Introducing difficulty options in games isn’t as easy as it sounds. Many video games have featured one or the other variation of this standard Easy, Normal, Hard, Very Hard set of difficulty presets for players to choose from, VERY HARD being the right way for any video games to be played in.
Most casual players find themselves cycling between normal and hard settings as it most often provides a balanced gameplay. The same difficulty varies dramatically across video games and that’s when all of this stops being coherent.
Even the difficulty doesn’t increase consistently making a normal vs hard difficulty setting like a walk in a park vs a walk in a minefield. Developers tend to design higher difficulty levels in such a way that only by sheer luck or by some impossible-to-achieve timed button presses can the level be beaten.
This shows laziness or lack of creativity on the part of developers which sadly has haunted and still haunts many video games making them annoying and almost impossible to play.
Games without any difficulty options are better in a way as every player will experience the video game exactly the way the game developers designed it to be. A tailor-made game with no difficulty options to choose from is less likely to be inconsistent and frustrating as developers don’t have to arbitrarily increase the difficulty of a level just for the sake of it.
Racing games have their own variation of this difficulty preset that increases the difficulty of the game by increasing realism in car handling, physics and damage making the settings ranging from arcade to simulation. Racing games are fairly consistent when it comes to simulation of driving but some are known to punish players disproportionately harshly on higher difficulty settings.
Developers need to understand that “challenge” in video games isn’t about beating it but mastering it. A good video game is the one that requires grace and skills and can be mastered by playing it multiple times; the difficulty levels play a major role in complementing this by testing a player’s mastery of that game using appropriate challenges.
It needs a fair amount of creativity and artistry to design a level that will make use of all of the skills in the player’s arsenal, provide a decent challenge, and still make it fun to play. It’s quite a task to consistently come up with new ideas in level design, especially when the producers behind the creative team keep pushing unrealistic deadlines and yet expect a solid release from them.
Not having any difficulty levels is a safe option as it allows creators to focus more on creating a challenging and enjoyable gaming experience instead of creating different difficulty presets. Games adopting this approach have done much better in terms of game level design proving once and for all that creating meaningful tailor-made challenges in video games is what the games need and is what the ideal approach in game development should be.