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Bastion and the value of intelligent difficulty (also hi)


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?

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About Andrew Kauzone of us since 5:10 PM on 04.30.2009

In loving memory: PAX 2009 (thanks ZombiePlatypus! And WalkYourPath, of course)

I'm Kauza, which is pronounced like cause-uh. My real name's Andrew Kauz, if you'd rather go for that.

I like talking to Dtoid people, so please add me on your favorite social networking site:
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/kauza
Gchat: santakauz[at]gmail.com.

Basics: I'm 25, and I write things.

Eternal thanks go out to Y0j1mb0 for the amazing header image you see above. So, thanks, sir!

Look at some of the things I've written.

Things on the Front Page:

Mass Effect, Metal Gear, Moon Unit, and more: An interview with Jennifer Hale
The Future: Demanding more from the voices of videogames
Love/Hate: A plea to play as a female Shepard
A warning: Regrets from a former life and experiences yet unlived
Top ten games for people who hate Thanksgiving
The wrong thing: Being evil should be more like sex
Staying dry in a sea of spoilers is a matter of building a boat
Lessons on taking games just seriously enough
Come, take your pilgrimage to gaming's one true mecca
Here's to you, random-JRPG-dialogue-writer-man
The forgotten: Crushing disappointment at the hands of Crash 'n the Boys
The people who have the power to change the world
Improving game communities: Enough with the negativity
The draw of exploration: Antarctica to Oblivion, Shackleton to Shadow Complex
I suck at games: BlazBlue and a slapdash attempt at fisticuffs
I, the Author: My Everest
Untapped Potential: The Gamer's Education
Other Worlds than These: Our World, Only Different

A series sort of thing about status effects
Toxic Megacolon and other fresh status effects
Curse you, status effects, stop confusing my heart
Status effects are poisons that turn my silent heart to stone
Also check out the related forum thread.

The Fall of the Titans (wherein I talk about dead or dying gaming companies)

The fall of the titans part 3: What once was shall be again
The fall of the titans: Sega died so that we might dream of the future
The fall of the titans: Why do the giants of gaming die?

Stories from the Past (a series about my experiences playing certain games):

Stories from the Past: Tobal 2, Tomba! 2, and console double-vision
Stories from the Past: Diablo and the Dark Ride
Stories from the Past: What the f*ck, mom?
Stories from the Past: Xexyz and the battle aboard Turtlestar Lobsterica
Stories from the Past: The One-Balled Man-Bear
Stories from the Past: The Battle of Olympus
Stories from the Past: Suikoden 2

Storytelling (a series about, well, storytelling):

Storytelling: The Problem of Genres
Storytelling: Mass Effect, Vonnegut, and the Fourth Rule
Storytelling: Doing Nothing in "The Darkness"
Storytelling: The Power of a Single Line (Yeah, it was my first post.)

Other stuff that is good:

Lessons on taking games just seriously enough
A consuming power: The demon and the borderlands
Can games transcend good and evil?
Nothing is sacred: We won't let you go alone, but we have made a tragic decision
How Destructoid single-handedly changed my motherís opinion of gaming
Why Tecmo Super Bowl is the greatest sports game of all time
Seven reasons that I will end you in creative ways if you don't play Folklore
Mother Nature and the Impending Death of the Gaming Spirit
Times Games Forgot: The Dark Ages
The Sins and Successes of In-game Collectibles
The Lock is Broken
When Music Surpasses the Game
Truckasaurus Rex and the Humor of Games
I Want to Cry (storytelling related, but not part of the series)

I have others as well that you can check out on my blog. You'll enjoy them or your money back.

Since it seems like the cool thing to do, here a list of my favorite games that is coming straight out of my ass and onto your computer screen, and in no particular order.

Fallout 3
Uncharted 2
Suikoden 2
Mass Effect / ME2
Metal Gear Solid followed by any number you can think of
Tales of Somethingendinginia (OK, and the Abyss)
Battlefield: Bad Company
Xbox LIVE:kauza
PSN ID:santakauz
Mii code:kauza


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