Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Bite Sized Hardcore

The press and publishers often try to split gamers into two groups, the hardcore and the casual. Here are rough descriptions:

Hardcore gamers play serious games, deep games, and they play a LOT. They have a lot of time, and they get invested into games. They play mods, they read strategy guides, they are probably 14 year old boys. They like zombies and killing stuff. They play games like Skyrim, Call of Duty, Men of War, Starcraft. Their favorite color is dark brown, stained with the blood of orcs.

Casual gamers play fun cute games. They play simple games, and only in short chunks. They cannot cope with 2 mouse buttons, or reading instructions. They hate violence. They are all 40+ soccer moms and they like kittens and cooking. They play games like farmville and peggle, and match-3 games. Their favorite color is the fluffy white of a pony’s mane, draped across a basket of flowers.

But of course this is bullshit.

I am *time poor* when it comes to games, but I love deep hardcore serious strategy stuff, with orcs and blood, and ok, maybe the odd kitten, but it’s a kitten with razor sharp claws who battles his enemies and earns steam achievements.

What I think game designers may have missed, is that the 14 year old hardcore starcraft players of yore, are now 30+ with kids. maybe even 40+ like me. They understand and love serious hardcore games but are time poor. Right now I genuinely play more battlefield 3 than anno because anno takes longer to load for me.

What they want, perhaps… is bite sized hardcore? I present to you, the first draft of


What we demand is…

1) No pandering to casual gaming stereotypes. No gratuitous kittens or ‘cute’ cuddly characters.

2) No time wasting. No splash screens, intros, or FMV. We have 30 minutes tonight for gaming. Ensure all 30 minutes have us interacting with the game.

3) No Grind. We have day jobs. leave the grind to the kids in the F2P MMOs where it belongs. Give me decent, varying content, without filler. And don’t reward grind either, with bonus achievements for time played, or 1,000 low level rats clubbed.

4) No nickel+diming. We have proper jobs and disposable income. If the game is good, we will buy outright. Don’t keep breakign immersion to try and sell us $0.05 worth of magic pixie dust.

5) No oversimplification. We can cope with 2 mouse buttons, maybe even 3, and a wheel. We can cope with right clicking, tech trees, customisable units and mods.

6) No mandatory training levels or tutorials that cover the obvious. This is my 245th first person shooter. I can guess that WSAD moves, the mouse looks, and the mouse shoots. At the very least, let me skip tutorial stuff I don’t need.

7) Don’t patronize us. We shouldn’t get an achievement for hitting the jump key, or told we are awesome soldiers for hitting a tin can. Leave that crap for kids in kindergarten.

8) Be original. We have gamed before. We have fought in many a crate-strewn corridoor, and killed many a rat and returned their hides to someone who is too lazy to do it themselves. We have heard many tales of lost kingdoms and evil wizards. Surprise us. Please.
What needs adding?

58 thoughts on Bite Sized Hardcore

  1. Agree completely with the suggestions made to date.

    One other suggestion – Updates. I should not be needing to spend the first 29 minutes of my 30 minute play session waiting for updates because the developer changes one small thing or fixes a bug that doesn’t affect me – can we make the update process faster? Or optional for single player games? I know Steam helps automate this (though also hinders it by making it compulsory and time consuming) with this a lot, but developers can help a lot here too.

    Personally its why games like TF2 and L4D2 drive me nuts. They update every week, so whenever I fire up steam and look for something to play, I see them start to update and I go play something else instead which is ready to go.

  2. I understand that there often needs to be a set amount of challenge between two checkpoints so Quick Save/Load breaks a lot of games. A hibernate and resume option would work with any single player game I can think of and should be a standard feature of all future games machines.

  3. I feel almost like the same. I’m kinda Casual Hardcore game. I don’t have much time, but I enjoy good, challenging games.

    I don’t play RPGs because I don’t have time for them, and I don’t remember the deep storyline after a week or two non-playing it.

    I usually play Team Fortress 2 because that’s the kind of game I can start, play a match or two, and quit. It kinda fits nicely into my time/knowledge constraints.

    Many indie games are also good for that. Less grinding, more playing.

    By the way, I hated those Portal 2 on-screen-help. Damn, I’ve played Portal 1 and a few challenging custom map packs for it. I damn know how to play Portal. I need no freaking instructions about the basics on Portal 2. It completely annoys me and breaks the immersion.

  4. Grant Gould said, “So I propose #12: Quick information screens that allow you to quickly see all of the known state of your game in one place.”

    Grant, have you tried Sins of a Solar Empire? Magnificent UI.

  5. I was surprised to see no mention of difficulty. In my experience (and my personal opinion as a self-styled hardcore gamer) if there’s one basic, core idea that separates casuals and hardcore gamers, it’s the attitude towards losing.

    Hardcore gamers expect to lose a game many times, expect to possibly not beat every mini-game and optional level for years, and perhaps find a secret decades after realease. The developers design the game with this in mind.

    Casual gamers, at least according to what marketers appear to believe, are terrified of losing and not being able to complete the game. They should even be spared the trauma of dying and repeating a level where possible. If they get too hurt for too long, their health should regenerate. If they are getting their ass kicked too much, the rubber band difficulty should make things easier. There shouldn’t be any unbeatable situations in the game. You shouldn’t have to think ahead, or be very careful, to avoid ending up in an unwinnable state.

    Roguelikes are a great example of this: You would never argue a roguelike is casual, and there’s three things that define a roguelike: Procedural generation, high player casualty rate, and simplistic graphics.

    Making the graphics pretty wouldn’t make it a casualised roguelike.

    Always playing on the same pre-made maps would probably inspire arguments that you can memorize the map and therefore the game is easier, but you can make a large, complicated, and very difficult map.

    But run nethack with wizard mode on, and while it’s still not something your grandma can play, you can’t deny it loses major hardcore points.

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