How complex should a game be? Obviously it’s a huge question dependent heavily on genre. Most simulation games are pretty complex. Turn based strategy can be uber complex, MMOs too. Flash games are often very simple and iphone games can be simpler still. Is it a question you can even attempt an answer to?
I think an interesting take on it, is “what are you asking?”. Too complex can mean two things:
“This game is too complex to enjoy”
“This game looks too complex. I’ll pass”
“This game is very simple”
“This game is too simple to be worth buying”
There are loads of games out there I might find fun, that I would not buy. There are also games out there that look awesome, and incredible, and wonderful, and I would not buy them either, and it comes down to complexity.
Take a game where you make a single mouse click to time a guy swinging a bat to hit a ball (there are many, some involve penguins). As a web-based flash game, this can be fun. You might even waste a whole lunchtime on it. But ultimately it’s throwaway disposable fun that we all know someone coded in a weekend. It’s very unlikley you would pay more than $0.99 for it at the very very very most.
Now, Take Eve online, or any of those Hex Based wargames. Or, take Empire: Total War. These are all great, awesome games, with TONS of stuff to do, incredible depth and complexity, but tbh, life is just too short for me to play them. I played eve for years, playing an hour a day or more, and never more than scratched the surface. I never got far into 0.0 space. In E:TW, I played ONE campaign game a third of the way through, then gave up. It was taking ages, and there was too much to do.
The weird thing, is not only are games like that more complex than they need to be in order to get a sale from me, their complexity actually has a negative impact on my chances of buying. Even though I know it’s irrational, I am put off buying them because I’d actually resent having paid for content I’ll never see or use. (ironically I do own E:TW anyway, but I’m aware of my own niggling feeling about it).
I’m probably not alone. I think almost everyone has a ‘complexity’ curve for games that influences their purchase decision. We all regard some games as too trivial or simplistic to buy, and some are too overcomplex and involved to buy. Obviously mass market games need to be in the sweet spot at the top of the aggregate curve. Niche developers like me can cater to the other extremes, and GSB possibly heads slightly towards ‘too complex’ rather than the opposite.
What I find a lot of game devs forget is that a game can be fun, enjoyable, playable and cool, and well made, and addictive and generally excellent, but a LOT of people will play the demo and never buy it, because they resent buying a game that seems like it’s too simple in form.
Are you one of those people, or is it just me?