View Full Version : Hardcore and casual games - how to transform?
We were chating on issue here today. And I'm wondering to ask your opinion now.
Look guys. The questions are:
1. What are the main reasons (aspects etc.) to consider games as hardcore or casual? (Game genre this is obvious and too easy. Anything else... ;) )
2. What would you mostly mean saying: "This game is (too) hardcore"-"This game is (too) casual"?
3. Is it possible to lower down the "level of hardcoreness" for some certain game? And backward...
I know we were discussing the issue in different topics. But I still have no clear vision on the problem and I'm excited to find the definitions and use them in our practice. :D
Thanks in advance for your opinions and your time.
Hope to have pretty fun discussion here.
01-20-2005, 07:31 AM
Never thought about a formal definition, but these ideas come to mind :
- You die/lose faster and more often in hardcore games
- Learning how to play competitively takes longer in hardcore games
- In hardcore games you blow stuff up, kill things, make blood splatter
01-20-2005, 07:54 AM
My own criteria for defining casual games (I wholly reserve the right to be wrong, or a raving lunatic):
Casual games are designed so that a "quick fix" game is as satisfying as a longer session (e.g., I can play Bejeweled for five minutes and experience it fully, whereas I can't load up HL2 and do anything meaningful in the same amount of time.)
Casual games don't require the reading of a manual, and usually a quick on-screen tutorial is all that's needed. Hardcore games are often more involved, in terms of commands and key sequences to learn.
Casual games tend to deal more with abstract concepts and avatars than a hardcore game. For example, playing cards, falling blocks, glowing jewels, colored marbles, etc.
Casual games are often logic- and puzzle-based, and/or extensions of real-world tabletop games, enabling people who would not normally play video and computer games, to enjoy their experience.
Well. I see. My fault! I have arised too common questions.
Got and counted from both:
1. Higher pressure
2. Longer learning curve
3. Genre differences.
4. Audience difference as result of all above.
But may I rephrase it into another question OK?
What minimal changes would you propose to consider Doom 3 as casual game after that changes would be implemented?
Minimal - is a key word here. And hopefully concrete task could help to find the definitions. Side note: the game should stay fun (at least for somebody)! ;)
Examples? - just stupid ones - change surrounds on gardens, changes monsters on fun tooney worms and bugs? Make them move slower and shoot them by flowers? Would it be enough? :D
James C. Smith
01-20-2005, 08:39 AM
All of the above is good, especially the parts about “Quick fix”, easy to learn, and not reading instructions. I think “casual game” players often want something to take a short break or pass the time while waiting for something else as opposed to deeper games where players set aside blocks of time to play for long periods of time. I also think “hard core” game player want a more immersive experience. I picture them going into a bed room or den and turning off the lights, putting on headphone, and giving their full full attention to a game. Casual players don’t always want to give the game their full attention. The may play a game with the lights in the room turn on while they are on the phone, watching TV, or listening to the radio. You can play bejeweled while you are on the phone, but it would be harder to play a strategy game while on the phone and imposable to LEARN a new strategy game while on the phone.
I also believe ‘hard core’ game players are more competitive and what to be challenged more. They don’t mind difficult games. Casual players hate to ‘die’. The can find satisfaction in making an accomplishment even if there was never any chance of failing. I used to think it was absurd to have a game where you can’t loose. Where would be the challenge in that? How could it be fun? But I have learned to understand how some causal players could enjoy working towards a goal that takes a while to complete but has no risk of failure unless you just stop. For example, putting together a jigsaw puzzle. There is no way to loose or die but some people still find it fun. Some game designers make the equivalent of a jigsaw puzzle and then setup the rules so that if the player doesn’t finish he puzzle in less than x minute they loose and have to start over. My matching 3 game Big Kahuna Reef does exactly that. If you don’t solve every tile on the board before time runs out you loose. Some people like the pressure and challenge of this mode. I used to think it was silly to play if there wasn’t some challenge and risk of failure. But then I remembered the jigsaw puzzle and added a “relaxed mode” where there is no timer and no way to die or loose. Casual players still find it fun to work away at the puzzle at their own pace. This applies to more than just timers. I think most game designers agree that timer limits are a weak game mechanic. It is always better to have some other form of risk rather than just running out of time. But even more logical and themed risk factors (like dieing in a shooter game) can turn off some casual players. For many players, removing the risk of failing makes the game silly and pointless. But for many causal players they still have fun playing and still feel like they accomplished something when they do finish killing all the bad guys or arranging all the puzzle pieces.
Of course, all of this is over generalized. There is no way to define a specific difference between casual and hard core players or game. There will always be players and game that don’t fit into those categories or share parts from every category. But it is important to understand the different factors that motivate different players.
James C. Smith
01-20-2005, 08:45 AM
For your question about making doom more ‘casual’
I don’t think you would get very far by changing the theme to flowers and bugs. I know it sound ridicules, but I would try making the player immortal. For this to work you would need to have a well defined goal and a good progress indicator. For example, every level has 100 monsters to kill and there is a meter on the side of the screen show how many you have found and terminated so far. Some player will love to work towards the goal of making that monster death count meter reach 100%.
01-20-2005, 08:47 AM
Iddqd Idkfa :)
I'm excited James with yours "immortal" and "monster killed" indicator.
This is exactly where are we rotating in our discussions here in company.
Could it be the difference really so easy diffinable and breakable? :D
01-20-2005, 09:00 AM
Soldat is casual Counterstrike.
01-20-2005, 09:03 AM
The first thing to do to make Doom casual is complete annihilation of the control scheme. NO casual player is going near those things. You could try switching it to a 3rd person camera, they steer with the arrow keys (the direction they push is the direction they move, not asteroids controls), and whack space bar to shoot their single weapon (rocket launcher is the obvious choice!), semi-auto-aimed (totally auto-aimed in the vertical, a little sideways too... maybe give them some homing).
Then replace the monsters with cartoons, the guns with hammers, shave the guy's head, and voila, Dr. Lunatic!
Just kidding. I agree with my control scheme though. And I disagree with the idea of "quick fix" being casual. UT is the ultimate quick fix. Quick drop-in online gaming is usually very hard core (casual online games, like Hearts, have no drop-in at all, and you must play the whole round or you're a bad person to the other players), and solitaire is very casual, but offers no drop-in ability (well, PGS has in-game saves, right? Not really the same though, you don't get your "fix" if you don't finish a hand!). It's got a fairly fixed length, but that's probably 10 minutes or so. I think a lot of casual games don't have any quick fix feature. They tend to zone you in and you play them for a half hour or more until you lose. The only real quick-fix ones are discrete level logic puzzle ones, where you can work on one puzzle, then quit. Lots of them are instead an ever-increasing arcade challenge that you can't really quit until you lose.
James C. Smith
01-20-2005, 09:08 AM
Of course there are other factors that some causal players are interested in. Making the player immortal won’t help at all from some players. For some players it is all about the theme and the violence or absence of violence. For some it is more about the learning curve. But making the game all about progress without risk will help with many users.
It is also important to understand that the game has to be designed to be played this way. Turning on god mode in Doom ruins the game for almost all types of players. It is fun for about 30 seconds and then gets boring. But by setting up the goals and progress indicators correctly it could be fun for many players.
01-20-2005, 09:59 AM
I agree about the elimination of the Doom3 control scheme. Casual game players don't "get" immersive 3d the way hardcore players do. They end up just looking directly at the ground or sky while monsters pummel on them. :) Probably the best way to turn Doom3 into a casual game is to start by moving the camera above the action and pointing down.. so it becomes a 3d-as-2d style of game. But then it would start to tread on Derelict's territory. :)
Common guys. Controls this is too obvious - correct - but not so fun to discover this.
OK. Let we add another twist to discussion. What elements make some specific game more and less hardcore? After controls and longer learning curve.
BTW: I don't suppose that hardcores have long learning curve for some specific games - simply the hardcore gamer is already prepared by his previous experience to get into it very quickly - OK. May be few checks in DOCs. :)
James C. Smith
01-20-2005, 11:45 AM
Pacing can be very important.
Often times “hard core” games are sold in retail and “casual” games are sold as try and buy downloadable games. So you may (or may not) be asking what modification are necessary to make a “retail” game sell well in a try and buy market. If that is the case, it is important to understand what investment a player has in the game when he starts to play. Often times the purchasers of retail games have not player the demo. The box looks good or they read a good review or a friend told them it was a good game so they buy the box. When they install the game on their computer and try to learn how to play it they have already invested $20 or$50 to purchases the game. They are going to put in a lot of effort to learn the game since they already paid for it. In a try and buy game, most player get the free demo first. They have almost nothing invested in the game. If they don’t figure it our right away, and have FUN right away, they are going to delete it and download the next game.
The point is, downloadable games (casual or otherwise) need to have not only short learning curves but also immediate pay off. In a lot of “Doom” like games, the player starts out with no gun and you have to break out of your holding cell and find a weapon or something like that. The controls are hard, there is a bunch of plot, there is little or no action right away. In half life 2 you run around punching people for a while (or running from them). This is a good way to start the arc of the game if you know the player is going to be playing for 40 hours. It is fun to build up from nothing to something and see how far you have come. But many try and buy customers don’t have this kind of patience when they have nothing invested. You have to make it easy and give them lots of action as soon as possible. Don’t make them fight monsters with a crow bar or fists for the first 20 minutes of the game.
First of all,
Thanks for support with your opinion James and everybody else.
I'll explain the idea of the question at first. We were seating and discussing some of our current game adn upcoming one and one of us have mentioned: "You know, this game is too hardcordish for this market" So, my question obviously was: "Why you suppose so? What game elements specifically make you to think so?"
Know what? We weren't able to figure out the strong and solid definition of that elements. Sure, amount based on feelings on experiense etc. But we obviously need the wording, we need the LIST to work out the design against it. So, I'm epecting this discussion be very useful and productive at least for us. I want to know all important aspects of that obvious difference specifically. :-)
Fun idea that casuals (saying try-buy) should be even more active from the very beginnig. Because that was always supposed that hardcore gives and requires much more activity from the player. But looks like this is on later stages. Kind of different activity curves.
And good mentioning on the timing aspect in the very first answer. So, casuals should be at least devided on the shorter periods somehow.
Oh, and please don't accept my comment as any kind of giving marks to your opinions. I'm just noting what I've found interesting and important for me. OK?
01-20-2005, 12:48 PM
I think Crimsonland is a good example of hardcore gone casual...
Take a frantic pace with the need to move a lot and aim carefully, along with learning what weapons to use and what powerups to get, but then take away any terrain strategy or linear play, and just have players blast the crap out of waves of dumb enemies for 10 minutes at a time...
IMO that game does the transition to "casual hardcore" perfectly.
My Doom suggestion would be to make it act more like crimsonland... endless waves of small easily killed baddies, and a progression of powerups. You hop in and just blast blast blast blast... no goal other than to kill them all before you run out of health.
My number one idea of what makes hardcore vs casual is if the game needs a manual. As soon as you have to write down directions to play that are longer than a single paragraph, you're getting into the hardcore. In the hardcore, players have to devote some time to learning how to play the game. In casual games you can just basically click around and figure out in 5 mins or less what to do.
PS - also anything requiring both hands, or say more than 4 buttons... I'd honsetly call Puppytron "hardcore" ;) compared to the mouse and one button popcap stuff...
01-20-2005, 12:55 PM
1 minute more like. Yeah, you read right! You've got one minute to grab 'em.
01-21-2005, 01:52 AM
At a stretch I'd describe Wolfenstein and the original Doom as casual (in gameplay, perhaps not in their themes). These were the first first-person shooters; the genre conventions had yet to be established. Back then, nobody knew the 'proper' way to play a first-person shooter. Some people would play with keys only, others mouse only. The early first-person shooters were casual because they were too new to have formed a hardcore following. I remember first-person games being a lot more interesting back then when there was still a lot to learn about them.
Later first-person shooters built-on and refined the conventions laid down by former games of the genre, and the experienced players carried their FPS skills from game to game. We now have WADS, mouselook, circle-strafing, rocket-jumping, camping, tele-fragging, tele-punting, air-ramping, and a host of other pro terms. To play a modern FPS, it certainly helps to have played one before. First-person shooters are now hardcore.
I think Halo managed to take a small step back towards casual because the XBox had a new audience and a new controller. It was a fresh start to some extent, but it was still a modern FPS in that it demanded simultaneous strafing, aiming, and shooting in 3D. I know a few keen but not-hardcore game players who just can't get the hang of playing any FPS.
Diablo's phenomenal success was due in part, I'm sure, to the fact it was a casual RPG. Anyone could play it. You didn't need to be an hardcore RPG nut to get into it.
For me, one guideline for a casual game is that it shouldn't assume prior game-playing skills and knowledge. By knowledge I mean the conventions, cliches, and paraphenalia associated with the history of games. A game should be open to all players, new and old, which is a worthy mission for all games. In this sense, every game should be casual.
An alternative definition of casual: 'Pick-up-and-play-by-anyone', like arcade games used to be.
01-21-2005, 02:31 AM
I think that's pretty much a great way to sum a primary difference: prior skills not required. Skills can come on all levels though! There are at the most basic levels a requirement for hand-eye coordination which, say, shooters have but solitaire and match-3-colours don't have. That's a prior skill, moving shooters a little towards hardcore.
01-21-2005, 03:41 AM
Typical that gamers will over complicate the simplest things.
Hardcore and casual apply to just about anything you can do in life.
The best example is sport. One guy is a casual tennis player, the other hardcore. One guy casually races go-karts, whereas another has a custom built monster and does endurance racing. Its not so difficult to understand when put in the context of sport, so why all the complication when talking about games?
Hardcore is just a nerdy way of saying 'extreme' isnt it.
I think the biggest problem is that we all want to be considered hardcore, hence why we all have different ideas. Thats why this thread will not actually come to any conclusions at all.
01-21-2005, 07:24 AM
Actually, given where the money flows, MOST of us think casual is the place to be, as I understand it. I think my games are casualer. They're not seriously casual like Bejeweled. My wife has a hard time playing them, but she can.
Here's a list for me:
A casual game requires knowing only a few simple rules. This includes the controls - "push space to fire" can be considered one rule. This is what makes mouse such a good choice - there's nothing new to learn about controlling it at all, you just need to know the rules of what happens when you click the button (and the right button if it's used). It also of course means actual rules, so for example, Othello is casual (place a piece of your color anywhere; if you surround opponent pieces in a line, flip them to your color; most of your color when board is full to win - 3 rules if you ignore the early-move placement rules), Chess is hardcore (6 different types of movement, castling, two special alternate rules for pawns, upgrading pawns that cross the field, and checkmating instead of standard capture... tons of rules).
A casual game has no content that is likely to be objectionable to any significant segment of the population. No sex, no gore, no violence at all except the most abstract. Further than this, the theme has to be light and fluffy, not like serious sci-fi or high fantasy or something. Why? Same rule - that's slightly "objectionable" to a significant segment of the population. Some people just don't give a hoot about sci-fi.
A casual game doesn't have a high challenge factor by default. Whether a game has simple rules or not, it can be very hard or very easy to win (for instance, an Othello game could have very stupid or very smart AI). To be casual, it has to default to being very easy to beat, though there's nothing wrong with including higher difficulty settings (in fact, it's good to).
A casual game doesn't have a lot of options to choose from, though. Maybe a couple simple different play modes, and an options menu that lets you set sound/music volume and an overall difficulty. No big chart of twiddlable features, definitely no "Shaders On" button or "Enable Decals".
In relation to that, a casual game takes extremely few clicks to go from title screen to actually playing. The menu itself is also very easy to navigate and understand, hopefully with a big "Play" button.
A casual game offers detailed, very clear, tutorials to the player to guide them into the game rules. In large, very readable fonts.
A casual game does not require much of a computer to run.
A casual game has extremely high production values, slick and clean and polished to a shine. It doesn't have the latest technology, what it has is damn well drawn artwork of a style that anybody can appreciate.
A casual game doesn't require high reflexes, great brains (this is the rule about it being easy by default), a lot of careful analysis (it moves fast with quick, simple decisions), or any prior knowledge - the tutorial tells you everything you need to know beyond how to operate a mouse maybe.
A SUCCESSFUL casual game will use its few simple rules to create an incredibly deep and varied play experience that is insanely addictive.
I think it's clear how all of those 'rules' contribute to a game that can be enjoyed by the vast majority of people, and not excluding anyone. It also will draw in people easily even before they play it (thanks to nice graphics).
What's wrong with casual?
A casual game can get boring quickly because of the simple rules. Unless it's an exquisitely well-designed puzzle (like Solitaire), or it has you competing against other humans (for the unpredictability), it will not hold your interest forever. You'll fully master the rules and lose interest.
A casual game will not appeal to the hardcore segment of 14-year-olds who play Quake. Big loss.
A casual game is a very interesting and intense challenge for a game designer to do well, since it's so constraining, but on the other hand, it doesn't let you spread your wings and develop intriguing complex rulesets. You may go insane after your third release if you always do seriously casual.
A casual game needs to have something very strong and original to stand out in the vast, vast sea of bejeweled clones.
There may well be a backlash against casual in the market someday. On the other hand, people who aren't seriously into games will always exist and will always be willing to dabble a little, so there will always be a strong casual market in terms of consumers, even if the portals suddenly rebel against the notion (why they would when the money is flowing in, I don't know, it's just a gut feeling - nothing lasts forever!).
Because they need to be gorgeous and shiny, you can't get away with slacking on the production when you make one of these, and in related news, they need to be very bug-free and work perfectly on a wide variety of machines. All this means hard work (and bucks spent on art and music probably), despite the fact that in theory, a casual game should be a very simple endeavor.
Last one I can think of is that once you hook people with some casual games, they may well long for something with a little more depth. You've gotten them into games, now you need to move beyond casual to keep getting their dollars. Not into really hardcore, but into the Hamumu vein. Or just send them my way, I'll take good care of them.
And that's the Hamumu Casual Games Reference Guide, 1st Edition.
Wow! This is the LIST Mike!!! :-)
May I copy/print/stick it on my wall?
Saying seriously. I agree with the main statement - we are hunting for casuality - because of this is our and growing audience, because of money, because I suppose only these ones as the games (not necessary 3-in-row, but easy to play, relaxing and entertaining).
If I assume correctly BongPig was talking about the fact that peoples prefer to become hardcore in the activity they prefer to do. But I'm afraid this is not so necessary too. I'm playing voleyball and tennis but I'm pretty sure that I will never win Olympic Games and not even try. ;)
James C. Smith
01-21-2005, 10:11 AM
Brilliant list Mike. It is hard for me to disagree with anything you said. But I will try anyway! :-)
A casual game can get boring quickly because of the simple rules Bejeweled gets very boring and repetitive very quickly unless you are very easily pleased or you are very competitive and are happy trying to beat your beast score. But other games do a better job of alleviating the boredom. This problem can be minimized by adding new content as the game progresses without adding new rules. Many Big Kahuna Reef players are motivated and excited to finish each level because they want to unlock more fish, but more importantly, because they want to see what the next level is like. Each new level provides a new and unique challenge even though the same simple rules are used. Ricochet has a short list of simple rules. I intentionally limited the number of power-ups to make it easier for the player to remember and understand how each one works. (each new power-up is a new rule). But many Ricochet players have been playing the game from months because it had hundreds of levels included in the game and thousands of levels available for download on the net.
Like I said, I really like you list. It is very insightful and accurate. But I would hate to see game designers make casual games that get boring quickly and use the excuse of, “well that when you get when you make a causal game and keep the rules simple. Everyone knows it will get boring quickly and there is nothing we can do about it without making it more complex and therefore not casual anymore.”
01-21-2005, 10:27 AM
That could be an exception along the lines of the two I listed: "or if it has a buttload of content". I did say they "can" get boring though, you know! I was just trying to come up with why you might not make something casual, and the leading-to-boredom thing is one reason. Casual games tend towards boredom, while very involved games (if you stay involved) tend towards interest. Like Chess. The more you play, the more intricacies you discover, the more you are intrigued and want to move on to learn more. I actually hate chess (too much thinking for me), but that's how UT was for me. Sort of the opposite of the casual curve.
That's not to say that hardcore games can't rapidly become boring too, depends on the game (same for casual, they don't all get boring quickly). And on the player. And further, adding content may or may not keep it from being boring. Depends on how fun repeating the basic activity is, I suppose. Something like that, anyway.
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