Lately I've read that the game "Control" will become a new update, this adds an "assistant-mode" in the same style of Celeste where you can regulate your play experience how you see fit, the developers don't recommend to use it for the first time playing it, but it's in there nontheless.
This is a very sensible topic. I know many people praise the assistant-mode in Celeste for it's great effect of "inclusion" and inclusion is definitely a topic we mustn't stop to talk about in videogames. But I don't think it's the "perfect" design choice for handling difficulty in videogames, especially for these who were built around the principle of challenge like "Control" did.
Overall i believe every game has rules and obstacle, and players should solve these obstacles while adhering to the said rules. Some game offers more freedom on how you interact with these obstacles depending on creator's vision.
But offering a feature that undermines all diffculty when you are at your wits end is just a cheap consolation and dillute game's integrity. I believe adaptive difficulity could be a thing as long as it's interwoven into the game system itself.
"So what do you care about? Then just don't play the game with the assistant mode"
Yeah I probably will, but that's not the point since I rather would like to see a discussion that includes the developers viewpoints as well. I believe that many developers in the future will follow the footsteps of "Celeste" and "Control" who knows, maybe even FromSoft will do eventually. As they stated it's not how they envision you should play the game, but they've included it regardless, going against their initial idea they had at release.
In a interview on december 2019 they stated following:
"We wanted to create the content in a way that the content that you saw was the definition of the difficulty. The problem of course is, how clear is that to the player as they enter this world? I still believe strongly in the direction that I don’t think choosing a difficulty level is necessarily the right way to solve that problem. But I think it’s something that we do need to do better in the future and we should strive to find a solution for it. "
So yeah so they included now that "assistant-mode" where you could design your own difficulty at any given moment, or choose to have no difficulty at all, do you think they found their solution? It doesn't sound like this to me to be honest, I believe they didn't find a solution at all so that's they have go for.
Another thing that bugs me is that the "Assistant-Mode" in Control won't deactivate achievments, a feature which purpose is based on the principle of challenge and exclusivity, but that's another topic.
As a big gaming enthusiast I just don't think it's the best way to ease players into the experience you as the developer have imagined and I can only guess but as a developer myself I would not want to include options that allow the player to circumvent the games challenge, especially if its so tempting to use it.
In the end I think interaction, struggling and the feeling of "defeat" are important parts of the the experience and letting that backdoor stay open, that giving the player litterally a "skip" button is to me just bad design, or rather it isn't part of the game at all I believe these systems should be better implemented in the game itself.
An example for this are game that grant you the decision to handle problem in more than one way, or a game like Dark Souls where you can gather ressources to summon other players or NPC's.
It's something where you still interact with the game itself without changing its rules. It flows in organically into the games dynamic, it's one of the many tools you can consider for solving a problem and I believe in ultimate it's more, enjoyable solving a problem within the game world and it tools itself.
I'm also a strong believer of the design approach that "if their is something you want to have, you need to be willing to give something in exchange". In terms of roleplaying games you trade "time" for "power" (grinding) but one the same way many benefits could come up with their own disadvantages to make it a valid- but not the "best" or you would say "broken" solution.
Don't misunderstand me I don't wanna dictate how players should play their game or how games should be made at all.
I just dare to doubt that the trending feature of "assistant modes" are the answer to all difficulty problems and I rather believe they are an excuse to not bother about difficulty at all, when worst comes worst the player has the tools right at their hands. To me it undermines the problem-solving aspect of games and I just think this aspect should be observed a bit more critical.
I Would like to share some opinions on that topic, how do you see it have you better ideas or even examples how difficulty could be handled?
If you get stuck do you use "Assistant-Modes"? If you do, have you felt you could have done it without it after all in the end?
Maybe you can change my mind about this topic overall.
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