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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]
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Damn, Thought I'd Solved It Then 
maybe the next step is to try the handstand while wearing a helmet! 
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". 
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. 
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. 
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.


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. 
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. 
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... 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.) 
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. 
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:) 
Is it fine if I think that the map is impossible on nigtmare? I just wonder if anyone play maps on nightmare 
I forgot about speedrunners... 
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