Ramp of Difficulty

Ramp of difficulty is part of the balance that makes your Experience playable and enjoyable. Players feel a sense of growth in themselves as they progress.

GAMING HISTORY Space Invaders, a 1978 shooter game developed by Nishikado Tomohiro (published by Taito), was one of the first games with an adaptive ramp of difficulty.

Building microprocessors into game cartridges was a relatively new practice in Japan, and when testing the game it was discovered that shooting descending aliens made the remaining ones increased in speed. Nishikado decided not to correct this exciting result.

Design to Make Players Feel a Sense of Agency

Create a ramp of difficulty to navigate physical obstacles, solve puzzles, etc. for a more enjoyable, immersive flow.

Take advantage of many possible player actions to:

  • Keep players motivated

  • Avoid boredom

  • Prevent frustration

  • Gradually introduce your Experience's gameplay mechanics

  • Gradually increase difficulty based on control complexity

The FUN in an Experience is all in what the Player is able to do, called player agency.

Game designers motivate players by gradually introducing gameplay mechanics and avoid frustrating them by carefully planning gameplay by difficulty of controls. For example, a parkour or platformer game's control use over time may include:

  1. Simple jump from one stationary position to another

  2. Run and jump from one moving platform to another

  3. Run, slide under a barrier, and quickly jump to a moving platform

Difficulty of Controls

The brain needs time to absorb, practice, reflect, and intentionally apply new information, so learning to use controls naturally requires more mental processing until they become second nature. You want to avoid players becoming overwhelmed and dropping off from your experience.

Since The Sandbox is drawing many new players to the metaverse, consider gradually introducing players to your gameplay with this breakdown of control complexity in mind:


  • Zoom

  • Camera turn/tilt

  • Jump in place

  • Toggle Sit, Crowch, & Crawl positions

  • Walk (fixed camera)

  • Roll

  • Emotes

  • Open Inventory and change equipment

  • Interact (position first, includes collecting an object)

  • Asker dialogue (interact, pick answer)


  • Walk / Collect upon collision

  • Swim

  • Carry a pickable object (limits other player actions, such as interact)

  • Crouch and move

  • Crawl and move

  • Climb - position, move

  • Run / Collect upon collision

  • Jumping from one stationary place to another, short to moderate distance

  • Evading slow moving obstacles


  • Walk and jump, land where intended

  • Run and jump, land where intended

  • Attack (position, timing)

  • Lunge (postion, timing)

  • Parry (position, timing)

  • Slide (may use timing)

  • Climb onto a moving object

  • Jumping from a stationary to a moving platform, and vice versa

  • Collecting small objects upon collision while swimming

  • Evading obstacles of medium speed


  • Lateral jumps between climbing objects

  • Long jumps with a small landing place

  • Long jumps from one moving platform to another

  • Long jumps moving upward

  • Avoiding fast moving obstacles

  • Fighting a horde of enemies from all directions

Vary the Player's Comfort

A linear progression of difficulty is too simplistic. Provide moments of challenge with something new and occasional brief moments of rest using known controls/mechanics. This establishes a rhythm that avoids overwhelm, allowing players to learn how to play your game, absorb what they've learned, and recalibrate their thinking.

Alternate and Combine Genres

Mix up the genre (parkour, puzzle, combat, etc) to provide a consistent feeling of fresh gameplay and mechanics use. Though games used to be much simpler, many games today combine multiple genres. Some vary gameplay type per game level by emphasising certain game mechanics and alternating to other ones in different levels. Later they may combine these mechanics in more advanced levels.

Gradually increase difficulty for beginners, but consider also offering alternative pathways for advanced players who want a reward for taking a risk.

Challenging Multiplayer Games

Even in a game you can't win, the freedom to make choices that could influence the outcome can keep players engaged and interested in seeing how things play out.

Think of this kind of gameplay mechanic like using a red shell in Nintendo's MarioKart series to target players in front of you and earn an opportunity to catch up if your timing is right.

Last updated


Copyright Β© 2012- 2023 The Sandbox. All Rights Reserved.