We hear it all the time:
- This game is too easy
- This game is too hard.
- Developers need to make money so they dumb down.
- There’s money to be made from the casuals.
- Hardcore are a dying breed
- 22% of gamers are mobile, that’s more than the “core”.
What does it all mean? Are games really undergoing a transition to become easy experiences with easy rewards and just tickle your brain into a dopamine high? Read on to find out. We have discussed the terminology here, and chosen Dark Souls as an example here.
How can we make Dark Souls accessible without compromising it’s challenge? The key to creating a sequel worthy of its players is to understand how the players operate and who they are, and to not forget we are two years post-launch and impressions are not fresh or unbiased. We are aiming to create a game that appeals to the game-savvy hardcore player, retains its challenge, but succeeds at engaging and attracting new players by increasing accessibility.
Who are the Dark Souls players?
We’ve been running this wiki since early 2011, and we thus have millions of player impressions on our pages that highlight something that will surprise many readers:
- The majority of Dark Souls players are PvE, pick their weapons from forum recommendations, and have the Bosses page bookmarked
- Most of them will not read a walkthrough, but are carefully informed in covenant options.
- An exceptional number of new players hit an NPC by mistake or answered “no” to Alvina’s and Kathee’s trick questions and are regulars at Sin Absolution.
- Over 60% of the players want a linear progression for their first playthrough, and only under 20% commits to NG++++ and over.
- only 1% of the playerbase frequents forums this late on the game’s life.
With the above, we can now determine
Aspects that should not be removed
- PvE should remain the focus of the game
- Discovery should remain the focus of the game
- The game does not need story or progression guidance, but covenant detailing is needed
- The game needs a method of resolving some mistakes
- The game should keep the first playthrough locked linearly
- The game has specific longevity in lore and pvp, as well as in beginner’s tips
Thus some examples of
What can be changed to make Dark Souls II accessible
- Explanation of the game’s rules: Dark Souls lacked the guidance to explain to the new player that dying 40 times on your way to the Taurus Demon was perfectly normal. New players don’t need an easy tutorial, they need to be told they are going to fail and are expected to push through it.
- Emphasis on “paying attention” and clue-seeking: The series is notorious for having short lines of dialogue explain key objectives. The players should be made aware of this early on, not the challenge removed
- Enhance multiplayer by adding dedicated servers
- Effects of Stats on specific categories can be explained in-game instead of waiting for players to figure it out beyond the game
- Better indicators of key items: Inventory is poorly laid out in respect to story items, making lore-seeking tedious at times due to navigation.
- Introduction to crafting: a better explanation of the crafting system without removing the discovery aspects
- Simplification of character dialogue: Many NPCs use double negatives and create unnecessary confusion that does not add to the game’s challenge and is off-putting to newcomers
What can’t be changed or challenge will be removed
- No bonfire warping to everywhere from the start. It makes the content less appealing. It provides for PvP and farming, but it also stops players from having to learn regions and shortcuts.
- PvE focus and host advantage: Invasions should be limited and dangerous to the invader
- Story should be layered, with deep and rich ambiguous lore underneath an easy and accessible front.
- Characters should be fluid, allowing the player to evolve into any class or build
- Items should remain rare: Farming is part of the game, having everything accessible from a vendor diminishes accomplishment.
- Choices should be permanent
Will Dark Souls II live up to its hype and bring the community to a new height? As some people with beta access have found, some of these concepts have already been implemented, and others remain a mystery. These list is not exhaustive but it should give an idea of what can be altered in the game to attract new players whilst retaining the core. Please feel free to jump in on the comments and let us know what you think!