Artificial Intelligence Will Address ‘Difficulty’ in RPG

7 min readNov 25, 2021

RPG is a genre that has a massive userbase in the gaming community. Many gamers consider it their second life and invest hundreds if not thousands of hours of their time to create and finesse their in-game character.

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Games like — The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Dragon Age, and Mass effect still have a large userbase that plays these games with new mods and textures, with players putting in thousands of hours into these respective games. Such is the aura of Role-Playing Games, filled to the brim with the potential to capture its players in-game.

Games like The Witcher, Final Fantasy, and Nier are known for their immersive and gripping storyline, demanding multiple playthroughs from most of the gamers

Today, there are takers for the RPG genre in the mobile market as well. The download numbers for some games close to a million, which shows a clear demand for the RPG genre sans the platform differentiation.

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RPG games are unique and aren’t for everyone. The core nature of the game genre takes an immense amount of effort and patience from the player if one wishes to have a good gameplay experience. RPG isn’t a genre that one can play for some time leisurely and then pick it after some time just to cool off after a hard day. But the efforts and patience will be paid off with a superb gameplay experience, story, and a journey of a lifetime.

Even with all the bells and whistles like graphical upgrades, life path choices, skillsets, something is plaguing the RPG genre, which has been an issue for a long time now.


Why is it Difficult to Tune the RPG Difficulty?

An RPG game offers the player a plethora of choices on the player class. Based on what the player chooses, a skill set with a skill tree progression is naturally assigned, which becomes the lifepath choice for the playthrough.

Games even offer the option to fully reset these quirks so that if and when players change their minds, they can re-invest their skill points in a different skill tree, giving them a fresh start.

The above aspects are a bare minimum for a good RPG game. The difficulty aspect starts getting factored here thanks to the complexity brought upon by these aspects.

To simply put — the underlying nature of the RPG genre is what brews trouble for it in the difficulty department.

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Ask any RPG player, and one thing you’ll find in common is how XP sets the narrative for the game. Players are always looking to level up their characters so that their path becomes a bit easier. Defeating enemies and bosses become a bit simpler because the difficulty levels are a mess.

The difficulty levels are so extreme, that players must rely on game statistics and XPs and level up their characters. It’s either too easy or too difficult. The balance is always missing.

While the easiness helps a new player, once accustomed to the game, the same player finds it a bit too easy, taking the fun factor and dynamic nature out of the equation. The game then becomes predictable, and beating bosses become a monotonous chore.

That is until the player comes across a level 30 dragon that breathes fire and barbeques the unsuspecting player. Suddenly the boss fight becomes too much of a challenge. The player has to come back to fight this challenging boss after acquiring a few more skills, and XP. With a game like Dark Souls,

it’s all about understanding patterns of boss movements, attacks, and combos, eventually finding weak spots and inflicting damage till the boss is dead.

It’s a well-known fact that in RPG games, the difficulty levels are at two extremes making new players and even experienced players rage and quit the game.

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Final Fantasy VII remake, coming from the stable of one of the biggest RPG makers — Square Enix was a smash hit with over 5 million copies being sold.

But hardcore fans of the longtime running franchise felt the game’s difficulty level was watered down, most probably to make new players feel at home. It’s simple to blame the studio for this, but they aren’t entirely at fault here. Can anyone make a game that pleases every gamer?

The difficulty imbalance weighs down progression, and the incentive becomes unclear. A game has to offer fun gameplay at the end of the day. With the growing interest in games due to the pandemic, many non-gamers have taken on gaming as a hobby. When even the hardcore fans of the genre face the issue with difficulty imbalance, how will new players feel?

How can studios solve the difficulty paradigm in Role Playing Games?

NPC Intelligence

The advent of Artificial Intelligence in gaming is bliss for studios and gamers alike. We’ve seen the super-smart Non-Playable Characters (NPC) in the likes of the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Such dynamic reaction to the player and environmental actions using Neural Network for a unique NPC action.

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A classic example for NPC intelligence is Grand Theft Auto 3, that released 20 years ago. As stated earlier, with Role Playing Games, the added clutter of lifepath and player types add complexity to NPC (Non-Playable Character or, in this case, the boss difficulty) intelligence.

Most games use the method Finite State Machine to output NPC behavior. As the name specifies, this method uses pre-coded predictable responses from NPCs. While the logic in this technique is simple, the predictable nature makes this not so viable option when addressing the challenge of predictability.

Adaptive Skillset Gameplay

Many modern Real-Time Strategy (RTS) and RPG games use complex neural networks for sophisticated NPC behavior to keep things interesting for the player and tone down unpredictability. Adaptive skillset gameplay is a core technology that can address the difficulty factor and complement the dynamic aspect of unpredictable gameplay.

Who can benefit from Adaptive Skillset Gameplay? Gamers, developers, and studios

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Gamers can finally have realistic difficulty, a gameplay that isn’t too predictable. This way, they can extract more out of the game, and irrespective of their skill levels, the difficulty will be dynamic, keeping things interesting. The exploration factor paired with unpredictability adds value to the gamer’s mindset.

Developers and studios alike can address the age-old problem that is plaguing the RPG genre. Adaptive skillset gameplay scales the difficulty level based on the player skill level and the in-game character statistics. Why not? The RPG genre is one of the best-selling genres creating revenues close to $22 billion as of 2021.

So, when a low-level player faces a low-level boss or challenge, it’s not entirely easy to mash a few combos and reap the benefits. The adaptive skillset technology is paired with a complex NPC neural network to provide a dynamic difficulty level so that there is enough challenge, yet the player isn’t overwhelmed. The incentive aspect is a welcome add-on.

Dynamic gameplay is a given with Skillset Adaptive Gameplay, not only in RPG but any genre. Most games have the issue of being redundant to an extent.

Two different players play the same game and come across the same side quest.

Yet, the outcomes will be the same, and this is a limitation of scripting. Even if the players are in two different classes with different skill levels, there aren’t many options for approach and mission execution. This is evident even in recent open-world games like Red Dead Redemption 2.

Even the best open-world games have a challenge when it comes to diversifying player experience. With adaptive skillset gameplay, players from two different life paths will have very different approaches, dialogue, and resources. This way, their experiences are unique. There is the potential for re-playability which means more in-game hours by the player. Player retention is also covered!

Factor dynamic gameplay into the equation, and gameplay automatically becomes addictive. The dungeon explorer can go about with his exploits while the witch can take on a contract to clear out a haunted mansion. When they do come across common enemies in the main story, they’ll have different

experiences, albeit dynamic owing to their skill and class difference. Studios have covered all bases, all types of players have something interesting to do, they don’t have to fit under one category.

Aspects like the main story can never be dynamic. There is a script and vital characters with their arcs. But even if the destination is the same, the journey can be different for diverse travelers, with guidance from the experts.

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