I think everyone would agree that there isn’t anything wrong with easy games, but that devs should always look into ramping up the challenge in some way (sequel, difficulty modes, regular progression). But what do you think of games in existing franchises or from devs with ‘reputations’ that are easier than their predecessors. Deathsmiles, for example, is considered easier than any of Cave’s other games (let’s put aside the difficulty modes and just consider the vanilla arcade version). DMC4 is easier than DMC3 (and even 1) and other games in the genre. And there are others. Is criticizing their difficulty relative to their predecessors/peers fair? Or does it depend on what the game brings to the table, how it brings these things to the table, as well as developer intent? Like DS was intended to be easier than their other stuff. And Bayo is easy too, but gets a pass b/c it’s a new series, while DMC4 is criticized for being the sequel to DMC3, a game whose difficulty had to be revised with a new version.
In terms of quality, I think easiness is balanced by depth, and by having the potential to play it in a harder way, like higher difficulty modes and so on, to make all the components worthwhile.
DMC4 had the harder difficulty modes. Don’t know how they stacked up in comparison to DMC3’s. Bayo seemed pretty hard when I first played it (though getting stone awards might have made me think it was harder than it was).
It’s not a matter of always ramping up the challenge. In my opinion it’s more about finding the right level of challenge, and effectively matching people to the level of challenge that they’re suited for. I don’t think we’ve gotten good at the latter yet, maybe not even the former. I think the souls games got their consistent level of challenge down pat and honestly just need to stick with it.
Infamous had me play the first level and matched me with the hard difficulty, which is cool, but I don’t know how it determined that. Some people want to face the hardest challenges with no breaks (usually me), some people need to build up to that point (sometimes me in games I’m unfamiliar with), and figuring out where someone stands isn’t something that’s been explored much yet.
I feel there’s a compromise being made when you get a game like bastion that’s all, “yeah, the game is easy, but here’s all these modifiers you can turn on that make it super hard” but I also feel like having customizable difficulty, so that you can turn enemy damage way up, but keep their health around reasonable levels, and mess with the exp drop curve or other such things, maybe guard senses and alert times in stealth games, are things that might help people better tune their games for the experiences they’re looking for, or find that level of difficulty that’s right for them.
I think if you allow the player to change the difficulty at any time like in elder scrolls games, you’re allowing or encouraging them to compromise their experience at any time.
There’s a lot of conflicting approaches to difficulty that each have merits, but also downsides or compromises. I honestly don’t know how to sort it all out. I’ll have to consider it more in the future.