Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

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Dwedit
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by Dwedit »

The purpose of a Timer (in an Arcade game) is that if someone has to leave the machine, it will eventually time the player out.

VS Excitebike had no timer. If someone abandoned a play session and walked away from the machine, it could stay in game for an indefinite amount of time. VS Excitebike appears to time you out after 3 minutes.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by Pokun »

Yeah that regarding difficulty was definitely something to increase the play time of (action) games during a time when ROM space was very limited, and I think I also pointed out exactly that in my first post in this thread. This occurred to me during the 32-/64-bit era when even action games had started to become easy but with more content and taking longer to beat. I had a nostalgia rush for the 8-bit era during this time and went back to play some NES again, then I realized how hard they were and that this surprisingly high difficulty compared to newer games was a way to increase the replayability of otherwise very short games.

RPGs had been like this at least since the 16-bit era (early RPGs are not easy though), but ever since games like Super Mario 64 came out, almost every mainstream game is basically played like an RPG (minus the most typical RPG elements like experience points, turn-based battles etc, normally). That was another point in my first post, sorry for repeating myself.



BTW speaking of games getting easier during the 64-bit era, Yoshi's Story for the 64 was often criticized as being "too easy" when it was released. I think this statement was mainly done by people that hadn't even tried the game, and the game somehow got an unfair labeling not based on first-hand experience, or reality for that matter.

It's true that you play only 6 levels per playthrough and that there is only a total of 24 levels, which seems pretty small for a Nintendo 64 game (and much less than the previous game Yoshi's Island), but the levels themselves are very large and most of the levels are also actually very hard, especially compared to other Mario/Yoshi games. All levels in the final world including the one on the easiest route are extra hard, and so is any level with the notorious Big Bertha/Cheap-Cheap, who is usually one of the most dangerous enemies in every Mario game it shows up in, but is extra dangerous in Yoshi's Story for some reason.

This is all made more difficult from the fact that extra lives are very hard to come by, you can't just rake them up by collecting 100 coins or wining bonus games anymore. You start with a lot of Yoshis, but each miss causes one to be kidnapped and the only way to get an "extra life" is to find a white Shyguy, beat the level with it and then have it rescue a previously kidnapped Yoshi. They are only found on certain levels and only if the player has lost at least one Yoshi at that point.
If you loose all Yoshis you have to start over from the beginning loosing all progress that playthrough which is very punishing compared to most Mario games. In both Yoshi's Island and Super Mario 64, dying a life and getting a Game Over is almost the same thing, but in Yoshi's Story it's as bad as ever. "There are no continues, my friend" as Ocelot used to say.

So since the levels are very large and the fact that maxing out the score on all of them takes a lot of time, this game is indeed more about high amount of content than super high difficulty, just like other modern games, but it's also a much harder compared to most other Mario and Yoshi games. It falls somewhere between modern games and classic arcade-difficulty games.
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aa-dav
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by aa-dav »

Dwedit wrote: Wed Aug 31, 2022 3:01 pm The purpose of a Timer (in an Arcade game) is that if someone has to leave the machine, it will eventually time the player out.
If someone has to leave the machine then someone gets chance to play for free.
Real reason is preventing player to stop in the middle of the level blocking machine from another players coins.
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Dwedit
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by Dwedit »

You know how all those old Beat-Em-Ups have the little flash arrow telling you to to go forward to the next screen?

In TMNT, when you don't go forward, a giant metal ball randomly falls on you.
In The Simpsons, when you don't go forward, the finger pointing right leaves its place, and starts poking you, damaging the player.

These are all things intended to make a game end when the player is AFK long enough.
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Augustus Blackheart
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by Augustus Blackheart »

I've been thinking about this difficulty thing quite a bit.

It's annoying seeing a game with an intriguing story, great graphics, etc., etc., and then it's just designed to be difficult as hell (too many games to list) or has some obnoxious game mechanic (Phoenotopia Awakening). Everyone has their definition of fun and you can't please everybody but I really don't understand the point.

I appreciate developers who allow you to select a difficulty setting or fine tune things, such as CrossCode. Even then I'm left scratching my head wondering why it still can take so many hits to kill the bad guys in CrossCode. I'd prefer the default settings but only have to hit the non-boss bad guys 1-6 times to kill them. Anyway...

In the early days it made sense that the games would be so difficult for all the reasons people have pointed out. Back in the day, given how expensive games were, what could you do? Play the same dozen games over again or keep trying that new $60 game that is so frustrating you throw the controller down on the floor in disgust each time you die? But damn it! What else to do? Go outdoors and play Cowboys and Indians like it's the goddamn 1950's? Fuck that! Time to pick up the controller and try again...

In this day and age, when access to any kind of entertainment might as well be unlimited, why make things so difficult by default?

The other modern annoyance are games which only autosave*. I don't mind starting a game playing for a bit, dying, and having to start over from the last save point but it is especially irritating to have the possibility to be much worse off than when you started playing.

I may have a slightly different take had I as much free time as I did when I was a child or felt the need to show the world how badass I am by being able to complete an insanely difficult game. Bring on the trainers.

On the other side something equally annoying are games like Ocarina of Time. Is it truly necessary to explain what a key is for each time I pick one up?!?


* English is weird with it's compound words. I'm calling out the spellchecker here as I type. Over time people will accept compound words without a hyphen but why does that take time? Once you've established a pattern, such as babysitting, shouldn't dogsitting simply be dogsitting instead of dog-sitting? I see no issue with autosave instead of auto-save.

ALSO, really annoying that mobile phones don't include the apostrophe along with the regular alphabet as it is used so often and, despite my resistance to not using a hyphen if I can get away with it, contractions without an apostrophe are obnoxious.

ALSO ALSO, love the origin of the word ampersand.
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Dwedit
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by Dwedit »

On Android, you can add Qwerty as a keyboard, it's under language selection. You get all the punctuation, but then keys are a lot thinner and harder to accurately press.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by Pokun »

Reminds me of Mad City for Famicom, the Japanese version is super easy but the international versions (Adventure of Bayou Billy) are very hard and gives each enemy a ton of hit points so the game takes much longer to play besides being harder in many other ways. You just keep punching and kicking every goon and they never seem to go down.


Ocarina of Time only shows a message the first time you pick up an item each game (except certain rare items like heart-containers and when opening treasure chests of course). Twilight Princess on the other hand does it every time you pick up a green rupee for the first time since boot which is pretty annoying. I don't get why they did this, if people really keep forgetting the color codes of rupees the manual can easily be consulted.


I agree regarding compound-words in English. There doesn't seem to be any rules at all: "autosave", "auto-save" and "auto save" all seems acceptable. In Swedish only the first two are acceptable (and the one with a hyphen normally only when mixing letters and numbers as in "2-komplement" or there is another good reason to make a separation) since compound-words is a thing even in the spoken language and the grammar and meaning changes if you separate them with a space.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by zzo38 »

I think that many computer games are made too easy. In some cases there are difficulty settings, sometimes which are good but sometimes they are not very good (sometimes this is due to the hard level being too easy also, but sometimes there are other problems).

Kirby Dream Land was mentioned. The game is easy, but it also has a Extra Mode and Configuration Mode, so that a more difficult game is possible. For this and other games in the Kirby series, there are also self-imposed challenges that are possible, too. (Self-imposed challenges are not limited to Kirby)

Some other games also have hidden commands to adjust the difficulty settings and other settings, but some don't. Some games will have some people made up ROM hacks to improve it. I have played Pokemon Kaizo Crystal game, and I think that it is much better than other Pokemon Crystal game. Other game also modification is possible, although since many of them are still copyright, it is not as good as doing it proper. (Some games are not copyright so can be done better, hopefully)

About telling you every time an item (or something else) by interrupting you, I hate it too, and I don't like the forced tutorials especially too many. You should write them in the documentation; that is what makes computer programs understandable.
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aa-dav
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by aa-dav »

I started this topic and I need to say: it was 'cry from the heart' after some retro-styled game which was hard as games on NES and so on.
My opinion for last two decades of years (at minimum) is: games should not be hard because we play them for fun, but not for simulation of arcade machines profiting technics or longitivity of gameplay through repetative nothing.
By the fact: the best of the best games of the childhood was not so hard and this is key to the understanding of that and why our childhood wanted.
And there is no need to replicate induced by limits things from 80-x because of 'these things were there in that time'.
And that's all.
Retro should not be cursed as 'hard as ....'.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by tepples »

zzo38 wrote: Tue Sep 06, 2022 9:26 pmAbout telling you every time an item (or something else) by interrupting you, I hate it too, and I don't like the forced tutorials especially too many. You should write them in the documentation; that is what makes computer programs understandable.
This works until the player loses the printed manual. I guess from the perspective of the dev who implemented the feature to interrupt the player when an important item is collected, the dev may have thought that they were creating an electronic manual and recommending to the player a relevant page of said manual.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by zzo38 »

aa-dav wrote: Wed Sep 07, 2022 5:09 amI started this topic and I need to say: it was 'cry from the heart' after some retro-styled game which was hard as games on NES and so on.
My opinion for last two decades of years (at minimum) is: games should not be hard because we play them for fun, but not for simulation of arcade machines profiting technics or longitivity of gameplay through repetative nothing.
You have the right to your opinion, but my opinion is that many games are not made hard enough.
And there is no need to replicate induced by limits things from 80-x because of 'these things were there in that time'.
You are right, but that is not the only reason why some things may be limited.
Retro should not be cursed as 'hard as ....'.
I think you are right, but that does not mean that you cannot have difficult games as well as easy ones too.
tepples wrote: Wed Sep 07, 2022 6:45 am
zzo38 wrote: Tue Sep 06, 2022 9:26 pmAbout telling you every time an item (or something else) by interrupting you, I hate it too, and I don't like the forced tutorials especially too many. You should write them in the documentation; that is what makes computer programs understandable.
This works until the player loses the printed manual. I guess from the perspective of the dev who implemented the feature to interrupt the player when an important item is collected, the dev may have thought that they were creating an electronic manual and recommending to the player a relevant page of said manual.
Yes, although it could still be an option to enable/disable this feature. If there is enough space in the cartridge/disc, then it could also include a copy of the manual, and a viewer program. (If it is a file on a DVD then it can also be copied and printed using another computer)
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by tepples »

zzo38 wrote: Wed Sep 07, 2022 4:03 pmYes, although it could still be an option to enable/disable this feature.
An option that the player would have to remember to disable every time playing the game unless the player paid $10 extra for the deluxe cartridge with battery backup of settings across a power cycle.
zzo38 wrote: Wed Sep 07, 2022 4:03 pmIf there is enough space in the cartridge/disc, then it could also include a copy of the manual, and a viewer program. (If it is a file on a DVD then it can also be copied and printed using another computer)
The practicality of a full in-game copy of the manual varies based on circumstances. In particular, it can't always be tacked on late in development without causing substantial delay.

In theory, something like the "Operations Guide" button in Wii Virtual Console is possible. In practice, it requires keeping a valid game state in memory while the viewer program is active. This is easy for a rerelease using an emulator, which has a separate emulated PPU and native PPU. It's not so easy if the game has to freeze the game state, open the viewer for the manual, and then restore the game state once the player has finished viewing the manual. Depending on how much decompression of the level map data stream had to be done to reach the current state, it might take a second or more to fully reconstruct what the contents of VRAM were before the menu was opened.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by Pokun »

To avoid making hard games because they are played for fun makes no sense to me considering player skills are so divided.
I agree that games shouldn't be made with a certain difficulty for no reason, it should be carefully chosen to what demographic the game designer expects, which could very well be a very hard difficulty. Personally I need a pretty hard game to have fun.

Game reviews in gaming magazines typically always included criteria like "graphic", "sound", "controls" and "challenge". The last one is based on how much fun of a challenge the reviewed game offers, which means the game can't be too easy nor too hard. Most gaming magazines reviewers are quite skilled players so they would maybe want a game to be medium hard to give it a good challenge score.


Forced tutorials are fine if they are cleverly made part of the normal gameplay/story in the game. It shouldn't take away the fun in the game. Game designers doesn't always get this right though.

I think including a digital manual in the game itself that is accessible at any time is a good idea, if it can be accessed from the pause menu or something. Nintendo did this with 3DS games as well (accessible during play by using the HOME button), but the manuals sucks and are extremely boring to read (no wonder they removed manuals altogether for Switch).

I miss the 8-bit and 16-bit days when manuals were almost half the fun of a game and contained story, maps, artwork, names of enemies and power-ups and other neat things, full of fantastic illustrations that made it a joy to read. Though one reason the manuals had so much content was that the games themselves had very limited space for things like story, enemy lists and how-to-plays, and since this have changed with modern games there is less need for a lengthy manual other than explaining how the game is played, which is also more or less obsolete with in-game tutorials and help messages.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by Oziphantom »

reading a manual in 256x224 or 160x140 would be pain.
It also would take up a lot of space, as you might need to store a lot of different text versions in one cart. I.e if you have an EFIG(S) cart.

If we kept the Cracked versions of games, they usually carry "instructions pages" to help with these issues, but the console emulator users seem to prefer "pure" versions, then complain that they don't know how to play.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by Pokun »

Including a full manual in the game wasn't really doable until recently.

But I didn't just mean that NES games couldn't include a manual, I meant that the manuals used to be a big part of the games, and covered much more than just teaching you how to play the game. Things like the backstory was usually not told in the game and required you to read the manual to understand what was going on. Zelda 1, for example, has that rolling screen with a highly shortened version of the story and a quick list of all items, then Link with a note "Please look up the manual for details". The game already almost used up a disk. Zelda 2 is even worse having a longer and more complex backstory that is hardly explained in the intro roll at all (and the English version somehow missed to point out that the sleeping Zelda was a different princess).
And the low-resolution graphics often made it hard to picture how the characters were supposed to look like, but the manual usually had more or less detailed illustrations of them.

The author of Metal Slader Glory said that he had to cut out the lengthy intro in the game and made a manga out of it that he put the manual instead, which means players without the manual would miss the beginning of the game. It was re-released as a Nintendo Power download, I wonder if buyers of that version would get a manual with it (like buyers of FDS Disk Writer games did), or if the intro scene was added to this version or something.
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