Difficulty and Fairness
There has been a fair amount of discourse of late on the subject of difficulty in video games, specifically the validity of playing a game in Easy Mode. I want to talk about the value of Easy Modes in games and how Rainbow Laser Disco Dungeon attempts to be welcoming and fair with it’s three different difficulty modes.
If you're already sold on the concept of Easy Mode, and you’re not interested in hearing yet another defense of the concept, that’s perfectly understandable. Feel free to skip on to the next section. If you’re an Easy Mode skeptic, I’d ask you to consider the following with an open mind.
Whether a person finds joy in finally completing a brutal challenge after hours of struggle, or they find that joy in seeing a story unfold effortlessly in front of them, what matters is that joy has been found. As a person who creates interactive entertainment, it’s my hope that when people engage with my work they take at least some joy from the experience.
Different people enjoy things in different ways. That’s okay. I like pineapple on pizza. I don’t need to put pineapple on your pizza to enjoy the pineapple on mine. Pizza is good. Pick your own toppings. It's not all that different from difficulty settings on a single player game. Pick the one you like.
Easy Modes let more players play your game. Easy Modes invite more types of players into your community which will give you, as game developer, more diversity in perspectives on your work., which will in turn help you make better games. Easy Modes make it so everyone wins... literally!
But it’s not fair, is it?
Rainbow Laser Disco Dungeon is a difficult game. If you want to claim the eternal glory that comes with landing your name on the high score table you’re going to have to work for it. How can a game offer three different levels of difficulty and place all of the players on the same high score table? Let me explain how this all works.
Personally, I think of hard mode as the default mode. It’s a very arcade-inspired experience and that’s what appeals to me. I'm old. I first fell in love with video games 25 cents at a time in my local mall. That’s me; pick the mode you like. In Hard Mode, you take hits and you lose hit points. Lose all your hit points and you die. Whatever points you’ve got, that’s your score. You didn’t survive the dungeon? We’ll generate a new one and you can try again. It’s as simple as that.
Easy Mode plays a little more like a console game. It’s challenging, but not brutally so. When you run out of hit points, you still die. The difference is, unlike in Hard Mode, you don’t stay dead. Instead, you come back to life in the last room you successfully cleared. Now you can jump back into that room where you died with a fresh full health bar and give it another try. Or maybe try a different direction, look for some weapons, or maybe just catch your breath. What’s the trade-off? That resurrection just cost you all of your points. If you’re chasing the high score, you might as well start over. In fact, if you’re chasing the high score, you should be playing in hard mode. If you’re not, that’s cool. Enjoy yourself!
Extra Easy Mode exists for players who don’t want much of a challenge at all. In Extra Easy Mode when you run out of hit points, your health bar simply fills back up. No interruptions! You just keep on dancing and blasting away to the music. Yeah, every time that happens your points go back to zero, but so what? Play with no fear of failure. Have fun. Check out the win screen. It’s totally cool.
Here’s a fun little side effect* of this system: No matter which mode you play in, if you never die, you’ll get the same score and go right on the same high score table. Maybe you play in Extra Easy because you don’t like the stress and you have an incredible run and you don’t take a scratch. No problem. Your high score totally counts!
Play your way!
Now that you know how the difficulty modes work in Rainbow Laser Disco Dungeon I hope you pick the one that’s right for you and give the game a try. Hey, try all the modes. Maybe you’ll find a new way to enjoy the game. But don’t tell other folks how to enjoy the game, okay? If you do, I’ll find you and I’ll put pineapple on your pizza!
*It's not really a side effect. It's all part of the plan.
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