Aka. The Benefits of Easy Mode

Today's blog is not only the second in my long list of blogs set to come this month, but one that is also meant to harp a little bit on a special interest topic of mine- easy modes. Suffice it to say that, there are actually benefits to easy mode, even in games like Halo where you won't get achievements or accolades for finishing missions because of it. While the experience may seemed "dumbed down" to many, and be the butt of many jokes from more advanced players, easy mode is significant in many ways.

Not only does it help inexperienced players by starting things off relatively slow and easy, but it also gives the game a wider audience than its single targeted one. For example, the fact that Dark Souls only had one difficulty which was "extremely difficult" meant that its target audience was unfortunately limited to those who could handle it and those who were up to the challenge. Therefore, many gamers missed out on an otherwise spectacular experience because of difficulty alone.

Now, Dark Souls II plans to alleviate this problem in some fashion, at least relatively. It has since been announced that the game will feature at least some kind of easier mode of gameplay, which can only open it up to a larger audience, and boost its reception. Of course, I don't hold much hope for this so-called "easy" mode being too much easier, or a pushover, but its certainly a start.

Easy mode in the case of campaigns is significantly helpful to players of all ages and skill types also because of the fact that it can help you to warmup for any online multiplayer, should the game you are playing contain it. For example, in Call of Duty, if you wish to improve your accuracy, practice on some of the meatheads in the solo story on Recruit, Regular, or Hardened. But steer clear of Veteran unless you wish to be gunned down by aimbots the entire time. This can be a proving ground of sorts, as well as a place to hone your skills a la Combat Training. That is the major benefit of any easy mode- purely from a practice perspective.

The other reason- audience, is helpful to a game's reception, sales, and critical acclaim or forgettable and lame gameplay. Difficulty can mean the difference between people rage rating your game on Metacritic, and people loving it sometimes. That's just a sad fact, and there's not much we can do about it currently. It's interesting, because either way you play it difficulty wise, you'll lose some interest- if it's too easy it's called a pushover, if it's too hard, impossible. And that is why we have since created the now mundane scaling of difficulty in nearly every game out there. About the only titles that don't feature it at the start menu any more are story experiences such as Dark Souls and Assassin's Creed.

Having the option to not only turn down the difficulty if things get rough, but to turn it up for added challenge, or perhaps because you've become a better player than you were when you started is not only awesome but helpful. Imagine if retro arcades had had that option back in the day- then a lot more people would be able to get high scores! But, it simply has to do with the changing times and perspectives on things. Developers generally care a lot more about their audience nowadays, and try to create a memorable, cerebral experience around the game's difficulty, often instead of the other way around. Which of course, isn't a terrible thing to do by any means.

But, that's just my take on things today. I just wanted to give you guys an intriguing, short look at the reasoning behind most developers' difficulty scales, and why easy mode does have some merit in certain situations, instead of simply meaning you are a noob for playing on it. See you guys tomorrow with my next blog.

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