While difficulty in today's video games cannot begin to compare to that of coin-operated and console arcade games 30 years ago, "the walls are starting to come down" and some developers are once again using difficulty to add excitement, according to industry veteran Mark Cerny.
As part of a session at the Game Developers Conference in Cologne, Germany today, the industry veteran gave a rousing talk that urged developers to use the current lull in console technology to "unlearn" everything that was keeping diversity at bay.
The former Atari and Insomniac producer talked at length about the arcade games period, beginning at the very start of his career 30 years ago.
He described the "incredible variety" that arcade games provided -- although he noted that we don't have an issue with lack of variety in the industry at the moment, as there are a huge diversity of music games, shooting games, puzzle games and the like.
However, while diversity in genre is not a problem, he said of recent years, "what is looking a lot less healthy is the $50 million game", echoing comments he made during his talk at the DICE conference earlier in the year.
With the dawn of digital distribution, it's possible for even indie developers to comfortably put their work out, he noted. But while "the $50 million game is looking a little shaky," Cerny noted that "the $20 million game looks quite healthy."
He then proposed that developers consider the efficiency of their teams and games, which is now possible as we're in "a quiet spot" technology-wise right now.
"We can take advantage of this quiet time to learn our craft," he mused. "Learn what is and isn't important to put in a game... keep the diversity and excitement going into games."
One element that developers should consider, he said, was the difficulty of games compared to the usual levels we see at the moment.
He said that with this element, "the walls are starting to come down," citing Demon's Souls as an example of a game which has sold remarkably well, but is far more difficult that the average video game nowadays.