back to article HARD ONES: Three new PC games that are BLOODY DIFFICULT

Who said modern games are getting easier? Though it’s true that a great many titles pamper us with self-healing armour, paint-by-numbers mission design and handily placed ammo, there are still developers out there who remember the good old days. That was a time when coming into contact with any pixel of a foe – even a big toe …

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  1. JDX Gold badge

    Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

    And for that reason, I'm out. This is one way modern games HAVE moved on. Make me keep re-doing the bit that killed me, but not the whole bloody level.

    Also, did he really say you lose ALL progress if you quit the game?

    AAAAAAAAAAaaaarghhh.

    1. Ragarath

      Re: Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

      Why not? Redo the level. If you can't beat it stop crying to your Mum that you can't. Man (or girl) up and actually get better at the game.

      If you die so much that you have to do it that many times then you are obviously not meant for that game, choose an easier one. Stop making the devs make all games easy.

      Having a respawn 2 seconds ago makes the game a 1 on 1 battle each time. Yea I beat that last mob/boss. Save carry on beat the next, save. That is NOT playing a game. That is you getting so lucky (and you realise it) that you need a save point to beat the next mob as you would never get back there again.

      It sounds like you do not enjoy the challenge of beating a game. Movies may be more your sort of thing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Ragarath

        "If you die so much that you have to do it that many times then you are obviously not meant for that game, choose an easier one. Stop making the devs make all games easy."

        All nice and well, but not every game has the option to try before you buy. And these (budget?) games also sound very unappealing to me.

        I have to agree with the OP; the whole idea that you'd have to restart a whole game when you quit playing is really setting things back to pre-C64 days.

      2. foxyshadis

        Re: Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

        There's a reason even most Nintendo-hard games had a difficulty switch before you start (and some modern ones let you ratchet it down if in-game if you die too much): Some people relish the high that comes of conquering frustration, some just want to experience the game in a way that's more personal than a let's play but less than a soul-crushing death-fest. Not everyone wants to be Sisyphus.

        Having both an easy and hardcore mode increases sales, and in the end, that's what keeps more games coming out. The alternative is usually artificial difficulty combined with the hated in-app purchases.

        (Obviously does not apply to fanatically insane grind games like Super Meat Boy.)

        Having no save points at all just sounds like developer laziness, though. Even perma-death games let you pick up if you suddenly have to leave.

        1. Ragarath

          Re: Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

          Having no save points at all just sounds like developer laziness, though. Even perma-death games let you pick up if you suddenly have to leave.

          I agree with the no save points part. Having to start the game again from scratch after turning off is not on. But a per level save should be enough. If you can't beat a level and want it so easy you can walk through with your eyes closed. What is the point in even playing?

          Yes a difficulty level would fix this, but that is also more work for the devs that are probably doing these types of games on a budget. I suppose it would not take much to code in an "every mob stand still" difficulty level for those that just want a movie like experience.

          // easy mode

          If (thisMob == "Shoot")

          {

          thisMob == DoNothing();

          }

          1. foxyshadis

            Re: Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

            Now you're being oblivious, Ragarath. Out of the thousands (often tens of thousands) of hours that go into Indie games, adding a routine that scales every enemy's stats up or down by a percentage is a rounding error, and adding or subtracting a few opponents in each scene is so simple it was always in low-budget NES games. They're already spending hundreds of hours balancing the game's fights and feats as it is, after all, why not simply scale it too?

            Or haven't you ever wished for a hardcore mode on a game you felt was far too easy, that doubled the difficulty and disabled saves? Did you ever wish they'd taken a few minutes to make it that much more exciting for you?

            1. NomNomNom

              Re: Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

              The problem is player's nowadays expect to complete a game and feel robbed if they can't. Therefore developers are forced to add too many save points or offer very easy difficulty levels so that 99% of players can complete it within 10 hours. There's no concept anymore of a game with a steep learning curve that only 1% of players will ever complete.

              The biggest joke is FPS games with their quick-save keys. What that really comes down to is a manual god mode. You can't lose, your death is inconsequential. Developers need to stop handing players such things that the players incorrectly think they want.

              1. stu 4

                Re: Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

                "The biggest joke is FPS games with their quick-save keys. What that really comes down to is a manual god mode. You can't lose, your death is inconsequential. Developers need to stop handing players such things that the players incorrectly think they want."

                so what ?

                I was under the impression playing games was something you do for fun.

                If I happen to enjoy saving all the time and using that as a way of progressing what the hell harm is it doing anyone else ?

                I cannot stand games that make me replay anything - it is an immediate turn off. I don't want to be 'educated' about why I should 'get better' or put up with it - it ain't the olympics - we all don't need to play games the same way for some sort of 'global fairness' FFS.

                HL was one of my favourite games. If I couldn't have saved games and tried again and again to get more health, etc I'd have never bought the game after the demo.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

                  "...most Nintendo-hard games had a difficulty switch before you start..."

                  Uhhhhhh, which Nintendo games were those? First console game I know with an actual save file was Zelda (or maybe Fantasy Star on Sega Master?). The first console game I know that had a save state was Metroid (justin bailey ------ ------). As far as difficulty select, well I wasn't playing when those came to be , but when I came back they all had them.

                  Saves are over abused. And the reason games are so easy today is so that you beat them in 10 hours, and then go out and buy another. Capitalism trumped creativity.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @ Ragarath

            "Yes a difficulty level would fix this, but that is also more work for the devs that are probably doing these types of games on a budget."

            People want to play the way they want to play. It's not a big freakin' deal. The more varied the playing styles the game accommodates, the more likely it is that the larger the number of people who buy the game will be.

            And there is a middle ground, in fact a wide middle ground, between one save per level or one spawn point, and not presenting any challenge at all; it's not a binary matter.

            And there are many games where a player might want to try different tactics but limited savepoints and limited spawnpoints make experimentation too painful.

            1. dan1980
              Meh

              Re: @ Ragarath

              @AC - 13:48 - "And there are many games where a player might want to try different tactics but limited savepoints and limited spawnpoints make experimentation too painful."

              Exactly. Take FFXIII, for example. Not an overly hard game and, like most FFs pretty much on rails but the simple change of allowing you to replay any battle actually increased the enjoyment and, in some instances, the difficulty.

              Why? Because, like many RPGs where you 'level-up', you can just grind until you are a sufficient level and blast through an area that might have been giving you trouble. There's no difficulty there - you just grind easier enemies until you're powerful enough. It also stalls the story as in some 'difficult' RPGs, you may need to go back and grind for several hours just to be able to avoid being 1HKO'd in a new area.

              Where's the fun, or indeed the challenge there?

              FFXIII's mechanic meant that you could go through and, when reaching a tough enemy or area, work to improve your tactics rather than just go back and mindlessly grind.

              In some RPGs, you might spend an hour in a 'dungeon' only to get to the end and be overwhelmed by the boss, putting you back at the start. Most people will try again but after failing a second time will go back and grind a bit until their characters are stronger.

              The point is that that approach took no skill; it's the equivalent of being beaten in a fight and then coming back with ten mates.

              FFXIII allows a different, more satisfying approach, which is to figure out the optimal strategy to bring down a boss or enemy that would otherwise be beyond your level.

              The same goes for many games with more liberal save points.

              Difficulty is one thing; a grind is another.

              1. NomNomNom

                Re: @ Ragarath

                "In some RPGs, you might spend an hour in a 'dungeon' only to get to the end and be overwhelmed by the boss, putting you back at the start. Most people will try again but after failing a second time will go back and grind a bit until their characters are stronger."

                That's just poor game design. The game should prepare you for a boss fight so that you are already skilled in the particular attacks you might face, or give you the option to retreat before you die, and if you don't wisely retreat you are permadeathed.

                Allowing the player to use save points is IMO a design flaw as the player is always ensured they can never be permanently killed.

                1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                  Re: @ Ragarath

                  NomNomNom: Allowing the player to use save points is IMO a design flaw as the player is always ensured they can never be permanently killed.

                  Automatic save (checkpoints) might arguably be a design flaw, though that's a highly subjective evaluation. But "allowing the player to use save points"? If you don't like it, don't use the save points.

                  Letting other people play the way they want to play is not a design flaw.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                @ dan1980

                That's why Far Cry 1, out of the box, was an awful game but with a quicksave mod it became IMO the best FPS of all time (in spite of a few really nasty bugs that never got fixed.) There are many possible ways to complete most objectives and it's possible to try them all.

                F.E.A.R. 1 (along with its two expansions, Extraction Point and the - again, IMO - vastly under-rated Perseus Mandate) was an outstanding FPS that would have been far less enjoyable without a quicksave. F.E.A.R. 2 had only one save slot because, according to the developers, they wanted getting killed to have "real consequences". Oh, it's got a real consequence alright - the game has close to zero replay value. (Although it's not nearly as good as the first game and its expansions to start with.)

                And "Men Of Valor" had a very Ragarath-worthy save system that sapped every possible bit of enjoyment out of the game for me.

                Basically, as far as I'm concerned, a game is a game, not a career.

      3. dan1980

        Re: Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

        "If you can't beat it stop crying to your Mum that you can't. Man (or girl) up and actually get better at the game."

        And, actually, that's kind of the point; games are not just for kids - those of us who grew up playing hard, unforgiving, non-saveable games (I'm looking at you, R-Type, Probotector*) are now adults, with jobs and responsibilities; kids of our own even.

        Most of us remember those old-school games fondly but our relationship with games has matured and changed as we (hopefully) have.

        What that means is that the chief measure of a game is if we enjoy it. Some of us enjoy a challenge, to be sure, and some of us still feel we could show the newer generation of gamers a thing or two (I'm not as old as that makes me sound!), but when you are trying to fit games around the, frankly more important parts of your life, then a game without save points is not a game that's going to get much use.

        The fact is that I like a challenge but sometimes I only have a half hour or so at night - perhaps an hour or two on the weekends. I can't speak for everyone else but I suspect many others here are the same. Do I not get to enjoy challenging games just because I only have short periods in which to play them?

        But anyway, games don't have to be challenging to be enjoyable and if your gaming consists of less-challenging, more story-driven (or mindless fun) games then that does not in any way make you less of a 'gamer' because it's not a competition.

        * - "Contra" to those from the US.

        1. tsdadam

          Re: Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

          "And, actually, that's kind of the point; games are not just for kids - those of us who grew up playing hard, unforgiving, non-saveable games (I'm looking at you, R-Type, Probotector*) are now adults, with jobs and responsibilities; kids of our own even.

          Most of us remember those old-school games fondly but our relationship with games has matured and changed as we (hopefully) have."

          The difference now is where the games come from. Arcade coin-ops dictated the games we wanted to play as kids. Coin-ops were designed to draw you back, no saves, and be completable within about half an hour or so. Wham, bam, thanks for your 10p, please come back again in 5 minutes to see some more of the game. We all read magazines back then longing to see those two sacred words next to a review of a home conversion:

          "Arcade Perfect"

          I still love these quick fix games, and difficult games too (the two are not synonymous, have a go at Dark Souls), but each has its place.

          I have an urge to go and play Karnov now :)

      4. Psyx

        Re: Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

        "If you can't beat it stop crying to your Mum that you can't. Man (or girl) up and actually get better at the game."

        Your ability to die in video games without crying is certainly worth belittling others over. Well done: You're more of a man than any of us: A true bastion of machismo.

        We applaud your bleeding edge lifestyle dedicated to sitting in your bedroom, performing a variety of dexterous tasks repeatedly. It has belittled all of our own achievements. You sir, are truly what all males aspire to being.

        Oh no, wait: You're a dick.

      5. RoninRodent

        Re: Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

        > Having a respawn 2 seconds ago makes the game a 1 on 1 battle each time. Yea I beat that last mob/boss. Save carry on beat the next, save.

        I can't really understand all of the downvotes here. Savescumming is it is known requires no skill as you say and some games (like the new X-COM) have anti-savescum code. Save right before the tricky bit and blindly mash buttons until you beat it through blind luck. Rinse. Repeat. That is definitely not learning how game mechanics work it is exploiting bad mechanics to save you from having to learn how to actually play the game.

        Having to replay a level or having to go back to the last enforced save point (if you can't just save whenever) isn't so bad but I still have nightmares about those games you couldn't save at all. Power cuts, dodgy power packs/cables and "Turn that thing off and come eat dinner young man!" all featured in my youth.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

          RoninRodent: That is definitely not learning how game mechanics work it is exploiting bad mechanics to save you from having to learn how to actually play the game.

          So what? If that's what the player wants to do, where's the harm to you? What supreme authority has declared that players must "learn how to actually play the game"? What fucking authority has determined that your way of playing the game is the "actual" way?

          I'm honestly puzzled by what sort of sense of personal inadequacy motivates attacks like this, and Ragarath's, on how other people play games. "You don't enjoy this thing the way I enjoy this thing? Abomination! The thing must be changed to prevent your mode of enjoyment!"

          Ah, technology. Creating new ways to be a bigot since whenever.

      6. Greg J Preece

        Re: Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

        Why not? Redo the level. If you can't beat it stop crying to your Mum that you can't. Man (or girl) up and actually get better at the game.

        Gotta love digital tough guys.

        Checkpoints in general piss me off - I'd rather just have a save button like we've had on PC for decades. But replaying an entire level over and over for the one beardy bugger near the end who knocks you into a pit? No, that's not "grrr I'm a tough guy", that's wasting your time. And this is coming from an arcade light-gun gamer!

        1. NomNomNom

          Re: Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

          "But replaying an entire level over and over for the one beardy bugger near the end who knocks you into a pit?"

          That's just poor game design. Covering it up with abundant save points is a hack fix

      7. JDX Gold badge

        @Ragarath

        If you die so much that you have to do it that many times then you are obviously not meant for that game, choose an easier one

        If the game mechanic has a health meter of some sort, then being able to respawn mid-level can be seen as making it overly easy. But if it's an instant-death mechanic, you're wrong. The fact I got to point X means I already proved I can do everything before X. If X is hard and I have to try it 10 times, why do I need to prove over and over I can do the bit which didn't cause problems?

    2. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

      run it in a VM and snapshot it.

      1. NumptyScrub

        Re: Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

        quote: "run it in a VM and snapshot it."

        Assuming your VM platform of choice allows OpenGL / DirectX passthroughs to the host, of course; since these are games they are likely to want to use hardware acceleration APIs.

        I know VMWare Workstation supports DX9 and OpenGL 2.1 for the VMs, however I'm less familiar with other virtualisation products. YMMV getting them to run in a VM without issue ^^;

    3. Anonymous Crowbar

      Re: Less than generous respawn points ... rehashing whole swathes of levels again and again

      >Also, did he really say you lose ALL progress if you quit the game?

      I remember that in "Steel Batalion" on the old xbox. If your mech suffers catastrophic damage, you have to smash the eject button or your character dies, and it wiped all your saves.....

      The eject button was under a plastic cover as well, so you didnt hit it accidentally :P

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wimps

      Back in the 80's, Sundog deleted your saved game when you died and we loved it for it. Just having to replay the current level is nothing.

  2. MJI Silver badge

    Don't Starve for free

    On Playstation + this month

    1. TonkaToys
      Thumb Up

      Re: Don't Starve for free

      My 9yo son surprised me by saying he liked this more than minecraft

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    tried don't stare on PS + too annoying as so much time wasted when you inevitably die. I can see why people like it though, but would prefer an easier option as I don't have time to start from scratch when I have died.

    Perhaps a few save points after achieving certain milestones would allow the user to at least see more of the game before becoming too frustrated to continue. I played this for one night and once the following day - not been back since.

    1. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Early, Early days

      I used to get those cover tapes on the old Spectrum mags, and they'r often come with demos of new games - first level, usually.

      There were so many games I never bought because I could never complete the bloody demo level!

      Plus the games I bought that I ended up seeing 10-20% of because everytime I got to THAT bit, I'd get killed and have to start from scratch. And to be honest, there's a limit to how many times you can do the first hour of Tir Na Nog before it just becomes tedious.

      Savescumming might be as bad in SP as camping is in MP, but at least these days I get a chance to finish the game!

      1. Obitim

        Re: Early, Early days

        Upvote from me for the Tir Na Nog reference! That was an amazingly hard game that I had no idea how to play at 8...I spent 30 minutes walking round with a garnet for no real reason!

        There was a second game that was in a similar style set on a space station, can't remember what it was called though!

        1. DiViDeD Silver badge

          Re: Early, Early days

          "There was a second game that was in a similar style set on a space station, can't remember what it was called though!"

          That would have been Dun Darach (sp?). I had that too, more of the same with a nice bluish background but just as confusing and frustrating.

          No, I don't know why I bought the follow up when I couldn't make head or tail of the first one. But it was a new Speccy game at a time when new releases were reduced to less than 70 a week.

          Does anyone remember the name of that game where you had to walk through a maze which had giant balls moving around and you had to avoid them? All I can remember is that the movement algorithm was supposed to be so complicated that the balls would not repeat their pattern of movements within the life of the universe.

          Well, that and the fact I never got more than halfway through level one, of course.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    I swear to god, if I hear one more game with 'saga' in the title, I'm going to scream. YOU CAN'T MAKE SOMETHING EPIC BY SLAPPING 'SAGA' ON THE NAME!

    It's not a fucking story, it's not a fucking saga, nothing gets fucking crushed or crafted, so why the fuck! is all that shit in your titles, you lazy sons of bitches!?

    I'm sick of goddamned ZOMBIE CRUSH SAGA STORY RUN CRAFT! Shut the fuck up! Shut, the fuck up!!@

    [grumble, wheeze, cough]

    1. __________

      The Saga of the Saga Sagas

      For Banner Saga, set in a Norse Themed world of Heroic Deeds, the word Saga makes perfect sense.

      1. lurker

        Re: The Saga of the Saga Sagas

        As above, try Googling for the definition of the word 'saga'. It's being used absolutely correctly in the context of this game.

        The Candy Crush people used it inappropriately, and then tried to sue the makers of the Banner Saga for using it in the title, despite the >1000 years of precedent in the form of the Scandinavian saga literature. Classy.

    2. Swarthy Silver badge
      Trollface

      ZOMBIE CRUSH SAGA STORY RUN CRAFT!

      Behold the title to my million dollar making game! And I will sue the pants off of anybody who infringes on my hard work and intellectual property by using any part of it in any other game, even if they used it first! And I will sue them twice as hard if it comes out between now and whenever I get around to actually making the game, because obviously, they stole my IP and are trying to do an end-run so they can get the money.

      David, being a El Reg Commentard, has the right to use it this once.

    3. Tom Maddox Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Obligatory:

      http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2014/01/24

    4. dan1980

      @David W.

      "I swear to god, if I hear one more game with 'saga' in the title, I'm going to scream. YOU CAN'T MAKE SOMETHING EPIC BY SLAPPING 'SAGA' ON THE NAME!"

      Step 1: read article.

      Step 2: comment.

      Clear?

      Candy Crush (think that's right) Saga is a stupid use of the term, agreed. "Banner Saga", being a game about a Norse saga depicted on a banner, is, perhaps, an acceptable use. No?

      Again, read first, comment second (or not at all).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Joke

        Re: @David W.

        "being a game about a Norse saga depicted on a banner, is, perhaps, an acceptable use. No?"

        I'm gonna go with no on this one, because the word has been permanently ruined. It's like radioactive waste now - maybe in ten thousand years people will be able to approach it without being mauled by its fetid history, but until that time, I officially declare the word 'Saga' dead.

        The developers of the game in question were clearly caught in the crossfire, but thanks to less-scrupulous game designers, 'saga' will, forever after, evoke only images of cutesy goddamned sparkle bullshit. CUTESY GODDAMNED SPARKLE BULLSHIT! Like the name 'Adolf', and the phrase "registry cleaner", abuse by evil has ruined the word. Quarantine - and the immediate, brutal execution of subsequent abusers - is the only acceptable option.

        I hope I've made myself clear.

  5. Ian Yates

    Kerbal Space Program

    That's the new definition of a difficult game; I had to learn about orbital mechanics and gravity assists, calculate delta-V, as well as design and test my own spacecraft.

    It's the game I've spent the most single-player total time in. Quickly becomes a hobby.

    1. Ashton Black

      Re: Kerbal Space Program

      Oh gods yes indeed.

      *Launches "Strut Monster Mk 38"

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Kerbal Space Program

        And suffers CPU meltdown as it tries to calculate the trajectory of the 1000 pieces of debris as your ship falls apart at 25.54 km up.

        And there is nothing more frustrating than your first Jool probe thats taken ages to get there and is going for an aero braking manuver to get into orbit getting too close to a moon which tweaks the trajectory from close encounter to death dive and you have'nt got the fuel for a course correction......

        Large explosion.... because us KSP'ers are used to those

    2. Rattus Rattus

      Re: Kerbal Space Program

      Oh hell yes. Love that game. It was a terrible sensation to discover that my otherwise-successful first manned mission to Laythe had too wimpy a lander, and the brothers Kerman could not make orbit to dock with their return booster. I eventually managed to rescue them with a second, robotically-piloted lander, after they had been stranded for a year of game time, and safely return them to Kerbin. As a side note, aerobraking through Jool's atmosphere into a capture orbit is nothing short of spectacular.

      On the other hoof, it is a tremendous feeling of accomplishment when you finally make your first successful orbital rendezvous and docking.

  6. MattLoren

    What, no Eve Online?

    Much less forgiving than anything else out there.

  7. Richard 120
    Facepalm

    You did that deliberately

    In the taskbar the heading is truncated to

    HARD ON...

  8. Steven Davison

    no MUD?

    Wasn't death in the original MUD completely permanent?

  9. Vociferous

    Europa Universalis IV

    Ridiculously difficult. I refuse to believe people actually manage to conquer the world in that one, except possibly on the easiest setting and after six months (of real-time) gaming.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Europa Universalis IV

      It's quite possible to conquer large swathes of the world, and quite quickly, the best players rarely drop out of max speed.

      I can't though, I'm crap at it. Enjoy it still though.

  10. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    It's not the 80s, and things have moved on.

    Think back to the 80s - Jet Set Willy 1 and 2. Bright, addictive, varied and punishingly difficult to complete. Once you died it was yet another 10-20 seconds to return to the first room and then a number of minutes to reach your last progress point and die. Again.

    It didn't make it any more interesting that few people were able/bothered enough to complete it.

    Now examine the modern equivalent, VVVVVV. Bright, addictive, varied and punishingly difficult to complete. Once you died you were placed straight back into the action. Your progress was not lost and this made it all the more interesting.

    Once complete, it was interesting to complete again and unlocked further challenges.

    Some of do actually play modern FPSes for the story, scenary and a bit of excitement which is why I'm a fan of Jedi Knight, Half Life etc and couldn't care much less about Quake 3 and all subsequent deathmatch variants.The fact a lot of saves are used and levels finished on single health points is not the issue. If the game was properly designed 'save scumming' would make little difference - poor tactics and repeated saves can get you through marginal battles. Make the battles *require* skill or tactics and the use of a savegame stops being an issue.

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: It's not the 80s, and things have moved on.

      "The fact a lot of saves are used and levels finished on single health points is not the issue. If the game was properly designed 'save scumming' would make little difference - poor tactics and repeated saves can get you through marginal battles. Make the battles *require* skill or tactics and the use of a savegame stops being an issue."

      No because players will still use the save points as a ratcheting system to pull them through levels and so avoid gaining any skill or tactics. Then later they'll complain they are getting killed every 20 seconds. Put save points in and you encourage unskilled save scumming. Once you make a game like that you are forced to make it unskilled so that unskilled savescumming players can complete the last levels without dying too often.

    2. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: It's not the 80s, and things have moved on.

      Horses for courses, pal.

      Restrictions on game mechanics have knock-on effects in level design, and as long as the two are considered in parallel and feed into each other, there's no problem.

      The most valid way to complete a game is by learning and mastering the game mechanics. If you have no save points, à la 80s and 90s gaming, that means there will be a lot of replaying to be done. If you replay, you will be constantly improving your base skill level before hitting the new stuff, so the game difficulty can ramp up pretty quickly.

      If, however, you never need to replay a completed section, the next section can't really assume you've mastered the mechanic, and you're forced to make the next level only very slightly harder. This means you've got to write more content to get the same overall learning curve and final mastery level for the game. However, it also risks the designers slipping into "very obvious" mode for a lot of the levels, where the solution to the next difficult bit relies directly on the new trick that you've just picked up.

      If you add a save option into a well designed game that had no saves, the game will become boring. If you take the save games out of a well designed game with savegames, the game will become boring.

      The two things are different.

  11. mtp
    Pirate

    Nethack

    The ultimate no save game was nethack. So outrageously difficult that I really doubt that it is possible to complete it without some form of cheating. Death is final and almost inevitable.

    A game so popular that my university controlled it with a cron job to make it only playable out of 'working' hours.

    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Nethack

      Nethack did (and does) allow you to save to preserve your game when you had to go do something other than play Nethack, but death was permanent.

    2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      Re: Nethack

      Nethack is only difficult when you don't have the experience, although it takes a lot of dying and/or reading the handbook to gain the experience. Slash 'EM or ADOM are more tricky. If you fancy a giggle, though, I recommend DoomRL - it's fun and reasonably complex without needing to memorise a lot..

      I'd suggest Dwarf Fortress. Can be terribly tricky and there's a whole O'Reilly book about it.

  12. Oninoshiko

    complaints

    "Games on list of Old-school-hard-games is too old-school-hard!" Seriously guys? You are really going there?

    If you don't like games like this just don't play them. Honestly, there is only one on this list I'm really interested in trying, but there's no reason to complain about the rest. From reports they are some people's thing.

    Just consider yourself lucky that you have this fine review to warn you off (or get you interested, if you are a masochist)

  13. Rattus Rattus

    Another one for the list

    Pity there is no mention of Long Live The Queen, a fiendishly difficult game something along the lines of the old game Princess Maker, except much better. Rather than explain it poorly myself, I will let Rock Paper Shotgun's excellent review describe it in detail: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2014/01/10/long-live-the-queen-review/

  14. Nick Ryan Silver badge
    Stop

    Unfortunately there are a lot of piss poor game designers / developers out there...

    Repeat after me:

    Tedious is not the same as difficult.

    A lot of game designers seem to entirely miss the fact that games are meant to be fun (a point repeatedly noted by previous posters) and can be social and played with friends. Take the fuckwits at uplay who have Settlers IV - a potentially fun multiplayer experience catastrophically ruined by their insistence that multiplayer games cannot be saved and that everything revolves around downloadable content, even if it is just pointless bling that makes no difference to anything at all.

  15. ElectricFox
    Paris Hilton

    Dear Esther

    Don't know about you guys, but I'm still hopelessly stuck in the caves level in Dear Esther. Now that's a hardcore game...

  16. David Cantrell

    "Imagine Harvest Moon set to Doom’s 'Nightmare' difficulty setting and you have Don’t Starve"? I'd love to, but I have no idea what "Harvest Moon" is. I assume it's a video game, but other than that - nothing.

  17. Yugguy

    As I'm 43, not 12, and don't have 15 hours a day to waste on games I need a game that doesn't feck me off right back to the beginning of the level every time I make a small mistake.

    As the chap above says, tedious is not the same as difficult.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't starve

    "a learning curve that puts the Eiger’s north face to shame"

    Which means you either know nothing or know everything.

    Something that takes ages to master has a very flat learning curve.

  19. CaptainThunder
    Boffin

    The Secret World

    If you fancy taking on an MMO with the kind of learning curve that resembles a brick wall, covered in ice and spikes, and with large snarling Cthuloid types at the bottom... try The Secret World.

    Voice acting's superb (and frequently laugh-out-loud funny), the puzzles are tricky to solve, and the atmospherics are... not suitable for those of a nervous disposition. Messy death is a regular occurrence, but carries no penalty (other than gear repair, a trip to the nearest spawn point and possibly deafening your partner with SCREAMS OF FRUSTRATION.)

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: The Secret World

      the kind of learning curve that resembles a brick wall

      You learn everything about it instantly?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Old games were much smaller so needed to be very difficult.

    Jet Set Willy for example can be completed in about 20 minutes if you are good enough.

  21. OrientalHero

    Super Hexagon - die in milliseconds on your first attempt

    BUT - there is a learning curve and you do get to last longer!

    I think my record now is 45 seconds.

    Then there's the next level Super Hexagoner.

    Oh and did I mention Super Hexagonest?

    it's actually quite a nice brief game to while away some seconds on twitch reactions.

    Indecision kills every time.

    You've been warned!

  22. JustNiz

    Really? These all suck. They all look like warmed-over crap from the 8/16 bit days.

    Actually scratch that, at least the 8/16-bit guys had the good excuse that they were actually maxxing out their hardware. Given today's hardware I'm sure they'd come up with something much better than this crap.

    1. LosD

      Yeah, because the graphics is what you should REALLY concentrate on. Screw the gameplay. I love playing a pretty game that bores me to death.

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