"Mid-core" is a term being bandied about quite a lot lately, indicating the evolution of social games from passive clicking affairs to experiences that flirt with hardcore gameplay while remaining accessible to casual players. Need an example? Play Mob Science's newly-launched Legends: Rise of a Hero.
Out today on Zynga.com, Legends is a mouse-based action role-playing game and a city-building/crafting game rolled into one
Players can freely wander the land as one of three character classes -- ranger, wizard or warrior -- slashing, casting and shooting goblins, rats, spiders and an assortment of sharply-drawn fantasy enemies to their hearts' content. And by hearts' content I mean the content of their heart-shaped health meter. The only limitation to your wandering and killing is your health -- should it drop zero you die and respawn in camp.
There are health potions, but they are expensive (I'm guessing a potion shop of some sort opens up later in the game to make them easier to acquire). At the beginning you have three healing choices: spend gems purchased with cash money, bug your friends for help or wait for the meter to refill naturally.
While you wait you can engage in the more casual aspects of the game. Farm crops, chop trees, forge weapons and armour (which change your character's appearance when equipped) and build up your city to increase your income. Interactions with resources and objects are energy-based, so there's a limited number of actions that can be performed before the waiting kicks in. The payoff is a town that looks like the one in the screenshot below, rather than the loose assortment of buildings and trees that serves as my current base of operation.
If you want to get far in Legends you're going to need friends, and not just for healing purposes. Clicking on the tavern in town allows you to choose a pair of players' characters to accompany you in your battles, increasing your chances of survival significantly. Non-player characters are available for rental as well, but they are a costly bunch.
Legends: Rise of a Hero is a rather polished game (and it should be with $US1 million in funding behind it) that could prove a two-way gateway, easing the hardcore into casual and vice versa.
You should try it. And friend me. Seriously, I need healing.
Legends: Rise of a Hero [Zynga.com]