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I'd like to just make an all-encompassing comment to sum up my thoughts on the matter. EDIT: certain recent discoveries have made a section of this original post irrelevant. I'll simply keep what still apllies. What some tend to forget is that it isn't really the TASer who has to "deal with it", it's the audience. As a TASer manipulating 100 optimal hits is the same as manipulating 10. But if an overly long boss fight grinds the flow of a movie to a hault then it's only hurting the movie's entertainment in the long run. The way I see it, if you don't keep the audience in mind, why are you submitting the run at all? (If you didn't care to some extent you'd simply keep the run for yourself). What I'm getting at is that there has to be a line between appeasing the "OMG itz on Death Mode!" crowd, and the people that want a fast-paced categorical decimation of a game that ultimately results in an impressive TAS. Yes, the game should be seen as a feat above what human hands can do (as per this site's motto) but that doesn't mean using, or demanding the use of any difficulty is always the answer. That is demanding either extreme. If we're going to use the "it's more difficult unassisted" argument, then I can say that from the perspective of RTA running I can't think of a single instance in which I've heard or seen a runner say something to the effect of: "the bosses patterns are the same as the ones I'm used to, but the extra health makes it much harder!". Muscle memory is a wonderful thing. If a boss doesn't change it's patterns, speed or anything else, most veteran RTA runners don't seem to be upset. The difficulty tends to come from other factors (health management, less frequent ammo drops, more spawning enemies or even enemies dealing more damage - not just that the enemies have more HP). I'm not speaking for all runners, but please show me an RTA runner that's a master at their game(s) who says otherwise. In sum: I think a case-by-case decision situation with guidelines rather than a hard and fast list of rules is the best. If there are questions, then let the runner(s) justify it (this for using hard mode as far as I'm concerned). If the audience is more entertained by a certain difficulty then it should be obvious which one to pick. If they find something entertaining in both (and both offer enough variety and can be justified well and agreed upon) then let them coexist. I don't think an easy mode run should obsolete a hard mode run, though. It strikes me as being much the same as using Japanese text to improve on an English run. But if a hard mode run that is undoubtedly better optimized, but is slower due in part to the difficulty (i.e. not slower due to optimization issues, obviously) then I think it should be able obsolete a normal or easy mode run that isn't as well optimized, or doesn't meet the run goal as well.
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moozooh wrote:
It's because TASVideos's purpose is not that of a catalogue or a sports authority. We're an entertainment site first and foremost.
That's not the site's main value to me, or even its main contribution to the world IMHO. I'm much more interested in absolute achievement -- beating the game at its most challenging in the shortest time possible -- than entertainment. I want runs that reveal the truth of the game, above all; entertainment is 100% secondary. Don't get me wrong, I love to be entertained, and I quite enjoy playaround runs -- SNES Family Feud and "Own Goal!" are two of my favorite runs. But I'm irritated when I learn that a TAS is entertaining me at the expense of demonstrating total mastery over the game. I'd be annoyed at best if someone submitted a TAS of The Punisher (Genesis) on anything lower than the highest difficulty, because that's the game's unanswered question -- no one's even sure if it can be beaten on Expert, at least in 1P mode. (This is also why chess runs on Beginner difficulty are such a silly idea: they don't rise to the challenge of the game, which is dominating the engine, not just picking an option where the CPU is playing with its brain tied behind its back. And I'm saying that as someone who wants to see chess runs featured on the site.) I'm not even sure most outsiders (so to speak) see TASVideos as a site whose main goal is entertainment. I don't remember ever seeing someone post a TASVideos link on a message board saying "This run is hilarious" or "This run is so stylish". If the site gets invoked, the trope is mastery: this is how to dominate this game completely, this is an optimal route, etc. Using a low difficulty just to look slick, well, we players can do that already. That said, I 100% agree with Personman. All this can be solved trivially by treating difficulty as a branch; that way everyone gets what they want. Above all, a run on easier difficulty should never replace or supersede a run on the hardest difficulty.
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I don't like equivocating to the "decide everything case by case" approach. That doesn't address anything at all. There will always be special cases, but that leans too far in the direction of "every game is special." It really seems to me like the current unstated policy is to accept everything that someone appears to have put a modicum of effort into, whether or not they and the audience actually have any understanding at all about what the changes in difficulty actually entail. I don't think that collectively throwing up our hands and giving up because of fringe cases. I think it'd be more productive to pin down what the acceptable reasons are for allowing a lower difficulty and say definitively that things like "lower difficulty = skips entire stages" will no longer be acceptable.
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Tangent wrote:
I don't like equivocating to the "decide everything case by case" approach. That doesn't address anything at all. There will always be special cases, but that leans too far in the direction of "every game is special." It really seems to me like the current unstated policy is to accept everything that someone appears to have put a modicum of effort into, whether or not they and the audience actually have any understanding at all about what the changes in difficulty actually entail. I don't think that collectively throwing up our hands and giving up because of fringe cases. I think it'd be more productive to pin down what the acceptable reasons are for allowing a lower difficulty and say definitively that things like "lower difficulty = skips entire stages" will no longer be acceptable.
I completely agree. It is much better to create a rule or guideline that covers most cases and allow for exceptions where necessary, than to not have a guidline because exceptions exist.
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I'm not sure how relevant this is, but I did notice on the youtube encode for Return of the Jedi, several comments expressed disappointment that the run wasn't done on Jedi mode. Not sure if this was just general viewers or people close to the site or what, but I think at least it does show that picking easy mode is not necessarily what people want to see, regardless of reason.
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My two cents on this.. - I generally don't think that the difficulty should be a reason to reject a TAS of a new game. - If it is about obsoleting a TAS played on a higher difficulty, there should be a good reason for using an easier one, otherwise it should be rejected or published as different category, depending on the game. - If it is about obsoleting a TAS played on a lower difficulty, the old one should only be obsoleted if it is clearly less entertaining and/or optimal. And again, if the difference is significant enough, the difficulties could be separate categories. - If the difficulty is completely irrelevant in the setting of a game (like health in a game where taking damage gives no benefits), the TAS should use the default difficulty. Wasting time to switch to hard should actually be considered suboptimal gameplay in such a case.
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Alyosha wrote:
I did notice on the youtube encode for Return of the Jedi, several comments expressed disappointment that the run wasn't done on Jedi mode.
I think this reveals one... what would be a good term for it... issue with this whole thing: I think that people here are focusing too much what's "entertaining" to us (which in itself is highly subjective), rather than what's entertaining to the general public, and what they expect. Let's face it. We are highly biased. We are not the general public. We have seen hundreds of TASes, we have made TASes, we know the ins and outs of it, we know how they are made, and some of us may have seen dozens and dozens of TASes of the same game, sometimes even the same TAS many times. This skews our perspective on things, and makes it harder to put ourselves in the shoes of the average Joe who only casually sees some TASes from time to time. It is my understanding, and that example supports it, that the average viewer, especially if a gamer, expects and wants games to be TASed on the hardest difficulty, precisely because of the challenge factor. Even the idea of a TAS on the easiest difficulty is boring, because there is no challenge. It's not a question of whether the run becomes longer, or whether some boss fights become longer and more repetitive. It's the challenge. It's the "superhuman god-like player" beating the computer at its best. I think this is what average casual fans expect. They don't care if something is more "boring" from our perspective, they don't care if "the only difference between difficulty levels is how long boss fights take". We are biased, and perhaps that obscures our perception of that.
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andypanther wrote:
- If the difficulty is completely irrelevant in the setting of a game (like health in a game where taking damage gives no benefits), the TAS should use the default difficulty. Wasting time to switch to hard should actually be considered suboptimal gameplay in such a case.
To me, this is an argument FOR putting it on the hardest difficulty, if for no other reason than to forego any kind of debate about it at all. Going the other way requires more than superficial knowledge about the game and its mechanics. Or framed another way, a stat-based or straetgy game with heavy RNG being botted is going to be identical on every difficulty except for the amount of cursor jittering that happens to get the good result. The strategy and actual work by the TASer would be completely identical, but playing that on easy or even default for the weaker AIs and faster results wouldn't be appropriate.
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Warp wrote:
It is my understanding, and that example supports it, that the average viewer, especially if a gamer, expects and wants games to be TASed on the hardest difficulty, precisely because of the challenge factor. Even the idea of a TAS on the easiest difficulty is boring, because there is no challenge. It's not a question of whether the run becomes longer, or whether some boss fights become longer and more repetitive. It's the challenge. It's the "superhuman god-like player" beating the computer at its best. I think this is what average casual fans expect. They don't care if something is more "boring" from our perspective, they don't care if "the only difference between difficulty levels is how long boss fights take". We are biased, and perhaps that obscures our perception of that.
I think that's a very good point. Just look at a run like this one and think of how that would be on easy mode... Look at that run around the 14:00 mark, and compare to this low-difficulty video around the 18:00 mark. It is clear that the latter can be made much faster, but would it really be more entertaining that way?
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I've rewritten the Guidelines on difficulty choice based on discussions in this thread, IRC, and recent events in general. It's still technically a draft, so if anyone has any suggestions on things to add or change, feel free to post them here.
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Great! Finally some actual movement after so much discussion. Thank you Samsara for taking the time to do that! It's not in the direction I particularly agree with, but I'm happy that at least something has changed to reflect community discussion, that's always a good start! This is a pretty clear shift away from the previous standard of preferring hard difficulty to a much more subjective framework, but I think it still needs to answer one important question: Can an any% run on hardest difficulty be obsoleted by one on easy difficulty if it is faster? Let's assume the run is in the Vault and is unlikely to leave just for simplicity. Good example: [3042] Genesis Strider by Neofix & Alyosha in 07:22.39 . Would have been several seconds faster on easy, and pretty soundly in the vault. I think answering this will clear up a lot of questions, at least for me. In particular in the section above difficulty in 'Choose your goals well' it says:
Most games have only one movie, simply going as fast as possible with any means.
Presumably 'any means' includes difficulty setting, does it?
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Alyosha wrote:
Can an any% run on hardest difficulty be obsoleted by one on easy difficulty if it is faster? Let's assume the run is in the Vault and is unlikely to leave just for simplicity. Good example: [3042] Genesis Strider by Neofix & Alyosha in 07:22.39 . Would have been several seconds faster on easy, and pretty soundly in the vault. I think answering this will clear up a lot of questions, at least for me. In particular in the section above difficulty in 'Choose your goals well' it says:
Most games have only one movie, simply going as fast as possible with any means.
Presumably 'any means' includes difficulty setting, does it?
The way I (and a lot of other people) see it, difficulty choice is purely for entertainment purposes. So if a movie's already in Vault or destined for Vault, I would agree that easiest difficulty would be preferred. The thing is, the main point I want to make is that one difficulty should never be absolutely enforced over another, and that people shouldn't judge a run purely by its difficulty. This happened in spades over the recent Spider-Man VS the Kingpin submission, where an entertaining movie got flooded with No votes because of the difficulty choice. That shouldn't be happening in general. As for difficulties obsoleting each other, it should always be a case-by-case basis. An easier difficulty being faster doesn't always mean a surefire obsoletion, there are multiple different factors that need to come together for that to happen. Likewise, a harder difficulty also doesn't mean a surefire obsoletion for the same reason. I'm not sure how the other Judges feel, but to me: * An easier difficulty run has to remove boring repetition to obsolete a harder difficulty run, unless it's a Vault run, in which case it just has to be faster * A harder difficulty run has to be noticeably more entertaining to obsolete an easier difficulty run, unless it's still not entertaining enough to make Moons, in which case it would be rejected for being slower * Any non-standard difficulty choice (Easy for Moons, Hard for Vault) should be adequately researched and explained in the submission text * Any opinion in a submission thread that simply states "I'm voting No because it's not on X difficulty" should be disregarded, as it says nothing about the entertainment value of the movie itself Hopefully that helps clear things up.
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I know 2 oddities not mentioned in the first page: 1. The hardest difficulty is literally impossible for progress; the game softlocks or has something preventing progress. Example: SpongeBob's Atlantis SquarePantis GBA where at legendary difficulty (1 difficulty higher than the TAS) has the first minigame section softlock. Also the Star Mode in Game & Watch Gallery 4 is the hardest difficulty, but does not give stars (which are needed to see the credits) 2. Region differences akin to difficulties - Mario & Luigi comes to mind regarding how (J)/(E) version has different HP, and even though technically in a normal playthrough it wouldn't really matter since you'll be at a high level, in a TAS you're very underleveled, so there's that. And in this case it also drastically affects entertainment, since the boss fights are really really long. x.x
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Samsara wrote:
So if a movie's already in Vault or destined for Vault, I would agree that easiest difficulty would be preferred. * An easier difficulty run has to remove boring repetition to obsolete a harder difficulty run, unless it's a Vault run, in which case it just has to be faster
If nothing else this is at least consistent. Previously there seemed to be a mismatch between fastest completion and preferring hardest difficulty. This resolves it. If this is definitely the direction things are going I might suggest simultaneously updating the vault description:
Vault wrote:
The guidelines for difficulty settings, and password use still apply.
Difficulty guidelines are no longer relevant here. I might suggest instead replacing it with something that says 'choose the fastest difficulty setting' just for clarity. About 1/4 of the current 'hardest difficulty' runs are in the vault, meaning they can immediately be obsoleted by runs that are truly the fastest. It also makes clear that runs on different difficulty settings can both be accepted for their own reasons, which is a good thing as well. I do disagree about disregarding votes that rely only on difficulty. If people don't find easy runs entertaining just because they are on easy, so be it.
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I disagree with two things here: - Vault movies should be on Easy, no questions asked. The Vault already allows speed/entertainment tradeoffs, so a major one that is used across all tiers shouldn't be deprecated so quickly. Also I fear it opens the door to a lot of cheap improvements and ignores the fact that some Vault movies are not doomed to be there forever. I also believe the Vault itself is kind of outdated, so I'd rather not have runs that are, for lack of a better term, specificially identifiable as "Vault movies" if the concept is ever changed up. - Votes based on difficulty should be disregarded. As we can tell from the endless submission threads and comments on sites elsewhere, some people just don't like Easy movies. I think it is relatively fair and not terribly unreasonable that a person would not be entertained by a movie they do not feel is a superplay/pushing the game to its limits. It's not like there have never been Easy movies published uncontroversially, so I see no evidence this is a hurdle big enough that such a rule needs to be in place. (Also, I'd argue Strider should probably be in Moons by now. : P)
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I should mention that what I said is just my personal opinion and shouldn't immediately be taken as the direction the site's going. The Guideline rewrite is a little closer to how we've been dealing with things as of late, but it's still subject to changes based on the discussions it'll spawn and the thoughts of the higher-ups.
Alyosha wrote:
I do disagree about disregarding votes that rely only on difficulty. If people don't find easy runs entertaining just because they are on easy, so be it.
I should rephrase what I said, actually: Votes based on difficulty that aren't properly explained should be discounted. I would absolutely count them if they provided reasons on why a harder difficulty would make a more entertaining run in general, but I rarely see that. Even some of the discussion in this thread amounted to nothing more than "I don't like it because it's not Hard", which aside from being the second time I've heard that phrase today, isn't really proper criticism at all. Breaking down the differences and proving "harder is better", aside from being the second time I've heard that phrase today, is what really makes the votes count to me. "Harder difficulty would make a more entertaining run in my eyes, since it would add more movement variety to the run due to having more enemies" - This would be more valid of a reason to me over... "Not Hard, no vote" - It explains nothing relevant to the rest of the movie, implies that the voter didn't even watch it past the difficulty choice, and it's also the second time I've heard that phrase today. But that's just what I think. My words right now are only representative of my feelings, not the feelings of the site as a whole. That's why I'm opening it all up, so we can hopefully come to a conclusion that satisfies everyone... Also the second time I've heard that phrase today. Perhaps it's unfair to suggest, but like I said I don't want the difficulty choice to define a run to the point where something entertaining could be banished to Vault. Counting those votes as they are wouldn't be much different than saying "Easy = Vault, Hard = Moons", and I don't think anyone wants to classify things that way. I'm aware that some people don't like runs on Easy. I understand it as well. Even in the recent Spiderman VS Kingpin case, I was skeptical about the difficulty choice in regards to the game, but I still found the run very entertaining. Not many others did, it seems. If you take a look at that thread, none of the No votes were really explained any further than "It's not on Hard, so I voted No". It's discrediting the entirety of a movie simply based on a personal choice that doesn't even have a major impact on what the movie ends up looking like. Maybe I should've just said "Explain your freakin' votes to make it easier for Judges to properly tier a movie". That would've worked better. As for Vault runs being Easy no matter what, that's still primarily going to be a case-by-case matter. I would even go as far as to say Strider shouldn't have been used as an example there, as it's very much on the cusp of being promoted to Moons (and I think it deserves to be there, myself). I'm aware that we've accepted Vault runs with speed/entertainment tradeoffs, but we've also rejected them for the same reason, so there isn't necessarily a set precedent either way. We're still discussing potential changes to the tier system and the Vault and such as it is, so even all of my personal opinion (still stressing that it's my own personal opinion and not representative of the site) could be completely obsolete by a future change. Aaaand once again I'm too lazy to comb over my post to correct all the weird disjointed thoughts. So here it is.
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RobynS wrote:
I disagree with two things here: - Vault movies should be on Easy, no questions asked. The Vault already allows speed/entertainment tradeoffs, so a major one that is used across all tiers shouldn't be deprecated so quickly. Also I fear it opens the door to a lot of cheap improvements and ignores the fact that some Vault movies are not doomed to be there forever. I also believe the Vault itself is kind of outdated, so I'd rather not have runs that are, for lack of a better term, specificially identifiable as "Vault movies" if the concept is ever changed up.
I'm pretty positive I know of a game where "Easy" is funnily slower; it's not publishable by itself, but pretty much almost all games in game and watch gallery 4 are faster in Hard simply because things move faster. Also, while this sounds fine-ish, I'm not sure of how well it would end up being, since for example, " Stuart Little: The Journey Home" GBC has a different layout on easy difficulty. The stages are the same, but the location of what to grab, and the driving stages have different obstacles. I feel like this would lead to people demanding more branches despite both (likely) being vault. Edit: Should this be polled?
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Sorry for double posting, but since this isn't exactly related to my previous post: I just realized 1 problem with this. Certain games already have communities and all with runs of different difficulties. Since there's no branch for difficulties, I'm not sure how happy others would be when they see the TAS thinking it massively beaten a world record, just to find out the improvement is a lot less because of a completely different difficulty. I can't think of a vault game with a very dedicated community yet, but I'm aware for example, the EASY difficulty for Resident Evil 4 is like 30 minutes long. lol You might argue that it won't apply since it's moon tier, but that was an example; I'm positive there will eventually be some vault tier game with this drastic difference and have some dedicated community.
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Samsara wrote:
I should mention that what I said is just my personal opinion and shouldn't immediately be taken as the direction the site's going. The Guideline rewrite is a little closer to how we've been dealing with things as of late, but it's still subject to changes based on the discussions it'll spawn and the thoughts of the higher-ups.
In that case I would really like to see the opinion of more judges in this thread. As far as I've seen, there are not many runners on the site that prefer easy mode, and all easy-mode submissions I've seen run into a lot of resistance from voters. So there does not appear to be a consensus that easy mode is really OK if it's faster (which let's face it, it usually is), and just one personal opinion shouldn't set a big precedent all by itself.
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I disagree about the thing that says “if harder difficulty only gives more HP to enemies/bosses then it just gets more repetitive and shouldn’t be used” or whatever. I’ve always found that thought pretty stupid, more HP means that it’ll take longer to beat enemies, and they’ll have more chances of hitting you and therefore kill you, making a TAS that for example does the whole thing damageless a lot more impressive. I hold the Hard RTA WR in an action-RPG game and have always found the runs on its easiest difficulty to be pretty worthless, even though the only change is “bosses have more HP”. More HP give more chances for different patterns to be shown and more chances for the enemy to kill you.
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I concur that "vault should be on easy" seems like a very poor guideline. Even for the vault, it should be a superplay first, and fastest run second. Giving yourself every advantage goes against that. It also reeks of a defeatist attitude to me. Like before even starting, you already think people aren't going to like the game or run, so you shouldn't put in any more than the minimum effort and play the game at its easiest. This seems like itd be an especially poor guideline for things like fighting games and shmups (and board games if they ever become eligible). "More damage boosts" on its own also doesn't seem like a valid reason to me. There are plenty of games where you have enough health on easy difficulties to plough straight through everything instead of having to dodge or manage your health. "No vote for difficulty without explaining will be disregarded," especially with so many runs that COULD be pretty easily beaten just by setting them to a lower difficulty, even if they're sloppier. If that's the only 'improvement,' or a run is done on a lower difficulty with adequate defense, that seems like a perfectly acceptable and valid reason. Speaking of which, something I'd really like to see a lot more scrutiny given when people say why they chose a lower difficulty. What I see myself a lot is that if the author gave a reason, any reason at all, that is the final word on it and any further discussion or check on the veracity of those reasons is treated as a personal attack.
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Yeah, as a casual viewer. I don't care if the time of a newly added game 7:20 minutes or 7:35 minutes, especially if i never played it. But if the hero runs though any second enemy i think to myself that's not that impressive. I love the hardest difficulty runs.
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I'm pretty sure I'm stating the obvious here, but just so that the discussion isn't carried away too far, the guideline in question reads: "...It is preferred to play on the difficulty that would make the most interesting and entertaining run. Usually, this is the hardest difficulty". And also, "any difficulty choice will be accepted as long as you adequately explain why you chose it" (emphasis mine). Besides, it's a guideline, not a rule.
ALAKTORN wrote:
more HP means that it’ll take longer to beat enemies, and they’ll have more chances of hitting you and therefore kill you
Oh absolutely, this would have been very impressive if one couldn't... savestate or anything like that, yeah. But if you don't mind posting a few TAS examples where extra boss fight time results in a non-repetitive, unpredictable fight scenario (where the TASer has—rather than chooses—to employ a varied strategy stemming from the inability to end the fight sooner due to more boss HP), it would definitely enrich the discussion and your argument in particular.
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I have an interesting example. The game we're currently tasing, Gargoyles, has 3 difficulty settings, and it only affects the damage you take. The damage isn't refilled between levels, but most levels have refill items. Though, some of them aren't available in the tas route. So at first we thought that Easy would allow more damage boosts, then we tested Normal, and there's only a few places where we're heavily running out of health and need heavy planning. And the time it takes to pick Easy in menu (2 seconds) doesn't seem to justify what time we can gain just for playing Easy. So we decided to stay on Normal. The point is, Normal makes for a more interesting gameplay due to the mentioned heavy hp management in those places, and it's actually harder to tas, because of the amount of testing required. And at the same time, it is probably real-time faster. Hard is just too hard, and is unlikely worth it. That's also an example of adequate explanation to me.
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Samsara wrote:
* An easier difficulty run has to remove boring repetition to obsolete a harder difficulty run, unless it's a Vault run, in which case it just has to be faster * A harder difficulty run has to be noticeably more entertaining to obsolete an easier difficulty run, unless it's still not entertaining enough to make Moons, in which case it would be rejected for being slower
This looks to me like the complete reversal of the principle that has been in place so far. In other words, this new guideline actually prefers easy difficulty over hard difficulty in almost every case (and is, in fact, quite contradictory to the statement that "usually, this is the hardest difficulty"). I said this in an earlier post, and I say it again: If the only reason for choosing the easiest difficulty is that it makes the run faster, that's not good enough of a reason. Again, we want to see the god-like perfect player mop the floor with the computer at its best, not at its weakest. There is no challenge in beating the game at the easiest difficulty level. Beating a game on its easiest difficulty is just cheap. More egregiously, obsoleting an existing hard-difficulty run with an easy-difficulty one feels even cheaper. There is no challenge. It's just cheap. This complete reversal of the principle that we should always beat the computer at its best, at the hardest difficulty, seems like an affront to everything that's cool about TASing. Moreover, there is concrete evidence (given in this thread) that the general gamer public expects games to be beaten on their hardest difficulty, and are disappointed when they are not. I don't like this at all.