03 April 2007

Hardcore And Casual Gaming

Hedgehog with a controller

I was reading Dancers Can Be Hardcore, Too (linked from Kotaku). It's about what makes a hardcore and casual gamer; it's a really interesting read if you are into game development.

I, currently, am in the Recreation zone on XBox Live. The reason I picked this, event though I do play a fair number of games, is both my hope that the demographic that are in this are a more mature group and my desire to specialize in one game is lesser than that of someone who would be in Pro. I pondered how this linked to the suggested model; if it links at all or is really a parallel thing that states I want to play against more mature opponents and I'm looking to have a good time and not learn every mechanic in a game. For most multiplayer games I am a casual player. I split my time between them and, for the most part, I play online when some of my friends are up for playing the same game.

On the other hand Damion stated: If, when bored, your default play choice is the game or genre in question, you might be hardcore which seems true of RPG games for me. I've poured hours into many of them and I took some holidays to play Final Fantasy XII when it came out.

My girlfriend doesn't really play many games at all but she has been really drawn in by games like Feeding Frenzy and New Super Mario Bros. (which she recently completed). She has played a few other games but she hasn't really been taken with many others. Feeding Frenzy has a fairly easy control system and is easy to get into; there isn't many rules to learn and the designers are very good at introducing new concepts at the right pace for casual gamers. She has tried other games and, perhaps they weren't intuitively designed or maybe they just didn't capture her interest in time but she stopped playing them.

Of course the relative complexity of a game will be ignored by people who have more interest in it. Championship Manager seems to be a spreadsheet with a football themed interface yet people who have no interest in number crunching or strategy games will spend hours pouring over numbers and figures to optimise their team. The theme and subject of the game has bought the developers additional time with these players; players who are willing to struggle with an uphill learning curve based on the fact the game is based on another interest of theirs.

When I was at the Edinburgh Games Developer Conference in 2004 Will Wright did a talk about the upcoming Sims 2. He talked about the objectives (desires/goals) that each Sim has. Achieving those objects gives the Sims points which can send them into a super happy state and also allow you to purchase special items in the game as rewards for your achievement. He mentioned this was added in, from the lack of anything like that, to draw in your traditional hardcore male game playing audience; that they are less interested in having open ended, unquantifiable, achievements and more interested in having specific goals that they need to finish to progress to the next stage. Fascinating that, when he stated that, it clicked that that was one of the things missing in the original Sims for me. Stating that; that's more attempting to capture a specific gamer demographic. These people could be casual Sims players but what they are looking to achieve in the game differs from that of other players the game appeals to. When we refer to Hardcore players are we really talking about goal oriented players? Nerfbat certainly thought this had something to do with it.

Perhaps, then, it is just a confusion in terminology. Games, to be widely successful, need to have an ability to be picked up and played while also providing enough depth to capture people's interest in the long term (effectively to create hardcore players for that game). Some games, that have scoped their market appeal to a smaller group might increase the entry level complexity for the sake of not overly simplifying (most turn based strategy games might do this; their market is mostly established strategy games players though you might see them attempt to appeal to, say, a real time strategy market). Perhaps it is more important to identify what your target demographic is as well as Damion's double-coding of a game to appeal both to the casual and hardcore demographic of that market (possibly with some overlap to markets outside your scope to try and bring new players in).

Finally I leave you with Damion's Just because you like dancing and socializing doesn’t mean you’re not hardcore. I find that great to know :D.


Yliander said...

the whole gaming thing went over my head - but I love the picture on this entry - it's just SO cute!!!

Gary said...

Isn't it? It's amazing what you can stubble across. Flickr remains a great site for stock photos.