A tendency of video games that offer both single-player and multiplayer modes to make the latter a lot more challenging of the two. Comes in two variations:
- Strategy and shooter games (especially post-2000) are often geared towards competitive player-vs-player modes, with the campaign serving mainly as an extended Tutorial Level sequence. The campaign AI is often handicapped while the player is gradually introduced to game mechanics; the multiplayer/bot AI, on the other hand, is completely unhindered in its task of taking you down. And, of course, the human opponents are, in theory, the biggest challenge.
- Games with pronounced Co-Op Multiplayer increase the difficulty in it with the justification that more players can take on bigger challenges and stronger enemies. Some additionally impose penalties on the players to enforce teamwork, such as Crippling Overspecialization and artificial Caps. On the downside, if the game doesn't become popular, players may end up barred from most of its co-op content, unable to find enough co-players online to match the raised difficulty.
The downside of such approach is that players returning from multiplayer to single-player may find the latter boring and hardly challenging after the brutal online battles.
This trope applies specifically to games that offer distinct single-player and multiplayer modes. In Massively Multiplayer Online Games
and games whose single-player mode is essentially Co-Op without co-players (in the vein of Diablo II
), difficulty spikes proportional to the number of players fall under Dynamic Difficulty
Examples of PvP difficulty spikes:
- In WarCraft 3, the campaign AI is quite blatantly railroaded into the same attack patterns over and over again and protected only by cheating. Online AI, on the other hand, is intended to emulate how human players will act.
- World in Conflict is actually a mixed example: by pitting teams of players against each other, it both gives them access to all the destructive potential only glimpsed in the campaign, and enforces Crippling Overspecialization mostly absent from the single-player.
- Fighting Games in general as players research and exploit things the computer can't. Of course the computer has some aces up it's sleeve.
Examples of Co-Op difficulty spikes:
- The Portal 2 Co-Op mode is a lot more challenging than SP, thanks to the puzzles requiring four portals to solve rather than just two.
- Mass Effect 3 multiplayer caps the player level to 20 (compared to 60 in the SP), drastically reduces available skills, and consistently pits the players against Demonic Spiders rarely encountered even on higher difficulties in SP (or not encountered at all, such as the DLC-only Collector faction).
- Kingdom Hearts Three Five Eight Days Over Two has the Mission Mode, which has a multi-player option. The enemies have buffed stats compared to story mode whether you have multiple players or not.
- Evil Islands doesn't allow importing your SP characters to co-op (so you have to make new ones from scratch), makes all enemies a lot tougher than in SP, and drastically reduces the XP and money rewards for quests and combat.
- Borderlands and Borderlands 2 state quite often in the loading screen messages that playing with other people increases the game's difficulty but also increases the loot quality that drops.
Will go under Video Game Difficulty Tropes