Thursday, February 9, 2006

Casuality Session: Designing casual games

Jason Kapalka, Popcap games was asked to do a session on what it takes to design a casual game. He said it was hard to come up with ‘magic rules’ but instead did a session on 10 things you can do to screw up a game, citing less than perfect Popcap games as examples of each of these. The list, in brief, was:

1. Make it too hard
2. Have a dozen mediocre game modes instead of one good one.
3. Make your tech requirements to high
4. Self-distribute, price it bizarrely, or other biz no-no’s.
5. Give it a terrible name (interesting example: Dynomite’s sales went up when the changed the name from the original: Egg Sucker).
6. Award Low scores (another detailed post coming on this one).
7. Use the right mouse button. At all. Ever. Casual players don’t get it.
8. Expect users to read. That page of directions is never going to get read.
9. Make it too challenging and insult the user if they lose (exending this: casual games shouldn’t be ones you can lose. Just win, or win really well.
10. Ignore feedback.

The funniest bit of the presentation was the mock up he did of Bejeweled, if they had violated all 10 of the rules.

The game was renamed: Bloodwar: The Revenge, but then renamed again to Bloodwar Manager. It used skulls instead of jewels, had a dark theme, tons of complex game modes, etc. Plus it had this great end-game screen:

I give this presentation a 8/10. The speaker definitely knew what he was talking about and provided plenty of their own examples of mistakes, which showed some humility. However, his perspective was pretty US-centric, and limited to their audience and business model.

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