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Infinite Mario With Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the there's-always-another-castle dept.

Games 103

bgweber writes "There's been a lot of discussion about whether games should adapt to the skills of players. However, most current techniques limit adaptation to parameter adjustment. But if the parameter adaptation is applied to procedural content generation, then new levels can be generated on-line in response to a player's skill. In this adaptation of Infinite Mario (with source [.JAR]), new levels are generated based on the performance of the player. What other gameplay mechanics are open for adaptation when games adapt to the skills of specific players?"

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Interesting Idea (2, Interesting)

chonglibloodsport (1270740) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506056)

But not a whole lot of fun in practice.

Spelunky http://www.spelunkyworld.com/ [spelunkyworld.com] is a way better example of a platformer with randomly generated levels.

Re:Interesting Idea (1)

mldi (1598123) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506828)

Seconded. Super Mario Kart in single player mode on the hardest difficulty was already next to impossible. I can't imagine playing unfamiliar tracks on top of that crazy shit. Would have cost me more than just 1 busted controller if there was dynamic levels...

Re:Interesting Idea (2, Insightful)

gorzek (647352) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507612)

Anyone here play Warning Forever? It's a shoot-'em-up consisting entirely of boss battles, but it has an interesting twist: the next boss adapts based on how you defeated previous bosses in terms of its body configuration, weapon placements, and weapon types. So, you're forced to change up your tactics or you'll be wiped out. I love it.

Link for anyone interested: http://www18.big.or.jp/~hikoza/Prod/index_e.html [big.or.jp] (Yes, in Japanese, but the game is in English and not hard to download from the page.)

Only if it's an option (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33506092)

One of the fun part of video games is playing the same level as someone else then talking about it, sharing frustrations and strategies. Once every level is different, this becomes much less easily done.

Thus, if infinitely adaptable levels *do* exist, they should exist as an extended option or potentially an expansion pack to existing games rather than having an entire game based on that.

Whether the level itself needs to change, or if just spawn points, etc, should cause different things/amount of enemies to spawn is another option. I'm reminded of Left 4 Dead and its sequel with the Director system that alters the spawning of zombies and types of zombies based on difficulty and the apparent skill of the players.

Re:Only if it's an option (2, Interesting)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506512)

One of the fun part of video games is playing the same level as someone else then talking about it, sharing frustrations and strategies. Once every level is different, this becomes much less easily done.

You mean where it allows you to save the level you played and replay it? Not hard to do, just save the RNG seed state (see SimCity classic for example).

Re:Only if it's an option (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33506782)

You mean where it allows you to save the level you played and replay it?

No.

Re:Only if it's an option (1)

Altrag (195300) | more than 4 years ago | (#33516976)

I've attempted this kind of thing before. Its really REALLY hard. The addition or removal of a single call to your RNG function changes the entire thing. That means in order for this to be work with any great deal of reliability, you have to be absolutely 100% certain that you will never ever need to make the game/program more or less random in the future.

It might have worked in the pre-internet age, but in the modern world with online updates/bug fixes, user-generated content and whatever else, controlling your RNG to that degree is a near impossibility if you want your program to remain relevant past the first time a user finds a bug.

You can have both. (1)

Tei (520358) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506600)

You can have randow generated maps + repeteable.

Using the same seed for the random generator, you could make all the copys generate the same levels. If thats your win.

So you can have to option "Standard Campaing" and "New one", with the first option using a fixed seed, and the new one using a fresh seed taken from the OS or the clock.

Re:You can have both. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33506786)

Except these levels are generated based on how well you play, not randomly generated by a seed.

Re:You can have both. (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#33511664)

The data about "how well you play" is the seed to generate the level. Just save that data and you can re-generate the level any time you want.

You're right about not being random, though.

Re:You can have both. (1)

NemosomeN (670035) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507208)

We could call it Toejam and Earl

Pre-Emptive Whooosh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33507230)

Its been done before.

Re:You can have both. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33507456)

Random is not the same as adaptable. An adaptable level might never be the same EVER, even for the same player.

Re:Only if it's an option (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33506604)

I think that's a bit simplistic.
Nethack and the like are the most obvious examples of games that rely on randomly generated levels to keep players playing, and there are many more.
The levels in this game aren't that great, but that doesn't mean an enjoyable randomly generated platformer is impossible

Re:Only if it's an option (2, Informative)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506670)

I have to agree that while totally random can be a pain, it can also be fun. If you have ever played a PC game called Nosferatu [gamespot.com] you'd know, as the fact that BOTH the levels and enemy spawns are random (and if you save? It randomizes the spawns AGAIN, so rooms you may have cleared can bite you in the ass) really keeps you on your toes and makes you be conservative with ammo. Another good one is SWAT 3 & 4, which will randomize both the good guys and bad guys so you never know walking into a building what you are gonna face.

So I'd say done right it can really add replay value to a game, but done wrong it can be a big pile o' suck. The developer can't just throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.

Re:Only if it's an option (5, Insightful)

zwei2stein (782480) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506862)

On contrary, your experience is still easily shared, frustrations voiced and strategies discused.

Few examples:

  * Ever talked to someone about your Diablo session? How you like to use skill X against oponent Y, how that Z item dropped?

  * YASD - Yet Another Stupied Death (in ADOM or your roguelike of choice) stories. Thats about as much frustration sharing as it can get.

  * Dwarf Fortress - no two "levels" are alike, hell, everyone gets their personalised game world so one can easily play on dead planet where only few titan colosi and demons roam looking for sentiend beign to kill while someone else might be playing in populated and developed world. Yet people talk about their strategies, share tip and tricks.

Given that there is actually more to talk about (two people talking experienced game differently) and it is more personal (when someone tells you about their experience, you will hear his unique story), i'd welcome that.

Re:Only if it's an option (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#33508202)

First Person Shooters at one point started doing this - the sliding scale of enemy difficulty. Since in FPSs, the difficulty is mostly accrued by the skill of the AI. How fast they move, how accurate they are, how much damage they do... All that can be changed on the fly and adjusted to the player's difficulty.

This ended up causing a problem though, sometimes a player would end up on a huge lucky kill streak, and then the AI would be ramped against him, and he'd find the next section frustrating and difficult to defeat. It would take longer to come back down to his level than it did to advance, and at some point they'd get frustrated and quit. Other times, when its longer to advance than it is to go down - sometimes the game will seem too easy, and you'll actually grow in skill faster than the game can accomodate. On the inverse, you get some players who just want to finish something for the sake of finishing it. This led to players cheaping out on hard parts or boss fights by simply grenading their own feet at the latest checkpoint about 5 or 6 times, then breezing through the rest of the level.

As far as I know, this type of difficulty has been GREATLY toned down from what it used to be, if its even prevalent at all in games anymore. It's been determined that sliding difficulty scales don't actually scale well. It often leads to less enjoyment or satisfaction from the player.

Re:Only if it's an option (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33509056)

I completely agree with this. Reminds me of the corporate development: promote someone until you fire them.

I like a constant difficulty level. You as a player adapt to it. If it changes midstream, it makes many games more difficult then they should be because you have to adapt in kind. And if you cant, it'll be the next game you cash in at Gamestop.

Re:Only if it's an option (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 4 years ago | (#33508178)

Yeah... I recall that Diablo game, with it's random levels. No one really seemed to like it because they couldn't talk about making the same jumps and finding the same weapons.

Left 4 Dead makes such minimal changes that it's not even really worth mentioning. The sequel shows hints of altering pathways, but never really makes full on the promise.

Re:Only if it's an option (1)

neolith (110650) | more than 4 years ago | (#33508284)

Totally agree. As we talked about on my podcast [baldmove.com] , I want to know people were in the deep shit with me. When I talk about NES-era Ninja Gaiden with a fellow aging geek, and I see the look of pain flash on his face? I know. I know he knows. And I know he knows that I know. You know? That experience has currency.

If it had some kind of sliding difficulty scale, and he says "what do you mean? I thought the game was easy." What does that mean? Is he a god of gaming? Does he suck and the game took mercy on him? There is a shadow* of the same feeling war veterans get talking with fellow soldiers who spent time in the same conflict together. Well designed but brutally difficult games can spark that kind of "Band of Brothers" conversation in groups of gamers.

* A small shadow. A shade. Like, on an overcast day.

Re:Only if it's an option (1)

azmodean+1 (1328653) | more than 4 years ago | (#33508760)

And you're totally sure you can't have the same experience if the content is procedurally generated why?

Playing both Zangband and Dwarf Fortress, which are both totally dominated by procedurally-generated content*, I've commiserated in the same way that you mention with many other players of the same games, because the same situations emerge, even if the precise content and layout of the game changes from play to play.

Similarly, people are able to discuss and bond over experiences in multiplayer games, where the gameplay is crucially dependent on the behavior of the other players, which will necessarily change from game to game.

Also I find your analogy to bonding over experiences in a war interesting, as no two soldiers have *ever* had the exact same set of experiences as each other, but all the same they can experience an extremely strong sense of shared experience since certain aspects of their experiences correlate so well.

*both games have a handful of hard-coded scenarios and/or locations, but the trend is to improve the procedural generation to provide comparable content rather than to proliferate more hard-coded content.

Re:Only if it's an option (1)

neolith (110650) | more than 4 years ago | (#33512446)

Good point. I actually had a counter argument in the back of my mind RE: Left 4 Dead, which uses a director system to ramp up the difficulty of the game, by playing with the size of and timing of the zombie hordes, and supply of health and ammo. A person that sucks at FPSs and a veteran can play the same game with wildly different difficulties, with the same end result: having to fight through a massive amount of zombies and just barely surviving to the safehouse.

I can imagine the same could be said for Dwarf Fortress. From what I know, the core experience of the game is going to be similar, with similar situations and encounters, even if the difficulty varies.

So you might be right. I still think the less strategic and more "arcadey" a game is, the less this will hold true. But it's just a feeling, and probably fueled not a little bit by some grognard standards I have for gaming difficulty now versus the "good old days". :)

Re:Only if it's an option (1)

gid (5195) | more than 4 years ago | (#33508546)

Randomly generated L4D maps would be awesome. The problem with the coop in that game is even with randomly spawning zombies, it still gets pretty predictable as the level format doesn't change, you know where all the hiding spots are, where ammo or guns are likely to be, etc.

Re:Only if it's an option (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#33509364)

Thus, if infinitely adaptable levels *do* exist, they should exist as an extended option or potentially an expansion pack to existing games rather than having an entire game based on that.

Or this tech could be used by developers to aid in level creation. Instead of needing to start from scratch for each level, you could generate a bunch of levels, play through them, pick the best ones, and tweak/perfect them. Maybe some fluke in the procedural program will create a design that inspires the level designers.

They are obviously mac fans (0, Flamebait)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506096)

or at least the person who packaged it was, they didn't take the .DS_Store files out before packaging up the jar :P

Re:They are obviously mac fans (1, Insightful)

lxs (131946) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506324)

Or they simply use a mac but are indifferent to it.

Re:They are obviously mac fans (1)

BarryJacobsen (526926) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507536)

Or they simply use a mac but they think indifferent to it.

Fixed.

Re:They are obviously mac fans (1)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 4 years ago | (#33513046)

Related note: It would be really useful if file archivers had an option to NOT extract MacOS and Windows specific files like .DS_Store and thumbs.db, so that those of us on different platforms than the archive originators could avoid crufting up our filesystems.

Re:They are obviously mac fans (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 4 years ago | (#33515898)

Actually it would be more useful if the actual archivers themselves had options to skip these files, that way you don't even waste any space with them and it makes the unarchivers more flexible, ie they don't have to worry about what the other os systems do, they just unarchive.

Play more games (2, Interesting)

Yuioup (452151) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506098)

The implementation of some of the monsters is wrong. I died when I tried to jump on a creature which I know can be jumped on.

Re:Play more games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33506106)

You also lose big mario status upon level completion, quite annoying as well.

Kinda like when I jumped... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33506158)

...on your MOM! That was some really freaky pussy, man!

Re:Play more games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33506162)

On my laptop, I am unable to jump. You should consider yourself lucky!

Re:Play more games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33506446)

Are you playing on an apple by any chance?

Or any other computer with a white case?

Re:Play more games (1)

dominious (1077089) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506808)

try "s"

Re:Play more games (1)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 4 years ago | (#33508182)

In soviet russia, games jump YOU.

Re:Play more games (1)

HappyClown (668699) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506528)

The implementation is correct. It's just the game dynamically increasing the difficulty to make sure you died within a reasonable amount of time :)

Re:Play more games (3, Funny)

Mhtsos (586325) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506586)

No, you're just that good, that was a disguise!! The game is messing with the sprites to make you loose!
A friend of mine was so good, the game started feigning door knocks and phone rings to distract him. When that didn't work, it threatened to delete his files if he didn't commit suicide ingame.
He, for one, welcomes his new Mario Overlord..

Mod parent funny. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33516332)

Come on, be nice. I'm just an AC

Which creature? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33506628)

You didn't try to jump on a hammer brother and get smacked by a last-second hammer, did you?

Or you can also accidentally jump a tiny bit in front of a creature and die that way.

Mind you, I haven't played this version, only the original.

I am not *this* bad... (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506704)

I though I am not *that* bad at Super Mario World, after playing this implementation...

First and foremost, I found it strange to move with the right hand and jump/run with the other (A,S keys).

Second, as you say the "physics" are not completely the same. For example the jumping on the turtles for a second time won't have the same effect as in the real game.

And you can do a "ninja Gaiden" jump when you fall in a pit... that is also not in the original.

Nevertheless the idea is interesting...

Re:I am not *this* bad... (1)

zoidran (1632151) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507060)

And you can do a "ninja Gaiden" jump when you fall in a pit... that is also not in the original.

Wall jumping has been possible in every game of the series since Mario 64. For instance, it can be done in New Super Mario Bros DS and Wii, which are 2D platformers just like SMW.

Re:I am not *this* bad... (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507378)

And you can do a "ninja Gaiden" jump when you fall in a pit... that is also not in the original.

Wall jumping was in the original; it was just a bug that required frame-exact timing. You see it a lot in tool-assisted speedruns. But you're right that Super Mario 64 was the first that made wall jumps doable by ordinary players.

But that's not all gold (3, Interesting)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506126)

If you adapt too much, then the player won't feel challenges anymore. And in games challenges are the things that will demand players to push forward the efforts.

Re:But that's not all gold (4, Insightful)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506228)

If you adapt too much, then the player won't feel challenges anymore. And in games challenges are the things that will demand players to push forward the efforts.

Adapting for the level of the player or adapting against it: can work both ways. A careful [wikipedia.org] approach can actually maintain the level of interest (frustrate the player, but not too much... rather tease) as well as driving up the level of skills

Re:But that's not all gold (1)

btrain21 (1896518) | more than 4 years ago | (#33508210)

But games are about entertainment, not necessarily teaching a skill. Its not only about what skill level a player is capable of, its about what level of challenge they find enjoyable. Two gamers of the same skill level may want different experiences. One may love a difficult challenge that pushes their skills to the limit, where one may want a more casual experience. When a game scales just to the player's skill level, the player loses the ability to chose what kind of experience they enjoy the most.

Re:But that's not all gold (1)

Moridin42 (219670) | more than 4 years ago | (#33508790)

Uh.. what?

For the player seeking a difficult challenge, the game keeps adapting to his improving skills giving him that challenge. For the player seeking a casual experience, don't exert yourself. The game won't ramp up difficulty and thus you'll get the casual experience you want. If the game can't deliver on either one, thats a failure in implementation not principle.

Its games that don't adapt to skill that removes player ability to choose the experience. You get what was coded and no more (or less). Making the same assumption of two gamers of equal skill, an unadaptable game will deliver a boring snoozefest to the challenge-seeker in order to deliver an enjoyable game to the casual, skilled gamer. Or the challenge-seeker gets his skill-pushing game that freezes out the casual gamer.

And yes, games are about entertainment. They are interactive entertainment. So if you don't have the skill to play, you do not get anywhere and they're not entertaining. If you have too much skill for the game, you breeze through and they're not entertaining. This is no small part of the draw of multiplayer games. Gives you the opportunity to go against challenges of your own skill level.

Re:But that's not all gold (1)

btrain21 (1896518) | more than 4 years ago | (#33509692)

As long as a game has pre-defined difficulty levels, you can pick what level of difficulty you want, both in terms of what you're capable of, and what you enjoy. If its adaptive, then then game decides what level of difficulty you should be playing, based on your skill. My point was that a player's preferance of difficulty may not be based solely on skill.

Re:But that's not all gold (1)

Moridin42 (219670) | more than 4 years ago | (#33510018)

And the pre determined difficulties are all we ever need. Rock Band on hard is okay, but generally easier than I care for. Expert, on the other hand, is usually too much for me. Neither setting is suitable.

If I were playing say.. Bioshock, and all I wanted to do was run and gun and not give a damn.. I could. Even if the game had adaptive difficulty, I could. Because the difficulty would respond to the fact that I was playing in a fashion that involved high volumes of fire and little care about damage taken.

Your point is meaningless because my point is that if you play in a way that is unskilled but fun, an adaptable game will adapt down for you. As I said, an adaptable game with poor adaptation is bad implementation not a failure of principle. You argue that adaptable difficulty is a failure in principle but have utterly failed to make any case as for why.

Re:But that's not all gold (1)

btrain21 (1896518) | more than 4 years ago | (#33511762)

Alright, I agree with you that how adaptable difficulty is implemented is really the key to its success or failure, but I'm still not 100% convinced that a game will always be able to interpret what difficulty the player wants just based on their style of play. If you're running and gunning in Bioshock, you're playing in a distinctly different way that the game can detect and adjust to.

But what if two players are playing the same way, with the same skill level, but have a different threshold of how many times they die without getting frustrated? The game can't necessarily detect that from in-game data.

For the record, I'm not at all opposed to adaptive difficulty, as long as there are other ways to adjust the gameplay experience (like predetermined difficulty levels)

Re:But that's not all gold (1)

Moridin42 (219670) | more than 4 years ago | (#33512396)

There isn't any reason to eliminate difficulty settings in an adaptive game. Easy may have a different algorithim than hardcore.. or it may just have more lenient limits to the adjustable parameters. So.. for instance, damage taken by players has a lower minimum, damage dealt has a higher minimum, enemy accuracy has higher minimum variance. And, if nothing else at all, having difficulty settings gives the game a starting point, so it doesn't have to learn that I'm not a rank rookie at FPS every time I pick up a new FPS game.

I don't find difficulty the way its done now to be terribly great. Games were hard is good but not really challenging, yet hardcore is just wtf controller-flinging ridiculous. Or games where hard difficulty isn't so difficult, except for a handful of critical challenges that are just stupidly frustrating.

Sadly, the developers that are delivering those type of games are probably going to deliver adaptable difficulty of the same (dubious) quality.

Also.. it may not be feasible to deliver adaptable difficulty for some time. Or ever. I'm pretty confident that the principle is good. But i don't know what it would take, in terms of code, processor time, whatever. So.. I'm not 100% convinced actual implementation will be any good either. Could end up the way 3d tv/movies are (currently) .. gimmicky.

Careful adaptation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33508944)

I worked on a drill-and-practice computer-assisted-instruction system, where we jumped through amazing hoops to keep the students at about 80% right, ratcheting up the difficulty if they get to 85% on any skill, and slowing the pace on other skills where they drop below 75%. It worked amazingly well; I was stunned to see kids lined up on Saturday morning to get time to do arithmetic exercises.

Re:But that's not all gold (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506370)

If you adapt too much, then the player won't feel challenges anymore.

Depends on how you adapt. I remember Wizardry 8 scaled the difficulty of every (unscripted) encounter such that it was an all out fight for survival, leaving your whole party barely hanging on in the end (and there were a lot of random encounters). Even when you went way back to beginning areas, you would get your ass kicked over and over again.

Actually, that got annoying pretty quickly, too.

(then again, maybe I was just crap at it)

Re:But that's not all gold (2, Informative)

homb (82455) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506684)

That's because you didn't use the features of the terrain and the party players' positioning correctly.
When you move in a fight to place a wall behind you (or better yet a corner) and place the tanks in a front line, then it becomes very manageable.

The thing with Wizardry 8 is that there was significant tactical expertise necessary, something "real" RPGs didn't use to require.

Re:But that's not all gold (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506922)

Well, OK, I at least managed the "tanks in the front" bit.

Somebody must have read (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33506164)

Ender's Game...but applied it to a simple Platform Jumper instead of a complicated psycho-analytic roleplaying scenario.

New enemies (2, Informative)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506166)

These new enemies are a bitch.

A bullet bill with wings? Horizontally moving piranha plants you have to jump on to kill?

Re:New enemies (1)

ZackSchil (560462) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506296)

They confuse me! I played the mario where the bullets didn't blink and you couldn't jump on the piranha plants because they are biting upwards with their sharp teeth!

Also, how does Nintendo feel about this? Seems like they wouldn't be thrilled about some low-quality proof-of-concept java game using their sprites and sounds.

Re:New enemies (2, Interesting)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506300)

Ok, the worst encounter so far was a flying spiny.

The level generator also creates levels which cannot be completed. It generated a level for me where I started in front of an enemy.

Re:New enemies (1)

Lordnerdzrool (884216) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506490)

Yeah. Flying spiny got me when I first encountered him. My one of my most hated enemy from Mario games... WITH WINGS.

Didn't help that the little bastard started right next to me either. :(

Re:New enemies (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507396)

It generated a level for me where I started in front of an enemy.

So did Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. If you don't move Kevin within two seconds, he loses a life. It's probably a reaction test. But at least SMB1 had the sense to erase all enemies on the first 16 meters of a map when spawning Mario.

Jumping Flashing Bullet Bill (1)

iYk6 (1425255) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507792)

Worse than spinys are the bullet bills with wings. They are just like spinys, in that you die when you jump on them. But in addition, they flash, so they are tougher to see.

The toughest part for me is when I would just spontaneously die. Maybe it was a bullet bill appearing out of nowhere, or maybe it was an invisible enemy. But that is when I stopped having fun, after about 10 minutes of playing.

I also dislike the controls. Not the button layout, I could change that easily with a new keymap or even use my gamepad with joy2key. Mario jumped shallow and fell quickly.

obvious answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33506268)

tetris

when it "pays" to underperform.. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506364)

it's when things get boring. one of the earliest examples of adaptative difficulty is ironmans offroad, but in it is too obvious, as you very soon realize that no matter how fast you drive the gray cpu car will always drive according to your speed - so there's no point in trying to make up a gap, just steady driving untill the last lap and then nitro nitro nitro. one thing I massively don't like is if monster level is just adjusted from your current level, makes leveling up feel like a scam.

Earlier example (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506744)

The earliest example I know of was a direct predecessor of Ivan Iron Man -- Supersprint.

It was a bit more subtle, though. The enemy cars got faster from track to track, but they did so based on the time it took you to complete each track. The trick to completing the game was therefore to get a good lead, come to a halt in front of the finish line, wait for the other cars to catch up a bit, then win by a small margin. The enemy cars stayed slower and each subsequent race was easier.

AFAIK, this tactic was applied in most arcade racers during the 80s, so that players would get a good "in" on playing, and they'd come back. They would make progress, so they'd come back. But they wouldn't finish the game as quite as if it was fixed difficulty, so they'd keep coming back, maximising the income from the machine.

A cynical money making plot? Nope. We came back because we enjoyed it. Compare with Virtua House of the Rising Taxi Cops in your average modern arcade. Difficult from the get go, so if you're not a current good gamer, there's little point in putting your coin in the slot.

HAL.

Re:when it "pays" to underperform.. (1)

CraftyJack (1031736) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507542)

You mean like hanging back to get a red shell?

Somewhere in that adaptive curve, there's a sweet spot. Players will find it, because they're also adaptive.

Oblig quote (1)

nstlgc (945418) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506372)

Strange game... The only way to win is not to play.

Re:Oblig quote (1)

chromas (1085949) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507032)

"The only winning move"

Feed to to Mario AI... (4, Interesting)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506410)

...and watch the difficulty exponentially rise to reach singularity :-)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlkMs4ZHHr8 [youtube.com]

Re:Feed to to Mario AI... (2, Interesting)

FonzCam (841867) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506476)

Looks like he's done it already. http://bweber.posterous.com/infinite-mario-ai-vs-my-level-generator [posterous.com]

Not Kaizo grade (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507444)

I watched the video, and the impression I got was more of AI failure. The levels don't appear to get anywhere near the level of Super Mario Forever [youtube.com] or Kaizo Mario World [youtube.com] levels. At 0:29 there's a turtle duck [pineight.com] close to a gap, but they didn't make the gap wide enough that the turtle duck is required.

Re:Feed to to Mario AI... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33509038)

Looks like part of the problem was that the original infinite mario AI competition levels were just too simple. Also, it seems as though the AI can't recognize certain wall types to its right as being non-solid.

Re:Feed to to Mario AI... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33507156)

... and watch him become Nemo Nobody.

Re:Feed to to Mario AI... (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507954)

No, the CPU would just start sparking and blow up, like in the movies.

lotus esprit turbo challenge (1)

EdgeyEdgey (1172665) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506436)

Lotus esprit 3 [wikipedia.org] on the Amiga had a course generator. I didn't find it that much fun though. Especially, for example, when compared to Wipeout on the PS1 where the course designers spent months on the design (they needed to because they had to avoid pop-up).

Human designed levels are much more interesting. Define why, codify, profit.

Re:lotus esprit turbo challenge (1)

LanMan04 (790429) | more than 4 years ago | (#33508114)

Ah, Wipeout XL (or Wipeout 2097 in Europe), the best game ever. Seriously.

Never played the first one.

Countdown (1)

Enter the Shoggoth (1362079) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506502)

What's the bet that...

10..9..8..7..6..

site gets slashdotted

5..4..3..2..1

site gets a DMCA takedown notice

Re:Countdown (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507448)

Romhacking.net would probably get a DMCA takedown notice first. It has a fully commented disassembly of the first Super Mario Bros. for NES ("SMBDis" by Doppelganger).

What about learning? (4, Interesting)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506524)

One of the joys (for me) of playing 2D Mario games is learning how a level progresses and eventually being able to beat it though enough practice. If the level keeps changing this is taken away. I think it would be frustrating...

Then again, I did enjoy Diablo II.

Re:What about learning? (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 4 years ago | (#33508596)

With this, it eventually just creates a level that you can beat...

challenge (3, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506658)

Adaptive monster levels is one of the reasons games are becoming boring excercises in flat-out grinding.

Where is the challenge? Challenges consist of you having to adapt - to learn a new skill, to become quicker, smarter, better. That is one part of the equation. The other is drama. Drama consists of changes in suspense. If everything is equally easy or equally hard, there is no drama in the story, it all becomes flat.

So a game that is always "at your level" or even always "just ahead of you" is neither challenging, nor interesting. This is doubly true for free-exploration games like Oblivion (one of the earliest mods available was to remove the auto-levelling).

In a railroaded game like most sidescrollers or FPS, a certain level of adaptation might save the player from the frustration of having to try the same sequence for the 100th time. But most current auto-adaptation fails in picking out when the player needs some help and would enjoy a reduced difficulty and when he is enjoying the challenge and doesn't want the game to be dumbed down.

So, until the time we get true AI, an explicit difficulty setting (bonus points if it can be changed mid-game) is still much preferable.

Re:challenge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33506720)

But most current auto-adaptation fails in picking out when the player needs some help and would enjoy a reduced difficulty and when he is enjoying the challenge and doesn't want the game to be dumbed down.

So, until the time we get true AI, an explicit difficulty setting (bonus points if it can be changed mid-game) is still much preferable.

It's not that hard. In Onimusha series on PS2 or in God of War series PS2 / PS3 when you died the certain nuber of times in he same spot the game asked you if you want to lover the dificuly. If you wanted challenge just answer no (and the game asks you again after another batch of same spot dieing)

Re:challenge (1)

Tom (822) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506906)

And that's what I was asking for - an explicit difficulty setting, choosen by the user. ;-)

Re:challenge (1)

Mike Mentalist (544984) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506780)

You start off saying that auto-adapting is the reason for games being boring and then go on to say you want more of it.

I also don't see how a game that is always at or just above your level cannot be challenging or interesting. If I have to die lots of times at the same section to hone my skills I don't see how that is more challenging than if I hardly ever died across a larger number of ever-increasing sections.

Re:challenge (1)

Tom (822) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506878)

You start off saying that auto-adapting is the reason for games being boring and then go on to say you want more of it.

Not at all, I may have been unclear.

I can see where in some games, a limited kind of auto-adapting could have its place - but then I proceed to show how leaving it out is actually the better choice even though at first glance it appears that automation would make things easier for the user.

I also don't see how a game that is always at or just above your level cannot be challenging or interesting.

Because it is flat. That is what I meant by grinding. Killing 1000 enemies of the same kind is quite a bit less interesting and challenging than killing, say, 10 enemies each of 100 different kinds. It is a question of how much mental agility you have to excercise.

If I have to die lots of times at the same section to hone my skills I don't see how that is more challenging than if I hardly ever died across a larger number of ever-increasing sections.

Because the challenge gets out of it when you know exactly what to do and it becomes a matter of pressing the right buttons in the right sequence at the right time - that is a different and simpler challenge than figuring those buttons out in the first place.

Re:challenge (1)

Mike Mentalist (544984) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506948)

Because it is flat. That is what I meant by grinding. Killing 1000 enemies of the same kind is quite a bit less interesting and challenging than killing, say, 10 enemies each of 100 different kinds. It is a question of how much mental agility you have to excercise.

How is it flat if they are always at or above your level? As you improve the enemies improve as well.

Because the challenge gets out of it when you know exactly what to do and it becomes a matter of pressing the right buttons in the right sequence at the right time - that is a different and simpler challenge than figuring those buttons out in the first place.

You are making a large assumption here and seem to be applying it to a very limited subset of games. If it gets harder as I get better then I still have to go through the process of figuring things out.

Re:challenge (1)

Tom (822) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507904)

How is it flat if they are always at or above your level? As you improve the enemies improve as well.

Because there is no change in the challenge. Let me illustrate by a simplified example: Your enemies have always 100 hitpoints more than you do. That means the challenge is always, unchanging, "do 100 points more damage to them than they do to me". Once you've figured it out, it is purely repetitive, because the difference between you and them never changes. Only numbers change - instead of hitting them 2 times, you may have to hit them 5 or 20 times, but aside from that it is the same.

You also lose all sense of accomplishment. If there are some enemies that are almost impossible at level 2, challenging at level 5 and easy at level 10 - then you can have the feeling of finally having "conquered" those enemies, of having become clearly better. If everyone in the game world levels with you, then what is the point of levelling at all? I could complete the game while staying level 1, and it would be the same experience.

If it gets harder as I get better then I still have to go through the process of figuring things out.

In which game? Where is the difference? In most implementations, the enemy now has 200 instead of 100 hitpoints. But you do now 20 instead of 10 points of damage. Zero difference, it takes 10 hits to kill them.

Auto-levelling is just a lazy shortcut by developers who are afraid of the player becoming bored because he is "too good". There are better ways to handle that.

And, frankly, it is highly satisfying to be able to walk all over those enemies that gave you trouble 10 levels back.

Re:challenge (1)

Mike Mentalist (544984) | more than 4 years ago | (#33508910)

Because there is no change in the challenge. Let me illustrate by a simplified example: Your enemies have always 100 hitpoints more than you do. That means the challenge is always, unchanging, "do 100 points more damage to them than they do to me". Once you've figured it out, it is purely repetitive, because the difference between you and them never changes. Only numbers change - instead of hitting them 2 times, you may have to hit them 5 or 20 times, but aside from that it is the same.

You also lose all sense of accomplishment. If there are some enemies that are almost impossible at level 2, challenging at level 5 and easy at level 10 - then you can have the feeling of finally having "conquered" those enemies, of having become clearly better. If everyone in the game world levels with you, then what is the point of levelling at all? I could complete the game while staying level 1, and it would be the same experience.


You are assuming that everyone plays with the same motivations that you do. There are plenty of games that are excellent regardless of how difficult they are, not to mention the fact a player cannot keep improving forever - at some point they will reach the limit at which they can play so the challenge remains.


In which game? Where is the difference? In most implementations, the enemy now has 200 instead of 100 hitpoints. But you do now 20 instead of 10 points of damage. Zero difference, it takes 10 hits to kill them.

Auto-levelling is just a lazy shortcut by developers who are afraid of the player becoming bored because he is "too good". There are better ways to handle that.

And, frankly, it is highly satisfying to be able to walk all over those enemies that gave you trouble 10 levels back.


Again, you are making huge assumptions here. Auto-levelling worked fine in Baldurs Gate 2 and there is nothing lazy about that game.

Good Rough Draft -- Plenty room for Improvement. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33506682)

I read his source code. It's a good rough draft but plenty of flaws. For instance, his probability depends on rand.nextDouble(). I personally do not like that he extends Level, this will couple his code to any changes to level. It also violates plenty of good software coding standards. He also did not provide a test class for his implementation.... :-| His code is a good rough draft but needs plenty of revision. Since there is no test class, he probably should start from scratch.

Re:Good Rough Draft -- Plenty room for Improvement (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33507354)

Jesus Christ, dude.

It gets hard but... (1)

PGGreens (1699764) | more than 4 years ago | (#33506728)

This adaptive mario could never think up a level as evil as Tubular. I pulled my hair out on that one many-a-time. This game is actually pretty hard to play, though; partly, because I don't have an SNES controller, and partly because there is no natural flow to the levels as there would be with manually created ones.

Re:It gets hard but... (1)

Hel Toupee (738061) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507382)

Once you learn the path to follow, Tubular is a piece of cake. Yes, many lost lives and much profanity is used in the finding of that path. Also, don't grab the second P balloon right away -- Wait until you're about to lose the one you have. That will give you the extra 10 seconds you need to properly dodge those stinking footballs.

Nothing new (1)

lyinhart (1352173) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507158)

Um... we've kind of had this kind of difficulty adjustment in some form or another for last thirty or so years. Think back to games like Pac-Man that became faster and more difficult as the levels got higher. Heck, even Tetris did the same thing.

Re:Nothing new (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 4 years ago | (#33513212)

But that's not really the same thing at all. (I admit, I didn't RFTA.)

I suck at the driving parts of games... or at least the "cartoony" driving parts of games. If I played a real driving game, I could possibly get good at it.

But in two Ratchet & Clank games, as well as Sly Cooper, I'm stuck at the driving parts.. In the first Ratchet & Clank, I have finished EVERYTHING else in the game (at least the missions), and am stuck on winning in the two races. In Sly Cooper, you're just driving a van watching from above, but the controls are a pain.

They're WAY too hard. If they were adaptive, it would let me finish the game.

Don't get me wrong, I *like* challenges. Many parts of God of War I were very challenging, and I would get almost as frustrated as I have in these driving challenges.. But I would get slightly better as I repeated them, and finish the particular section. I am NOT getting better in these driving sections, and it's become much more like a job/chore. I still want to finish them, so I bring them out every once in a while and try again.

SWIV anyone? (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507202)

It's a bad idea I think because it encourages the player to perform worse in general than he would otherwise. I remember the shoot-em-up SWIV on the Amiga did this. It was actually a good idea to lose a single life just before the really tricky bits. In the end, you saved more lives this way.

Instead, how about we use these things called "difficulty levels"? You know, like easy, medium, hard etc., and then it's up to the game creator to make sure a consistent challenge is maintained throughout the game.

15 years too late (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507362)

Was this not on windows 95 with that game diablo already, self changing levels so no 2 runs are ever the same, therefor you theoretically never get bored...

Great! (1)

bynary (827120) | more than 4 years ago | (#33507486)

Because we all know how real life adapts to each persons abilities. Now, it would be pretty sweet if my grocery store would learn which items I buy (they have this info because I use those damned rewards cards) and would rearrange itself so that all of the items I wanted were in one place. This, of course, would suck for everyone else that shopped there.

it has to end (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 4 years ago | (#33513932)

Well it has to stop getting harder at some point. If it was me playing it, I'm pretty decent so it'd either have to spawn something unbeatable like a floor to ceiling brick wall or stop getting harder.

Needs some more work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33516504)

Needs some further work. After playing for awhile, the bad guys stopped showing up all together. Next, the jumps started getting so long that Mario cannot span them.

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