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

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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 »

zzo38 wrote: Wed Sep 07, 2022 4:03 pm
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.
I'm not insisting on 'every game must be easy'. Dark Souls is interesting example how diffucult game could be pleased by modern audience.
It's just memories of childhood which say definitely: excessive difficulty in games was unpleased by gamers. Cheat codes became industry with magazines and even harware solutions!
So I am just amazed and disturbed by repetative replication of this pattern in modern retro-styled games.
The best retro-game in my point of view is such there difficulty levels can control it from hard mode to non-piss-off playing.
But many (especially indie) developers are trying to replicate ninja-gaiden experience and after one of these I made this topic. :)
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by nesrocks »

I think there's often a problem of low budget, meaning not enough testers. I know my game suffers from this problem. I included an easy mode and to my surprise people still had trouble advancing through the game. I then changed it again to what I think is ridiculously easy and still, people have a lot of difficulty playing. Developers will get really good at their own game and lose perspective.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by calima »

It's surprising to hear about a lack of testers, when the more common complaint is a swarm of them (because they get a free ROM that way).
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by NovaSquirrel »

I had to release Nova the Squirrel with the later sections of the game untested (except by me) because I couldn't get anyone to test them. But no one really complained about the later stuff being especially unbalanced so I think it worked out ok. I guess "get a free ROM" doesn't apply as an incentive when the game is just free.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by Individualised »

NovaSquirrel wrote: Sun Sep 11, 2022 4:52 pm I had to release Nova the Squirrel with the later sections of the game untested (except by me) because I couldn't get anyone to test them. But no one really complained about the later stuff being especially unbalanced so I think it worked out ok. I guess "get a free ROM" doesn't apply as an incentive when the game is just free.
If a free (as in free of charge) game is closed source, then getting a prototype ROM could be an incentive.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by nesrocks »

A real tester shouldn't work for free, it is real work. Someone who will dedicate serious time to play the game to the end with a critical view, take notes, think outside the box, etc. I couldn't pay anyone so I could only force my cousin to really test it, but even he didn't finish the game. He loved the game, and he said the difficulty was just right, but maybe he likes too much of a challenge and enabled me to keep it hard.
I think the people porting the game to consoles also did not finish the game without level select cheats. They were only testing if everything worked without bugs.
So the only person who finished the game before launch was me (I'm talking about a PC game, but it's a 2D pixel art platformer anyway).
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by unregistered »

aa-dav wrote: Thu Sep 08, 2022 6:51 pmBut many (especially indie) developers are trying to replicate ninja-gaiden experience and after one of these I made this topic. :)
I absolutely loved Ninja Gaiden, partly because it was so difficult. I ended up getting super far, but don’t remember beating it. :) IMO, Ninja Gaiden is spectacular! :D


EDIT: And Nintendo understands your point of view aa-dav. If you obtain Ninja Gaiden with a Nintendo Switch Online account, then you’ll be able to play the game using their NES emulator. Their emulator on the Switch freely allows a game to be paused at any time, rewound to any point, and played again. And it is programmed well; free of slow-downs and screen errors. So, Ninja Gaiden is finish-able for anyone. :) I just haven’t spent the time to do that. Not as exciting, for me, to finish Ninja Gaiden like that.

Oh and you are also allowed to make a save at any point of a game too. So you could possibly spend a long time beating any NES or SNES game that they’ve made available. I believe Nintendo has also made N64 and Genesis games available too; but accessing those requires a more expensive Online Pro account. Haven’t obtained that.


FINAL-EDIT: All you need to obtain is a Nintendo Switch Online Account; all the games they’ve made available are totally playable after just your Online account purchase on the Switch.

note: There are a ton of NES and SNES games; only some of them are available; they frequently add more titles to the already large amount; some of those available are import/Japan titles.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by Pokun »

I used to think Ninja Gaiden was so hard and when NES emulators started to show up (Nesticle) I used save states to be able to see the whole game. Save states are great for seeing the fantastic story, but it does ruin the fun of actually playing it and takes away from the rewarding effect of seeing all of the game by your own skill.
Now I have beaten all 3 games more than I can count on both emulators and real hardware. I don't find the first game that hard anymore, at least not until the final level (after the fight with Bloody Malth) when the difficulty is suddenly screwed up to eleven. The second game is much better balanced, has cooler scenes and is my favo of the three. The third game is the one I like the least, but it does have its cool moments.

There's also an anime OVA that takes place after the second game (the third game takes place between Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2), I recommend watching it directly after beating all 3 games. Yeah these games are just fantastic: super exact controls, neat graphics, fantastic music, great story, challenging difficulty they have it all.


Yeah it's neat that you can download the Switch version of the Virtual Console for free (you only need to subscribe for online membership to actually play them), you just need both a Japanese and non-Japanese account to download both regional variants of the apps. I don't pay for the premium membership required for Nintendo 64 and Mega Drive games though. Pretty useless to pay for emulators when I own both consoles anyway. I kinda want the Switch Nintendo 64 controller though.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by calima »

Aren't folks reselling the Switch N64 controllers on ebay? They're so rarely available directly from Nintendo, a small premium may be worth it.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by rainwarrior »

There's a culture now that feels that completing a game is an integral part of the experience, and making something too hard is a transgression against this. A game that is too hard to beat is a "bad" game now. It wasn't always.

In 1990 there were plenty of games that everybody loved but only a few people could beat. When I was young, beating a game was a rare and special occasion for me and my friends. Now, I don't think people in general accept this very well as a concept.


There's a lot of reasons for this gradual shift in player expectations. Probably that would be many pages to try and describe, and I don't want to do that right now, but I will say that there are a lot of games that I believe I had a better overall experience with because they were more difficult.

Reviews of the time did indeed often criticize easy games as being "boring" or "too short". Ultimately though I would hesitate blame reviews or public perception or the oft-suggested "rental market" reasons for choices of difficulty... I think the developers for the most part made the game as difficult as they thought made the best game. Though I think sometimes the reason is "somebody told me we had to make it more difficult", I sincerely doubt this was the case anywhere near as often as people jump to suggest it. I think for the most part we got difficult games because developers thought it wouldn't be as much fun if it were easier, and I also think this can be hard to see with the difference in culture between now and then.

Even with arcade games, it's not so simple as "more difficulty = more quarters". Developers had to be just as careful to keep it fun and fair enough that people would come back and put in another quarter. The best profit came from games that were compelling, not from games that killed you off the fastest.


I don't think all difficulty is created equal. Some challenges are fun to meet, some aren't. I like having more options now... if I'm not having fun with an NES game I can cheat. I appreciate games with a difficulty setting, then and now. I wish more games still had cheat codes, but that too has had a big culture change over the years.

Sometimes difficulty feels very well put together. Sometimes difficulty feels like an accident on the developer's part. Though, sometimes you can make your own fun out of the accidents, too. Sometimes you can make your own fun out of making "easy" things hard again (e.g. the entire field of speedrunning).
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by gauauu »

I've been typing and deleting responses to this thread for weeks now. But rainwarrior finally put into well-written words what I've been thinking but couldn't manage to coherently express.

To add a little bit: For a lot of old games, the difficulty wasn't EXCESSIVE, it made the games fun. If I got a $40 game and beat it the same day, I was disappointed. (Astyanax is the example I remember. I got it on my birthday after dinner, and I had beat it before I went to bed that evening). Challenge was the a significant part of what made the games engaging. And like Rainwarrior said, beating a game was often a big deal, and many of my best memories of playing the NES as a kid was the accomplishment of beating a hard game.

That said, there were a handful of games that the difficulty detracted from them. Battletoads is a great example, where it had so many interesting levels and mechanics, but most people never experienced most of them since the game was so hard.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by Yolt1 »

I can only second the fact that RainWarrior expressed it very well and totally expressing my own thoughts...

"Easy" is not the ultimate answer to enjoyement.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by rainwarrior »

FWIW I love Battleoads. I loved it back then and couldn't beat it. I still love it now and can beat it easily... the reasons I like it now are very different than the reasons I liked it then.

I remember playing through DOOM on the easiest setting ("I'm too young to die") the first time and having a blast... then a few years later I decided to try the hard setting ("Ultra-Violence") and it was like getting to play it for the first time again. It was a very different way to enjoy it, but one I was receptive to at that time in my life, that I wasn't when I had been younger.


I like lots of easy games too, then and now. Difficulty is certainly not the only way for a game to be fun and interesting, but it's one of many components that could make a game compelling.

I think now especially there is a lot more room for games of varying difficulty. Part of it is the digital revolution, allowing both lower prices and much wider availability. There's no such thing as a game that's "too short" anymore, just one that's "too expensive". Games that have niche interest have a much better chance of finding their audience than they did where brick and mortar distribution was the only way to get them.

As game data sizes got bigger (especially since the move to CDs), it became viable for a game to be very easy but have lots of "content". It was much harder to make an NES game of any significant length that's also easy.

You can't balance difficulty to work the same for everybody, and especially as video games became more and more popular, there was a shift away from difficulty that worked better for a larger audience. Games that were easier and longer addressed this change in demographic better. The PS1 saw the RPG genre break into the mainstream in the west, especially with Final Fantasy 7, and I think that was well suited to the easy-but-long model, too.


All game design is about playing with players' expectations somehow. It's very important to have a good idea what kinds of things players will think about the situations in your game, and this absolutely changes a lot over the years. You can't really make a game for 1985 in 2022, but you can make it for the niche of people who are into the same kinds of games now. Maybe if you're really clever you can find a way for a variety of player types to enjoy your game in different ways... but that's a hard problem for design.

Dark Souls didn't become a smash hit just because it was difficult, or that it was old school... it did difficulty very well, in a market where most games weren't even trying to at the time. It did difficulty in a way that suited the 2011 market, and its success precipitated a huge wave of others wanting to play with this concept it seemed to have unlocked.

I don't know if they even expected it to be successful... Demon's Souls before it I couldn't even find in stores. I think From Software was just trying to make a game for people that like weird and unforgiving action RPGs, like their King's Field series before it, and I'd imagine its mainstream success was a huge surprise for them too.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by aa-dav »

About 15 or 10 years ago I found words to express my expectations of 'acceptable difficulty' in games in 'modern times' (after 2000 or so on).
It's next formula: if game 'locks' me by diffuculty in some area (and I try and try to break it through without success) for more than 30 minutes - then the chance kicks in of 50% that I will decrease difficulty level (if there is option) or drop this game forever.

And if we get back now to old games like Contra then it becomes virtually impossible to pass this 'test' because despite of one 'area' corresponds to something like one level or checkpoint-checkpoint distance, but loss of 'continues' resets you to the first level and you get locked again and again there you have been already, but 30 min timer don't reset fully and by repetative nature of tryings keeps timer on counting.
Many modern retrostyled games avoid this by save games at the start of the each level and this is very acceptable. I can assault level by level (without resetting to the first) for 30 minutes and more, but no way I am able now win the game like original Ninja Gaiden without emulator saves. It's just not my current (for many many years) way of enjoiment to repeat something 1000 times on the same map with the same enemies and so on.
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Re: Why a lot of 8-bit (or alike) developers think we loved excessive difficulty?

Post by Jarhmander »

Call me a n00b, but I could only beat Megaman (1) on the PowerPak with save states. I also completed the 1st "run" of Recca with save states, there is simply no way I can beat this game normally, especially with the last boss which is insanely hard.
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