Hardcore and casual games - how to transform?

Discussion in 'Indie Related Chat' started by Andy, Jan 20, 2005.

  1. Andy

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2004
    Messages:
    1,258
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hi,

    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.
     
  2. ggambett

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2004
    Messages:
    1,982
    Likes Received:
    6
    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
     
  3. Ricardo C

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2004
    Messages:
    1,349
    Likes Received:
    3
    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.
     
  4. Andy

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2004
    Messages:
    1,258
    Likes Received:
    0
    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
     
  5. James C. Smith

    Moderator Original Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2004
    Messages:
    1,768
    Likes Received:
    0
    All of the above is good, especially the parts about “Quick fixâ€, 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.
     
  6. James C. Smith

    Moderator Original Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2004
    Messages:
    1,768
    Likes Received:
    0
    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%.
     
  7. Diodor Bitan

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    0
  8. Andy

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2004
    Messages:
    1,258
    Likes Received:
    0
    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
     
  9. Diodor Bitan

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    0
    Soldat is casual Counterstrike.
     
  10. Hamumu

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2004
    Messages:
    557
    Likes Received:
    0
    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.
     
  11. James C. Smith

    Moderator Original Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2004
    Messages:
    1,768
    Likes Received:
    0
    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.
     
  12. Jim Buck

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    1,158
    Likes Received:
    0
    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. :)
     
  13. Andy

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2004
    Messages:
    1,258
    Likes Received:
    0
    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. :)
     
  14. James C. Smith

    Moderator Original Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2004
    Messages:
    1,768
    Likes Received:
    0
    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.
     
  15. Andy

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2004
    Messages:
    1,258
    Likes Received:
    0
    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.
     
  16. Andy

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2004
    Messages:
    1,258
    Likes Received:
    0
    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?
     
  17. Yossarian

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2004
    Messages:
    179
    Likes Received:
    0
    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...
     
    #17 Yossarian, Jan 20, 2005
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2005
  18. princec

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    4,873
    Likes Received:
    0
    1 minute more like. Yeah, you read right! You've got one minute to grab 'em.

    Cas :)
     
  19. Wayward

    Original Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    0
    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.
     
    #19 Wayward, Jan 21, 2005
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2005
  20. princec

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Messages:
    4,873
    Likes Received:
    0
    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.

    Cas :)
     

Share This Page

  • About Indie Gamer

    When the original Dexterity Forums closed in 2004, Indie Gamer was born and a diverse community has grown out of a passion for creating great games. Here you will find over 10 years of in-depth discussion on game design, the business of game development, and marketing/sales. Indie Gamer also provides a friendly place to meet up with other Developers, Artists, Composers and Writers.
  • Buy us a beer!

    Indie Gamer is delicately held together by a single poor bastard who thankfully gets help from various community volunteers. If you frequent this site or have found value in something you've learned here, help keep the site running by donating a few dollars (for beer of course)!

    Sure, I'll Buy You a Beer