Gamers and game makers still refer to the categories of "casual" and "hardcore" when describing games, for better or for worse. While these descriptors are widely used to pigeonhole games and genres, what exactly do they mean anyway?
In a new Gamasutra feature
, Tony Ventrice, mobile and casual game developer at social game company Playdom (Sorority Life
), describes six elements that he feels make a game "hardcore" and six traits that make a game "not hardcore."
Ventrice actually argues that casual players do not shy away from challenge or difficulty, as some believe -- as long as the difficulty comes from finely-tailored gameplay, as opposed to annoyingly vague interfaces or unclear objectives.
"The most common assumption is that a difficult game is necessarily hardcore. This is simply not true," he says. "The confusion lies in the language: just as 'hot' describes both spice and temperature, 'difficult' describes more than one thing."
He continues, "...Difficult describes both accessibility and challenge. Difficult accessibility is bad..." But Ventrice further explains, "Difficult challenge is good and, in fact, it's the most casual route to replayability."
"You want a user to feel that mastering your game is a challenge; that each session ends with a new sense of accomplishment," he says. "The real trick is in instilling challenge without devolving into one of the six pillars of hardcore design. Tetris
manages to do it simply by speeding up the drop rate of the pieces, but most games don't have the luxury of such a straightforward solution."
For Ventrice's points on the basic hardcore and casual game elements, and thorough explanations of each component, read the new Gamasutra feature
, available now.