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Once upon a time I submitted an animation to newgrounds -- then I got into making games!

Kyle Pulver @Xerus

34, Male

Video Game Developer

Clarkson University

Seattle, WA

Joined on 5/28/01

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The difficulty of your games

Posted by Xerus - August 25th, 2010

Hey! Depict1 was posted finally, which you can check out here: http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/

It's been getting a lot of great feedback from the Newgrounds community, but I'm noticing one thing that I haven't really noticed anywhere else. A lot of the reviews that rate it from 5 - 8 or so have one main complaint, and that is the difficulty. (Okay so other reviews in that score range also complain that the game lags, but unfortunately we haven't been able to reproduce that at all -- I recommend not using Internet Explorer!)

Some of the reviews seem to complain that the game is way too easy. Now this is the first game that I've ever published to Newgrounds, but it makes me wonder -- does Newgrounds really like difficult games? It's hard to judge, really. When you breeze through a game and enjoy it, you can easily feel like you want more of that game to play, so making it harder can sort of create the illusion of a longer game. (NES games are notorious for this practice, as a lot of games for that system were actually very short but the difficulty stretched out their length by a pretty big margin.) Leaving the player with the feeling of wanting more is ideal for a game developer though. In most cases it means that the game has ended on a high note, and the player left with a good taste in their mouth. I don't know why they were eating the game, though.

If Newgrounds really wants a more difficult game, then that makes me pretty excited to work on something else in flash that's a bit more challenging than depict1. I'll admit that I made depict1 pretty easy by my standards, and I did so for an experiment in difficulty. Most of the games that I make end up being pretty damn hard because I make them slightly challenging for myself. Slightly challenging for the author of the game translates into amazingly difficult for other players... so when I was making depict1, I made it very easy for myself just to see how it would be for other players. For most people the difficulty was just right. It wasn't frustrating, and not a lot of people got stuck. Most people are able to play through and at least get ending (1/2). (Although most people that do get stuck stop playing at the Walljump level.)

It seems that the audience that plays games on Newgrounds is a very specific crowd. I'm assuming that most of the people that think depict1 is too easy are hardened veterans of tough flash platformers, and probably even platformers from the SNES, Genesis, and NES days. Anyway, I'm just keeping all of this feedback in mind for my next game. I have a couple of ideas that I could pursue in flash if I choose to, and one of them is a rather hardcore fast paced action/puzzle platformer, and I'm starting to think it's right up Newgrounds community's alley.

On a related note, back in 2007/2008 I released my first big project -- Bonesaw: The Game. It's a Windows only downloadable game that can be grabbed right off my website: http://kpulv.com So if you guys want a hardcore platformer that will destroy your soul, then maybe give that a try! There are also some other games on there which may tickle your fancies. Maybe they'll come to flash some day too! I'm also working on a bigger project with my buddies at http://retroaffect.com so check that out too if you have a chance. Thanks for all the support for depict1, it's really awesome that a lot of you like it, and I hope that I can drop more flash games on you guys soon! : )

Comments (15)

I've always been a fan of games that are difficult enough where you had the illusion of a challenge and some tension, but never had to repeat the same thing too many times, or at least repeat a long lead-in. Depict1 has a fun way of playing with your brain and when you die you never have to repeat too much to get where you were, which I like.

If you want to keep the main game in the same realm as Depict1 but also cater to hardcore gamers, you could put side-challenges in the levels with hard-to-reach goals that ultimately earn you medals. That's the way I've been approaching things lately.

I also wanted to say that Depict1 is one of those games that comes around every once in a while that I REALLY REGRET NG not being the sponsor of. I wasn't able to make it happen this time, but keep me posted on future stuff!

Right, difficulty can be balanced with forgiveness of failure. Meat Boy / Super Meat Boy is a good example of this. Levels are incredibly difficult, but the time to respawn is probably half a second or something ridiculous like that. The game doesn't give you a chance to feel frustrated or put the controller down, every time is just "well, I'll give it one more shot."

Medals and achievements are a good approach, I'll definitely keep that in mind for whatever I end up doing next in flash. I'll definitely keep in touch for anything I cook up in the future ;D

I'm studying video game development, and I've gotta say that yes Depict1 was a bit too easy/short. It was a good game, and it made me think of Cavestory in both graphical appearance and SFX. I think you should continue down similar paths in the future, but add some difficulty. not XBAWKS HUEG amounts, just some difficulty.
What made Depict1 "simple" was that the pattern seemed to be "Do as you're told not to." But I liked the way that Depict1 occasionally tickled your brain making you think. So I guess try to make patterns less noticeable?
I'm looking forward to games from you in the future.
With admiration:
Super Amoeba

Thanks for the feedback. I think depict1 is easily one of the easiest games that I've made. I really had to force myself to tone the game down as I was making it because whenever I feel like I make a game moderately challenging, it ends up being down right impossible for some people. The Newgrounds audience is very unique though, and they can handle challenges pretty well. Definitely keeping that in mind for the future.

I know exacttly what you mean! Almost every game I make I get complains that it's too hard and that this game sucks... I make game so they are hard to me. It's not my fault people suck! But this is the reason I make games, I don't make games to please the masses, while it'd be nice if everyone was not such a wuss but they're not. However you will have people that will appreciate your work and that the point.
If you made at least one persons day better, ya did good.

Oh man we have pretty similar wavelengths here. My game making philosophy is "I make games that I want to play." So I usually end up making games way too hard for that reason. It's a struggle to make my games accessible, but still games that are fun for me... I guess that's where extra hard bonus content can come in though! My attitude is definitely that of "If at least one person plays this game 100% through and enjoys it, then I've accomplished my goal." Rock on! ;D

I don't care what they say about your game.. I LOVE YOUR GAME! IT ROCKS!

Thanks! :D

Good question. Personally, I've always thought that a good game transcendes the issue of difficulty, in the sense that I've played plenty of easy and hard and even masocore (think IWBTG) games that I've enjoyed immensely and thought to be good.

So, to be honest, I think the people who are complaining about the difficulty are wrong and you should focus on making the game good, above all, as is the case with depict1, which is excellent all round.

However, if it's bugging you that much, I think Tom's suggestion is spot-on; it really does allow for both those who want a easier, more straightforward experience and those who want a challenge.

It's not that the complaints are bugging me, it's more interesting or surprising to me. Usually responses to my games have been "This is way too fucking hard." but on Newgrounds depict1 has a reception of being "too easy." If anything, it makes me excited that I can make a game more my style and maybe it will fit in just right with the Newgrounds crowd.

I know plenty of people that have played depict1 and gotten stuck, or just weren't good enough at platforming to make it through some of the levels, but on Newgrounds that doesn't seem to be the case at all. Basically at the end of the day I'm still going to make the game that I really want to make, but knowing that there's an audience out there that wants hard core challenges and is vocal about it makes me more confident in making stuff like that.

how bout don't make it easy but don't make it hard

make it heasy

Done and done.

generic comment involving complaints to this particular subject or particular visual hands on game. Using words to describe this users opinion which is not stressed out enough will most likely not be read over nor given a second thought about, being a common every day user and not an animator nor a game designer of any type. Also using compassionate words to describe a more in depth and captivating opinion which once again will most likely not be read over. The conclusion how ever will be made together to the point that the major user "TomFulp" will notice and give comment to. all in all i could give a shit less

Generic response.

When I want challenge, I do as you say and break out the NES. I play flash games on Newgrounds for a light, quick time waster. I liked depict1,I think its fun to breeze through one every once in a while.

Break out the NES with some Battletoads! Thanks for the feedback :D

Aye, the game is perfectly suited for medal achievements that could easily bolster up the range of appreciation.

The ones you had were great. But more challenge medals (like the Drop 3) could add that second layer :D

Just a thought. Loved it by the way.

The medals were actually added well after the game had been finished (Months, actually!) So they may seem a little "tacked on'. Drop 3 definitely seems like one of the best ones because it makes you play that level a little differently with more of a risk. Thanks for the feedback ;D

I think that sometimes making something super difficult can only make it better. What I mean is, if I play a game, and it's super easy, but in all other respects fun, that's great and I'll have a good time. Now, if I play the same game on "Ultra Super Impossibly Hard Mode", it's gonna be more of a challange, sure, but personally, that feeling I get when I overcome a huge challange is amazing. I've played some games where I get stuck on a puzzle, or just get confused and can't progress, and it pisses me off. But, if I get stuck on, for example, a boss fight, I'll never get tired of playing it and when I overcome it I feel great. I guess what I mean is, as long as my goal is in sight, I'll go for it. On one last note, I've played lots of games that are fun and amazingly well desinged, but very easy. When I finish them I always feel like I never really got the final challange I wanted. It leaves me with sort of an empty feeling. If a game was harder, I don't get that feeling.

I wish more players were like you. I think the feeling of overcoming a challenge or frustration is amazing, and I think where games are headed now are sort of eliminating that feeling. Many game companies now (coughvalvecough) try to make their games as "frustration-free" as possible. Frustration leads to players quitting the games early, or experiencing some sort of negative feelings toward the game, and developers are afraid of that.

However, if a player never experiences frustration, then they never really experience the opposite, which is the feeling you speak of. Overcoming the challenge, the puzzle, the boss, whatever it is. The feeling of breaking down a wall that seemed to be unreachable, taking down the seemingly invincible, busting through time and space! Nothing else compares.

I played through depict1 and found it to be fairly challenging at times... not extremely hard. The last boss I had to cheat I just didn't understand what I was supposed to do.

It was a neat game with some cool graphics.

How did you cheat? Did you use a game genie to get the hammer bros suit?

More hard games like the good fashioned nes. The game was not that hard and frustrating as ninja..

Great game! I find the idea of multiple endings, a narrator with his own interests and the fact that the game requires both brains and skill. An improvement would be making the narrator more cunning/intelligent (alternates between truth and lie more often) or more powerful (i.e. giving him limited control over the environment)
I am aware that a game like that will be hard to make but nevertheless would make the game even better. The game was just a bit too easy.

I definitely enjoyed your game. I honestly thought it was pretty easy. It seemed like one of those games that was slightly more focused on the story rather than gameplay at first, but on a second playthrough I realized you balanced the two quite well. It left me wanting more, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It was a nice blend of a platformer and a puzzle game, with a great story to boot, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Btw, have fun in Spain :3.

Congrats on the Tank!