A Gaming Musing: Inconvenience VS Difficulty

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Ever felt how annoying it was to climb a 10-storey tower, only to have to manually climb back down after beating the final boss on the last floor? Ever felt how annoying it was to walk 2 miles away from the door to the boss area just to reach a save point? All of these are incredibly inconvenient game systems that may had slipped the game maker’s mind or may be deliberately set up.

Does inconvenience effect gameplay difficulty however? Difficulty had always been a major concern for newer games nowadays, but does “inconvenience” relate to difficulty?

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From my gaming experience, I noticed a few games with a bit more inconvenience then other games, major examples being RPGs. In RPGs, there will always be “healing areas” throughout your journey to soothe your pain, or more literally, to heal your HP; it can be a clean waterfall, a tent, food, inn – places which can replenish energy can be counted as one. I find it ironic however that the effects of these healing areas seem to be different in it’s effectiveness from game to game. In some games, healing areas can heal HP, recover from status effects and can even revive while some healing areas from other games can be as limited as only healing a portion of the HP without the ability to cure status effects or revive, which can be quite inconvenient at times. I remembered one day when I was replaying one of the older Final Fantasy game, I “healed” at a fountain thinking I was ready to face the boss in the cave, only to find out I was still poisoned.

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Healing areas aside, there is also a matter of navigating. When you finished navigating an area, defeated a boss, and basically finished up with your business in whatever area you are in, say a forest or dungeon for example, it gets incredibly tedious when the game does not “automatically run back” to the world map for you, and you had to control it yourself. An inconvenience I experienced in games like Breathe of Fire, and can be slightly annoying at times. There are always alternatives to this however, like having short-cuts back to the outside world map, or to use an “auto-travel” system, and games that apply such system does make it slightly more convenient.

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Location of save points too, is another element which effects the convenience of a game. You are fine, of cause if the save points were usually located just before each boss areas, but whose to say all save points in the game will be so convenient? Unexpectedly, you could be running several areas back away for 30min away from the boss area just to reach a save point. There are quite a lot of games with this inconvenient problem, and the latest one I experienced, was Ninja Gaiden (Sigma), before beating the very final boss of the game, there were no save points nearby, and I ended up not saving and just tried my luck with the final boss.

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Last but not least, the structure and design of the game too. For example, Final Fantasy XIII. For a huge chunk of the game in the beginning, you gain no CP (exp equivalent) nor gil from battles – completely no incentive in grinding, which is a magic of most RPG games old or new alike. Also, whoever thought it was a good idea introducing us a massive world map (or something akin to it) in the form of Gran Pulse out of the blue, while suddenly blasting us in the face with 60 available side missions all in one moment? What’s worse, the game just had to do that when it’s about to end; quite draggy and inconvenient. Slightly unrelated, the lack of a New Game+ was odd, considering how common it is to implement it into their games nowadays.

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From all the above examples, it all boils down to one word: inconvenience. However, “convenient” games don’t necessarily mean it’s easy. Instead of creating annoyance and inconveniences, games can increase their difficulty by creating relevant challenging puzzles or challenging bosses at the same time while making it “convenient” for their gamers.

What do you think about “inconveniences” in video gaming?

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This entry was posted by Kai.

22 thoughts on “A Gaming Musing: Inconvenience VS Difficulty

  1. Something becomes inconvenient when it is an action that is irrelevant to the gameplay. Lack of save points, poor navigation and no health regeneration may be considered inconvenient for some games but not for others.

    Morrowind often catches flak for not have fast travel or quest indicators, but this is all purposefully implemented into the game. It forces the player to plan ahead and thoroughly explore the world that they’ve entered. Instead of knowing where something is immediately, you have to talk to NPCs and follow vague directions to reach your destination. This isn’t inconvenient, and although it may be difficult, its primary purpose is to fully immerse the player in the world–something that is sorely lacking in modern games.

    You brought up Final Fantasy so I’m sure you have some fond memories of slowly whittling down the massive health bars that a few of the bosses have. This often times crosses into inconvenience because fighting the boss usually consists of repeating the same combo over and over again for an extended period of time. I don’t consider repetitive gameplay to be difficult in a positive sense of the word. For that reason, I also consider grinding to be less of a challenge and more of an inconvenience that pads the length of a game.

    I don’t think there is any definite rule to what is truly difficult or merely inconvenient in games. That being said, while there might be a split on a few issues here and there, I think most players can agree on what constitutes a legitimate challenge and what is simply poor game design.

    • Indeed, I do find some mini-games in some games which doesn’t add much to the content overall, they are pretty irrelevant. I think it does depend on the game’s execution too, for some case, it doesn’t have a save point, true, but perhaps the way the game presented itself doesn’t even need to save.

      Ahh, navigation and exploring the world. Again, I think it also depends on the execution. Recently, I was playing Xenoblade too and likewise, it also features an extremely vast and expansive world. The game also cleverly makes use of it, and present quests (a lot of it, actually) which require you to talk to NPCs, sometimes even making you go to different locations and cities. Moreever, some quests require you to fight unique monsters (mini-bosses) that may be strolling somewhere around the field – there are no indicators for that, and you had to search for it, the game however does give you the area it stays in, you just had to find it’s exact location. Xenoblade also does feature auto-travel however, and the auto-travel is made available whenever you reached a landmark, I feel that it’s a very convenient feature, yet, doesn’t ruin Xenoblade’s expansive nature itself, since even with the auto-travel, there are STILL a lot of walking needed. Again, I would say it depends on the game’s execution.

      Yep, fond memories indeed. I did find some to be the case, though I do find figuring out the attack patterns, elements and properties of the bosses to be quite fun, figuring out it’s exact weaknesses and the needed equipments and magic to defeat it. There’s always a choice not to grind – if you’re going for the challenge, then just face all the bosses underlevelled, lol. I do that sometimes.

      Indeed, I think this is a pretty subjective matter in any case, and I’m sure gamers will each have different perspective on which counts as plain inconvenience or genuine challenge.

  2. I’ve never really understood the idea of save points. I’m sure everyone has had the experience of needing to finish playing but being unable to find one. I understand that developers don’t want you to be able to just reload as soon as something bad happens, but some games nowadays have a “Quick Save” function that forces you to exit the game as soon as you use it, and deletes the save once you load up again. In my opinion quick saves are an excellent compromise that aren’t used nearly often enough.

    Perhaps more annoying are the games were manual saving isn’t allowed, with autosaves being the only way of saving your progress. It’s ok when it’s done well, but I recently played the XBLA game I Am Alive, where it only saves when you progress in the main story. 45 minutes of exploration and side missions? And then you failed on a single jump? Sorry, you’re going to have to do that all again =(

    The other thing that gets to me is grinding. Some people enjoy power-leveling their characters, I know, but for me it’s just tedious. In my opinion the hallmark of a good game is that you can progress through the story with minimal grinding, while still being challenged during boss fights (Final Fantasy 1 does this surprisingly well, as does 7. 12 and 13 are particularly bad offenders). For those that do enjoy grinding, developers can always include extra dungeons and bosses at the end of the game (again, done well in FFVII).

    The third thing that can ruin a game for me is lack of direction. I can forgive the early Final Fantasy games for this, but newer games such as Dark Souls have no excuse. Dark souls provides a more or less open world, but forgets to mention that 3 of the 4 possible routes are impossible to finish at your current level. Some may say it makes it difficult, but I think it’s just laziness on the part of the developers. It’s a shame too, because once I had a guide to tell me what order to do things in I really enjoyed Dark Souls. The combat and scenery are excellent, it’s just the story and interface that are lacking.

    • I think not having to save nearby already crosses the borderline of inconvenience, but it does depends on how the game executes it. Some games need them, and not having them is inconvenient. Some RPG games however, allow you to retry the fight if you die, and those are the types that I feel having save points nearby is unnecassary. If you were to reload for the latter, it’s more for further preparations. About the quick save, I admit, I’m one of those types that I almost never use it, lol. I don’t see much use of it too, considering that I very seldom have the need to exit the game and save, and most of the time, if I need to afk, chances are I had already saved somewhere in the game nearby. If I were to exit the game, it will be when I had saved somewhere inside, and will be when I stopped playing the game for a while.

      Ahh autosaves, reminds me of Assassin Creed, though a slight one compared to what you experienced in I Am Alive. I missed a QTE prompt, and wanted to go back to it, obviously, I can’t, since the game just autosaves for me. Pretty inconvenient since the game just overwrites the same file.

      You also have a more challenging fight if you fight the bosses with minimum levels. One time, I maxed my characters levels and obtain their ultimate weapons and summons in a certain RPG, and I almost yawned when I was fighting the last story boss, lol. I remember I do the typical grinding and power-leveling when I was playing FF VII as Sephiroth does provide quite the challenge when I was fighting him xD That, and his reappearances in Kingdom Hearts too.

      In some RPGs, and especially MMORPGs, I do tend to find quests which want you to hunt monsters which were pretty much impossible at the current levels. Again, with my newest experience in Xenoblade, the game wants me to hunt monsters 10-20 levels far apart from mine, I tried it anyhow and as expected, is a suicide, lol.

  3. I have been playing video games for a long time, so I have some ideas of hard games. Of course, there is the age of Nintendo Hard, which the gameplay is so difficult because of poorly coded games and glitches or game creators decide to make it difficult. But as expected, you pretty much summed up the annoyance of healing points being quite far away. Back in December when I was playing Tales of Graces R, I was level grinding and to heal, I had to walk all the way back to a town to heal, which is an inconvenience. However, in Final Fantasy X, you can simply walk to a save point and heal there, which makes healing less of a hassle

    Talking about grinding, Generation 5 of Pokemon made it more difficult to grind levels as you will get less experience from battling lower leveled Pokemon, especially leveling them up to 100. While defeating higher level Pokemon gives you more experience, Challenge mode in Black and White 2 makes the battles difficult, thus you have to spend time leveling up more just to beat them. Thankfully, in some RPGs like Atelier Totori or Meruru, you don’t have to spend time grinding as powerful weapons and equipment carry older and it focuses more on items. Still, it’s ridiculous how many save spots are there in Final Fantasy XIII and you heal after every battle… It takes the difficulty away a bit.

    • Just since you mentioned the Atelier games, are they any good? I’ve had my eye on them for a while and i’m just not sure whether I should get them or not >.>

      • I wrote a review on my blog on both games, although I covered on some Vita port extra features like included DLC and additional costumes… But compared to other RPGs, they not your traditional JRPG where fighting matters to advance in the story. It’s more focused on story (aka more like a visual novel where there are flags that determine the ending), collecting and making items. There are quests and boss battles, which have a varying amount of difficulty (story-important bosses are more difficult like the huge sea serpent thingy I forgot its name in Totori to advance to the eastern frontier and Airshafter in Meruru). Of course, there is the after-game dungeons that you can download for free, which have very difficult bosses where items quality and abilities are more important. But overall, they are very enjoyable games, but different from the usual JRPG formula.

    • Ahh glitches, I’m sure they will made the game not hard, but incredibly inconvenient. Indeed, that and also their effectiveness. It’s okay if that town is near, lol. Speaking of Tales of Graces, did you played it dub? If I remember right, it doesn’t have Japanese voices. And it also makes grinding so much easier, Grandia too, offers healing at save points, and that game makes it pretty convenient, considering the mass amount of SP needed to unleash all those multiple target attacks.

      It does sound logical, but I can understand it being a pain. I remember that there are some games which actually share the total exp between party members, instead of everyone getting the same. So that means the lesser the party members, the more exp each of them will get – a logical, but also troublesome exp system. I didn’t play Atelier though is planning to get Atelier Ayesha, grimaced however, when I noticed it also doesn’t have Japanese voices. Yea, actually from Final Fantasy X, I noticed that you can use or throw away your potions like mad without even restocking them on shops, you can easily get 99 of them through battling alone.

      • I have been playing the english version and the voices are meh… especially now since I played a Japanese Tales game a bit. But in general, I do like the Japanese voices more, more so because I can understand some of it.
        But on the other hand, healing pretty much makes healing at an inn pointless as you regain most of the SP, AP back.

        • I know right? lol. Don’t think I could play a Japanese version so I guess I just had to make do with an English release, gotta face it one of these days anyway, considering there are still some game studios that still localized all these Japanese games without their original voices. I mostly prefer original voices in everything I play, Assassin Creed for example, should definitely be in English and games like the Tales series should obviously be in Japanese.

          They could counteract that by making them more “inconvenient”, decreasing their effectiveness or what not. They should be able to balance it out – such skillful execution marks a good game in my books.

  4. It just depends on what you consider inconvenience. For example, in Tales of Xilla 2, I found it pretty damn stupid to progress from one point in the game to another you needed to pay off the debt you accumulated. This is easy if you been active in combat (which also another annoyance) and good with your cash, but don’t like it when a game restricts me like that. That is inconvenience to me. Mugen Souls was another one for me, since if you fought constantly with the main character in the party, the peon ball (think of it as bomb if you haven’t played the game) had a greater chance of exploding without taking the correct actions to lower the rate. It wasn’t so much as an inconvenience as it was annoyance at times, especially if I wanted to go far in the Mugen Field. Last Story, I really wish it had a targeting system, especially when fighting multiple enemies, but was still able to enjoy the game regardless. Difficulty really has no bearing on me, since most of the games I play are usually “hard” (depending on definition) or I played on close to max difficulty (if able).

    Then, you have strategy games that take a long time to engage the enemy or make any progression due to the mechanics. I think one reason why I liked Queens Blade/Gate Chaos, because the strategic elements were so easy to jump into and battles quick. It literately took me 5-8 to clear a map full of 12-18 enemies, which I found extremely satisfying and convenient compared to games were it takes you anywhere from 25-30 to end one map. Of course, tearing off the enemies clothes was an extra, lol.

    So it just depends on your definition and perspective, since the two are usually not synonymous with each in the case of some people (the type of person, too) or often, the games vary in terms of design and what people find accessible in that core design.

    • Lol, that does seem kinda dumb, not sure how the story goes for them to implement such a system in it. So it’s like a time bomb (not sure if I get it right since I didn’t play it), kinda reminds me of Pandora’s Tower which I finished some time ago too, navigating through the towers is a pain in that game due to a “timer” too. Ahh indeed, it’s pretty much hard to target in The Last Story, especially in narrow areas.
      I see, seems like you prefer hard difficulty, what do you think of games without difficulty selection?

      SRPGs, I tend to avoid them if possible – it takes almost forever to finish them. I did play some, like Devil Survivor being an Atlus fan, I did finished just one ending after quite a long time of grinding and brainstorming strategies, but I think that’s the only major one I actually did finish. I could had sworn I played some others in the past but couldn’t remember any of the titles. I should be playing Devil Survivor 2, but since there’s the anime already.. Heard it’s not as good as P4 though. So you have a clothes-tearing fetish >_>

      Indeed, each are entitled to their own preferences indefinitely, and the designs of the game, although doesn’t strike a certain demography’s fancy, it might strike another’s.

  5. Personally I hate it when games intentionally make things inconvenient. As you said, they can be hard without being inconvenient. Every game should have a save point before a major boss so that you don’t have to waste time going back to the last one. The ones that are convenient, but also challenging are the best games because then it feels like you’ve accomplished something when you beat the game.

    • It may be the developer’s choice for that, but indeed, even if the developers don’t want to have save points on every major boss, they could had certain “alternative workarounds.” Quick saves, checkpoints, anything. Accomplishments without frustrations is ftw.

  6. For me, the most inconvenient game is the ones which requires the characters to level up by killing monsters. I used to spend a lot of college days levelling up my MapleStory character. Come to think of it, it’s really waste of time. Haha.

    I don’t mind difficult games though, just don’t ask me to walk around in huge circle to complete a mission.

    • The grinding business then, lol. Maple Story? I used to play that during my high school days too, partying with my friends and killing slimes and mushrooms. Pretty fun experience xD But none of my friends play it anymore, and I also got kinda fed up after playing for a while, reached level 93 priest.

      Lol, I sometimes had to do that, especially if the rewards for it had a piece of armor or item I really need.

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