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Miyamoto, Tezuka discuss the struggle of finding the right amount of challenge for Mario games

Coming from a GamesTM feature with Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka...

On designing the challenge and difficulty of Mario games:

“For me one of the things was maybe the gap between the really advanced players and the first-time players. The difficulty balance is always something that I hear frustrations about from the public, whichever way we decide to go. We always have the testing team test our game, but whatever they say is really fun, the first-time players might consider to be very difficult. One of the things I do sometimes at the later phases of development is go in and hear the testing team’s requests and actually pull that away and lower the barrier or change what it is they want. Sometimes I even hear from the testing team, ‘You’re destroying the fun’, but on the other hand, the flipside is you hear the first-time players saying ‘If I can’t clear a level it’s not fun for me. If I can’t complete a game it’s not fun for me’. The more years that have passed, the gap between advanced and first-time players has become wider.” - Miyamoto

“Even though we put a lot of time and effort into trying to balance the difficulty, when we actually release there are a good group of people who can’t complete the whole game, and so we always have that internal struggle of the gap between the advanced and first-time players. That’s why one of the things we’re trying with Yoshi’s Woolly World is to have two different versions of events for the advanced and the beginner players. We changed the performance of it, but then even in the beginner mode we did put a lot of stuff in there so that advanced players can still have fun. We put a lot of time and effort into trying to balance that out.” - Tezuka

Comments

Sun Oct 04 15 03:06pm
(Updated 1 time)

I can imagine that would be a tough balance to strike. Miyamoto really lays out the difference between the game they make and the game they sell. Very interesting.

Of course for my personal taste I would have to side with the testers who would like a more dexterous experience.

Playing Mario Maker and making levels, it shows that there is a clear divide in how people perceive difficulty.

I made levels with puzzles that are literally impossible to fail. If you manage to somehow do the unlikely and say.... lose the shell, bomb or switch you need, the level gives you another. There are still people who complain that they cannot solve them when the level does not allow them to fail.

I made a stage that is incredibly easy, and there still is a ludicrously small completion rate. It's literally a level that lets you skip almost every obstacle.

I know not everyone has the same level of skill, but Nintendo needs to teach its players by raising the bar a little more readily. It's good to start easy, but there needs to be levels that people will play and have to up their game to beat. It's good to reward effort and taking on a challenge. A big reason why many people say they "graduate" from Nintendo systems is that. In Fire Emblem games, make the Lunatic+ difficulty available at the start. In Zelda, don't make us unlock Hero mode. In Mario, make hard levels happen before the end game as opposed to after the end-game only.

I'll argue people moved because of aesthetics, art direction and narrative. While yeah, I agree with you in how Nintendo's difficulty is an slugfelt hill to the "hardest level" their difficulty is more built around level design, like how From Software does its games. This makes hard to make difficult settings. And I think there are extremes in both ends, I felt Dark Souls more punishing than Bloodborne, while the latter is kinda like DKC. Hitting that sweet spot of being challenged but not feeling the game is either cheap or strict is hard to do. Also adding that not only Nintendo makes easy games and other developers still make experiences built to make a sandwich of a bit of gameplay then cinematic and rinse and repeat. (Arkham Knight still is an example of this).

I think what I could say, is try making more games like Donkey Kong Country. Also giving a Direct for more niche games like Xenoblade could hopefully make it more understandable to the average Joe. Despite seeing footage I don't get how the combat works.

I think people are less likely to try with a Mario Maker level though... they give up the second they die or don't know what to do next because they have the option to skip and possibly get a level they think they'll enjoy more next. That's different from a Nintendo developed stage that is on a disc that only has 80 or so.

Super Mario Maker did make me realize how unskilled a lot of players are though, definitely. Like you said, I'm often shocked to see how low the completion rates are for some of my courses. Even the ones I purposely designed to be easy as cake are under 30%. I guess it makes sense that Nintendo struggles to balance difficulty of their games when you simultaneously have to try to appeal to people like that and veterans like us.

IMO Nintendo always strikes the right balance of difficulty. Their struggles seem to pay off.

For the most part yeah. Still if anything SS and Dream Team told me, is that they surely get anxious with the player not understanding the game, since both these games have handholding and tutorials that stay far long into the games. Which heavily hurts replayability IMO.

Also I've been waiting to comment this but compare, OoT's opening minutes, then WW's, then TP's and then SS's. I don't feel it must take that much time getting acclimated to a game's environment. I do hope Zelda U: Quest for NX [:P] is fast and loose with it's opening.

I argue that most Nintendo games do not strike a perfect balance.

I see some systems that they put in place that I like. The Kid Icarus Uprising difficulty meter is a good system. I like Hero mode in Zelda games and the Lunatic / Lunatic+ difficulties in Fire Emblem. I however don't like that I have to play the full game on a difficulty that bores me to sleep to get to them. They should not be unlockables.

I find most of their games much too easy, and I think that it is fine to stonewall the gamer and say "You are not currently good enough. Hone your skills". Everyone can get better, it just takes a little bit of determination. Being rewarded for the simple act of playing the game through gained skill and knowledge, that is the ultimate meaning of being a gamer.

vonter
Sun Oct 04 15 06:18pm
(Updated 1 time)

"Being rewarded for the simple act of playing the game through gained skill and knowledge, that is the ultimate meaning of being a gamer."

I agree if you understand what you can and can't do is expected to be challenged. But when a game isn't clear or really comes together after 1 playthrough like Viewtiful Joe, or the Wonderful 101. It's not that simple.

Edit: Aside from Left4Dead are there any other games with adaptable difficulty?

There is actually Kid Icarus Uprising that keeps adapting your difficulty.

However, I think that it's mostly a matter of increasing difficulty over time, just a little steeper than Nintendo is doing it most of the time.

If anything, changing the 3-hit boss battles could step things up IMO.

"Aside from Left4Dead are there any other games with adaptable difficulty?"

God Hand, RE4/5/Darkside Chronicles, Battle Garrega, Aces Wild.

How did RE4 and 5 did it? Do you mean in mercenaries mode?

I also remember Halo 2 spawning you a bit forward each time you died in a high difficulty level.

hamr
Mon Oct 05 15 09:43pm
(Updated 1 time)

"How did RE4 and 5 did it?"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFv6KAdQ5SE&

(Like God Hand, playing on Professional locks the level in place at max.)

Spoiler

Thanks, that was really insightful (though to nitpick Dark Souls is more punishing than Bloodborne).

I think it's always an approximation when it comes to difficulty but I think there are two aspects that truly matter before measuring enemy numbers, AI, or placement. That's control, both learning the things you can do and the pace on how quick the game perfom this commands. Sorry for keep bringing these two Souls games but I find it fascinating how Dark Souls felt too punishing and Bloodborne doesn't despite both games not being easy. I think pace might also be a factor in either making a game accessible regardless of difficulty curve. One lesser example may be Sonic Unleashed which has these speedy sections that can be played really well I know memorizing helps to get better at any platformer but I also think getting to know how fast the game reacts to your input does make you better. A better example may be Monster Hunter which I do feel slow and heavy like Dark Souls. So if a player doesn't get in-tune with the game's pace it's possible he or she will not have a good time. Sigh, maybe that's the issue with Melee, Smash players. Since I believe even the newer ones can be challenging with he appropriate people.

P.S. Did God Hand ever got released on another console [besides the PS2]?

"Thanks, that was really insightful (though to nitpick Dark Souls is more punishing than Bloodborne)."

Much like the other GMT stuff, I actually find the video more interesting from the footage of RE4 than from Mark Brown's commentary on it.

"Sorry for keep bringing these two Souls games but I find it fascinating how Dark Souls felt too punishing and Bloodborne doesn't despite both games not being easy. I think pace might also be a factor in either making a game accessible regardless of difficulty curve."

I do not follow. Bloodborne's combat is much faster-paced than Dark Souls, and bosses demand more proficiency with the base controls much earlier than in the latter.

DS's early bosses are giant lumbering behemoths who make the player movement seem downright zippy in comparison, which eases them into things, and by the time bosses start speeding up, most players have internalized the limitations and strengths of their mobility.

Spoiler

In contrast, Gascoigne features the same speed and moveset as players, and Bloodborne throws him at them early as the first boss (and as late as the second).

"P.S. Did God Hand ever got released on another console [besides the PS2]?"

They released it on the PSN store for the PS3, so it can be played on that.

Outstanding game, btw.

Or they could do the right thing like with New Super Luigi U and forget about those wanting it easy all the time...

So, I noticed something. My girlfriend recently got New Super Mario Bros. U (by that, I mean Friday) and it's her first Mario game in like 10 years... well, that's a lie. She bought Mario Maker too a few weeks ago.

Anyways.. she is finding the game difficult at points. Getting through the levels is simple, but getting the star coins is the challenge. That's the perfect balance because it can please both crowds. I personally didn't find the normal game difficult, but it shows that maybe we've just gotten too good at games.

So no, I don't think we should forget about those that want it "easy" all the time.

I smell a DLC Master Quest mode. Though who knows, I was halfheartedly expecting a challenge pack for 3D World considering the bite sized nature of the game's design. But we weren't so lucky.

motovres
Sun Oct 04 15 04:11pm
(Updated 1 time)

As an original Super Mario Bros. player since age 5, these kind of statements always bug me. The challenge by about world 4 should ramp up. Although I do like how (spoiler) 3D LAND had another set of hard levels after you beat the main game.

So a few of my levels i made in mario maker I'd say are about medium difficulty. Very fair and no enemy spamming. But There are a couple of long jumps and precision jumps in the levels. And i had people complain it was unfair... So I'm starting to see why nintendo makes their games easy

Now if only they'd put any kind of effort into Super Mario 3D Land's difficulty curve. It can be illustrated thusly:

________________________________|

In that none of the levels have any challenge at all until the very last one, and then it requires incredibly precise timing.

I think I have a solution: What if in each world there was a secret level opened by a certain amount of giant coins or even normal coins. Its a super hard stage that leads into an alternate version of the world castle which ends with a part of a device to access the true final boss.

mariostarn
Mon Oct 05 15 10:33pm
(Updated 1 time)

The only thing I'd like Nintendo to change regarding difficulty is following Wooly World's example and making it possible to disable the hand holding completely. It gets quite annoying failing at a certain part multiple times because the constant "Would you like help?" prompts begin to feel a bit mocking :P

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