Tuesday, January 30, 2007

CALLING ALL CARS: TOO CASUAL!?!?

Hey ya'll...sorry for the lack of posts of late. Been swamped with home life and with work.

I am in Utah as I type, tuning the game with Scott and da Boyz (tm) for our play test in Los Angeles tomorrow. Sitting in my hotel room, waiting on my whole wheat French Toast to arrive, then it's out into the cold Salt Lake morning to make the walk to the Incog offices (only about 2 blocks away...ain't life tough?!?) :)

We've been getting lots of the Santa Monica folks to play the game the last few days to get feedback on the big issues we want to adjust before we let the 'real' play testers have at it. And that excercise has been interesting.

On one hand, we've gotten just the kind of feedback we've been looking for. For example:

Catching the Criminal when he's popped into the air seems too difficult for most people who play. So we're going to tweak up the assist number so the crim has a bit more homing on him as he's falling from the sky and into the player's car.

AND

The AI is too relentless right now, shooting missile after missile at players the instant the human player picks up a criminal. The result, in the single player, are lots of comments that the game is too chaotic and difficult.

These kinds of comments were expected as, when you make a title, the team ends up tuning it to what is fun for them. But living with the title every day makes us experts and so we tune the thing to be ultra hard (which- to us- reads like medium level of difficulty). Same thing happened with Twisted Metal:BLACK. Difference there is we shipped it without play testing it and probably lost 50% of sales as folks tried it and ended up taking it back as it just kicked their asses.

So those sorts of notes we are excited to get. We knew they were coming and know they will make the game 100% better.

But we've also been getting some other comments that have me...what's the word? It's not concerned really...it's more interested, more curious.

See, CALLING ALL CARS is- for me- probably the most fun game I've ever worked on. I don't mean the time I've had as one of the lead designers, but as a player. I enjoy playing this game over and over and over (mainly in multiplayer). And so it's odd when I see reactions from other gamers who are going: yeah it's fun, but it's too basic.

But then I look at the folks who are sending these notes and they are- for the most part- hard core gamers. The more casual gamers seem to be complaining about the stuff listed above (too hard to catch criminal, too chaotic)...those things that are easy to tune.

But the hard core guys seem to be looking for much more depth in the title. These guys play lots of FPS games and shooters and fighting games. Games that I dig as well...but games they would slaughter me at if I sat to play with them :)

And so we're dealing with a game tuning dillema:

Do we adjust the title to give those hardcore folks what they are looking for or stay the course and deliver a game that we feel is- barring the kinds of expected tuning mentioned above- working really well?

The focus tests tomorrow night well help as I've requested both hardcore gamers and more casual players to show up. It will be interesting to see which way the wind blows then.

And it could be that the game we are making is good but it's better suited for the PS3 2 years from now, when more casual game players start grabbing the hardware.

But I was talking to Scott about adding some of the more hard core requests to the title and we were both like: well yeah, we could add some of those things, but do we really want to?

If we had wanted those elements in the game, there was nothing stopping us from putting them in from the start. Sony gave us pretty much free reign with CAC and this is the game we wanted to make.

So it begs the question: do we even want to be making games that appeal to the hard core gamer? Maybe we do; maybe it's just this game and the next game will be ultra hard core. Or maybe not. I really don't know.

I can tell you the games I'm playing alot of these days- and I mean ALOT, not just little spurts- are GO! SUDOKU on PS3, TOWER BLOX on my cell phone, Blast Factor on PS3, and Resistance on PS3.

So...there's only one hard core game in there.

Am I just getting...old?!?!?

Ah well, bring it on. As my father-in-law always says, beats the alternative!

Ok, french toast is here and I gotta get going with the day.

Chat with ya'll later!

David

23 comments:

Konstantin Kuchev said...

That's a great dilemma. If you were making Calling All Cars for the Wii, I suppose you wouldn't even be asking yourself whether you should put those elements in or not. You are trying to focus on the fun factor, but some folks want the game to be more complex... But what if those elements people want in rob the game of its purest idea - to entertain?
There's no doubt about it- only a certain niche would appreciate Calling All Cars. Especially when we're talking about the PS3. Gamers have changed, and games are struggling to satisfy their needs. NOT many players today want complex games, though they want real-life like games with photorealistic graphics. They choose games by their genres, since they want to know what are they giving their money for. They are buying the fucking FIFA cause they know what they'll find inside, and they are happy to waste their time with it. They like to eat the same shit and some of them call themselves 'hardcore gamers'. What is a hardcore gamer? A fan of the genres? A fan of FPS or TPA or RPG who doesn't try anything else? A guy that is nothing beyond his nickname on Xbox Live? What if you are a fan of Tetris - what kind of gamer are you? Gears of War isn't better than Tetris as a game. Maybe it has better graphics and stupid main characters with stupid voices and some standard music score. Games are getting shorter and easier, as today's players don't like difficult games. But what could still be saved is the feeling a game can give you. It's all that matters. It's their soul and their greatest strength. And here comes the Wii. The players were fed with the same shit over, and over, and over again, but there's a point when it's just a little too much. Wii is a beam of hope, it is the saving straw to clutch at. People are playing and they just can't believe how much fun re they having, because they've nearly forgotten what it is! Excuse me, but I don't want no boring Gears of War, no Resistance or the next great MGS4, or the next FF, or an upgraded Knights of the Old Republic with a new name, Mass Effect or whatever else crappy names they think of... I want to have fun! There were very few games I had fun with last year. One of them was Okami - infact, one of the greatest games I've ever played. And look what happened - Clover Studio is no more, cause Okami isn't selling well... Of course, I will have to buy a PS3 if team ICO makes their next game for it. But I won't be able to, because, apparently, I haven't worked enough for it, as one of those fucking presidents of Sony was so clever to poin out. Man, I know you are working for Sony and all, but the whole PS3 thing STINKS badly, and I'm sure you know this.
I wish games were as wonderfull as they are promised to be. Hell, when they are promising spells, I want SPELLS. I want to see the incredible power of the fucking spells unleashed! I want real magic! Like in Planescape Torment - http://youtube.com/watch?v=OKZZEPoVb4c. You know, if someone asked me which is my favourite game of all times, I would put Planescape in the first place. This game is played inside your mind. It's in your imagination, and your emotions are your contoller. It has the best story ideas I've ever seen in a game - yeah, better than Legacy of Kain and MGS. It's not the perfect game, and what makes it is the story. But every time I see the menu screen and hear the music...I want to cry with joy. It's the feeling that matters, and the best game isn't perfect anyway. Shadow of the Colossus isn't perfect. But none of those beautiful high-resolution new titles could reach the temple of emotions in the farthest land of SotC...
Well, what I had to say is - make sure the game is fun to play :) If you follow your own vision of this game to its maximum, you'll at least be sure you've made what you wanted to- and there will be people to appreciate the game! But if you make compromises with your concept, you could end up with a mediocre game, and you won't be satisfied with you decision to try and attract people who want something more complex. Maybe this game doesn't have to be complex. Maybe it's a game for a certain type of gamers. The instant I saw this game I understood it's not for everybody. But that's not a bad thing at all :) I would certainly enjoy it, but I don't see myself getting a PS3 anytime soon...I don't even have a good normal TV, let alone a HD one. I'm playing Shadow of the Colossus on a fifteen-inch screen and it's not cool...I wish I had sometihng better for God of War 2 at least.

Anonymous said...

I vote for keeping the game tuned for casuals. It doesn't need depth to be fun... it just needs to be FUN to be addictive.

I'm a female -- older than you -- and I bought a PS3 because *I'm hoping* there will be more casual games than there are on the xbox 360.

Eric said...

It's a great test of longevitiy no? See if CAC lasts for when more Casual players have the PS3? I think it's a great idea. fLow is the epitome of casual gaming, but it's got that special uniqueness that transcends causal and just makes it hypnotic fun. Isn't some form of fun what everyone expects from a gaming experience anyway? I'm a hardcore gamer, but I love my Tetris, Lumines, and fLow.

Kittonwy said...

It's more important to make it fun, with fluid controls, visually appealing and provide enough content that will last the player awhile.

Spencer Wasden said...

Is it possible to create two AI difficulty settings such as Casual and Hardcore?

It sounds like pure multiplayer is the way to go. I think that’s why games such as Uno have done so well on Live because you’re playing against other people. This got me thinking when you mentioned (in the 1UP interview) games like Uno have come out on the PS2 before, but with small results. Once you play against a real person you can’t go back.

To be honest if there is just one AI difficulty setting you can’t go wrong with making it casual:

1. It will help the player learn the ropes.
2. I’m sure online/split-screen will be enough for hardcore players :)

Casual...Hardcore…either way I’m jumping online from the get-go.

But then again, this is all coming from a hardcore gamer...

Henning said...

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing Spencer was. But if I were forced to choose, I'd go with the casual gamer route. Even though I like hard-core games like CoD3 and R:FoM, I'm not very good. So I'd like another arcadey game that I could pick up and actually do well at.

tapion440 said...

I had a lot of stuff written but I erased it because what I wrote at the very begining pretty much sums up how I feel. So here it is:

"I really believe that you need to make the games that you want to make for the gamers and not the games that gamers want you to make for them."

Because when you start doing the latter, you're going to be a year into a project that your heart isn't into finishing and we would really hate to see another canceled title.

*speaking as honestly as possible so don't get mad*

-tapion440

Rob Zepeda said...

Maybe CAC isnt casual at all? I mean, whats so casual about it?

I would hope that you stay true to your vision, but realize that the hardcore demographic isn't as small as it once was.

Lets take chess...its a complex game with a lot of strategy. But you can use the same board and just play checkers. Same for poker and go-fish.

Give us the game and let us decide how to play it.

Just my two cents.

Jutah_f8 said...

I also agree with Spencer, keep the game casual and the multi-player will/should satisfy the hardcore gamer.

Uno on Live, for me anyways, is a game that allows me to "shoot the shit" with friends and people i meet online... and at the same time have FUN with it.

CAC has a litttle more things going on on-screen than Uno, but I think I can still have the same experience with friends.

final thoughts...

keep it casual, i think it will do well... not because it's from the CREATORS OF GOD OF WAR AND TWISTED METAL: BLACK(it's in the trailer lol) but because 1) there's nothing out on PS3 like it 2) it's multi-player on and off-line 3) and it is simple enough to where anyone who has played games in the last 2 decades should be able to pick it up and have FUN with it!

those last to thoughts came from what people ask me for at the GAME store on a daily basis.

see ya.

Grouch = PSN

P.S. good post by tapion440

Arnaldo Licra said...

I never saw CAC being casual or hardcore. I always saw it as a fun game to play; not casual but not hardcore either.

Its kinda like asking yourself if Monopoly is hardcore or casual.

-Arnaldo

neil said...

I think the problem is that Calling All Cars is not necessarily a casual game in the sense that Bejeweled or Uno on Xbox Live is. And obviously CAC is not a Hardcore game either. The industry just needs a new term for these type of games.

Any takers?

ortholomeux said...

i agree with neil.

CAC has aspects of both in it. you can pick it up and casually play it, but it also allows you to dig deeper and get something a little more out of it as well.

the reason we are having such a hard time related to this discussion is because it kind of does lie in a gray area. if we took stuff out, it would be much more casual. if we added more stuff in, it would move more towards hardcore (whatever that means)

so, i propose a new term for this type of game that sort of offes both.

"casualcore".

PlayStation Museum said...

Calling all Cars too casual? Since I never played it, I can't comment. But was Pac-Man World too casual? Didn't that game sell well and get ported to different platforms? I for one like and always will favor shooters and simple action platforms (preferably 2d). That's because I'm old and was raised on 2D.

Da criminal, if you get bored, pop in at my blog. I posted scans of Jet Moto concept art. I just wanted to know if it appears authentic. Oh, and a small write up about Ghost Rider for PS1 which news sites got wind of (ala Joystiq and GameSetWatch).

invading_space said...

I think you have to stay true to the design. Better to do one thing exceptionally, than to do many things that are passable.

Matthieu Gauthier P. said...

Casual = more sales = good for you = good for Sony = good for the PS Network. Sure, a high pourcentage of PS3 owners are hardcore right now, cause it's been out for only 3 months... but we won't see CAC in a bargain bin anywhere, it will be availabe for 5 years if the PS3 lasts 5 years, 8 years if it lasts 8 years etc. so it has to appeal to the mass market. And since lots of hardcore gamers will still download it, it might as well become a "classic" for hardcore gamers, like Rock n' Roll Racing or Bomberman.. or Mario Kart!; and those games were simple as fuck. Hardcore gamers will always bitch a game no matter what. Hardcores will play against hardcores online, that's all. If the game is fun, keep it casual.

BPK said...

It's honestly refreshing to see a game like CAC in development. Modern games aim to be too subtle and too complex. There's a reason I'm adoring gripshift right now - it's very simple and to the point. We need more games that pay homage to the pongs and pacmans....games that are simple to play but so fun that therein lies their longevity.

Anonymous said...

Screw the harcore gamers the Ps3 needs Casual games to download, games like CAC, Grip Shift, FLOW, Blast Factor, and so on is what the PS3 needs right now sometimes people want to play something simple instead of playing something with a complex story or gameplay. In the 80's casual gaming was an all time high, games like Pac Man and space invaders were the few games that started the casual gaming boom and that's what the gaming industry needs right now.

Laquer said...

I agree with the last ANONYMOUS post except take out the crude langauge :P One thing i find interesting about what you said was that you were really into the multyplayer im sorry but when my freidns come over they dont want to play a game for that will be too difficult for them,They want something they can get right into, fact of the matter is im not a hardcore gamer dotnb ahev the time not a casual gamer either got a PS3 at launch and I have pretty much every game released for it right now. I am very excited to see CAC but if your asking my opinion I think you should keep a healthy balance

Kellee said...

OMG, you are preaching to the choir.

-Kellee Santiago

thecapps said...

I would prefer CAC to be geared more towards the casual player, while having an option to increase the difficulty. If that's not possible then I'd prefer it to be casual, and then be able to get your butt kicked online if you choose to (maybe with separate sections for hardcore and casual, or a good matchmaking system that would pair you with players of a similar skill level). I'm looking forward to playing this with my friends and my wife, and so I'm thinking that the casual difficulty would probably more approachable from the type of audience that would pay $5-10 for a game versus $60 for a full fledged game. And keep in mind, these same hardcore gamers that are wanting a punishing difficulty level are probably the same ones going home and playing Wii Sports... Nuff said.

patient0 said...

Having casual and hardcode "modes" would not be a bad thing. I say modes rather than difficulty as I would anticipate the hardcore version being more than just harder since it sounds like hardcore people have been asking for more features.

Honestly though, if it would be difficult to make it hardcore, especially given how close to release it is, you may be better off just doing the casual thing as well as possible. Doing one thing really well is better than doing two in a less than effective way. Even though I favor hardcore games, I'd prefer to have CAC be the best it can be in whatever form it takes.

I definitely wouldn't mind seeing a more "hardcore" oriented downloadable game as a future project from you though.

David Morival said...

Respect for this man, his blog and the work he and his team puts into this new game. It was with great joy I read this blog about the playtesting and it's actually astonishing that some people are offended by some things that are written. The "edit/update" Jaffe has put in explains what the more clever people already understood: playstesting is important but stupid fucks don't belong there and Jaffe has every right to get mad at those people!

Anyway, looking forward to play the game anytime soon!

Good luck with the project!

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