Opinion: Does Trials Evolution Solve the Difficulty Curve Problem?


For decades game developers have struggled with difficulty scaling. From the punishing brutality of 8-bit classics such as Mega Man and Ghosts ‘n Goblins to the constant zone reworkings that plague modern MMOs, finding the right balance of challenge and accessibility is nearly synonymous to a game’s chances of success. Many have tried, only few have exceeded, yet nearly no one has achieved perfection. That is perhaps until now.

Trials Evolution, the sequel to the breakout XBLA hit Trials HD, was recently released to overwhelming critical acclaim. A niche game at best, Trials Evolution is so magnificently constructed that gamers from all walks of life have been compelled to see what all the fuss is about. This mass speculation combined with the success of its predecessor led to approximately one hundred thousand copies sold – in one day.

Most cite that the reason Trials Evolution has done so well is because it’s fun. Simple enough. Yet, the reasons why it’s so exhilarating are a bit more complex. Namely, it’s the delicate juxtaposition of pick-up-and-play mechanics, brilliantly designed courses and effective leaderboards that drives players to continue. The quintessential “just one more level” game, Trials Evolution may very well be the potato chip of the gaming world. Give developer RedLynx credit – they are one of the first developers ever to solve the difficulty curve quagmire that has beleaguered others for years.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of playing Trials Evolution already, it’s control scheme is extremely easy to get accustomed to. Early courses feature long straightaways and simplistic ramps and are designed so that players can get comfortable with the highly specialized physics system. Little by little the difficulty creeps upward. Taking care to never introduce more than one element at a time, players will find that the transition from novice rider to stunt extraordinaire is nearly effortless. From time to time, they’ll be tested, if only to ensure that they grasp the fundamentals before proceeding to more explosive courses.

Eventually players are left to their own devices, and it is as this point that the mastery behind the difficulty curve becomes readily apparent. Figuring out the more advanced tactics is a matter of trial and error, but because Trials Evolution so thoroughly prepares players for the challenges ahead, there is no one trick that will be impossible for devoted gamers to perform. No in-depth tutorials or walls of text necessary here folks.

Ultimately, Trials Evolution was designed for those with a competitive heart. Leaderboards  serve to motivate players to chip off precious seconds from their previous run. There’s a multitude of options tacked on that allow players to trace the paths of their rivals. These hovering gamertags are meant to taunt players – compelling them to retry the same course again and again.

Trials Evolution nails it. Never before has personal progression seemed so satisfying. Like a    football coach who knows exactly how to train his athletes, RedLynx’s balanced approach to difficulty scaling eases players in without ever holding their hands.

It’s one thing to have a computer indicate to a gamer that they’ve leveled up; it’s another when the gamer him or herself feels that they have leveled up.

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