Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 4, 2012
Cliff Harris breaks things down in a way that I think many of us here feel. The industry these days likes to divide the market into two groups: Hardcore gamers with lots of time on their hands and a passion for realistic violence, high-action, and long games; and the casual gamers, who are almost exclusively female and who like cute, fuzzy free-to-play games that take no more than 15 minutes to play.
Guess what? There are probably more players out there who don’t neatly fit in either category as those who do. Like… um, me. And most other gamers who started out in the “hardcore” category as kids but grew up and now have work and families to worry about. And hey, not all women gamers prefer the so-called “casual” games, and not all the people who play those games fit that characterization either.
So what about games for the rest of us … the people who don’t neatly fit into either category? The people who love big games but don’t have big chunks of time to play them? The people who are experienced (you can even call us “jaded”) and aren’t impressed by the newest game with flashiest graphics which is repeating the same gameplay we’ve repeated dozens of times over the years?
Cliffski has a manifesto for game developers and publishers. It will probably be ignored by its intended audience, but I think many readers here will greet it with some enthusiasm:
Preach on, Brother Cliffski!
Now, I’m not totally anti-grind (I actually kinda like having the option to make some small progress this way when I don’t have enough time to “properly” play through a segment of the game), nor am I fundamentally opposed to the “freemium” approach of some games which are extra-cheap or free but offset it by charging small amounts for in-game bonus items. I have a little bit more of an issue with a full-price game that tries to pull the same-thing, especially when the “bonus” feels like something that was once integral to the game but was ripped out in order to charge more. But overall, I like the list – more as guidelines than hard-and-fast rules.
And to that list, I’d like to add the following:
9) No arbitrary save-game restrictions! With some acceptable exceptions (like in the middle of a combat sequence, for example), I expect to be able to save and exit the game at any time, and then come back and pick up more-or-less where I left off. If for some technical reason your game does have “checkpoints” rather than save-anywhere, EVERY SINGLE FRICKIN’ ONE OF THOSE CHECKPOINTS SHOULD BE A VALID SAVE LOCATION! None of this B.S. about having three or four checkpoints in-between valid save points. You obviously DO have the game state recorded from each check point in memory, so there’s no reason you can’t store it to the disk.
10) Make your PC game as playable as possible WITHOUT a game controller plugged in. It’s fine to port a game from the consoles and note that the game plays “best” with a controller. You optimized it for that input device, that’s fine. But make a friggin’ effort. Not all PC gamers want an XBox controller plugged into their system, but they DO want to play your game, especially as a “casual” diversion between sessions of “serious” work. Ridiculous control schemes that are obviously just brain-dead remappings of controller inputs poorly implemented on the keyboard are not acceptable. And no, players won’t appreciate your attempt to “force” them to use a game controller on their PC.
11) In addition to keeping the cut-scenes short, make them easy to pause, review, or at least check out the summary and critical exposition / explanations revealed in the scene. Because when the wife enters the room and needs to talk, she does like having to wait until the cut-scene is over.
I think Cliffski’s list and my additions aren’t really tall orders, even for indies.
Filed Under: Casual Games, Indie Evangelism - Comments: 10 Comments to Read