CRPG Difficulty

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Matt Barton's picture

Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Software has posted some Three Rules for Difficulty in RPGs, which has some great thoughts and advice for would-be CRPG designers. I enjoyed it mostly because of the obvious passion and emotion Jeff has for this stuff--his reactions to those who "ragequit" over a difficult fight are touching, to say the least.

Heck, maybe I should try to get him on the show.


Rampant Coyote (not verified)
Jeff Vogel on Matt Chat? Yes, Please!

Vogel is, at this point, one of the longest-term RPG designers out there who is still at it. Period. And he was an indie RPG developer from long before anybody was using the term "indie"... back when he started, it was still called "Shareware" at the height of the Doom frenzy. I'd be interested in hearing more about his story.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
Me, too. I sent the company

Me, too. I sent the company an email, but have received no response.

Joined: 01/21/2009
I think i fit all the

I think i fit all the stereotypes of gamers in his column (i love his stuff, read it all the time and have never played one of his games, is that bad?).
I almost never use the easy diffuculty setting, in fact I tend to go to one step below the hardest on almost any game I play (except FPS, I tend to go normal, i can ramp it up and play it again if it was to easy, not the case very often).
DragonAge is the exception to the rule. I played it on the easy setting and pulled my hair out the first time. I recently went through it again on the secong to hardest setting and breezed through it. The combat mechanic was the Stumbling block.. learning it was HARD, boring and repetative (to me) but once I had it down and didnt mind pressing the space bar every mili second... it was actually easy (and knowing the classes needed the second go round also helped).

He mentions potions (healing and other), im the Western RPG player, I collect 200 healing potions in a game and end have 195 of them left, rarely using one on a boss fight as after the 30th time I'm starting to bore and pop one here and there just to 'finish" this battle so I dont have to try beat it again without using one potion. Asian RPG's EXPECT you to use them , they give um out like candy.. and I have never grabbed onto that idea. Im a beat a tough encounter and rest type guy. I also HATE with a passion the NO WIN boss fights, you are suposed to die to advance the story. I run into this rarely and for a "beat it with just my skill, no potions" guy i tend to lose and instantly load... never seeing the DREAM/RESURECTION scene and just get frustrated. My own game play style, but there are a couple whre i was so mad I quit to only find out I wasnt suposed to beat that mob.

PUZZLES- this one is good and bad. Age has made me enjoy puzzles alot more then my old gameing days. Any puzzle with some remote logic to it is a wonderfull thing. But I must admit some puzzle types totally annoy me to no end. recently I bought a game called PUZZLE AGENT on steam, love the game but a couple puzzles just turn me off so bad I shut the game off and dont play it for weeks. I then grudgingly struggle with said puzzle or just CHEAT and get answer (if you have played the game, the bird puzzles with wieght (montey python like- think african swollow)) made me hate the game. RPG's normaly have the same puzzles desguised in new cloths. The Button press sequence (my most hated) done with buttons, tiles, presure plates, sockets, etc... When all buttons are in one room its annoying enough, but when placed all over so you have to run around several minutes to try each combo... BAH!!!!! this is extremly bad with random mob encounters.

Fights- I prefer edge of seat fighting, I prefer turn based. Dragon AGE has a good idea (ok so its been done before several times) done in a micro manage way... which makes it boring and tedieous to me. I DO LIKE fights I cant beat on first try.. but only boss fights, if the trash starts kicking me around, dont like that... challange is ok.. but trash fights should never take the thinking and planning of a boss fight.

But to be 100% honest I havent played a RPG I thought was to hard in ages.... Dragon Age was hard only in the fact that after so long I was lazy and bored by the fight mechanic and had a poor party make up. I have bought several CONSOLE rpg's ported to the PC that while not hard, have stopped me from playing with the "madden Effect"[trademark] Last Remenent is one like that. Console games tend to chain buttons togther to "enhance" gameplay. Or timed button smashing to hit "harder"... While I like the fact that the 100% random dice roll is left to the player to deal with, whack a mole gameplay was originaly made for 5-8 year olds.. why was it resurected for games that have 16+ age requirement? That may sound harsh, but I did like it in Shadow Hearts on the PS2... say 6 years ago.. its old hat.. boring now.. Heck even PC games are doing it .. but I suspect its becuase they will be ported to consoles too (bioshock2 hacking). Even THE WITCHER (which I say is one of the best 5 RPG's in the last few years IMHO) even does to a degree.. combat isnt timed to the mob , but to your button presses. hammer the attack you flub, steady presses make the best attacks. I gues I understand the RPG has been stagnent for years, something has to be changed, but its not like peanut butter and chocolet... somtimes 2 things that work apart, do not work togther.. and sometimes if they do, but every frigging game uses it (quick time events) its OLD before the new wears off.

I just long for a updated (graphics) Dungeon keeper, Black Crypt (recomend any AMIGA emu people to check BLACK CRYPT out), EOB .. Realtime step by step RPG. Heck I would Take the WORLD OF XEEN game "as is" with updated graphics... I loved that game series.

MADDEN EFFECT- When simple fun to play games are "improved" by making you push 2 buttons at a time or 4 in a some complicated pattern. Madden football when first release on the Genisis had 3 buttons and played GREAT!, now on current consoles it uses all 50 buttons on a controler (exageration) sometime all are used on one play, in combo's/pushed at same time, etc.. A game that riquires me to use a right thumbstick to change my VIEW but also requires me to hold a shoulder button and press 2 thumb buttons at same time is simply IMPOSSIBLE!!!! ONE reason FPS will never be as good on a console as a PC.. running around a corner (requires you to manually control your view if you dont want to be looking to your right, your original direction instead of your new direction (or left depending on way around corner), and hitting a thumb button to crouch (reload/jump/throw grenade/etc) and also a sholder button to fire... just not happening....Left thumb is already aiming, right thumb is changing view... so main finger is pulling trigger... ZERO fingers that can puch thumb buttons... which to me equals a compromised game... sure you adapt.. but why? You are not adapting to become better, you are adapting to LIMITATIONS of the control system. good thing console games have plenty of good things.. bu the control system will never be one of them for anybody who has used a mouse keyboard (on FPS).

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