After a long period of being unable to do what I want freely for most of the time, I had the opportunity to just plop down and enjoy Diablo III. Ironically, I wasn't particularly enjoying it, but moreso just frustrated at the game's poor design choices. I'm sure that gamers will testify that difficulty is one of the greatest appeal of a video game. If a game was not challenging then there is no sense of achievement or accomplishment. Having said that, difficulty is not the sole aspect of a video game, but one of the inner-workings that enhances the experience. Not only that but varying difficulty helps to increase the longevity of said video game. All in all, difficulty has proven time and time again to be a benefit to both gamers and video games.
Unfortunately, this is only a mere dream. The idea of difficulty and its variability is extremely amazing; however, the flaw is execution. For the sake of simplicity, there are two types of difficulty that developers can employ for varying sets of difficulty: quantitative and qualitative. These two types of difficulties are extremes on the spectrum, and many games don’t even follow one type exclusively; as a result, there is a middle ground creating the third type of difficulty including elements of both quantitative and qualitative. However, including this will complicate things and I will assume that the games I use as examples exclusively follow either quantitative or qualitative difficulty.
Qualitative difficulty is most likely the hardest difficulty to code and implement as it requires more time than its counterpart due to its erratic nature. In a nutshell, qualitative difficulty is making the game harder or easier by adding fundamental game changes such as the intelligence of enemies, removing or adding of mechanics/features, or the changing the pace of the game. Qualitative difficulty essentially expands and broadens the the video game giving chances for new experiences. Games such as Halo or the Tales series are particularly great about making the higher level difficulties more challenging and diverse. For the former, there are new weapons, spawn areas, varying enemy types, and different ways to approach encounters that offer a refreshing take on an already experienced level. It’s enjoyable and fun, and it makes replayability that much sweeter.
Tales of Vesperia’s Grade system allows for players to carry over moves, items, or increase the rate of leveling towards a new game. This means that higher difficulty playthroughs will be a tad different from the previous one. The AI also becomes slightly smarter and will have the ability to use special moves more often against you. It’s a cool set of additions that, personally, add to my enjoyment. After all, it only makes me like the game even more. In the end, qualitative difficulty will, for the most part, enhance the gaming experience for the better. Qualitative difficulty is harder to implement than quantitative, but most of the time it is successful at delivering an awesome experience.
On the other hand, quantitative difficulty can be hit and miss due to how developers execute it. Like its name implies, quantitative difficulty allows for changes to its numerical alterations. This means that enemies are harder not because they are smarter but because they hit you harder or because they swarm you in overwhelming numbers. Another instance is that your character is considerably weaker, making the tasks at hand much more challenging. Quantitative difficulty is essentially artificially boosting numbers to give the illusion of making the game more difficult, when in reality it could be farther from the truth.