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Read December 30, 2005, 10:41:29 PM #40
cdoty

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

I'm still unsure of the need to make games easier though, a well designed game shouldn't kick your arse the moment you turn it on. A lot of the Popcap puzzlers, by way of example here, start off relatively easy but aren't afraid of beating you about as you progress further into them - its down to the difficulty curve being balanced correctly. There's no shame or harm in leading you in gently then gradually ramping the level up as you progress - I'm sure most gamers would agree, be they from the "hardcore" market or the "casual" market that if the balance is totally wrong then the game will be written off or thrown in the corner in no time. There's nothing worse than going from one level where you can cruise through it, or scrape through it by the skin of your teeth through your own skill to suddenly going to a level whereby the game design itself is against you.

Again, another non-shooter example - Psychonauts. A wonderful game from start to very nearly the finish. The final level before it got patched was cruel, badly designed and downright unfair as it ramped up the difficulty to 11. If it wasn't for the absolute joy of everything that came before it and desperately wanting to see the resolution, I'd have thrown it into the corner in seconds. And to pull out a shooter example, there's the classic of Sinistar - a game which could have been fairly balanced but wasn't eating enough quarters and so, come level 2 - its a totally unfair beast after the authors revised it. But we're not in the market of eating quarters (unless you've invented a pay to play system for your game), we're in the market of making games that people will return to.

I guess the point I'm trying to get to, is there shouldn't be a distinction between a hardcore game and a casual game. It should be a game that *anyone* can pick up and play and won't feel that the game is against them in an unfair manner, and I feel that can only be achieved by careful analysis of what makes the games that manage this work in the first place Smiley

A causal gamer would be more likely to walk away from a game as the frustration level builds. A hardcore gamer would see it as part of the challenge of the game. You can throw a nearly impossible level at a hardcore shooter fan, and they'll keep trying to beat it.
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Read January 01, 2006, 10:31:11 AM #41
Anthony Flack

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

Hello everyone!

I'm Anthony, the guy who wrote Platypus (all those years ago). Matthew asked me to throw my two cents in to this discussion, so here it comes - most of this relates not so much to what I did with Platypus, as it does to what I've learned since then.

Firstly, I think you guys have covered most of what I would have said, anyway. I actually don't really give a rat's arse about catering to the casual market, the hardcore market, or any other market myself. I'm just trying to make my games as good as I can. But having said that, any decent game developer should be folding themselves in half trying to be as nice to their users as possible. And if you are able to make your game inclusive enough to accomodate the casual market without undue compromise, then that is obviously going to be a big plus. Both in terms of all that lovely money, and more simply because it means more people get to have fun playing your game.

This means that people should be able to use whatever control method they like (well, within reason). Redefinable keys, gamepad and mouse should, ideally, all be available. Sometimes that's not really possible, but if it can be done, it should be. Most shooters can be played with the mouse. So why not support that? I never included mouse support in the original release of Platypus, but being a shooter it was able to be adapted to mouse control pretty easily.

You might not like to play with the mouse yourself, and actually I don't either. But I've found that for people who didn't grow up playing games on their home computers, getting fluid 8-way control out of the cursor keys is totally impossible. They will struggle with anything more than left, right and shoot. They probably don't have a gamepad, and won't buy one no matter how many times I ask them to. If you don't support mouse control, these people will give up on your game. Perhaps sadly and reluctantly - they wanted to play it but just couldn't control it.

I also think that using a single fire button is a HUGE plus. It is much, much easier for people to get their heads around. Again, people who have been playing games for years don't appreciate this. If you really need to use more than one button, I wouldn't stretch it to more than two. But I bet that if you're clever, you could come up with a varied and interesting firing system that only needs one button.

Same thing with difficulty - and I'm a dreadful past offender on this too, but I'm reformed now. I like my games really hard. That's fun to me. But some people are really crap at games - so give them an easy option. And then give them a really, really easy option. But for god's sake, keep the hard option in, too. I also think that it's important to provide incentives to motivate players to keep practicing, so I reckon it's a nice gesture to add a little bit of something extra at the hard difficulty. Like an extra level. You could tell players about the extra level when they finish the game on easy - maybe they'll be willing to jump back in at a harder skill level.

As for Platypus - yeah, it was flawed in many ways - I'm quite keen to make another shooter next, to see how much better I can do a second time around. And of course, please for god's sake don't imitate the "business model" I followed - not that any of you would. If you want to know why things happened the way they did, see the explanation on my website here: www.squashysoftware.com/makingplatypus.php

As for why it sold so well - firstly, Mike (it's Mike, not Chris) knows his business really well. Secondly, it was easily adapted to mouse control and only needed one fire button. But it was so much NOT a casual game in so many ways. It was too hard, even on easy. It had no player profiles. The restart points were miles away. You couldn't even save your game and resume it later. But it still did well. I think it was mostly the graphics that did it; simple as that. It's fun to look at. It's accessible. I was sick of serious, techy-looking space shooters. I wanted a game that made me feel happy, like Fantasy Zone made me feel happy. I think this resonated with people.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2006, 10:34:39 AM by Anthony Flack »
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Read January 01, 2006, 01:38:53 PM #42
oddbob

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

Cheers Anthony, and apologies to Mike/Chris for me getting his name wrong.

In my defence I've had awful flu for 5 days Smiley



Well, I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.
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Read January 16, 2006, 01:34:11 PM #43
d000hg

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

Delta times is one of the most basic things that n00b coders get told about, and is essential for a decent game. You may say that skipping on slow computers is bad; I guess it is but you can't make it run on a slow PC with NO compromise.
But without delta time, on a PC 2X as fast as the one you aimed at it will run at an unplayable speed - what if you make a game people want to play in 5 years on the PCs they'll have then.

There is nothing to stop you deliberately introducing slow-down in heavy-action sequences but it should be done in a controlled way on purpose. Separating rendering from game updates is one of the most fundamental things. Players of commercial games are used to stuttering games when their PC is too slow; it's obvious what the problem is so they can reduce graphics settings - if the game just runs slower they may never know and just think "this game is really easy".
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Read January 16, 2006, 02:02:08 PM #44
Matt McFarland

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

Delta times is one of the most basic things that n00b coders get told about, and is essential for a decent game. You may say that skipping on slow computers is bad; I guess it is but you can't make it run on a slow PC with NO compromise.
But without delta time, on a PC 2X as fast as the one you aimed at it will run at an unplayable speed - what if you make a game people want to play in 5 years on the PCs they'll have then.

There is nothing to stop you deliberately introducing slow-down in heavy-action sequences but it should be done in a controlled way on purpose. Separating rendering from game updates is one of the most fundamental things. Players of commercial games are used to stuttering games when their PC is too slow; it's obvious what the problem is so they can reduce graphics settings - if the game just runs slower they may never know and just think "this game is really easy".

Well put!


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Read January 16, 2006, 02:11:55 PM #45
princec

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

Only fools write 2D games with delta timing. That's all I can really say on the matter. I have never, ever played a 2D game with delta timing that felt right or professional, ever. Although I might forgive Soldat its foibles.

Cas Smiley
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Read January 16, 2006, 02:38:12 PM #46
Matt McFarland

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

Only fools write 2D games with delta timing. That's all I can really say on the matter. I have never, ever played a 2D game with delta timing that felt right or professional, ever. Although I might forgive Soldat its foibles.

Cas Smiley
I guess you'd call me a fool then!  I use it :/  Oh well I think its great..


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Read January 16, 2006, 03:56:33 PM #47
princec

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

When the framerate gets unsteady your game will become unplayable... just you wait. And don't even try to record a demo using delta time Smiley Very fiddly.

Cas Smiley
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Read January 16, 2006, 03:58:22 PM #48
Matt McFarland

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

When the framerate gets unsteady your game will become unplayable... just you wait. And don't even try to record a demo using delta time Smiley Very fiddly.

Cas Smiley
wrong, wrong, wrong.. so wrong Smiley
My game runs well at 20 fps Wink

edit: well 30 fps is more like it Smiley  but I've already recorded demos (have you seen them?) and I've already tested it at low fps and it runs perfectly fine.  If I need to cap a limit on how low fps goes I probably can.


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Read January 16, 2006, 05:11:09 PM #49
the2bears

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

When the framerate gets unsteady your game will become unplayable... just you wait. And don't even try to record a demo using delta time Smiley Very fiddly.

Cas Smiley
wrong, wrong, wrong.. so wrong Smiley
My game runs well at 20 fps Wink

edit: well 30 fps is more like it Smiley  but I've already recorded demos (have you seen them?) and I've already tested it at low fps and it runs perfectly fine.  If I need to cap a limit on how low fps goes I probably can.

That's not Cas' point though.  A game that's a steady 30fps can be very playable, it's when the framerate is unsteady that you have problems.  Pick 2 framerates, 60 fps and 30 fps and go with that.  Delta time is truly overrated with 2D... control your framerate and offer something to fall back to for slower machines, but *keep the framerate consistent* Smiley  Can you imagine watching a movie or cartoon where the framerate adujsted but actors started "jumping" because of delta time?  Out of curiousity, is your framerate fairly steady?

Bill


the2bears - the indie shmup blog
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Read January 16, 2006, 05:14:47 PM #50
Matt McFarland

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

Well, yeah its fairly steady.. I think the game will do fine.  Ultimately when I'm finished if it turns out DT is bad idea I can easily remove it by removing all the * Delta.time() at the end of the commands that use it.


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Read January 16, 2006, 05:26:31 PM #51
the2bears

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

Well, yeah its fairly steady.. I think the game will do fine.  Ultimately when I'm finished if it turns out DT is bad idea I can easily remove it by removing all the * Delta.time() at the end of the commands that use it.

Absolutely, I think it's more than fair to try things out.  I imagine the game will play and feel just fine... largely due to it having a steady framerate.  The beauty of fixing your rate is of course you fix the delta in delta-time.  It's an easy assumption to make, and switching to a slower rate is a "one-time hit" on the eyes and perception.

I don't want to harp on this, but I invite anyone to ask themselves, "Is a steady framerate better than an unsteady one?"  If you answer "yes", then you've got to figure out how to do that.  Then you can figure out how to handle less powerful machines.

Bill


the2bears - the indie shmup blog
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Read January 17, 2006, 06:36:53 AM #52
d000hg

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

Delta time only makes the game 'jumpy with unsteady fps' if you don't do it properly.

How on earth are you going to write a game that is playable on your min. spec. of 500MHz Geforce2 and a 3.6GHz Geforce7 monster? What, are you going to put in big pauses everywhere? Or maybe turn Vsync on  -that's not relaible since gamers regularly disable this for all games from their control panel.

The whole point of delta timing is that it's NOT jumpy. Something is moving across the screen and suddenly your fps drops from 60 to 20 - the object carries on moving just the same.
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Read January 17, 2006, 09:06:17 AM #53
princec

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

What we do is aim for a min. spec that gets us 60fps. We don't mind if occasionally it slows down a little because skipping frame updates after a silky smooth 60fps is utterly jarring.

I come from a TV graphics background and there is a reason why they don't use frame skipping and delta time for tickertapes - because it looks absolutely utterly awful and unprofessional. The same goes for 2D graphics in games - if you aren't getting 60fps or at the very worst a totally consistent 30fps your game looks, feels, and plays shit. That's why none of the console games you have played ever stray under 60fps. That's why all those games in the 80s felt so right, because they ran at a rock solid 60fps (or 50fps if you were in Europe Wink) And that's why PC games, to this day, feel so shit compared to what you remember games feeling like. It's also important to realise I'm not just spouting some developer's opinion here. The brain works and processes 2D information and spatial relationships in a very different way to 3D (where you absolutely must use delta timing).

To achieve a constant 60fps in 2D on min spec is pretty trivial - just pick a min. spec that'll cope. In our case for Ultratron, for example, we say 500MHz / Geforce class (I seem to recall, which now encompasses 99% of the market - yes, I've got real stats), and 99.9% of the time it never skips a beat. How hard is that? Then on any faster machines all you need is to spin on a Thread.sleep(0) waiting for a 60Hz timer to elapse every frame, letting the machine's CPU idle or even do some other useful work like background loading or garbage collection. And if you're running on a laptop it'll save heaps of power if it's not on the mains.

Cas Smiley
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Read January 17, 2006, 11:11:00 AM #54
d000hg

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

But equally if you're always getting 60fps delta-timing won't break anything.

2D games run OK at low fps though - like Jezzball in Windows3.1, using the (horrifically slow) GDI type stuff. And I don't know if you've played the game Stck Soldiers but that runs OK at slow fps.

Getting a rock-solid frame rate equal to the refresh rate is the ideal (and often the requirement in console games by the way) but we're talking about what happens on PCs that can't handle it. It's obviously going to play wrong or look bad, I argue that playing right is more important.
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Read January 17, 2006, 01:36:54 PM #55
the2bears

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

Getting a rock-solid frame rate equal to the refresh rate is the ideal (and often the requirement in console games by the way) but we're talking about what happens on PCs that can't handle it. It's obviously going to play wrong or look bad, I argue that playing right is more important.

That obviously depends on how many machines "can't handle" represents, and the purposes of your game I suppose.  The problem is the "PCs that can't handle it."  What percentage do the represent?  Is that number an issue and worth the time making concessions for (in terms of program complexity)?

Bill


the2bears - the indie shmup blog
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Read January 19, 2006, 02:44:49 AM #56
kemical

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

basicalyl just fire up an emulator and play a 2d game that isn't emulated very fast, or play an emulator on an old pc that doesn't have the power to run it 100%...  do this with autoframe skip on..

it gets nasty. really nasty.



- - -

Back on topic kind of..  Does anyone know what it takes to get a game on xbox live arcade???    Say a game is dev'd that is just absolutely purely awesome and molds perfectly with an arcadey experience.. and even has an excellent word-of-mouth glow going for it... does it depend on Microsoft and a publisher to see that and the same awesomness in the game ?  or does it take more than that? (aka $$$)
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Read January 19, 2006, 04:18:36 AM #57
kemical

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

well I think i just found the answer to my own question... http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1520696/20060112/index.jhtml?headlines=true

really cool.  my ultimate goal.
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Read May 03, 2006, 11:54:27 PM #58
afghanwhig

Re: Molding a shooter into the Casual Market

I would have hoped some poeple would have posted numbers from GDC but since they didnt I will.

The current top seller on Xbox Live Arcade is Geometry Wars, a shooter, it also has a 39% conversion rate which is anyone knows is freakin amazing.

To submit a game to Xbox Live Arcade you have to submit your idea or game and they have to match it with thier portfolio, it must be something they want or need that does not already exist on their platform. Or it must be better then the game that currently exists on the platform.

To dev for Xbox Live Arcade you must have a dev kit like any other company. althouhg they will work with indie devs on finding a dev kit to use. For people that live close to larger studios they can get a rental as funny as that sounds.

I heard a rumor that Garage Games may be releasing a plug in for torque and torque 2d that converts projects for Xbox Live Arcade.

Besides all those hurdles you have to go through the same testing process that any other AAA title goes through for Xbox.

I dont know but the 39% conversion rate seems nice, they stated as well that they are at a 20% conversion rate across the board for all the games right now.
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