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  • Why 'Casual' Doesn't Mean 'Easy'

    [04.08.10]
    - Brice Morrison

  • The Game Design Canvas Speaks!

    Using the Game Design Canvas, we can analyze casual titles and contrast them to their hardcore counterparts. This analysis can help us determine exactly what casual is and what is causing all of these differences that we just discussed.

    To start, let's look at the Game Design Canvas for a popular AAA hardcore game in a well defined genre: Halo 3.


    The five components here are pretty straightforward. The Core Experience of the Halo series is for the player to feel like they are a futuristic trooper in battle. For the multiplayer, which we're focusing on here, the player should feel like they're in a single battle against enemy soldiers, either alone or with a team. The Punishment and Reward Systems are classic to the first person shooter genre: kill another player and gain a point for your team, or be killed and have the opposing team earn a point off of your dead body. The Long Term Incentive in multiplayer, the goal that keeps the player going, is to win the entire match and, even longer term, to increase their rating so they can play better players. Finally, the setting is a sci-fi world in the future, filled with all of the characters and locations within the rich Halo universe.

    Next, let's compare it to similarly famous console casual game: Wii Sports, specifically Tennis.


    Since the Core Experience of Wii Sports Tennis is to emulate a real tennis match as much as possible, the four components supporting that experience are almost identical to the real game of tennis. The P&R Systems dictate the unreturned shots give points, and as the player gains enough points to win games and sets, they win the match. The Long Term Incentive is to win the match and raise the player's rating so that they can face stronger and stronger computer opponents. The Aesthetics are simple, representing a small tennis court with the player's caricature plastered on their avatar.

    Other than the Aesthetic Layout, the gameplay surrounding both of these titles, outlined in the Long Term Incentive and P&R Systems, are almost identical, eliminating them as candidates for the indicators of a casual versus a hardcore game. And we've already decided that it couldn't simply be the artwork that makes a game casual, so what is it?

    That's right, it's the difference in the top-left component: the Base Mechanics.

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