Game Design: Reasonable Difficulty

Game Design: Reasonable Difficulty

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6 Reasonable Difficulty

The Mechdamon games are Challenging, Unfair, and Combat-Centric. However, unlike other games, they use reasonable sources of difficulties.

The unfairness is a facade, but the challenge is real.

6.1 Playable up to Old Age

The games are designed to be playable up to old age.

6.1.1 8 and 80 Skill Test

People from 8 to 80 years of age with varying motor skills should be able to play the core of the game with minimal effort.

6.2 Failure Accountability

The Mechdamon games are designed such that the player is always accountable when failing.

6.3 Triumph through Understanding

There is nothing in the game that cannot be overcome through understanding.

All Wallers in the game can be defeated by understanding the mechanics and not through motor skills.

6.3.1 Overcome by Trial and Error

The game uses Death as a tool for learning. With enough Trial and Error, all Challenges can be overcome.

6.4 Managed Difficulty Sources

The game is always mindful of where it gets its difficulty from.

6.4.1 No Reaction-based Difficulty

The first source of difficulty that must not be included in the game is that which relies too much on hand-eye coordination.

In general, combat follows this flow:

  1. The enemy performs an attack
  2. The player recognizes the attack
  3. The player thinks of a counter to the attack
  4. The player actually performs the counter to the attack
  5. The player performs an attack

The Mechdamon games are designed to have multiple kinds of attacks that can only be parried by specific counters. This alone represents a problem – it will be a source of difficulty for most people. This is not the kind of difficulty the game intends. Knowing should be enough to Triumph.

The transition from 2 to 4 is extremely fast, and the player would probably get hit by the attack instead of performing a counter. Exaggerated Attacks

The solution to the problem above is that whenever a reaction-based difficulty arises, solve it through exaggeration.

Not only does it solve the problem, but it also makes the combat much more engaging and looks epic.

To give the player enough time to 1) recognize the attack, 2) identify the correct counter to the attack, and 3) actually perform the counter to the attack, exaggerate the incoming attack such that the animation of the enemy makes it grand and epic, giving enough time and signals for the player to react.

Then during the player’s turn to counter, make it too forgiving such that even if it’s delayed, it still succeeds. The counter will not look delayed, though, because it is too epic and grand to look at.

Another reason why exaggeration is necessary is that for isometric games, it is harder to see the attack animation of the enemies than in third-person games.

In Mechdamon’s concept of difficulty, the execution takes lower precedence than understanding.

In most games, exaggeration is placed on the hero’s attacks, hence trivializing the enemies. In Mechdamon, the exaggeration is placed on the counters to enable players of varying motor skills to overcome the Challenges.

6.4.2 No Interface-based Difficulty

Another source of difficulty in most games is the amount of input that must be done to perform an action, either to evade, attack or counter.

The Mechdamon games are designed such that difficulty can never originate from button combinations or controller input. Those should be the least among the concerns of a player.

The guidelines for 8.5 (Zone-based Interface) and 8.6 (Zone-based Controls) provide more details on making these things invisible to the players, so they focus primarily on the game.

6.4.3 No Tedium-based Difficulty

In some games, they introduce difficulty by introducing tedium-based activities. In these games, difficulty means increasing monsters’ health, so it takes much longer to damage them.

The difficulty of the Mechdamon games will always be based on mechanics that promote engagement.

This is why most enemies in Mechdamon fight unfairly and cheat; you have to overcome them through the mechanics and not some tedium-based activities.

6.4.4 No Probabilistic Winning

Some games introduce difficulty by linking the fight’s outcome to some RNG mechanic outside the player’s control.

Mechdamon will not have any RNG mechanics in the combat nor on the rewards.

6.4.5 As Spicy as Possible

Once a combat mechanic has been proven to pass the 8 and 80 Skill Test, make the scenario as Challenging as possible.

We want the player to say, “this is difficult, but give me more of it.”