Saturday, February 07, 2009

How to get your partner into gaming

I think the last couple of years have been very interesting year in terms of changes in the gaming space. There's been the casual thing, but most of what needs to be said about that can be said better by others. Then there is the continually increasing quality and scope of hardcore titles, but that's not what I want to talk about. The biggest change for me is the arrival (en masse it seems) of casually accessible hardcore games - titles that aren't just playable by both extremes but also _fun_ for both.

Last year my wife never played games. For a few special titles, she would humor me and watch me play for a while, and occasionally something would come along that would peak her interest (she really enjoyed some parts of RE4).

When POP came out I proudly showed it off to her expecting a few minutes of "wow Honey, very pretty" and that would be that. Instead she wanted to play. I didn't have to push or prod - she just picked up the controller, followed the tutorials, and was away to the races. Quite honestly after she made it about half way through the game I ended up kicking her off (Fallout3 was beckoning).

Seeing some potential in her POP interest, I kept an eye out for other titles I thought she'd like with the hope we'd find something to play together (so I didn't have to sit bored while she played, to be perfectly honest). Surprisingly I found it in Castle Crashers. A super violent hack and slash is not at all the type of game I would have expected her to get into, but the accessibility of the controls totally won her over.

What was great about CC is how the game appealed to us both for different reasons. For her, just mashing X and occasionally Y allowed her to more or less keep pace with me, doing her fair share of damage. I on the other hand was constantly changing weapons, changing animals and trying new combos trying to figure out how to do the maximum damage. It didn't hurt that we were both able to appreciate the wonderful art and animation.

Now we're trying LittleBigPlanet together. Of course the aesthetic of the world was an instant hit with us both, and what developer _hasn't_ lost a few nights sleep thinking of all the possibilities the level creation tools allow (a subject for a future post, I think). She's struggling a little bit more with the controls moving in and out of along the z-axis while jumping takes some getting used to) but last night, after dinner (and the baby asleep) I asked: "so what do you want to do? Watch a movie, or..." and she said "Lets play the skateboard level some more and try to beat our score in LBP".

For years I've been trying to find games that could interest me and my wife and to get her into my life and failed. Now in the space of two months we've played through three. Something has changed in the way games are made for the better.

Maybe POP isn't challenging enough for the hardcore - but it might just be the sexiest gateway drug. :) If you're significant other hasn't yet tried it, put the controller in his/her hands and see if they can't get a sense of satisfaction from the game.

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OpenID hc79290 said...

My brother thought the game was boring, easy and repetitive like I did. No casual gamer is going to look at Prince of Persia and get a sense of how easy it is. One thing I think developers have to realize is that these games aren't cheap. $60 for a brand new game, you have to make the game is top notch. Let's just say I'm glad I rented this game. I could go on and on about how much I disliked the game, but I'll save you the trouble Once I played through the idiotic ending in about 7 or 8 hours, I had no desire to play through it again. I will post a review on my blog soon, and you'll see why I think this POP is possibly the worse in the series. You dropped the ball, Ubisoft.

1:23 AM  
OpenID hc79290 said...

Sorry about me ranting like a fool there. I was babbling like an idiot. I was just so disappointed with this game as a person who has played every single one.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Kate said...

...some time ago one of Blizzard's employees ( I think it was Dustin Browder - Lead Designer of SC2) mentioned that he wanted to make an "enjoyable" game both for hardcore gamers and his grandmamma. The key problem is that when game is very easy - well... for sure it's very accessible to casual gamers, but at the same time it's completely not challenging for old-gamers and you can't do much about it. The tactic with gathering some "new" people to PoP brand (and refreshing it a bit) was a good idea, there is no doubt about it, but... with what you did some have left too...

Without a doubt the strongest part of the game was Elika and story. Yeah... I know it's also about jumping, wall-running, I had a lot of fun with these elements too, but my main motivation was the story. This game really has got some magic and maybe it's not ICO/SotC ... but we're all happy that some guys from Canada (finally) followed that path.

Unfortunately most of my friends were disappointed with this title (maybe except my boyfriend... but let's say he's "special"). Elements that were important for me were... "a bit" less important for them. They also didn't find any challenging elements (men like to think they're "pr0" ), so they had no satisfaction from finishing the game at all. Some even claimed that because you (devs) forced us to undo everything & release Arihman ... they simply wasted their time (strange isn't it?). I perfectly understand that it sounds a bit pathetic, but it seems that making a game which is both "rich" (in philosophical/spiritual terms) and successful as a commercial product a damn hard thing (sometimes it's good to be just flash/c++ dev)

Both ICO/SotC were good games, but they didn't archive spectacular commercial success. No one says ICO=HALO ... guys from Japan have a bit different taste too I think... maybe I'm not the greatest fan of their jRPGs, but many of their games are much closer to "art" comparing to what folks from America/Europe do.

I think that with the next title Ubi (I guess you won't tell us that you're involved with next POP before Ubi announces it ) should simply extend the filed for hardcore gamers. I think it should be pretty easy to analyze player's skill during the game...and slowly, but continuously increase it. If mobs dies to fast... make them harder, if player can perform some combos too often... do the same. I guess it would be hard to balance it... but it might be worth it at the end.

if(player.m_sSkill == "pro"){
game.m_nDifficulty ++;

That's all ;) ... I just hope I didn't make too many mistakes ... English is not my native language :P

Oh.. and the last thing - I'm very disappointed with lack of DLC for PC. I think it's a bit unfair, even if sales didn't go as good as you planned. (nah... I know it wasn't your decision :] ) .

Greetings from Europe

9:20 PM  
Anonymous Keith Nemitz said...

Give this game a try, 'Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble!' It uses casual mini-games to bind a decent RPG experience together. And your party of adventures are strong-minded girls in the 1920s, out to show their backwards little town what the new women is all about.

1:25 AM  
Anonymous NeilClaimer said...

Hi Ben
I don't know where else to put this and I'm quite sure I'm not the first one to ask you this way, but..
what in the name of Ormazd is going on?
No new posts on your blog at all, no news on the Prince of Persia official site, not even some announcements on E3 .. I really am starting to get nervous..

Well, from the first moment I looked at the back cover of the game and saw "You Are The Light", I knew for sure it was going to be the Game Of My Life (even though I can't explain it to be honest.. =) ).
But I also knew at the time I would never get enough of it.. and that's killing me now .. yes, I still enjoy every jump, I still cry every time I hear Elika saying "You had no right to bring me back.." in the Epiloue and I get the best smile I can get every time Prince says "Shall we find some more light seeds?" or so, but this can't go on Ben.. every time I start the game again, it infuses the indescribable Light in my veins and I have a perfect hour (at least) of something I call a "gaming meditation", but at the same time, I always quit the game with asking what the hell is next - can Prince survive without Elika? Will she find the remaining Ahura? Will the next game have a little less of QTE (or better none =) )? Will it boost at least as much adrenaline in my blood as the Epilogue? Will there be another game? (oh god I may sell my soul to Ahriman for one, if he asked)
As I said, it's killing me..
Just please say SOMETHING, I mean, anything =)

Take care


6:04 PM  
Anonymous NeilClaimer said...

And how does the Concubine know the Prince is a prince? Oh Ben just talk, please talk =)

7:17 AM  
Blogger GolerGkA said...

LittleBigPlanet is the only game to date that my gf asks me to play with her. I even had to create a user profile for her to save costumes and hearted levels ;)

10:31 AM  

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