Wednesday, February 13, 2013

EXP Podcast #211: Dissecting Difficulty with Mattie

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When it comes to conversations, especially between three talkative people, Twitter just doesn't cut it. Therefore, when Mattie Brice, Jorge, and I started trading tweets about the merits of difficulty in games, we knew it was time to change venues. This week, we're excited to have Mattie on the show to talk about the meaning behind the challenges games offer. We cover everything from Super Hexagon to Pokemon, and even throw in some parallels to BDSM to spice things up (Pro tip: don't Google BDSM+Pokemon…unless you're into that). As always, thanks for listening, and feel free to jump into the comments with your thoughts!

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Show notes:

- Mattie Brice's website
- Runtime: 52 min 39 sec
- Music by Brad Sucks


  1. "Pro tip: don't Google BDSM+Pokemon…unless you're into that" SUPER Pro tip: You should not be into that.

  2. Something I've been thinking about lately is how developers *cough* Gearbox *cough* seem to think that making something more tedious means a better, more difficult experience. Giving badasses and bosses a stupid amount of hp and the ability to 1 hit you, then refusing to raise the level cap because it'd be "breaking the game" is ridiculous. -_- Players should be rewarded for progression, not punished.

  3. It's not an easy question, but lately all of my favorite games, the ones that have stayed with me long after I got tired of them, have been particularly difficult. FTL, Binding of Isaac, Spelunky - they all took hours to master, and they all had a way to keep adding extra difficulty (and depth) even when you finally beat it. FTL had different ships, Spelunky had hidden secrets and extra levels, and perhaps the most brilliant choice was TBoI's, in which the ending kept being pushed forward, adding difficulty and story layers at the same time.

    I also think that choosing the wrong difficulty level can ruin a game to some extent, especially when games lock you in your current difficulty for your savegame. If "normal" at some point becomes too easy, a good game can turn into a series of cutscenes. Which is probably why Bastion's difficulty system, as Jorge mentioned, seemed so brilliant to me. My only complaint was that I couldn't unlock all the shrines in my first playthrough.

    Thanks for another great podcast, guys.

  4. It's a fine line between what tedium and discipline. There are those who would say that 1 hits and lots of HP forces a kind of technical mastery. Of course, these types of people probably do knuckle-pushups on gravel in between Dark Souls stages...

  5. Thank you for listening David! I think it's worth noting that the three games you mentioned are both challenging and heavy-handed when it comes to consequences; mess up, and it's back to the beginning. That kind of pressure coupled with the rock solid rule systems those games have makes for exciting experiences.