With copies of games such as Mass Effect 2, Bullet Storm, Crysis Warhead lying in front of me, I find it increasingly hard to concentrate on writing the blog J. I need to finish off this huge collection of games some time in future, but how distant it is I do not know.
Anyway, today’s post is about keeping your game-play and game mechanics simple for a ‘casual game’. Actually this applies even to the hard core games, but hard core gamers don’t like things simplified. They relish the illusion that they are in control of everything and everything is happening because they are making it happen (go ask a game developer ;)). The more keys and clicks they make for even the simplest outcome, the better they feel. And game controls are a major part, if not the only part of game-play.
By traditional definition, casual games are the games that can be picked up and played by almost anybody. Tetris and Super Mario Bros are a couple of examples of casual games. While Tetris falls under the Spatial Puzzle genre, Super Mario is about pure platforming. And both these games have something in common. That common something makes these games very appealing and successful.
The rules that define the game (My simplest definition of mechanics so far)
The way in which the player can meaningfully interact with the game world (My simplest definition of game-play so far)
Casual games unmistakably have or must have a central core game mechanics that supersedes all other game mechanics. Most of these games also have a single core game-play that remains the same all throughout, with varying degrees of challenge.
Core Mechanics – When a line completes, the blocks disappear. Everything shifts down. If the blocks reach the top, the game is over.
Core game-play – Think of how you can snugly fit these 4 squared blocks by moving them to the left or right and rotating them at 90 degrees.
Super Mario Bros
Core Mechanics – Only solid ground is your friend. Enemies and gaps in the ground kill you.
Core game-play – Jump and climb and run to avoid all the punishments and reach the end
The reason why these games succeed is because they are incredibly easy to learn but quite challenging to master. And, psychologically, games are about mastering and not learning.
Therefore, you keep the entry door to your game open for all and many will play your game, a few will master it and quite a few will keep playing the game to try and master this incredibly ‘simple’ game
As a test, proof and as an example of this theory, I participated in the following ‘Game Design Challenge’ (open for all) and very consciously kept the game mechanics and game play simple. It doesn’t feel like a theory anymore. It’s science; a thumb rule.