Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Definition of 'Difficulty' (Dark Souls vs Overwatch)

Greetings friends,

So the past number of months had been most interesting for me. I had played (and completed) my first Dark Souls game, and I'd also played (and had my ass handed to me) Overwatch.

For those interested, it was the latter which got me thinking about this article, and I've dwelled on writing it ever since until now when I knew it was time to finally press PUBLISH.

What struck me at the time, was how different these games treat their representation of difficulty.

The Dark Souls franchise is renowned as being the hardest franchise of games to play. Those who have played the games claim they are the 'hardest' games ever made. I remember on one episode of the popular UK daytime TV show Judge Rinder, they even had a legal case about it, with one person claiming that the original Dark Souls was harder than optioning a good three year degree (note: he wasn't the one doing the degree). Players state repeatedly that the game is never forgiving. You either Git Gud or give up.

Overwatch however is the latest game by Blizzard Entertainment, an online team based PvP shooter. Unlike Dark Souls there are no boss battles, no move scripts to learn, and no mantra about 'just doing a little better every time'. Instead you have something else: other players.
- NB: Yes I know that Dark Souls has PvP invaders, but that is only one part of the game.

When I first started playing Overwatch on launch day, as I stated in a previous post, my ass got handed to me. Everyone else seemed to be elite pro-players, while I sucked balls.

It was an interesting experience, especially after having completed Dark Souls 3 just a few days before.

What I learned was just his the different games handled difficulty:

Dark Souls uses scripting. It has the same enemies in the same locations, who do the same number of moves, the only differences being the order they may do them, however often that order can be dictated by you the player (as I found with the Ancient Wyvern who I killed without running the gauntlet, but instead causing him to follow a movement/fire breath combo that always allowed me to move out of harm). The difficulty is that a lot of these monsters can kill you with one hit, or if they can cause you to run out of stamina or make you stumble, will beat on you without you being able to stop them. The aim of the game is learning how to stop them doing that.

Overwatch, and with it, any other multiplayer PvP game, uses something very different: the almost random nature of other people. Unlike a super hard scripted combat, instead you never know what the opponent is going to do, because just like you they have free will and can change their mind. Plus they can practice, have better frame rate, and better teamwork/synergy.

It's interesting to me, because while you can still learn, it is very different. You can learn what you as a player are capable with certain classes. You can also learn what other players are capable of doing with classes, but you can not learn what they will do and when. It's just not possible.

So what does this really mean?

Is someone who is a master at Overwatch a better player than a master at Dark Souls?


That's just silly.

All they are is a master at their game (assuming in this example the other master is not as good as them in that specific game. If they happen to be a master of both, then frankly they're just a dick. And yes I am jealous).

This got me thinking, are really any games directly comparable? What about tabletop? Or is this tied directly to video games?

Honestly, I would say it applies to them all. You may be a fantastic Warhammer player, but that doesn't mean you'll be good at Infinity. Yes there are certain talents and skills which translate over, but it is not a given.

Neil Gaiman once quoted Gene Wolf about learning to write a novel; "you never learn how to write a novel, you only learn to write the novel you're on". As true as this may be for writing, it also appears to me to be true of gaming, that you can never learn to be a master of gaming, but only the game you are currently playing.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

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