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The Difference Between Difficult And Hard

pklepek
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Posted November 2, 2009 - By pklepek


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The Difference Between Difficult And Hard (Aka Giving Up On A Game)

There aren't many game genres where I'd openly admit "you know what, I'm actually pretty good at this," but platformers tend to be my thing. Mega Man 2 is my favorite game of all time for a reason. But last night, while spending a lazy Sunday evening making progress in LucasArts' memorable attempt to smash Tetris gameplay into a platformer, Lucidity, I was decided turn Lucidity off.

About halfway through the game, I ran into a stone wall during a stage that required a specific piece to be randomized over and over again to make it through. I died some 10 to 15 times before setting down the controller, my interest in playing video games that night properly spoiled.

I honestly can't remember the last time I turned off a video game in frustration. The borked combat in Silent Hill: Homecoming made me come pretty close, tempting me to start the game from the beginning on the easiest difficulty in order to make the peculiar combat less irritating.

Lucidity, though...even thinking about my emotions during that stage enrage me. There's a specific reason Lucidity is bothering me more than, say, dying while battling the final form of Dr. Wily for the umpteenth time. Whenever I die in Mega Man, I know it's because I failed to follow the pattern. There's no randomness to death in Mega Man. It may feel unfair, it may actually be designed to make you pull your hair out, but there are specific rules you're supposed to follow.

The Difference Between Difficult And Hard (Aka Giving Up On A Game)

Lucidity does not follow this. Like Tetris, the gameplay is built upon using pieces at the right moment, but constantly battling between the urge to horde an item and get rid of it in order to move the pieces along and get new ones to appear. In this Lucidity stage, having a constantly supply of the bomb item is an absolute necessity. But unlike other stages in Lucidity that provide ample room to dump unneeded items, this one features no such option. Instead of the design pushing you to come up with interesting uses for all of the available items, players are forced to wait for the game's randomization algorithm to produce anther bomb. Often, it comes too late.

What's the difference between hard and difficult? They sound synonymous. I contend they're not.

The difference between Lucidity and Mega Man 2 is part of a larger question: what's the difference between hard and difficult? They sound synonymous. I contend they're not. Mega Man 2 is hard, but it's not difficult. It's "hard" because the pattern recognition requires an incedible amount of physical and mental dexterity to overcome. Lucidity is difficult, but not very hard. The player finds themselves continually reliant on mechanics of the game (in this case, randomization of the item load out) in order to traverse the typically simple platforming, rather than a specific, learned skill set independent of outside forces. When the right pieces magically appear, Lucidity doesn't put up much of a fight.

In general, though, I seem to prefer "hard" games over "difficult" ones.

I could also be stumbling over semantics to rationalize my lack of skills.

But I digress. Will I return to Lucidity? Probably. There's a good chance I'll boot it up later tonight, in the hopes that returning to the game after the frustration's lapsed will provide the mental clarity to actually complete the task at hand. If you have any strategies, please pass them on, but it brings up a pertinent question: when's the last time you told a game "sorry, I'm done, no more."

Have something to share? Have a news tip? E-mail me. You can also follow me on Twitter.

[image credit: flickr / Tengaport]

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