- Instead of becoming easier, games should aim to become harder for players who are too good at them through certain gameplay mechanics.
- Many titles like Saw II, God Hand, and Banjo Tooie have implemented mechanics that make them harder if the player gets too skillful.
- Hence, such mechanics becoming a consistent part of video games is the future of the medium.
In the world of entertainment, most products don’t allow the consumer to control what happens and are merely something you can watch, read, and enjoy without actually being an active part of the proceedings. However, video games are the exact opposite of this concept, making them without a doubt the most unique form of media on planet Earth.
Unlike movies, books, and sports, the consumer has autonomy over how events proceed in the world of video games. Even though the beginning and the ending are defined in a lot of titles, the way you reach them is completely up to you. Consequently, video game consumers are aptly called “players” as they play through the products they buy.
As with any activity that the word “Play” can apply to, video games also require skill to beat. No matter what the title in question is, you need to be somewhat good at it to reach the finish line. Most video games have a difficulty setting that you can change and make the game easier or harder depending on how good you are. Hence, this aspect of the media product doesn’t really matter a lot.
Players also naturally get better at whatever game they are playing the more time they spend on it. Therefore, even if you are playing a really hard title with no difficulty setting like Bloodborne or other Soulsborne games, you will eventually conquer them after dying a couple of dozen times. As a result, one way or another, you do learn to beat the hardest bosses and conquer even the fiercest foes in video games.
Obviously, PvP titles are another thing entirely as you are facing other users and not AI in such video games. But, the general rule is, the more you play through a title, the easier it will get as you’ll gradually get better. However, in my opinion, that isn’t how it should be, and instead of rewarding you for getting better, video games should employ techniques to make the experience harder if you get too good.
Games That Get Harder If You Get Too Good
Even though this concept is something that isn’t widely implemented in the gaming industry, it has been a part of some really popular video games in gaming history. A lot of titles have included mechanics that automatically make the game harder for you if you seem to be getting the better of the level or boss in question. Now, I’ll give you examples of such innovative mechanics in the industry.
Banjo-Tooie, the acclaimed sequel to Banjo-Kazooie, adopted this idea perfectly in one of its levels. During the Cloud Cuckooland segment of the platform video game, you have to beat the old birdwoman Canary Mary in one of the most difficult races in gaming history. What makes this part so difficult is that if you get too good at the race, the Nintendo title has a mechanic that activates and makes sure you lose the race.
Developer Rare made such an AI for this level that if you get ahead of Canary Mary too early in the level, she will overtake you easily and go so far ahead that winning the race will be impossible. Therefore, if you are too good at mashing buttons in games and winning easily in Banjo Tooie, this level is not going to be an easy task for you by any means.
The only way to beat this specific level is if you stay close behind the bird throughout the duration of the race and try to pull ahead just as the race is ending to snatch the win. Hence, the AI combats you in this level if you seem to be a little bit too good and makes winning much harder so you need to be at the top of your game to beat Canary Mary.
Another game that employed this idea in its own unique manner was the 2006 Beat ’em Up God Hand. Developed by Clover Studios, the Capcom title was directed by the great Shinji Mikami and follows a martial artist who has an overpowered arm that he must use to save the world. Even though it received mixed reviews when it initially came out, the Beat ’em Up has since become a cult classic in gaming history due to its peculiar nature.
And, a big part of this was Clover Studio’s distinctive use of the dynamic difficulty mechanic in God Hand. Dynamic difficulty has been around for a long time and throughout gaming history has been a big aspect of many brilliant titles like Resident Evil 4, making the game easier for the player if they were having a hard time getting through a level.
God Hand, however, puts its own spin on this feature and instead of using it to make the experience easier, Clover Studio used dynamic difficulty to make the game tougher. For example, if you are dodging too many punches, the Beat ’em Up will move up to its highest difficulty, which is aptly termed “die” and you’ll find the title to be much tougher.
Clover Studio, nonetheless, didn’t completely omit the “easier” part of the dynamic difficulty spectrum in God Hand and developed the difficulty in such a way too that if you were getting beat up too much, the game would get easier. Hence, the best way to win in the game was to take a few punches and then fight back instead of being too good and getting to face enemies that are almost impossible to beat.
No doubt, the developer’s implementation of the idea isn’t perfect due to dynamic difficulty, but it’s still a step in the right direction and does make God Hand more complicated if your skills get a bit too developed.
Saw II: Flesh & Blood
Another game that has an interesting take on this concept is the 2009 Saw video game Saw II: Flesh & Blood. Like the movies, the horror video game puts your protagonist through a myriad of bloody and harrowing trials as he tries to find the truth about his son. One of these puzzles includes walking across a balance beam to cross a rather steep area, which isn’t really easy.
Now, this puzzle is present at two pivotal moments in the game, the intro and the ending. If you complete this challenge without any hassle during the intro of Saw II: Flesh & Blood with the first protagonist Campbell Iman, the game automatically locks you out of the title’s good ending. You see this balance beam makes a return in the game’s ending where you have a chance to leave Jigsaw’s maze alive.
However, if you clear this puzzle without any hassle on the first attempt, Saw II makes it impossible for you to get out of this trial alive with the secondary protagonist Michael Trapp. Therefore, being too good in the game’s prologue gets you killed mercilessly in the horror title’s ending and doesn’t even give you a shot at seeing a good conclusion to the Konami game.
Even though Saw II’s interpretation of the concept is pretty good and highly creative, it isn’t completely perfect as instead of making the game harder to beat, the developers made it impossible to get out alive. Still, it’s a great example of game mechanics that change the title in question to make it harder based on feedback from your gameplay.
Game Mechanics That Reconstruct Difficulty Based On Gameplay Feedback Are The Future
Video game technology is always progressing and changing and trying to become better to give consumers an improved product. When a studio does develop a new mechanic that isn’t already present in the gaming world, it files a patent for the tech advancement so no one else can use it. Many companies including Sony have recently filed patents for mechanics that use gameplay feedback to improve titles.
Hence, changing video games based on how you play them is already in the works in some shape or form and will probably be the future of gaming. Just imagine, how hard Soulsborne titles would be if the bosses could recognize your attack patterns and change up how they fight if you become too good. To clarify, this isn’t to make video games impossible to beat so that you are forever stuck in a loop.
Rather, it is the experience even more challenging for players who are a bit too good at a specific game. For example, Elden Ring player Let Me Solo Her got so good at the game that he was able to beat the hardest boss a whopping 4,000 times with ease. He got so good at the FromSoftware title that he even started helping other players for the fun of it.
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Therefore, a system that would note the moves of such a player and reconstruct the mechanics of a level’s boss to make the experience tougher and fresher for the protagonist would probably be the next big thing in gaming. It wouldn’t only make the specific playthrough harder as you move ahead, but it could also make your next playthrough even tougher by recognizing how you play the game.
As seen in the examples above, many developers have already tried incorporating this feature into their titles in some shape or form. For sure, their application might not be perfect or completely true to the concept. But, it’s still tangible proof of how including such mechanics in video games works and even makes them feel more interesting and creative.
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