While most games merely ask players to set a difficulty level, cult hit God Hand
, directed by Resident Evil
creator Shinji Mikami, offered a unique system -- discussed in Gamasutra's latest feature, which introduces the concept of 'subjective difficulty'.
The feature, written by Josh Bycer, examines how games such as the Super Mario
series and God Hand
cater to players of multiple skill levels simultaneously with the same content -- which he terms 'subjective difficulty'. Most games aim their challenges at one skill group, or use difficulty levels to allow different players to visit the same content.
does use difficulty levels, with an important change, writes Bycer:
"The difficulty of the game can fluctuate between Level 0 and Level Die (or 6) based on the player's performance. Taking significant damage or dying will lower the meter, which will drop the level down. The more the player avoids damage while continuing to make progress, the higher the level will rise."
"The level of difficulty affects two things. First, it affects how aggressive the AI is. The lower the number, the less likely enemies will counterattack, attack in groups, or use their stronger attacks with the opposite more frequent at higher levels. The second detail is that at the higher levels (specifically Level Die) more (and more difficult) enemies will show up in the levels, forcing the player to adapt. Going back to the initial difficulty level at the start, the only things it determines is the starting level of the meter and how high it can go."
"Playing God Hand
, the game attempts to match the player's skill level by raising or lowering the difficulty. Both a novice player and a skilled player are going to take the same path through the level, but what a novice player will be facing will be different compared to someone who is consistently performing well."
The full feature, which also discusses in some depth how Nintendo designs its Super Mario Galaxy
games to cater to multiple audiences at one time, and also touches on From Software's Demon's Souls
, is live now on Gamasutra