[Questions] Difficulty settings page 2

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Different people prefer different things. I have made no claim that people prefer one option over another. I claim that players are perfectly capable of choosing the difficulty of a game for themselves in order to maximize their enjoyment of it. It is a claim I have made before and that I will make again, especially now that I have another data point (EBF4) for the list.

And please read again those arguments against letting players choose their own difficulty. They are adversarial, that’s not something that came from me. So let’s assume I am wrong in my reading, let’s assume that they are not saying: “As a designer, I do not want players circumventing difficulties even if it means that the game will not be enjoyable for them”, but instead: “As a player, I do not want other players circumventing difficulties even if it means that the game will not be enjoyable for them”, is that really any better?

Multiplayer games have to be balanced for all players because imbalance ruins the fun for a significant fraction of the players, not for the sake of some sacrosanct ideal of difficulty. In single player games, the only party that could legitimately complain if the player is having it easy is the computer, and the computer doesn’t care. So what’s the crime, and where’s the victim? Will someone stand up and say: “I am bothered by the idea that someone, somewhere, is hacking their Diablo II saved game” so I can ask them exactly what is wrong with them?

I’m not riled up btw, I was under the impression you were, and frankly I couldn’t care less what the OP finally chooses for his difficulty mechanism, I only entered this thread to defend an option that was being, in my view, unfairly denigrated. I’ve said my piece, and from now on I’m letting others say theirs.

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1)I prefer C over all of other ones. Why? Because [A] and [B] usually make game easier/harder in a bad way. When someone includes difficulty levels in game, it usually only change enemy or player stats in one or another way. Less health for player, less time to do something, more stats for enemyes e.t.c. But C changes it all. With C you can have different playstyles – rushing through the game or exploring. C makes game suitable for both hardcore gamers and those who dont want to dig in. You also get much better rewarding feel when completing optional tasks.
2.1)Maybe a little, a very little. Because players might get dissapointed that some of their content is blocked and there is no way to change it.
2.2)Yes, but it increase leaderboard size dramatically.
2.3)Rewards shall be same, else it wont be the hard level, it will be hard battle on easy level.
3)Hard level may give some bonus to player, and switching to easier level could give a penalty of removing the bonus.
4.1)Again, i would enjoy the game with C only much more
4.3)It shall be separated from main content, somewhat like in Mardek, if talking about flash games. Repeating the same missions is boring.
5)Seems good if you wont tell player about it

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1. Which one of the above ([A], [B] or ©) is the best in your opinion? Why?

I don’t really have a preference because you can make a great game with any scheme, or combine them. I’m fine with B because I just stick to one mode anyway unless it’s increasing difficulty for more rewards.

2. Assuming I use [A]:

2.1. Should any part of content be locked out on easy mode? Or should those content be adjusted accordingly to be suitable for easy mode?
It depends on how long the game is. If it’s a long game, then don’t leave stuff out, but if it has a pretty high replay value and a quick play-through time, then having there be bonus events for higher difficulties can work. Generally this isn’t the case for rpgs, with the exception of NewGame+ scenarios, where it’s totally fine to have as many extra things as you want.

2.2. Should each difficulty setting have its own separate leaderboards?
Three thousand percent yes.

2.3. So, let’s say it’s some RPG game with level grinding. Harder difficulty settings makes it so that monsters are more powerful. Should rewards (EXP gain, item drop rate, etc.) be higher, lower or the same on harder difficulty levels?
For the A setup, they should not drop extra loot. The game isn’t much harder if you get better stuff because it balances out the difficulty change.

3. Assuming I use [B], should there be any penalties for switching to an easier difficulty level?
Almost never. The reason for B is to make it easier if you find that the game is just too hard, and any penalties would make that silly.

On B’s note, don’t use B and give more rewards at higher difficulties. It’s just a bad idea. And don’t have a leaderboard system with B.

4. Again, let’s say that the game is some kind of RPG that involves killing monsters, and when you kill monsters, you gain EXP, level up and become stronger.

4.1. Should I use [A] or [B] in that kind of game at all, or should I use only ©?
I would like to see A in conjunction with C. That is, set a difficulty at the start, and then also have optional harder battles.

Using B with C works as well, for people who want to experience the extra stuff but aren’t good enough to go at it. And then people who like A could just use the B setup as if it was A and not change anything.

4.2. Assuming I do use [A] or [B], which of the following should be done in easy mode to make it “easier”? (Pick one or multiple)
(1) Reduced grinding – monsters give extra EXP, more loot, etc.
Not usually, them being weaker already reduces grinding. You can make it work though.
(2) Reduced monster stats – monsters are weaker, and thus, easier to kill
Yes, this is the main thing people look for in reducing difficulty.
(3) Reduced penalties – lower death penalty, etc.
Can be promising if used well.
(4) More checkpoints, more navigable maps, more hiding places, etc.
Again, can work well if you use it cleverly.

I think for easy, normal, and hard, stick to mostly just monster strength. Then you have a very easy mode with other things made easier, like higher loot and less penalties and everything is just nice and easy. And also have a very hard mode/impossible mode, where you start making mobs stronger AND start affecting other parts of the game as well.
4.3. Assuming I use ©, should I make it so that you unlock harder versions of the same “missions” after clearing the original easy version (similar to some games like Gemcraft, Kingdom Rush, Cloudstone)? Or should hard content be completely different and separated from easy content?
With C by itself, unlocking harder difficulties is great. If you’re going to separate the easy and hard content, I wouldn’t go with C and instead pick A or B.

5. Is it a good idea for the game to auto–adjust difficulty (and reward) based on the player’s performance?
Yes, it’s a great idea, but probably not for the entire game. Having that system for repeatable parts and keeping it to small use when something isn’t repeatable would be pretty cool.

It’s just risky if you apply it to an entire game. Games can get really frustrating when they keep getting harder as you do better, but gaining access to a different story path or something for doing well is really cool.