AC3 Devs: Easy Mode ‘Ruins Games’
How do you feel about easy modes in games? The director of Dark Souls seems to think they might be a necessity. But are they? Hell no, says the Assassin’s Creed 3 team. In fact, they might be the most terrible thing in the world.
Speaking to Edge, lead designer Alex Hutchinson offered a particularly blunt assessment of easy modes. A lot of games have been ruined by easy modes,” he said. “If you have a cover shooter and you switch it to easy and you don’t have to use cover, you kind of broke your game. You made a game,” he insisted, “that is essentially the worst possible version of your game.”
This is a tricky subject, because it depends on how you define easy mode. Hutchinson’s metaphor, for instance, doesn’t quite add up. “It’s like if I picked up a book and it said, ‘Do you want the easy version or the complicated version?’ [Game designers] can simplify the language, you know; we can make it two syllables.” While I see his point, that metaphor combined with his comments about shooters don’t entirely make sense. A modern video game has lots of layers; action, puzzle, simulation, platforming and more tend to show up in games that are otherwise firmly in a single genre. And of course, this doesn’t include story, an increasingly important part of the mix.
Which is to say, you can reduce the difficulty of a game without removing what makes that game the game. Granted, I haven’t played a cover-based shooter with an easy difficulty that turned it into something like Doom, only simple. The closest I can think of is later Mass Effect games, which still encouraged heavy use of cover simply because of all the, you know, cover laying around. Likewise, if a game has a really strong story and a player would rather experience the story in a breezy way, there’s nothing wrong with that. And something else comes to mind. Sometimes, there’s an aspect of a game that makes other aspects maddening for less than expert players. For example, the Uncharted series’ difficulty settings don’t remove the most important part of gameplay, which is climbing and solving puzzles in pursuit of the game’s goal, they just make the enemies less difficult so you’re not constantly replaying a section over and over again. Nothing wrong with that, if it’s what you want.
Also worth noting: No game with easy difficulty removes hard difficulty. Playing easy can be an excellent way to learn the ropes without risking a ragequit. And speaking just as someone who reviews games and often must do so with a particularly quick turn around, easy difficulty can be a blessing. Granted, I prefer to start on whatever the game’s average difficulty happens to be, but there are times…
Anyway, what do you think? Sound off in comments.