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Opinion: Gaming Ain't Easy

Opinion: Gaming Ain't Easy

April 25, 2011 | By Ajari Wilson

[Co-founder of Adversary Games Ajari Wilson discusses the challenge of balancing difficulty for both casual and hardcore players, in this #altdevblogaday-reprinted opinion piece.]

When I’m playing a game, I often wonder why the developers made their game as difficult or as easy as they did. I wonder what decisions they made and changed along the way. Was the game too easy at one point? Was it too much of a challenge and then toned down?

I ask myself: What do gamers want? What gamer should we cater to? What different types of gamers are there, to begin with? What’s the fine line between challenge and frustration or ease and boredom?

I ask these questions more than ever because this is the place our current game in development is at, level building and setting a pace for the entire game. In terms of visuals and content, our game is family and kid friendly, but of course that doesn’t mean that the difficulty level has to match.

We are at another fun stage in development. We can choose to make it an easy romp through 40 levels that would appeal to the casuals, or we can make it a challenging grind-fest of trial and error that only the most hardcore gamer can appreciate and tackle, once they get past its cute exterior.

The most common thing to do and probably the best option would be to try and balance out the difficulty and supply at least three different levels of difficulty in the options menu: Easy, normal and hard.

Casual gamers, those who have limited time or simply aren’t as crazy about gaming as their hardcore counterparts, don’t really want a challenge. They want something that they can run through relatively easily so that they can kill time or sit back and enjoy the visuals, story and sound a game has to offer, with minimal effort and frustration.

This is the complete opposite from what the hardcore gamers want. And who is the guy in the middle at the “normal” difficulty setting, neither causal nor hardcore but just a gamer? Maybe this is who we should keep in mind when making our levels.

I don’t know what path we will take yet, but it’s going to be an interesting deciding what kind of game we are going to make.

[This piece was reprinted from #AltDevBlogADay, a shared blog initiative started by @mike_acton devoted to giving game developers of all disciplines a place to motivate each other to write regularly about their personal game development passions.]

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