Design Discussion: Challenge

September 19th, 2016

Design Discussion: Challenge

The second pillar of our design is “Challenge”. To us, challenge is the key to making an enjoyable game that will give players a sense of accomplishment when they can overcome the hurdles we set before them. It is what makes them stop and examine their surroundings for advantages, rather than coasting through content. It is what encourages players to think outside of the box, to find alternative solutions when faced against uneven odds. Challenging games are memorable and keep a player coming back for more.

It is important to the team that we create a game that is challenging without being punishing. To accomplish that, we are examining our various mechanics as we implement them to judge the difficulty level. We are lucky as a team to have gamers across a very wide skill spectrum. This allows us to gage if something is only challenging to a casual gamer, or if it scales up to match the player’s abilities.

One way we are adding challenge to ToA: Exile is through our three races. The player can choose to play one or all of our races, based on the server they choose to play on, but they are not balanced against one another. Dragons start out very weak, but scale to great heights, while raknar are relatively powerful to begin, and will grow with time and focus. Humans face a different type of challenge as the only race without natural weapons and must find ways to create their own.

Challenge also comes in the form of the survival setting of our game. As you all know, characters in ToA: Exile will require food and water to fuel their bodies, and shelter from the elements. Visibility will be limited at night, especially so for humans who will require a source of light to find their way in the darkness. Poisonous plants, dangerous creatures, and other environmental hazards create a hostile world for the player to attempt to survive in.

Island hosters will be able influence the challenge of their particular islands by adjusting resource scarcity, limiting life counters, and choosing options among the other settings. Scarce resources encourages player conflict, while limiting life counters makes the outcome of any conflict more expensive for the losing side.

We test and discuss the design thoroughly at every opportunity so that we can balance the difficulty of the game on the line between challenging and punishing. We aren’t trying to make a game that is hard to play, requires the player to study strategy guides, or is frustrating to the player. Instead we want a game that is easy to learn and difficult to master. We hope to offer depth to the player who takes the time to explore the various mechanics, while still keeping the basics accessible to all types of players.

What’s the most difficult game you have played but still enjoyed? What aspects of it made it memorable for you? Share your thoughts with us at