Don't get me wrong, i'm not against easy modes in total, they exist almost as long videogames themself exist. It's great to have the option to experience the same game with an more beginner friendly setup/environment. It's a great tool to learn the in's and outs of the game and perhaps later tackling it on harder difficulties if you build enough self-confidence in your growing skills…
but let's be honest, when was the last time you've deliberately have chosen an "easy" difficulty to become "comfortable" with the game first when there were at least 2 harder options above?
The thing that troubles me: I believe across the years our perception and expectations have changed what an "easy mode" is and how it has to be designed. Nowadays when you deliberately use an "easy mode" you expect the game to be an cakewalk and most modern games exactly do this, they often times dumb down their difficulty in such extreme degrees that they become extremely inbalanced to the point that playing on normal feels 10 times more difficult.
I've lately tried out some easy difficulty modes in modern games where I couldn't shake the feeling off that there should have been something "between" "easy" and "normal" the term "easy" in that case is kinda misleading to me because in case of the FFVII Remake for example "easy" becomes so easy that you can fully ignore all of its game mechanics and still succeed. I wouldn't consider something like that "easy" because it implies that you were getting "challenged". This may be technical correct because if don't press any inputs you probably won't succeed, still at this point the game becomes rather "trivial" and "trivial" as negative as it sounds would be a more fitting describtion for most "easy" difficulties I encounter so far in modern games.
Back in the day the easy mode really was there to ease you into the experience, it still prevailed the challenge as its core. While at todays standard "easy mode" is seen as a way to experience the game without interacting with its gameplay in any challenging manner.
This leads sometimes to very unsatisfying situations for beginner players, where in normal mode the gameplay may be too hard at first, but on easy mode it becomes "ignored" entirely. Next to Final Fantasy VII Remake, Crash Team Racing Nitro fueled is also a good example, while you have to use everything at your disposal on normal and it definitely requires fully knowledte about the game mechanics, on easy you can straight drive towards the goal without having to deal with anything gameplay-wise the difference is gigantic abd it looks like it was just implmented to grant people whonare too frustrated with the game an easy way out. The thing is while playing CTR on easy you won't learn anything, the game will freely hand the victory out to no matter if you feel it was deserved as for that you never really getting prepared for higher difficulties since the game teaches you nothing it lets you experience all of its content but regardless it feels like something is missing a friend of mine had this problem with CTR and could only adapt after I teached here some basics on multiplayer.
One of the best example for a good easy mode in my opinion is Contra 4 for the Nintendo DS. The game has a huge amount of unlockables including a challenge mode, with unique gameplay passages, but the requirement to play it is beating the game first on any difficulty mode. You may have heard of Contra already so you can expect that beating the normal mode will take some serious effort, this is where the easy mode comes in. Contra 4 on easy grants almost the same experience than Contra 4 on normal it has only a few stages but limited lives. You will be challenged play it for the first time and you may have to redo the game one or 2 times, but you will improve every new run. The last level and the final boss is locked out f3om that difficulty mode so after you beat stage 6 yiu made it at first. This will be presented like the first big milestone on the game, because now the game allows you to collect medals in "challenge mode" (50 unique short challenges to complete, like the event mode in Smash Bros) to further hone your skills. At the point you're facing a wall in challenge mode midway you perfectly prepared to tackle normal mode, without ever recognizing it. This felt to me like one of the most natural growing curves in a game to me. You as the player, not yout avatar becomes slightly better and easy mode in there was the first step to prepare you for that. That the game locks you out from the ending seems mean at first, but in this case it left you with an incentive to tackle it for "real" even if you quit after that you still experienced approximately 85% of the main story of the game. This was of course only an example and not every game has to implement their easy modes in the same way, but it just shows how essential it was back then and how it nowadays seems to lose its meaning, because what "easy" meant back doesn't fit anymore what it means now in my view.
You may argue different people may have different feelings about that. But as I mentioned a good way to measure when an easy difficulty is really too easy is to look if you can "skip" almost all hazards and dangers in a game A roleplaying game where you haven't to heal once for a simple example. Or an meteoidvania where you damage biost through every room.
I suppose this isn't exactly the right place since most players here are probably good enough at videogames, but to people like my friend in CTR there is a lack of middleground to observe. All in all if an difficulty allows you to skip the gameplay part it should be named properly. Don't call it "easy". Call if "effortless", "trivial" or anything you could come up with which would describe it better.
That's my take on it, what do you think should game developers nowadays should better concentrate on normal or harder modes and make "easy" basically an "excuse" for "if you can't progress, switch on easy" or do you think easy should still offer a legimitate challenge that requires interaction with game mechanics? (just on a lower level)
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