subjective Difficulty. First is that unlocking mechanics as a form of progression is not considered Subjective

Difficulty. If you have ever played a Metroid game, or the latest 2D Castlevania titles, there are always paths or sections along the main route that are blocked or inaccessible. As the player explores the game, they’ll fight a boss or find a power-up that unlocks a new mechanic that can be used to enter the previously inaccessible area.

The point of contention is that it’s not the player’s fault that the area could not be reached, but the designer limiting the mechanics available. An expert player in Castlevania, no matter how good they are, will take the same path through the game as someone who is brand new.

Second is that the traditional use of difficulty levels is also not an example of Subjective Difficulty. Going back to the concept of the safety net, when the only difference between

difficulty levels is stat-based (i.e., on “easy”, enemies do less damage, but on “hard”, enemies do more damage) then all the designer is doing is raising or lower the safety net based on the difficulty setting.

Subjective Difficulty Levels: God Hand

However, that doesn’t mean that difficulty levels aren’t a factor. God Hand for the PlayStation 2 has two forms of difficulty. At the start of the game, the player chooses a difficult level; this in turn affects the second layer. During play, at all times a meter in the bottom left of the screen displays the current difficulty level.

The difficulty of the game can fluctuate between Level 0 and Level Die (or 6) based on the player’s performance. Taking significant damage or dying will lower the meter, which will drop the level down. The more the player avoids damage while continuing to make progress, the higher the level will rise.

The level of difficulty affects two things. First, it affects how aggressive the AI is. The lower the number, the less likely enemies will counterattack, attack in groups, or use their stronger attacks with the opposite more frequent at higher levels. The second detail is that at the higher levels (specifically Level Die) more (and more difficult) enemies will show up in the levels, forcing the player to adapt. Going back to the initial difficulty level at the start, the only things it determines is the starting level of the meter and how high it can go.

Playing God Hand, the game attempts to match the player’s skill level by raising or lowering the difficulty. Both a novice player and a skilled player are going to take the same path through the level, but what a novice player will be facing will be different compared to someone who is consistently performing well.

Challenge Variation

Another form of Subjective Difficulty is providing different variations of the same challenge. Games like Tony Hawk’s Project 8 or Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts each feature challenges with basic, advanced and expert goals.

Every challenge in the games has a bare minimum to complete to get a bronze medal, which is the easiest way to finish it. There are also more difficult ways to attempt challenges, which could earn players a silver or gold medal. For example: in Project 8, completing a race while placing at least 5th would be a bronze award, placing 2nd gives silver, and placing 1st while finishing the race in under 2 minutes awards gold.

These harder considerations are always available to the player to try if they want and be awarded accordingly, but getting the bronze (or silver) award is good enough to check that challenge off as being “completed”.

This system is also popular in many smartphone games. A variation on it in the popular Cut the Rope finds players striving to capture three stars in each level — which are not essential for completion, but are necessary for completists.

The Mario franchise has been going strong since the NES era. When the series transitioned to 3D with 1996′s Super Mario 64, the game design changed profoundly. Before, every level was completely linear in its approach and mechanics; with the move to 3D, nonlinearity was introduced in the form of open levels.

The Super Mario Galaxy series and Demon’s Souls are two sides of the same coin.

Obviously, that statement needs to be clarified. Both games give the player access to all of the core abilities of the character from the start of the game. In Mario, the plumber’s abilities are movement-based (running, jumping) and his spin attack.

In Demon’s Souls, the abilities and mechanics revolve around combat: attack, defense, managing stamina, and counterattacks. (It’s worth noting that the player will unlock power-ups in the Super Mario Galaxy games, but these are usually confined to specific levels or gameplay scenarios.)

Now, the deviating point between the two series — and why Mario is a better example of Subjective Difficulty than Demon’s Souls — has to do with the level design. In Demon’s Souls, the player has access to all the available mechanics from the start and from the first stage is tested on all of them. In Mario Galaxy, the player has all the available mechanics and is not tested on all of them, but can use them if necessary.

Referring back to the concept of Darwinian Difficulty, the player is introduced from the very beginning of the game to all (or at least most) of the mechanics and is then tasked with using them effectively. Here is the difficulty chart from the previous article, as a point of reference:

In both types of games, the player has all of the gameplay tools from the outset. In a game with Darwinian Difficulty, the player is asked to use them all; in a game with Subjective Difficulty, the player may or may not use them at any time during the game and still play effectively. The difference between the two allows different skill levels to experience the same content, but handle it in different ways based on their expertise.

The first level in Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a perfect example of level design built around Subjective Difficulty. About halfway through the level, Mario has to use ascending and descending platforms to climb up a hill. Expert players can use a combination of Mario’s triple jump and wall jump to get up the hill in a fraction of the time a novice might take.

There’s another example near the end of the level. The player is tasked with maneuvering over bottomless pits by traversing moving platforms. A novice player can get through this entire area using nothing but Mario’s basic jumping ability, and be tested with this design. However, an expert player can simply bypass the entire area by performing a long jump across the pits.

Both the novice and expert player have the same challenge, but handle it differently based on their skill levels. Unless the novice player has read the manual or played Super Mario Galaxy, at that point they probably have no idea how to perform a long jump, and that’s perfectly fine. The first mention and test of using the long jump ability comes later on, at the same time Mario gets the cloud power-up. The in-game introduction to each of Mario’s abilities is signified by a signpost showing the player how to perform the mechanic, followed by a simple test.

The following graph shows the difficulty curve of a subjective game:

For the sake of the article, this chart only represents the normal content of the game; we’ll touch on post-game content further on. As you can see, for the novice player, the game’s difficulty curve follows the normal progression — a steady progress higher across the chart with a few dips here and there. Meanwhile, an expert player starts out lower on the curve and makes a continual progression.

Now, you may be asking, “If the expert player is taking a harder course, shouldn’t the curve be higher than for the novice?” The reason it isn’t goes back to the concept of Subjective Difficulty. Even though the expert player is doing something harder, their skill level at the game makes it easier for them. For example, if we ask someone who has never lifted weights to lift 40 pounds, and a professional weightlifter to lift 60 pounds, the novice is going to struggle due to their inexperience. However, the weightlifter, used to lifting much heavier loads, wouldn’t even sweat.

As the game progresses there should come a point where the difficulty curves converge indicating two things:

1. The novice player has reached the same skill level as the expert player.

2. The game is now challenging both groups with the same content.

At the end of the regular content in Super Mario Galaxy, players are expected to fully understand Mario’s move set, and are tested on it all in one final stage. The same philosophy of designing the levels is still used, but now the game is more akin to Demon’s Souls, expecting the player to make use of all of Mario’s abilities to win.

Novice players who do manage to beat Super Mario Galaxy will find that the game has changed for them. Now that they understand all of the different abilities Mario has, they can now use them anywhere in the game. It’s similar to how in an RPG, a higher level player can return to a once difficult spot and utterly demolish it — but what’s leveled up is the player, not the character.

Handling Optional Content

Before we talk about the pros and cons of Subjective Difficulty, we need to take a look at how post-game content worked in Super Mario Galaxy 2, and how it plays off of the concept of Subjective Difficulty. Fitting into the theme of developing level design for different skill levels, there are special coins hidden in each level, most often placed in harder-to-reach areas.

Each coin found will unlock a comet challenge, which sends players back through older levels with modifiers to make them more difficult. For example, in the first world, the comet challenge requires the player to run through the first level with a timer counting down, requiring the player to use the shortcuts to win.

Novice players will not have access to these challenges, as they are not good enough yet to reach the special coins, but the expert players should find them relatively quickly. The comet challenges aren’t required to beat the game, as players will earn more than enough stars through regular play to reach the final stage, but they are there for expert players who want more.

As novice players become more skilled at the game, they will start to find the hidden coins and unlock comet challenges. Like with the regular game content, novice players should eventually reach the same point as the expert players, allowing them to tackle the additional challenges. Expert players, however, don’t have to wait, and if they are good enough at the start of the game, they can begin comet challenges relatively early in the game.

The Advantage, and the Challenge, Of Designing For Subjective Difficulty
The advantage of Subjective Difficulty revolves around accessibility. Games like Super Mario Galaxy allow the designer to have their cake and eat it too, in a sense.

On one hand, the game starts out simple enough, easing new players into the game without throwing them right into the thick of things. On the other hand, this design style allows expert players to be rewarded with areas suited for them from the beginning, and offers additional content to test their skills.

Now, the problem is that Subjective Difficulty is that it’s hard to pull off and requires a different kind of design. In a normal game, the designer will look at each challenge progressively, with one group in mind. You know that a challenge in the beginning of the game is going to be easier than one found later on, but Subjective Difficulty is different.

Essentially, the designer will have to design each level for different skill levels at the same time, requiring more time to create the content. Because of this, there are usually more shortcuts and hidden areas in games with Subjective Difficulty which allow gamers to fully use the mechanics. Creating this additional content requires an extensive understanding of the mechanics of the game, to set up challenges that can be handled in multiple ways at different levels of skill.

As a designer, you also need to rank your mechanics in terms of complexity to understand the best order for the player to understand them. Going back to Super Mario Galaxy 2, the designers slowly introduced each mechanic officially to the player through set challenges, giving ample time for the player to understand one mechanic before introducing another. This leads to asking questions like, “What is more complex to use, a triple jump into a wall jump followed by a spin jump, or a sideways flip, into a spin, followed by a wall jump?”

Subjective Difficulty, like Darwinian Difficulty, requires an expert touch to achieve. When pulled off, it allows gamers to enjoy the game regardless of skill level, while seeing improvements in their skill over the course of the game. By keeping multiple groups of gamers engaged, the game will attract a larger audience without having to simplify the design of the game. Ultimately, the goal of Subjective Difficulty is that the novice players should achieve a full circle of play, after finishing the game they can replay the game again, but using their improve ability to see the game in a different light.

篇目3,Hard Mode: Good Difficulty Versus Bad Difficulty

Paul Suddaby

Every gamer and games journalist will invariably end up talking about difficulty when discussing a video game. This often takes the form of a comment saying it’s “too easy” or “too hard”, but
it’s a topic that deserves to be looked at in much more depth, as the way it is handled can completely reshape a player’s experience with a game. In this article, I’ll look at extremely high difficulty in video games, what works, what doesn’t, and what we can learn from it.

Easy to Define

So before we start talking about high difficulty, we need to make it abundantly clear exactly what difficulty entails.

Difficulty refers to the amount of skill required by the player to progress through a game experience, with higher difficulty obviously meaning more skill is required. The distinction worth noting here is that skill doesn’t only refer to the typical physical aspect of playing a video game, i.e. reaction time – it can also refer to many other aspects of playing a video game, such as
memorization and strategy.

This definition of difficulty isn’t very complex, but it’s important for us to be on the same page about what the term means before going any further.

It Can’t Be That Simple

At its core, high difficulty in video games comes in one of two forms: artificial difficulty and designed difficulty. I’ll admit that I just made up these terms, so let’s take a look at what I mean by them.

Artificial Difficulty

Let’s start with artificial difficulty: the type of difficulty achieved by altering the statistics of the elements of a game with lesser difficulty.

This sounds complex, but it’s really just the type of rote difficulty increase you typically see when you switch a game from “normal” to “hard” mode. Common changes include increased enemy health and damage, more stringent time constraints, fewer lives, and reduced resources like money or ammunition. Most importantly, the core of the experience, things like level design, enemy behaviour and puzzle solutions does not change.

This type of thing is artificial difficulty.A great example of this kind of system can be seen in both the first and second Dead Space games. On normal difficulty the games present a fair difficulty curve and a reasonable challenge. The more difficult modes, on the other hand, do not feel nearly as fair, with the player simply having less health and ammo, and the enemies being much stronger, while everything else in the games remains the same. This is what I class as an artificial difficulty increase.

Designed Difficulty

Designed difficulty, on the other hand, is difficulty baked into the very systems of the game – things like the aforementioned level design, enemy behaviour and puzzle solutions.

This can take all types of forms, from enemies with complex or nuanced attack patterns all the way to levels which are basically elaborate mazes for the player to get trapped in. This idea can be a bit tricky to explain, so let’s take a look at a game that employs this type of difficulty.

Dark Souls might be the perfect example of designed difficulty, as almost everything included in the game seems to have been made the way it is simply to make the player’s life miserable. The game is incredibly unwelcoming from the start, with a tutorial that offers almost no explanation of the systems behind the game, which leaves the player struggling to figure out where they are supposed to be going and what they are supposed to be doing.

At least it looks cool when you fail.Combat is also very difficult in Dark Souls; extremely strong enemies are often placed very close together forcing disadvantageous group battles. To add insult to injury, dying is punished as well, with all of the player’s resources being dropped on the ground upon their death. They can only be recovered if the player makes it back to where they died without dying again, since if they do their resources are lost forever.

There are also small things in Dark Souls that add to the difficulty, such as non-hostile NPCs who murder other useful NPCs without the game giving any indication, or the fact that it is entirely
possible to just plain never find a large amount of the most useful items in the game. Dark Souls is a game that lives and breathes difficulty, and was clearly designed around the idea of being
challenging; this is what I call designed difficulty.

The Bad and the Good

Now that we’ve established the difference between artificial and designed difficulty, we’ll take a look at the ways in which these two very different systems affect the player’s experience.

At its core, artificial difficulty is shallow, providing a level of difficulty that is neither satisfying nor enjoyable for the player, often feeling cheap and unfair. In contrast, designed
difficulty typically offers the player great satisfaction once conquered because the challenge presented felt organic and fair. To look at why this is you need not look any further than the two
examples given above.

Dark Souls is a very hard game, but this is only notable because the game forces you to play it this way. Objectively, if you play Dead Space on the highest difficulty level, it is every bit as
hard as Dark Souls. However, when played this way, Dead Space isn’t any fun. This is because it increases the difficulty artificially, as stated above, and this has terrible ramifications on the
experience.

Every video game is designed around a set of systems, and these systems are tuned and tweaked to work together to create the overall game experience.
Every video game is designed around a set of systems, and these systems are tuned and tweaked to work together to create the overall game experience. On normal difficulty these systems are usually balanced perfectly, allowing the player to experience the game with a fair amount of challenge, testing their skill in navigating these systems. With an artificial difficulty increase these systems get out of whack.

In Dead Space, for example, the normal difficulty mode is perfectly designed so that when an enemy jumps out at the player from the shadows, they have time to be startled, compose themselves and then tactically dispatch the enemy by removing its limbs. The is the game’s core gameplay loop, and its proper execution is where most of the game’s fun originates.

However, with the difficulty cranked up, this pattern doesn’t really work any more: the enemies are too strong, and the player is too weak to dispatch them if they get startled. Instead, an enemy jumping out at the player from the shadows often means near-instant death, so foreknowledge and trial and error become the only reliable ways to complete the section. This type of system can be very frustrating for most players, leaving the game feeling like a grind, as trial and error based progress can often feel unfair and contrived.

For this reason these extreme difficulty modes are usually included for the sake of completionists who have already played through and enjoyed the game once and are looking to get more out of the experience. In fact, the hardest difficulty in both Dead Space games requires the game to be beaten once to unlock it.

Expect to see this quite a bit.In contrast to this philosophy, we have Dark Souls, a game which shoves crushing difficulty down its players’ throats from the moment they turn it on, yet somehow manages to be fun and never feel unfair. This is because the core gameplay loop in Dark Souls is designed with difficulty in mind. Everything in the game, from the persistent enemy placement and behaviour, to the checkpoint system to the online functionality is designed around the idea of trial and error. Difficulty is fun in Dark Souls because, unlike in Dead Space, it doesn’t break the core gameplay loop.

Why Should My Game Be Hard?

We now understand the difference between good difficulty and bad difficulty, in that good difficulty isn’t just a slider adjusting some numbers, it’s a core design tenant of your game. But why make a video game difficult at all; why make your players work harder then they need to?

Well, there are many things difficulty can bring to the design of a game beyond just offering something for masochists to beat their heads on.

First off, conquering a difficult section of a game has the potential to give the player an immense feeling of satisfaction. When something is difficult, overcoming it feels like a real triumph and this feeling can really add to a player’s experience with your game. However, you need to be very careful, because there is a fine line between doing this right and doing this very wrong.

This doesn’t look possible to beat the first time you see it.In Dark Souls, the player often encounters overwhelming and seemingly impossible obstacles and conquering them feels like a true
testament of skill. This is because though the challenges may seem impossible at first glance, with repetition players will see patterns arise in the chaos and find that things aren’t so difficult after all. Rarely does Dark Souls demand incredible skill from the player; it only asks for patience and understanding of its trials. In fact, playing through Dark Souls a second time through isn’
t that difficult at all once you understand its challenges.

What isn’t so fun is when games require incredible feats from their players, often demanding they do things they simply aren’t capable of. The old Ghosts and Goblins game is a perfect example of this; it’s a game that is too demanding of its players and is simply not entertaining to anybody but the hardest of hardcore.

More than just satisfaction, difficulty is also an incredible tool in building immersion in your game. When something is difficult, progress is often slow and methodical, giving the player time to
truly soak in and understand every aspect of your game, including its narrative and thematic content.

You don’t want your game to elicit this type of reaction in people.Though Dark Souls is low on exposition, the atmosphere of desolation and abandonment of its world still shines through because the player spends so much time experiencing these feeling first hand due to the difficult gameplay. The intricate design of the levels is also made all the more apparent because the player will invariably commit every shortcut and secret path to memory as they traverse the levels on their umpteenth try at success.

This does not mean that every game should be difficult. I can’t give any strict rules, but difficulty needs to make sense within the context of your design, and needs to be able to bring something worthwhile to your experience. Difficulty for difficulty’s sake has ruined many games.

At its core, the difficulty of a game should be baked into its very design. It should be indispensable to the experience, something that works symbiotically with the rest of the game’s systems to
reinforce and improve the core gameplay loops of your title. This is important, because it’s very easy to make a game that will only be frustrating and annoying, and for most gamers, that just won’t do.

篇目4,Motivate Me: Crafting Better Game Difficulties

by Taylor Bair

I snapped. Guys with armored vests kept blowing holes in me with shotguns; snipers with floating red dot sights scattered my precious cranium meat on the stones; that Aztecan death music looped endlessly in my addled brain, and I just snapped. I opened the Uncharted 3 menu, scrolled down to difficulty selection, and did the unthinkable.

I took a deep breath and clicked “Very Easy.”

It troubled me then and it troubles me now, but for very different reasons.

You see, this isn’t just a question of video game difficulty levels – if they’re superfluous or essential. It’s a question of motivation – both from a developer and gamer standpoint. It’s about what motivates us to play games, and ultimately, it’s about what motivates us psychologically – in relationships, in decision making, in life.

Uncharted

The traditional model of difficulty selection communicates and triggers something in the mind of a gamer, and that has harmful effects not just for the player, but for game design. So in looking through this issue for a development of my own, I stumbled upon some far reaching implications for game designers and gamers that could change the way we not only create games, but enjoy them.

It all comes back to motivation – our desires for the future, beliefs about ourselves, and the very meaning of improvement. So we turn first to the traditional system of difficulty selection and what it says about us.

The Road Most Traveled

Game developers are plagued with a host of fears. Most hide below the surface, bubbling up at night while we lie in bed after a particularly long, stressful day. Because our lives are variable, we want guarantees. And the greatest guarantee we can get? That our game can be all things to all people.

But we can’t all be GTA V, so devs must get a little creative. We understand that some gamers want a solid story, some want a bone-crushing challenge, and some just want whatever we’re giving them.

Hence difficulty selection was born. A series of modifiers, relatively easy to implement, that can be changed at the push of a button. Everyone wins.

Or maybe we all lose.

The reason why lies in understanding player motivation.

The Heart of Player Motivation

What is a man? Well, if you’re Dracula, we’re miserable little piles of secrets. But I’m not Dracula (so put away the stakes); I’m just a miserable little pile of desires.

That’s why when I approach a video game, I want something. Enjoyment? Sure. Entertainment? Almost certainly. A time sink? Likely.

But we’d be mistaken to think that’s all we want. We want riches, titillation, companionship, jokes, explosions, tears, escapism, and a miserable pile of other things.

And at the heart of these desires lies motivation – the impulse that keeps us chugging along. It feeds us a constant supply of desires and desire fulfillments when done correctly, and we stop playing when done poorly.

The key to all this is simple: we’re motivated in different ways, and those motivators affect our response to challenges. Psychologists have subdivided motivations into core categories (see here and here for more on that if interested), and two categories are of particular interest to us:

“Nature-of-Self” Motivators

This motivation stems from our perception of self, and you can see it at work when the player justifies decisions with phrases like, “Well, I only really care about the story” or “I don’t have time to screw with these stupid shotgunners rushing at me” or “You know, I’d like this game way better if I had more patience.” And it usually leads to a person turning the difficulty level down.

The person who turns the difficulty up? Similar concept. They say, “I like a good challenge” or, “I’m a rabid completionist” or, “That platinum trophy is calling my name.”

The common thread in all these statements: they are about us, not the game. The player is central. We have to know ourselves or form opinions about ourselves to make them.

You often find this motivator in any game with difficulty level selection, and that’s because this type of motivator is actually encouraged by including a difficulty level selection. We as the player, and not the developer, are now responsible for deciding how we fit into the game’s challenge, which turns us internally.

This self-evaluation takes place before we even begin a game. We’re asked to decide – am I hardcore enough? Am I casual? What niche do I occupy in this space? – and that question constantly recurs as we struggle through the game. The choice is always present, and so is the self-reflection.

“Improvement” Motivators

Operating on the opposite end of the spectrum, improvement motivators are progress and skill based.

Players experiencing this sort of motivator will make comments like, “I’ve got to figure out this attack pattern,” or “With a bit more money I can get better armor for that boss,” or “So this time I snuck around him and put a sword in his gut and took him out.”

You often see this motivator in skill and memory based games (and so much of skill is just muscle and pattern memory) or games with RPG elements. Especially now, the two are bleeding into each other. These motivation tools target complex parts of our psyches, including how we weigh risks and uncertainties, work through puzzles, and how we measure short-term gains in the interest of long-term goals.

Long story short, improvement motivators make us think more, and in complex ways. Just as a sword fighter has to gain years of experience to be truly proficient, improvement motivators target repetition, skill, and stat improvement to give us the video game equivalent of experience.

And there are inherent advantages of this kind of motivator over the nature-of-self variety, which we will consider by looking at a few games that utilize them.

Shining Examples of Challenge

You may have heard people say a certain game isn’t difficult, but challenging. While largely a matter of semantics, it reveals something inherent about which motivators a game targets.

Nature-of-self motivators (and having selectable difficulty levels by extension) tend to make players reactive and games more static experiences. Instead of rising to meet a challenge, players will have the nagging feeling that they could, if worse comes to it, just bump the difficulty level down. This may self-validate the player’s current view of themselves and their desires, but it doesn’t challenge them in a way that will actually lead to self-improvement.

Here are some games that do, however, and the means by which they manage it.

Bloodborne (Souls Series)

Ever wonder why From Software’s games are so popular? People say the Souls series and Bloodborne are incredibly difficult but fair, and that’s largely because it uses improvement motivators.

A common scenario in Bloodborne runs like this: you die and lose all your progress. It’s sorta terrible, really. But hey, you think, at least I opened a shortcut and learned if I shoot this enemy in the gut, it’s a one-hit kill.

So you run back through, hopefully using that wisdom and that shortcut to further your progress. But if that fails, you can always gain an advantage by improving stats or buying better equipment.

These are both improvement motivators at work. They don’t give you an option of selecting a difficulty level, but they do give you an option. And that’s key. The option here is more complex – multiple paths of improvement – and it depends on the developer creating systems that allow players to gain the advantage in creative ways.

That challenge is at the heart of From Software’s games, which means they create their games around that framework – planning and intense testing are required. But it also fosters a better player response – namely, deep satisfaction. It actually informs self-image rather than draws from it, which quite literally makes us better people.

Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes

So you’re not into RPGs and the stat-boosting craze of recent RPG-inspired games? No problem, because there are still skill-based experiences out there that allow us to approach things in multiple ways, the difficulty as variable as the approaches.

I dare someone to try MGS:GZ, say, “I’m terrible at stealth,” and quit. Why? Because it kind of expects that. I’m that guy, the one who plays previous MGS games and just wants to pull out a gun after 4 hours of crawling like an idiot on my belly and mow every person down in sight.

And MGS:GZ is totally cool with that. But more fascinating? It makes stealth so damn fun that you’ll probably prefer it. For the first time I gladly crawled on my belly, pumped round after round of knockout darts into hapless guards, and pulled out binoculars to mark everything that moved.

The reason is simple: it has such inventive rewards for every style of play. Stealth is rewarded with bonus weapons, ammo, and conversations. But run and gun is rewarded with sheer volume of hilarious. Rocket a guard in the face, close-quarters-combat a poor bloke into submission, or set intricate C4 charges in a line and lure everyone into your wall of flame. Either way, you’ll get unlockable bonus missions and backstory cassette tapes to fill out even more of the characters and setting.

And while MGS:GZ has selectable difficulty levels, it hardly needs them (and the hard mode is blocked anyway until you complete it on normal). That speaks to the strength of the game Kojima has crafted – pure challenge that requires players to improve, always rewarding that improvement in spectacular ways.

The End of Improvement

So the question then becomes, what does this mean for us?

First, what it does not mean: selectable difficulty levels are not bad. They have existed, arguably, since Tempest released in 1981, and they serve a necessary function. Namely, they give people an excuse to come back for more and developers one less thing to focus on. I understand that developers have limited resources, and sometimes tossing a selectable difficulty level into the mix is the clearest, quickest way of achieving a goal.

Life is full of long, arduous roads, and I wouldn’t hold it against someone for taking the path of least resistance (God knows I’ve done the same), but I do think we rob ourselves of something when we do.

Make no mistake, the path of improvement is tough. It requires developers plan challenges and multiple paths to success ahead of time, and constantly re-evaluate throughout development.

But the end of improvement is always better, because it strikes at the heart of overcoming adversity. It makes the game a stepping-stone to moments of euphoric air punches, of howls of victory, of deep, soul-satisfying joy.

Instead of just reflecting our preconceptions, it changes them, and that’s powerful. We as developers have a chance to make challenges that scale as players scale, pushing them to improve – yes, even those who play on easy.

Because if we don’t give them the choice of easy, medium, or hard, we give them a greater choice – the choice to rise to the occasion their own way.

And that’s what life is really about: making us better, one trial at a time.

篇目5,Easy Mode: When Easy is Okay

Paul Suddaby

Nintendo Hard Mode: It Was Acceptable in the Eighties

Every gamer and games journalist will invariably end up talking about difficulty when discussing a video game. This often takes the form of a comment saying it’s “too easy” or “too hard”, but it’s a topic that deserves to be looked at in much more depth, as the way it is handled can completely reshape a player’s experience with a game. In this article, I’ll look at the many ways low difficulty can affect a game experience.

Definition of Difficulty: The amount of player skill required to progress through a game experience. (From my previous article.)

The Accessibility Trap

As I stated in the previous article of this series, difficulty is (or at least should be) baked into the very core of any video game’s design. More specifically, we talked about high levels of difficulty, and the benefits great challenge can bring to an experience.

However, this doesn’t mean all games need to be difficult. In fact, there has been a growing trend in game design over the last few years for easier and easier video games, mostly in order to appeal to a more casual audience who developers seem to think aren’t capable of enjoying more difficult games.

I don’t know about you, but this is how I game.This situation has brought up an interesting debate: is an easier, more accessible game capable of reaching a wide audience of players better than a more complex, difficult and nuanced game that fewer will be able to understand and appreciate? I personally believe that both types of experiences have their place in the gaming landscape. Problems arise, however, when developers try to make their game into something it isn’t, trying to increase its accessibility when that is not appropriate in the context of the game’s design.

Perhaps no modern game series is more guilty of this sin than the Assassin’s Creed franchise. These are very complex games, with rich worlds to explore, nuanced storylines spanning multiple instalments and a plethora of different game mechanics to grasp and understand. These are the types of games casual players don’t play; these games are designed for the hardcore.

Unfortunately, every single Assassin’s Creed game suffers from the same fatal flaw which threatens to break the very core of its functioning: the games are just too easy.

Assassin’s Ease

The Assassin’s Creed games hinge on three basic gameplay pillars: combat, free running and stealth (although the latter has taken more and more of a back seat to the others as the series has progressed). Other than a few key distractions present in the more recent games, such as naval combat or tower defence, everything you do in Assassin’s Creed can be boiled down to one of these three pillars, or a combination thereof, though there is a noticeable emphasis on combat.

There have been many criticisms thrown at these pillars of the franchise over the years, with the stealth often being called frustrating and the free running cited as being overly automated. However, for the sake of this article we will look at the most prominent of the three: combat.

Combat in Assassin’s Creed is an exhilarating affair, filled with brutal executions and flashy combos, but it’s entirely too easy. It’s almost impossible to fail during a combat encounter in any Assassin’s Creed game, no matter how many enemies you are fighting.

There are a multitude of reasons for this, but it mostly comes down to the fact that you are simply overpowered, sporting the ability to instantly kill most enemies and take a ridiculous amount of hits before you are downed. Since the vast majority of stealth and free running sections can be completely avoided by turning around and fighting your pursuers, the ease of combat often serves to trivialize the experience.

Five versus one? Come at me.In Assassin’s Creed 3, for example, it’s difficult for the player to feel like they are training to become a master assassin when their character has proven capable of winning fist fights against bears as a teenager. Other scenarios simply feel like a waste of time, such as waiting for a snowstorm to use as cover to infiltrate a British outpost when your character can easily defeat the entirety of the red coat forces armed with nothing but a rabbit snare.

Bolero of Boredom

Another great example of a game getting caught in the accessibility trap is the newest Legend of Zelda game, Skyward Sword. The game is filled with many devilish puzzles that would be tons of fun to solve – if only you were given the chance to.

Unfortunately, you are burdened with an overly helpful companion who feels the need to give you the solution to puzzles proactively, often telling you how to unlock that pesky door at the end of the room before you even had the time to notice it was locked. You do not need to listen to her advice, but she will keep reminding you that she has something to say until you do.

This type of helpful partner has been a staple of the Zelda series since its 3D début, but never have the companions been as overbearing as the one in Skyward Sword.

Now before anybody runs around calling me names because I’m ragging on some very well received games, let me say that Skyward Sword and the Assassin’s Creed games are all quality products. All I’m saying is that their level of difficulty, or lack thereof, is not appropriate in the context of the mechanics or the mythos, and the experience is definitely hurt because of it.

Being a badass assassin is still empowering, and Skyward Sword’s dungeons are still as elegantly crafted as one would expect given the series’ history, but they aren’t without flaw, and difficulty is one of them.

Wow, aren’t you a smart cookie.

So Easy Games Are Bad?

What we’ve just looked at are games that are too easy, or rather games who were hurt by their overall lack of difficulty. This however does not mean that there is no place for less challenging games, and it also doesn’t mean that any serious “hardcore” game experience needs to be difficult. What it all boils down to is something that risks becoming a theme in this series: keep difficulty in mind when designing the core systems behind your game.

Essentially I’m saying to not make hard games easy or easy games hard. The games we looked at stumbled because their mechanics and themes did not mesh well with their lack of difficulty. They were simplifying the “play” part of gameplay, diluting the interactive element to the point where the rest of the experience no longer fit.

Who Does It Right?

Let’s now look at a game that takes advantage of all the benefits of being easy, namely providing an experience without frustration, without interruption of narrative or thematic flow because of difficult sections and with extreme accessibility to a less skilled or determined audience. This game is thatgamecompany‘s Journey.

Journey, for those of you who don’t know, is a about beauty and personal interaction between two strangers. The game is short, lasting only a couple of hours, and basically consists of walking towards and then scaling a mountain. You can fly a little bit depending on how many collectibles you find along the way, but these are entirely optional.

There are also no time limits, it’s impossible to die and there is only one instance where it’s possible to harm yourself in any way, though the repercussions can only really be considered sentimental as they have no impact whatsoever on progress. The game goes beyond even being easy: it practically plays itself.

LamouraGames’ video walkthrough of Journey. Contains spoilers (as far as such a game can have spoilers).While I don’t think the aspect of human interaction and difficulty can’t really be properly delivered through watching somebody else play the game, I do think videos express very well the beauty and serenity on display here.Unlike what you would expect, though, it’s not boring at all, because everything in the game is so breathtaking. The graphics are unbelievably beautiful (just look at the screenshot below) and the musical score will sweep you away into another world. But none of this is really the point of the game; what really hooks you is the other players.

As you traverse the world you will encounter other players, you will not know their online IDs, and you will have no means of communicating with them other than a few small chirps your character can make. Yet somehow, because of the way everything in the game is designed to support cooperation, you will travel together and you will become attached to this person you know absolutely nothing about, and it’s beautiful.

This. This is beautiful.But I’m not here to review Journey and all of this does have a direct link to difficulty. Basically, Journey wouldn’t work if it wasn’t stupidly easy. The game focuses on human interaction and on taking in beautiful vistas and sounds, and none of these things would be improved by a more difficult gameplay experience.

In fact, if the game were more challenging, players wouldn’t necessarily be interacting with each other on the basis of what they wanted to do, but rather on the basis of what they were capable of doing as gamers. If Journey was filled with complicated puzzles, someone who might want to help their partner come up with a solution might not be able to and the interaction between the players would then be governed mostly by the game’s systems rather than by the players themselves. By keeping things simple, Journey manages to avoid this pitfall, letting players interact with each other on their own terms. The difficulty in Journey is trivial, but it only exists in service of the core design tenants behind the game.

The lesson here is exactly the same as it was in the last article: keep difficulty in mind when designing the core systems behind your game. Do not wonder if your game is too difficult to be accessible. If you want a game that anybody can play, regardless of video game experience, then design an experience that suits that goal; do not try and shoehorn in accessibility when it doesn’t fit with the core design of your title.

However, do not think that difficulty and accessibility are one side of the same coin, though they do often intersect. Remember, even the most complex and engrossing games can be very easy and the most simple of games can be incredibly challenging. What’s important is that your game’s difficulty level makes sense within the context of the overall experience.

篇目6,Four Tricks to Improve Game Balance

by David Maletz

Balancing a game’s difficulty can be tough. Different players will enter the game at different skill levels depending on whether they’ve played similar games or not. Their learning curves during the game will be varied as well, making it tricky to decide how difficult to make the game without making the game too difficult (frustrating), or too easy (boring).

Above is an approximate graph of balance zones based on the player’s skill and the game’s difficulty. As player skill increases, the difficulty must also increase to keep a balance. The balance zones are as follows:

•Frustrating – Too difficult to be fun.

•Hardcore Fun – Really tough, but some people like that.

•Challenging Fun – For people who like to overcome challenges.

•Balanced Fun – The goldilocks zone (not too tough, not too easy).

•Casual Fun – Nice and easy, never a challenge, but not mindless either.

•Mindless Fun – They just want to play, they don’t want to think.

•Boring – I could play this in my sleep… in fact, I’d rather sleep.

While it requires testing, balance and player feedback to really balance a game, this article will cover four tips and tricks for designing game difficulty, which I’ve learned through my game development experiences.

1. Know your audience.

Knowing your audience is important in almost every aspect of game development, and is also important for game balance. Who do you expect to play your game? What games will they have played before yours (and how similar are those games to yours)? Knowing the answer to these two questions will help you guess what skill level the players will start with, and which balance zone they prefer. A casual game should assume that the average player has a low skill level, and doesn’t want to be particularly challenged. A niche game should assume that the average player enjoys that niche and has played many similar games before, and so has a high skill level and enjoys a challenge. Having a good read on your target audience gives you a starting point to balance the game, and will make your initial balancing more accurate.

The takeaway point here is that the better you understand your audience, the more you can cater the game to that audience – and that applies to a lot more than just the balance of the game.

2. Underestimate the player’s learning curve.

The player’s skill will increase throughout the course of the game, and so the difficulty of the game has to increase to compensate. However, overestimating the player’s learning curve is worse than underestimating it (and most developers tend to overestimate their players – not everyone is as good as you!). If you overestimate the player’s learning curve, players who learn quickly may get a good balance, but the rest of the players will not be able to keep up with the curve and the game will continue to get harder and harder until they can’t continue. Whereas if you underestimate the player’s learning curve, players who learn quickly will still enjoy the game even if it’s not as challenging for them (they will simply feel that they are awesome), while the rest of the players will still be able to keep up with the game difficulty.

You’ve probably played a game you liked a lot in the beginning, but then it became so difficult that by the end it was no longer fun to play. The final boss was impossibly frustrating, and you probably resorted to walkthroughs or outright gave up. This is a situation you want to avoid at all costs. A player is far less likely to quit because a game is too easy.

The takeaway point here is that it’s easier to lose players by making a game too hard than by making a game too easy. So, when in doubt, underestimate the player’s learning curve (actually, it’s good practice in general to underestimate your players).

3. Don’t reward skilled players by making the game easier!

There are a lot of games that reward their players for doing well by giving them more upgrades. But what this is basically doing is making the game easier for players who already found the game easy, while giving nothing to the players who are struggling. A lot of these games try to compensate for these upgrades by increasing the difficulty. While this may balance the game for skilled players, it makes the game even more difficult for the players who were struggling and didn’t even get the upgrades. This is a very fast way to lose players. Really, you should “reward” players who do well by making the game more difficult, and “punish” the players who do poorly by making the game easier, in essence dynamically changing the difficulty to suit the player. While this seems like an oxy-moron, there are ways to make higher difficulty feel like a reward, and lower difficulty feel like a punishment. For example, I’ve seen games that, if you do well enough, reward you by giving you access to a second ending. The gameplay to get the second ending is a lot more difficult than the first ending, but the reward is that you get the second, perhaps better, ending.

You can also hide the fact that the reward is making the game more difficult. For example, you could give the player upgrades if they do well, but increase the difficulty even more than the benefit of the upgrades (and don’t change the difficulty for those who didn’t get the upgrade). While this seems like cheating the player, most games that give upgrades increase the difficulty to compensate – this is the same idea, simply limiting the increased difficulty to the players who got the upgrades.

The takeaway point here is that while it’s important to give rewards to players, making the game easier to a player who is already doing well is not really a reward in the long run.

4. Allow players to change the game’s difficulty.

It’s impossible to balance a game perfectly for every potential player. So, giving the player a choice on how difficult they want the game can help widen the audience. Players who want casual fun can lower the difficulty, and players who want a challenging experience can raise the difficulty. If the player can adjust the difficulty in the middle of the game, then they can even compensate for their learning curve. Just be certain to never punish a player for lowering the difficulty. It is a choice they are making to improve their gameplay experience. They may already feel bad about having to lower the difficulty, you don’t need to rub it in their face with a punishment. If you do anything, reward players who increase the difficulty.

The takeaway point here is that players (sometimes) know themselves best, so letting them choose the difficulty can help balance the game to suit their personal needs.

Closing Thoughts

Testing and tweaking are still the most important methods of balancing a game. No matter how well you balance the game yourself, unless you are the sole audience of the game, you will need to know what it’s like for others. Getting friends to play and comment on what they found easy and difficult is a great first step. A beta test that gets comments from the actual target audience of the game is even better. But these four tricks can improve the balance early on, and in doing so help focus the design of the game.