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dtgreene: Just a game design thought that I have had. How would you design a single player game that:
1. Is blatantly unfair, and
2. Wants you to succeed?

Yes, those traits seem like a contradiction, but I am curious if anyone would have any interesting ideas?
I think I played and beat that game recently, it was called Wing Commander. :P
You mean like Battletoads with the generous warps?
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HereForTheBeer: I'd simply copy the formula of most 'rogue-likes'. Because that's what you describe.
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misteryo: Rogue Legacy nails it, I think. It is totally unfair, and therefore you die a lot. The reward is that your next charcter - your heir - inherits your gold, so each successive generation can upgrade their gear and manor etc. to their benefit. So, the longer the play the more you die and the better your chances of success get.
Similar with Sword of the Stars: The Pit (playing it these days), wherein you retain the crafting recipes learned through previous runs. Though maybe it's not as unfair as I my blanket statement would make it seem.
1. Machine gun wielding enemies in a medieval setting.
2. Machine gun DLC for your units for just 2.99$
Many of the examples people have mentioned in this topic are what I would consider "fair", in the sense that anything that is dangerous looks dangerous, and you can tell if something is going to screw you over before it happens. In particular, if you fail, it could be said to be your fault in some sense. Yes, one could make it difficult, but as long as one can avoid damage (or recover after taking damage, if avoiding damage isn't possible), the game is, in a sense, fair.

On the other hand, if the game suddenly kills you for performing some reasonable action (like opening a door), *then* the game would be considered unfair.

(Incidentally, the idea for this topic came from seeing the game Celeste, a hard but fair platformer that wants the player to succeed. I am interested in a game designed with the same "wants the player to succeed" idea but that is intentionally not fair.)

With that said, there are a couple of interesting existing game that have been mentioned, namely Sunless Sea and Elder Sign, which aren't what they seem at first. I could actually say the same thing about Syoban Action; it appears to be a platformer, but actually plays more like a puzzle game, as you need to figure out how to get past each obstacle, only to find that the developer put a trap in there to not make your solution work.
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contra_cultura: Tetris?.
^Solved.

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dtgreene: On the other hand, if the game suddenly kills you for performing some reasonable action (like opening a door), *then* the game would be considered unfair.
One game that I know that actually does that is The Black Mirror. The trick is, it's in the end game, so you WILL BE pissed off, greatly, but you WILL carry on because the solution is within reach.
Post edited February 10, 2018 by toxicTom