View Full Version : Challenge & Casual Games
10-08-2006, 08:45 AM
It seems to me that a lot of games these days are not so much games as "content delivery devices." I mean there's just not much challenge at all. It's like the game is just there to distract the player while various imagery is thrown at them. I'm thinking of games like Bejeweled and Katamari here. The appeal is more in the sights and sounds than the actual mechanics. In many RPGs, you're really just doing the same repetive task over and over (like attack, attack, heal) while you move between nodes in the story. And then there's the Grow Cube series of games...
It has me thinking about Raph Koster's Theory of Fun. As I recall he states that games are fun because people enjoy tackling new challenges... "grokking the pattern" and eventually emerging successful. But some games seem to fly in the face of that theory. I mean, lots of people play them, but there's little to no challenge. There are some games out there where losing is strictly optional.
I'm wondering to what extent casual players like having challenge in a game. Maybe they don't care for it at all. Maybe all they really want is something like t.v. with the illusion of interactivity... like you click, click, click, and watch the pretty pictures flash across the screen... then you get an obligatory "You Win!" at the end.
So how much does challenge really matter? Is skill in games something only "hardcore" gamers are interested in? How sould this affect one's thinking in designing a casual game? Should casual games be maybe be approached more like a t.v. show than a skill based game? Also, how much of this "games as passive content" stuff carries over to the more hardcore markets?
10-08-2006, 11:21 AM
Read this http://www.xeodesign.com/whyweplaygames.html (the pdfs!!!), read it and tell me what conclucion you have, im interested:D
I think the key here is target audience, not everyone find the same things fun, since fun its a subjective opinion, its too personal.
And i agree with you toatally, game makers should focus more on interactivity, not that content doesnt matter, but interactivity is the best thing computers can do.
I hate Grow cube series (i had to say it, i been keeping it too much time :P )
10-08-2006, 11:26 AM
I've put some thought into this one. It's a bit of a tricky problem, and it's not entirely related to the level of difficulty. In typical difficulty ramping there's always this problem of different players wanting different sorts of things. If I were to play ... Zuma say, I might want to be challenged. I might want to lose and try to beat a level. Another player may just want to relax. How do you tune the game just right for me AND that other player? You cant. We're not looking for the same result.
If we suppose that casual players in general fall more into the relax category than challenge category then maybe it is ok to make a game that isn't challenging but just delivers a nice sort of medetative feeling.
One observation I'd make about games like Bejeweled is that they're a bit like Mahjongg or Card solitaire. The main challenge that the player is looking for isn't something like "Can I win this level before the timer runs out?", or "Can I beat this section of the game with 3 lives?", but rather a more strategic move by move challenge. In Mahjongg solitaire each move is a mini-challenge. What matches can I spot? And if I spot several which should I remove first? That's very similar to Bejeweled. Which swaps can I spot? And what should I swap first? I think generally, the challenge in casual games should fall more into this per-move challenge category.
Another thing about challenge in casual games is that, the challenge need not necessarily make or break the fun of the game. If you find something where its a fun relaxing mechanic, it may be possible to play the game just by playing with the mechanic and having fun with the resulting rewards. (exlposions and nifty sounds and so on) But with a good design you should also be able to leave open the possibility of the player challenging themselves. That is... It's possible to play a game like bejeweled and aim to make big combos by swapping things in the right order, or just to zone out and swap things randomly to react. In both cases the game keeps going and both the player trying for big combos and the player just wanting to relax are happy. It has a certain level of freedom that lets the player pick their own level of challenge. They can just play to relax or try to beat their biggest highscore. In mahjongg you can play to make matches, or try to clear all the tiles. If you dont clear the whole board.. well it's ok. The mini challenges of matching the tiles were fun as you went along.
What makes those rather unrestricted puzzle games fun, is the tight feedback loop, which lets you zone-in rather quickly. That is... if you are into that genre.
A challenging game is the same... from a high level pov. The difference is the initial time investment to get to that point were the game starts to feel easy. Some people like it... some dont. Some games never get easy. Some people like getting pissed off and frustrated and others use it for learning how to deal with frustration. Its interesting how much better you perform if you dont care about losing. But I digress...
A casual game should scale a bit. Like playing it is easy, but you can optinally milk more points/second out of it if you try harder (eg combos). So... its effectively pressure free, but you can play it in a very hardcore fashion if you feel like doing so.
10-09-2006, 12:03 AM
Some people like challenge, some don't. Most casual gamers aren't looking for a challenge, so that's why most casual games aren't very challenging. As I have argued before, people play to be rewarded (http://www.casualgamedesign.com/?p=42), but what is rewarding for one player might not be rewarding for another. Challenge is a good example of that.
10-10-2006, 09:41 AM
I've said it to my associates, so I'll say it here: The best comparison to casual games is "bubble wrap". People like popping bubble wrap. There's no challenge or purpose to it, but you can't help to keep going at it. POP! POP! POP! And this is why Bejeweled is popular.
Casual games are like bubble wrap with a few simple rules mixed in. Clicking the mouse is like popping the bubbles. I remember the first time I played Zuma, I made it to level 8 without ever "dying". Casual games must be fun, but not overly hard. There's no reason to mimmick the days of .25c arcade games where you get on average 2 minutes of time before your 3 lives are gone. We're not trying to suck quarters. The players pay $20 and want to be able to site for a few hours and enjoy what they are doing without raising their blood pressure. :D
10-10-2006, 09:50 AM
The only middle ground I can think of (at the moment) would be the good old graphic adventure game. You can explore, interact, click on things and generally relax - but at the same time, there are puzzles and challenges.
Of course, in some cases a graphic adventure might miss both camps...
Any comments on this, or other game types that appeal to both casual clickers and puzzling people?
10-11-2006, 04:31 AM
Absolutely right, but man, I hate seeing people destroy perfectly good bubble wrap. It seems so senseless - I'd rather put it to good use. Maybe that's part of why I don't like casual games.
10-11-2006, 09:36 AM
If someone could make bubble wrap with combos theyd be rich!
10-11-2006, 12:08 PM
hmmm... bubble wrap (http://fun.from.hell.pl/2003-11-24/bubblewrap.swf)...
Actually I think I like it better than Bejeweled!
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