Aug 25, 2009

Video Games: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Ever since Pong sent a white ball ricocheting across a black screen, game developers have been struggling to find a balance in game difficulty. It's a subtle art, and most developers have a spotty record when it comes to whether a game is impossible or too easy (Grrr, Ninja Gaiden, don't get me started).

With advances in technology - and with an entire generation of gamers all grown up to take over the industry - you'd think that we'd have this dilemma solved. Nope. Not even close. Ngai Croal has written a wonderful article for Edge online about this very topic:

Nevertheless, developers who try to come up with unique solutions to this problem can quickly find themselves under fire from gamers who not only want to climb a sheer rock face, they want everyone else to do so as well. Take a look at the response to the news of Nintendo’s Demo Play patent, which proposed three solutions to assist players when they get stuck. The first, ‘Game’, lets players bring up video-recorded hints. The second, ‘Digest’, allows players to see video of the game being played; what’s more, they can jump into the actual game at any time, thanks to game saves that are downloaded in the background. The third and final solution, ‘Scene Menu’, lets players navigate through sections of the game in a manner similar to the chapter function on the DVD. The responses on a number of blogs and message boards were fairly negative, and that only intensified when a USA Today interview with Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto suggested that players could use Demo Play to have the AI to take control of the player’s avatar, then resume play at the moment of their choosing.

Check out Ngai Croal for more on gaming at his Tumblr site.

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