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  • RedSwirl 3:09 am on August 16, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , The Man's Way   

    @shingro @bluesforbuddha Okay so you know those puzzles that sometimes show up in games where you switch stuff around and you have to think like 12 moves ahead? I hate those. Whenever I get to them I just mash buttons until they solve themselves. Catherine is that, but in the form of an entire game. It is the game that I would be forced to play in hell.

    Outside of that though, I probably will be starting more games on hard this gen. In general, today’s “Hard” is basically yesterday’s “Easy,” but it depends on how much I give a fuck. I cut right on through Dragon Age Origins on normal, but decided to finish off the last parts of Awakening on Easy because I realized that I just wanted to play through everyone’s story arcs. I could have beaten The Mother on normal, I just didn’t care.

    On the flipside, “Hard” – or whatever they call one difficulty up from “Normal” I think is going to be my chosen difficulty for Halo and Gears from here on out. I’ll probably even start Deus Ex: Human Revolution on hard. I might even do another run of Crysis 2 on the highest difficulty because the main enjoyment from that game comes out of out-maneuvering quicker and quicker enemies, and “Veteran” honestly didn’t feel too tough. The shooting isn’t my favorite part of Uncharted though so I’ll keep that on regular.

    Lastly, is it just me or has a disparity emerged between Japanese and Western games in terms of difficulty levels. It’s like most western games this generation went down a difficulty level but Japan didn’t get the memo.

  • mjpilon 10:45 pm on March 18, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: The Man's Way   

    Some thoughts that came about during this last episode – great work as well gentlemen @angryjedi @feenwager @beige :

    Regarding game difficulty, I always play on the normal difficulty and have never found a reason to deviate from that even on a second play-through. I think part of that comes from my gaming upbringing on Nintendo games where the notion of a difficulty setting didn’t come into play. The games were designed one way and that was the way you played them. There was no need to “adjust” the difficulty in order to accommodate people’s “skill” level. Back to my initial point though – In my mind, the “normal” setting implies the designers made the game to be played at this level and that the other settings are there for people who want a greater challenge or newbies who aren’t used to playing whatever game we are dealing with in this case. Stuff like “Halo should be played on Heroic” is B.S in my opinion. If you are saying that, then you are implying most people will never get to experience the game as you intended as you “gimped” certain things at lower settings and if that’s the case, did you design your game properly?

    This ties into another point: pacing. If you pace your game properly, then there is no need to “pull” things back in lower settings. If you set-up things in a way that teaches players what they need early enough and build on that properly (see: Half-way 2 and Zelda), then the player should be able to handle whatever “advanced A.I scripts” you build into the game. Pacing is huge part for me like others have mentioned below.

    I need a reason to push through on a game – I lack time to game like everyone else here and I will not subject myself to something that doesn’t keep my attention or that causes me to ram my head against a wall in frustration. The pacing in Mass Effect didn’t work for me at all – bye bye. The way Dead Rising makes things difficult through the ridiculous save system and other game-play strategies – see ya. I don’t have the patience anymore to fight through these things just to say I did.

    As for the pre-order business, total and utter bullshit in a highest order. The only time I ever did was for Red Dead Redemption and only because the pre-order special works in conjunction in bringing in used games (only costed me 5$ in the end). Otherwise, never have and never will. Sadly, I get the feeling that we are past the point of no-return for this. Like Jeff said, all we can do is stop participating – hopefully enough of us see the light to change things.

    Finally, I still can’t believe @Feenwager and his LBP2 experience. That alone will make me try the series again once I have some time… and some cash :p

    First wall of text in a while…. felt good as always 😀 Cheers!

  • cptcarnage 3:19 pm on March 18, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , , , The Man's Way   

    Excellent show guy’s.

    Pacing is critical for me, I find that if a game keeps leading me on for hours on end with little to no story I will put the game down and walk away (FFXII and FFXIII are in this category sadly). I just don’t have time to play a game for 4 hours straight to make any significant headway. A game that I have recently picked back up that has nailed pacing to a T is Enslaved. Action and platforming are split perfectly and I can pick the game up play 45 minutes and get a decent chunk of story from it before putting it back down again. Likeability of the characters doesn’t hurt either.

    On the difficulty front, I’ve always been a normal guy. I just never saw the point of needlessly making the game harder for a few achievements/rewards and as Jeff said, there’s no point when you can just YouTube the extra cut scenes/bonuses at a later date.

    When a game frustrates me I usually put it down and I rarely come back to it. Meat Boy is the exception to this as after the cool down I am usually able to complete the obstacle that flummoxed me for 40 minutes in less than 10 tries.

    As for the DLC shenanigans it pains me that I actually considered buying Dragon Age 2 JUST for the preorder bonus goodies even though I haven’t finished DA:O. I am a sucker for that sort of thing and if it enhances the base game I find it very tempting to grab it and play it later. Collectors editions also play into this, I like the nicknacks but the in-game content is usually pretty cool.

    LA Noire is probably the most disappointing culprit in this situation. In a game where story is everything they are cutting out parts piecemeal and giving them to different retailers?! I find that appalling. They are actually denying content from their customers because they didn’t preorder/buy the game at GameStop/Walmart. I don’t mind different costumes/guns/etc but this is too much.

    Don’t get me wrong I will be preordering it GameStop as I have a good report with the manager/employee’s there and they typically give me preorder bonus cards even if I don’t preorder a game. But the Walmart bonus sounds intriguing, a car theft ring or something to that effect.

    Bonuses should be bonuses and not critical to the game itself. Its sad to see things going that way.

    Though I do appreciate the preorder bonus for Portal 2, $5 off is not too shabby

  • Shingro 2:22 pm on March 18, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , , The Man's Way   

    I really don’t want to add more paragraphs to the original post so I’m going to drop a few more extrapolations of buy in here.

    So! Part 2, Notepad Edition!

    The more experienced a gamer you become, the harder it is to buy in deeply. You can’t fall in love for the first time more then once. Further, someone who has been burned often finds it harder to trust deeply and emotionally commit in the future? I dunno that’s a bit outside my experience

    If you do buy into a game you’re willing to forgive problems. How many times have you recommended a game and started it off with an apology for a certain game mechanic you know as an experienced gamer is terrible to most people. (Any of us who enjoy JRPGs know what I’m talking about, Pete I’m looking at you. =P) You bought in already to a separate element, so the other parts of the game don’t matter. People who buy into dating sims don’t care the game literally doesn’t exist, it’s pressing A and choosing branch points. The part they’re focused on is the emotional effects of the events.

    Beige and his wife are great examples of this too, they come to something like the Cursed Mountain or Pathalogic and their buy in is entirely on the deeper mental aspects. So they don’t care that the gameplay isn’t quite there or it’s a mid 60s Metacritic. They’re there for new experiences and thought provoking elements. Beige went from “uhg, lemme play Batman some more” to “Alright, lets do this, lets play Pathologic every night, I want to see what happens” what changed? Increased buy in, he took the time to become invested and Pathologic delivered an experience he can involve himself in. (Did anyone ever figure out what happened with The Devotress btw? I’m very curious about the revelations came from her gameplay.)

    Also, please correct me if I’m wrong Beige, I wouldn’t want to put words in your mouth =P

  • Shingro 1:43 pm on March 18, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , Fail states, , The Man's Way,   

    I always listen to the squadcasts at work, and I had a long period of time off so I’ll have much more to say tomarrow the day I go back to work. However, by seeing the discussion so far I have some bits to add before listening to the Full Deal.

    (Ah hell, looks like I blew it all early anyway, this comes from a lot of thoughts after Barkley, Criminal Girls, friends melting away from games and some Weekend Confirmed comments, synthesis isn’t fully complete, but here it goes, this is what I got =P I think there’s other interesting ideas here with buy in tying to deeply religous people, politically crazy people, fanboys and suchlike, but this is long enough as it is -_- I’ll do it later.)

    While I respect that people have far less time as they get older (feeling it myself these days.) and I can also understand why people whose job it is to complete games for a living would have a sharper concern with “did this game piss me off for hours.” I do think the “no fail states” camp isn’t really thinking things the whole way through. This became most obvious to me when the last boss of Criminal Girls beat the shit out of me 3 times in a row. I’ve been gaming all my life so normal difficulties almost never stymie me for long, so this was a surprise. First I was irritated, then pissed, but afterwards I found the fight far more interesting and fun as I tried to develop deeper strategies with attrition strategies and item uses and suchlike.

    I think it was John Davison on his most recent Weekend confirmed episode mentioned a little league game that was scored “Fun to fun” and the entire room to a man groaned. That is what a no fail state game is, if you cannot fail regardless of how poorly you do, there’s no incentive to push yourself to more. Yes, it can still be entertaining ‘going through the motions’ for some people. However the struggle is what creates the deeper more thrilling victories. The trouble is, when a game challenges you heavily, one of two things happen.

    1. You get irritated say “fuck it” and leave
    2. You buy into the game, you get more deeply involved and the emotional results become deeper.

    This is a trouble game developers mostly aren’t worried about, DLC notwithstanding there’s not many ways to capitalize on someone buying deeply into your game if it’s already in their hands. The best you can hope for is to create fans and buzz and the amount of that you get is affected by how well you manipulate the buy in. A good example is Demon Souls. The people who ‘bought in’ to the game when presented with it’s difficulty became it’s greatest evangelists, it’s all about emotional investment and return. Some people walked from Demon souls early, others stayed, invested, and they come out of it wild eyed and saying “My god, if you get into it it’s way better then you think! Really great!”

    This is also btw, why you have ‘otaku’ and ‘weeaboos’ and suchlike, because some people see a girl singing computer code to convert her emotion into energy to save someone she loves and they go “HA laughable” (Read: Fuck it) and they walk away. Some people however, buy in with empathy for whatever reason and gain an emotional payoff from the storyline. That’s all dating sims are really, they’re ‘buy in games” they depend on the type of person who can buy into something like that from the start, and every other part of the game is sacrificed in order to amplify and manipulate existing buy in with the characters, amplifying the emotional result. At the extreme end, this is why you get people making birthday cakes for digital girls, the emotional payoff from the invested buy in was the strongest thing they’ve felt, and they’re still held by the memory of that heavy payoff.

    If you want to bring it back to an old squad episode, this is why Persona works for people, because the characters are well realized enough and often remind them of people they know. It creates more buy in then normal. Remember @Beige ‘s comment about “It’s not hard to imagine a guy playing Junpei’s story missions whose father is an alcoholic and who has fallen in love seriously for the first time” That guy? he’s got 10x the buy in the people who have similar friends has, and it’s more powerful for him. This is where our fond childhood memories come from of things like GI JOE or Thundercats or Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher come from, things we wouldn’t give a second glance today, but spoke to us powerfully as children.

    Many people feel they’re becoming ‘less of a gamer’ as they get older, maybe… but I suspect a lot of it is buy in again. It’s far harder to buy in like you did as a kid where not only were you more prone to emotional investment in things an adult you would find ‘silly’ but you also lack much of the time investment you require to immerse yourself in the game and multiply the eventual emotional payoff. Thus, less payoffs further apart, less emotion, less fun.

    Really, this all works for movies and literature and is probably the most compelling argument for why games are undoubtedly ‘art’ because that’s all art really is a thing that causes you to “buy in” deeper then its surface elements. When some people ‘get’ a painting and it speaks to them they’re buying into that work, and just like games the same results hold true, some people buy in, and some people walk away.

  • zegolf 11:12 am on March 18, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , The Man's Way   

    I think I’m going to have to go back to the argument I seem to have for every contrivance brought forth by today’s video games: The Old Man Argument.

    I work 40+ hours a week, come home and have to take care of a dog, a wife (soon) and a house. Some days I have to work a second job. My video game playing time is growing ever shorter during the week, so the last thing I want is to have my ass kicked every which way but Tuesday by a game.

    Why do I like a game like Bulletstorm? Because I can sit down, play for an hour, make decent progression, and not feel as though I’ve accomplished a whole-lot-of-nothing. A game with a cranked up difficulty, where I can play for four hours, die, and have all of that progress wiped away in a matter of seconds, has very little place in my day-to-day play.

    Does that mean I have no appreciation for wickedly difficult games? No, but those games had better be worth the amped-up difficulty if they’re going to squeeze themselves into my near-absent free time.

    As for “Game Over” screens, I’m going to have to side with the camp that says there’s just no place for them anymore. If I’m playing a game that has a storyline, I don’t want to be told that the story has ended in a “Game Over.” Little Red Riding Hood didn’t end with “Game Over” just as our lives don’t end with “Game Over.” Legacies live on, stories are retold, and when a disruption occurs in a particular path, the path just diverts and finds a new way to continue. If I die in a game, figure out a way to explain my resurrection, or just consider me dead, but continue with the storyline. A perfect example of this? Infinity Blade. When you die, you die, but the story doesn’t end there. The next generation in your lineage continues on where you left off. I like that, because I get a sense of “don’t die” but I know that the consequences of death aren’t permanent from a gameplay stance.

    Also, I have Bulletstorm, and would love to play online sometime. Provided we play on easy, and I can’t die.

  • unmanneddrone 10:55 am on March 18, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , The Man's Way   

    Great podcast, @beige, @feenwager and @angryjedi! I don’t have much to add after consideration, as I look back on my gaming history and realise I didn’t particularly play too many platformers! Always found them a bit dull, maybe a byproduct of skill deficit? I dunno. I’ve never found too much enjoyment out of the genre, outside of a select few…Flashback, Bermuda Syndrome, Another World/Heart of the Alien…so it’s not quite your skill-based set.

    But when it comes to difficulty, again, it’s so genre-dependent that I don’t think there’s a blanket response – and thus was echoed in the podcast. For me, I’ll probably run through a level or something on normal to gauge the flow and resistance of a particular game (that is, if it’s a conventional “level”-based game), then restart if there’s a need for more challenge or lessening of such.

    Strategy games are a whole different bag with so many variables, and I’d be interested to hear what @bowlisimo has to say on difficulty within the genre, both turn-based and real-time.

    Anyway, again, great to have you guys on the airwaves again. If it wasn’t the end of the week and my brain didn’t look like some sort of cephalopod thrown down a bowling alley, I’d offer up more!

  • RedSwirl 1:38 am on March 18, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: The Man's Way   

    @angryjedi @feenwager Shit. I forgot th add the main point of that post.

    I was actually gonna mention Kirby’s Epic Yarn as one game that does a pretty nice job of avoiding the fail state altogether but still keeping the game challenging for people who want that challenge.

    If you get hit or fall off a cliff, you don’t die you just loose jems (or beads or whatever they’re called), decreasing the potential score tallied at the end of the stage. Anyone will be able to get through the levels, but it still takes gamey skill to clear each level and boss with a gold award.

    Lemme say it like this: there still needs to be some kind of incentive to play the game well.

    You still have to ask yourself how you would do most games today without game over screens in a way that doesn’t look ridiculous. With Dead Space or Amnesia (which still has a Game Over screen), maybe have not one “survivor”, but a whole group of them. Maybe they’re forced to send in one guy at a time through the scary place and each time he dies, they send someone else in, with save points being newly-activated transports. Maybe something favorable might be possible towards the end if too many people haven’t died.

    All that said, I still stand by my earlier point that it’s all about balancing. If you’re being forced to watch 30 game over screens in the span of five minutes, you’re playing a poorly-balance game, and in my opinion few games this generation are very well balanced. Resident Evil 4, again, is an intense game, but when you die you don’t feel like it was the game’s fault or the fault of there being a game over screen.

    Plus, are a lot of the replacement ideas really that much better? Assassin’s Creed has the “desynchronized” message that makes sense for the plot but feels just as frustrating as “game over”. If every time Ezio “died” he just ended up back at his base healed up, it still wouldn’t be any better. In fact GTA does this very thing and it pisses me off. Every time I die in that game I just reload the last save because it’s actually more convenient.

  • Pete Davison 12:46 am on March 18, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: The Man's Way   

    @feenwager That makes sense. Although bullet-hell shooters tend to have infinite continues, oddly enough, and reset your score upon continuing. The difficulty in those games is not in “beating the game”, but in surviving long enough to get a respectable score.

    That, and deciphering CAVE’s byzantine scoring systems.

  • feenwager 12:43 am on March 18, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: The Man's Way   

    How’s this for a rule?

    Any game where score is the goal is allowed to have a game over screen.

  • Pete Davison 12:27 am on March 18, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: The Man's Way   

    @RedSwirl: You can have a fail state without a Game Over screen, like we said on the ‘cast. Future narrative-based games should look into the possibility of branching storylines, where it’s possible to fail something and either carry on, or have something different happen. There should still be consequences, but those consequences shouldn’t be “you have to stop playing… or replay the bit you just did… AGAIN.” As we said, in something like L.A. Noire, this could be potentially very interesting indeed. Picture a detective spiralling out of control, each case going more disastrously wrong, and his descent into alcoholism, the loss of the ones he loves, and one final chance for redemption… Okay, it probably won’t happen. But it’d be pretty cool if that sort of thing were possible.

    That said, there’s still a place for Game Over screens in gamey-games. I’m playing Castlevania HD again at the minute. Death is failure in that — it’s a game of skill and understanding the underlying game systems. It is also failure in Geometry Wars and all manner of other games. But these aren’t narrative-based games, so while failure may be frustrating (particularly in the case of Castlevania, which is fond of kicking your ass with a boss fight some 20 minutes after you started the level, especially on the brutal Hard mode)

    Cage’s assertion that there should be no Game Over screens whatsoever is flawed because it doesn’t take into account the fact that people still like gamey-games. I’m all for new approaches to interactive drama/fiction, but that doesn’t have to be (and SHOULDN’T be) the only form of interactive entertainment there is.

  • feenwager 3:33 pm on March 17, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: The Man's Way   

    @bowlisimo Explain, citing examples.

  • bowlisimo 2:59 pm on March 17, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: The Man's Way   

    @squadcast I love you guys.

  • feenwager 3:29 am on March 17, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: The Man's Way   


    Piss people off?

    We live for that stuff, man.

    Welcome aboard!

  • jaylauretta 3:27 am on March 17, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: The Man's Way   

    I’m only gotten the chance to listen to about 15 minutes of the latest episode on my way home from work tonight, but I wanted to get my personal experience with game difficulty out in the open before it’s erased with thoughts of balance sheets and income statements tomorrow morning. I plan on finishing the episode tomorrow.

    Even though I don’t consider myself an “Achievement whore,” before these worthless badges of honor existed, I honestly couldn’t fathom playing a game on Hard difficulty or higher; I could never understand why someone would put themselves through that sort of pain. When the Xbox 360 and its Achievement system came around, however, I started to become more interested in giving the harder difficulties a shot simply because I’d have something to compete with my friends over via Xbox Live since there usually is an Achievement tied to completing the game on the hardest difficulty. The first game that I purposely played this way was Tomb Raider: Legend. I actually didn’t find the game on that setting to be all that difficult, so I thought I’d go for the full 1000G on Call of Duty 2 next. BIG MISTAKE. I played through the first few missions on Veteran difficulty, but became so frustrated and unhappy with the experience of dying over and over after a while that I put the game down and didn’t go back to complete it until two years later. And when I did, it was on a lower difficulty level.

    Call of Duty 2 single-handedly broke my will to play games on the hardest setting, though there are some exceptions. It reminded me why I never bothered to play them that way in the first place, and that’s because for the limited time that I have to play games, I want to (1) have fun, and (2) feel like I’m making progress towards completing the game’s story mode, if one exists. I rarely ever feel like I’m doing that when I select to play on the hardest mode. By now you’ve no doubt labeled me a wimp, but in an attempt to defend myself I have to say that I don’t dislike challenging games. If a game’s normal mode is built with challenging the player’s skills and wits in mind, then I generally enjoy those experiences. You will not catch me bumping the difficulty on those sort of games down to easy. Never have, never will. I found great satisfaction in completing a game like Devil May Cry back in the PS2 days, for example. The problem for me, quite simply, is when I am choosing to make the game more difficult for myself for no reason other than earning some extra Achievement points. I’ve reached the point where it’s simply not worth it to me to do that any longer. And since I don’t typically replay single-player games, the fact that there might be something I could unlock for my next play-through adds little incentive.

    I mentioned exceptions above, though. Funny enough, most of the exceptions I have were mentioned in the first few minutes of the podcast. I, too, play all the Ratchet & Clank games on the hardest difficulty because like Jeff, if I don’t, the game is way too easy. Even on the highest difficulty setting, R&C games are not that difficult, in my opinion. I’m not saying that’s good or bad; it’s simply just an observation. I also find this to be the case with the Uncharted games, which Pete mentioned. These I find to be more challenging than R&C on Hard, but I never reach the point of frustration when playing them. Next, I play Halo single-player on Heroic. My reason for this, though, is completely ridiculous. I had heard that Bungie said that Heroic was “the way the game was mean to be played.” Once I heard that, I’ve never been able to bring myself to lower the difficulty no matter how many times I catch a rocket to the face and see my lifeless body flail across the terrain. Lastly, I have no issue with playing co-op games on the toughest setting. Usually, though, that’s because in some way having another player there makes the difficulty more manageable and tolerable since you and friend both have to suffer through it.

    That’s all I have on the subject. This was my first post to the Squawkbox despite being an active listener to the podcast. Hopefully I didn’t piss off too many people with a short novel for a post.

  • Pete Davison 8:23 pm on March 16, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , , The Man's Way   

    SquadCast 3.1 The Man’s Way Listen now audio… 

    SquadCast 3.1: The Man’s Way

    Listen now!

    Direct link

    The Squad kicks off 2011 with an all new season of podcasts, starting with a discussion of game difficulty and pacing. Jeff reveals himself to be a mainstream gamer, Pete gets excited by bullet-hell Gothic lolitas and Mark finds that Nier drives you to socially-questionable levels of distraction.

    Music in this episode:
    Fly Above The Sky from Do-Don-Pachi Resurrection (CAVE; iOS)
    (Unknown Title) from Catherine (Atlus; PS3/360)
    Besieged Village from Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (Konami; PS3/360)

    Subscribe via RSS
    Subscribe via iTunes

    Got any thoughts on game difficulty and pacing? Post ’em here and tag ’em “The Man’s Way”.

    Enjoy the show! Apologies for the wonky schedule at the minute. Hopefully we’re back to normal now!

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