Designing for Hardcore Gamers and Casual Gamers

on January 11, 2011 - 1581 Views

gamer1 Designing for Hardcore Gamers and Casual Gamers

There are so many different potential players of your game and it can be hard to make your game suit different tastes.  Here I examine two broad gamer definitions that can be expand into many more.

Hardcore Gamers
You can always pick one out of a group of people; they eat, sleep, dream, and talk game experience. One thing and one thing only is what hardcore gamers believe – The Game Is The Life.  These people want to have the most out of your game; every penny they pay has got to be worth it. Hundreds of hours spent on one game are what they want, extra secret quests, weapons, areas – you name it.

The more times they can replay to get the highest score on the toughest level, the most unlocks, the more easter eggs they can find the happier they are. If your game doesn’t have different levels of difficulty or another way to make it more challenging you should add this.

It could mean creating sub quests, secret areas or items, anything that does not have to be used for the main game.  This way they can spend extra time on these and you can make them incredibly challenging.  It doesn’t matter to your average gamer whether or not they are accomplished or not but with these hardcore gamers are able to meet the challenge with out leaving the main game.

Include easter eggs in your game to encourage hardcore gamers to return and replay your game to find that one thing they missed or get another higher then previously outrageous high score.  They might want to go back and find another area. If a hardcore plays for replay value and not some easter egg, they may be quite happy with your game play and that is always a plus to the developer.

Detail Detail Detail! This is incredibly important to any game that hopes to please a hardcore gamer. Your character had better be more than a stickman walking around a world made with lines and circles. You have to be more than simple graphics and calculations and colors. They want to feel as though they are playing the game as the character. Be the character. Would you like to live in Stick guy world or Super Mario World? Allowing them to customize their character is even better but can be confusing for many people if it is right at the beginning.

Numbers. Hardcore gamers will eat these things up like a vending machine and quarters. If you are done with your game and before you release it, send a beta out and have some friends fill out a questionnaire. Use the beta testers to discover which tips or hints a player might want to know. Use all of this data and maybe some of your own tips and tricks to add in and create a game guide, or a game manual.

Hardcore gamers want:

  • Extended Hours of Gameplay
  • Re-playability
  • High Levels of Customization
  • Side Quests and Missions
  • Branches off the main tree of gameplay and story
  • Extreme Levels of Gameplay

Casual Gamers
Whether this is the flag football in the backyard or weekend halo nights everyone is, at some point, a casual gamer.  For a casual gamer games are what they are: games.  Nice distractions from life that allow a player to train, fight, and live their electronic alter ego.

Simplicity is all they need. Detail is nice for the eye but too much can turn them away. The game has to be welcoming and simple at the beginning. If they have to raid castle Macindaw 5 times over and the level is 30 minutes of playing each time and there aren’t any save points or it’s just the first level they may be discouraged and return, throw away, or shove into some desolate folder on the hard drive your hard labor on your game. Nobody wants that, so remember: Simplicity.

If they don’t get rewards for their efforts they will turn into the unhappy puppy that won’t do anything for you. So give them frequent rewards and advancements. Give them save points or tokens or some other form of reward or unlockables. Don’t have some cloak and dagger system of goals and objectives. Casuals are not hardcores who will spend hours searching through the world of your game looking for the one person who can help them out. If you absolutely have to put this in don’t make it costly. If they find the person in the deepest corner of your game’s hell, don’t make the non-playable character demand money or something that the player will have to give up that has value.  Balance the challenge with the reward and the effort.

Effort + price to pay = reward

Or ideally

Effort + price to pay < reward

Casual Players do not want overly extensive game play. Over about 100 hours will not suit very many players. Casual gamers may also want re-playability. The best type of replay is one where the player enjoyed the story/game play etc. if they are replaying for Easter eggs; you can categorize them under Hardcore or maybe somewhere in between. Casual players are just your everyday person.

Remember, Casual Gamers want:

  • Simplicity
  • Easy Going Story and Game-play
  • Replayability
  • Non-extensive Gameplay
  • A main story line

Conclusion:
Try to keep both gamer types in mind while designing your games. Add side stories so hardcore gamers can pursuer them while casual can take the regular road and provide different difficulties of game play for the player. Hope you liked my input to the gaming world – have fun designing your game for both audiences.

Photo credit: 52:10:Gaming [modified] by Graham Campbell (cc).

12 Responses to Designing for Hardcore Gamers and Casual Gamers

  1. ugriffin says:

    Very nice article. Although I digress in this, you really must focus on one audience, or you’ll end up provide something that truly pleases neither.

  2. Elmernite says:

    “Your character had better be more than a stickman walking around a world made with lines and circles. You have to be more than simple graphics and calculations and colors. They want to feel as though they are playing the game as the character. Be the character. Would you like to live in Stick guy world or Super Mario World? Allowing them to customize their character is even better but can be confusing for many people if it is right at the beginning”

    This part is not true, especially of Hardcore games! For hardcore games Gameplay and gameplay alone is the Boss. Graphics or only a bonus.
    VVVVVV
    Meat Boy
    Jumper Series
    Give Up Robot
    Conquer the Shadow World
    Are all hardcore games (To name a very small few). (Brutally hard skill based Gameplay, not a casual style reward system)
    None of them have customizable characters or great graphics.
    This piece mixes up RPG’s and long games, with hardcore games. Which are not necessarily the same thing. It also wrongly put graphics which mean much less to Hardcore gamers than casual gamers in the Hardcore category.
    I have to say that overall I was kinda disappointed by this piece mostly because I love game design articles and was really expecting a great one that lived up to GMB’s standards.
    -Elmernite

    • James says:

      I agree. I made Minesweeper for DS recently, and the graphics were very basic and made in MS Paint, but the game is extremely playable.

      My friends and I played it for an hour constantly.

      There are other games like RPGs that look beautiful but are just too boring to be played in a run like that.

    • Gamemakeraddict says:

      Elmernite :<P
      This part is not true, especially of Hardcore games! For hardcore games Gameplay and gameplay alone is the Boss. Graphics or only a bonus.VVVVVVMeat BoyJumper SeriesGive Up RobotConquer the Shadow WorldAre all hardcore games (To name a very small few). (Brutally hard skill based Gameplay, not a casual style reward system)None of them have customizable characters or great graphics.This piece mixes up RPG’s and long games, with hardcore games. Which are not necessarily the same thing. It also wrongly put graphics which mean much less to Hardcore gamers than casual gamers in the Hardcore category.I have to say that overall I was kinda disappointed by this piece mostly because I love game design articles and was really expecting a great one that lived up to GMB’s standards.-Elmernite

      In response to this post, my article was more geared towards rpg’s and adventure games as you noted. The part in which I describe the benefits of customization is rather an opinion as well, once again as you noted. I thank you for pointing these things out. As a second, though less valid point, I wrote this article over a year ago and did not review as I should have. I do not disagree with you on your “hardcore” game and do enjoy quite a few of them myself. Thank you for pointing these out. I enjoy game design articles as well and I appologize that this did not meet your or GMB’s standards. I hope that I can improve at this point and I plan on contributing more with hopefully a little better quality. I thank you for your time for reading it and giving some honest feedback. Vale et in posterum prospicere.

    • Elmernite says:

      @Gamemakeraddict: Ok, that clears up a lot then. Don’t take what I said too hard either, I’m just a huge fan of Game Design articles so you were really going up against a lot of other ones in my head.
      -Elmernite

    • Gamemakeraddict says:

      No problem, I love game design articles too and thought I might dig this up from my old laptop and have it submitted with the new posting rules. And once again, I really must thank you for the honest feedback.

  3. Bipin Domy Thomas says:

    Great article! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Blok says:

    I thought hardcore gamers were ones who played violent FPS’ on their XBOX 360′s, not gamers who live to play the game. :S

    • Gamemakeraddict says:

      Haha, some of them are. Others are just addicted. But another example of “live to play the game” I find to be Minecraft. I have lost so many friends to that game, as they play about every moment of their time.

    • Synycyl says:

      I had to throw in here if only to go on with Gamemakeraddict’s point. Above s/he said that the article was over a year old and while in the last year things have changed s/he did a fairly good job of an opinion based interpretation of the “two types of gamers”.

      I’d have to say that the gamer world has expanded (if only thanks to Smart Phones and Facebook) bring Casual Gamers down to a lower level than before, creating what I call the Semi-hardcore (kinda the old Casual guys) gamer, and the Hardcore gamer.

      I tried to break it down to this:

      Casual Gamers want instant gratification, playful characters, simple yet entertaining stories, and bubbly sound effects. Casual gamers almost live in the world of Facebook games and Mobile Games (Phones mostly). Bejeweled, Peggle, Farmville, Mafia Wars… these are designed for the casual gamers, but are open to all obviously.

      Semi-Hardcore love simple games, but prefer to lean into more complicated games including the extensive RPG’s. A Semi-Hardcore player might play one or two major games and a handful of smaller ones. They live long (with breaks) in games like WoW and play games like farmville in one month bursts.

      Hardcore doesn’t have to mean you spend every moment of every day dedicated to the game(s). Hardcore is more about min-maxing. Hardcore want to top the leaderboards, be the best, have the best. These guys devote the time to determine that the pistol that shoots every 3 seconds and does 10 damage is more useful than one that shoots every 6 seconds and does 15.

      There is another level known as the addict which can be any of them. Casual players can be addicted to farmville, while hardcore can be addicted to topping the charts for all realms in WoW PvP.

      Things like Achievements and even EPIC LEWT grant all levels of player gratification. Achievements, experience, leveling, and loot will make even the most casual player feel they accomplished something similar to victory. Gamemakeraddict had a perfect formula listed above that will allow you to perfect the game for any sub-class of gamer. The formula effort + price > reward is a great method to think. Gamers are some of the hardest people to please. If they spend an hour on a boss fight and have to make up losses from deaths the loot that drops better be a vast improvement (assuming this is the first time they do it) to what they have. There is another formula I think that will compliment this though and that would have to be Effort + Enjoyment = Re-Playability.

      As a closing piece I want to point out to Gamemakeraddict and anyone else that looks at minecraft. Minecraft has something that absolutely no other game truly has. This is freedom to do what you want. People are simply asking for more things to use. They don’t want an economy, or story, or NPCs. They want to dig holes and build towers. They simple want to explore. Minecraft is also a proving ground that Gameplay/Replay trump graphics/sound any day. I will say however if Notch were to up the graphics (from a block world to a bump world) it would simply enhance the game without destroying it.

      I apologize for the rant… and I think I found a site I wish to occupy :)

  5. super fun games says:

    I fit in the Hardcore Gamer for sure…

  6. R3n says:

    Little Big Planet is EXCLUSIVELY PS3 so that may be one reason the guy in the picture won. Great article though. There must be some kind of hybrid class. I love LBP but I also like CoD, WoW and others like that.

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