The short answer is tough games feel gratifying. When you take down a boss in Dark Souls or clear a level in Mega Man it feels like perseverance paid off. It’s a different experience from other games that hold a player’s hand from the start to the credits. Siliconera talked to 1001 Spikes creator Samu Wosada about his thoughts on the rise of games that reward persistence and designing tough games.
"I personally have not played Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls. However, a lot of people have told me there are comparisons between those titles and what I have created," Wosada said to Siliconera. "When you play modern games, there are lots of elements that make them feel like a tedious chores to beat certain stages as opposed to this where every time you die it makes sense and every time you clear a stage it feels gratifying. Maybe it isn’t necessarily a trend, but games that feel rewarding through persistence a lot of people’s answer to making modern games easier and the feeling of satisfaction isn’t there."
I was playing 1001 Spikes while talking with Wosada and he saw me run right into a trap. "Do you enjoy seeing your traps work," I asked.
"By no means do I get any satisfaction or enjoyment by watching people die," Wosada laughed. "I really want to see people clear my stages. I can feel my heartbreak when I see people die I can feel their pain. In all seriousness, I think the true satisfaction of the game is when you clear a level on the fourth or fifth try. You’ve learned the traps, you know what to watch out for, you’ve memorized and you’re finally able to beat it. If you beat it the first time through, then it might not be that fun. There won’t be gratification because you didn’t have to work to beat it."
I asked Wosada how he tested levels so they were just hard enough, but weren’t so frustrating players would give up. "I am my own yardstick in this case. I play it and when it feels just about right for me that is when a level feels right. I know a lot of AAA titles have focus groups, user tests, and they try to integrate as much of that into the game as possible. However, we I feel you do that you make too much of an average and you lose an edge since it’s been sanded down too much to make it for everyone. What I really wanted to accomplish is a very focused game that a select group will really like and accept," Wosada answered.
"Even with in compact spaces, I focused on simple traps, but I combined these traps to create a puzzle. The satisfaction of creating a more complex trap out of a series of simpler traps is very gratifying even as a designer.
Wosada believes older gamers that grew up with Famicom and simple platformers with easy to understand controls are the primary audience for tough platformers. We talked a little bit about story in games and Wosada feels that if all that moves the game forward is story you sacrifice the fun of gameplay. With 1001 Spikes, Wosada wanted players to start the game in a level instead of a prologue. The story doesn’t show up until after a few levels.
"To me clearing this game with all 1001 lives still intact is a feat of near impossibility." There is, however, something players will see if they lose all 1001 lives. Wosada doesn’t expect too many people will see it because he doesn’t expect everyone will lose all of their lives.
Wosada continued, "I think almost any genre can benefit from this model of being rewarding through persistence. At some point until the previous generation, there was like an arms race for having a better story, better characters, and better graphics. People felt that was the only way to make a game better. But, we are at a cusp of a new revolution where going to focus again on gameplay and quality entertainment through interactivity. I think we’re talking a step back from story and graphics. It’s about rewarding a player for learning the game. Take a rhythm game for example it’s not just playing a song, it’s about playing a song many times and finally getting to the end of it and feeling ‘wow I did it.’"