I like game design quite a lot. I'm going to present one of the major problems in the field. Perhaps one of you will have a suggestion. Even if not it's still interesting.
The best computer game is Warcraft 3, so this will be my example game. It comes with a World Editor program so anyone can create their own maps.
To create a warcraft map of the RPG variety, you using the following main elements: place heroes, monsters, terrain, treasure. Create spells, quests, traps, and possibly a little AI to help the monsters use spells or fight smarter. You can also put in a city with shops and people to talk to.
Most warcraft RPGs I play are way too easy if I play with friends (multiplayer, cooperative). But, surprisingly, playing with random people we usually lose badly. The skill gap between random people and experts is huge, and directly effects survival rate.
So if I make a map of fun difficulty for me, most people will never get anywhere in it. But if it's going to be too easy for me, that's no fun and I won't make it at all.
One solution is difficulty levels. However, those involve either creating separate versions of each fight for each difficulty, or using some general function. The first plan is tons of work. The second has limited use. The simplest way, in warcraft, to set the difficulty at a stroke is to alter the amount of life the badguys have by some factor. However, this has unintended consequences, such as making spells that deal damage very good on low difficulties and bad on high ones.
My current map is too hard for unorganised (bad) players even on easy difficulty, but I can't lower life more because the badguys already die en masse to spells as they have so little life. The issue is that the monsters are threatening, and if they die fast, even really fast, idiots or novices can still die first. The fix would be making the monsters unthreatening...
It just occurred to me to try giving the heroes more life on easy mode. This may help.
BTW the reason I call these people idiots is if they just did the following they'd survive way way more:
- heal between fights
- buy replacement healing potions
- start fights together with everyone ready
- cast some spells like Ice Armor before combat
- run away if losing
- back up if all the monsters are targeting you
Designing difficulties for people who don't get any of those is really tricky...
Anyhow the real balance issue is to make maps interesting they should require some strategy to win. But then people bad at strategy lose. Most players have terrible strategy. And in a four player map, just one bad player can ruin it. So, what do ya do?