Difficulty Settings and Difficulty

Discussion in 'Mechanics' started by LaughingAlex, Aug 3, 2016.

  1. LaughingAlex

    LaughingAlex Ketchup Robot

    So when posting someone suggested to me to use weaker armor to make the game "harder". Now, I get the intention, you take more damage and deal less, but does this really increase difficulty? The answer: No. It makes fights last longer in some cases, and some enemies may be harder from them doing more damage, but the increased damage enemies do is what makes them harder, not the reduced damage. How should I explain?

    When a boss fight lasts a minute but has patterns and telegraphing, and the player is good enough to dodge the attacks every time, simply making the boss have twice the health bar will NOT increase his difficulty. It'll simply last longer. If the damage increase the boss gets is also not enough then all we end up with is a longer fight. It doesn't feel harder. A good example would be Nox in the hylotl mission. At the end, his pattern, except for his sphere attack, is extremely easy to completely evade. Wearing weaker armor down to tungsten doesn't make the fight harder. Wearing iron or going naked may still be doable if the player has powerful stim packs and a good enough shield still, but the reality is all that will change is making the fight longer. He's to predictable and easy to dodge. And his sphere attack is more or less stoppable with a good shield or two.

    So how to make a game more difficult properly without resorting to merely increasing damage/health?

    For inspiration, I will look at classic shooters and higher difficulties that handled things well, rather than the bethesda approach.

    First, the short for readers with a short attention span.

    Enemy positioning and numbers can increase difficulty. In fact merely moving an enemy from one location to another can in situations greatly increase difficulty. So can merely changing the type of enemy at a location.
    Increasing enemy damage does increase difficulty but increasing enemy durability does not.

    For boss fights, give them assistance from allies sometimes. No, I will never use the word "Adds"(that is such a stupid term), I will use the word allies, or reinforcements. Give those extra enemies good positions while also making it possible for the player to deal with them by careful positioning/dodging.

    For general gameplay, enemies should spawn in smarter and deadlier positions rather than just in the open on a higher setting. Let caves hide monsters in them to jump out at the player. Let pirates/bandits/cultists position just inside a cave instead sometimes and begin shooting at the player from some cover. Make them spawn more often and in larger numbers.

    Planets could be made to have more dangerous biomes earlier on higher difficulties in spots.

    Enemies could be locked to higher difficulties that'd otherwise be extremely dangerous to. Such as enemies with rocket launchers and grenade launchers could be on a hard difficulty setting.

    AI changes to make the AI position smarter can also be used. Such as a shield enemy, instead of charging the player, holds position and protects an assault gunner or sniper from return fire. One could even give shield enemies ranged one handed weapons and actually block while firing the weapon(the player can do it, why can't the badguys? If it's AI limitations I get that but, a higher difficulty could change those later?)

    Lastly, keep the rules consistent. Don't break them constantly like some bad games do.

    When all of this is done, a higher difficulty presents a more challenge gameplay in which learning and skill at the game matter. When a player gets beaten by some badguys, he has to be able to say "what if I try this instead?". Overall, when it came to the boss design they seemed decent in that way, a player can jump right back in to try something different. But a higher difficulty setting also has to be designed that way, while also giving a decent adrenaline experience. It has to keep the player on his feet more.

    And no, hardcore does NOT count as a difficulty setting, more as a gameplay mode.

    Edit: Another thing, though. Don't worry to much about certain playstyles becoming harder than others on higher difficulties TO much. A player having a choice between melee, ranged, magic ect are also not a bad way of allowing the player to choose his difficulty, as it's a different style of play. Heck done right all play styles would still remain viable while all presenting there own challenges.
    Jappards likes this.
  2. Masiakasaurus

    Masiakasaurus Scruffy Nerf-Herder

    I don't think you understood my suggestion about difficulty, which was in the context of your suggestion to add deadlier planet types that largely did more damage to players more often with no incentive to go there other than "well, it's hard." I was pointing out that you get the same effect by removing your armor on the existing worlds. I was not saying that is a universal fix for difficulty.

    In principle I agree with you here, but i don't personally think Starbound has tight enough controls/gameplay to make Hard Mode satisfying. Things like screen stutter or server lag, floaty imprecise movement, contact damage, and lack of i-frames combine to make combat a bit too random too rely on player skill that much.

    That said, hunger should be an option on every difficulty for those who want it, and Survival/Hardcore aren't harder so much as more annoying, so something needs to change. More/smarter enemies works better than dropping items on death.
  3. LaughingAlex

    LaughingAlex Ketchup Robot

    Properly difficult areas/settings as I said, require the player has to keep on his feet though.

    Thing is lets actually think on some settings about starbound.

    Firstly I think starbounds controls are reasonably tight enough, but then I am very coordinated in my movements, I've always been. I had to adjust to the different movement characteristics from having played terraria, but it wasn't a hard adjustment.

    Secondly, the game does have good telegraphing. The average monsters at least have a half second animation(sometimes full second) before launching something dangerous on the player. And monsters which are unique have counters that'd work on a higher difficulty.

    Thirdly the game DOES keep it's rules consistent 99% of the time. Which says alot.

    Lastly bosses have short iteration times. If you die you can jump right back in, sometimes even into the middle point of a boss. Your not forced into a mandatory wait time like terraria or replaying a large amount of content before making an attempt again.

    The only "long" iteration time being on challenge rooms which are really just bonus rooms for bonus items.

    I didn't think the movement was floaty either, in fact I have an easy time dodging enemies in the game(I only died on one boss in fact).

    It also really, really is not the same effect as a real difficulty to just remove armor, thats no different then bethesda's notoriously lazy approach to difficulty settings of merely lowering player damage and upping npc vs player damage while doing nothing else. The only results you see in bethesda games is players treating difficulty settings as a "ok am I high enough to raise the difficulty now? No? Have to keep it lower since every npc gets to cheat and insta-kill me with a fatality while taking twice as many hits from me" or "ok I'm on very hard so I need to start with 7 endurance and level it up to 10 sooner". It just makes the game feel slower paced :/. Which is sadly what using lower tier armors on high tier worlds would achieve.

    I think starbound CAN afford some proper difficult settings. Note I said that it can afford to have em. Of course I'd make sure they are labeled properly and not given difficulty specific rewards as otherwise newbies would buy the game then feel like they have no choice but to play the higher setting not meant for them. And honestly I still believe this but a person who has to have a reward for playing a higher setting really likely isn't the kind of person to really enjoy a higher difficulty setting. A high difficulty setting has to be fun to play for the player. Difficulty still has to be fun, something I notice MANY people forget.

    High difficulty does not nore should mean misery with bigger rewards.

    Edit: I also don't know how you can feel the combat is "random", as I really do not see how you can feel it's "random". Lag is one thing if it happens but when one isn't experiencing it or any bug? I don't know it feels pretty consistent to me. I almost never die unless I really blunder or do something really stupid.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2016
  4. Masiakasaurus

    Masiakasaurus Scruffy Nerf-Herder

    I hardly ever die either, now that I have top tier gear and tons of ways to heal/mitigate damage. Early game is a slog though, filled with random death from anything that looks at you funny. Gleaps can kill a new player surprisingly quickly and they spawn in groups.

    As for floaty controls, I mean the character feels...slick. They tend to slide around easily and it's hard to position yourself pixel perfect, as opposed to, say, Mega Man. That coupled with the attack lag that pretty much everyone gets at random - enemies just freeze for a second - makes it kind of janky.

    I don't really think we're disagreeing here, though.
  5. LaughingAlex

    LaughingAlex Ketchup Robot

    Uh what? Early game a slog? On my first character yes I had a hard time, I was learning my controls. The enemies "freezing" for a second is a telegraph, unless you got a slow computer and they do that constantly, but anytime they are about to attack me in close range they stop for a second, thats a telegraph.

    You can also duel yield two weapons like machine pistols or grenade launchers. Or use throwing spears super early on then transition into energy weapons/melee later. Only died twice at the pre-titanium stage. Once when I was learning the game, another in the erchius facility from reckless charging. Then I think once a bit later from an epic blunder. Anytime I die it's because I messed up.
  6. bk3k

    bk3k Oxygen Tank

    I'd say we need a "normal" setting too. Hunger. No item drops.

    The temperature mechanics should return for "normal" and up too. That worked really well in the Koala days and I was sad it got removed.
    Jappards and Habasi like this.
  7. Habasi

    Habasi Void-Bound Voyager

    Oh so much this. Any loss of items is a had hit esp in early game, if you dug down too deep and just fall there to death - it's a disaster. I had to switch to casual but this made any gardening activity nearly useless. No drops + hunger would be perfect combo.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2016
  8. bk3k

    bk3k Oxygen Tank

    That's what it was in Enraged Koala. You where hungry so you needed to hunt. You where cold especially at night so you needed things like cooking fires/torches/etc to keep you warm(unless you had sufficiently warm gear). That means you probably aren't hunting at night for long. You could start on a planet that wasn't so friendly to a new player in many ways(my first planet featured acid rain and meteor showers). You didn't drop items upon death (which thanks to the above factors was more likely to occur) but you did loose 30% of your pixels. So still a sharp penalty which is actually sharper once you get going(start collecting up enough pixels).

    But then in the last Koala build the devs got it in their heads that items drops made the game "harder." Well it is a major setback for the very early game, and VERY ANNOYING the rest of the game. Seeing as how one doesn't need the dropped blocks to survive, that isn't a difficulty enhancement. If you where dropping FOOD, then that would be a difficulty enhancement but easily worked around with containers.

    They have a mod that accomplishes the hunger + no drops. But I don't feel that's something you should have to mod in when the devs could EASILY include a "normal" option that accomplishes this. There is a mod that sort of brings back the temperature mechanic, but without hud access to tell you you're loosing heat etc. I don't know that it is 1.0 ready.

    They threw away the awesome temperature mechanic in favor of "status" high temp and low temp added to planets. It is by far inferior to what they once had. The game in Koala days was far less fleshed out and they do have a better game now all told, but the survival felt MUCH better in those days because their temperature system really added to it.

    I'd say something else they should do is remove pixels from pods(in favor of random supplies) and from monster drop pools(in favor of higher drop rates of items). Make us earn our pixels by finding/looting/making/selling stuff and tenants. Again there is a mod that does this. Plus we need a good pixel sink - such as crew members periodically reduce your pixels and quit working until they get paid. That way pixels mean something after early game.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2016
  9. KingTomato

    KingTomato Jackpot!

    the thing is. dreadwing is darn near impossible if you decide to drop by 2 armor levels. thats like atleast iron level.
  10. GammaNu

    GammaNu Scruffy Nerf-Herder

    Here is the best kind of difficulty chooser i ever seen :
    Some pre-set, and all the custom experience you may want, with a nice user interface.
  11. sheep-wolf

    sheep-wolf Void-Bound Voyager

    That looks awesome, what's it from?
  12. bubbascal

    bubbascal Space Hobo

    This game may be going for a more "dodge the attacks" than "run through the attacks".

    Even so, you technically have your invulnerability frames with the Blink Dash...

Share This Page