Deep … Hard … and Casual

You remember when you were young. You could go for hours. And not just a couple times a month either. Nightly! Oh yeah! And it was always a group thing. You were h.a.r.d.c.o.r.e. A cat couldn’t scratch you.

Now of course it’s different. You just get all geared up and ready to explore the nether regions … and your kid interrupts, “I can’t sleep … read me a story.” Or you wife reminds you have to work extra early tomorrow, so “why don’t we just go to sleep”. Often, you’re just too tired from the day to power up and hop on.

It happens to everyone. Maybe once upon a time you used to raid the dark forest for hours every night … maybe even twice … with multiple groups. But not any more. It starts innocently. You finish up a little sooner than you used to. Over time, you get quicker and quicker. Pretty soon, it’s 5 minutes before bed twice a month.

And all of a sudden, you’re a Casual Gamer.

We all start out strong. The average 20-hours per week was nothing. And then, you know … life happens. Career, spending time with friends whose names aren’t spelled in 1337, kids, mortgages, the inevitable switch from beer to wine spritzers.

It happens to everyone. If you’ve got a job, kids or a significant other, you’re no longer playing nightly for hours. And if you still are, you probably soon won’t have a job, kids or significant other.

But we never forget the heady days of our youth. We’d all love to recapture that fun. And oddly, we’ve got money now … money that we perhaps didn’t have back then. I routinely pay a couple of subscriptions on MMORPG that I don’t actually play, but hope that I will.

You’d think, somewhere, out there, there’d be a company that would want to sell to this market demographic.

In a thread on Nerfbat’s Forums, I asked, essentially, two questions:

  • Does anyone have any suggestions for casual friendly MMO’s that are still deep.
  • Does anyone have design suggestions for what might make for a more casual friendly MMO.

There have been a several responses to the second question. But precious few for the first.

It seems no-one makes a deep but casual MMO.

Let me explain what I’m not looking for …

Let me explain what I (think) I am looking for …

  • Well thought out quests for both individuals and groups.
  • Longer term goals to work towards both as individuals and groups.
  • It’s gotta be social. PuzzleQuest is great, but not what I’m looking for.
  • Worldy aspects … let me participate in shaping the world or at least my little corner of it.
  • Modern, 3D eye candy.
  • Guarantee me that I can hop in, get a quest and complete it … all in 20 minutes.
  • Now do the same for group quests.
  • Break down and remove barriers that prevent casual players from playing with their less-casual friends (in CoH terms … more SideKicking!).
  • Make it easy for groups that aren’t on at the same time to stick together: improved ingame email or perhaps even full blown message board functionality.
  • Make it easy to access in game communication from outside the game (IM, SMS). If my friends are getting in for a few minutes, make it easy for them to let me know (or for me to find out).
  • Provide for asynchronous group play. Mini-games that require groups to collaborate to complete (like a RAID) but don’t require the group members to be on at the same time (unlike a RAID). Collection mini-games are a great place to start. Or maybe there’s potential for player directed, but NPC executed, tower defense mini-games.

Despite my belief that the casual-but-formerly-heavy MMO player market seems to me to be a natural target, I haven’t read that much buzz on the topic.

Inhibitor of Lagorama posted something exciting about Epic Warrior … a MMO-like game that appears to target casual players without being … you know … casual.

Each adventure in Warrior Epic can be completed in under 15 minutes. So whether you have a whole evening to kill or just half an hour, you can play and make meaningful progress.

That sounds great! I hope they do justice to the social side of the game. Lagorama has the gameplay video linked … go check it out.

Other than that, I haven’t heard much. Far more often, the buzz is about “casual games” in the non-MMO, non-social, non-worldy way. Or worse, simple “social” games. But that’s not what I want.

Do you want it deep and hard, but casual? You know … where you want it, when you want it and only for as long as you want it (and yet, not have to do it alone)? Then get involved in the discussion, either here, or in the thread at Nerfbat’s Forums. Let the world know what you think casual MMO gamers want.

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