Dynamic Difficulty

Have you ever heard of dynamic difficulty? Ever wondered how to alter difficulty for players in a way to keep the “flow”?

What is “Flow”?

A flow is an important principle of game design that keeps the game from being too “easy” or too “hard” for the gamer. A good game flow jumps between being easy and hard in a logical pace, keeping in mind that player should never get “bored” or “frustrated” from the difficulty. A nice article in Gamasutra goes deep inside this principle.

Flow, boredom, and anxiety as they relate to task difficulty and user skill level. Adapted from Csikszentmihalyi, 1990.From Gamasutra

A perfect flow keeps the difficulty inside the flow as the game progresses.

What is Dynamic Difficulty?

Let’s start this part with an example of a masterpiece; Resident Evil 4.

Although Resident Evil 4 had a difficulty selection option, it adapted to the way player played the game. If the player was rushing through the game and just killing zombies in a hurry and took a little damage, the game would would get harder and spawned more zombies and the enemies would deal more damage to the player. Even so, the resources and ammo the player found would decrease.

On the contrary, the more player died and took damage, the game became easier. The enemies would deal less damage and became less aggressive.

This type of difficulty is perhaps the best kind in any genre of game. The player does not choose the difficulty, the difficulty adapts itself to the way player plays.

A great video explaining this idea is made by Game Maker’s Toolkit

Game Maker’s Toolkit explaining how Dynamic Difficulty works

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