Editor's Note: Massively Casual

Massively Casual

Old school game designers are proving that progress is more than just riding the edge of technological advancement.

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These days you can't walk across Silicon Valley without tripping over a videogame "startup" staffed with old-school point-and-click era game developers polishing their skills making social network titles like the army of Pascal programmers pulled out of mothballs to correct for Y2K.

Y2K was mostly about Cobol, not Pascal, programmers.

But, on topic, I think at least in terms of graphics technology we may have reached a point of diminishing returns. Improvements are less dramatic now than the first years after the 3D boom.

Moore's Law too, although it still works, is not working as before. The original law only said about transistor counts doubling every 18 months; this is still valid. A popular variation said computer speeds doubled every X months, if you think about sequential speed this is no longer true. Clock speeds aren't increasing and probably won't increase much in the future due to energy and heat limitations. (Intel planned to get to CPUs of more than 10GHz before discovering the problems). So the transistors are going to other things, like packing multiple cores into a single chip. And to make use of this involves knowing how to harness parallelism, you can just ask any PS3 developer about how easy this is :)

So I think the technology for hardcore games is slowly stabilizing. I don't think it'll stabilize completely, but at least not change as fast as it has done in the last decade or so, that would be good.

Of course, that won't make hardcore games less intimidating to newcomers or "casuals"... this is another matter.

It's an interesting topic, talking about casual gamers and where the industry is headed. Right now, I'm working too much to even have time to sit down and play a game, so I might as well be a casual gamer, too! It's sad, but true; my time is devoted to other, more important things, right now. That said, I still like keeping up to date on all the latest gaming-related news...I'm as excited for the 3DS as anyone!

Getting some of my Facebook buddies to try out some console games will be my new goal over the next while...I don't hate Farmville and all the social networking games, but I remain someone who won't touch them with a ten-foot pole. It'd be interesting to see how an avid Farmville (for lack of a better game to name, I know FB has a ton, now) player would react to having a controller in their hand, playing something more interactive and, to me, more FUN.

I do hope that gaming technology doesn't get too carried away. Where we're at right now with the PS3, Wii and 360 is a cozy spot, I think...not everyone could afford the jump to this generation, so I hope the next one is a long ways away. I tend to agree with better tech meaning less innovation - my favourite games still hail from the 8-bit era, and I absolutely love seeing all of the downloadable content that's out there, whether it's for PSN, Virtual Console, Wiiware...I, too, think that it's a great thing, bringing games development back to the way it used to be, not leaving anyone out

edit: by 'leaving anyone out', I mean making it easy for people to try their hand at games development, without having to risk losing everything...not having to worry about selling to the largest audience possible, making for some brilliant games that can be truly creative.

Wow, that was a mouthful, haha

Let's remember as well that much of the popularity of Facebook games such as Farmville and Mafia Wars are also due to the fact that all you need to play them is an web browser. No dvds, no keycodes, no subscription fees, and no expensive graphics cards. And it can be played from work.

Waiting for some code to compile? click, click. There another job completed in Mafia Wars... Waiting for a conference call to start? I just harvested my fields. Social games are much less intimidating as well. If you can use a computer well enough to use Word, you have the ability to play any facebook game.

a good game is a good game whether it utilizes the latest 3D whizbang supermicro quantum mechanics sub processor or not

True. But then, there's a reason I didn't get to play a graphically primitive version of Little Big Planet on my BBC Micro back in the day. Not all tech is irrelevant to gameplay.

The only problem i have with casual games is how little substance is there. Don't get me wrong I'm not saying they aren't fun or are T-1000's in disguise, because they do provide what they are created for: entertainment. But what concerns me in this "Ooo look what they're doing" market is whether or not big developers will start to cut back on the "core" titles to reap the massive rewards of a broader casual audience. Lord knows Nintendo is guilty of this; I just don't want to see something like Mass Effect get turned into Commander Shepard's Space Park Tycoon.

If I were a big developer I'd sure as hell go after the mass appeal. Here's hoping they remember both customer bases in future developments.

It's funny. A couple of years ago, the casual game crowd was Popcap. Now it's Zynga. So much so, apparently, that three of the four articles in this issue about casual games included a reference to Zynga or Farmville in their descriptions, and all of them had either Zynga or Farmville in their tags (if not both). I haven't read through it yet, and honestly, I'll probably skip them. Every article I've read has either been "Zynga/Farmville sucks" or "Zynga/Farmville is the future!" Frankly, it was the same discussion we were having over Peggle. I probably would've been interested in an article that either drew that connection or tried to predict life-after-Zynga (which there will be, just like Facebook's star will fade).

Intriguing! Can't wait to read this weeks articles, and I need to catch up on a ton of old ones!

Totally true >~<! Success can never truly be measured in pixels ^~^! It's good to know that many veterans such as Bryan Reynolds can get a chance to really shine with social gaming developers like Zynga. It's great to know that there have finally been a number of articles that talk about the virtues of social gaming, rather than just pandering to the people who love to slam anything that even implies "casual gaming". It sure is a good sign that articles here are explaining social games in what they are, and why they are celebrated. Not why some people hate them. Thanks so much ^~^!

Something that needs to be remembered is not so much that more people want to play web games and low requirement Popcap style games, it's that almost anyone CAN play them.

I'm not saying a lot of people wouldn't be turned off by the complexity of many modern games, but I think part of it is down to so many people online just having a basic laptop or netbook, or ancient desktop running XP or even 98, and web games still work and can entertain, when they know they'll never see MW2 or Mass Effect 2 on their machine.

I really liked this article. Being someone who is older than the mass majority of people on this site I remember and still own games like Pac-Man, River Raid, Galaga, etc... I grew up as the game controller evolved from the 2600 stick and single button, to the NES with 2 buttons, to the Genesis with 3, to the SNES with 4, etc etc. Growning up as that was occuring, having to handle one extra button every couple of years was no big deal, it came with the learning curve, it also allowed for more complex interactions, which having experience on the previous platform allowed me to continue to enjoy the gaming experience.

Back in the early 80's, just about anyone could drop a quarter into a machine and figure out the basics of play. It was up/down/left/right shoot and/or jump. Every now and then a trackball or a steering wheel to mix it up. The graphics and sound weren't what they are now, but you could play for 5 - 15 minutes and have fun... Remember fun? Now we have 'interactive experiences' with 10 - 40 hours of gameplay. Controllers that have a dozen or so buttons on them, and while I hear games described as Epic and Awesome, I don't tend to hear people say Fun as much...

You may find this hard to believe, but gaming is intimadating. Most of the people on this site probably didn't start gaming on the latest hardware. They started with something more simple, with less buttons. I have seen kids who are new to games struggle with modern games. They only get the hang of it through strict trial-and-error because they have the hours upon hours to waste to figure it out. The average adult does not. They don't have the time to learn the 50+ moves Kratos has in God of War 3, or the cover system of Gears of War.

The people who helped create the industry got overthrown by the people who were the original audience and those people wanted to create deeper experiences. The ones that they themselves wanted to try. The problem is they forgot all about how it was when they started. So here comes the rise of the old guard, the people who remember that to be successful you have to be accessable to everyone and lastly fun.

Now I know many of you probably don't think games like Farmville, Bejeweled, or playing on the Wii are fun, but there are millions of people out there that do. Fun is subjective. The vast majority of the people in the world don't have 2 - 10 hours a day to spend on video games. They have 10 - 30 minutes. PopCap and Zynga games fit perfectly into that niche. They are easily accessable, they have a reward system, and allow for social interaction with other players.

I think that modern game designers need to go back to the drawing board in some cases and remember that not everyone is a hardcore gamer. I am not saying they should dumb down Mass Effect or Grand Theft Auto, what I am saying is that if they spent a little time making a few simpler titles they might reach an audience that could launch their profits through the roof, and then might also open the door for those people to try their hands at what all of us have been enjoying for years.

itf cho:
Let's remember as well that much of the popularity of Facebook games such as Farmville and Mafia Wars are also due to the fact that all you need to play them is an web browser. No dvds, no keycodes, no subscription fees, and no expensive graphics cards. And it can be played from work.

Waiting for some code to compile? click, click. There another job completed in Mafia Wars... Waiting for a conference call to start? I just harvested my fields. Social games are much less intimidating as well. If you can use a computer well enough to use Word, you have the ability to play any facebook game.

It's true, I have so many friends who don't even play games, that play Mafia Wars and enjoy it. The coolest thing about it, it's actually working as a way to lightly invite people into the interactive medium of videogaming. Without knowing it, that silly somewhat boring game (at least in my opinion) is really having an impact.

I am sorry, but I still don't get it. I can see why these casual games are successful. I have witnessed people enjoy them and can see why. But still, for some reason, I still remain completely un-interested to them. Sure, I've had my share of casual games. I have a Wii. I play Phoenix Wright in my DS. I even play "Make 7" on my wifes ipod. But still, there is something in the social aspect (the most successful mechanic in these games) that trully repels me.

They are free, they are easy to find, easy to interface and easy to enjoy. But I'd rather do that either by myself, or play WITH someone. This whole "I play, you play, everyone sees what, when and how I play and somehow what you do may or may not affect me in the future" is not really interactive. It's more coincidencial in my eyes.

Then again, I never was an avid RPG player, nor did I ever enjoy playing with other people on-line.

 

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