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LONG BLOG

Cblogs of 01/17/16 + The Difficulty of Difficulty

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Today I had to restart playing Persona 4: Golden, after trying to play through it a second time for the past week. Still stuck on the first dungeon's first few levels, I felt like I was on the cusp of being able to power through but by doing so I'd end up sacrificing any gains in the social parts. So I had to restart to get any enjoyment, something that for some would have been a coup de grace for the game. 

This begun to make me think about difficulty in games, specifically difficulty selection, in the sense of how grossly flawed they are.

Persona 4: Golden uses the traditional form of difficulty. You pick Safety (i.e. Very Easy), Easy, Normal, Hard and Risky (i.e. Very Hard), once you've picked your poison you run headlong into the game with no opportunity to change afterwards. Already, this presents problems: “What is normal?”. The likely response you'd get is “well, it is the difficulty designed for most people”. 

However, Persona 4 offers a classic example of the problematic nature of that response. The original Persona 4's difficulty was seen as too difficult by the West (since it was designed, fairly, with the East in mind), where it was recommended for those not deeply familiar with JRPGs to stick to Easy. When Persona 4: Golden was released, in recognition of this, the Easy mode was moved to Normal and the old Normal became the new Hard.  It is possible for someone to make a mistake in this difficulty selection from such imprecise descriptions as Persona 4 has.

Sadly nothing like this, and more like the image you can find in the Failtoid section.

When the mistake occurs, up to two things occur. First is the potential shame or sigh of realisation you've messed up the difficulty. The player either feels inadequate and must lower the difficulty down to the negatively loaded term “Easy”; or alternatively feels the tedium of having to increase the difficulty. The second thing is you may be locked to that difficulty, and therefore have to go through hour after hour repeating content.

Frustratingly, for me, Persona 4: Golden ticked all the boxes. So I had to spend an hour or two repeating content a second time. 

I don't believe there is a graceful way to do difficulty options at the beginning of the game (either categorising or burdening the player to customise the different parts of difficulty). Despite this, I don't think there is much of a reason to not allow mid-game difficulty tweaks. 

Another part of difficulty that frustrates me is the often blunt nature of it. Too many times, difficulty boils down to just a tweak in amount of health an enemy/you have and how much damage an enemy/you do. Maybe even deciding to throw more or less enemies at you. While more difficult to design, especially as it would have to be a case-by-case basis, a difficulty structure created that rewards more tactical or stronger skill-based play at higher difficulties is more rewarding for the player. This is especially as lazy difficulty tweaks tend to only reward repetition. However, I believe this line of thought is best suited for another day when I can provide a more in-depth discussion on it complete with examples.

"I promise I'll do it later" is an excuse I use way too often for article/intro ideas; and yet I stopped doing the weekly analytical articles due to lack of ideas. 

And now, we go onwards with full force to the recaps. 

* - Despite not being a fan of the genre, it is interesting hearing Virtua Kazama talk about the various bans that have occurred in the field of fighting game competitions. Not only characters, but specific moves and even stages you can choose to play on.

* - Oh, the Final Fantasy series, what a love-hate relationship it inspires. Even though often the gameplay is a slog, the story a tacky generic mess and the amount of tedious content gives flashbacks of office work; it is still a fun series for many including me. UsurpMyProse keeps wanting to finish a Final Fantasy game, beyond glitching FF12 to victory, but just gives up every time. Honestly, for me, it took about a decade to finally complete a Final Fantasy game and FF9 was it mostly due to its fantastic characterisation. I hope UsurpMyProse manages to conquer a FF game, although I recommend FF9 with a Hot-N-Cold walkthrough opened up in front. It is worth it.

A – PappaBear talks about his experiences with Twitch streaming from a new-person perspective. For me it has really been useful reading it, as someone who is constantly hoping to leap into the world of video content but still not quite sure if I can make it or not.

S – Looks like the end is in sight for the Venture into the Borderlands series, my written Let's Play series of Borderlands 2, as I (Riobux) tuck into the Headhunter episodes before diving into Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep.

S – Like Comments of the Week but felt it had too much sexual innuendos and not enough dick jokes? Special guest Mike Martin joins Dreamweaver into piling as much jokes as they can into a tight space.

This week, I've been mostly listening to: It's All Coming Back To Me Now by Pandora's Box.


Yes, including the introduction with the bizarre story/poem.

C – Gamemaniac3434 has a backlog the size of The Great Library of Alexandria, but just keeps meaning to tend to it... One day...

T – Ein on Shrooms ponders upon Xenoblade Chronicles X, a game I've heard a lot of good things about, in how to turn an 8 out of 10 into a 10 out of 10.

T - “Now, what if... Trump decides to say mean things about games?” is a question Dalek Sex has thought upon. Perhaps it is due to not being American, but damn, Trump is just someone who I have to conjure energy up to give a care in the world. He's like the BNP hit American soil and got a budget... Now I think about it, sounds pretty electable to me.

C – Cynric Cyning reminisces about how 2015 went at Sonic speed for them, including getting to replay games featuring everyone's favourite blue hedgehog (second place being a cruel prank to the innocent wildlife). Although could have done with the paragraphs being broken up a bit more so.

? - TheKodu goes through his junk folder for a collection of random bits and bobs to share with Dtoid. So, that's nice.

- Riobux

LPotD.

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