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Kirby and difficulty levels: A discussion
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While reading through the reviews of the new Epic Yarn game, I stumbled upcon these comments: [QUOTE]SuperfluousMoniker: "I don't care how many stars you give it, a game in which you cannot die, a game with no challenge, does not intrigue me. Would you feel good after winning a fight with a paraplegic? That's probably how I would feel after beating this game." Noodles: "The pleasure center in my brain activates when I overcome a challenge. I stand by my analogy. Fighting someone who can't fight back is no fun.""[/QUOTE] So goes the saying that "playing to win" is the only way to have fun. But how does this affect people when you can't [i]lose[/i]? The most controversial thing about this new Kirby game is that you can't die [i][b]but[/b][/i] that doesn't necessarily means it lacks challenge. I've always figured out the mass appeal of Kirby and his games were that, on one hand, yes, they're terribly easy to breeze through. But on the other hand, there was a layer of difficulty that more advanced players could (and often do) tackle to reward and unlock more "meat" to their playtime. Many people might be turned off at the idea that the challenge isn't there from the start, but this prompts me to discuss something I've been wishing more games could offer: tiered difficulty, or should we say [URL=http://www.lostlevels.org/200402/200402-rcr.shtml][i]transparent depth[/i][/URL]. I'm not talking about dynamic difficulty, btw (or am I?). Part of this new Kirby's catch is that the challenge comes in the form of collecting beads, and that every time you get struck by an enemy, you lose a ton of your collectathons Sonic-style. What's interesting is the take on this mechanic via the scoring system: You're rated depending on your collection rate, similar to how shmups use score to gauge your performance. What's interesting is that it's a simple mechanic to follow that novices can catch on very quickly (meaning the less they get hit, the more they get rewarded), and yet they aren't [i]penalized[/i] should they play the game without opting for the extra challenge; they still get to the end eventually, but they just don't get the goodies along with it (extra levels, hidden ending?). Another example would be Space Invaders Extreme and its sequel: The powerup mechanic works nicely here, because it not only encourages you to score four of the same color to aquire a boost in firepower, but by keeping up at it they remain armed for much longer, not only [u]increasing their chances of survival[/u], but also boosting their score as the "unintended" benefit. In other words, the game's dynamic is comprehendable, yet the priorities of which the player should focus on are made clear: survive, upgrade, score more. I feel a lot of shmups sometimes fail at this level *[i]cough[/i]Touhou[i]cough[/i]* or suffer from what I'd like to call "SNK Elitism": Technical base rules that are sometimes not made clear unless you've read some tourney guide beforehand. Perhaps this is just leftovers from the arcade cabinet "pasted instructions" era, but I feel even that era did usher the focus of giving games "transparent mechanics" (i.e. pick-up-and-play-ness), and in the case of most Masahiro Sakurai/Kirby games, I could see how this dynamic works. But video game "death" (lives and continues) is also a thing I feel is part of the arcade era that is also being made inert by the advent of game saves. Certainly, death can be counted against the player as a way of depriving bonuses (Super Metroid), but this new title simply just integrates it as a huge hit on score. I feel this is where people will make a huge fuss about, feeling that if a player [i]fails hard[/i], they should really feel the repurcussions of it and should suffer, [URL=http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/104007-Kojima-Wanted-to-Use-Snatcher-Disk-for-Real-Life-Noir]Hideo Kojima-style[/URL]! Which makes me wonder if it is merely the lack of [i]penalty[/i] people are fretting about, rather than the lack of death? In this case, it seems Epic Yarn's "penalty" for "unskilled" players would be to "deprive" them of the extra levels, in which they would need to have that certain level of finess in order to fully enjoy anyway. In this case, the [i]transparent depth[/i] works to both the game and the players benefit: Ignorance is bliss, until they find out that there's much more to uncover. Yeah, not everyone will agree with my stance, knowing most of MMCafe consists of those people who enjoy the masochism of being punished by a game (there's also [i][u]that fine line[/u][/i] too, a subject we could also discuss here). Too bad not everyone agrees with it, especially if the game makes itself too hard to enjoy (*[i]cough[/i]Touhou[i]cough[/i]*)
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