How should difficulty in a Sonic game be handled?

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Hukos, May 22, 2012.

  1. Hukos

    Hukos

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    I wouldn't say safe play is the option for a poor player. Using Castlevania as an example for the umpteenth time, recklessness often ends in a quick, swift death for the player. Caution and intelligent play are what's encouraged, memorizing and analyzing enemy patterns and striking when the moment is just right. Of course, that has hardly anything to do with Sonic, but I felt I should point that out regardless.

    It's kind of controversial, but one way I think to help introduce a more "fair" difficulty curve in Sonic games would be to limit the ability to collect rings you've lost after getting hit. Maybe not removing that ability altogether, but say you can only re-collect a ring one time and one time only. So it discourages the player from getting hit over and over again and collecting the same lost ring an unlimited number of times and forces them to learn how to actually dodge things.
     
  2. dsrb

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    Yeah, I quite like that idea! It could be made so that spilt rings are visibly damaged or otherwise distinguished; and once lost again they shatter or otherwise disappear.

    Alongside platforming/environmental hazards, badniks, and bosses that all actually pose a challenge—the last two of these being able to aim projectiles or body-weight attacks competently and without a fortnight's warning—, a limited ability to free-ride on health could actually imbue the game with a requirement of some skill, not just luck and/or memory.
     
  3. Jayextee

    Jayextee

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    *cough*

    Snark time over. Allow me to execute a more serious response. ;)

    Don't get me wrong, I love CastleVania, mostly the first game -- but you're not exactly rebutting my point there. Get hold of the cross and spam a few kills with it to get the 'III' icon, and then as long as you can keep your hearts up, you can cover a lot of the screen at one time with them and safeguard yourself from all minor enemy attacks, and damage a few major enemies whilst you're there. The game is made much easier doing this; because it's 'safe' play. The smarter players, of course, will find out that the holy water is a subweapon of choice, notably for bosses. It's not faster, but is riskier -- slogging through level 4 with the holy water (more of a struggle than with the cross, hello flea-men :P) is worth it when the boss (Frankenstein's monster and pet flea-man) absolutely freezes under a holy water flame -- which is the payoff, the reward.

    This however, would be neat. Although the ring-loss mechanic is a great boon to poorer players, it is open to abuse (another personal no-no). However, such a mechanic could get confusing without additional data for the player to understand why the spilled rings are behaving as they do -- dsrb's 'damaged ring' idea is a solution; but whether or not the additional visual 'clutter' could confuse a player remains to be seen.

    I love topics like this. Everyone, keep it going. <3
     
  4. Sik

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    SRB2 does this, actually (sorta). If you keep getting hit and you don't get more rings, the vanish counter is not reset, to the point that eventually rings will spawn already blinking. You need to grab more rings to prevent that from happening.

    There's also the Chaotix route where you will always lose some rings permanently if you get hit (those rings will fly away from the screen, out of the 2D plane - such a thing wouldn't work on a 3D game though).

    EDIT: actually, the original games do implement a countermeasure to permagrabbing. Sometimes rings won't collide with the map and will fly off-screen. Those rings are pretty much lost forever unless you're really fast and manage to catch them before they fall off (the recoil makes this nearly impossible). Playing as Sonic & Tails kind of breaks this though (you can get Tails to catch those rings, which is much easier than waiting for recoiling to end).
     
  5. Hukos

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    Now that you mention it, I am a Holy Water kind of man when it comes to Castlevania. Of course, I love using it on Bone Pillars since it immobilizes them. Hell, that's what I love about the Holy Water, it absolutely destroys everything in CV1 if you know what you're doing. The cross is faster and more aggressive, but I find that the Holy Water is more efficient, getting a greater effect out of less effort. In fact, because of the immobilizing factor of the Holy Water I would have considered it the safer weapon to use, since once you know how to properly use it, there's very little that can threaten you (Outside of good old knockback, of course :v: .)

    Level 4 isn't that hard to get through, outside of the bat being able to bump you off of the floating platforms (Unless you know where to spawn him). The fleamen follow a pattern, you can whip them the moment they touch the ground and they'll never touch you. It requires a bit of patience to deal with that section, but some practice and it honestly isn't that bad to deal with.

    I had forgotten that Chaotix does that, but it only comes into play in boss fights since Chaotix is devoid of a lot of enemies (My main issue with the game, despite actually liking it).

    I thought the "countermeasure" was that only up to 20 rings would spawn on-screen after getting hit? Anymore than that would simply be lost forever, but there was nothing stopping you from grabbing those 20.
     
  6. DinnerSonic

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    I think I heard it in similar topics, but I believe the Sonic Rush games(not sure about Advance or Sonic 4) do something similar to the SRB2 example. You can recollect dropped rings, but it becomes harder and harder if you simply recollect the same ring over and over again by bouncing further or faster, making it more likely it will fall off a pit, off screen or into general danger.

    Tweaking this could make things a bit tougher, unless you are boosting through hundreds and hundreds of "fresh" rings anyway.
     
  7. Sik

    Sik

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    being an asshole =P
    Also I'm not sure if it applies when you only have one ring =/ But it's something that could be done.

    No, that's just to prevent the game from spawning so many rings the system would stall.

    If you get hit often you'll see that sometimes rings will simply ignore the map and go through the floor. This tends to happen a lot in boss fights. No idea why it happens, it seems to be random (could be even a bug), but essentially it works as an antiabuse mechanism - you can't keep living off the same ring all the time, eventually it will fall off and you will miss it because you will still be recoiling from getting hurt.

    EDIT: and honestly that you could simply just grab another ring by walking a few steps in the map is way more broken than keeping the same ring over and over. At least the latter requires some skill (recoiling makes you waste time, and the ring could fly out of your reach so you need to move fast once you recover control of Sonic), the former is much easier to do.

    I think most of the difficulty in Sonic games comes from obstacles where rings aren't relevant anyway (precise jumps, crushers, etc.).
     
  8. Jayextee

    Jayextee

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    I also believe that upon first losing rings, the distance they fly should be proportional to the amount of lives the player has. They drop real close (Sonic Rush and Sonic 4 style) if the player is on their last life, but really whizz out of Sonic if the player has a stock of them. You know, because I believe a good player should be punished challenged further. ;)
     
  9. Aerosol

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    I think the way Generations handles ring loss is pretty good. If you have alot of rings, you lose alot of rings, but you can still collect the ones you can reach. The only way to make it better would be to have some things cause you to lose more rings than others. And maybe have rings disappear quicker the better the player is doing/the harder the difficulty setting is.
     
  10. Palas

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    This is a very interesting idea. However, I think it still would be just too easy if they dropped as close as in Sonic 4 no matter the circumstance. They way they drop in the classics are just fine - you'll always collect one. And, as much as I like this idea, I don't think the game should be protecting the player in any way. If you're not good enough, go back to the start - simple as that.

    And... I really don't like difficulty settings. I wouldn't know how to explain my stand properly. To me, it feels like you're not playing the whole game, that you're not having a complete experience - and that the true game lies in the normal mode anyway. Incentive to play the other modes won't hide the fact that playing the same game twice in the same way is not the best way to add replay value. It's interesting if you replay it in a completely different way (say, Time Attack, Ring Attack etc.).
     
  11. Jayextee

    Jayextee

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    That's the idea -- to give the player a bit of a break on their last life; and only their last life. I'm also advocating the opposite though; say the player has 5+ lives, those rings are going to be out of the screen when they smash out of Sonic. Ramp it up for the better players, they can handle it. Obviously. ;)
     
  12. Palas

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    There is another interesting resource to help in handling difficulty: starposts.

    Right now I'm all about playing with starposts. They're a very interesting level design resource that was best explored in Sonic 2, when it also took you to the Special Stage. Other than that, though, it hasn't been of much service other than being a checkpoint.

    But, man, it's the key to true subversion in platformers because, with it, you can play with what the player avoids the most - death. It's fairly obvious when you think about it. For example, you can make the checkpoints trigger some kind of trap - not hitting the player directly, but creating another menace. Then, the player will hesitate in activating the others. The game will be dangerous in both ends of the continuum - there ould be no difficulty x relief, but a constant feeling of risk vs. reward. It's claustrophobic.

    Another way to play with this is making the player WANT to die. I am sketching a level named Suicide Sonic, inspired on that Suicide Mouse video, in which dying doesn't take you to the last checkpoint - but to the next one. Now, I don't know if I want to rpesent this gimmick to the player right away or make him wonder just what the hell has happened for a few times, but I do want to do this. In the first scenario, there would be a tutorial section where the player would be trapped, but a starpost would be visible. The only option would be to die, so that he would understand the point. Placing spikes near all the starposts would help, too. In the other scenario, all the sections with a starpost in them would look the same, so the player would be confused when (s)he died (it's supposed to be a really hard, even cheap level), only to find out later that (s)he has been teleported. A further blocked achievement requiring the level to be cleared in, like, 10 seconds would intrigue the player even more.
     
  13. Aesculapius Piranha

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    Sonic 4 episode 2 was pretty well rounded.
     
  14. Hukos

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    Wouldn't an idea like that be really abusable for something like a speedrun? Like getting a lot of lives and then skipping levels like crazy?
     
  15. Palas

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    Oh, but in my mind this would be a stage-specific gimmick. But that would be the point anyway - teasing the player into, hm, selling his/her soul to the devil.

    So you could have the player not to find out about this in the first act but show him/her right away in the second act, maybe inducing him/her to abuse the gimmick indeed. With but a few lives, s/he would have to face the next - a harder one, but that works normally - level, paying the consequences for the acts.
     
  16. I like that idea but it doesn't seem too fitting for a Sonic game tbh.

    Maybe a fan-game or something but I'm pretty sure everyone would be pretty pissed if that somehow made it into the games.
     
  17. Flipside

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    I'm not sure I like the idea of rewarding the player when they skip the checkpoint. Some downloadable game (bit trip runner or something) gave you extra points for missing the checkpoint and made hitting it seem like a punishment. I'd end up jumping over the checkpoints then dieing close to the end of the level, and it killed all the fun I might have had with the Demo.

    That said, I've been toying with the idea of a special kind of star post in a Sonic game. I'll probably never really make it, but I imagine the last level being a boss rush. The same bosses behaving a little different. It would have 1 single check point in a hallway next to an EXIT sign. The hallway would connect with both sides of the boss room and have the player run through it in circles.


    The first time you hit the star post, it would behave normally. (making the orb thing on top swing counter clockwise.)
    The second time you activate it, it plays the sound affect in a lower tone that tells the player something's wrong. The light flickers weird for a second, then acts normal.
    The third time you activate it, the orb on top swings the wrong way (clockwise) and flings Sonic to the left. Then the light flickers slightly but constantly.
    The fourth time you activate it, it spins and sparks and starts to smoke a little.
    The fith time you activate it, you hear this electronic pop. It swings, but then the orb doesn't go upright again. It slowly swings at the 9-o-clock position and barely stays on. Maybe a bolt or 2 would fall off and it would smoke.


    Every time after that it would refuse to work. If you die on the last boss, you still have to go back to the last time the checkpoint still worked.

    You'd be able to reset this by going through the EXIT and coming back. Maybe it'd be better making the checkpoint only work 3 times, but this idea I think would drive home the helplessness the end of the game deserves and make you feel awesome for beating the game.



    Hmmm. Got so focused on the checkpoints I forgot about the rest of the thread. :P

    I don't like the idea of the boost being a suicide button. Think they did it right with rings giving you boost energy though.

    I don't like having the easy/normal/hard modes in a game. To me, that's like giving Aquatic Ruin Zone 6 Acts. I want there to be more "Game" than "Sidequest" in my Sonic Game even though right now, they've gone the opposite direction with that recently.

    I think they got difficulty right on most of the classic Sonic Games. Not sure about Sonic CD.

    Not sure how you would go about making a game "tougher" but keeping it fun. I suppose the best way to do it is with alternate paths that are kind of tough to pull off. Not just tricky enemy placement, but tricky to manipulate the momentum in your favor.

    At it's core, that's what I think Sonic is—having more than one option. You see one way to do things that's kind of obvious, but then you find a much better and cooler way. And you're the one who did it. Even if it was the designer really guiding you, it feels like it's your accomplishment.

    Maybe the best way to mess with the difficulty is to add more things to learn. Different enemy behavior and "gimmicks". Something different than what you've already mastered. I think it adds a different KIND of difficulty. And fun... And replay value... as long as you don't go crazy with it.
     
  18. Nomz

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    I remember back when I was a kid, I would get so mad at the older games for the miniscule screen size, or rather view range. I still hate those games, unless of course I can actually see what's coming.

    The 3d games handle it much better, allowing you enough time to calculate what's coming, at least, the mid-gen ones did. The newer games, basically the ones with the boost, have some areas in which it can be difficult to react. The way I see it is as follows:

    Older Games: Good luck with your troubles.
    Middle Games: This is easy, but fun.
    Newer Games: This is moderately difficult, and can be fun but also annoying.

    I think the newer games basically offer everything, while the older games offer a challenge. The middle era games are incredibly easy, but at that same time they are much more free-roamy/sand-boxy. You can customize your adventure, rather than simply reacting to it.