Just a brief musing inspired by the Grouchy Gnome’s post (Nerfbat) titled Definition Wars: Hardcore vs. Casual.

Contrary to his post, I do actually think there are multiple definitions, spectrums really, of “hardcore” and “casual”, all of which impact design in one way or another.  Some examples:

Edit: as was pointed out in the comments, there has been quite a bit of discussion in the comments over at Nerfbat, and quite a bit of development of the original idea into a larger model.  I definitely recommend heading over and reading it all… good stuff.

Casual/Hardcore in pursuit of game goals

This is the perspective/flavor that GG explained in his post.  Hardcore players actively play, delving into the game, casual players play more passively.  It’s stretching the definition a bit, perhaps, but it could perhaps be summarized as “hardcore players play to win, casual players play to play.”

It’s certainly valid, and definitely drives design considerations, no argument… I just don’t think it’s the only viewpoint that matters.

Casual/Hardcore in terms of time

This is a perspective you’ll find on the MMO boards quite often.  Hardcore/casual on this spectrum is determined by /played time, either per individual character or totaled amonst all alts.

This one is rather specific to MMOs, RPG-style MMOs specifically.  You won’t find this particular flavor mentioned on a lot of RTS titles, or FPS, or even CRPG.  That’s rather indicative of how it impacts the design process, actually.  MMO design memes presently link /played time powerfully (tho not entirely exclusively) to character power, ability, and essentially opportunity.  The choices in terms of style of play can alter that somewhat, but Mr. 10-hours-per-week is not likely to match Mr. 40-hours-per-week, no matter how efficient the former, or lackadaisical the latter.

In terms of how this spectra is used argumentively in forums, being hardcore in terms of efficiency is literally assumed: the laments and appeals are from “hardcore efficiency” players who are finding they simply feel rather ignored because of the restricted time they are able to spend, because the game has instead been tuned to accommodate those who refuse to log off to sleep, let alone

  • eat (/pizza for teh win!  Please come right in, first door off the living room… disregard the discard pile in the corner.),
  • let the dog out to relieve itself (use the toilet, mutt… and remember to flush!),
  • relieve themselves (um, ew…)
  • keep the kids from suspending the 100 lb, $2000, 50″ plasma flat panel TV from the ceiling fan with bungie cords (“but I was tired, and my neck hurt, and the Spongebob Squarepants marathon was on… and then it got kinda stuffy…”)
  • and so on.

Casual/Hardcore in terms of competition

This vector ties in loosely to both of the above, but probably deserves it’s own mention.  This becomes most obvious in PvP-enabled games, but it can pop up nearly anywhere.  There are people who need to win, no matter the cost, and those who do not, and a variety of shades inbetween.

“Never trust the client: it is in the hands of the enemy” is a natural result of one end of this spectrum.  Kill-stealing, ninja-looting, camping, “build of the week”, and so on fall along the specturm.  The recipient of the “dangit, don’t just stand there… run, fight back, do something” /tell in PvP would probably be toward the more casual end (or just link-dead… who can tell?)

Grr, out of time… more later.  Actually, I’ll just chime in over there if anything more comes to mind….