Testing Incremental Difficulty Design in Platformer Games

Rina R. Wehbe, Elisa D. Mekler, Mike Schäkermann, Edward Lank, and Lennart E. Nacke. 2017. Testing Incremental Difficulty Design in Platformer Games. In Proceeding of the 2017 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI 2017. Denver, CO, USA. ACM, 5109-5113. doi:10.1145/3025453.3025697


Designing difficulty levels in platformer games is a challenge for game designers. It is important because design decisions that affect difficulty also directly affect player experience. Consequently, design strategies for balancing game difficulty are discussed by both academics and game designers. In this paper, we study how manipulating the following design decisions, commonly found in platformers, moderates difficulty: Scroll Speed, Target Size, Jump Task Complexity, and Perspective. Results for Scroll Speed and Target Size indicate that errors increase as speed increases and platform size decreases. However, results for jump task complexity demonstrate a separation of errors from task complexity. Specifically, while double-jump tasks are harder than single-jump tasks, triple-jump tasks appear to be as difficult as double-jump tasks. Additionally, the study demonstrates how changes in perspective affect the errors made by players in gameplay. The study results are applicable both to automatic level generation and dynamic difficulty adjustment in platformer games.