Starlis: Bridging the gap between Social Casual, Casual, and Hardcore

In the early days of gaming, there was just 1 category: Gamers.
But then World of Warcraft came… Everything had changed. WoW introduced a game that was fun and playable even for people that have very little time.

This introduced a new category of gamers: Casuals, relabeling the existing group to ‘Hardcore’.
WoW bridged the gap between Casual and Hardcore and did it greatly, although some of the extreme Hardcore players may disagree.

Then comes Facebook with its platform, and the company Zynga. Games like FarmVille now have brought another form of people into the gaming world. People that enjoy the idea of logging in once a day for only 10 minutes at a time to do some repetitive task and help their friends, then log off.

I would refer to them as “Social Casual” players.

So now we have 3 groups of players, with all varying levels of depth into video games.

I myself would be in between Hardcore and Casual. I love games, and I’m fully Hardcore at heart, but just like any other successful adult in the world, I have a job which limits my time, so that I can not play games at a Hardcore level anymore. I enjoy WoW but I miss the challenge and long term goals that come in other non casual friendly games.

People like myself, and above me in the hardcore category find it hard to get into the Zynga type games such as FarmVille and FrontierVille. It’s just too corny, there’s not enough depth.

However, I believe it is possible to bridge the gap between all 3. I have a lot of experience with various forms of gaming. I use to be full on hardcore, unemployed playing Final Fantasy XI for 18 hours a day. So I know what I loved about those times. I also have experience in the casual world, knowing what aspects of WoW is appealing to casuals with limited game time since I now myself am in that category. And then there is FarmVille. I’m a programmer so I can analyze various aspects of a game and understand how it clicks with people. I played FarmVille for a little bit to see how the games UI worked, what the daily overall gameplay experience was, etc.

So now, to take those concepts, and bring them into a universe that Casual and Hardcore players also play in.

It’s easy to make a Zynga knock off, but as I said, people like myself find those games corny and without depth. So the goal is to keep the same concepts of a Zynga game, but keep it mature enough so that a hardcore player will enjoy it too.

Casual and Social Casual really aren’t that far off from each other, just that the casual would play longer and play more in depth games, but they have 1 main concept in common: Play simple, rewarding games for fun to waste time.

So developing a casual friendly UI can be tricky to pull off and not make your hardcore users run away too.
So the UI needs to be simple, self explanatory but still provide help menus. Why self explanatory and help menus? Well Hardcore players tend to jump in and want to understand it just by looking at it without looking at help. Some casuals may agree with it too. But not everyone’s brain works the same way and may still need detailed help.

WoW was friendly to players in that it ensured you were taught how to play the game, even when the game was pretty easy to figure out without help menus.

Also, the UI and the game in general can not be as ‘cheerful’ as Zynga games are. Players like myself see it as corny and childish, and it really distracts you from the seriousness of the game.
Sadly, that artistic style is an attraction point for some of Zynga’s users, but that is a sacrifice I will have to make in order to keep the hardcore players interested.

The way I intend to bridge the game is to have 2 major UI portions of the game.

  1. Inside the space station:
    • This is going to be the primary “Social Casual” and Casual UI.
    • This UI will manage the Economic aspect of the game, including resource gathering, processing, production, research and market based activities.
    • A Social Casual player would likely never leave the space station. They will log in daily to order their workers to work, research new technologies, and execute build orders to produce ships and items.
    • Players will then be able to sell said items on the market to make money, and buy other items
    • More ideas on inside space station I do not want to make public at this time… but lets say they are major.
  2. Outside the space station:
    • This is the more serious part of the game, not designed for Social Casual players.
    • This is going to be a full on RTS style gameplay, where players start in a protected galaxy. However to bridge the casuals into the universe, players will be able to fly their ships inside this galaxy but will not be able to attack players. They will be limited to the 1 space station they start with in the protected galaxy, so they can play around with the idea of flying in space with what they create.
    • Once the player exits the protected galaxy, they enter the real game where players can fight each other and brings in the full RTS gameplay style.
    • This is where the main gameplay for hardcore players will be, and even casuals. The gameplay will not really require long login times, but it will not be limited to the aspects of a reward without punishment environment the space stations in the protected galaxy provide. So a casual player can still enjoy the experience, or stay in the protected areas if they so desire and participate in special PVP events only or PVE. NPC’s in PVE events in the protected systems will not be aggressive, so players are opt-in to fighting PVE in protected areas, but in other galaxies all PVE NPC’s are aggressive and may attack.

So with this, we have a safe and rewarding experience for the social casuals who do not care for anything over simplicity, we have an experience for casuals who either want the simple gameplay or the freedom to opt in the more aggressive gameplay ,and we have the aggressive gameplay for the hardcore.

(Almost) everyone can be happy. I will likely be excluding the people who want the childish UI elements, and don’t want to play anything that has a ‘serious’ feel to it, but that is a needed sacrifice in order to make an overall good game.

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I am very passionate about development, and communities. I am now living my dream of running my own gaming company, as I have now founded Starlis LLC and operate the Empire Minecraft service, the place where I met my lovely wife Mia!

2 Comments Leave yours

  1. coolbloke1324 #

    How far have you gotten with the server so far?

    I’m interested from a developers point of view because I am also writing a game server in Node.js that will run hand-in-hand with my game engine to allow developers to create awesome real-time games for the web.

    I’d love to chat more about your experience with this sort of technology challenge and if you have made significant progress, I may be interested in licensing the server tech for use with my engine as much of my focus has been client-side.


  2. @coolbloke1324
    I’m not too far in yet, as i’m trying to really properly plan it out. I’ve got some base code written including the network protocol framing and parser which i’ve tested and has great performance.

    and now ive started writing the code to actually build the network of servers, just not to a point of testing the code yet.

    But with a week worth of code I could be done and tested and start writing the game itself, but I just got a new job and been busy getting settled in there and haven’t worked on the game that much the past 2 weeks.

    Keep checking in for more progress.

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I am Senior Software Engineer and Entrepeneur. I am an enthusiast and love creating things. I operate my own side company in my free time called Starlis LLC, working in Minecraft.

I enjoy doing things right and learning modern technologies.