Not So Casual

The casual gaming market is filled with games that, in my humble opinion, are more hardcore than even some of the most hardcore games.

Mostly, this comes from how you can play.  Take Farmville for example.  When I was playing, it drove me batty that I would log in and actually run out of things to do.  I tended my crops, dealt with my animals, bought some stuff, visited neighbors and then… I had to wait.  Sure, I could pick short growth crops, but even then I’d still have time where I literally couldn’t play the game.  Then, if I chose a long term crop because I expected to be away from the game for a while, but turned out to have some time a few hours later to play, I couldn’t because I tied up all my crops in growing long term stuff.  I had this same issue with Mafia Matrix when I was playing it.  I’d log in, do all the stuff I could, then be forced to wait to play more.

Coming out of a long term love affair with MMORPGs, this was a shock.  In EQ or WoW or CoH or any other triple A title, when you logged in, you had stuff to do, and you could do it for as long as you wanted.  The game never stopped and said, “You’re done. Go do something else and come back later.”  The only big MMO that skirts this line is EVE Online.  Yes, there are always things to do, but if you’ve chosen to focus on manufacturing and skill training, you might find yourself logging in once or twice a day, checking on things, clicking a few things and then logging out.  Some people do this in WoW with crafting cool downs, but that is such a tiny fraction of the game that I can’t really claim it has much of an impact.

Anyway, back to games like Mafia Matrix being more hardcore… I mean that only in the time intensive way.  You can perform a task every X minutes.  If you are away from the game, you gain no credit.  You come back, you click and have to wait X minutes.  Because of the fixed time limitations, you have no way to grind out advancement to make up for lost time.  Time away from the game is not only time lost, but time you are falling behind as everyone else clicks right past you.  For me, this type of design creates anxiety.  I log in, I play, and have fun, but when I’m away for too long I start to feel like I’m actually losing.  In many triple A MMOs, I don’t get that since I know when I do play I can double up my efforts and get more done, especially since many of them offer bonuses for being “rested” (meaning you haven’t played).

The short of it is, I don’t like this sort of design, especially for things being designated as “casual”.  I mean, Bejeweled Blitz doesn’t only let me play 5 times and then tell me to come back in an hour.  I can play as much as I want every time I’m there, and being away doesn’t penalize me.

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