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#122378 - 04/23/03 05:54 PM Is Difficulty Simply in the Eye of the Beholder?
Becky Offline
The Medieval Lady
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 02/16/00
Posts: 26894
Loc: Stony Brook, New York, USA
I just finished Ring II, and there is a sequence in it with a spiky wall. You have to walk a certain path (keyboard controls) and do a couple of jumps before the wall gets you. This took an embarassing amount of time to master. In fact, I was actually NEVER able to do it -- I finally got my husband to do it for me.

Today my seven-year-old did it on the 6th try. He did it with very little effort -- the first jump took just a bit of practice, after that it was easy for him. He seemed to scarcely even notice it.

I've seen something similar occur with more traditional puzzles, where some gamers find a puzzle insanely difficult and other gamers breeze right through it. Given this, I was wondering:

Is it possible to say anything at all about a game's difficulty? Would it be more accurate to try to define difficulty according to the type of gamer (keyboard experts or sliding tile lovers or trained musicians or those with fast reflexes or those who speak and understand several languages or those who program code or those who know how to take apart an engine).

Or should you just say that a game is easy or difficult for YOU, knowing that unless somebody knows you really well the information is virtually meaningless?

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#122379 - 04/23/03 07:49 PM Re: Is Difficulty Simply in the Eye of the Beholder?
Jenny100 Offline
GB Reviewer Glitches Moderator
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 10/24/00
Posts: 35278
Loc: southeast USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Becky:
In fact, I was actually NEVER able to do it -- I finally got my husband to do it for me.
How many tries did your husband take?

Quote:

Today my seven-year-old did it on the 6th try. He did it with very little effort -- the first jump took just a bit of practice, after that it was easy for him. He seemed to scarcely even notice it.
Kids often do better with reflex-oriented stuff, even if they're not gamers. So don't feel too bad.

Quote:

Is it possible to say anything at all about a game's difficulty? Would it be more accurate to try to define difficulty according to the type of gamer (keyboard experts or sliding tile lovers or trained musicians or those with fast reflexes or those who speak and understand several languages or those who program code or those who know how to take apart an engine).
You could mention that there are sliders or music puzzles. But I don't know of any game that requires a trained musician to solve a music puzzle - or any game that required you to know more than one language. Does Ring II require any of that?

If you weren't able to get past some of the action parts by yourself, you should certainly mention something about the difficulty. Was that kind of thing - difficult action sequences - the norm in the game?

If you're really not sure, let someone else play some of the game and give their opinion of the difficulty. Maybe your husband or son could play more of it and give their opinions.

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#122380 - 04/23/03 08:12 PM Re: Is Difficulty Simply in the Eye of the Beholder?
BillyBob Offline
BAAG Specialist

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 7858
Loc: North Florida
"The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer"..........BOY, does it ever! smile What about those of us who whiz through a hard puzzle and then can never do it again? I had that kind of "ability", or lack thereof, with those Bridge Puzzles in Schizm. laugh
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#122381 - 04/24/03 02:42 AM Re: Is Difficulty Simply in the Eye of the Beholder?
Kickaha Offline
GB Special Events Reporter
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 03/27/01
Posts: 2419
Loc: Cambridge, England
From what I've read about "Ring 2" I'm not counting it as an Adventure game so it needing Mario style maneouvres isn't a surprise.

Reviews should cover puzzles out of the ordinary. Tone matching puzzles are difficult for some. On the musical line I think of the dreaded drums in "Egypt 2" or the spaceship music puzzle in "Myst". Not tone matching but I found a nightmare the orchestral conducting required in "Zork Nemesis".

I've been unable to finish some games (Sanitarium / Last Express as examples) because of action sequences at the end. Some reviews I've seen of "Last Express" don't even mention it has combat in it.

"Schizm" and "Riven" I would say are hard games for most people.

Regards, Peter.
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Used to answer to "Peter Smith", now answers to "Peter Rootham-Smith"

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#122382 - 04/24/03 04:02 AM Re: Is Difficulty Simply in the Eye of the Beholder?
Betje Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 08/30/02
Posts: 334
Loc: the Netherlands
Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Smith:
I've been unable to finish some games (Sanitarium / Last Express as examples) because of action sequences at the end. Some reviews I've seen of "Last Express" don't even mention it has combat in it.
The Last Express has a few combat scenes, but they can be skipped. Fortunately, I knew there was a cheat before I started playing the game, because I read it in one of the reviews. laugh But I most certainly agree that all reviews should ALWAYS mention action/arcade stuff in adventures.

Betje
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#122383 - 04/24/03 05:25 AM Re: Is Difficulty Simply in the Eye of the Beholder?
Kickaha Offline
GB Special Events Reporter
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 03/27/01
Posts: 2419
Loc: Cambridge, England
No cheat worked in the version of "Last Express" I had.
_________________________
Used to answer to "Peter Smith", now answers to "Peter Rootham-Smith"

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#122384 - 04/24/03 10:38 AM Re: Is Difficulty Simply in the Eye of the Beholder?
Witchen Offline
True Blue Boomer

Registered: 05/26/99
Posts: 22381
Loc: Seattle Washington USA
Me neither, Peter. I still have my copy, but I get depressed just thinking about trying to get past the combat in The Last Express. Technically, NOT an adventure and I surely agree that action requirements should be mentioned in a review!

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#122385 - 04/24/03 11:12 AM Re: Is Difficulty Simply in the Eye of the Beholder?
syd Offline
Adept Boomer

Registered: 11/12/99
Posts: 12306
Loc: Body in California/Heart in Ha...
I have to agree that it's nice to read if there are action requirements in a game and what type they are. As far as difficulity, I think that depends on the design of the game. Most action sequences are difficult for me so I generally get my 16 year old son to do them for me. I know it's a bad action design when he gets so fed up he quits in frustration - (can we say duck shoot in Simon 3D?????).

As to The Last Express - I've tried to get into that game a dozen times and just can't. It bothers me to no end that I can "miss" something because of the "real" time aspect. I know, I know, that was supposed to be the big selling point but it bugs me so much that I just don't like the game.
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#122386 - 04/24/03 02:02 PM Re: Is Difficulty Simply in the Eye of the Beholder?
Jenny100 Offline
GB Reviewer Glitches Moderator
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 10/24/00
Posts: 35278
Loc: southeast USA
Quote:
Originally posted by syd:
I have to agree that it's nice to read if there are action requirements in a game and what type they are. As far as difficulity, I think that depends on the design of the game. Most action sequences are difficult for me so I generally get my 16 year old son to do them for me. I know it's a bad action design when he gets so fed up he quits in frustration - (can we say duck shoot in Simon 3D?????).
My brother got that on the first try. Neither of us could believe it. We made preparations, like creating a cross hairs out of 2 strings taped across the computer screen. But still...
He's not an action gamer. He's an RPGer who plays turn-based RPG's. We really lucked out.

Quote:

As to The Last Express - I've tried to get into that game a dozen times and just can't. It bothers me to no end that I can "miss" something because of the "real" time aspect. I know, I know, that was supposed to be the big selling point but it bugs me so much that I just don't like the game.
I only tried it once. I felt the same way you did. I want to be able to see everything on one play-through (as long as I'm thorough) rather than have to worry about being in the right place at the right time. And you can't even save your game. You have to rewind. So you can't try playing from different save points after having witnessed different scenes.

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#122387 - 04/24/03 04:40 PM Re: Is Difficulty Simply in the Eye of the Beholder?
Betje Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 08/30/02
Posts: 334
Loc: the Netherlands
The cheat does work, but the timing is important, especially in the last fight on the roof of the train. Ironic really... there should be a cheat for the cheat.

And yes, you can play from different save points if you use more than one "egg-clock". There are six "eggs".
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#122388 - 04/24/03 09:23 PM Re: Is Difficulty Simply in the Eye of the Beholder?
lasanidine Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 05/06/01
Posts: 3424
Loc: WA. USA
I agree that people find different things difficult in a game. For example older people with a little bit of arthritis will find timed puzzles harder to accomplish. People with impaired hearing will not do well with sound and music puzzles. Some people hate mazes and others will wilt at a tile puzzle or a little bit of math. Most people will solve the puzzles if they are logical after a little bit of thinking. I find that if a puzzle fits well into a story and is not made unusually hard to stretch the game it is not too hard for the players.

A reviewer should mention all aspects of the game regardless of what he/she personally experienced while playing. It is the hardest job to review and game that you really like because some of you objectivity flies out the window and other people wonder if are talking about the game they are playing.

Therefore I think it is a good idea to play a game more than once before one writes a review and recount all the pros and cons of the game regardless of how much other people like or dislike the game and examine all aspect of it without a bias.
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#122389 - 04/25/03 01:58 PM Re: Is Difficulty Simply in the Eye of the Beholder?
gatorlaw Offline
Adept Boomer

Registered: 11/01/99
Posts: 10308
I definitely think many preceived difficulties vary so widely between players.

There are some obvious ones - I mention in a review. Things like keyboard controls, mazes, time sequences, any true action bits, arcade sequences or if a puzzle was off because of the interface or design rather than the logic or lack there of. But it is impossible to anticipate every dislike.

The other thing that can occur is if I blew right through a particular plot turn or puzzle - it won't really stand out in my mind when I review the game. Plus you don't want to detail too much about the game challenges or you spoil the game a bit. Part of the surpirse is discovering those challenges yourself when you play it.

There have been a number of threads around the web recently on reviews, bias and such. With puzzles I do the same as I do when writing about the games other aspects. I try to be as specific as possible as to what I liked, disliked or tolerated and why. That way - the reader can decide if they see things that way and be able to add to their own take on any given game.

Laura
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#122390 - 04/25/03 06:49 PM Re: Is Difficulty Simply in the Eye of the Beholder?
Becky Offline
The Medieval Lady
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 02/16/00
Posts: 26894
Loc: Stony Brook, New York, USA
Thanks for all this input -- I'm trying to lay aside the frustration factor and think more productively about the issue.

I just watched my son beat the spiky wall again, this time pausing mid-stream to casually make Siegfried resheath his sword, even as the wall rumbled ever nearer. I have decided that this challenge is partly psychological -- you blow it each time because you are trying to hurry to avoid the wall, and if you just relax and pretend you're playing hopscotch, whistle a bit as you go then it's a cinch. I think I'll go back in the game and use this new theory....

Jenny100 -- I'm not sure how many times my husband had to try to beat the spiky wall. I had to leave the room because I couldn't bear to watch. I can give you a time though -- a little under half an hour. And you know, I've spent a lot more than a half an hour on certain traditional puzzle challenges (the skeleton puzzle in Timelapse, for instance) so maybe the spiky wall isn't so bad. Maybe it just seems more frustrating because when the spiky wall gets Siegfried you go to the "you have died" sequence over and over.

As for a person's background helping with puzzles -- I think the keyboard puzzle in Myst was a lot easier for those who play the piano. I think the Church puzzle in Obsidian was easier for people who could understand programming. Any puzzle that involves turning the power back on would be easier for a person who has actually worked with power sources, don't you think? I would expect symbolic puzzles (like glyph puzzles, for instance) to be easier for a person who had studied different languages.

No, Ring II doesn't have any music challenges. And as for action sequences -- no, they aren't the bulk of the game. Ring II is pretty much a traditional adventure game,though it does use keyboard controls and it has a handful of action sequences. Only two of the action sequences were (to me) difficult. All of the other action sequences had a strategy that made them easier. I thought of them as movement puzzles. The spiky wall though just seemed to take lots of practice and very calm nerves. There probably IS a strategy but I haven't figured it out yet.

Crosshair strings taped to the computer monitor. I NEVER would have thought of that. Is this a common practice among action gamers?

Peter -- I agree with you that some games are widely recognized as being difficult or easy. Maybe it would make sense to compare difficulty levels to commonly played or recognized games.

My son is so taken with this game that he has been asking me to buy body paint so he can paint himself to look like Siegfried. While playing in the garden, when he thinks no one is looking he removes his shirt and poses with a plastic He-Man sword.

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#122391 - 04/25/03 07:16 PM Re: Is Difficulty Simply in the Eye of the Beholder?
Becky Offline
The Medieval Lady
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 02/16/00
Posts: 26894
Loc: Stony Brook, New York, USA
Quote:
A reviewer should mention all aspects of the game regardless of what he/she personally experienced while playing. It is the hardest job to review and game that you really like because some of you objectivity flies out the window and other people wonder if are talking about the game they are playing.

Therefore I think it is a good idea to play a game more than once before one writes a review and recount all the pros and cons of the game regardless of how much other people like or dislike the game and examine all aspect of it without a bias.
Lasanidine -- I agree with you that it is hard to be objective about a game you loved (and just as hard to be objective about a game you hated). Some possible influences -- most people tend to like games for which they already understand the conventions. I remember a review of a very well-known adventure game in which the reviewer gave up and went straight to playing from the walkthrough because he hadn't thought to close a door and look behind it. I mean, this is adventure-gamer "duh" territory. (Am I being too harsh?) So unless you crave novelty, I think it's harder to like a game that gives you a stiff learning curve before you even begin to progress.

Your impression of the sound and music in the game will be influenced by the quality of your speakers. Your impression of the graphics may be influenced by the quality of your video card. You may be unimpressed by brilliant dialogue if you don't like reading lots of text on a monitor. If you are an experienced gamer, your enjoyment of a game may be reduced by its lack of originality -- it may feel like just a retread of a previous game.

There are even environmentally subjective factors. Some games look better when played in the dark. Most games are more fun if you aren't distracted by work or children. Some games are more fun if you play them with a partner. Actually, almost any game is more fun with a partner.

Hmm.... Maybe reviewers should just give up and go home! I wish it were possible to be completely objective about a game. Maybe reviewers should just try to take steps to be somewhat more objective with each a review. You know, feel like progress in the objectivity arena is being made.

Playing a game twice is a great idea, especially if you let some time elapse in between. I find that my reviews are better if I forget about them for a month and then rewrite them. Unfortunately, this means that reviews will take a long time to finish!

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#122392 - 04/25/03 11:24 PM Re: Is Difficulty Simply in the Eye of the Beholder?
Jenny100 Offline
GB Reviewer Glitches Moderator
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 10/24/00
Posts: 35278
Loc: southeast USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Becky:

As for a person's background helping with puzzles -- I think the keyboard puzzle in Myst was a lot easier for those who play the piano.
The picture in the book in the library shows you which keys to press and in what order. It isn't necessary to know what the names of the keys are that you're pressing or to be able to read music. It does help to be able to match pitch and that seems to be where people have trouble.

Quote:

I think the Church puzzle in Obsidian was easier for people who could understand programming.
Or people who enjoy logic puzzles.

Quote:

Any puzzle that involves turning the power back on would be easier for a person who has actually worked with power sources, don't you think?
Well, we've all turned light switches on and off. Beyond that, restoring power in a game is sometimes done very differently from the way it would be done in real life.

Quote:

I would expect symbolic puzzles (like glyph puzzles, for instance) to be easier for a person who had studied different languages.
I think they might be easier for someone who can draw (and copy the symbols). Usually symbolic puzzles only involve matching symbols, not interpreting them. And some are just a substitution code - like a cryptogram.

The only game I've played where studying certain languages might have helped is Schizm - because some of the sounds you had to match were unfamiliar (at least to this English speaker). Familiar sounds are easier to transcribe into text so that they can be matched in another part of the game.

Quote:

Crosshair strings taped to the computer monitor. I NEVER would have thought of that. Is this a common practice among action gamers?
Not usually. But this particular puzzle in Simon 3D involves aiming your yoyo thingy at the ducks as they appear to knock them all down. So it makes sense to figure out the exact spot the yoyo hits on the screen so you can line it up with a duck.
There is at least one walkthrough for Simon 3D that recommends putting tape on your monitor so you know where to aim. But my brother wasn't about to put tape on his monitor, even though it was an old monitor that was cheap even when it was new.

Quote:

My son is so taken with this game that he has been asking me to buy body paint so he can paint himself to look like Siegfried. While playing in the garden, when he thinks no one is looking he removes his shirt and poses with a plastic He-Man sword.
ROTFL. It sure sounds like they are targeting younger gamers with this one.

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