Thursday, 11 September 2008

Why I called myself a casual gamer

My first memory: My brothers put a cassette into a box. On a screen in front, horizontal lines appeared, flashing and scrolling. Eventually, this gave way to a white screen with black lines - my brothers were somehow controlling lines on the screen! This was a simple drawing toy on the Spectrum and I went on to enjoy the games I was allowed to play and saved up pocket money to buy one of my own.

My first console was a Megadrive, bought late in its life from a schoolfriend and I own every 'successful' console from NES to Gamecube, excluding xBox. Dreamcast and Gamecube were bought within 2 days of UK release (and GBA within a week of Japanese release).

I've stayed away from the current generation, though I'm interested in buying an xBox360 for Dead Rising, various xBox games and Braid and would love to get a Wii for Warioware and Super Mario Galaxy - which I successfully know next to nothing about - but money and time conspired against it. (Ironically, I currently spend too much time on certain flash games.)

I actually found Dead Rising's save system added significantly to my enjoyment of it (having played it for maybe 20 hours on a friend's console) yet I hate games that ask me to redo elements with no variation - a reason I stopped playing Resident Evil.

I admire brevity in games, but if I find one I love, I can find myself playing levels hundreds of times or replaying the game once every so often.

I desire simplicity of rules and controls, yet want the game to spin them into varied settings and if puzzles and other challenges remain simple for a long time, that bores me.

I prefer experience-orientated games rather than goal-orientated ones.

I've never been able to beat Street Fighter 2, but could beat Samba de Amigo on the secret 'Super Hard' mode, sometimes getting 100% hit rates.

Back when I was working at the cash'n'carry, I was willing to spend hundreds of pounds to fund my videogame entertainment.

I long to work within the games industry, yet when I answered Chris Bateman's questionnaire, I decided that I was 'casual'.

I believe that I want simpler, more immediate games. I can only thank those who choose to make their game shorter, rather than padding out the length - Luigi's Mansion and Pikmin seemed perfect to me, despite the slight backlash at the time.

Maybe it's a modern-day ADD-ish nature but I want a game to clearly tell me what it's about. I don't want to spend 3 hours immersing myself into a new world, only to find that I don't enjoy the mechanics. Let the start of the game clearly relay the ensuing experience.

Perhaps that's why I play so many flash games - they maintain simplicity of control and immediate feedback about what the game will be like. Brevity is the rule, rather than the exception, with many taking 20 minutes to complete.

I guess that's why I consider myself a casual player - I want simplicity, brevity and focused intent. Some quirkiness - to differentiate it from other experiences - is essential. To me, these seem to be things that 'hardcore' games are forgetting about, with sequels packing in new controls or features rather than refining those that exist (or even removing superfluous ones) whilst the industry as a whole tends towards iteration, tweaking existing ideas rather than risk time and money on previously unseen mechanics.

Lack of difficulty or a forgiving nature aren't strictly necessary - if I'm playing with novel mechanics and realise why I failed - with success remaining a definite possibility - I'm happy to fail 20 or more times before success. Cirplosion's final challenge and Unirally's Gold-medal stunt tracks are testament to that.

Simplicity, brevity and a clear focus on something new. Sorry for the lack of the 2nd in this post.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Unnamed Fast Game.

The origin of this comes from indecision about who would play first in a 5-player card game. I vaguely remembered a game in which a 0 beats a 5 and any higher number beats a lower number, but my memory obviously had gaps. (Anyone have a clue what game I faintly remember?)

In the end, I took advantage of the confusion and declared myself the starting player. It didn't really matter, anyway.

But for future, I thought it'd be good to have a game that can establish these things more 'fairly'.

These were the meta-rules
1 - the game should have a definitive winner with any number of players
2 - it should take under 10 seconds to play and determine the winner.
3 - it should be simple to explain
4 - turn order should not exist or be irrelevant (if you needed to establish a turn order, we'd be back to square one!)
5 - toys should include nothing that needs to be carried - only language, our bodies and such. (Otherwise, rolling a die would have sufficed.)

These are the rules
- On the count of 3, everyone reveals a number of fingers. Thumbs don't count!

- If anyone has revealed a unique number, whomever revealed the lowest unique number wins.

- Otherwise, everyone who revealed less than the maximum number shown is eliminated and there is another round, only including people who showed the highest number.


Entry into subsequent rounds has a goal opposite to the winning condition - this should avoid stalemates.

The game will break if you ever get to 2 remaining players. At this point, you can play Rock Paper Scissors. I didn't entirely meet the first objective, given the possibility of draws (requiring multiple rounds) and the break-down if you reach 2 players. I'd give myself 3/4 marks for that one.

Hypothetically, there could be infinite draws, but given the theoretically small chance of this, I'm giving myself 3/4 marks for the 2nd objective too.

Objectives 3, 4 and 5 are a complete success. 4.5/5 - good going! Still, this design is obviously not 'perfect' so tell me if you know a game (or can devise one) that meets these criteria more fully.

I've not actually played this, but am recording it here as I can't see any issues with it and don't know any other game that fills this niche. What does everyone else do when deciding player order between 3 or more players (other than roll a die)?

If you're having trouble deciding player-order for a game with over 2 players (or need to nominate a winner for any other reason) and don't have a die handy, give this a go.

I know I will.

More Analysis
If you consider the hypothetical numbers shown by everyone else, you can determine what should be the highest number you should show.

I think it's foolish to ever show more than:



(i.e. divide the number of players by 2, round up, then subtract one from that total.)