# Presenting difficulty settings without words?

I am trying to make a game without any text. I'm using icons in place of them to describe various aspects of the game (health, armor, stats) without using English language.

I am wondering if anyone has a good solution for preventing a difficulty selection as an icon. Increased difficulty in the game makes the QTEs more forgiving and player stats slightly stronger.

I can't think of a universally understandable way to present the choice between easy, medium, and hard difficulties.

• "Increased difficulty in the game makes the QTEs more forgiving and player stats slightly stronger." ??? I think you mean decreased. :)
– Almo
Feb 11, 2022 at 16:21
• Depends on your type of game but if you want purely by icons, you could have an amount of health points with a slider (more hearts -> easier game) or a selection icon for enemies (small slime, skeleton, dragon, eldritch horror). A small animation of your hero fighting next to it and it should tranfer the kind of challange you are seeking Feb 11, 2022 at 16:56
• @Zibelas I think that would be worth posting as an answer. Feb 12, 2022 at 1:46

One thing I would recommend is separating this difficulty setting into two independent settings. Players with motor, visual, or cognitive disabilities, or otherwise slow reaction times, might benefit from more forgiving QTEs, while still enjoying the strategic challenge and drama that comes from playing with lower character stats. Or vice versa, a player who's not strong in the game's strategy might want higher stats to compensate, while still liking QTE timings be tight enough to be challenging for them. By de-bundling the setting, each player can mix and match options to get the experience that's most comfortable and satisfying for them.

The separation can also help with communication. Each option becomes about one specific thing, so it's easier to convey. And by presenting the two settings side-by-side, the player can read cues from each to understand the suggested gradient between easier and harder options - so if one setting is vague on its own, the context from the adjacent setting can help guide interpretation.

You could also leverage colour language or emoji expressions to help sell this association.

Here I've used some CC BY 3.0 icons by Delapouite, Lorc, and Skoll, via Game-icons.net - if I've chosen the icons, colours, and layout well, I I won't have to explain which one means what. 😉

• thanks for the detailed answer, accessibility was exactly what I had in mind and separation like that would be a good way to communicate specific information
– Mike
Feb 13, 2022 at 2:14

Skull icons in increasing amounts to reflect increasing difficulty.
For example:

| 💀 | 💀💀 | 💀💀 |
💀