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How Hard Is Too Hard?
What balance of level difficultly should be present in a well designed Quake map?

Should mappers gear singleplayer maps played in 'normal' skill play as easy/hard as id's original maps? Or have we reached a point where everyone is a great Quake player?

Whose opinion should take preferance? The Mapper's love of 'tricking' or 'beating' the player? Or the Player's goal of defeating the map? Are mapper's who skillfully provide challenge to player's better? Or would you rather maps be walks in the park with action and fun and some simple skills? Is there a perfect mixture of the two worlds?

Discuss. [i](c) Shambler[/i]
Oh My. 
fucked up italic tags :D 
Well 
I personally feel I did a decent job (not great, but decent) with the skill levels in RPGSP1, but I still had reports from people that they couldn't beat the map; even on easy skill setting! I don't know if it's a testament to the lack of skill in those players, or a testament to the difficulty of the map.

Err, so really I can't answer the question, but I personally feel that the difficulty should be bumped up a notch from the default id maps because there are lots of players who otherwise wouldn't be challenged. 
Okay, Good Discussion Question 
Scampie, your sm58_scampie was really hard there at the end. I had to run through the Spawns there after killing the Shamblers because I was out of nearly everything. I'm the type of player who likes to slay everything on the map and dice it into little bitty gibs (I guess I'm just mean that way). I don't begrudge that in your map though as it was quite challenging.

I have a half finished map in my inventory that I may get back to some day where I took an entirely different approach in setting the skill levels. Easy equaled puzzle base with very few monsters, but the puzzle factor was meant to be pretty hard. Medium and Hard were combat oriented and only varied in armor, monster numbers and health, and Nightmare was set up as a speed run obstacle course (this portion of it I completed, the others I haven't).

This kind of approach to Quake leveling I feel may be a means of livening up what all of us experience Quakers are used to. 
Skill Settings Should Be What They Are Meant To Be 
I wouldnt worry about benchmarks such as id maps etc.

easy is easy. No good player is going to play on this, so treat this as a casual player or newbie.

normal is normal. Most players would probably play this so it should be fair, make it challenging if you want, but probably in the sense of more monsters rather than less ammo/armor as the players are going to be reasonably skilled but still waste resources.

hard is hard. This is where you can make it for the hardcore/highly skilled players. If they think they can play hard, then make it hard. People who choose to play on hard shouldnt really complain about difficulty on this level unless it's blatantly unfair or deliberately and impossibly overwhelming.

my $0.02 anyway.

As for reviews, they should rate it according to how they found it on the skill level they were playing it at (probably medium or hard). 
Meh 
I think that anyone still playing quake right now has been playing it for a while, and their skills probably reflect that.

So i think it's fair to bump each skill up by one, ie, id's normal would be a custom map's easy. 
Isn't There Room For Maps Of Different Difficulty Levels? 
 
What I Mean Is 
Isn't it best when we have overly-difficult and way-too-easy and well-adjusted maps? You're not going to please everyone. 
Veterans Of The Psychic Wars 
It is true that most of us who play Quake now know the monsters and tactics inside and out at this point.

I played Carved in Flesh by [Kona] a few months back and there is a great ending to the first map where you have to strafe dodge several sets of monsters that teleport when the fight is finished with the previous set and I know I would not have been capable of anything like that when Quake first came out.

One thing I could personally do is once I finally release my set of maps -- I'm dead set on getting that accomplished ('my other window is GTKRadiant!')-- is work on building a Progs.dat aimed at only improving the AI of standard Quake monsters and the fuctionality of the standard entity set, that way you could drop it into any map made for standard Quake.
You can already do this with Custent, of course, and get a bit of a improvement in the ai. 
This Approach 
I think that anyone still playing quake right now has been playing it for a while, and their skills probably reflect that.


I dont think that's a good approach. Sure most players can play well, but if you play a lot of games you dont become used to the one style & speed of playing. So if you fire up a quake map after playing lots of say q3, it takes a while to adjust. That's what skills settings are for and that's why I stand by my original statement.

Plus, you do eliminate casual players by making everything too hard. 
If You're Not Playing On Easy, It's Not Too Difficult 
I think an "add-on level" implies a step of advancement. Easy can be easy but mainly it should be completable by all or most, even if it takes a while. To me, it is normal for a mid-setting of skill to be bit hard. It should be within the range of how the level is intended to be played, which usually implies a challenge.

Hard and beyond can be of use in increasing replayability but only if it's not the way to play the map first time.

One way to set up difficulty is first make the level hard even for the mapper first, and then kind of mechanically back off a bit, and then a bit more for easy. Makes things calibrated to the only real reference, death ;) . I think these are the levels that impress me in gameplay, I'm thinking "is this really even possible?" and of course it is. Eventually.

The mapper should say so if the difficulty needs mention. "Ramping" of difficulty is also a factor.

"The Mapper's love of 'tricking' or 'beating' the player? " ... with traps there needs to be at least some possibility of the player just botching it. Traps should be typically survivable if they're easily avoidable on replay, to avoid quicksave syndrome. On the other hand something more like a full-scale ambush still isn't going to be home-free second time around so this would justify more chance of dying. What might be considered worthwhile depends on if it's interesting. 
Another Way Of Looking At It 
Think the END of easy on an original game being comparable to the START or at least middle of the original game on medium, or the start or middle of an add-on on easy. 
One Thing I May Add 
and I believe Nitin is infering is that it always seemed to me when playing maps that those with well defined skill levels were the most well made in general. 
Headthump 
yep, generally speaking that's what I think. There are maps where going from hard to medium is hardly much of a difference from the POV of what the mapper's implemented (obviously monster damage etc is changed by default), making the skill settings almost redundant. 
What Do I Know? 
Difficulty is always such a diff.. tricky subject. A map should be completeable without finding any secrets, but still challenging if you do find all the secrets. It's a fucking tightrope. To quad or not to quad.

There was also another thread recently (or did I dream it?) about environmental changes tied to skill level which is closely allied to this topic. Personally I think that monsters + environment is where the real skill in skill lies. See the end of e2m2 for example.

As for the question "how hard is too hard?", that really comes down to having a team of talented beta testers of various skills sat behind every good mapper. One man that knows exactly what's going to happen at every turn is not going to be able to tune a map as well as one who has testers that say more than "nice arkytekchewer".

Bear in mind though that I don't know how to map and so my opinions mean nothing. NOTHING!

Oh, Thumpy. If you decide that you're not going to finish that map you mention in your post above (the one with the speedrun course on nightmare skill) I'd be very interested to see it... :-) 
Welcome To Teh UBB Qmap... 
I prefered this topic when it was simply called "Difficulty" - http://celephais.net/board/view_thread.php?id=6941 
You Know... 
I totally missed that thread the first time round. woops. 
Since I Haven't Posted On Any Of The Threads So Far... 
Post 1.

My general opinion on the implementation of skills is that the jump from one skill to the next should be broad and obvious. An example of how this wasn't done is Dario Casali's Prodigy SE pack. Now I appreciate the quality of the maps in themselves - I enjoyed them a lot and they were some of the best for their time; Valve were obviously impressed enough by Casali's mapping to let him loose on the Black Mesa facility - but his treatment of the Quake skill divisions was characteristically egotistical of the little twat. His start map offered the skill settings as:
skill 0 - Normal
skill 1 - Hard
skill 2 - Really Hard
skill 3 - Nightmare
So, no Easy skill for you peasants; if you need to play on easy skill, find another pack. This mentality, I believe, comes from a mistaken, though depressingly common, notion that runs approximately thus:
My map is really hard to play => only really hardcore players can play my map => my map is really hardcore!
This is bullshit, and exactly what skill settings are there to obviate.
By narrowing the range of skill settings available, all the mapper does is reduce the potential audience of his map; or at any rate, reduce the entertainment potential for those trying to play it.

Easy skill should be easy - as a rough definition, anyone who has played any Quake 1 map on any skill setting should be able to complete the map on skill 0; including your mom! Normal skill should be an obvious step up from this, by a mixture perhaps of the number of monsters, the type of monsters and the methods available to defeat them. Hard skill should be many degrees of separation away from what is offered on Easy skill.
To me, the difference in skills is marked by 2 things:
1. the speed at which the player has to deal with confrontations and
2. the severity of the consequences should they fuck up
What shouldn't<i/> be drastically reduced with increasing skill settings are the options available to succeed; gameplay where only a precisely timed maneuver coupled with killing of monsters in a precise order or the use of only one weapon against a given opponent is not only hard, it is boring. It requires that the player learn an exact sequence pre-determined by the mapper, and the interactive quality that all games are supposed to be about is ultimately the loser. 
 
Post 2.

To illustrate the point about skill gaps, and my opinion in general, here is how I thought of the skill settings while buidling Contract Revoked:
I took as my baseline, for no other reason than it was really the only baseline I had, my own skill level. I know that I am not a piss poor Quake player, but at the time I was also aware that I was not in any way 'leet'. So I imagined a sort of amalgam player, and their journey into the Fodrian city libraries on their first attempt at the pack <- this is significant.
skill 0 - the player should, unless utterly stupid and suicidal in their attack, be able to complete the map on the first attempt
skill 1 - the player will not be driven into serious backtracking or be reduced to red-number health unavoidably, but are likely to die at some point simply because they do not know the map; but on reaching that point after loading-from-save or starting over, they should fair much better because of foreknowledge
skill 2 - the player will die at some point in the map, even if they know what's coming, simply because of the number and variety of challenges they have to deal with at certain confrontations; however, there should be some flexibility in the tactics they could use to overcome this and a little practice, and prudent saving, should see them through. The intention behind this thinking is to increase both the challenge to the player, by demanding they draw on different tactics and 'think on their feet' and also to increase the repeat gameplay potential
skill 3 - the player is not expected to complete the map on the first attempt, or to complete the pack at all; but the number of secrets available and the rewards therein might just tempt them...as before, the ambition here is to provide a reason to play through the pack yet again

Secrets, of course, should never be required to complete the map on skills 0 - 2. But skill 3 is different, because it cannot be separately implemented - it's just skill 2 but the monsters fire twice (?) as fast. So I don't think any mapper should worry too much about Nightmare! I imagine that id have always incorporated a 'omfg I'm gonna die!' skill setting into their games for much the same reason I stated above: no matter how good a player gets, no matter how well they know the maps, there's always something to challenge them. Thus, a reason to keep playing is dangled enticingly in front of even the leetest :P As an example, an old friend of mine who was one of those guilty of introducing me to Quake, was a major Doom fan: he was always rather proud of the fact he could complete the first three maps of Doom on Nightmare! Okay, the Doom engine was able to make the monsters respawn indefinately, whereas Quake cannot, but you get my point.

The confrontation in Contract Revoked that seemed to cause the most wringing of hands was the metal-beam walk to defeat Cthon. The combination of precipitous, movement-based hazard plus a boss monster constantly venting its grievances plus the odd mothafucka appearing right in your path, was a lot to deal with at once. But the main problem was, I think, the fact that Cthon actually leads his target on skill 2, so even if you keep running you're still in danger of being blasted off the beams. I didn't know this until well into the build :(
Still, UWF wrote in his review, "I find the map challenging but sometimes frustrating (especially in terms of replay value). Make no mistake this is a difficult level which requires much patience and skill to complete, (and frequent saving as well)."
Which, I suppose, is more or less what I was aiming for.

I guess my mistake in configuring Contract's skill settings was to assume that players who wanted a reasonable chance to complete the maps first time would select Normal skill, then go back and play on Hard later. I am, however, quite satisfied that those of you who immediately jumped into the Hard skill selection arch got exactly what is says on the tin :)
 
Bloody Tags 
 
^ Nice Posts Kell 
(all I have to say right now :D) 
Morfans 
The map is #3 in the project order of what I plan to get to, I'll keep your request in mind if I decide not to develop it further. 
Yeah, Basically What Kell Said. 
if i have 1 comment [you may have noticed i dont go for long posts] it would be:

Hard SHOULD be hard, i mean a real challenge. Insomnia is a classic example of this beimg implemented correctly.

This links to the related idea of playing maps more than once on hard skill, becuase even though you know whats coming in advance its still a challenge and hence enjoyable. 
Kell 
I will definitely keep those notes by my side as I populate the entities in my current project. Very valuable. 
Man Are You Guys Ever Dorks 
a thread with a title like this, and no one has made any sex jokes yet? 
Dang, You're Right 
I feel like South Park's Butters right now on account of your remark, Tronyn. 
In That Case... 
It's too hard when the calluses split. The resultant sharp edges aren't pleasurable for either of you. 
Nightmare : Kell 
Just to clear up a small point in something you said earlier. On skill 3 the monsters don't fire twice as fast. If they have line of sight on you they will attack relentlessly until you're dead or they lose line of sight. They will not try to move closer (as they do on most skills), just attack attack ATTACK!

Also, they are much more deadly at close quarters since they will not go into their pain frames for an additional 5 seconds on top of any normal delay for the type of monster.

Also, vore balls move faster. On 0,1 and 2 they move slower than a running marine, on 3 they move faster so you can't just outrun them.

Um, I think that's all. :-)

Anyone told a stiffy joke yet? 
Morfans 
your knowledge is useful
didn't know about voreballs, but i had a suspicion ;) 
Hehe I Didnt Know All That 
i knew not to play on nightmare skill though :) 
Eh 
i still say for the most part you cant try and make broad determinations for skill levels , all you can really do is try to make each skill level consistent throughout the level, and really just use your own skill level and method of playing as a guide. i did this in my map and in retrospect i think it turned out pretty well. my approach to it was that i made hard skill the skill level i would play on, normal just slightly intensive, and easy a relative cakewalk (again, for me) 
To Clarify 
this is not to say i didnt consider other players and how they would play my map, just that when developing the skill levels/combat i thought of how i would play it, what health i would need, etc, not what the invisible 'casual quake player' would

also, lets not forget beta-testing, this contributes to getting rid of alot of the minor/major inconsistencies in skill levels and its really the best step to negotiate between how they view the skill and what you (the mapper) think it should be like 
Impossible... 
...is too hard. 
Fat Controller LOL 
oh god! you're too good at that! 
Right... 
Let's have some words of reason in this thread. And mass func_tag b0rkage, no doubt.

RPG:

but I still had reports from people that they couldn't beat the map; even on easy skill setting!

Yeah but of course there's no way anyone should warn them that it could be a bit hard, the snivelling little sods, is there?? Let wade in unawares and suffer, eh!!

Headtuhmp:

Scampie, your sm58_scampie was really hard there at the end. I had to run through the Spawns there after killing the Shamblers because I was out of nearly everything.

OMG, PUSSSSSY! Were you playing in some wanky custom engine that removed power-ups or something?? Run in, grab the Quad, get the Smablers fighting the spawn and then gib anything left over.

Nitin:

So if you fire up a quake map after playing lots of say q3, it takes a while to adjust.

Pah, if you're playing lots of Q3A, you deserve everything you get, including the likely loss of skills and brain cell deterioration.

Scampie:

I totally missed that thread the first time round. woops.

Wow, civil contrition from someone online. Don't worry it will never catch on.

Kell:

but his treatment of the Quake skill divisions was characteristically egotistical of the little twat.

LOL, that sort of comment gives me a warm fuzzy feeling =).

gameplay where only a precisely timed maneuver coupled with killing of monsters in a precise order or the use of only one weapon against a given opponent is not only hard, it is boring. It requires that the player learn an exact sequence pre-determined by the mapper, and the interactive quality that all games are supposed to be about is ultimately the loser.

Words of wisdom indeed. Although, maybe there is a place for that as a very specific form of gameplay (if one is forewarned, of course).

Still, UWF wrote in his review, "I find the map challenging but sometimes frustrating (especially in terms of replay value). Make no mistake this is a difficult level which requires much patience and skill to complete, (and frequent saving as well)."

WTF, UWF highlighted the map's difficulty and warned people it might be tricky?!?! Holy shit that's a disgrace, actually reviewing the gameplay and providing information to potential players....lynch the fucker!!

P.S. Nice tab b0rkage Kell, especially over two posts =).

UWF:

Hard SHOULD be hard

Well quite. And if Hard is hard, and someone playing on Hard finds it hard, then they might well end up commenting that it is indeed, hard. Not....hard to understand, even if common sense isn't one's first language.

Morfy & Von:

blah blah blah

I, on the other hand, did know all that :P. In fact there is the odd, rare possibility where a certain combat could be easier on nightmare due to monster's different combat tactics.

Oh actually, Morfy, are you sure the Voreballs are slower than a non-bunnying player on Easy-Hard, and not just the same speed?

Etc. Now let's see what the tags do. 
My Opinion 
Games before 2000:user maps shall be 1-level-more difficulty than original titles
Games after 2000:the same the best
:D 
Shambler 
Thank you. Fuck you. Go map =) 
Shambler 
Did as suggested, much better result, experiencing growth in me lower quarters. 
I Was Not Speaking From Experience 
unfortunately. 
Heh... 
#37, touche, good last word. 
My Halloween Map 
Hard and Normal skills did not differ nearly enough. I ran out of time but I'm happy enough with what went out. Still - I consider that a notable shortcoming.

Some good notes are posted here. Enough to make me think more about what I've done on a map that is almost done. 
How Hard Is Too Hard 
When you wake up with a boner and a full bladder and you can't aim the damn thing to piss downward, that is too hard. 
Solution Time 
handstands are your friends 
Piss Out Of The Window... 
...that's what I do. Not so good if your toilet window opens out onto a busy street, I suppose.

Shambler...

Normal player running speed = 320
skill 0-2 vore ball speed = 250
skill 3 vore ball speed = 350 
Starbuck 
Tried it on waking up this morning and I only wound up pissing in my own face (for a change). I wont be trying that again as I already do too much to entertain my neighbors as it is. 
Damn, Thought I'd Solved It Then 
maybe the next step is to try the handstand while wearing a helmet! 
Starbuck 
Tommorrow morning I'm going to try the handstand against the bathroom sink; sure that is where people brush their teeth but I have been thrown out of worse places. 
Just Don't Ask Me To Clean Up 
for best results, just get a new bathroom each time 
A Players Opinion :) 
Until now there have been two Q1sp levels
which i found too hard (on nightmare):
-the secret level of prodigy_se; four shamblers
in a small room with no cover and no quad /o\
-the end platform of Ne_sp04; shamblers and
fiends on a small platform with almost no cover
surrounded by scrags.Although i LOVE necros
maps and style i dunno how this should be beatable; didnt find all secrets tho.
I think it depends only on the number of shamblers in certain situations whether it is beatable or not,because they never miss ,so
without cover or powerup the taken damage is
too much.
For example there is a custom map that starts
with four fiends in a small room and theres not even the ssg.I found that great fun and
a great challlenge.
Also i like it when ammo/heatlh is tight,
sometimes this leads to tense almost thief
like gameplay(classic "15 health before the next attack"-situation), but sometimes its
just not enough.
And another point is: sometimes a map is "too
much thought out", full of traps and assaults that are unsurvivable first time, which is
frustrating.I hate quickloading ;)
But tbh its better if its too hard than too easy, makes me want to come back and try again;
where a too easy map i just put away as "done". 
Half-life 
Part I of post

There are lots of good opinions regarding Quake and other games here, which I will not go into (why tarnish gold?).

I recently played one of the half-life expansion packs from start to finish on hard mode. I didn't care enough to remember which one it was (the one with the grappling hook and the green end boss you have to shoot 3 times).

It was way easy. I do not consider myself to be a leet player. I'm good, skillful, even intuitive, but COME ON! The only enemies that ever gave me trouble were the Black Ops, and that's only because I didn't encounter them enough to learn how to deal with them (I learned that shooting them worked best ;p ). Other monsters ranged from easy to very easy.
On the monsters that were actually ridiculously hard (considering the time and ammo needed to defeat them), I usually lured them into an area they wouldn't follow me past, such as a corner of narrow doorway, and patiently beat the life out of them with my infinite-ammo blue electricity shooter thingy.

There were a few places I had to retry a few times, but that's what I expect from Normal difficulty. This is Hard for heaven's sake.
Bah. I actually did enjoy it.

BTW, I've noticed that on many quake maps, people talk about causing monster in-fighting as if it were a strategy that everyone is born with. It's something I've always been aware of (ever since logging onto the internet), but it wasn't until I heard it talked about so much here that I actually came to rely on it as a real strategy. I personally do not think this should be expected of the player in easy or normal skills. Nor any power-jumping strategies such as rocket jumping, strafe-jumping, grenade-jumping, bunny-hopping, etc. Reserve those for secrets. If a map requires such bizarre jumping strategies to beat it (which the player may not be aware of at all), that's a major turn-off to me. For monster in-fighting, I'd better be able to blast away those monsters with my own two hands to beat that map, at least in normal skill. In-fighting is a luxury. In hard skill, it certainly helps to do that, and in Nightmare, this strategy fits right in.

My impression on the skill levels I've seen in most games other than Quake1 (sad but true):

Easy: If the player has found the attack button and movement keys, he should be concievably able to beat this map, given a couple months or so.

Normal: The player is of average intelligence, and is now quite comfortable with the attack and movement keys. He might know how to strafe too, but let's not push him too hard.

Hard: In most games, hard is normal with a different name and maybe less defense for the player. If the player has played any other game before in his life, he should be able to eventually beat this skill.

Nightmare: Quake is one of the few games that doesn't stop at hard. Bravo. For those games that do bother to add another difficulty level, they probably also took the time to make the other skill levels intelligent, and thus Hard really will be hard and Nightmare really will make most unskilled players wet themselves. That's how it should be, but most games cater to the so-casual-I-only-play-one-hour-a-month gamer. 
Part 2 Of Post 
How I think skill levels should be:

Easy: The player recently lost his fingers and eyeballs in a tragic accident. He now plays with his stubs for arms, and listens for sounds in the game to cue him in on enemy attacks. Then he stands still and spins around shooting until the monsters stop making noises. He doesn't run out of ammo doing this. Then he pulls out the axe and swings it while walking. When he finds a wall, the axe makes a clanking sound and he knows he needs to turn left. At no point does he die during the process.
To be more specific, Easy skill for new maps should be original Quake's Normal skill.

Normal: The player has played these new-fangled video games before, and has gotten quite good at bouncing that ball back and forth. He's now developed the visual and mental coordination he needs to take on something more complex. This type of player should be traumatized by the difficulty of Hard, and at the very least turned off by the difficulty of Normal. He should go play in Easy skill, and then come back and try normal again. Specifically, Normal skill should be hard enough that a casual gamer actually has to use his brain on the first time through. He should be challenged just enough to be enjoyable, and should occasionally have to try an area over again.

Hard: The player is a convicted murderer that pleaded insanity and was released early to free up room for more recent prisoners. He has just gotten a hold of a computer and is looking for something to terrify him and unleash his rage on. Hard mode should definitely challenge him. He should often run out of ammo in his favorite gun and be forced to switch. He should be required to think and take different angles of attack, because the first two tries failed. He should not get too frustrated though, because it's not a good idea to anger people like that with something that has your full name attached to it.

Nighmare: The afore mentioned sadistic deranged lunatic should wet his pants and hold out a cross, screaming desperate pleas for mercy. At the very least, the leetest of players should have a challenge in defeating this. 
Corporal Sheppard, We Meet At Last... 
(the one with the grappling hook and the green end boss you have to shoot 3 times)

Opposing Force

It was way easy.

Really? I found it roughly one skill level harder than Half-Life. Gods, I suck :(

(I learned that shooting them worked best ;p )

Indeed. With the sniper rifle. Bastards.

infinite-ammo blue electricity shooter thingy.

Shockroach. Possibly the sexiest weapon I've laid my hands on. But I have a chitin fetish. Moving on...

I personally do not think this should be expected of the player in easy or normal skills.

I agree. I think this relates to the 'predetermined path' mentioned earlier; a mapper cannot, should not, assume the player will always attempt to provoke infighting as the way to resolve a combat situation. Apart from anything else, it's counter-intuitive. Bleh. As you say, using in-fighting as a possible option when dealing with a higher skill level is good, but it should also be possible to deal with the monsters another way too.

Then he stands still and spins around shooting until the monsters stop making noises.

I don't use this one. It's not nearly as effective as you suggest :P

Easy skill for new maps should be original Quake's Normal skill.

Hmm, I don't remember finding Quake -> Normal as easy as that when I first played it. Certainly not the 'fingers and eyeballs' bit.

He should often run out of ammo in his favorite gun and be forced to switch.

This should happen on any skill audacious enough to call itself 'hard'.

Btw, check the manual's description of the Half-Life skills:

Easy: monsters have little health and inflict little damage
Normal: monsters have little health and inflict lots of damage
Hard: monsters have lots of health and inflict lots of damage

While it will be forever debateable what constitutes 'little' and 'lots' and how much of a challenge Half-Life was for player X on skill Y, this is a concise way to think about skills. 
Half-Life 
The only aspect that I found bothersome hard with Half-Life were the jump puzzles in the Xen areas. Crimminey, I hate those! I have been turned off to 'jumpers' since the days of Ultima VIII Pagan. No matter what you do to differentiate the skill selection for most other aspects, 'jumpers' can turn the easiest skill selection into a pain in the arse. 
Agreed! 
Wazat: Very well put on the difficulties ;) Here's what I think the difficulty should look like..

Easy: Anyone should be able to complete this with at least some level of hand-eye coordination. It should be aimed at people who havne't, or have rarely, played Quake before. An example might be someone's girlfriend (or boyfriend) who's a little bored or wants to try it out because you make it look so easy!

Normal: Aimed at players who are capable of completing all four episodes of normal Quake on every difficulty (including Nightmare, with a little work).

Hard: Should be for about three quarters of the players out there. It should be considered that the player has played Quake for a few years or would often come near or at the top of the rankings when playing online. Ammo probably shouldn't run out at any point, provided the player doesn't miss too much or use the wrong ammo type (eg. explosive on Shamblers)

Nightmare: I believe this level should be designed to test any player, no matter how good they are. Even the most hardened veterans should have their brow furrowed in concentration. It should in no way be impossible, but almost no-one should be able to do it first time through. Ammo should probably not run out if the player only misses a couple of times. Medpacks should be cherished like a dry bland cracker with pocket lint to a starving man. Basically it should be worth playing a few times if you're a pretty good player and want to improve yourself. Enemy quantity and effective placement should be where the majority of the challenge is found.

Nothing puts a level onto the shelf faster than one that's too easy. If the balance is going to be wrong.. better that it's in the direction of more difficult. If you make Easy and Nightmare to be very much extremes, I think you have your bases covered.

Scragbait: I played your halloween map last week and had a great time lol.. it's rare that I play a map that I genuinely enjoy. Was nice to have a genuine purpose to killing every last enemy, plus seeing all the carnage in the house entry area towards the end was quite amusing. After I finished the level I reloaded and noclip'ed into the room where you had all the monsters ready for teleporation ROFL, man what a cattle market. Thanks for that one, a damn enjoyable map.

HeadThump Definately agree with you there.. The Xen areas done nothing but test my ability to press quick-save and quick-load after every successful jump, and every unsucessful one, respectively.
With Ultima (first played Ultima IV on the Sega Master System.. classic!), I loved the two Ultima VII games (more classics), but that Ultima IX Pagan was nothing but a jumpfest. Could have been so much more. There aren't too many people that enjoy testing their jumping skills. Almost as bad as insta-death traps in games that have no warning.

Cheers!

-Andrew 
I Disagree 
Unless you're making something unusual with wide appeal, there is no reason for an add-on level to be as easy as the easiest level (that should be) included with the game. If training is needed, it is included with the original game. Besides, there is a huge difference between the first and last levels of Quake on easy. Shoot for the middle or even later.

Furthermore, many add-on levels really add little to the game if they lack challenge. Some make little sense at all because it's the whole point. It is more important to have at the difficulties that are included useful for the people actually playing such things -- even if that's only one skill level, or preferably two plus insane. Adding a true easy to those is no harm, but no more useful than one insanely hard.

Also, games include automatic AI changes with the skill settings. If you want a Nightmare-difficulty Quake level using Normal AI, you're gonna have to make it on Normal. (With Unreal, I'm wondering if the AIs of all critters can be changed to make Hard use medium AI, but that probably has pitfalls). I've been playing Quake levels on Hard since someone mentioned Ogres go stupid on Nightmare (probably all the grenades) for what it's worth.

It might seem that more skill settings such as in Cube might be the answer, but then the many skills seem arbitrary to choose.

I was going to comment earlier on the wide range of skills of players of today -- and yesterday. Anyway, I don't think a modern level should be easily "ran" even on easy. I do prefer penalizing tricks and shortcuts rather than eliminating them entirely (example, you can rocket jump to the first two triggers in Conundrum, but the associated armors are unlocked elsewhere in the side areas that lead to them, so good luck).

BTW, I liked the Xen jumping, because it was unusual to jump down to moving targets... it was my PC faltering at the time that kept me from finishing HL instead. When considering a trap or difficulty, you have to ask what it's worth. If a trap is boring the second time, make it so many players won't need a second time; if even knowing about it doesn't get you home free, then repeating still includes a challenge. 
It Depends Really.. 
Far more people seem to dislike jumping parts of games than actually like them. They're fine if it's not too extensive or unforgiving, but when they spell instant death or mean going over and doing the whole lot again, it just becomes annoying, and that's never good.

The end of E2M2, in my opinion, was how jumping parts can be created to add enjoyment. The jumps themselves weren't hard, but fighting while you're jumping made it alot better. If you fell down, it didn't mean hitting quickload or spending several minutes getting back to where you were. Sorry, I just don't like long extensive platform jumping where you have to load that amount of times because of insta death. It was good the first few platforms, but got old.

With Easy difficulty.. well, if you want a challenge there are harder difficulty levels. The map should encompass all skill levels. If someone really wants to play your level but can't cut it on any difficulty level, even easy, should they be forced to go through original Quake just to learn? There are a hell of alot of people out there who have learning disabilities etc. and are painfully slow at grasping and learning things like this.. and there are women.

Well anyway, it is up to the individual mapper. If the easy difficulty is set a little on the hard side, that's absolutely fine. There's such a wide variety of players and everyone tends to see this subject in black and white (myself included).. there are plenty of shades of grey to take into account and I don't think it's as easy as 'yes and no' to pre-decide what should be the correct difficulty. That can't be fully decided until the map is at least finished enough for players to test it. One of the last things to be done with a map is fine tune it's difficulty, and most of that will come down to how the level was built and what the general idea behind the map is.

<packs away soapbox before rotton eggs and tomatoes start to fly> 
Re: It Depends Really.. 
The end of E2M2, in my opinion, was how jumping parts can be created to add enjoyment. The jumps themselves weren't hard, but fighting while you're jumping made it alot better. If you fell down, it didn't mean hitting quickload or spending several minutes getting back to where you were.

Also, the jumps are fewer and less dangerous on the easier skill settings. I think Easy skill doesn't require jumping at all. This, combined with the aforementioned attributes of this jumping puzzle, causes me to consider this one of the best jumping puzzles I've seen. 
Jumping 
I believe to keep the level more interesting than fustrating, the jumping aspect has to be kept down to a small quantity of the time spent, ie. DaMaul 6 had an interesting jumper early on the level that combined combat and a good use of a breakaway wall function. Day of the Lords combined the jumper with a not so difficult puzzle and an interesting architectual structure -- in both of these cases, the jumper added to the interest of the level and minimaly to the fustration factor. 
Re: Depends 
Agreed, including about e2m2 being a good use for jumps. A game should test every aspect of playing -- that includes jumping in FPS, but preferably not tested in isolation.

Easy just doesn't always work. If, for example, you're setting up a scene where two enemies of a particular type rise up in symmetry, you can't very well put in only one on easy ... there's workarounds but it can get silly.

When you're working with difficulty levels in the range of half-decent and good players, small changes alter the balance strongly. At the top end, one or two powerups or enemy can make the difference for most. Making something really easy is a comparatively huge difference.

The real question is justification, do you get anything from limits? If hacking off "easy" allows you to make something cooler for most players it's justified.

The easier you define "easy" at, the more I'm inclined to not bother. "Your mom" may be able to get through e1m1 in a couple tries, but drop her in front of Cthon first thing and she won't even try, for all the good it would do anyway, even on easy. But you expect a long game to get harder. Most people's definition of easy at the beginning of anything is a lot closer to e1m1, and we're not going to change that here. I don't consider it at necessarily arrogant to make a level without easy, therefore. It's just a decision regarding the scope of a project, followed by the honesty to label things in accordance with estimated expectations. It might be arrogant if your medium is in fact easy, that's kind of saying you think everyone else sucks. 
Hehe 
Agreed :) I think if you're going to do a set of levels, then 'Easy' should get noticably harder as it goes on, though the higher the difficulty, the lesser the change should be (eg. Nightmare should only be marginally easier on the first map than on the last). 
And Thus... 
...as custom maps are usually one more extention of the original levels, their "easy" difficulty can, and in most situations should, be considerably harder than "easy" in the original game. I can understand that.

I suppose it's up to the mapper. As said above, "It's just a decision regarding the scope of a project". Ultimately the mapper knows what audience he's shooting for, and he knows he'll fail if he tries to appeal to everyone. 
Thanks Starfire 
...for your comments on Hhouse. I placed a light in the cattle market for debugging purposes - to see who was too chicken to show up for the slaughter.

Difficulty is really difficult to figure out. Who out there plays as both explorer and killer? By that I mean you slay the hoards to first clear the space after which you wander about and soak in the ambience without a sense of rush to the next battle. Or is it that FPS gamers are more divided between thier first choice; whether it is immersion or challenge?

BTW - anyone else have opinions on the difficulty level of the custom Half-Life add-on; They Hunger by Neil Manke? There's some great design in this 3 part series but on Normal skill, I find it excessively hard in quite a few areas. 
They Hunger 
I thought it was reasonably ok in terms of difficulty. Some of the newer monsters take some time to get used to, but once you figure out strategies ofr each one, it's not that bad. It progresses ok too, with part3 being the hardest. The end though is just plain ridiculous. 
They Hunger 
It seemed to me that in They Hunger one aspect of game play I found to be repetitive, predictable and an iritant was a constant under distribution of ammo and weaponry. I guess the disigners did this as an artificial means of inducing suspense and tension given its horror-survival genre, but when you are fighting off lightening hurling wraiths and zombies, being limited to an umbrella to fight back with is a bit ridicilous. 
Ressurection Of The Thread 
Most of maps tend to be harder and harder. It's easy to make the map hard, but it's rather hard to keep it fun.

But what are the main goals to make the hard map fun?
Should there be a lot of ammo or easy secrets? Anyone knows more interesting tricks to improve the gameplay? 
Never An Out Of Date Topic 
I have been fortunate in having beta tested maps from some excellent spq1 mappers. Usually when I test a map, I cut demos as I play so I try and avoid dying more so then when I'm not recording. This doesn't mean that I didn't get laid down my fair share of times. For me, a hard map that was fun was one that typically killed you more then once during a careful play through but when you got to know the map and enemy placement better, your odds improved considerably. Both of Glassman's SPQ1 maps are perfect examples. Many of Tim Elek's and [Kona]'s maps also provided this experiance.

Increasing the odds of winning was done by budgeting health and ammo, using cover and knowing ambushes and knowing where infighting may work in your favour. You knew what was ahead - you knew your game plan - and you felt rewarded for success.

Too hard for me means too many reloads and creations of saved games. If you find yourself saving between few enemies just so that you can pull your way through the map. This feels more like work then play.

Unfair maps feature too many hitscan enemies without health top-ups or getting swarm combat that result in luck being as or more important then skill. A map that is too hard doesn't feel fair and the gamer is happy to be done with the damn thing assuming they had the tenacity to carry on. If I had to use cheats, then the map was way too hard for me (and I really avoid cheats.)

In a perfect process, mappers would get beta feedback and or demos that show if the player experience fits the design intent. It helps to know the gamers style too (aggressive attacker or conservative.) 
PuLSaR 
I think you'd be better qualified to answer this since the last beta of your map was absolutely the most fun experience I have had in Quake in a long time. All it needed was a little more ammo and health in a couple spots and it was golden. 
Heh 
RPG, I supposed that my map was hard and wanted to improve the gameplay with more interesting tricks to make it more fun, but if you think that's fine enough, than I shut up and go map:) 
Nightmare 
Is it fine if I think that the map is impossible on nigtmare? I just wonder if anyone play maps on nightmare 
Oh 
I forgot about speedrunners... 
Are You Sure? This Skill Setting Isn't Even Remotely Fair... 
PuLSaR: as far as I'm concerned, because nightmare isn't a separately implementable skill setting and because it's just meant to be 'omfg' difficulty, you shouldn't be concerned about whether the map is completeable or not. That's for players to decide themselves. Or die trying.
Speedrunners choose to experience the game in a very personal way, so their success is based on their own input not yours. Frankly, they deserve everything they get ;) 
That makes sense, if the game doesn't allow you to tune Hard and Nightmare seperately ... in Unreal I find the engine bumps the difficulty too much (from a high starting point), skill 1 is the hardest map until the engine gets ahold of it, or 1-3 are identical.

Oh and I think plenty of people play on nightmare, I used to when Q1 was all I played. 
I Used To Play On Nightmare 
But I realized that nightmare was too frustrating, so I started playing on hard because it was more fun but still challenging. 
Probably The Latest Response Ever... 
but i thought i'd respond anyway:
the end platform of Ne_sp04; shamblers and
fiends on a small platform with almost no cover
surrounded by scrags
refering to #48 posted by Sielwolf [80.134.26.100] on 2003/11/30 17:44:29

it's possible, but sometimes depends on a bit of luck at the same time. it's advisable to save before the tube lowers. taking out the first monsters is easy as there's cover, but once there are a lot of shamblers, you need to keep moving no matter what and incite as much monster infighting as possible if you take two or three hits from lightning, just keep going, and simply take out the stragglers. also, remember that if you time it right, you can run back just as the shambler's claws are coming down and it's possible to continue doing so. if you practice at it (or just play a lot of maps and fight shamblers with SSG) it becomes almost second nature, which makes taking on one or even two shamblers out in the open not difficult at all.

out of curiosity, how many people actually use the method of killing shamblers i described? i've seen it in some demos but not always.

i think a good fight would be two shamblers in the open with only the ssg and maybe green armor (w/100 hp) i think that should be plenty beatble since all a player need do is keep on of the shamblers stuck in it's melee attack, keeping it interposed between the other shambler and himself.

opinions?

also, what do you guys think of multiple vores in wide open areas with no cover until the vores have been killed? normally, i would think it be a simple matter of continue to move as you take the vores out one by one, then taking cover and getting the voreballs to explode somewhere... again, opinions? 
Necros 
I would always expect there to be some cover (or hallways to duck back into, whatever) wherenever you encounter a vore.

If I saw a map with vores placed out in the open and no cover I'd have to consider that poor monster placement. 
Vores 
in the open are NOT hard you just have to circle around when the spiky things follow you. If you can accumulate a bunch of em run behind the vore then let all of em smack into the vore and blow it up. 
Yes, 
i forgot about using other vores as voreball removers :)

i actually hope my comments will incite mappers to do more fights with vores in no-cover situations. there was a knave map made recently, i forget who made it (whoever, please forgive me! :P) which ended in a small room with two vores, no way out, no cover and the exit. it was cool because you had to keep moving to stay away from the voreballs then once you had killed the vores you could then jump through the exit and be home free.

that's the kind of fights i'm talking about. :) 
Vores 
In my upcoming map there will be a fight with 4 vores in the rather small area with no cover (the alternate final battle), but there will also be quad there (probably I'll remove it in hard).

I think vores are fun boys (girls) =) 
What About Fights... 
that aren't hard because there is a lack of ammo, but because you have to make sure you don't get cornered?

imagine if you will a hoard of 20 hell knights. there are dozens of nail boxes lying around, but they are in out of the way places. the challenge isn't in killing the hell knights, that's easy, just hold down the fire button and watch them fall. the challenge is always being free to pick up more nails to continue the slaughter.

i've been experimenting with this type of gameplay a lot and i think it's got potential... more opinions? (i love good opinion :P) 
Necros... 
That sounds like fun, and its exactly the kind of GOOD challenge you want to add to a map - in that kind of situation, you will usually only blame yourself (as a player) if you get cornered. 
Hey... 
I did the "vore with no cover" in The Crawling Chaos back in 1997! You had to jump into the exit to escape the voreballs. I'm a pioneer, baby!!!!1 
Not A Big Fan Of Vores Myself... 
Although I did have them in early versions of Bastion. You know the bit where you get the gold key and an ogre rises up through a trapdoor? That used to be a Vore until I realised that was possibly the worst situation to encounter one :) 
Opinions? 
Never managed to get it to work, the Shambler thing, necros... 
I Always Try To 
kill all monsters with mainly the DBS (with some help from the Perforator) and some footwork. Shamblers are very hard to kill without taking any damage at all, but I find it easy to kill them with the DBS. It's actually much harder to kill them with explosives (if they're not far away).

Vores are annoying because they don't have any melee attack you can provoke, but the spin around dance is most of the time effective and either the vores themselves will get the ball cluster or some other unfortunate monster ...

Higher-Synth (ch1sp1) by Apollo is a good example of challenging but very exciting
end arena combat. 
Voreballs + Shambler Exploitation (Is That A New Type Of Porn?) 
I didn't think voreballs could hit the vore that threw the ball; they could only hit other vores (and obviously any other monster or player, too). This strategy becomes a lot more difficult on Nightmare skill when voreballs travel at a much faster rate.

Also, I usually use the melee exploit on shamblers. It's much faster and more challenging (and thus entertaining) than it is to shoot, duck behind something, pop out, and shoot again. 
Shambler Exploitation 
so then forcing the player to use the melee exploitation of the shambler would probably be considered too hard, i'm thinking. it would sort of be like forcing the player to do a trick jump to beat a map because not all players know how/can do it, so players like Shambler would probably be faced with an insurmoutable fight. :\
i'm thinking the mapper could place columns that only appear in hard/nightmare to aid players who cannot do the exploitation thing... but then it's too easy for the people who can.

hmm... 
I Always Thought 
Forcing the Shambler to cycle its close combat melee and pulling back was a necessary technique because even in the original Id maps you are not always given good duck and cover options.

I remember when the first episode demo came out, and the Shambler seemed like the boss of bosses. I would literaly get him to chase me in e1m5 to the moat area so I could shoot up at him without exposing myself. Such tactics seem more than a little whimpish to me now but then it made perfect since. 
Hm... 
well, it could be argued that it was a good strategy... make the shambler play the game by your rules, not it's own.

but there was cover in th GK room, those 4 half pillars to run behind, so i don't really understand. (?)

and i remember the first time i played doom2, after having beat doom... and there were cyberdemons and masterminds (supposedly the bosses of the first game) littered all over the place. :P i think that's really funny now. 
Shambler Melee Exploit 
so then forcing the player to use the melee exploitation of the shambler would probably be considered too hard, i'm thinking.

Neil Manke's Starship was the first level that i remember doing this, and that was the level that forced me to learn the technique, actually :)

I don't think it's too big a deal, maybe put a func_wall pillar for Easy skill. 
Meh. 
The Shambler thing....

You run into the Shambler, initiate it's melee attack and then run back and either:

1. You don't run back far enough (because you've got to get back in quickly) and it gets you.

2. You run back far enough but run back in too quickly and it gets you.

3. You run back far enough and it has time to start the lightning attack.

So WTF? 
Mhe. 
Okay okay, I just tried it in a "pure" situation a few times. I'm not entirely wrong, the Shambler consistently gets in one lightning attack before dying....but I see how it works.

I guess in theory if you got the times and distances perfect... 
I Never Have A Problem With Shamblers 
Just run up to them when they're near melee attack, attack them, run back - they melee attack and miss, repeat till dead 
Re: Mhe. 
The shamblers usually get one or two lightning attacks on me too, but one or two isn't so bad unless you're already really low on health and armor. 
Hehe... 
...my sm Wind Tunnels rip-off had 4 vores in the open in the final room. Of course those HKs and knights came in handy as damage takers at the beginning and end of the vore fight.

I found surviving the 2 fiends down the hole in House of Spikes a lot harder than any vore situation I've come across...damn that biff! 
Shamblers, Vores, Nightmare And Speedrunning 
I'm just catching up on this thread from #64 onwards and have a couple of, probably banal, observations.

Of shambler lures. This is not a difficult technique to master for anyone that's played the game as much as we probably all have. Just remember that you only have to move NEAR to him, not touch him, and he'll melee you. And you only need to move back a little to get him to miss. Watch his arms to see which attack he's using as the overhead smash allows you to shoot him twice as much before moving back in. Also watch out for him paining and run in immediately he does otherwise he'll lightning.

Of vores. I adore fighting vores in the open on Easy skill just to see how many balls I can get chasing me as I strafe round in a circle. Then, when it gives up and dies, trying to keep them active until I can find a monster to explode them on. But this does require a deal of movement skill and awareness that can't be assumed in the casual player. On nightmare you need to assume that the player can bunnyhop like a bastard otherwise vores in the open are certain death. Maybe mostly relevant to speedrunners who, as you pointed out, deserve everything they get.

For a good example of how impossible nightmare shambler and vore fights can be speedrun watch the Nightmare 100% on bbelief7. http://dynamic.gamespy.com/~sda/mkt.pl?level:bbelief7

As for Necros and his "not getting cornered" thing (#78) I personally love this type of combat. But he's already done it very close to perfectly in ne_os1 :-) 
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