Struggling With Skill-Cap

Every time I hear my husband tell one of his friend that’s I’m the “real gamer” in our house, I am never sure whether to laugh or cry. Sure, I play a lot of games, across a lot of genres, and there’s a fair few I’m even reasonably good at.

But.

Every time I start a new game, I start on the easiest setting. This is a big part of why competitive multiplayer games never really last for me – difficulty settings aren’t a thing, and you have to be better than some other person playing to make any kind of meaningful progress. I call this hitting the skill-cap, and I tend to hit it early and often.

Recently, I hit this point in Warframe, and although I could still play – going back to completed missions, just for the pure joy of space ninja parkour with big guns, the fact that I cannot make progress down the game paths I’m most interested in have made the whole package far less appealing. The next quest I need to complete requires a mission type that I cannot wrap my head (or possibly just my fingers) around, and let’s be real, I have enough frustration in my life without pounding my head up against something that’s not only not enjoyable, but actually very frustrating.

With Warframe being a multiplayer game, I know I could probably wheedle a friend into helping me over the hump, or try queuing public to see if I can get some stranger to carry me without unleashing a torrent of abuse in my general direction. Neither of these seem like good (read, fun) choices, so I’ve shelved the game for the time being.

Now I’m running into this problem in DMC: Devil May Cry – the second game I’m attempting to play through for #CapcoMonth. For the most part, the “Human” difficulty level hasn’t been too frustrating, but I’ve found myself rage-quitting out of the game a couple of times now due to a particular jump sequence I just couldn’t seem to master. Yes, I’ve tried it with a controller. Yes, it was worse – I only find some assistance in switching to controller for 2D games.

Each time, however, I’ve been able to come back to it and eventually push through the rough spot. I don’t even mind the fact that I have to look up guides for the major boss fights because I find the combat so unintuitive – it’s a game far out of my normal comfort zone, and I really am on this ride mostly for the story.

Now, my failure to comprehend the combat in a meaningful way might be the end of the line for me – I have made it to mission 14, which is a long, repetitive boss fight. Because of the length, I cannot manage to keep myself alive long enough to complete it. I have no healing items, and although I’m consistently making it to the last phase, I can’t complete it. I’m not even sure if I can go back to a prior mission and grind out currency to purchase healing. This skill-cap might be a brick wall.


ETA: Shortly after hitting publish, I gave it one more whirl and with a well-timed cool down, I managed to end the fight early and am able to progress again!

8 thoughts on “Struggling With Skill-Cap

  1. Skill caps and overcoming difficulty in games is a super interesting topic! I guess the main thing is I wouldn’t sell yourself too short. It’s far more likely you’ve hit the initial flattening out of skill increases in a game rather than your actual, true, skill cap. Of course — there is still the need to balance that out vs. actual engagement/interest/frustration in continuing to break past that point, but I have very little doubt that you could should those things align for you. Your whole ‘play to satisfaction’ thing could well come in here.

    And then there is the whole learning process itself when it comes to games. I wrote something a long time ago in the context of raiding. I wonder if I could dig the post out again from the wayback machine… In any case; it was about how when you first start to learn a boss fight everything, EVERYTHING is something that must be pretty consciously thought about.

    I remember using the example of the Al’Akir fight and dodging the tornados. I for the life of me don’t recall the fight well enough to do justice to the example now but the short of it is that like I said, when you’re first learning something, be it a raid boss fight or how to swing a golf club, your mind must make a whole raft of rather conscious and linear decisions around how to do this.

    With experience and practice, a lot of those sub steps become innate. The substeps get grouped at the conscious level into the singular overall action, and it ‘just happens’.

    …I’ve done a really poor job of explaining this, this time around I think. But sometimes a small break from whatever it is you’re doing can help with allowing the lessons learned from your practice to sink in too.

    Resulting in what was one day feeling like a frantic fight, to another day feeling ‘just about on farm’ without a significant change in the overall group’s gear power to account for it.

    (Also: Congrats on downing the boss! I think I know what jumping puzzle you were talking about too, lol.)

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    1. Huh. I think playing to satisfaction actually has everything to do with why I feel relatively ok with shelving Warframe and being pretty damn annoyed at every stumbling block in DMC. I want to see the end of the story, damnit.

      I think I get most irritated with myself when my struggles come from a combination of coordination issues and comprehension issues. I am stubborn enough to believe I can LEARN anything I want to, but I am very aware of my physical limitations. My twitch reflexes weren’t great 20 years ago, and hooboy they have not improved over time.

      Figuring something out is (usually) deeply satisfying. Managing to somehow mash a bunch of buttons just well enough to get by is significantly less so. Probably because the first leads to a repeatable success state, where the second feels more like blind luck.

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  2. I also hit a difficulty wall in Warframe after playing for two months or so. It would later turn out that I had actually made it difficult for myself as I had not spent all of my resources to beef up my gear (for example Endo for ranking up mods; I had like 25k unspent Endo lying around).

    If I may ask, which kind of mission type is it you’re having trouble with?

    Personally I find Interception rather hard to do alone. It’s basically Domination with four objectives, so you have to move a whole lot, and fast, when you’re alone. Much easier with a group.

    The other type I was struggling with at first is called Disruption, and I still think those are tuned much too hard. A very powerful frame or weapon is needed for those, no way around it unfortunately.

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    1. Anything to do with the Arcwing is just awful for me. The melee weapon seems to do … nothing, and I have a lot of issues with aiming and judging distances to shoot.

      I also have issues with solo Interception missions, as well as Disruption missions, but they haven’t completely blocked off my progression in the same way the Arcwing stuff has. I haven’t even hit the halfway point of opening the map, and won’t be able to continue without completing an Arcwing centric quest chain.

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      1. Oh, I see. I remember that one. It’s Pandora on Saturn, right?

        That mission is practically impossible to do with the starter Archwing and weapons. I tried for days to find a group for it before someone finally helped me through it.

        Not being able to beat that mission has absolutely nothing to do with your skills as a player, let me assure you. 😉

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    2. I can’t reply to your bottom reply, so starting from here. Heh. Is that Pandora one the scout ship chase one? That was a fuggin awful mission solo. I did manage to get it done eventually if so; but not without max ranking Archwing specific gear and mods.

      The most frustrating thing about it is that the first time I should’ve successfully completed it, the scout ship ended up ramming (and then becoming embedded in!!!) an asteroid, making the hit points on the ship completely unreachable.

      I tell you… That was very almost a rage quit moment. xD

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  3. Archwing missions are terrible, especially with starter gear. I flipped the solo switch to public group and just hoped to randomly run into other Warframe players at higher progression levels to carry me through it. I recall doing the same with void missions Mot and Mithra the first time I smashed into them too, because the 4x damage void enemies do were just too much for my warframe’s “level”/ state at the time. The one nice thing about grouping in Warframe is that it very much can happen – a lot of it is built around how much endo and forma you’ve pumped into your gear and mods, rather than any inherent skill or lack thereof.

    I vividly recall reaching a plateau on level 20 something enemies. When I figured out basic modding, the plateau was around level 30. It took more mods, more endo, more figuring things out and mostly more forma’ed weapons to defeat level 40 and 50 relatively comfortably. Vets have weapons that take apart level 100+ enemies in a couple of shots; I’m nowhere near that as yet, and fortunately don’t find a need to get to that stage anytime soon.

    Solo interceptions are about right strategy and right tool for the job. Basically, run to each point in a big circle and keep circle capping as the enemies take the other points. I used to struggle with this on slow lumbering Rhino – if I didn’t screw up jumps, I could keep ahead in scoring, if not, it was a wash. I found a faster speed warframe to be slightly more helpful, so I moved to Saryn at one point (I never actually owned real fast speed ones like Volt, so my tools were limited.) Nowadays, I just use Wukong to fly around. Jumping can go to hell.

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  4. That’s the one. 🙂

    I have no idea what’s so fricking hard about nerfing that mission a bit or pushing it somewhat down the line of progression. The way it is now it just frustrates every newish player who doesn’t have (or doesn’t want) a clan at that point.

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