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Author Topic: Difficulty... curve? hill? rollercoaster? parabola?  (Read 4750 times)

raekuul

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Difficulty... curve? hill? rollercoaster? parabola?
« on: April 01, 2012, 11:00 »

So yeah. Not DoomRL specific, but I'll use it as an example.

Even though the difficulty settings for DoomRL scale in such a way that each difficulty setting is roughly twice as difficult as the previous one, the difficulty of the actual game seems to... do something different. Yes, challenges can change where the lumps are, but for a standard <100% game that's not on Nightmare we all seem to have the same chokepoints:

Character Level 2
Dungeon Level 3
Phobos Anomaly
Character Level 6
Dungeon Level 15
Tower of Babel
Dungeon Level 23

With everything else only being 'slightly' more difficult than what came immediately before it, special levels notwithstanding. Of note is that the game actually becomes significantly easier after the two Transition levels as well as after Character Level 6.

Does anybody else think that this game/other games have weird Difficulty 'curves'? List examples if you've got 'em.
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RSO

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Re: Difficulty... curve? hill? rollercoaster? parabola?
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2012, 12:40 »

I find that DoomRL has a negative difficulty curve. 80-90% of my deaths are in Phobos Base. After getting past Phobos Anomaly, the rest of the game is smooth sailing.
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Matt_S

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Re: Difficulty... curve? hill? rollercoaster? parabola?
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2012, 13:40 »

I love RPGs, but man, they usually fail at having a reasonable difficulty curve.  Sometimes you'll just be plowing through the game wrecking everything that crosses your path, then bam, you hit That One Dungeon.

The most recent RPG I've played, Ar Tonelico, suffers from a mild case of this.  In general, the game is extremely easy.  You just gain levels and equipment and spells way too fast for the game to be challenging, and I didn't even bother trying to get all the fanciest equipment in the game.  However, there is one "dungeon" near the very end of the game that deserves a special mention: the Plasma Bell.  It is the second to last dungeon in the game, but it has the toughest enemies in the game, and they are pretty high above everything else in the game.  The reason this place deserves special mention is because it is the first place in the game where someone in my party was killed.  The place still isn't really difficult because you can always run from combat with 100% success, and with care and patience even the enemies there can be killed.

I played through the game a second time (actually, this run is still in progress, but I kind of stopped playing) going only with the initial equipment, no enhancing the equipment, and no installs to power up song magic.  That actually made things tough, and it was a much more enjoyable experience.  After playing for a few hours, the random encounters became dangerous, and the bosses took forever to kill, and it was really enjoyable.  Phase 1 (of 3) was still manageable, and the end boss of that phase took forever because it could summon minions (which also took forever to kill) and you could generally only hurt it with magic when the minions were in the way.  Then phase 2 really kicked my ass.  There was one really annoying segment where I was without a magic user, and due to the rather poor way things were set up, without a magic user you can't run from battles, and you're also pretty weak without a magic user.  So I was fighting inescapable battles against tough enemies, and near the end of this stretch I went down from 3 party members to 2, and I had to fight several battles in a row against rather tough enemies that could kill me in a few hits.  The whole segment was frustrating beyond belief.  At the end of phase 3, there were 3 boss fights in a row; the first one was pretty easy, the second one was tough, and the third one... well, on my first attempt, the third boss one-shotted my entire front line, leaving my magic user exposed.  Eventually I overcame that.  Then came phase 3, the final phase.  Out of curiosity, I was first going to try for the bad ending, because you can do it sooner.  Except I had to fight a boss that was really fast and could heal a ton of her HP very frequently.  So nope, I had to go through things the long way.  Soon I got to the plasma bell, and man that place was total hell.  I believe that's still where I am.

So yeah, the game has a ton of different subsystems for making your party stronger, and yeah, it breaks the game beyond all form of challenge if you use them.  One of the really amazing things I noticed going from the normal playthrough to the challenge playthrough was that one mechanic, charged attacks, was completely flipped on its head.  Charged attacks are attacks by the enemy that target your magic user and give you advance notice, where you can then use your front line fighters to defend against the attacks, and then you can launch a super duper counter attack.  In a normal playthrough, these attacks are relatively dangerous because they are really damaging to your fighters when they defend.  What changed in my challenge playthrough was that these attacks instead became my means of survival.  For one, the counter attacks were usually a really good form of offense, but beyond that there was a really huge hole in the mechanic.  A lot of bosses and some tough enemies were capable of one-shotting my party members, but when you defend against charged attacks, the worst that can happen is your party members are left with 1hp, which again doesn't matter when lots of attacks will one-shot you anyways.  Another mechanic is that special abilities used 10%, 20%, or 30% of a party member's HP, and they could be used even if you don't actually have enough HP, so again I just spammed away.

(I kind of just used this as an excuse to talk about the game)

tl;dr RPGs don't have much difficulty balance usually.
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ih8regin

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Re: Difficulty... curve? hill? rollercoaster? parabola?
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2012, 00:33 »

Well, I expect DoomRL to have a resonance-like difficulty curve, with a severe peak at Hell Arena to Chained Court, with optional ambushes at level entrances, but generally a standard game is a steady slide after Phobos Anomaly - while you have to prepare for any special levels/challenges you decide to take, and obviously for Cybie/Mastermind, after all they are bosses, while they have their weaknesses, you have to exploit them via preparation and patience, but first you have time for that, and second, the general approach for them is what makes you more likely to survive anything bad the game can throw at you.

Challenges have another side-effect, the ammo requirement, for example AoMr suffers at this if you fail at making an energy pistol, AoSh can fail at this if you won't be careful with whatever is thrown at you, but if you're at N! with a former sergeant in front of you and a means to exploit his revival - you're in luck, and it can happen pretty often if you're skilled enough, even if you don't play N! but have an archvile reanimate the poor zombie over and over :D AoB has armor in place of ammo, but any indestructible armor, be it even nanofiber red, will help loads, AoRA has time in place of ammo, but it's again peaking somewhere at Arena/CC, after that you have two level of HR and possibly a tactical boots/armor, which helps avoidance as well as extending time and general survival. Similar things might be said about other challenges too, I believe.
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Pricklyman

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Re: Difficulty... curve? hill? rollercoaster? parabola?
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2012, 01:21 »

For the sake of some humour, here are some graphs of how I feel the difficulty is in DoomRL...(Based on HNTR)

Spoiler: Without Special Levels (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: With Special Levels (click to show/hide)
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Motorheadbanger

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Re: Difficulty... curve? hill? rollercoaster? parabola?
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2012, 05:15 »

The Lava Pits?
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Klear

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Re: Difficulty... curve? hill? rollercoaster? parabola?
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2012, 05:45 »

I hate the way difficulty works in Oblivion and Fallout 3 - everything is scaled to your level. If you stay level 1 throughout the game, so will the enemies. It really kills the immersion to me when in late game every lowly bandit has extremely expensive top-tier armour (which is very ugly, BTW), and you don't get the sense of getting stronger. There are no places where a level 1 character couldn't go for fear of getting killed. On the other hand, late game is full of incredibly strong monsters which makes it inbelievable that anybody by the greatest badasses would ever venture outside city walls.

Worse, it means that if you level inefficiently (which is what I usually do, since I like to roleplay even gameplay elements in my RPGs), the enemies everywhere will get progressively harder to deal with (and by harder I mean that they take too long to kill, which is boring).

I was nicely surprised when on my first Fallout: New Vegas playthrought, when I ventured to a mine overrun by Deathclaws ang got ripped to shreds no matter what I did (and this remained true for a long time).
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Uranium

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Re: Difficulty... curve? hill? rollercoaster? parabola?
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2012, 10:05 »

DoomRL (and the original Doom games) get difficulty perfectly. Enemies don't get tougher on higher difficulties because they have more health and deal more damage. They get more accurate, and there are harder enemies at earlier levels, requiring larger amounts of skill (rather than time) to deal with using the limited resources you have at your disposal.
The only enemies that have increased health on higher difficulties are bosses, and I quite like this mechanism, as they're only ever going to appear on designated levels so that's really the only way to make them tougher.
In my opinion, level scaling is probably the worst way to make a game harder. Even if you're a god-slaying tower of a man, that lion that could kill you when you were a whelp with a wooden sword is still going to be able to kill you.

The only real qualm I have with difficulty is Ao100 - the first 25 levels are moderately hard, then there's a difficulty spike from 25 to 40, as you've passed the normal game length, and harder enemies begin to appear, but you haven't got to that point yet where your firetime is 0.35 seconds and you can let loose nine shots from a 1d9 recharging plasma rifle, each shot dealing +5 damage with almost no chance of missing. I'm not sure how the team would go about it, but I think that rather than there being a difficulty spike in Ao100 it should be a slope, with the last ten levels being among the hardest challenge in the game.

tl;dr level scaling sucks, DoomRL's difficulty is pretty damn good
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spacedust

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Re: Difficulty... curve? hill? rollercoaster? parabola?
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2012, 12:46 »

The only real qualm I have with difficulty is Ao100 - the first 25 levels are moderately hard, then there's a difficulty spike from 25 to 40, as you've passed the normal game length, and harder enemies begin to appear, but you haven't got to that point yet where your firetime is 0.35 seconds and you can let loose nine shots from a 1d9 recharging plasma rifle, each shot dealing +5 damage with almost no chance of missing. I'm not sure how the team would go about it, but I think that rather than there being a difficulty spike in Ao100 it should be a slope, with the last ten levels being among the hardest challenge in the game.

On one hand, it's pretty awesome to feel like a untouchable god with no equal once you get all souped up for the final 50 levels. On the other hand, I tend to agree with this - the last few levels of Ao100 tend to feel like work that you have to complete in order to get the mortem. I don't know if there's any good solution to this, after all it's nice to have the payoff of 50 easy levels once you survive the *&# first 50 when you are clutching at straws to survive.
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Klear

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Re: Difficulty... curve? hill? rollercoaster? parabola?
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2012, 12:51 »

Are there Spider Mastermind caves in Ao100?
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Re: Difficulty... curve? hill? rollercoaster? parabola?
« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2012, 00:45 »

The Lava Pits?

Oh...um...those...

Oops?!    =S
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Re: Difficulty... curve? hill? rollercoaster? parabola?
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2012, 01:50 »

I honestly really like the Doom approach to difficulty. In Doom it goes Level 1, more, harder, more ,harder, ... until the rivers run red with demon blood. Too bad other games can't take a lesson from that. RLs are generally in the same vein which is one reason why I love them. New Vegas was kind of halfway although the aforementioned quarry and a couple of other areas were a nice surprise. Anyone else get a super sledge at level 7 due to making the Caesar mad? Thank god for explosives.
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