Liveblogging: The Changing Face of Casual Games

Just arrived at the Casual Games keynote, The Changing Face of Casual Games, which will be given by Chris Early, the studio manager for Microsoft Casual games. It should be interesting. I've increasingly felt that Microsoft has dropped the ball with their Xbox Live Marketplace. The game selection, to me, seems far too derivative and not nearly as innovative as I expected it would become when they first announced it.

The talk should be starting in just a tick. Hopefully Early will have something interesting to say. Hit the jump to follow along.

Early: As we heard yesterday, players are changing. The casual gamer... that's different now. Everyone's playing casual games now and they're playing games in places where we never expected to play games before.

Early is taking a quick look at games over history. The consistent factor, he points out, are that they involve people and fun. People and fun were the innovators in ancient games.

Early: What kind of a platform are you going to design for, because it has an effect on the game you make.

When Microsoft introduced a graphic operating system and included games, it wasn't about fun, he says, it was about training. Solitaire was all about drag and drop and Minesweeper was all about point and click.

This was a change in games spurred by education.

Now he's talking about Facebook games, which are essentially just text. Many of the games are asynchronous, you can play with friends and there are leaderboards.

He's moving on to PuzzleQuest, one of the great casual games of 2007.

In this case they've taken the fun of matching three in a row and put it in a meta game. The game also has persistence of data, leaderboards and the mini-games means that you have a lot of chances to win.

Car Racing, is a free game in Korea. You can buy add-ons for your car from better motors to oil slicks. The game again is really just about playing with your friends and includes leaderboards and persistent data. It also adds the ability to pay cash for items.

Bioshock, not a casual game, but built into it is a casual game. If you're successful with this casual game you can unlock things that help you out. This is an example of how casual play can improve the core game.

Rock Band, Wii, Guitar Hero, what did we learn from them. They all include an aspect of physical play, they let you collaborate with your friends.

You need to think about where you are, who you are designing for, which innovative concept are you going to build in your game better than the last thing you saw. What you can't forget is the fun, the rest of it you can even call artifice.

Donkey Kong who was the hero? Jump Man, they called it Jump Man because they spent so much time perfecting that one element. After they made that fun, they made a whole series around that concept.

What are my favorite innovative concepts:

Asynchronous Play
Persistence of Data/Character
Meta Game/Value System
Casual Play Benefits Core Game (I'd love to stand at the bank and do my Bioshock Flow game and have it matter)

If you think that's interesting I think you should go see our keynote tomorrow morning where you will see a little of this announced for the first time. That's all I'm saying it's vague enough that I won't get in trouble.

Ohh, that's a juicy tip. Annnnd it's over.


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