Are actual players less skilled than 20 years ago?
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
This post was originally posted in 2014. I thought it could be good information to post here. It could be useful for game developers.
Thanks to this information we were able to make Vortex Attack (in 2015) a lot more fun!
Since we launched Beekyr for Android and OUYA in October 2013. We continuously were checking the game-stats to tweak the game-play and make it more playable for casual gamers.
We reduced the difficulty many times: we made the game from something very hard to something easily playable. A few months after, we reduced the difficulty to something that was a bit boring at first, just to avoid the players getting stuck in some levels of the game. Just to let you know, we added new difficulty levels keeping the original hard game-play for those who are good at shmup or similar hard video-games.
In other words, this is what we did to make it more user friendly:
- Initially we had just released the game, the difficulty was supposed to be just right: not easy and not too hard, just normal hard like standard shmup games from 90s.
- Then we created a new Normal mode. The previous Normal, was moved into the Hard mode. By then Locomalito (a famous neo-retro games developer) finished the game on the OUYA version, but thats about it.
- Then we created the Easy mode.
- As people still was getting killed fast, we added simple instructions*.... but nobody was reading them. We even got a video reviews where the guy was stuck playing wrong for a very long time!
- Instead making the first level boring for everybody we decided to create 2 tutorial levels... but they became level 0-1 and 0-2.
- Players still got killed too soon and they still didn't read the instructions.
- We forced the instructions to cover the entire screen for 2 seconds, for just the tutorial levels. That was a way of making about 50% of the people read the instructions.
- Still, there was plenty of deaths so we finally had to make Normal mode a bit easier and the easy mode was a lot easier... It was for us far too easy but stats say otherwise... Please, keep reading.
- Then we added another 3 harder difficulty levels for some PROs out there, like this video (played by the hardcore gamer Meterre) proves.... But that's a different history. :)
Tutorial level 2 : 2 Forced seconds to read the Instructions!
Level 0-1 : Beginner (No bullets but hell for novices)
Level 0-2: Normal difficulty, (Some bullets)
Level 0-2: Beginner (No bullets)
We had to take all these steps to reduce mortality in our game and increase fun for those who are not that good playing... We did this till we released the latest version of Beekyr on the 10th July 2014 (for PC and iOS) we have learned that PC gamers (and some in OUYA) play far better than smart-phone casual gamers. Not only that, casual gamers are terrible players!
How do we know this? Behold the DATA!
We have some crazy unexpected stats that reveal that Beekyr played in the easiest level (novice) seems to be terribly boring to gamers with some experience. But seems to be really hard for those who are casual mobile gamers.
We gathered some stats of July 2014:
This screen-shot is not from the same moment we did the study but a couple of days later. That's why the numbers don't match exactly but you can get the idea.
8050 times the game was opened.
There was 16.037 Game Over events.
From which, 6500 people died in Stage 3. (the old stage 1)
But what about the tutorial levels?
Tutorial levels hardly have any enemies, or shots and no obstacles to be crashing into.... But players can still get killed. We really though nobody would get killed in those levels but stats say otherwise:
Playing in NOVICE (EASIEST) difficulty:
- 733 games ended in stage 1
- 476 games ended in stage 2
Playing in NORMAL difficulty:
- 466 games ended stage 1
- 1434 games ended stage 2
That makes a total of 3109 players died in the TUTORIAL levels in, what we think, easy modes.
That is the 20% of the games played are finished in the tutorial levels. (When players loses all 4 lives.)
At least we halved the game over events in Stage 1: we went down from the initial 6500 to 3100... Still pretty bad for first levels.
What does it mean?
Is this the end of the era of difficult games? Shall we just make silly games for mobile-phones and stick with the real games into PC and consoles? Will at least the indie studios respect this factor with the games?
Is people getting used to commercial games where they want you to keep playing to sell you later add-on items, merchandising, DLC or sequels. Is it good for the video games industry to keep lowering the difficulty to unreasonable levels to just sell more?
We, mostly the indie devs, come to make challenging games!
Go on, try to play harder games, it is, overall, a lot more fun! Plus they're good for your mental skills! Play and challenge a game like Beekyr!
Or download for Android or OUYA here.
Or you might be lucky and get the iOS version before is taken out on the 10th MAY 2015!
We believe that before the money comes fun and challenge.