Maybe All Games Should Have A 'Very Easy' Mode

This morning, I got an email from a Kotaku reader named Jaime. "I am married to a wonderful woman, but she doesn't enjoy playing video games," Jaime wrote.

"She has from time to time, sat down to watch me play games like Okami, Ico or Shadow of the Colossus. She's a big fan of Studio Ghibli so it was natural for her to have an interest in Ni no Kuni."

Ni no Kuni, a role-playing game that came out last week for PlayStation 3, was in part developed by the animation house Studio Ghibli.

"With that in mind... I think it would be a great idea if they were to release a patch to introduce a 'Very Easy' mode to allow new players (and younger players!) to enjoy the game," Jaime wrote. "It could be anything from dumbing down the AI to lowering the damage received... I certainly wouldn't mind paying extra for such a mode, if it means my wife will finally take the step into actually enjoying games."

I'm with Jaime. Why shouldn't video games like Ni no Kuni come with a Very Easy mode so that anyone can appreciate them?

This is hardly a new concept: Mass Effect 3, for example, lets you play in Story Mode, which makes combat significantly easier. L.A. Noire allows you to bypass action scenes entirely: fail a few times during a car chase or shoot-out, and the game will offer to let you skip ahead. The New Super Mario Bros. series gives you over-powered power-ups if you die too many times (and seeing that golden power-up box is always an embarrassing moment).

But this sort of thing should be more common, don't you think? I'd love to see more games offer a Very Easy Mode for people who don't have the instincts or skills required to take down tough bosses in an RPG — or in any genre, really. Some people might want to experience the world and story of a game like Ni no Kuni without any of the challenge. It'd be nice to see more game designers allow for that approach. Why not allow people to skip over tough combat sections? Why not give people super-powered boosts and other optional ways to get past big bosses if they so choose?

This would all have to be optional, of course. I'm enjoying Ni no Kuni's challenges quite a bit. But I also think games like this should be as appealing as possible to as many people as possible. A difficulty-reducing option wouldn't be particularly hard to implement, nor would it detract from anyone else's experience. Just don't call it Girlfriend Mode.


    They should have one... and I would set it to my default.

    I play for story... not to throw controllers.

      I play for story too

      So much better to not get stuck on a particularly annoying part of the game and be able to progress through at a decent pace and enjoy everything the developers put in it

      Story is great, but games for me also need to be challenging enough to make progression through the story seem worthwhile, Hitting A/X all the way until a cutscene appears just feels counter-intuitive in video games.

        So go do your challenging mode. Clearly 'very easy' isn't for you. So, y'know... let it be there for the people who would benefit from it.

      You might enjoy games even more if you just watch people play them

    Good idea.

    It depends on the game. If story progression and momentum is an important thing (Assassin's Creed for example), the game usually defaults to an easy mode anyway.

    But I wouldn't have minded a slightly easier version of Catherine. I got into the story, but never finished it.

    For games that aren't story-focussed, like Mario or perhaps even the Souls games (where there is a story, but the experience is the draw card), then there's not a whole lot of point to a hand-holding mode. Because if there's little/no story, and you're stripping away the gameplay, what's left? :P

    Last edited 30/01/13 11:52 am

    If you can't even play on easy, you probably shouldn't be playing video games.

      I used to think that way, until i said pretty much the same thing to my 5 year old nephew. I can't even remember what game we were playing, but he was so sad that he couldn't join in, and I felt like the biggest asshole.

        I struggle to be in that mind set. I was playing FF8, 9 and the Vandal hearts series (which was notorious for being a hard fire embles esk game) when I was around 8 years old.

        The only JRPG i have played this entire generation that wasn't an absolute joke to play through (most only have 1 setting to begin with) was xenoblade. Everything else could have used a rather large difficulty bump. They were even easier than old school JRPGS and kids like myself had no problem with those in the old days, and FAQS weren't nealry as prevailent.

        So i suppose my point is i find it difficult to see how one could be so bad at a game (with the very easy difficulties already offered) that the already offered difficulty isn't easy enough. (i personally play everything on medium when offered).

        though i suppose in some cases it could be worth while, though the effort needed doesn't seem worth it (to make that is)

    This is why I have never had a problem with The Legend of Zelda's difficulty.
    I enjoy Zelda games for the puzzles, story and exploration, so easier combat has always made it more fun for me.

    The perfect solution is real-time difficulty sliders like The Elder Scrolls or The World Ends With You. Developers can't possibly know each individuals needs when it comes to gameplay, and being able to adjust difficulty on the fly means you can ramp it up when you feel overpowered or ramp it down when you're stuck.

    Can't we just play until we get better? Are we in a generation of instant gratification? "If I can't win now, If I can't be a badass now, I won't play!"

    It's sad.

      Some people don't want to just play to get better, some people just want to play and feel accomplished even if it is super easy. Not everyone needs to feel like they climbed Everest when they finished a game, for some the end of the story and the credits are enough.

      This game is a perfect example of why you'd want this, its a pretty world and a great story, some people just want to experience that and not have to slave away at it like its a MOBA.

      Previous generations “gamers” were a far smaller demographic. For the good of the gaming industry, “gamers” now cover a far larger variety of genders, ages and backgrounds. Accessibility is probably the most important factor to gain and maintain these new numbers and it doesn’t necessarily mean that it should negatively affect the way we already play our games. You still have your hardcore mode.

        Yes, we all saw how appealing to casual gamers of all ages went for Nintendo =P

          Sorry I'm not sure if you're being sarcastic or not.
          Nintendos strategies have been incredibly successful.

            Especially when you look at the Wii U sales figures each week since launch =P

              Wii U has sold better than 360 and PS3 at launch. The only debate is if it will sell numbers like their previous generation. And their casual gamers approach is the strategy they used to sell 100M units of Wii.
              This isn't even mentioning their games sales that wipe the floor with CoDs and Diablos.
              I am surprised that anyone in their right mind would debate this.

                Umm, no it hasn't.. lol
                You might want to have a look at those sales figures again buddy.

                And why would you even bring up Diablo? That sold well, except people hated it within a week and returned it haha

                  Yes, they have:

                  Do you not know how to read? I was just listing a couple games that had huge hype but Nintendo games have easily outsold.

                  You also ignored my points that wii had the same strategy and sold 100M units.

                  I'm not going to respond to you again. You obviously need to start reading more facts and figures and are ignoring my points with absolutely nothing to back up your own claims.

                  Actually, you said that Nintendo's strategies have always been successful and that isn't true.
                  Gamecube sold relatively badly for an under rated and great console. The SP didn't sell well neither. In comparison to the Wii, the Wii U had a drastic drop in sales from launch. That's a fact.
                  They may be doing alright now, but they weren't for a long time there. Or otherwise there wouldn't have been so many worrisome threads here on Kotaku after launch. -_-

                  You claim I don't read facts but that's a tad immature.
                  I didn't reply to your points because I wasn't going to argue when you made a good point.
                  What do you want? Some sort of written apology? Or would you just like the option to continue making ridiculous claims to my illiteracy. The difference is that your arguments come off like a fanboy where as mine come from a fan of all 3 major devs.

                  My original point that aiming for the casual gamer not working out well for Nintendo was outlining that while they got sales from 6 year olds and 80 year olds and stay at home mums who want to use Wii fitness, they lost a LOT of their hardcore fans. Fans that bought near every good release in exchange for people who just eat up gimmicks. It may have been a good move financially but it was a total bitch slap to their consumers.

                  Also, I was speaking about Australian sales of the Wii U.
                  But it doesn't change the point you made I guess

      If you know you're hardcore, then continue to play hardcore. How does opening up a medium of entertainment to others without a decade or two of skills diminish your enjoyment in any way? You can STILL be a status whore by completing it on hardcore. I really don't understand people like you.

        If a game is too hard, don't play it.
        Don't bitch about it needing to be changed.
        PLAY the game and get used to it. What were you born yesterday?
        It has NOTHING to do with some hardcore status that you people keep accusing me of apparently desiring and a lot more to do with me not wanting games to be changed because people can't be bothered to put the effort in. In that sense it takes away from the game itself and the experience of playing it that others who have made the effort put in.

        It's not about hardcore stats and cred (wtf?)
        It's about wanting things accepted as they are and devs not having to fiddle with games they've already released when they could be working on something new.

        Regardless of any of that, Ni No Kuni IS ridiculously easy. If you can't play through that or be bothered to level up in an RPG then don't play it. It's the point of RPGs. Level up.. get stronger.. game becomes easier -_-
        It's not difficult to understand or put the effort in

    well if the gamer cannot cope with the easiest diffculty available then that means that the game is just not for them to play. a gamer has to be a "gamer" . that being said, if the person is really having a difficult time playing games then they're just not for gaming! They would just be a viewer! and i'm pretty sure they would enjoy just watching you play. maybe video games just are not for her, but maybe other games are ;)

      Or maybe they should make an easier mode so that new people will be encouraged to try gaming and will then hone their skills.

        totally agree! :) that's why there are facebook and smart phone (app) games.

        They have an easier mode. It's called 'easy; and it is in most games.
        If you want it easier then that.. then maybe you're just a bad gamer and should use guides or cheats. Games that have no difficulty setting shouldn't make one because people complain. Also, ni No Kuni is FUCKING EASY! Seriously, don't be useless. Actually make an effort to play a game. Jeez

      I think that depends on the game. While some games are all about the gameplay (most of these are multiplayer in this generation - can't say if there's a reason for that), others are all about the story and the general experience. Some people just aren't good at the games that they want to play - should they be deprived of the full experience because of this? Is "no, you can't find out what happens because you can't beat this boss" all that different from "no subtitles for this movie - deaf? Not for you."?

      Seems far-fetched? Consider the reasons people might not be capable of meeting the arbitrary benchmark of skill. Physically slow/aging reflexes? Difficulty with maths/language?

      Nowadays, games are a media type on par with music, movies and literature. You need to break them down into two main groups. Category A - pure gameplay: this is where the appeal is in testing your ability (alone and against others), where the gameplay experience is all that matters and the difficulty is crucial to fulfilling its role. Everything from CoD to Guitar Hero comes under this.
      Yes, there are still difficulty levels here, but the purpose is still to test the player via the gameplay. Category B - Story and Experience: the gameplay is a means to another end. The environment and narrative (heavily scripted or not) are there to be experienced by the player and are the motivation and the goal. You want to explore and see the story through. RPGs are the main example, but so are visual novels (ala Phoenix Wright) and a tonne of games from all sorts of genres. As stated above, the gameplay is a means to an end. If the gameplay is too hard (or easy, for that matter), and the goal is not reached - thus the means/gameplay is insufficient.

      Now there is a certain component of both categories in almost every game (obviously arcade and multiplayer games are almost exclusively Cat. A). It is by no means cut-and-dry, but the further into Cat.B the game is, the more I think this article applies.

      I'm struggling to get my point across concisely, but here's the gist. Story-driven games could be accessible to almost all ability levels if designed with that in mind. You can't do that with more gameplay/competitive-driven games without compromising their core integrity.

      Personally, I love a challenging game. I tend to choose hard on my first playthrough unless it's a game type I'm unfamiliar with - at which point I choose normal, because I don't want to get partway through and find that it's become a chore that I can't switch from - which is why on-the-fly difficulty is a great motivator to try the harder difficulty without worrying that you'd have to start over if it's not right for you (which is entirely possible, when you're asked to pick between 3 arbitrary labels pertaining to what the developer considered Easy/Normal/Hard.). I'm your average able gamer, but I still hate the idea of being unable to progress because of the developer's calculations. So consider this:

      A lot of playtesting goes into the development of good games, a large component of which is to gauge how well the audience responds to the difficulty level. If the average player is overestimated for whatever reason, you're potentially alienating players below that curve. Quite often this happens to certain levels or missions in otherwise good games. You know the feeling when you are replaying a game that you enjoy, but get to that bitch of a level that still gives you grief? You want to keep playing, because you know the rest of the game is enjoyable, but getting past that point is such a chore - it feels like you're being asked to go beyond what's reasonable to enjoy the rest of the experience. You can give up now, but you know you're missing out. Imagine if that happened to every level in a game you love. You know you want to shoot for whatever's later on, but the task in front seems monumental.

      I did it again, sorry. I began with what was a simple idea in my head and then continued on with a block of text larger than the article itself. lol. It's an unorganised cluster of my views, but hopefully it will provoke or challenge some of yours. :D

      Last edited 31/01/13 1:28 am

    I play games through on an easier difficulty for the story, then once I finish it and want a challenge, I'll go through on the hardcore mode and see what I can achieve.

    difficulty modes are stupid, every time i pick difficulty on a game i know i've picked the wrong one.

    I'm all for games making allowances for people when they have difficulty getting past certain sections. Every now and then I find parts of games that I have trouble with and it's frustrating having to constantly retry. Such sections then become a black spot on an otherwise great game, and for me reduce the replay value.

    I don't know if it could just be shoe-horned in though. I'm of the opinion that multiple difficulty modes and/or story vs. action modes must be considered originally to fit with the gameplay otherwise the game will be fractured into components of "story bit" "easy bit" hard bit" etcetera. and gamers using certain modes will experience the actual 'game' differently rather than just how easy it is.

    I totally agree with this.
    i personally am a pretty hard core and good gamer. BUT right now i really want to play Ni No Kuni but i likely wont because i dont have the time to play. the reason i want to play is for the story and exploring the world. not for combat. if i want combat ill play a shooter or something where it is the entire point.
    i only have at most an hour a day top play, i want to make progress and i dont want a challenge (most of the time) and i want to always make progress.
    I also want to recommend games to friends that arent hugely into the difficulty aspects of games.
    this should be supported in almost any story based game imo

      If you don't want combat or a time consuming game, why play and RPG?
      Those are some of the foundations afterall. I only get an hour a day myself but a game like this isn't one to rush by any means. If skipping the majority of the game is what you want, just watch online vids =/

    I've been dialing dial the difficulty on a few games recently, just to get through the backlog, and to do some achievement-hunting (I've got too many PSN trophy counts below 50%).

    I'd suggest an unlockable super easy mode. There's a few games where I want to go back and experience the story, but am put off by the number of hours I'll lose due to the difficulty levels.

    Speaking from my own experiencing I usually chuck something on normal or hardest depending on my mood which I am fine dealing with the frustration of being stonewalled by something difficult.

    The wife on the other hand does not enjoy this. So while I have scoffed at easy and super easy in the past I'm coming to accept that if I want to enjoy games with her she wants to play these difficulties because she hasn't had 20+ years of experience behind her. She doesn't want to made fun of because of easy mode because she doesn't want to get frustrated all the time and stonewalled.

      You should refer her to a few similar and less difficult games to get the idea. =)
      That's what I do

    I enjoy the occasional challenge but at the end of the day If I purchase a game,
    I want to be able to play ALL of the game, without been stopped by some difficulty block.
    It might not be even that difficult, but If I don't want to do it, there should be an option to skip or reduce the difficulty.

    There's little worse when your playing a fun game with a beautiful world and fascinating story, then to have the remaining 3rd of that game denied to you simply because you aren't a brilliant gamer or just can't do a certain thing.

    Quite often It's not combat that stops me but an unforgiving time limit... I hate time limit sections.
    So far my persistence has broken through all these barriers but one day I might not be able to.

    A difficulty bar that can be changed in game is cool (elder scrolls as mentioned).
    If so called hardcore gamers want a challenge all they have to do is play the highest difficulty, why should they care if others enjoy playing a game at lower difficulty, I play to have fun everything else is secondary.

    I also like the concept of the game giving you some additional help if you appear to be failing a particular bit often.
    Cheats are also great in my opinion, if you have a problem with them, don't use them.

    Basically my mentality is that games should be like:
    "hey, here's this cool world and you play as this bad-ass that can do all these cool things,
    As the player here are the settings to tweak so you can play any way you darn well want to, enjoy!"

    sweet simple god power, with barely any restrictions.

    A Story mode that allows players to never lose momentum in game sounds like a fine idea for all games to me.

      It becomes an issue if there is an online community.
      If it's a single player game and offline, it's a completely different story, but if it's online and you can play with other players things get dodgy. For example, people crying about the Dark Souls difficulty setting and demanding Easy Mode. That would divide the entire online community down the middle. It would also cheapen the satisfaction that people that play the game for what it is get. It would also destroy the point of that particular game.

      While I agree that timed areas are a total bitch, you should be getting your ass in gear when you see that timer. =P

    I switch to normal or easy (depending on what they mean in the context of the game) sometimes to just cruise through a game to try out new things or just experience the story without having to worry about getting bogged down in mechanics and death. Easy is usually designed for people who are new or inexperienced at games, but I feel a Very Easy would do more harm than good.

    It's like those coin-operated rides they used to have outside shopping centres. They're fun, and with a bit of imagination you can feel like you're actually doing the real thing but in reality it will do its thing with or without you and in no way prepares you for the real thing.

    Last edited 30/01/13 8:43 pm

    VERY easy?! You've got to be joking..
    I read the article (FYI) and I disagree entirely.
    Games already have autosaves everywhere, the ability to save wherever and tutorials.
    People should do what they used to and play a game more to get used to it. Anyone that plays a good RPG and never levels will obviously find it difficult as the entire game is about stats in the end and low stats = higher difficulty. If people want games to be easier, they should spend 5 minutes finding out how to play a game before rage quitting like a wuss.

    Ni No Kuni in particular should have a children's mode yes. It's Studio Ghibli and if anything it's an anime/game. That's different. But games in general should only have normal and hard and people should just deal with it.

    I grew up playing notoriously difficult games and you continue to play them until you learn the ins and outs. Auto saves every 20 seconds ruins this as people don't learn shit, they just cruise through a series of events and frankly, if you want to watch a movie, watch a movie. Games are for playing ffs.

    Last edited 31/01/13 2:16 am

      Ah, except they're not anymore, are they? Now they have whimsical, intricate, inspiring or challenging narratives with a degree of limited agency which you still can't get from any movie or most books...
      But y'know. Adding a feature that doesn't impact you is probably much harder than snidely sneering at them and telling other people that they're 'shit out of luck' so you can cling to some shred of 'hardcore cred' which pumps up your self-image.


        lol, Nice opinion.

        I'm pretty sure the main focus of any decent game is actually playing it.
        It has nothing to do with BS 'hardcore cret', but actually playing the games before you make petty judgements and expect thing to be changed for you. If an 8 - 12 year old can play Call of duty, most people can just fucking deal.

        As I said though, Ni No Kuni should have a children's mode since it is in a sense a Studio Ghibli game and a lot of kids love those movies. Aside from that though, Very Easy mode can fuck off with those that want it in games.

    Some of us play games for, we dont use them as self esteem building tools. I love the Souls games and the difficulty but not because I depend on it for self worth...Unlike some.sad teenagers out there who think they have.something to prove.

    Then you shouldn't have a problem. If you enjoyed the Souls series, that's what matters. It doesn't need to be changed to cater to an audience that isn't the target demographic.
    If people are just going to run through games for fun, people should be more aware of what they're purchasing. Dev shouldn't have to cater to everyone in the world. That puts a damper on their creativity and potentially ruins games that were originally being made to get across a certain atmosphere and mind set in the gamer.

    For example, if you're playing Resident Evil and 5 dogs jump through the window, you shit yourself at first and either fight or run away. If that were Very Easy mode, you'd walk past them
    That to me is sad. Game breaking shit.
    If you're literally going to put in no effort, then why not watch a video of the game being played rather then have a whinge that it should be changed. It's redundant as all fuck

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