Thursday, 12 April 2012

Way of the n00b: The decline of video game difficulty

Video games are now mainstream.

Even your mum knows this; A multi-billion dollar industry that deals in revenue that rivals Hollywood. 

Think the biggest release ever was James Cameron's Avatar? It took in $1bn in its first 19 days. This number is ridiculous, you realise. A billion. 1,000,000,000 dollars. You could be forgiven for assuming that, but guess again: Modern Warfare 3 took in $1bn in 16 days.

How has this happened? Is it the incredible advances in graphical computing power, delivering realism like never before? It is the expansion of video game marketing? Is it because they now hire A-list actors and Hollywood producers to create games with a cinematic quality? 

Well yes, it's all of these things. But there has been one other fundamental shift in gaming... and this topic has been on the bandwagon for some time now, but it's true: Games have been getting easier and more accessible.

What does this mean for the game developers and producers? Well, more money of course! By expanding the accessibility of a game, they increase their target demographic and therefore make more sales. As a business decision, it makes perfect sense. 

What does this mean to 'core players, however? Well, it's entirely on the individual. Some will be for this shift, and happily play easier games. I can, and will, speak only for myself... and speak I shall.

I think it sucks donkey balls. I like difficult games, they present a unique challenge that I cannot obtain in "Real Life". Some of my favourite genres and franchises have bit the proverbial Dick, and it's a damn shame.

Call of Duty: Every one since Modern Warfare

Quick scoping? Auto-Aim? What the frak is that all about?! As if I'm not worried enough about having my brains evacuated via a .50 calibre hole in the back of my skull by being shot by an army of snipers in spacesuits. ON THE MOON. FROM SPACE. Now I have to worry about guys who aren't good enough to aim so the game does it for them? It's bollocks.

Soul Calibur V

Once renown as an expert fighting game series, Soul Calibur has devolved into a button-masher's wet dream. Guard Break, once requiring frame-precision timing and was high-low variant, has changed into an action that any old n00b can perform and it doesn't matter if they're hitting high or low.

In addition, simply blocking and holding up-forward will block all mid-high strikes and jump all low ones. If there was ever a fighting game fundamental it was whether or not you were blocking high or low. It changes everything.

Resident Evil 5

I like the Resident Evil series, I do. Even the current games; I haven't yet played Operation: Raccoon City however, so look for later revisions to that statement.

The thing is though, what I really liked about that game is that is was scary. Like, really scary. Everytime I saw a zombie I freaked out, put away my pistol to conserve ammo and thought about how I was going to approach the situation without being hit. It was atmospheric, and ammo was finite. There were only a certain amount of ammo boxes in the game, and once you'd used them it was game over.

Resident Evil 5 changed this in a few fundamental ways. Firstly, ammo was dropped by zombies. Yes, you read that correctly; Despite not actually carrying weapons, these poor African plague-ridden zombies seemed to be in supply of copious amounts of ammo. Having the ability to simply pop shots off whenever I saw a zombie took away the "Survival" from the "Survival Horror".  

Another change they made was introducing co-op. Those of you that know me will know that while I can play a game in co-op and enjoy it, I maintain that it dramatically changes the immersion of a game. I think in this case it was a bit of a "me too" move, as Capcom seem to respond to trends these days.

Ninja Gaiden 3

This one actually took me completely by surprise, genuinely. Ninja Gaiden was known the world over as one of the hardest games of the last console generation, with only a handful of people that could truly claim beating it on it's hardest difficulty. I never played the second instalment, but am to understand Ninja Gaiden 2 maintained the lineage.

In response, n00b gamers the world over started doing what they do best; They took to the forums and whinged. They whinged it was too hard, and for Team Ninja to please make the pain stop. Sadly, as is often the case, the loud minority managed to convince them that what the world actually needs is another mediocre game that spoon-feeds players arse kicking ability. 

Enter Whinja Gaiden 3. Comes with free Stackhat and elbow pads. 

Plenty of padding for poor baby to make sure he doesn't get hurt.


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