Friday, November 13, 2009

Difficulty curve - Is there such a thing as the ideal curve?

The construction of a difficulty curve is one of the key tasks in level design.

If the difficulty is poorly tuned, the game can become either impossible or boring. We all have memories of difficulty peaks in game that led to the distant throw of a pad or a mouse. on the contrary, how many games have we stopped playing because there was no more challenge ?

Does that mean a difficulty curve should always be smoothly upward ? Of course not. There is no ideal difficulty curve. Recent triple-A titles have shown that totally different approaches are quite valid.

For its shooting sequences Uncharted - Drake's Fortune follows a classical approach to difficulty curve construction . It is built like a staircase. Difficulty is flat, then it increased significantly and remains flat for a while until the next step. The introduction of a new category of enemies or the total number of them in a given firefight often trigger such steps.

Gears of War 2 or FEAR 2 follow a different approach. Their difficulty curve is basically flat. There are a few difficulty peaks from time to time but those are exceptionnal. Of course, if you change the difficulty setting, the game's experience will change but the level design does not.

The designers of FEAR 2 and GoW 2 are not using the difficulty curve to "glue" the player to their game machine. Epic designers constantly renew the player's experience while Monolith's designers use storytelling to achieve the same result: Getting the player hooked to the end of the game.

I draw two lessons from my analysis:
  1. There is no single approach to the construction of the difficulty curve
  2. The profile of the difficulty curve in the game should be planned as one of the components that build a player's experience and should not be an afterthough.


  1. I guess difficulty comes along with overall variety. I don't mind having "flat" difficulty in a game as long as there is anything that keeps me from getting bored (different setting, new activities, compelling narration with surprises). I think the overall feeling a player experiences in a game can't be bound only on a difficulty curve - "fun" isn't restricted to learning.

    A reminder of the flow curve, nice sum up here (and nice video at least for the first part):

  2. It is really simple to play a Spiderman game. All 1 has to do is usually to master his moves. Spiderman, like inside the comic books and also the films Runescape Gold, possess superpowers created attainable by the potent venom of a rare spider that bit him. Spiderman has the ability to cling to walls even though getting a seriously robust body. He is fast and agile. He exhibits perfect aim and balance when shooting enemies using the spider internet coming out of his wrists. All of these abilities are evident in the majority of his games, specially the ones which are under the fighting genre. Master these moves and you'll be very good in all Spiderman games World Of Warcraft Gold. And yes, Spiderman also has a sixth sense that alerts him of impending dangers. But that would have to be yours to develop. You need to exhibit a strong presence of mind when playing these games.