The Little Blue Game Difficulty

A philosophy with retro games was that they could only be so long, so they would make them hard so they would take you a while to beat.

If the Little Blue is a free game, I don't think they would want to scare people away with a high difficulty level.

If the Little Blue is a paid game, I wouldn't mind challenging gameplay like Ecco, that way I would feel like I'm getting my money's worth out of it. In a way, hard games force you to become more familiar with the gameplay.

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  • Today's games are usually easy, especially in comparison to the Ecco games. The Ecco games were also difficult right from the start, to the point where most people couldn't even get past the first levels. So The Little Blue could benefit from easier first levels, and a gradually increasing difficulty. Or perhaps like in Tides of Time, have difficulty levels that actually change or add more levels, that would be a nice thing to include as a stretch goal as well. It would also add to the replayability.

  • I think a hard or higher difficulty settings should be available to the player from the start. Some games still make you complete the game before you can challenge it at a higher difficulty.

  • So I decided to replay Tides of Time and do it on hard mode. I finished it today, it was brutal in parts. I hope Ed makes these challenging games too. But I agree with you, I think immediately high difficulty would turn a lot of people away, like it did Ecco back in the day. Since Ed wants the purpose of the Little Blue to bring in as many people as possible, I think it should get gradually harder.

  • As long as there are no achievements and time sinks, and the difficulty either ramps as you play, or has multiple settings to make it harder, I think it will be good.

    A simple difficulty toggle would be something like how likely a predatory creature is to attack you.

    • Silversea (James)
    • Wildlife Photographer and part-time Game designer. Responsible for production of Songtide series of Ecco fangames.
    • Silversea_James
    • 7 yrs ago
    • Reported - view

    Time sinks can be alright, as long as the rewards are noteworthy enough. I'd support a difficulty level, with some things only obtainable on harder modes as an incentive to try a challenge.

    I do not support Ecco-style difficulty for this. It would exclude too many people from the game. 

    As long as I don't swim down and get eaten by the Vortex Queen within 3 seconds of starting the level I'll be happy :)

  • My first experience with the Vortex Queen.

    *Clears Welcome to the Machine for the first time after an hour of trying*

    *Gets killed by Vortex Queen*

    *"Welcome to the Machine" appears on screen*

    *Heart starts pounding. Presses A on controller*

    *Welcome to the Machine level starts again*


    *"Maybe it's a glitch, I'll try that Welcome to the Machine password that just appeared"*

    *Resets Genesis and enters password*

    *Taken back to Welcome to the Machine*

    *Soul crushed*

    Congratulations Ed, not even Castlevania 3 crushed my soul like that :) haha

    As terrifying as City of Forever was on hard mode in Tides of Time (all those OH SH*T moments when the Vortex larvae screech and turn around), nothing tops the difficulty in Welcome to the Machine :)

    @James: DOTF had three second death difficulty too, like the battle with the great white shark in Perils of the Coral Reef.

    Since Little Blue is going to be a shorter game, I don't really want it to have time sinks like achievements/trophies. I don't want people to get the wrong impression of the game from it having achievements. It's like how I look at these Kickstarters for "modern" 8-bit games and they have achivements and leader boards as a stretch goal, it makes me shake my head - you can't force modern gimmicks like that on a retro style game and expect to recreate the experience.

    I do like the idea of the game having exclusive content on higher difficulty levels - that would be preferable to having to play the game twice like Ghosts N Goblins. I know some people might want time sinks to hold us over until the Big Blue is ready, but I think they could find other ways to make people put more hours into the game other than having extreme difficulty as the default setting or achievements. Retro gamers have a higher tolerance for extreme difficulty because we grew up with it, and some of us enjoy it, but the current generation of gamers is not used to anything remotely as hard as Ecco.

    The Little Blue should also have OPTIONAL tutorials. One of the problems with modern games is they hold your hand with lengthy tutorials, some for up to 20 hours or more into the game, and don't let you use those skills until they've been explained in a tutorial. This is not only obstructive, but it kills replay value. If I want to play the Little Blue and I have the skills to do so, I should be able to use any of the game mechanics that I am capable of pulling off right from the start. That's not to say you should make everything available from the start (like how you have to get the charge sonar as a reward in Ecco the Dolphin), but skills and gameplay mechanics availability should not be tied to tutorials.

    Think about it this way. If Ecco were made today and by a different company, at the start of the game instead of having all the basic abilities available to you from the start, you would only be able to swim and dash/breach at the start of the game. You wouldn't be able to use sonar or accelerate your swiming speed until the game told you you could by tieing it to a forced tutorial.

    Tutorials and handholding in modern games go way overboard. Games like the new Prince of Persia literally start with "move the analog stick to move your character" then they give you a TROPHY for it. Gee, who would have guessed that the analog stick moves the character...

  • So, how should the game punish the player for failure? In Ecco and Tides of Time, almost all of the levels had to be cleared in one shot with no checkpoints. Tides of Time was much more lenient in this regard, especially with its extended levels.

    While we do not know anything about the game design yet, I think it could use a system similar to Tides of Time, though I personally would be fine with Ecco difficulty. For example, if a level has multiple sections (like in TOT when you time travelled), then I think it could give you checkpoints between each section, but not multiple checkpoints within that section itself. I really find modern game design irksome with how it's like this:

    *cut scene*


    *5 minute gun fight*



    *2 minutes of walking to next location





    The constant autosaving and load screens ruin the immersion and pace of the game. There's also no tension because there are checkpoints every 30 seconds and the player has no incentive to hone their skills to prevent failure on top of exceedingly forgiving level design. I'm not saying Little Blue needs to have arcade difficulty, but the incessant checkpoints in modern games drive me nuts.

    Also, if possible I'd like the game to have an optional password system to go along with save files. That way if I want to play a certain level at a friend's house I can just write down my password and head on over like in the old days.

    The game should also have the option to skip all cutscenes. Making players re-watch the same scenes over and over again when they die is not an appropriate way to punish the player. Sure it is one way of punishing the player, but I'd rather have a heart poundingly hard boss fight than having to watch the same scenes again and again.

  • It would be cool if the game had an "Arcade" mode where you have to beat it in one sitting.

    You could have it like Sonic 1 and 2 where you earn extra lives and continues as you go, and when you run out it's game over and back to the title screen.

    Or you could have it like Space Harrier (Saturn) where you have infinite continues but the resume points are only once every so many levels (in Space Harrier's case it's every 5 cleared levels).

    Another alternative is the Gunstar Heroes route where you have infinite continues but you can not save and must beat the game in one sitting.

    Another way I've seen it done is in Journey to Silius where you can toggle the number of continues (within limits), but that's all you get to beat the game.

    Maybe an "Arcade" mode could be separate from the other difficulty settings, and if you beat it you unlock special stuff.

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