Unlockable difficulty levels
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 27 April 2013, 2:18 am
I am a huge fan of games with adjustable difficulty levels. I think that every player is different, and so what is just the right amount of challenging for one guy might be trivial for the next, or frustratingly hard for a third. Setting ones own difficulty level maximizes fun for everybody. Now what I don't understand is the trend towards forcing players to work for that feature. I'm currently playing Borderlands 2, which starts out as normal, and I'd have to finish normal to get to True Vault Hunter Mode in playthrough 2 and Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode in playthrough 3. Not to mention that I would also have to pay for Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode.

The same thing with Diablo 3: It has Normal, Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno difficulty, but you need to play them in that order to unlock the next difficulty. Imagine that Inferno was the perfect difficulty level for you, then you would have to play through the game three times in an too easy mode before being allowed to play at the difficulty level you actually want. How silly is that?

Now I understand there is some theory behind this unlockable difficulty levels, that you learn the game by playing and are actually *getting* better while you play each difficulty level, enabling you to tackle the next one. But in this day and age I simply don't believe that this is true. How good you are in Borderland 2 will be to a large extent dominated by the skills you learned in previous shooter games, maybe even Borderlands 1. A player picking up Borderlands 2 as his first ever shooter game is going to be extremely rare, and not a good game design basis.

Now fortunately I suck at shooter games, so I can play Borderlands 2 always at normal difficulty level and be perfectly happy. So this is more a game design decision that punishes the more skilled players. But I would really hate for this to become general practice and to be applied to strategy games or others where I am actually good at. I would hate to be forced to play through a game at trivial difficulty level just to unlock the difficulty level that is fun to me.
Tobold's Blog

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