Monday, February 18, 2008

Casual MMORPGs? +

Gamasutra reports that veteran game designer Steve Meretzky, speaking at GDC 08, discussed casual games.

Considering all the discussion here when that word "casual" came up with respect to Star Trek Online, I thought it might be interesting to mention Meretzky's thoughts here for comment.

He began by defining casual games in terms of who plays them: "A game intended for people for whom gaming is not a primary area of interest." By this definition, a "core gamer" would describe gaming as an active interest, while a casual gamer would not. A casual gamer would thus be someone who's mostly interested in other things who just happens to play a game.

So what about that? Is that player-centric definition enough to capture the distinction between casual and core?Meretzky then went on to identify the key features of the typical casual game:

  • Low barriers to entry - no long download time, complex installs, necessary tutorials, or long tail to the fun.
  • Should be forgiving - should give hints and reward error with only minor setback.
  • Short play times - should be able to be taken in bite sizes. Even long story games are divided into levels or tidbits of 5 minutes or less.
  • Highly replayable - if a game is going to be played in five minutes, it needs to be replayable to justify the purchase.
  • Depth of gameplay revealed gradually - new elements can be introduced to the gameplay, but they have to be revealed and explained slowly and carefully.
  • Non-violent themes - no shooting, hand to hand combat, racing, zombies, or apocalypses.
  • Inexpensive - it's been proven that the audience will pay for games, but they have a greater resistance to price point than the hardcore users.

How about these? Do these make sense as a definition of a casual game? For example, could a game that typically takes an hour to play be considered casual?

What about how these might apply to a MMORPG generally, or to a Star Trek MMORPG specifically? Would you play a Star Trek MMORPG that satisfied all these constraints as long as it satisfied your other interests and preferences?

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