Developer behind legendary roguelike Spelunky says games shouldn't get too easy too fast: "You can rob people of that experience"

Spelunky 2 artwork showing a character wearing a yellow coat and mining hardhat while wielding a torch
(Image credit: Mossmouth)

Developer Derek Yu, best known for unforgiving roguelike Spelunky, says he's wary to not "rob" players of an experience by making certain difficulty modes too readily available.

In a recent thread on Twitter, Yu referenced an online discussion about 'God Mode' difficulty levels, which typically make players invulnerable while it's active. While the discussion ends with the suggestion that these modes should be available to players to adopt when they want to, Yu doesn't entirely agree. Instead, he suggests that there's an argument to "sometimes not include God Mode if you would like to push players out of their comfort zones."

There are plenty of times, he continues, where "you want to meet player expectations," but as with plenty of other artforms, "sometimes you don't" want to do that.

Yu goes on to explain his thoughts in a little more detail, saying "I can't count the number of times I've felt 'truly stuck' only to get some sleep or try a new tactic. The amount of satisfaction one gets from succeeding eventually is incredible." As a result, he says that you risk 'robbing' a player of that satisfaction if it's too easy to dial down the challenge.

"Not every game is designed around the extremes of frustration/satisfaction," he admits, "and for each person that you motivate to persevere there are people who will simply quit." As a result, he argues that "God Mode is fine for most games, but not including it is a designer's tool as much as including it."

There are, of course, different ways of tackling God Mode - in Hades 2, for instance, activating the mode drops the damage you take by 20%, but increases that drop-off by 2% each time you die, allowing players to reach the level that works for them. And then there are tools that are prompted for players who are clearly struggling, like Metal Gear Solid 5's chicken hat. It's clear that managing difficulty is its own skill, and there's a balance to strike between making a game deliberately hard and simply handing them a tool to succeed.

As a name on our list of the best roguelikes, Yu knows a thing or two about difficulty.

Ali Jones
News Editor

I'm GamesRadar's news editor, working with the team to deliver breaking news from across the industry. I started my journalistic career while getting my degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick, where I also worked as Games Editor on the student newspaper, The Boar. Since then, I've run the news sections at PCGamesN and Kotaku UK, and also regularly contributed to PC Gamer. As you might be able to tell, PC is my platform of choice, so you can regularly find me playing League of Legends or Steam's latest indie hit.