Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A tale of three communities

I've been kind of grating against this whole "hardcore vs casual gamer" distinction that keeps coming up, specifically on the hardcore side, because it's a very old school way of looking at things. Ten years ago, we had "hardcore gamers", which were people who were on the internet reading Blues News and downloading Quake maps, and it was all the same community.

Now, we've fragmented eighty kazillion ways to the point where the definition of "hardcore" is even broader than the definition of "casual". An example, I hear you ask?


Today, I handed off a chunk of my battle design duties to new design intern Grace. As part of the task, we had a mini coming out party on our three "hardcore" forums for "the hardcore" to say Hi and suggest new ideas for us to add into our battle schedule. The three we targeted were Something Awful, rockband.com, and ScoreHero.

The response from Something Awful was five pages of incredibly useful battles, with the occasional peppering of sarcasm and humour:
"Parenthetical Challenge:
Bang a Gong (Get It On)
Train in Vain (Stand by Me)
Snow (Hey Oh)
Charlene (I'm Right Behind You)
Come Out and Play (Keep 'Em Separated)
Pleasure (Pleasure)"

Is this hardcore? Not really, if anything it's more of a "highbrow" gamer view.

The response from rockband.com was 10 pages of battles. Naturally, a little more noise than SA, but definitely constructive and useful to battle development.

"Battles based on music from certain countries.
Of course, that means you need to get some Frenzal Rhomb, Men at Work, Regurgitator and Grinspoon into RB for the Aussie challenge.
Followed a week later by Aussie Chalenge #2 with Silverchair, AC/DC and Jet :-p"

Is this hardcore? I mean, this is our official forums, so by definition it's both our most casual and our most hardcore fans in one place. But I think in general these are our "casual hardcore" - if they were super hardcore they'd gravitate towards a gamer forum like SA or NeoGAF, or towards a dedicated game site like ScoreHero or NMA.

The response from ScoreHero, well, I'll just quote the first post from a moderator there:
"I think that before you churn out new challenges, you need to decide how to properly rank bands. PeridotWeapon made some great points here. I agree that ranking by Star Rating seems flawed. If yo watch my Literal Battle Solo Expert Guitar video, you'll see what he means when he says that stars start to crawl after the 6 star mark. I know you're looking for ideas for actual battles, but think the first thing that needs to be done is to make a way so that ties aren't so prevalent. Aside from streak battles, score is the way to go. If you want to give solo or less-than-full bands a chance to compete, then don't lump everyone into one leaderboard. Score by full band is probably the best way to rank bands, especially when you remove overdrive from the equation (most notes hit/fewest broken streaks will win- that's the best band, right?). "

Is this hardcore? Is this even fanboyism? I think this is a new subclass of "hardcore", the evangelical gamer. For the record, we make sure all of our "hardcore" content (which comes out every Wednesday) is score only, which makes this mainly a "hardcore complaining about casual content" post, but at the same time the hardcore are seeing all content - not just stuff targeted at them.


As press, I guess "gamers" are something you can lump together.

As a designer, all of these groups (and there are more than just the three we have here) have radically different goals and expectations when playing. It's not enough to just design content to satisfy each of these groups, but you also have to hide the content that they're not interested in. You either have to build the path of least resistance for each group so that it doesn't cross any other paths, or provide multiple layers of depth in the same mechanic ("finishing a song" vs "5 starring" vs "deployment paths/squeezing" is a great example of this in RB).

Okay, smoking jacket theorycrafting over, I promise.


Keith said...

My theory is that the hardcore, no matter what topic, think everything is for them. The casual hear about something and are pleasantly surprised (hey, Pretty Fly!). The hardcore scan for every scrap of information and dislikes anything they disagree with (I don't like The Offspring, wth!).

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