[MUD-Dev] Casual vs. Hardcore gameplay

Ian Collyer i.collyer at ntlworld.com
Mon Sep 10 12:37:40 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


I enjoy both casual and hardcore gameplay but for different reasons.

Casual games are a brief respite from 'Real Life (tm)' and allow me
to free my mind of my daily worries and relax for a little while,
usually an hour or two at most.

Hardcore gaming is more of an activity of it's own rather than
something to fit in between other activities. I'll consciously set
aside time to play when I know I'm least likely to be interrupted.

Stepping outside MUDdom for a while I'll give a couple of examples
that demonstrate what, for me, are opposite extremes.

I have my kids to thank for introducing me to my all-time favourite
casual game experience, Spyro the Dragon on the Playstation in all
his incarnations.  Perhaps contrary to current views for casual
games it is a persistent world, but it's completely goal-oriented,
single player and offers many exit points.  Though it can be (and I
have) played for long sessions, it is equally possible to play for
just 15 minutes and still accomplish something.

On the other end of the spectrum there is VGA Planets, a game I
originally stumbled across as a BBS door game, but have also played
in PBEM (play by email) format.  The simplest description I can
think of for those who have not had the chance to play is that it is
like a multi-player version of Master of Orion; a turn based,
resource management, space conquest game.  What makes it a hardcore
game (when Master of Orion is much less so) is the player
interaction and the fact that the game marches on whether you submit
your commands for that turn or not.  Unless your opponents are
complete novices you don't stand a chance if you try to play with a
'single player' mindset, diplomacy and alliances are the only way to
compete effectively.  Similarly, if you miss a couple of turns you
will at best be at a severe disadvantage, often you will return to
find your fleets decimated.  There is (usually) however a victory
condition, the game is not open-ended though individual games can
last several months.

So, distilling from those games the traits that I think reinforce
the casual/hardcore nature...

  Casual:

    - Ability to 'solo'
    - Obvious short term goals
    - Player driven timeline
    - Convenient exit points

  Hardcore:

    - Player interaction
    - Undefined or long term objectives
    - Evolving storyline

Now if someone could design a game that catered to both playstyles
so I could play hardcore when I had time or drop in for a casual
half an hour, they'd get my $10/month ;)

The key for me is to keep the casual game light so I won't get
sucked into hardcore mode when I really don't have the time; and to
give the hardcore game sufficient depth without requiring that I
play for 4+ hours _every_ day.

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