Post tutorial RSS Difficulty Scaling

Half Life 2 made you weaker, enemies tougher, and gave you less ammo. We intend to push things a little more.

Posted by on - Basic Mapping/Technical

When playing Half Life 2 on Hard Difficulty, the only differences you'll notice are:

  1. You die more easily.
  2. Enemies are harder to kill.
  3. When you pick up ammo, you get less of it.

Since we don't like to turn enemies into bullet sponges, we decided to diminish the edge the enemies get on Hard difficulty, and simply to add more of them in certain areas.

More Bad Guys

Therefore, we added a couple of keyvalues and inputs to the npc_maker and npc_template_maker entities, that look a little like this:





For everyone who knows how the NPC Makers work, this is pretty straightforward.
Basically we added Values for making NPCS that are prioritized based on the Hard difficulty.

Therefore if I were to "SetMaxChildren" to 10, and "SetMaxChildrenHard" to 20, then 20 NPCs would spawn when playing on Hard difficulty, and only 10 would spawn on Easy and Normal.
Difficulty settings are also adjustable during play, and the entities should dynamically adapt to the settings, so if you are finding one spot too hard for your particular skills, you can always lower the difficulty to your preference.
But then again, if you're playing on Hard, it's because you're a sucker for challenge, aren't you?

Less Random Loot

The second step we have taken to raise the difficulty of the game, is to lower the amount of random loot you will encounter throughout the environment.
For those of you who have read the Item_Random for random loot ! tutorial, you'll notice that the chance of an item NOT spawning is decided by the "nothing" keyvalue of the entity.

Therefore, we added a few Console VARiables, that dictate a multiplier based on difficulty.

sk_itemrandom1 0.75
sk_itemrandom2 1.00
sk_itemrandom3 1.50

This multiplier will make it so LESS (0.75) "nothing" is selected on Easy (therefore more items)
Normal amount (1.00) on Normal
And MORE (1.50) "nothing" on Hard difficulty (therefore less items)

This way, when playing on Hard, players will be required to manage their inventory more carefully, as well as their ammunition, they will be facing more foes with less resources, turning the game into a rougher survival experience.

Just remember, for most situations, fighting isn't the only option.

Programming by Carlos "Charly" Sotelo

JayBluPixl - - 110 comments

"Since we don't like to turn enemies into bullet sponges.." I really appreciate this decision. I've played enough games, with enemies made out of kevlar, like Far Cry 2.

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JoshZemlinsky - - 348 comments

I agree.
I love the way they've done this :D

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boredgunner - - 2,072 comments

Yeah glad to see Underhell isn't doing that. That's a thing of the past, it should stay buried.

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Forsete - - 619 comments

Yeah, I absolutely hate bullet sponge enemies. That's why I usually play games on Easy or Normal nowadays. It's a lazy design decision imo.

Blood is a great example of making the difficulty levels vastly different from each other. Not only do they add more enemies but they progressively get more aggressive and they aim a lot better on harder difficulties. Some enemies even receive new abilities (eg. the cultists only use their primary gun on the two easier skills levels while on normal they can throw a stick of dynamite at you. On the harder levels though they throw a PACK of dynamite!).

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Hell_Diguner - - 3,645 comments

I like hard(core) game modes that add or remove features to make the game harder. Dead Space 2 reduced the number of times you could save to three, and disabled autosaves. Doom 1+2 made enemies constantly respawn. Doom 3 made your health constantly drain to 25% and removed many of the health items. Bastion let you change difficulty mid-game, which in addition to the obvious - made enemies drop more money.

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Jonex. - - 568 comments

Bullet sponge enemies is what I hated about playing Half Life 2 on hard. Thanks for not following that path :D

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56er - - 1,253 comments

Okay, you coices are reasonable, but still, the only thing that really makes a game go hard mode for me, is when the devs manage to get the ai. on a level better than they were on normal and still not in god mode.
More enemies don't really seem like the key if they are still all as dumb as in normal. It would be better to have the same ammount as in normal, but have them use more & advanced tactics(& equitment maybe) just bring me as a player to play in new ways, rather than doing the same thing I did on normal with twice the enemies.

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orang3dragon612 - - 73 comments

Here's how I see it. It's not just another group of enemies, it's additional sentry's and guards blocking your way, and making a empty hallway on easy or normal suddenly have guards that you need to keep out of sight from. I do agree with the above, but AI is difficult to do, some of the best being from FEAR, and some of the worst being from, well, many other games. Equipment, I think, will be conditioned to the situation, so not every group of baddies will come equipped with NV goggles on hard, only if you've been spotted or something like that. Anyways, just what I think, sure Mxthe will replay properly in due time.

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NeoKabuto - - 5 comments

The AI itself wouldn't need to be much smarter, it just needs to be tweaked a little and managed better. Easy AIs could ignore any sounds short of gunshots and need you to move faster to see you in the dark, while hard AIs would have their senses not as limited. Easy AIs could be given equipment that makes them easier to fight for you (if you favor taking out targets from a distance, it could spawn more guards with shotguns), but Hard AIs could adapt to your tactics themselves (so in that case they would have better ranged weapons, smoke grenades to cover themselves, and stay closer to cover).

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vol4ok - - 453 comments

Nice to see sightings of progress :)

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orang3dragon612 - - 73 comments

Mxthe, I'm curious. A few years ago I made the wildly incorrect statement that you might have upwards 7 chapters. Now I know that's wrong, but I'm wondering will this be the final chapter? Seeing how long it's taking, and how much of your life that you need to spend on it, I'm not sure if you want to plunge headlong into another full chapter.
It doesn't help that your an essentially one man team, slowing the whole process down compared to what a full part time team could do. Anyways, it continues to look great, and thanks for the tutorials, gives me ideas for programming.

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Mirellanmal - - 303 comments

love it

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MoleMad - - 16 comments

All this amazing work and modding and yet this thing HASN'T been greenlit on steam but "Yogventures" and "Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures" has?!

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[FH]Gorgutz - - 286 comments

Seeing an update made me spill tears of joy.

I'm also quite proud of this decision regarding a higher difficulty, by not making the AI freaking tanks while you're a pathetic little meat bag that can't even kill someone with a point blank headshot in one hit. ._.

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LongNange - - 42 comments

any info about release date?)

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Taquito - - 391 comments

Wish more games used this same system.

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Serathis - - 468 comments

Ah the good old times. Back in the Doom days :)

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SPY-maps - - 2,909 comments

very interesting, this system you have thought of. i never knew it was also possible in this way. although, now to have more enemies you have to choose for Hard and maybe people would like to play on normal or even easy, but with more enemies. In my newest mod i use a system were people can choose for less or more enemies, whatever there difficulty setting is. I just used different triggers for it.

but that doesn't matter, i am glad to see this. i think more mods and games for that matter should give us the choice between less or more enemies.
great work!


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andy1942liu - - 83 comments

Well in my opinion, COD is a really bad example of difficulty scaling.

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goosejelly - - 121 comments

Veteran is nearly impossible, depending on the level you're playing. Modern Warfare 2, the Favela mission on Veteran? Get the flop outta hurr.

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charly.thorngren - - 28 comments

you should have that thing when u drop a mag u lose the bullets in it if u know what i mean :)

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