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Andrew Kauz avatar 1:50 PM on 08.03.2011  (server time)
Bastion and the value of intelligent difficulty (also hi)

Who's ready for a shortblog on Bastion and a bit of a fireside chat? I hope you are! Let me start with the chat part. The big theme? How's everyone doing?

To be honest, life has been absolutely insane over the past few weeks, and it is only getting crazier. I'm going to be moving to the D.C. area in a matter of days, a move that I found out about a mere couple of days ago. Stressful? Yes. Potentially ruinous financially? Oh yeah. Awesome? Thankfully, yes.

Why should you care? Well, for one, I need to apologize that the craziness has kept me away from you, and might do so again for a little while. I have so much that I've been meaning to do: bring back a weekly community recap, start some new cool things in the blogs, etc. I'm incredibly thankful that the good Sir Mr Andy Dixon Man is awesome and has been helping out the blogs so much in my stead. But at the risk of you thinking that I'm all talk, I want you to know that I have a lot of things in store.

I also want to ask you how everything is going. Yes, you. I want to make sure to keep up a constant dialogue regarding what you want out of the blogs. It's less about system upgrades (though if you have a great idea let us know that too) and more about what kind of content you most like seeing, and what sort of fun things we can provide for you. How awesome was the Community CREATE? Do you want more of that? Want some cool discussion based things from us? Tell us what you like to read, and then we'll also be sure to try to provide content that you like and encourage others to create the same kind of stuff.

Also, sorry about those travel blogs. Tricky bastards.

Anyway, I do want to talk about videogames a bit too. More specifically, videogame. Even more specifically, Bastion, which I've enjoyed quite a bit. After finishing my first playthrough, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed in the whole "narrator" thing, and falling off of the world happened a few more times than I could really tolerate, but you can't deny that the game had some awesome character, incredible music, and was simply fun.

It also had the best approach to difficulty that I've experienced in a long time.

If you've yet to play the game, here's a little description of how the difficulty works. I can't imagine that this could be considered a spoiler, but if you're super sensitive to that sort of thing, I guess you could stop reading.

The game creates an added challenge by allowing you to activate the power of various deities. Each deity has a specific effect: one deity makes enemies regenerate health, while another makes them drop explosives when they die. Each deity also provides a nice experience and currency bonus to you. Want it to be insane? Activate every single god's power and get wrecked.

This is awesome for a number of reasons. Most obviously, it gives the player direct control over the difficulty rather than the indirect control afforded by most "hard" modes. Because of this, you can make the game more difficult in the way you want it to be difficult. Want smarter/harder enemies without a bunch of fuss? Go for it. Want crazier options like enemies that randomly turn invulnerable? Do that instead. You can make it just a little harder by turning on one option, way more difficult by activating them all, or anything in between.

I think my favorite part of this system, however, is the fact that it puts an actual reason behind each difficulty increase. It tells the player exactly what is going to become more difficult and exactly how the game will reward you. I like to know what I'm getting in to when I'm increasing a game's default difficulty; if I'm just going to end up hitting dudes thirty times more than normal in order to defeat them, I'd like to know ahead of time so I can break my fingers instead.

So, where does difficulty go from here? Can a system like this be improved? Are you crazy and prefer traditional difficulty levels?

Love you all

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