Was it worth it? Challenge versus reward in video games

Posted by Renouncereality (84 posts) -

Over the last few weeks I have been playing AC:4, South Park and Dark Souls. Each radically different games from various genres. They Probably have much different user bases and markets and are not really similar in anyway. However whilst playing all three of them I have been left pondering the same thought. Does the difficulty level enhance or ruin the game experience? On one hand Black flag and South Park are on the very easy and accessible side of difficulty. Neither challenges you excessively and the hand holding that occurs during the campaign makes it fairly impossible to lose. On the other hand Dark Souls is a ridiculously hard game (I have not yet finished it and not I'm not sure if I will). It is most notable for its challenging learning curve and its tough to grasp, but very precise controls. Therefore the question is, was the reward of passing levels great enough to continue with the game? Or otherwise what rewards motivate me the best to keep playing a game, even if it is extremely challenging.

Dark souls: Really hard, not enough reward

Fuck me right?

I will start with Dark souls. It obviously has a major dedicated fan base, albeit fairly small compared to many other titles. It occupies a niche area of the game market that is a throwback to the extreme difficulty of games made in the past. A time before tutorials, before health bars and at a time when any false move could take you all the way back to the beginning of the game. This is the major reason why so many people love it. Its challenging and forces you to learn everything for yourself. When I started playing it I thought it was great. I liked the customisation, the dark world and its satisfying combat system. BUT after slogging my way from the undead parish to the blacksmith for what felt like an eternity, killing the same enemies and very slowly pushing ever so slightly forward I was very over it. I eventually got to him and did a few other things like ringing the church bell and going through the forest level which did give me some form as satisfaction at overcoming the odds. However my rewards for spending this time and effort were some slightly better gear and some terrible (I mean absolutely horrific) voice acting and a sketchy story. Why do all the NPCs laugh after every sentence?? And why is his head an onion? At this point I had a look at how much of the game I still had to go and figured it was not worth anymore of my time, maybe another time I will pick it back up but i don't see it happening anytime soon. I also realise that for the people who love it the reward is simply overcoming massive bosses and mastering the game, but for me that is not enough.

Assassin's Creed 4 - Pretty easy, almost enough reward

Assassin's creed on the other hand is a fairly easy game. The combat is simple, counter then stab, pretty basic. I found that at times it is far too easy and this detracts from how much you can enjoy it. However compared to Dark souls I actually felt compelled to keep playing through the fairly boring combat because at the other end was a decent story and interesting characters. Also, you are a pirate! That is reward in itself! And the gruesomely violent animations are fun to watch. I think that the problem is that this game is probably too long and the series is far to frequently released. This makes the flaws in the combat more visibly noticeable and hard to forget about.

South Park TSOT - Far too easy, super fun

Now South park is an easy game as well. I actually found the combat mind-numbingly easy for most of it. You can easily just spam your special moves in every battle and win most of them quickly. The animations are very funny, the first time, and having to watch the same animations every battle gets a bit tedious over time. However in comparison with AC4, South park is a really short game (around 12-14 hours). This means that you are not continually seeing the same things for dozens of hours and therefore it does not affect the experience as much. More importantly, completing battles and making your way through the campaign grants you amazing humour and some very sick and twisted material that is hilarious for fans of the series. I feel it was necessary for the combat to be easy enough to not get in the way of the story but it did mean that the combat was pretty lackluster.

Lastly, Catherine - High difficulty, Extremely rewarding

Catherine is a game I played a few years back and I highly recommend to anyone regardless of whether you like puzzlers or not. I had never played a dedicated puzzler before this but I believe it is one of the best gaming experiences I have ever had. To explain the difficulty level to someone who has never heard of it before, the menu screen recommends playing on easy difficulty because normal is an extreme challenge. I therefore played it on easy and struggled! There were parts of this game that took me ages to get through and at times this frustrated me greatly. But the story and characters were so intriguing that I just had to keep playing. No matter how long it took me I just had to find out the next piece of story and what was going to happen. Few games have captivated me purely on story and I had a great sense of achievement in passing the difficult stages because I knew what I was going to get after finishing it.

In conclusion it is probably obvious that I love a good story. A genuinely interesting concept and theme is usually enough to keep me playing a game through to the end just so I know what happens, regardless of whether the gameplay is fun or not. There are some games where the gameplay is the reward (Skyrim) and that is reason enough to persist with it. However if a game is too punishing like Dark Souls and does not offer the reward I am after in a game then it is hard for me to feel compelled to best it.

What other reasons do people have to persist with a difficult (or easy) game? Is a good story enough? let me know!

Cheers,

Lachie

#1 Posted by Black_Knight_00 (18334 posts) -

"Reward" is purely subjective. For some people, the challenge is its own reward.

#2 Posted by Renouncereality (84 posts) -

@Black_Knight_00: Thats why I asked about other people's experiences. the types of rewards are definitely subjective but a game still needs some type of incentive to keep playing

#3 Posted by Black_Knight_00 (18334 posts) -

@Black_Knight_00: Thats why I asked about other people's experiences. the types of rewards are definitely subjective but a game still needs some type of incentive to keep playing

For some people, beating a Dark Souls boss after failing for days until they commit its patterns to memory is in itself a reward. To me, it's not. Though I like playing military FPS games at the highest difficulty for similar reasons.

#4 Posted by Pffrbt (6542 posts) -

Dark Souls really isn't that difficult and your criticisms of it don't seem to be based on any kind of reality.

#5 Posted by Matas_0R_Not (50 posts) -

An example of this is Borderlands 2. When you have the golden keys and unlock the chest in the sanctuary quite a lot of times, you'll soon realise that mission items are not that good at your level and inventory, the only way to get even better weapons is to join another players game who has a much higher level and roam all the map for hidden chests to find weapons which are much more powerful. I do that quite a lot personaly when i got bored/stuck on one of the levels. Sereosly guys, i need fearles vault hunters to help me!

#6 Posted by Renouncereality (84 posts) -

@Pffrbt: Clearly Dark souls is hard. If it wasn't then no one would play it. It has no other hooks

#7 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (10629 posts) -

Rewards systems are being abused these lately.

I think developers should start considering a reward system only after they've nailed done mechanics that are worth playing even if you get nothing in return or even when you fail.

But developers are starting to get lazy. They use rewards to make the gameplay seem like it was worth while. The most common example of this in most games, is Scavenging and looting. These two things are definately not worth things you want to do in a game. Developers make it seem worth it only when you find something.

If you wana see if something really has actuall value, if its really worth doing - Then simply remove the rewards and see if its still fun and challenging. Or is it still cool when you lose or fail?

If simply playing the game is not its own reward then screw that. Playing a game shouldn't feel like work, no matter how challenging. You shouldn't feel like you have to be compensated for doing something. These things shouldve been worth doing in the 1st place.

And Guess which genre is the number one violater of reward abuse ? Thats right.... Its ROLE PLAYING GAMES ! :D Luckily Mass Effect 2's mineral mining was not worth the reward. now if only people would do the Same with Bethesda and Square Enix.

#8 Posted by ShepardCommandr (2468 posts) -

Was it worth the 60 hours of grinding to take down the dark aeons and penance in FFX hd?

No it wasn't,it was a total waste of time.

#9 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (10629 posts) -

@ ShepardCommandr

One thing I loved about the Static nature of Action games like DmC or Batman is the character you play as is already capable of beating the boss.

In An RPG you have to go through the unecessary formality of turning a blank slate loser of an avatar into a decent threat, worse yet, you do this by stats, not by actual skill.

Atleast thats was the case in Final Fantasy.

A game where it never occurred to the developers that you wouldnt need 5 defense atrributes to managed if you gave the player a simple block or dodge button or the ability to move.

#10 Posted by Renouncereality (84 posts) -

@Lulu_Lulu: I think it is an interesting point you bring up about the gameplay being a reward in itself. Some games are definitely just fun to play (why do you think mario games are still popular?) But in saying that I think that getting to the next stage of a great story can be a great driver in making you want to progress through a stage. Even if the gameplay is not amazing.

#11 Posted by Some-Mist (5630 posts) -

Rewards systems are being abused these lately.

I think developers should start considering a reward system only after they've nailed done mechanics that are worth playing even if you get nothing in return or even when you fail.

this is why I mostly find enjoyment in shmups. there's no story or extras... it's pure gameplay/scoring/and sometimes rank control. the gameplay is fun, but the games are borderline impossible - but still possible. It's awesome to try and beat on 1 credit which isn't supposed to be very probable.

I played futari for about 4 months straight so I could 1 credit clear maniac mode's 5 stages, and let me just say.... once I killed larsa it was an incredible feeling. even the intensity on the fight brings me back to my old team fortress classic clan tryout days :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TTHVGyH79c

#12 Edited by Lulu_Lulu (10629 posts) -

@ Renouncereality

True. Gaming is like dating and even though Mario is a great lay, it lacks the intimacy only a game like The Last Of Us or The Walking Dead can provide, although to be fair, those two are not so great in bed.

How do you like my Anal-ogy ? Hahaha I'm so dirty. Definately don't need the intimacy. I'm with Mario all the way. :p

@ Some-Mist

I'm also gameplay upfront kinda guy only difference I actually suck. I get slaughtered online and usually play on the lowest difficulties. And you know what... Its miles better than Cutscenes.

#13 Posted by cooolio (456 posts) -

@ ShepardCommandr

One thing I loved about the Static nature of Action games like DmC or Batman is the character you play as is already capable of beating the boss.

In An RPG you have to go through the unecessary formality of turning a blank slate loser of an avatar into a decent threat, worse yet, you do this by stats, not by actual skill.

Atleast thats was the case in Final Fantasy.

A game where it never occurred to the developers that you wouldnt need 5 defense atrributes to managed if you gave the player a simple block or dodge button or the ability to move.

This is why I am glad that have a bigger variety of RPGs that are more action heavy. The Witcher 2 is a great example. You level up in the game, but only from missions. Also, you have skill trees that are more focused on abilities not stats. Basically, it is up to you to claim victory with your on skill.

#14 Edited by cooolio (456 posts) -

@ Renouncereality

True. Gaming is like dating and even though Mario is a great lay, it lacks the intimacy only a game like The Last Of Us or The Walking Dead can provide, although to be fair, those two are not so great in bed.

How do you like my Anal-ogy ? Hahaha I'm so dirty. Definately don't need the intimacy. I'm with Mario all the way. :p

@ Some-Mist

I'm also gameplay upfront kinda guy only difference I actually suck. I get slaughtered online and usually play on the lowest difficulties. And you know what... Its miles better than Cutscenes.

This is why i really like games that have a good narrative and solid gameplay.

#15 Posted by El_Zo1212o (6007 posts) -

My brother and I just picked up EDF2025. The difficulty is hard to quantify, though, for a number of reasons- you can change the difficulty level at will between stages- which is good because occasionally they throw an extreme difficulty spike into a series of simple levels- but often, lowering the difficulty doesn't help because on certain difficulties the weapon selection is capped, so all the weapons you acquired on the higher difficulties are unavailable.

The story is extremely random, and doesn't have any natural flow, and the dialogue was poorly localized, but finally topping that level where the difficulty spiked and being able to cruise through the next few levels feels pretty rewarding.

#16 Posted by Minishdriveby (9785 posts) -

@Pffrbt: Clearly Dark souls is hard. If it wasn't then no one would play it. It has no other hooks

Yes it does. I'm drawn into the atmosphere, level design, enemy design and story. Combat and difficulty for me is below all those things.

#17 Posted by Some-Mist (5630 posts) -

@renouncereality said:

@Pffrbt: Clearly Dark souls is hard. If it wasn't then no one would play it. It has no other hooks

Yes it does. I'm drawn into the atmosphere, level design, enemy design and story. Combat and difficulty for me is below all those things.

not to mention the seamless pvp system.

#18 Posted by Jacanuk (4237 posts) -

What is this deal with rewards? if you look at the stone cold facts, even life isn't really that rewarding, most people work their entire life, even as a kid there is "work" and in the end what reward do you get? nothing.

But as with that game rewards is highly subjective and for some it can be a huge reward to finally beat a boss or finally get to a certain place. and for a lot of people a "mature based" game like Catherine will never be rewarding,

#19 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (10629 posts) -

@ cooolio

The thing about me is I'm really strict about these things. I can't even handle Upgrades in Racing Games.

Luckily racing has an added benefit of making the track more challenging to manouvre on when you you upgrade the car. Its almost self regulating.

#20 Posted by Gannon27 (98 posts) -

Very interesting topic. I think the whole "Challenge vs Reward" question is very subjective. Even while playing the same game, depending on taste and skill level, one player may find the game challenging and rewarding, while another may not. One player may feel rewarded simply by defeating a difficult boss while another may feel disappointed that there was no loot or trophy awarded after defeating the same boss. Challenge and reward is perhaps one of the most important aspects of a game. Get it wrong and gamers will stop playing. Too challenging and the player may give up in frustration, too easy will leave players with no sense of achievement or reward. Imho the best illustration of when a game gets the balance right is the Dark Souls series. You may die many times, but because of the rewarding feeling of beating the boss and progressing, you keep going back for more. Buy hey, as I said it's subjective. Another player may not get that feeling and find the effort not worth the reward.

#21 Edited by Lulu_Lulu (10629 posts) -

@ Gannon27

Or they may find the eventual triumph In Dark Souls more of a relief than a reward.

Anything can happen.

#22 Posted by Gannon27 (98 posts) -

Haha, I haven't got there yet so not sure what I will feel. :)

#23 Posted by Pffrbt (6542 posts) -

@Pffrbt: Clearly Dark souls is hard. If it wasn't then no one would play it. It has no other hooks

If not for the great gameplay, amazing art and atmosphere, and interesting lore you might've had a point.

#24 Edited by jcopp72 (5335 posts) -

For me I like the way the Assassins Creed games are, not too difficult but some areas my challenge you. If I am playing a game that I am dieing all the time or cant figure out how to get through a level then I would not be having fun and it would become stressful.

#25 Posted by Lulu_Lulu (10629 posts) -

^ ^

And Stress means you wont find the experience rewarding when you finaly do succeed. You'd find it more of a relief.

Kind of like Big Test at School.

#26 Edited by Ariabed (1103 posts) -

@renouncereality: you play dark souls, incentive/reward is to better your character so you can use that cool weapon you found so you can defeat that boss that you couldn't defeat before so you can progress further into the game and just the sher joy of the combat. AC4 rewards/incentives to play is to make reales so you can upgrade your ship so you can take on other ships with more loot and more powerful ships to add to your fleet. Then ultimately take on the legendary ships. Plus to you have the story.

#27 Posted by Renouncereality (84 posts) -

@Lulu_Lulu: Interesting point equating playing video games to dating. Looking back at some games you feel like that were too much hard work and didn't really do much for you in the end, aka the naggy GF (Dark Souls for me), and you will always feel a sense of disdain for it.

Whereas some games might be more like a great one night stand (Gone home) which you spend a little length of time with but have a really intense experience that will stick with you forever

And then there is the one true love (Mass effect) Who you love all the way through and you can keep replaying it many times and it doesn't get old.

Anyway this has entertained me far too much haha Might blog about this sometime

#28 Posted by Jacanuk (4237 posts) -

@Pffrbt: Clearly Dark souls is hard. If it wasn't then no one would play it. It has no other hooks

What made you come to that conclusion because it has a small very very vocal fanbase about how hardcore it is?

Also you might not see any hooks, but thats only you, unless you somehow think that your opinion is a valid measurement for everyone else and they think, feel and do what you do?

And the same actually goes for Dark Souls and if its hard or not, its all down to the persons own skill, but i have heard a lot of people say its not hard and i will agree with them, the game isn't hard, it's filled with strange camera angels, design decisions and bugs that wont get fix because it only "adds value" to the game.

And as to rewards as i mentioned there isent anything to debate, its a highly subjective term and not really open to debate.

#29 Posted by Renouncereality (84 posts) -

@Jacanuk: Ok my use of words could have been better but I think it is fairly ridiculous to say that only the vocal minority say the game is hard. The tagline is "prepare to die".

Also the sole point of blogging and discussion threads is to debate. Saying that there is nothing to debate, on a topic people are clearly debating, is against the point of this type of site and community.

#30 Posted by GreySeal9 (24118 posts) -

@Jacanuk: Ok my use of words could have been better but I think it is fairly ridiculous to say that only the vocal minority say the game is hard. The tagline is "prepare to die".

Also the sole point of blogging and discussion threads is to debate. Saying that there is nothing to debate, on a topic people are clearly debating, is against the point of this type of site and community.

Yeah, I find that ridiculous as well. If it's anything like Demon Souls, it's hard.