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Ditch the curve!
March 28th 2002, 18:00 CET by Martin Davies

Just who makes use of the learning curve in most FPS? Surely, nobody actually improves that much over the course of a few hours play to justify the massive vacillations in difficulty as seen in many of today's shooters?

The first few levels of Medal of Honour: Allied Assault, for example, were so pitifully easy that I barely had time to look around me before I had finished them. That was on medium difficulty. I ain't braggin none neither - the game does get much more difficult (some later levels being unenjoyably hard to complete) but why make these early levels such a cinch?

If players find the first few levels a challenge whatsoever then they won't stand a chance with the rest of the game. If they find it easy... then... why bother?

So, just what are the criteria for deciding how difficult to make a game, whether this changes and by what amount?

Also, where have you seen this succeed and fail in recent times?

For example, Black and White, for all its wrongs, certainly did lead you in at a good pace, but I was impressed not a lot by MOH:AA's switch from piece-of-piss to tiresome tapping of the quickload button during the Omaha beach mission.

Are games that provide consistency in difficulty, by doling out better kit or abilities whenever they crank up the adversity, preferable?

As an extra challenge try and discuss this without devolving into the quicksave debate. k?
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Home » Topic: Ditch the curve!

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#1 by LPMiller
2002-03-28 18:03:11
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
MOHAA really pissed me off.

The Suns rays are made up of many atoms.
#2 by jafd
2002-03-28 18:04:31
See, Martin? It ain't so tough. ;)

Anyway, my position ought to be well-known, but I'll state it anyway: the hardest difficulty level in a Single Player game should totally, utterly, kick your ass, six ways from Sunday. But it should also be set up such that dedicated practice can enable the player to improve themselves enough to do well.

"Would a bad person encase themselves in puppies like this?"
#3 by jafd
2002-03-28 18:08:52
BTW, big thanks to everyone who did what I told them, and clicked "No." One would hope that those of you to whom the situation applied, did the same on your subscriptions...

"Would a bad person encase themselves in puppies like this?"
#4 by Marsh Davies
2002-03-28 18:35:10
www.verbalchilli.com
How the hell did this get on so quickly? I just don't understand this voting system...

LPMiller:
MOHAA really pissed me off.

Well, I hope 2015 are paying attention, because your cutting, in-depth, point-by-point analysis opens up a lot of questions that need to be answered, imo.

And jafd... hard? To get posted?... I'm not the same Martin as "shaven-balls" Martin you know. :)

-- ex Spatula Man --
#5 by Marsh Davies
2002-03-28 18:36:44
www.verbalchilli.com
Also Jafd: How about the learning curve though? Do you actually think it's useful?

-- ex Spatula Man --
#6 by Max
2002-03-28 18:42:15
http://massivebraincase.org/
I just installed MOHAA last night for the first time, so I'm right in the midst of this. It seems to me so far that there's not really a "curve" at all with this game. The first few levels are obviously designed to give you a taste of all the things you can do in the game - blow up barrels, fire the jeep-mounted MG, grenades, get a feel for how the weapons affect the bad guys. Then, suddenly, you're up to your ears in Nazis and quickly learn where the quickload key is.

Fun game, though.

-max
#7 by jafd
2002-03-28 18:53:05
Martin(1), Martin(2)... my comment applies to you both, but means something different to each of you. I like that kind of efficiency, truly.

As for the learning curve... I do think it is useful. If it is a game that I really enjoy, I'll start playing it on Easy, and replay it on successively higher skill levels, until, if it is a really engaging game, I'll finally beat it on the hardest level.

Naturally, that isn't so much fun, when the only differences between skill settings is better AI aiming, their weapons do more damage, yours do less, et cetera... still, if the game is good enough, the 'harder' the game is, the more satisfying it is to suceed.

For me, anyway; I realize that I'm in the minority here. Most people don't want to challenge and improve themselves, they just want to tune out the miserable details of their humdrum lives for a few hours.

Ideally, not only should the learning curve apply to making the player learn how to play that particular game better, but it should make them a better player of games, in general. Hopefully, in a subtle fashion; since many people are freaktards who would automatically "not be having fun" if they thought they were being schooled against their will. Or something.

Really, though, I don't have much personal experience with such wastes of human flesh, so I suppose my opinion of them is ridiculously exaggerated.

"Would a bad person encase themselves in puppies like this?"
#8 by ben
2002-03-28 19:01:12
www.bjstaab.com
Maybe I'm a little below average, but I appreciate the time to get used to the controlls.  Like how the mouse "feels".  I stick to a pretty standard WASD for movement and the same keys for duck/jump/reloading (Q,E,R respectively) in all my games.  However, it usually takes me some time to master the keys specific to the game,  if they have lean or whatever else buttons.  I like having maybe the first 20 minutes or so to get totally at home with the controls before the difficulty gets too insane.

OtOH, I suppose I could just play until comfortable on easy, then restart and ramp up the difficulty myself, but that doesn't seem like a whole lot of fun.

I can't speak specifically to MOH:AA, because I've only played the demo.  (I don't like paying more that $30 for games, and I'm _very_ patient.)  However, I can say that as far as game beginnings go, I really liked Homeworld.  Maybe all RTS's are like that, Homeworld is the only one I've played, but I really like how the opening movie dropped right into the game and the feeling that this whole ship and adventure is new, and I have to test the ship, and the subsystems, and oh yea, my controls, before heading out to the great unknown.  And that sentence was entirely too long.

ben
#9 by AnalFissure
2002-03-28 19:11:23
Speaking of curves:

Jedi Knight II starts off sickeningly average; almost sub-standard. As soon as you get your lightsaber, though... Man, the fun just increases exponentially from that point on, until the finale.

What Raven did with the lightsabers and force powers is awesome.

Oh yeah, and the Jedi Master multiplayer mode is bWAm DiGgiTy, yO!
#10 by Gunp01nt
2002-03-28 19:11:59
supersimon33@hotmail.com
with games looking like each other more and more, there isn't much of a learning curve anymore, IMHO.

I got used to MOH pretty quick because the movement is exactly the same as in every other FPS (except a little slower) and the weapons are nothing I've never seen before (and it doesn't take THAT long to get used to smaller clip sizes and longer reload times).

SimCity 2000 had a very high learning curve (especially without the manual) because I was used to platform games and arcade stuff back then and a management sim was something totally new.

Star Wars Rebellion also had a high learning curve because the control philosphy was just totally different from any other game I've ever seen before.

Apart from those two examples there are rarely games with a high learning curve anymore.



offtopic: why do so many people bitch about Omaha Beach in MOH being so difficult? getting to the shingle is easy as soon as you find out those MG42 bursts that 'crawl' towards you on the ground are always the same, so you can predict them when running from cover to cover (never run too long distances though, always go for the closest cover in front of you).

Running from the bunker to the trench isn't that hard either: run from the bunker to the crater on the right, grab sniper rifle and continue running to the crater at the foot of the hillside. duck so the mg42's cant hit you. Then, shoot the right machinegunner with the sniper rifle (either stand up or move backwards a little to see him) and turn to the trench. make a run for the crater on the right, from there move to the left and go behind the barb wire and into the trench.

easy.

"I'm not sleeping with a junior high-schooler, I have a life sized doll that looks just like one."
#11 by Max
2002-03-28 19:22:51
http://massivebraincase.org/
#9 - AnalFissure

(I hate typing that name)

Finally, a good impression of JK2 - everybody else I've heard talking about it has been effusively detracting. I'll get it either way, but it's nice to be able to continue to look forward to it.

-max
#12 by MCorleone
2002-03-28 19:37:34
The only thing I ask in a game is for the first couple of levels be gentle and help you exercise what you'll need for the game, be it that gay crouch-jump thingie from HalfLife or simply firing your weapon and climbing, dodging, running.  I don't need a learning curve for a game if it's allowed me to familiarize myself with the controls.  

Fight one guy, fight five, no difference as long as you have mastered the whole "aim and shoot" procedure.

Build a man a fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of the night.  Light a man on fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of his life.
#13 by AnalFissure
2002-03-28 19:45:00
everybody else I've heard talking about it has been effusively detracting.


Dude, had I not played a bit more, I would have been right there with them lambasting it. Being a big fan of all the previous games, I really was disappointed with it initially. Thank god it shaped up (and over) fairly quickly.
#14 by Russ
2002-03-28 19:49:13
The difficulty level needs to ramp up somewhat or things will get boring quickly. On the other hand, if the difficulty jumps up too much then you frustrate the player. It's probably pretty tricky to find the right balance. I have an easier time dealing with boredom (Unreal, Rune) than frustration (Powermonger, Black & White). The worst is when you are enjoying the game all the way through and handling the difficulty perfectly, but the last level becomes so difficult that you just can't complete it. This happened to me with Heretic 2 because I could never get to that last damned book in time. Left a bad taste. Honestly, there's so many games out there now that if a game isn't pegging the fun meter consistently, I just set it aside and find another. I'm probably juggling a half dozen incomplete games right now.

You mention MOHAA as a game that suddenly ramps difficulty. I didn't find this to be the case so much but that the player is forced to change his style of play. The Africa levels seemed very arcadey to me. Norway forced you to be more methodical. France was a mixed bag with everything from heavy action to slow sniper hunting. I'm not sure how best to describe the Siegfried Forest levels, except that they induced a lot of paranoia in me. I found the last level to be ridiculously difficult what with soldiers running into an exploding building to kill you. Those guys had no sense of self-preservation. But at least I finally did it.

Halflife also forced you to change your style of play near the end by introducing all the absurd jumping challenges/puzzles. I didn't think it was necessarily more difficult, just unwanted.

Don't even get me started on Black and White.

Thinking...
#15 by Russ
2002-03-28 19:53:27
offtopic: why do so many people bitch about Omaha Beach in MOH being so difficult? getting to the shingle is easy as soon as you find out those MG42 bursts that 'crawl' towards you on the ground are always the same, so you can predict them when running from cover to cover (never run too long distances though, always go for the closest cover in front of you).

Bingo. It just takes a little observation to figure this out.

Thinking...
#16 by Ergo
2002-03-28 20:08:59
I find Serious Sam to be extremely frustrating, in that the Easy setting is too easy, and the next notch up, Normal, is way too hard. Seceral colleagues of mine have voiced the same opinion.

Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, he'll sit in a boat all day drinking beer.
#17 by jafd
2002-03-28 20:15:10
This happened to me with Heretic 2 because I could never get to that last damned book in time.

It's something of a brain teaser. On the flip side, you didn't miss much, as the closing cinematic is... somewhat lacking.

"Would a bad person encase themselves in puppies like this?"
#18 by Marsh Davies
2002-03-28 20:28:01
www.verbalchilli.com
The first part of Omaha beach was difficult even though I figured out what I had to do - the machine gun fire always caught me before I could get to the next piece of cover. And then I had random shell fire to contend with too. Maybe I just chose the wrong route.

-- ex Spatula Man --
#19 by chris
2002-03-28 20:33:13
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
A thought: If MOHAA had started with the omaha beach level, I never would've played more than five minutes of the game.

-chris
#20 by chris
2002-03-28 20:35:19
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
Another thought: Half-Life starts out very, very easily because it's busy showing you all the cool stuff the game can do. This makes you want to play past the obnoxious/hard parts, in order to see more of that cool stuff. MOHAA does the same thing.

My conclusion? Yeh... gimme the curve. Show off early, when it's easy.

I very nearly put down Deus Ex because the first mission is, with the possible exception of Area 51, the least interesting part of the entire game.

-chris
#21 by Bailey
2002-03-28 20:42:35
Raven must've decided to have JK2 work on a "fun curve" rather than "difficulty curve", because until I got the lightsabre, I was writing off the single player experience. It's somewhat more entertaining now, but there are still situations that show up every level where your goals are very poorly described, if at all.

The multiplayer sabre/force battles are what it's all about, and worth the price of admission.

You are making my being drunk at one in the afternoon a less pleasant experience.
#22 by Marsh Davies
2002-03-28 20:44:09
www.verbalchilli.com
Chris:
I very nearly put down Deus Ex because the first mission is, with the possible exception of Area 51, the least interesting part of the entire game.


Same here. I didn't have any interest in buying the game after playing the first level in the demo. I suppose it would have spoiled the story if they had picked any other level for the demo, but still... what a bad way to sell yourself.

I wouldn't have played it again at all if a mate hadn't forced me to install it on my machine at a LAN party and kicked me out of multiplayer until I had completed a few of the levels. He was being cruel to be kind, you know.

-- ex Spatula Man --
#23 by Gabe
2002-03-28 20:44:44
http://www.dartpublishing.com
I've put down Deux Ex every time I have tried to get into it because of the first level.
#24 by jafd
2002-03-28 20:47:47
Speaking of first level demos... I think it's a really, really, really bad idea to have the demo be the same level as the first level of the game. You play the demo, you enjoy it... then you buy the game, you play the demo, and you've seen it all before. /yawn.

The Alice demo mixed it up a little bit, the demo level was considerably smaller than the first level of the full game.

The Heretic II demo included the first level of the full game... but then took you to one of the middle levels, which was a nice touch.

It's too bad that demos are of such poor quality, or non-existent, these days. You'd think that the publishers don't care about ensuring that the consumer gets a quality experience for their money, and just wants the most money possible.

"Would a bad person encase themselves in puppies like this?"
#25 by jafd
2002-03-28 20:50:07
Meanwhile, I adored the first level of Deus Ex. Aside from the wholly silly fact that you can pop a cap in a guy's head with an unsilenced pistol, and the entire island doesn't hear the gunshots from more than 30 yards away, I don't see a thing wrong with Liberty Island.

Except for Paul. I thought he was in Hong Kong!?

"Would a bad person encase themselves in puppies like this?"
#26 by Marsh Davies
2002-03-28 20:53:24
www.verbalchilli.com
What's wrong about Liberty Island is that you can pop a cap in a guy's head with an unsilenced pistol  several times and he doesn't die. He then shoots you once or twice and it's all over.

At least that's how my memory has warped it.

-- ex Spatula Man --
#27 by Gabe
2002-03-28 20:53:59
http://www.dartpublishing.com
For content, I think my favorite demo has been for ICO on the PS2. The demo consisted of the first part of the game, but they changed it around some, mainly by excising some parts. When I got the full game, I was pleasantly surprised to find new things I had to do in the beginning.
#28 by Marsh Davies
2002-03-28 20:55:23
www.verbalchilli.com
ICO?

-- ex Spatula Man --
#29 by jafd
2002-03-28 21:05:25
well, that's the game, not the map. When you start out, even if you dump max points into Handgun skill, the place where you put your crosshair just ain't the place where the bullets go.

I want to play ICO. On my computer. But the praise that I've heard about it has been so good, I might even be willing to forgoe that requirement.

ICO had a demo, huh? It must have sucked!

"Would a bad person encase themselves in puppies like this?"
#30 by Gabe
2002-03-28 21:06:16
http://www.dartpublishing.com
ICO.
#31 by snowcrash-22
2002-03-28 21:06:56
snowcrash22@excite.com
ICO = Great Gaming is Simple!
No story, no inventory, no special attacks, no screen display, no damage, no stats, no levels

Loved this game fiercely...doesn't fare to well in the replay department.  But that first time through is magical.
#32 by Gabe
2002-03-28 21:11:59
http://www.dartpublishing.com
More ICO.
#33 by MCorleone
2002-03-28 21:31:15
First level in DeusEx was the best.  
The worst level in DE was that damned HongKong level.  8 different loadpoints and ten different milk-runs to get through that kife.  Absolutely terrible.

Build a man a fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of the night.  Light a man on fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of his life.
#34 by Gabe
2002-03-28 21:33:22
http://www.dartpublishing.com
First level in DeusEx was the best.

Well, that saves me a bunch of time then. I've seen what I need to see.
#35 by jafd
2002-03-28 21:40:14
You want to know what I thought was the worst level in Deus Ex?

Sure you do. Well, I'll tell you.

The last one. Because then, it was over. /cry

Er, well, except for the 3+ replays I was able to get out of it before I started thinking, "yeah, I did everything." Although come to find out, I actually haven't done everything. So now I want to play it again. I do believe I'll cheat in an extra 30k skill points and a Dragon's Tooth on the first level, though, if I haven't paid my DX dues, no one has.

This game, mind you, is the one that sold for US$30, upon release. Meanwhile, shit slapped in a box is burning up the shelves at $50.

This world is fraught with madness, truly.

"Would a bad person encase themselves in puppies like this?"
#36 by Duality
2002-03-28 21:56:22
Dualipuff@yahoo.com http://stratoscape.ath.cx/
I kinda liked the seemingly endless dialogue w/ the AI in Everett's place.  I hadn't actually found out bout that until the 3rd or 4th play through.

As for the first level ... I may have mentioned that the single most catching thing was seeing the Statue of Liberty being blown apart.  It still seemed like it was terrible under-scale compared to how the Statue really should be.  Otherwise, I think it was the perfect choice for the demo ... clearly gave you the options of how to play the game and didn't make one any more difficult than the other.  Also provided a good base for the mood of the rest of the game.

I do have to wonder ... how the hell did the NSF get to take it over when UNATCO is right. fucking. next. door?
#37 by chris
2002-03-28 21:58:27
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
Gabe -

MCorleone is insane. Don't listen to him. =)

The BEST level in DX was the whole Hong Kong section.

-chris
#38 by Duality
2002-03-28 22:01:01
Dualipuff@yahoo.com http://stratoscape.ath.cx/
You're both wrong.  UNATCO HQ was the best part.  It was rather empty, yes.  Not much to do or see ... well except that Shannon chick.

mmmmm Shannon.

I just love the music.
#39 by chris
2002-03-28 22:03:15
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
the problem, as I see it, with the first level is the lack of cover. If you don't know that the guards have a pretty limited line of sight (and will walk right by you, crouched next to a box, six feet away), and that they forget about you easily, then you spend half of your time trying to figure out how in the christ to get near enough to them to hit them with anything other than the pistol.

The later levels provide much more of a chance to really discover the mechanics of the game and familiarize oneself with various stealth strategies.

imho.

-chris
#40 by AnalFissure
2002-03-28 22:05:47
Speaking of first level demos... I think it's a really, really, really bad idea to have the demo be the same level as the first level of the game. You play the demo, you enjoy it... then you buy the game, you play the demo, and you've seen it all before. /yawn.

The Alice demo mixed it up a little bit, the demo level was considerably smaller than the first level of the full game.


Or you could go the Half-Life:Uplink route.

Best. Demo. Evar.

It's a shame it came out -- what was it? A year after the fact?
#41 by MCorleone
2002-03-28 22:06:14
My sanity, or lack thereof, is unrelated to the sheer suckitude of the HK levels.  Tedium, thy name is DeusExHongKong.  

and Duality, I thought that with the whole setup of the level and Gunther's dialog pretty much spelled out:

"Look, Paul, our hands are tied on this one, basically the UNATCO brass want to try out their new toy in the field, so go do your thing."

Build a man a fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of the night.  Light a man on fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of his life.
#42 by crash
2002-03-28 22:16:33
i'm with MCorleone on DX; hongkong was painful.

- if you can laugh at it, you can live with it.
- "Hey, how 'bout this: fuck you." -LPMiller
#43 by Gunp01nt
2002-03-28 22:17:51
supersimon33@hotmail.com
Duality:
mmmmm Shannon.

*hughs shannon* ??

"I'm not sleeping with a junior high-schooler, I have a life sized doll that looks just like one."
#44 by chris
2002-03-28 22:18:23
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
MCorleone -

They were the most open-ended, nonlinear, exploarable levels, with the most beneficial secrets, in a game full of open-ended, nonlinear, explorable levels filled with beneficial secrets.

I didn't like them too much on the first play-though, but on my second and third times playing through, when I realized just how goddamned much there is to do/see in HK, I totally fell in love with them. There are whole games with less depth than that set of levels.

-chris
#45 by Post-It
2002-03-28 22:20:15
keithlee@speakeasy.net
Deus Ex rocked. Yes there were flaws in it, such as the constant loading in Hong Kong bnut it is still one of the top 3 best FPS I have ever played.

All right everyone, help me out here:

I have an older system:
WindowsXP
600 Mhz PIII
384 megs of RAM
GeForce3 Ti200

RtCW ran like butter with everything turned up and resolution set 1024.

Yet in JKII, with everything set to medium and resolution at 800, the framrate noticeably stutters, what gives? I reufse to play the game at any lower of a setting than this. While I admit my system is old, if it can handle RtCW with everything cranked up it should AT LEAST be able to handle JKII with everything set to medium. I only messed around with it for an hour during my lunch break, when I get home I'll see what I can do. Anyone let me know if I'm missing something here....
#46 by Matthew Gallant
2002-03-28 22:23:05
http://www.truemeaningoflife.com
Framerate? Hi-resolutions? A jedi craves n

BLORP

Marketing is a crutch for mediocrity and a handicap to excellence.
#47 by Charles
2002-03-28 22:23:47
www.bluh.org
Duality:

I do have to wonder ... how the hell did the NSF get to take it over when UNATCO is right. fucking. next. door?


UNATCO was formed AFTER the statue was blown up.  It doesn't really say that in the game, but you can piece it together from that little newspaper/timeline insert that came with the game.  Or at least, that's how I remember it.

I agree, the UNATCO music fucking rocks.  I hate you.  I want to play Deus Ex over again (I've only played it through once), but I know if I start playing it again, my work will suffer.

#48 by AnalFissure
2002-03-28 22:28:55
Post-It:

I play it on a P3 866, 256 megs of RAM, a G2GTS 64DDR, and it ran just as good as wolf in 800x600x32, with everything cranked except for anisotropic filtering (turned it off), and shadows (set them to simple). Loading times are atrocious, however; but I guess that's to be expected in XP with only 256 megs.

Know this probably didn't help any, but thought the info might have been useful for comparison's sake.
#49 by chris
2002-03-28 22:30:25
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
Doesn't matter if UNATCO was formed after they blew up the statue or not... the NSF are still patrolling the statue's base, less than twenty feet from UNATCO HQ. Seems a little ridiculous.

-chris
#50 by MCorleone
2002-03-28 22:31:43
The Dx TitleScreen music was the best imho.  Very BladeRunner-esque.

Build a man a fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of the night.  Light a man on fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of his life.
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