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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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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... 
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 [] 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.


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? 
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. 
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. 
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