Ranking the difficulty of games

Posts: 185
Joined: 2005.02
Post: #1
It is common developer knowledge that MMORGs are the hardest games to develop. How would the rest of the genres stack up?
I'm guessing RTS is probably pretty high up. Where would 3rd person adventure games and FPSs stand in comparison.
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Posts: 3,591
Joined: 2003.06
Post: #2
That's a good question. I would imagine we've all spent some time pondering that one.

- MMORPG, yeah, obviously on the top of the pile at first glance, though I think you could argue that any of them could potentially be the hardest depending on what features you were dreaming about.

- FPS's have traditionally been number one on the difficulty list because of the intense graphical needs of high detail in close quarters. If they were any less than easy to do then you'd have more companies than id and Epic leading the charge. The engines for FPS quite often wind up being used for other products, so it could easily be argued that FPS's have great backend support from many directions and thus could be considered easier to do than other genres. Take Torque or Unity for example. If all you wanted to do was make an FPS, you'd probably have a higher probability actually achieving that goal than other genres. Then again, the third party engine thing can open up doors in many different genres that might not seem obvious at first.

- RTS I don't know for sure. It sure seems to have many fun and simple elements, but I've heard they can be a real bear.

- I would say top-down 2D scrollers are the easiest, outside of simple puzzle games that is. Pure 2D bitmapped sprite or 3D sprites doesn't really seem to make much difference; I think you could go either way depending upon your talents.
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Post: #3
I'd say the answer really depends on your definition of hard... every individual or team has their strengths and weaknesses.

I'd roughly divide 'hard' (for games) into three areas:
1. Resources needed (people, time, money)
2. Technical challenges
3. Untested/revolutionary mechanics

I think MMORPGs are hard mostly for reason #1. They just take a pile of people/time/money in order to build, deploy and maintain them. While they also are difficult from a networking and scaling standpoint, frankly these issues are not as difficult as some people like to make them out to be (for experienced server side developers). But these are definately the first areas to show weakness in a troubled MMORPG project. Note that just managing a big project is a challenge in itself.

FPS's can be considered extremely difficult or fairly easy... are you using someone else's engine and free textures, creating a "me too" clone? Or are you building an engine from scratch that's going to technically leapfrog everything else? Certainly you are going to have to know a little bit about textures and 3D models either way.

RTS may be easier than FPS (again, are you using someone else's engine?), if its a 2D game, it can save some brain bending if you aren't up on 3D math, etc. But if you are trying some revolutionary game mechanics and/or generating a ton of art... you can have a _very_ difficult game to build.

If you want to make an easy game:
- Do 2D instead of 3D.
- Pick an "art style" that is "easy" within your team's skills.
- Minimize the amount of art/level design/music/sfx etc resources you need.
- Avoid networking
- Use an existing engine
- Stick to proven game play
- Avoid designing in the need for complicated AI (writing AI isn't hard... balancing AI and making it fun can be _very_ hard)

Now that list might sound like you are stuck making a boring game (although many cool games have been created that fit into that mold)... but if someone has little experience and they want to maximize their success on their first try at building a game, I'd recommend sticking to it at first. And even for more experienced folks... it's really easy to write on paper requirements for a project that will take 40x the resources you have.
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Posts: 613
Joined: 2004.09
Post: #4
Personally I would Rank them in this order, but its just my opinion as I havent programmed many kinds of them

1) Cards Games
2) 2d Puzzle Games
3) 2D Side Scrollers
4) 3d Puzzle Games
5) 2d RTS Games
6) FPS
7) 3d RTS Games
8 ) 2d MMORPGs
9 ) 3d MMORPGs

Ive only worked on the first 4 kinds but they werent nearly as bad as I assume some of the higher ones would be, but after all its just my opinion.

Kyle Richter
Twitter: @kylerichter
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Posts: 749
Joined: 2003.01
Post: #5
No AI pong is probably the easiest game ever.

simple 2d space shoot'em'ups, with enemies following random routes, are very easy to do, everyone stars with a shoot'em up.

Platforms are much harder because you have to design the levels, so you probably need to make an editor, level files...

Puzzle games like tetris require some logical ability

Card games can be a mess I believe, depending on the game

RTS are usually harder to design than to code (i mean to design a fun, balanced one), though coding a good AI can be hard

3d makes any game harder, so does networking.

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Posts: 776
Joined: 2003.04
Post: #6
My take on this is the following: the easiest games are those that require the least amount of game assets (graphics, models, sounds, levels, etc.), particularly if those assets require very specialized tools.

This is from the one-man-band point of view of course Wink - although the difficulties of managing a large team of content creators and having them work together with programmers are not to be underestimated.
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Post: #7
I'd just like to say a bit about technical challenges.

MMO type games are probably the hardest, because a lot of theory concerning distributed systems is involved, and those games generally have very complex and diverse gameplay. And, in the end, it requires money to get the hardware running, etc.

FPS are difficult because of the generally high level of graphics involved, so it's extremely about performance.

RTS games in 2D might be reasonably easy to do technically, but with them you have to be very on top of gameplay issues. 3D RTS games are a bit tougher, especially if you want to create solid physics and lots of eyecandy. Collision detection can be a bitch with hundreds of little buggers all over the map, units, projectiles, environment, and so on.

Also, generally games involving networking need to have well thought out concepts to compensate for limited bandwidth and latency, this is especially tough in the FPS games, where things go very fast, and MMO games, where you need to keep a lot of players in sync.

The genres I mentioned are all top-tier, easier to code are simple shooters, platform games, card games, or turn based strategy, where it basically boils down to solid gameplay, but coding is comparatively easy, there is nothing especially wicked going on (like 3D collisions), and performance is usually also not really an issue.
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