Game Development Reference
Adaptive and explicit difficulty can live together. For example,
Resident Evil 5 has four explicit settings ranging from easy to professional.
Internally, though, it has 10 adaptive difficulty settings measured numeri-
cally from 1 to 10. Each time you die, the internal difficulty goes down
until it hits the minimum. Each time you succeed, the internal difficulty
rises. But the system can only adapt the internal difficulty within limits
defined by the player's explicit difficulty selection. For example, an easy
mode game can invisibly shift between internal difficulties 1 and 4, while
a normal mode game can shift between 3 and 7. To solve the problem
of expert players manipulating the adaptive difficulty system, the game
has a special difficulty mode that locks the internal difficulty at 10. This
combined difficulty system gives Resident Evil 5 a very wide skill range,
since it can adapt as necessary for novices while offering a pure and honest
experience for experts.
IMPLICIT DIFFICULTY SELECTION allows players to adjust their challenge
level by making strategic decisions.
If some strategies are obviously easy to execute while others are ob-
viously hard, players will choose strategies that match their skill level.
They are selecting their challenge level, but doing so implicitly instead of
Team Fortress 2 : There are nine character classes. Playing as the Sniper
requires pinpoint accuracy, while playing as the Engineer or Medic re-
quires no aiming ability at all. Players of this game tend to sort themselves
by skill: those who can't aim gravitate toward the Engineer and Medic,
while shooter experts tend to choose the Sniper. In this way, players choose
the degree and type of challenge they want without being exposed to a
clunky difficulty selection screen. And unlike explicit difficulty selection,
this system works in a competitive multiplayer game.
Call of Duty 4 : In the single-player campaign, the player fights through
linear levels containing invisible touch triggers, each of which spawns
a cluster of enemies. Skilled players fight aggressively, pushing forward
hard, and tend to hit several triggers in a row. They end up fighting mul-
tiple groups of foes at a time, which provides a satisfyingly tough battle.
Unskilled players are naturally timid, holding back and clearing out a
space before moving forward. Since they finish every group of enemies
before triggering the next, they're much less likely to get surrounded or
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