One of the basic rules of game design is that as a game goes on it should become harder. However there is an exception to this rule in which the difficulty of the game starts out hard and becomes easier as the game progresses. When done right this can give a game an added twist, but it is very easy to mess this up. Along with looking at this concept further I’m going to also talk about three games that use this where one succeeded, one failed and the last one may be a surprise to everyone.

Reverse difficulty works best in skill based games simply because they require the most player input to succeed. A year ago I posted an entry on the design elements behind action titles and I said the following:

“Because of the skill level required to play action games, the overall difficulty curve of the game should actually decrease the further the player gets, as their skill improves they should be able to handle fights easily. For example I had a friend over once who tried Ninja Gaiden Black on normal and couldn’t even get past the first boss fight. When I play NGB I cannot play the game on normal anymore after playing it on very hard because I find it too boring.”

When I posted this some people were confused and thought that I was saying that the designers made Ninja Gaiden Black easier as the game went on. That wasn’t it, what I meant was as I found my skills improving at the game it became easier for me.

Because of the importance of player input with reverse difficulty it is harder to pull this off in RPGs, or games where progression is time based. Other then selecting commands there is very little input done by the player; it doesn’t matter how fast you respond when everything is based on stats and dice rolls.

There is one area where designers slip up on with reverse difficulty and it has to do with handicapping the player to promote difficulty. For instance, forcing the player into a situation or enemy encounter that the player simply is at a huge disadvantage due to the design of the game, such as the enemy is resistant to the player’s attacks or a multi enemy fight where the player does not have good crowd control. After dealing with the situation or later on the player is then rewarded with a skill or weapon to make those previous difficult situations moot. This just feels like a slap to the face in my opinion as the encounter isn’t hard because the player wasn’t skilled, but it was hard because the designers were effectively tying the player’s hands.

With that said, it’s time to talk about the examples of this design. Demon’s Souls for the Ps3 pulls this off extremely well. Anyone who has played the game knows that this is a difficult game from start to finish. There is never a point that the player can let their guard down and the bosses were designed to challenge the player in a variety of situations. As time goes on the player will get the timing down for avoiding attacks and knowing the right time to strike and the game will become easier.

While the player does get improved weapons and gear they are not a substitute for skill. The hardest parts of the game may become a little easier thanks to the player doing more damage and taking less, however without the player learning the pattern and strategy for the fight they will not be able to win. The final stage in the game is a gauntlet of enemies that can kill the player easily, a fire breathing dragon and several mini bosses that have to be killed. Then after all that comes the final boss who can kill the player with a few hits.

Our second example is doing it wrong and it belongs to The Witcher 2. At the start of the game, players will have a hard time dealing with crowds of armored enemies without having any effective crowd control. Leveling up in the game allows players to focus on three different skill paths: swordplay, magic, and alchemy. Each path offers skills that radically enhance the player’s options during battle. For instance people who choose swordplay can unlock counterattacks and group hitting attacks. While magic users will find that their spells do more damage and can target multiple people.

Adding to the difficulty is the design decision to restrict both blocking and spell casting by the same attribute: Vigor. At the start of the game you only have two points of it and you will be fighting at least four enemies at the same time in most fights, you can see where this will cause trouble.

Naturally this makes the game easier as it goes on but this is not good design. Forcing the player into situations that are difficult because the game hasn’t given the player the tools to win is bad design. Playing The Witcher 2, gamers will get a good grasp of the mechanics and game-play early on and then will have to deal with this handicap while trying to level up ASAP.

In Demon’s Souls the game is only as hard as the player makes it, for instance after beating Demon’s Souls over a year ago I started replaying it again and found that I forget all the timings involved in combat. Because of that I was dying left and right until I started remembering again. If I come back to The Witcher 2 it means that I have to spend the first several hours dealing with an in game constraint that I’m not looking forward to.

My last example is another game that does it right which I don’t think you would see coming. Mario in all of his plat forming incarnations is a great example of this design, with the 3d games better examples. The beauty of Mario’s design is that his entire move-set is available from the start, with exception to the power ups such as spring Mario or cloud Mario. All the game’s challenges are designed around the available moves Mario has. There are no Mario games where after a certain amount of progression a new move is unlocked.

Starting out new players may have trouble with challenges because they haven’t gotten accustomed to Mario’s different abilities. Because the difficulty of the game is based on the player’s skill level there isn’t anything the player can do in the game to get pass a tough section other then improving at the game. Compared to a RPG where the player can spend time grinding out levels. As the player continues to play, they will become better at controlling Mario and previous difficult challenges should become easier for them.

Now another genre that may seem like it is built on reverse difficulty would be the rogue-like genre, however I would argue that isn’t. The main reason is that the game isn’t hard at the start because the player isn’t skilled at the game, but because they haven’t been shown all the game’s unique rules and enemies to fight yet.

By setting up a game to have reverse difficulty, the biggest advantage to the designer is that it allows them the luxury of challenging players and not worrying about someone not understanding the game mechanics as anyone who can get past the initial hump will be skilled at the game. However it can be very hard to both balance and design the game this way. Distinguishing between what is difficult due to player skill level and what is difficult by design is key and a trademark of a good designer.

Josh.

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I have been replaying Demon’s Souls on the PS3 and besides finding new ways of dying I’ve been noticing several design elements I missed the first time around. This will be the first part of hopefully several posts dedicated to Demon’s Soul’s game-play. For this one I want to talk about the boss fights, besides being incredibly challenging there is a method to the madness.

Each boss fight was uniquely designed to teach the player about Demon’s Soul’s game-play or a very specific challenge. Obviously this entry contains major spoilers as I will be detailing every boss fight in the game. For this entry I will be listing the bosses in order by stage such as 1-1, 2-1, 3-1 etc.

Vanguard: Players will meet this monster at the end of the tutorial and while it is shown as a boss you will meet it again in stage 4-1 as a regular enemy. At this point in the game no matter what class you chose, it will kill you in one hit. Even with that against you I’ve heard it is possible to beat it and players will be rewarded with a weapon that they won’t find until later on. The lesson here is that you will die plenty of times in this game.

Phalanx: The first boss in the game is an important one. If the player can’t win they will not be allow to level up or in other words improve their character. A trial by fire if there ever was one as the player is forced to use their character straight out of the tutorial to succeed. At this point in the game the only serious upgrade that is available is buying the heater shield which is the first shield to offer 100% physical damage absorption.

The lesson is on using alternate damage types to win, as the boss’s outer shell is highly resistant to physical damage while surrounded by smaller monsters. It is weak to magic and fire which magic users will have an early advantage. For non magic users they will have to use turpentine to coat their weapons or firebombs which are found in the first stage.

Armored Spider: As the first boss of a world dealing with fire this boss can be a painful lesson in having fire resistance. It is also one of the few bosses in the game that can slow the player down and is the first boss to teach the player about tells. The spider’s ultimate attack fills the tunnel with fire but is telegraphed warning the player that if they don’t get away they are in a world of hurt.

According to the guide the preferred strategy is to use long range attacks but I found myself getting hit too many times by fireballs so I choose close range. As long as you can dodge or block its swipes you should be ok.

False Idol: Going by stage order she is the first boss to use magic against the player and boy does she use it: teleporting, magic shots, paralyzing seals and making clones of herself. Like classic boss design hurting the clones will not reduce the main life bar cluing players in on which one is the real boss. As a boss goes she is one of the easier ones as her tricks aren’t as powerful as some of the later bosses.

Adjudicator: Going in stage order Adjudicator is the first boss that requires a two step process to kill it in close range. Players will have to attack his stomach to weaken him so that his weak spot on his head can be attacked. Ranged and magic users can avoid this step as they can attack it directly however there are consequences to either choice. Adjudicator’s sword and tongue attacks are very powerful and getting hit by either can devastate the player. His moves are telegraphed, like the spider requiring the player to focus on dodging and only attacking when the time is right.

Leechmonger: Another boss that has several lessons to teach. First if you fight him in close range you’ll have to deal with the poison coming off him slowly reducing your health, an effect you’ll see more in 5-2. Leechmonger is also one of the few bosses that can regenerate its health requiring the player to constantly attack it. You can fight it at range but unless you have enough magical power or arrows to keep attacking it you may not be able to kill it.

Tower Knight: One of the biggest bosses in the game and is the first boss to offer the player two viable options to beat it. Either go for long range attacks on the ramparts after dealing with the archers or get up close and attack. This is also one of the few bosses where it is dangerous just to be near him due to the fear of being stepped on. His imposing size was also a great way to inspire fear in the player which the designers will do with several other bosses later on.

Flamelurker: Arguably one of the hardest bosses in the game. If the spider didn’t clue players in on the importance of fire resistance Flamelurker drives the point home. His attacks can create mini explosions that can devastate anyone without adequate protection. He is also incredibly fast and a pain to fight in close range. Like Phalanx he is a gateway to another mechanic, this time enhanced item crafting. By handing over its soul to a blacksmith you’ll unlock higher item crafting including unique items. The other lesson about fighting him is the importance of dodging attacks instead of outright blocking as he will destroy you before you can out damage him.

Maneater: If Flamelurker is one of the hardest bosses in the game, Maneater is one of the cheapest. Not only do you fight it on a narrow ledge several hundred feet up but after a few minutes a second Maneater joins the fight. This is thankfully the only boss that is made up of fighting two enemies at the same time.It’s the environmental constraint that makes this fight so challenging as even fighting two at a time isn’t that big of a deal. However with the threat of falling off and the dark obstructing vision turns this fight into a major pain.

Old Hero: Similar to Adjudicator, Old Hero can almost kill the player in one hit if he connects with any of his attacks. Thankfully he has one major flaw; he is blind and wanders around swiping randomly at the air. As long as the player equips the thief ring they can move around without attracting attention. This battle is all about getting quick hits in then getting away as the longer you attack him the quicker he’ll be able to determine where you are. This boss was actually relaxing to fight after dealing with the grim reapers in the level whose magic attacks can kill a player in one hit.

Dirty Colossus: For such a difficult level this boss is somewhat easy. Its trick is launching bugs at the player to give them plague status, which is a stronger form of poison. Other then avoiding those attacks the boss isn’t too much trouble and can be taken out either through close range or ranged combat. This fight reminds me of the Old Hero battle, in which the level itself is more difficult than the actual boss fight.

Penetrator: For players who are staying offline, this boss is the only one that you can have a partner providing backup. Rescuing a fighter from a dungeon in stage 1-2, he’ll repay the favor by assisting you with this boss. As for the actual fight, his attack has a habit of sending out shockwaves and is a precursor in a sense to 1-4’s boss.

Dragon God: For most players this will be the first arch-demon they will face. This is an unusual battle as the player is not trying to fight the boss; instead they have to sneak around to reach a ballista at each end of the room to hit the dragon. If the dragon spots the player, they will only have a few seconds to get behind cover before he attacks, which is powerful enough to usually kill any player in one hit.

This is the only boss fight in the game where the player has to use an object in the environment to beat the boss. Players who have ranged attacks have an advantage here as they can use them to attack debris as opposed to leaving cover to attack it at close range.

Old Monk: An unusual fight as the challenge is only demonstrated if the player is online. What happens is that the game will pull another player into the game and use them to fight in the boss’s place. For people playing offline they will fight a stock phantom that just uses fist attacks. Now technically the summoned player can be a good sport and let the other guy win, however if the summoned player wins they will get a unique item that can’t be found any other way.

Storm Lord: Another unique boss fight and one that becomes easy when you learn the trick. At the far end of the map the player will find a special sword that creates shockwaves when used on this particular stage. The challenging part is dealing with the minions, but the sword attacks can kill them in one or two hits. Overall as long as the player can get to the sword this is another easy fight.

Maiden Astraea: This can be one of the hardest fights in the game and the best part is the player is not actually fighting her. She is sitting in a swamp at one end of the map and will not react to the player’s attacks. For close ranged characters they will have to deal with her bodyguard. He is equipped with one of the strongest weapons in the game and one of the best sets of armor that renders him highly resistant to magical damage. Sticking and moving is the best strategy for taking him on in close range and to make matters worse he stays in a choke point the entire battle making it near impossible to get around him.

However for characters that went with long range attacks they will find this fight to be very easy. Since Astraea just sits in one spot the entire time, the player can just attack her with arrows and avoid dealing with her bodyguard entirely. The only thing the player has to watch out for is that she regenerates health but that is a small price to pay for avoiding the alternative.

False King: While there is one more fight after this one, people who’ve beaten the game know that this is the final boss. This battle is the culmination of the biggest lesson in Demon’s Souls: That it is better to avoid damage then to absorb it. A direct hit from any of False King’s attacks will do major damage and getting hit by his full attack combo is deadly.

One of his most used attacks is a charge at the player, requiring a well timed dodge to avoid it and set up for a counterattack. Personally I found a combination of quick close range swipes and hitting him from range when he sets up his area of effect skill to be the most potent.

The variety of boss fights in Demon’s Souls is an example of great design. Looking over the list I don’t see any tricks of one boss repeating for another. The unique tactics behind the Storm Lord and Dragon God fights were developed specifically for these specific bosses. I always enjoyed games that have unique boss fights such as Shadow of the Colossus

Coming down the pipeline I intend to take a look at Demon’s Souls rogue-like influence along with my thoughts on its post game content.

Josh.

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When it comes to game design most examinations are based on the general content the player will experience in the game: the tutorial, level design, final boss etc. Today I’m going to talk about post game content or where the gloves come off.

Post game content is simply game content that is either unlocked after the game is completed or is an optional challenge greater than the last section of the normal game. One of the reasons why we don’t see a lot of analysis on this is that most gamers will not get this far. This is for the gamers who want 100% completion and many games don’t even include post game content.

One important distinction has to be made for this entry, harder difficulty unlocks don’t count as post game content in my opinion as it is just the same game-play the player has done already but harder. There are two sides I want to examine: the challenges themselves and the possible rewards that go with them.

Let’s start with challenge and the design mindset that goes with it. At this point in the game as a designer it’s no longer about teaching the player about the game. This is the time for the levels and challenges that were considered too hard for regular content.

For example in the various Mario games starting from Super Mario World, there were sections left out of the regular game and saved for post game. In Mario World for those that managed to complete the Star World they would unlock the “Extra World” where the designers set up some of the hardest levels in the game. When Mario went 3D there were levels and challenges set up that the player didn’t have to do to beat the game but were there for a greater challenge.

Most often gamers will find post game content in RPGs as that is the easiest genre in my opinion to set up this kind of content. The reason is that RPGs are about stats, if you know the possible stat values for a high level character in your RPG you’ll know where to set post game bosses at to deliver a challenge.

Besides RPGs, Roguelikes are also popular with post game content. The Shiren the Wanderer series are known for their post game content. For a genre that is about a high degree of difficulty it is amazing how much they really hold back for post game content. In the last Wanderer game for the Wii, after finishing the main story an additional story unlocks along with several dungeons including a 1000 floor dungeon. No I didn’t make that last one up there was an actual 1000 floor dungeon in the game.

Another aspect of this is really going all out with your level design. Alan Wake last year released two DLC packs that take place after the main game and I enjoyed them more than the regular content because the designers got creative with their challenges and level design. One of the reasons was that people who were buying the DLC were those that have beaten the game and already knew all the tricks up the designer’s sleeves.

One of the challenges of designing post game content is how hard should it be. Going back to RPGs because they are stat based it can be easy to create something too difficult. In Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga the final optional boss has a skill that does more damage than your maximum health which is just a pain to fight.

You also want to be careful about how “one way” the content is designed around. In Etrian Odyssey the post game involves boss fights with dragons. Each dragon has a powerful elemental attack that hits your entire group and in most cases will kill everyone in one hit. The only way to survive outside of spending hours grinding out to the level cap is to have a defender in your party that can cast spells to null the damage each turn.

Both Digital Devil Saga’s optional boss and the final optional boss of Etrian Odyssey are designed around having a set list of commands it will follow during the battle forcing the player into their own set routine to stand a chance. The problem that I have with this design is that it is no longer about challenging the player and instead about forcing the player to do one thing.

One the advantages of post game content is that it can be used a way of both rewarding and challenging your expert players without outright punishing moderate gamers in the regular content. In both Super Mario Galaxy titles, while the main challenges for the most part were easy the designers really went all out with the additional content such as the comet challenges which altered the levels in a variety of ways. One of the most challenging sections in SMG 1 was the purple coin challenge taking place on a planet shaped like Luigi’s head.

Moving on let’s talk about rewarding the player. There are two types of rewards that can be offered to the player. First are in game rewards such as powerful items. Many RPGs save the most powerful weapons, spells and equipment for rewards for going through the toughest sections of the post game.

Personally I’m not a fan of this type of reward because it feels like a hollow victory. If the player gets the best gear in the game by beating the hardest enemies in the game, then what is left for the player to use it on? One of the problems that I’m running into with Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together is that I’m not feeling motivated to go through it.

I’ve already gotten my dream team together and any new class unlocks from the post game would require more time spent getting them up to speed. Due to the game design there are no radically different units to fight other then the final boss so I’m not encountering anything that I haven’t already seen before.

In my opinion if you are going to have ultimate equipment in your game then it should be available in the regular content. With the Final Fantasy titles there are always powerful bosses set up in the regular content that has the “ultimate weapon” for each character. Granted these fights in most cases are harder than the final boss and make the last boss trivial but I think that’s fine to reward the player that way for taking down these enemies.

There are cases where having better equipment saved for post game can work out. If the post game consists of multiple difficult encounters then it can be worthwhile to have equipment as reward for the first challenges the player runs into. Going back to the Shin Megami Tensei franchise each game has several bosses hidden away for the player to find. Beating the early ones usually unlocks unique skills or demons that the player can use against the other encounters.

Moving on the second type of reward is challenge or achievement base. Going back to the theme I mentioned in the last entry, expert players can be rewarded with harder content. With Shiren the Wanderer the designers know that their fans want a greater challenge then the main game so they set up the additional challenges to test the player.

In Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne: While the game is on the harder side to begin with there is a massive optional dungeon set up for the player to explore. If the player wants to get a secret ending they’ll have to go through it and find and defeat powerful optional bosses in the main game.

Going back to my last entry on accessibility, the post game can be used as a storage place for the hardest sections of your game. Whenever I play a game I really like I want to spend as much time playing it as possible and that means going through all the content. I am fine with designers making things easy for the normal game and really cutting loose for the post game.

Expert players like to see everything there is in a game and there is a certain ego boost for getting through really hard sections. Beating Super Meat Boy was more of a personal achievement for me then actually earning the achievement in game. Being recognized for beating these sections can be a reward itself, in the Shiren the Wanderer series, there is an achievement log that fills up with each ordeal you get through but the log only exists in the game itself as the Wii doesn’t have achievements or trophies.

The use of post game content is a great way to still deliver a challenge to the players who want it without overwhelming those that aren’t ready. For the truly masochistic you can always have difficult games with even harder content set up. While I was able to beat Super Meat Boy I failed at getting through the bonus world that unlocks after the main game.

Another distinction that I want to make is that post game content by default doesn’t have to be made incredibly difficult or give a huge reward. In some cases you can reward the player with something different instead. The ultimate reward for beating the extra world in Super Mario World was a sprite change on all the enemies and a different color palette for the world map. With The World Ends With You, after beating the game you unlock a humorous side story taking place in a parallel dimension, but to balance things out it also features a super tough optional final boss.

I’ve yet to actually complete that 1000 floor dungeon from Shiren the Wanderer but if I somehow manage to do that I will be throwing a celebratory party.

Josh.

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Once again after being prodded by my friends I decided to try another F2P game, this time World of Tanks. After playing WoT I’m beginning to see why Riot Games with League of Legends is currently considered the cream of the F2P crop.

A simple description of Wot would be Counterstrike with tanks instead of people. At the start you have access to one tank from each of the current available nations: USSR, Germany and USA. Tanks are grouped by class and tier. Currently there are three classes of tanks in the game: Standard tanks that are further broken down by light, medium and heavy variations, tank destroyers which are slow to move but do a lot of damage; finally are artillery tanks that can rain hell down on the other team.

Tiers are tied into the progression in the game. The higher the tier represents better tanks in terms of stats, technology and equipment. A tier 1 tank is easy fodder, while a tier 6 tank is a completely different story. In order to move up the tank roster you’ll need to grind several different types of points.

Credits are WoT’s free currency and are earned after every battle. Like League of Legends you’ll earn credits regardless if you win or lose with a bigger pot going to the winner. Research points are earned on a tank by tank basis and are used to go up the tech tree for that tank.

Each tank’s tech tree consists of better equipment and a higher tier tank available to research. Like with credits you’ll get research win or lose after a battle but will get more research if you win. One important distinction is that unlocking something through research doesn’t mean you bought it; it just means you made it available to buy. You’ll still have to spend credits to buy the tank or equipment before you can use it.

If you research everything on the tech tree for that tank you’ll unlock elite status with that specific tank. That means that any research points you’ll earn from that point forward on that tank can be used to speed up improving your crew members (more on that in a bit) or can be used along with gold to take those research points to another tank.

Gold is the type of currency that costs actual money and is used for several things. First you can buy special tanks that can’t be bought any other way. Second you can use it to convert research points associated with a tank to free research points that can be used on any tank. Gold is also used to buy special ammo, items and can unlock additional storage space in your garage for more tanks. You can also convert gold into credits to speed up the process of buying new equipment .There is also a premium account you can buy for the month that gives you more experience and allows you to group up with friends to play.

Each tank has a crew that goes with it that represents important jobs in the tank like the gunner. After each battle your crew will receive experience and once they earn enough they can unlock a new skill such as better accuracy or faster repair.

Now let’s talk about the game-play. Matches can last 15 minutes but most matches will not last that long. A standard match is over when either a base is captured by the other team or one team has lost all their tanks. Like Counterstrike once your tank is destroyed you’re out of the match. Also like Counterstrike and most team based games, running around by yourself will get you killed fast.

In WoT the game-play while not completely realistic still recreates some real world tactics. Tanks have noticeably weaker armor on the back and sides compared to the front. It is possible to one shot kill a tank with an accurate shot to the back of it. Armor penetration also plays a factor, the more armor the tank has the less chance a shot will penetrate or do a lot of damage. Higher tier heavy tanks can shrug off damage from the front.

When everything comes together WoT is fun to play, however when it doesn’t you can see the cracks in the game design. First is the grind in WoT, there are three different things for the player to grind up to have any chance at getting better at the game. Now in games of even skill or equipment having future goals to upgrade can be fine however due to WoT’s design that is not the case.

In WoT tier means everything and being just one tier below the enemy is a huge disadvantage. Matchmaking is design to have the bulk of the team at the same tier and a few tanks either one tier above or below the average. Being below makes you fodder as tanks that don’t have the required armor penetration cannot even hurt higher tier tanks. This also plays into the feeling of being useless in the game.

The hook that WoT uses is that your tank is crap compared to everything else. This is why you should grind out the credits to buy better tanks, research to get better equipment and experience to get better crew so you are less useless in the game. It feels demoralizing to know in some games that my best role is to stay out of the battle so I don’t get hurt.

A fully upgraded tank in some ways is better than a newly bought tank that doesn’t have enhanced equipment and crew members. What this means is that when you start out at a higher tier you are back to being useless compared to the other tanks on the field. If you are matched against enemies of a higher tier then you are back to square one unless you spend countless hours grinding out the necessary credits and research to improve.

On one hand this does make the player feel good about purchasing that new tank or turret, but on the other hand it really kills enjoyment in my opinion. With League of Legends I don’t have to worry about spending hours playing a champion so that they can actually help out in the game. As long as I know how to use that champion then I will be an asset to my team.

Unlike Team Fortress 2 where items and equipment are mostly side grades to the classes, everything that can be bought in WoT are pure upgrades from the baseline of each tank. Unless you are lucky to be the most advanced tank on your side, prepare to always feel one step behind everyone. One of my least favorite moments is when I completely get the drop on someone to only discover that the tank is a higher tier then mine or has better equipment and that I can’t do anything while it kills me in one hit.

Another design flaw is how an alternate name for this game should be World of Snipers as that is how most games devolve into. Due to how camouflage and scouting works you can know that there is someone 200 ft in front of you but without scouting you can’t see them and they can just blast you. I’ve lost count of the times that I get destroyed by five different shots that come out of nowhere because they spent the last 3 minutes staying in one spot.

Artillery is a pain as well; once an enemy is detected by someone that gives artillery free reign to hammer that area with shells and due to their high damage once upgraded can easily get the most kills in a match. Another situation where I’ve lost count of is when I kill an enemy to only be destroyed seconds later by an artillery gun halfway across the map who kills me in two shots.

All this just adds up to this feeling of worthlessness unless I spend the hours to get all the necessary points to improve. Then once I get my new tank I get to do the same thing over again but this time with a longer grind. I do see where this can be fun for a group of people who get together and play (and spend the money on a premium account). The use of real money to speed up this process and get more items leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

The challenge of balance in micro transaction design vs. free content is always tricky. It’s ok to use money to speed up progress but the regular path should be enjoyable as well. When your only options to improve your tank are spending hours grinding or spending money it does limit the enjoyment of playing.

There has to be give and take for the F2P model to work in my opinion, meaning the player should be able to get by just fine in your game without spending money and will spend money to improve themselves. The designer shouldn’t hold mechanics and improvements at ransom requiring the player to spend money to make the game enjoyable.

Overall I find World of Tanks to be an interesting title but hampered by its F2P design. When you have so much content based on a treadmill design you have to give the player some reason to enjoy the treadmill and continue with it. It’s like the designers had trouble determining how much of the game should be behind a cost of entry and how much of it should be free. Once again I have to give credit to Riot Games for League of Legends for finding that happy medium.

Also one final tip for the F2P designers out there, please don’t require someone to spend money so that friends can play together.

Josh.

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