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Online gaming trends...

It seems more and more today, players want instance gratification. Games were and are meant to be challenging and fun. When we get instant gratification is it actually fun to begin with?

Author: chaintm

Instant Gratification or casual vs hardcore

Posted by chaintm Tuesday December 18 2007 at 1:34PM
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There seems to be a growing trend in the users of entertainment online. From the need of wanting or having what the other guy has or able to get it now then work for it later. Being a gamer of many years now sense the birth of the arcade machien. I have seen a trend that has me honestly worried were our gaming goodness is going.

Look to any forum on any game on any website and you will see two main themes that seem to represent themselves daily. The need or desire to gain something within a limited amount of time or even better for free. Then enabling the use of that item to out do the other player, but wait! Only I can have such an item, giving it to another player who hasn't put in the time I have isn't fair!

This ofcourse brings us to the main reason why I beleive this trend is happening. As MMO's have grown so has the audiance. Today we have two known descriptions that describe larger player bases. The power gamer and the casual player. Power gamers as you know (or if you don't ) put hours upon hours of dedicated game play which usually is 40 or more hours a week. While a casual player who might put in say 14 hours in a given week of game play.

Because of this dedication to the game, the hardcore player recieves "uber loot" (items in the game considered better then most if not the best) for what he does in game, while it will take the casuel player months to get such an item or even never because he can't find the group to do such for time restraints.

We have seen the split of the player base in this way. In your online gaming I am sure many of you have seen or heard these following quotes before.

"how can I compete with that guy?"
"I can't play as much as he can, so were is the fairness in that?" 
"My time is just as important as the other guys time. I pay the same fee he does, so why should I be penalized for the time I can play compaired to him?" 

It is a catch you see, the catch here is falling for it. Feeling for the "casual player" has been a growing trend in most games, however this will in the end fail. The facts may be that the casual player is a bigger presences in todays online entertainment, but there will always be those "hardcore" players who will dedicate time beyond what any casual player can and compete on a level far superior to most due to the time dedicated. Restraining these players ofcourse kills the game in the long run and in the end means the death of most MMO's that have attempted to aim their game to the casual player.

How can I make such a bold statement? Well lets look at games in general, we play them to be entertained. When the emphises becomes "ok devs, give me instant gratification or don't give me a game" the games being developed can be completed in record time even by the most casual player. This in essences leaves us with incomplete, no depth in the game and coming down to "my item is better then your pixil item". Great! now we are getting games about collecting pixils like trading cards instead of games that emphize story and complexity. No longer do I have to think about how to get threw that swamp of deadly undead. Just look at my map! Now I have a perfect path to take! instant gratification! Oh wait! dam now I did that, now this game sucks, im bored!

We are in the essence, our own demise. We wanted things like mini maps, fast travel, faster leveling, more variity , simple interfaces and now we have them. But because we got these things we so screamed about, we are now bored and  the game is to quick to be finished. Another excample, "hey devs this mob is way to hard!"  dev, " ok sorry about that, we will fix it!" player "great! that was awsome, got anymore?" dev" ya, in a month or so we got new content coming" player "thats not fast enough! I am bored!". So in the end we have made the game we want, instant gratification within a few days finishing said game and moving on. A game that takes years to make finished in hours, because again, we had to have it easy to use or fair for everyone casual or hardcore.

So in the end fellow gamers, we have made the games today what they are for our own constant request have made it such. A great game I think on the horizon known as Pirates of the Burning Sea is going threw such termoil at the moment. There are nations within that game (currently beta) that have variances that players are feeling that are "not fair". So because it isn't fair, we should nerf the game to make everyone on a even feild because a certain rout might be easier for the hardcore player then the casual. SO CHANGE IT NOW! is the screams on their forums. Thankfully these devs realize exactly what I am blogging right now. Doing so would kill the game in the long run and sadly, not everyone will be happy. if they did so, the game would be that which is described above.

I hope this trend of instant gratification fades in a quick death. I am in essences a casual gamer, but I don't want instant gratification. If a power gamer want to finish the game I am playing with them in a month that is their choice. But I want a game with depth, with varity, with challenge. I don't care if Joe Grinder has better gear , I would like to get that gear someday, but I don't need it now. I want to be entertained for years, not months, not days. You want my dollars? Make a deep emmersive game that isn't handed to me on a silver platter with instant maps, simple kiddie icons and uber items that make me invincible and I might just stay long enough for you to actually keep developing your title for years to come.


My 2cents,


omegaman writes:

              I kinda agree but not totally.Games designed to just keep you going for that next piece of tier 99 gear drive me crazy.These games usually force you to raid in groups for months and months looking for that one drop.

     What happened to games with player driven content (UO)? I miss having to deal with players as much as the mobs.I want a gamwe that has content that once i finally do play for a darn year or 2 or 3 I can actually have some items worth having without raiding the same damned dungeon 100000000000 times to get it.

You call it hardcore I call it a time sink.I've played them all over the years.UO,AC,EQ WOW COH,you name it they all have timesinks built in to keep you from wanting new content oh dont forget the biggest of them all DAOC and the trials of atlantis you had to friggen level your items even.

You need a good balance a game to keep you interested but not so damn hard to get anything worth a flip that you feel you cant attain it.


Tue Dec 18 2007 2:11PM Report
chaintm writes:

Definitly agree with you Omegaman, Daoc is a perfect excample of a game at it's begining that really was an even playing field. The "balance" of the classes were another issue, but the essences of the game play were great. It took a descent amount of time to level and had it's own grinds. Mind you  I don't think you can make an MMO without some sort of grinding , because in the end you will end up grinding missions or mobs, one of the above.

My emphises thou is the "give it to me now or forget it" mindset that has seem to have hit all the current MMO's out there. Take Lotro , I am not sure if you were able to play this, but in the time I did as a casual player, within a 2 month period I finished the game. Why? because everyone in beta talked about to hard to level, the need of a map etc.. The game is so easy, there was really no work and the only true enjoyment was the story lines.

In those story lines they were great! But sadly, the dev team work so hard on graphics and the like, the time for stories was the last part put togather it seems. Then to fix the issue of low amount of stories, they add in the story of "if you collect 200 of these, we can..." bla bla bla. Not stories, but taken as such because before you had to do the "grind" we speak of , you read some text for the reason of this grind.

This ofcourse is far from a true story, but alas they didn't have the material in the game to keep everyone wanting more. The simplistic approch to the WoW like interface , maping etc, made the game easy. Not in the degree of killing a named mob, but more for the fact exporation really wasn't there, it was allready mapped out. The world (for an MMO) actually felt really small. The missions in general were just repeditive grinds. The only saving grace was (as most MMO's seem to be heading ) a main lore line that was actually fun and intresting.

The only game I think that came close to actual immersivness beyond its totally instances game play is D&DO , each mission felt like a mission and a story, thou later the repeditive play came till the devs added more. But overall , I do have to say that is by far the most verstile compostion of stories and interaction I have seen in an MMO in a long time. I would be playing that one still today if it was more solo friendly.

Now lets not get on the solo vs group play, that in itself is for a whole other blog ;), I agree thou with you as well, there is a balance that needs to be met., but because we asked for such easy play, we are now paying for that in completing games in a fast pace , so fast that the next and greatest MMO can't come fast enough :)

Tue Dec 18 2007 2:27PM Report
JB47394 writes:

chaintm: "Feeling for the "casual player" has been a growing trend in most games, however this will in the end fail."

Pick any industry and you'll find that once that industry can reach the casual market, the watered down version of the experience is what the population enjoys.  Automobiles went from tools of the hardcore enthusiasts to something that is so automated and simple to use that someone with zero mechanical inclination can use one.  But the auto enthusiasts still have kit cars, custom parts and all sorts of other toys to play with.  It's nowhere near the size of the 'casual driver' market, but it's alive and well.

Skiing, snowboarding, scuba diving, sky diving, motorcycles, you name it and the hardcore got it going until the mainstream discovered something about it they liked.  Then it gets softened up and packaged for the masses.  Yet the hardcore continue to stick with their version of it.  They even pick up some new members who taste the casual version and want something a bit more.

The MMO industry has reached the casual gamers with World of Warcraft and a few other games that are similarly easy to play.  The hardcore players will now state very clearly "We're still here, guys, and we're not satisfied with what we've got".  Somebody will hear that, understand that there is an untapped market, and one or more MMOs will be built to cater to the hardcore again.  It's simply a time of transition.

But I'd say that the days of an industry dominated by hardcore games is probably over.  Somebody recently wrote about how mobile devices were a major source of gaming revenue.  I can see how that would make the casual gamer segment that much larger.

Tue Dec 18 2007 3:19PM Report
NeverForever writes:

I think the underlying issue is competition vs problem solving or more commonly seen as hardcore vs casual. The common hardcore player is a competitor, seeking to be better then someone else. The common casual player wants to make friends, do quests, overcome set challenges.


Set challenges by definition have no depth. A quest once done, will not be any different the second time you do it. There is no inner workings or complicated dilemmas. You pick it up, go complete the objectives and reap the rewards. These are also static in terms of time. Allowing the greater time flexibility casual players need.


Competition on the other hand, is infinately deep. No matter how good someone is, there often is someone better, or even if you are the best, you must defend it from those seeking to be best. Hence the competitive player looks for games with more complicated systems and player vs player interaction. Time is also the biggest factor in the system which is often maxed out to the limits of the player.


Now what I'm getting at is that these games are becoming more like puzzles. You do a puzzle, throw it away, get a new one, throw it away. It really doesn't matter how long it takes or if it's instant gratification. It's just a time scaler. The thing is that, it requires developers to constantly and frequently inject new content. The old content will then become obsolete. It's self destructive. Your creating content to replace the content you made 3 months ago... every three months.


So in the end, only the content changes. There has been no development in the gameplay of an MMORPG in the last decade. We're still on the level/exp system. We're still on the same gear concepts. Slay a monster, get the loot. Talk to an NPC and get a quest. But new ideas often fall on deaf ears in today's industry for there is simply too much feedback to consider it all and most of it isn't well thought out.


While casual games maybe hold the biggest chunk of the market now. The money needs to be reinvested into hardcore games that pioneer the genre and industry. As I had said, all these casual games are merely repaints of previous games. It will take another hardcore game to bring something new to this genre.

Tue Dec 18 2007 9:15PM Report
bboydiscover writes:

I want a full pvp game where you can get gang raped just leaving the town at any level and you can loot one item or some items or all items...

I want a game where mobs don't live in fields doing nothing constantly spawning. Where they build stronger and move to take over your town or ally  with you etc.

I want a game where missions aren't pointless and repedative. They help your city or help a person to make something and would actually want to pay you for.. I think its stupid the blacksmith would want to buy 5 torn animal skins from you...

I want a game that has character diversity where you can build your character how you want weak and magical strong and fast or medium at all... with technical mixtures of snares/roots/dots/traps illusions 'shadow steps' summons dd's etc.

I want a game where if I goto an unexplored depth I can find some treasure or some secret base or some dracolich or something different. I don't want different 'level' sectors. or level based weapons thats so bs.

If it was like this for me, I would care that people were stronger and just killed me and could kill people from my town. Even a duel to show who is stronger feels mildly pointless. If I has this to compete with to level/skill gain. I would feel more passion for the game. The people who complain from being pk'd can go away I don't care. It makes inequality so you have to cause your own equality/justice not the devs.. Freedom is better..

oo and stuff like some in game minigame might be cool like a type of cardgame? or boardgame? haha. Your characters might get bored too ya know :P


Tue Dec 18 2007 11:42PM Report
Auspice writes:

I have been having a huge problem with this as well.  In my opinion the majority of the MMO players are people who really are geared for things like Halo, and CS.  You get the majority of your PvPers there.  All of the arguments that they make, can be fulfilled by just moving over to a FPS or a hack and slash.  Im talking about people like the one who posted above me, and what he describes you already have in games like Halo and CS.

What you really need to do is go back to the whole idea of an MMO.  Im not just talking about MMORPG's or anything im talking about anything that is massively multiplayer.  Wherever you have lots of people anywhere there will be a lot of competition, and you will have people who rise above because they put in the time, and effort, and people that are the losers, and the losers will always bitch and moan till they get what they want, and that is what the devs are doing, is listening to the people who arent on top, and making games that losers can excel at.

In my opinion this is one of the worst things you can do.  You are making the game so that the people who arent good at it, can be just as good as the people who are good at it.  You will have your PvP and your PvE people, but in either case the people who put in the time and effort will ALWAYS come out on top because they know what they are doing, and they took the time to learn it.

I've been a casual gamer, and a hardcore gamer.  Ive focused PvP, and focused PvE on more then 1 game in the 5 years ive been doing MMO's and ive seen a shift where the dev's have been listening to the losers too much, and thats not a good thing.  Its really cheapening the MMOs

MMOs arent about instant gratification, 1 player games are.  If you want your instant gratification go play assasins creed, its a really great game, but i play MMOs because you have thousands of other people that are better then you are, and always will, and you can play against them or play with them.  By listening to the losers of the game, and doing what they want you cut out the competition of the game, and really lose what MMO's are all about, which is competition.  MMOs never ever should be about instant gratification, because competition never is.

Wed Dec 19 2007 5:36AM Report
chaintm writes:

Auspice has really nailed it, the instant gratification in an MMO is just not a viable structure. You can see this with MMO's that are failing upon release only after a few months. You see this in MMO's that give the players everything pretty much all solo.

While I could agree I love solo content and want to choose when I group , I also think allot of content should stay with the group concepts and need said groups to achieve and elite goal. This is in the end what MMO's are really about. Interaction with other users in a living world.

When we simplify for the "quick fix" of the casual gamer, we also end up killing the game for any long playabilty. Remember the days when it took you 2 years to get to max level? 2 YRS! now it's 2 months or even 2 weeks!

I think more devs should really look into not streching the grind of levels, but making challenges equal to the time spent on them. I hate refering to old games, but EQ still has the old grind and old ways, but it was really fun. EQ2 , while fun to me , lost it's appeal because it became to hard at times. Then they made it a bit more easier like EQ but alas it was too late for me and many others who just had enough.

I get all about the casual vs hardcore player but in the end the game should be designed to keep the player entertained for years to come. While it might take longer or more money invested to make such an MMO today, it would be a big hit just as WoW was. Vanguard really had the oppertunity and the intial following to make this happen, but bad managment by the original design team killed it.

This does thou prove that if a game is made like this, people will flock to it looking for the next game that will keep them there for years to come. I personally don't like jumping from one MMO to another just to start all over again. I want to do what I did in the past. Grow with my character, grow with my friends and really feel apart of something bigger, not just another fad passing by.


Wed Dec 19 2007 11:31AM Report
thorwood writes:

I agree that a game should be challenging and not give you everything on a silver platter.

I disagree that for a game to be challenging you cannot have the basics like a user friendly interface, in game map and quest log.  Depending on the game world, quick travel can eliminate unnecessary time wasters.  The challenge should be the game itself, not mastering a poorly implemented interface.

The game should be entertaining.  For me this means you should be able to achieve something at regular intervals.  Taking 8 hours to gain a single level is not entertaining if that is all you achieved in that 8 hours, its just a grind.  Many games have gone for quick leveling as the easy fix, rather than adding  "stuff" that you can achieve while leveling.

Skilled hardcore players advance more quickly than less skilled hardcore players, and the same can be said of casual players.

Many games, songs and movies are often only popular for a time and then replaced by the next release which catches our fancy. 

Games like EQ have constantly improved and added to the game to keep as much of their existing playerbase as possible.  Other games have significant income streams from churn where new players play for a several months then move on to a different game.  The games relying on churn have user friendly interfaces that you can quickly master and the game itself can often be completed within a few months. 

Is there a future for games that try to keep the same players for years?  How do you design a world that runs for years and continues to add new content?   The lower level zones become empty, so do you cater for new players as well as the veteran players?   Do you end up with a world so huge that 90% of the zones are empty?   Do you continue to recruit new players (customers)  or does the game die when the exising players die of old age or leave the game?

Thu Dec 20 2007 3:22AM Report
AnotherNicky writes:

At the end it is simply a problem of game mechanics. if long term motivation is only generated by the hunt on "uber loot", well, then instant gratification kills the game. Simple games get killed so quickly....Many of them deserve so (even if it took years to develop them).


Thu Dec 20 2007 7:34PM Report writes:
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