Developers take steps to toughen up games
As if life wasn't hard enough already
Are you easily frustrated by today's video games? You might want to steer clear of recent crossplatform release Mega Man 9, then, because this retro-styled platformer is hard enough to cut Chuck Norris.
But what's in it for game developers? Who would intentionally create a game that's so hard most players are bound to turn it off in frustration? The Wall Street Journal has at least part of the answer, in a Friday piece that explores the motivations of the makers of some of the hardest games in recent years.
"It's not just difficulty for difficulty's sake," says Mega Man 9 producer Hironobu Take[expletive]a. "The thing I love about [difficult games] is there's a satisfaction," says Yuichi Sugisaki, producer of appallingly difficult DS shooter Bangai-O Spirits.
Are difficult games an incentive for you to excel, or do they just make you throw controllers at the wall? Check out the WSJ article and see what you think.
Hard to Handle
If a Game Is Too Tough to Win, Can It Still Be Fun?
VIDEOGAMES | Mega Man 9
Japanese developer Treasure makes hard games. They're so difficult that many players don't last more than 10 seconds in the barrage of bullets and missiles in some of the levels of the company's newest shooter, Bangai-O Spirits, a game about a pair of young pilots controlling an armored robot.
As the audience for videogames grows, some developers worry that games are getting too easy. Games usually go through months of testing to iron out difficulties. But now a number of developers, such as Treasure and Capcom, are taking extra steps to toughen up their titles.
This month, Capcom added some twists to Mega Man 9, the continuation of a two-decade-old action franchise about an android, which is being released this month. The developers replicated the feel of the original Nintendo titles and added features -- like screen flickers and slowed-down gameplay -- that made playing the older versions so demanding. The challenging franchise also features the usual perilous jumps and strong villains. "It's not just difficult for difficulty's sake," says the game's producer Hironobu Take[expletive]a.
Why make a game so hard that only the most skilled and determined players can complete it? The audience for videogames is so varied now "that a developer can make hard games for core gamers," says Yuichi Sugisaki, the producer of Bangai-O Spirits. One of Treasure's previous titles, Ikaruga, re-released in April for Microsoft Xbox's Live Arcade, is so tough that some fans post their best performances on YouTube.
Making games difficult can be very easy. Developers can just make invincible enemies or create impassable obstacles. But there's an art to exasperating people in a way that keeps them interested in the game. Jesper Juul, a videogame researcher at MIT, says that frustration is what makes videogames different from other creative media. "It's about the feeling of inadequacy," he says. "You get stuck somewhere and feel stupid." That can lead to a sense of triumph if one does eventually succeed.
What makes games such as Bangai-O appealing is that glimmer of joy a player gets from even the smallest achievements. (I only squeaked through the tutorial for Bangai-O, so even mastering the accuracy aspect of the game was an accomplishment for me.)
"The thing I love about the classic games' difficulty is there's a satisfaction," says Mr. Sugisaki. "With Treasure games, our fans tell us 'Hey, I beat your game.' It's that feeling of being able to outperform others."