Difficulty in games is a tricky thing to get right. It’s a balancing act that developers have to be careful with – make the game too easy and players will get bored, make it too hard and they will get frustrated and quit. One game that struggled to find the right balance was Tribes 2, an online multiplayer first-person shooter with a big emphasis on teamwork and players taking on specific roles during the match.
I was introduced to Tribes 2 by a friend in high school, and I was immediately hooked. The game’s complex movement system called skiing was unlike anything I had seen in a first-person shooter before. It involved sliding down hills and using a jetpack to build momentum and reach the next hill. It was difficult to master, but once you got the hang of it, it was incredibly satisfying to pull off. However, my enthusiasm for the game wasn’t shared by many of my other friends, who found the game’s steep learning curve to be a barrier to entry.
The game’s complexity wasn’t limited to just its movement system. Tribes 2 also featured a wide range of roles that needed to be covered during a match, with players customizing their loadouts to create a “class” for themselves. This made it difficult for new players to get into the game and compete with more experienced players who had already figured out the game’s intricacies.
Compounding the difficulty curve was the fact that there was no real tutorial for the game. It just throws you into the game, leaving it up to the community to guide new players. This reliance on the community to onboard new players made it hard for the game’s player base to grow. As people grew tired of the game and left the online communities, the overall player base shrank faster than it grew.
All of these factors combined to make it difficult to market and sell a game with deep mechanics and a steep learning curve. While there are players who embrace challenge, the majority of players don’t want to work to get to the fun part of the game.
At Sabr Path, we recognize the importance of accessibility in game design. We want our players to be challenged and have fun, but we don’t want to consume our player base’s time just so they can eventually enjoy the entertainment we provide for them. That’s why we’re designing our 2D platformer, Beware, to be challenging yet accessible. We want players to feel a sense of accomplishment as they progress through the game, but we also want them to enjoy the journey.
In conclusion, Tribes 2 was a game that struggled to balance its complexity with accessibility. While the game had a dedicated fanbase, its difficulty curve and lack of a tutorial made it hard for new players to get into the game. By focusing on accessibility, we hope to create a game that both challenges and entertains our players.