In the latest feature for Gamasutra sister educational site Game Career Guide, we reprint chapter one
of Charles River Media's Creating Casual Games for Profit and Fun, with author Dr. Allen Partridge sharing basic design concepts for casual games based on your potential player's needs.
In this excerpt, Partridge says that one of the most important things to consider in developing your casual game is that 'casual means trauma free' -- and explains how that timidity should guide your design:
"It is nearly impossible to overestimate the amount of timidity and outright fear common among the audience of casual games. This group is often concerned that they will break or disable their computers. They are reticent to explore or play, so they will often just close a new game, quitting before play if any element is unclear.
One of the biggest frustrations of developing for this audience has been that they often get addicted to our games when introduced to them by one of the developers, but similar testers would panic and bail out when asked to play the game without any live person helping them as they learned the rules. This is actually a great way to understand and anticipate the concerns and fears of your audience. You won't always be around to explain how to play the game, so you need to develop a perfect virtual guide that can hold the hands of the nervous players as they slowly encounter every new button, bomb, and barrier.
Many casual game developers spend more time tweaking, manipulating the difficulty levels, challenges, and rewards in the game than they do creating the game's essential functions.
Of course, one of the problems in developing casual games is that some people, including virtually every developer on the planet, find this sort of handholding and nurse-maiding very irritating. First, remember that the larger portion of your audience falls in the guide me category. Second, you can always find ways to disable your help services, letting advanced users avoid this kind of detailed instruction. Above all, the experience must be free of trauma. The player is in search of a pleasant, fun overall experience, so frustration should never overtake challenge. It's fun to be challenged; it isn't fun to be frustrated."
You can now read the full Game Career Guide feature
, with much more from Partridge's book on creating casual games including games' inherent cognitive processes of challenge and reward, and developing the right hook to sell your game to a trial user (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).