Hardcore / Casual

After reading some posts about different kind of games and different ways to play games, I remembered I actually wrote a piece on that subject in 2010. I’ve grown a bit tired of people accusing some gamers for not being “real games”, or some games (mostly played by girls) no to be “real games”. The original blog post can found here [link], on MilMo’s dev blog. Below, my thoughts on casual/hardcore gamers back when I worked with the game MilMo:

Some of you might know me as the community manager at Junebud. That means I also work on the event design team. I play a big part in arranging events that take place inside the game, like the Halloween 2010 event. Each month will bring you a mix of screen shot/art contests and new in-game events, offering some kind of item or ability as a reward. These rewards are unique, so each event is a great opportunity to collect rare and special stuff. The Haunted Stone you can get this month is really cool, since it lets you summon a bunch of small, eerie ghosts!

An event should be easy to understand and fun to take part in, but the deeper you dig, the harder it should become. Events often consist of several steps that have to be completed in order to move on to the next part, or to get the desired reward. The hard thing for me lies in designing a good difficulty curve. It’s not supposed to get too hard too fast, but then again, if it’s too easy some players will get bored (or frustrated) and ignore the event. On top of those things, MilMo is a game aimed mainly at a casual audience. That means the players usually get irritated if they have to grind for a certain thing for hours. So the question is, how do you make something that’s difficult enough? There’s no perfect answer here. Remember, you can’t please everyone or design something that’s going to fit every single player who plays your game.

The Haunted Stone

If you are a good designer you manage to make something the majority of your target audience will appreciate. Some hardcore gamers will accuse you for being a sell-out if you aim for the casual gamers out there. This is something that I find very interesting: casual vs hardcore game(er)s. In the past many “casual” games would lack the quality that made some of the hardcore games stand out. Nowadays you can find plenty of casual games with both good graphics and great gameplay that could easily get you hooked. A casual game is a game you don´t have to sink a lot of time into, before you start going anywhere – or least least stop sucking. Casual games are often played on a lunch break, or when you’ve got some extra time on your hands, or maybe at a party. These are games like The SimsSuper MarioSnakeBejeweledFarmvilleSolitaireFrontiervillePlants vs Zombies,Tetris etc.

Plants vs Zombies by Popcap Games

 Wikipedia defines a ‘casual game’ as, “A casual game is a video game or online game targeted at or used by a mass audience of casual gamers. Casual games can have any type of gameplay, and fit in any genre. They are typically distinguished by their simple rules and lack of commitment required in contrast to more complex hardcore games.[1] They require no long-term time commitment or special skills to play, and there are comparatively low production and distribution costs for the producer.” But this is just another one definition of ‘casual games’. There are many others, I recommend you look some up.

Let’s take a look at Farmville. It´s a game with over 62 million monthly active users. That would be like every single person in the United Kingdom played Farmville at least once every month. No mater what city you went to, every person you met would know about Farmville! That’s crazy! So let’s say Farmville is a casual game. It’s easy to access, you play it online, it’s targeted at a big audience, it’s fairly easy to start planting your crops. You can log on for a few minutes and play, and the original game itself was developed in five weeks by a small team, according to Zynga.

Creativity in Farmville

When we look back at the early days of video game advertisement, the game companies usually targeted families, and games were (and sometimes still are) considered an activity for the whole family. Advertisement has become more complex over time, with so many different games and target audiences, and sub-target-audiences. Games today are aimed at children, families, teenagers, adults, hardcore, casual, girls, boys, FPS gamers who only like space marines, etc. You name it, they made it! What’s more, you can play a hardcore game like Starcraft casually. And the same person could be a heavy player of Farmville, like level 90. There really is no clear line between hardcore and casual, it depends more on the style of the player.

But what do casual gamers think of hardcore gamers? And how are you greeted in the company of hardcore gamers if you are a Farmville or Habbo player? From what I learned in my three years at a computer development University in Sweden, many hardcore gamers tend to look down at casual gamers, and consider them a “lower form” of player.

The explanation for this could be found in what Wikipedia said about casual games; “They are typically distinguished by their simple rules and lack of commitment required in contrast to more complex hardcore games. They require no long-term time commitment or special skills to play (…)”. If you are a hardcore gamers and play video games several hours a day, guard your rank within a special game, practice your skills and are very competitive, it’s no wonder you can’t take a person who plays Plants vs Zombies a few hours a week seriously. But this elitism is a bit strange to me. For instance, since when do professional athletes look down on someone who only goes to the gym once or twice a week? None of the athletes I know act that way.

Here at Junebud we welcome both hardcore and casual players. MilMo is the perfect game for playing a few hours a week when you have some extra time, or you can go all out and grind it in order to get all the awesome medals and weapons!

The Epic Sword

Well, these are some of the things I think about when I design events. I hope you’ll like the Halloween 2010 event!

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