TPG Cast Episode 2: Hardcore vs Casual

Adam Ames and Phil Cordaro along with special guest, Armaan Khan, highlight TPG Cast Episode 2.  In this edition, the boys give their take on the casual vs hardcore debate, why Phil hates “fake” difficulty, Armaan’s distaste for puzzle games and Adam’s terrible joke which causes a rain of boos to descend from all parts of the globe.  You can download direct from DropBox or listen via YouTube.  We are still working on devoting an set time and date for these to be available.

Running Time: 63 minutes

15 thoughts on “TPG Cast Episode 2: Hardcore vs Casual

  1. WooHoo! I’ve been immortalized in a podcast, granted it’s for being the weird guy who was obsessed with hot dogs but I’ll take it.

    When looking at Hardcore vs Casual I don’t look at Games or Gamers but instead at Gameplay. As pointed out in the podcast there are those who can have that hard core, bordering on OCD, levels of gameplay on so called casual games like Peggle or Tetris or Mahjong. On the other end of that spectrum I knew a guy who would spend big bucks on keeping his PC up to date with the fastest processors and videocards so that he could play the latest “hardcore” games (at the time it was stuff like Unreal and Turok) at their highest settings, only to then put in all the cheat codes so as not to have to bother with learning to play. He would just wander through the levels taking in the scenery. Another friend of mine was never interested in games like Oblivion or Call of Duty but loved playing WoW. Only he didn’t actually play he just liked walking around the virtual world talking to other players. He told me once that he used to hate going on raids because it was just too much work, so he picked a healing class so that he wouldn’t have to do any of the boring stuff like combat. He has been playing for years so I shudder to think how much he has spent on monthly subscriptions for just the social aspect of the game, I would say his play style defines casual gaming.

    I used to love playing the old Sierra Point & Click games like Space Quest and Police Quest as well as puzzle games like The 7th Guest. I agree wholeheartedly with the idea of fake difficulty. There were a few odd puzzles in Sanitarium that weren’t very intuitive, but the worst game puzzle I experienced (the name of the game escapes me at the moment) involved being stuck in a store and to unlock the door so you could get out you had to pick up a bone and put it in the cash register. For fake difficulty in shooters I’ll point to Fallout 3. When they wanted to have the DLC be more difficult they just added bullet sponge enemies, then added bigger guns so as not to make it too hard. The irony is that there was built in AI behavior settings that could make the gameplay easier or harder by setting the tactics of the enemy NPCs. I was playing with the behavior settings of the Raiders and wound up with a game that was almost impossible for me to play. I also made a mod that simply removed weapons, ammo and healing items that are found laying around in the game. This has a big impact on how hard the game can be. In fact there are entire mods that enhance the difficulty by simply tweaking a number of game setting like carry weight and weapon sway. The question was always why the modders could raise the difficulty like this but the developers could not.

    I don’t know what the technical name would be, but the type of game I hate would be Point & Click Action games. I already said I like the Sierra *Quest games, and I love turn based tactical games like Fallout 1&2 and Jagged Alliance, but games like Diablo and Torchlight are just torture for me. I feel that these games have all the makings of a great button masher, but they have taken away all my buttons. I played through Diablo once and rushed through it just to get the story, but the real bummer is that I have never been able to get past disc 2 of Baulders Gate. The combat of BG could be great as a proper turn based experience but it instead feels like I’m micromanaging an RTS. I actually like RTS games but I don’t like having to babysit individual units like I’m forced to do in BG.

    • He used cheats to play games right off the bat? Man, I do not understand that in the least. What is the point of playing on God Mode or with unlimited ammo? I would think it would be the other way around. It really is interesting to see the different playstyles and what people are willing to spend money on.

      Perhaps the developers were certain raising the difficulty would turn off players who wanted a walk in the park and the modders who wanted a greater challenge made it happen.

      I never played Diablo or a dungeon crawler before Torchlight. I really liked the way Torchlight handled itself, but it is my only experience with the genre.

      • Yup! He had a high end PC because he wanted the games to run at max settings, but used cheat code because he didn’t want to actually play the game. He would just wander aimlessly to look at the scenery. I’m sure to the characters in the game he looked like a complete psycho. One minute he is examining the veins on the leaves of a bush, then whips out a rocket launcher to blow someone to bits and walks right past the body to look at the fish swimming in the creek.

        Diablo was not a bad game, as evidenced by the huge fanbase, but it did have very limited gameplay options for someone who wanted to play a pure warrior. Torchlight actually had some pretty interesting features like combining ember to slot into your weapons and armor, but I spent the whole time wishing for movement keys and an attack button. They did make a pretty good demo for it though, 2 hours to do what ever you want and then you have to play to keep going. As a fan of old school Rogue-

    • Love the input about fake difficulty, maybe this is something we can revisit on a future podcast because there’s an awful lot to say about. I kind of worry that an increasing number of games these days seem deliberately designed around a particular difficulty setting, with the rest kind of being quickly tweaked around that mode. On one hand I can understand you only have so much time to devote to balance and it probably makes more sense to spend most of that on the difficulty 90% of people will play, but on the other hand I just really don’t like how it’s handled most of the time. I am hoping more devs (or at least modders) are going to see this and introduce interesting little modes and quirks that work on another level besides “you have half as much health and enemies have twice as much”.

      I find the idea of enemies becoming smarter on high difficulty really promising, and hope maybe we’ll start to see more of that with advancements in AI. Or at least I can hope. R…right guys???

      • I have always been a fan of the difficulty options that are:

        – Easy
        – Medium
        – Hard
        – Custom

        Where the Custom option gives you access to dozens of switches and sliders to set the difficulty to exactly where you want it. Speaking from experience this takes a lot of work to do however. It requires making Variables for every conceivable setting in the game and using a lot of algebra when writing formulas for things like weapon damage or when an enemy unit decides it wants to save itself or is willing to die and keeps at you. Adding new items or features also becomes a chore as you have to go back and rewrite each formula to ensure that variable works like it should and that it is independent of every other variable. To me this is totally worth doing as there are players who change settings because they only want to make minor tweaks and others who want to completely rebalance the entire game, and I like knowing that my work can appeal to both at the same time as well as everyone in between. For the larger AAA games though it would mean adding staff for the extra coding and testing as there can be some pretty big bugs if the options are set just right.

  2. I’ve really been enjoying the show so far! Are there any plans to put the podcasts into a separate RSS feed? Maybe I’m a niche situation amongst your readers, but I would like to add your show to a podcast aggregator that I use on my phone which relies on RSS feeds.

    Just wondering.

    Anyways, keep up the good work!

  3. Another good show guys, and the topics of difficulty and casual/hardcore tied in quite nicely I thought. I doubt there will ever be a concrete definition of what is hardcore or casual. To me, I’d say that the difference is mainly how you choose to play the game rather than the game itself – Tetris can be a casual game unless you practise so much that you can complete levels at superspeed without breaking in to a sweat. Playing Worms with your mates can be casual, or you can practise to make sure you are so uber with the ninja rope, no-one is safe even when they’re on the other side of the map. Do you like driving around and getting in trouble in San Andreas, or are you chasing 100% completion ? Of course some games are naturally difficult and demand a certain dedication to get anywhere – I’m thinking SMB and the like.

    I’m too old for all that now, I just really don’t have the patience to be frustrated any more and that’s what gets me about false difficulties, and also inconsistency. I’ll accept losing a game/having my char die or whatever when I know I was at fault, but that doesn’t mean I cba to put up with it for very long. One particular game that had me screaming at it was Dead Island. We played that 4 player co-op for a while recently and comms was often a blur of cursing because the game was so inconsistent (and the controls were awful. Notch another game up to bad port…) – getting knocked down when you knew you were out of range, and one particular area in the city map called “quarantine” which had a difficulty spike that was just totally out of place with anywhere else in the game. The trouble is that it was a respawn point for you if you died within that 1/4 of the map, and it was just insane trying to get out again. Fun for a while, then a chore.

    • You bring up another good aspect of gaming difficulty we did not have time for and that was checkpoints.

      I hate the idea of dying in a game and having to replay two or three areas again because I could not make it to the next checkpoint. I am being punished for succeeding in those two areas. Hard Reset did this and is one of only a few problems I had with the game. Hard Reset is difficult on Normal as it is, but when you do not give save options and need to abide some arbitrary notion of where the devs think checkpoints need to be placed, I do not agree with that.

      • Save points have classically been an easy way to add false difficulty, but they are often just a nuisance to the player. For as much as I loved the Final Fantasy games I have always hated the save point system. As a kid it would get me in trouble because I would be playing and see that it was almost bed time and have to hurry up and get to a save point. My parents would yell at me because I have been “trying to save my game” for 15 minutes and now it’s past bedtime. Fast forward to today and my own kids sometimes go to bed late because it takes me 30+ minutes to fight my way to a save point. Then there is the Rogue-Like, these games have one save slot that auto loads when you open the game and auto saves when you quit. If something happens that’s not what you wanted there is no quitting and going back to an earlier save. So while you can save anywhere, if you die you have to start the whole game over again. These games are notoriously difficult, I have been playing the same one for years and have never even dreamed I came close to beating it. On the other hand you have something like Fallout where you can save at any time and it can make the game much easier. Save before trying steal or pick a lock and reload id it doesn’t work, or if you are low on health in a fight just save and hope for a critical hit, then reload and repeat. Finding the right balance can be quite a chore and once again I’ll point to how the modding community was able to come up with something better. There was a Fallout 3 mod that offered a fully configurable autosave feature. You could set the number of autosaves before they started overwriting themselves and you could set how often it saved, so you could have the game autosave every 5 minutes and go back to any of the last 20 saves. It also had options to not save if you were in combat or low on health. It pains me to play other games now because none of them have these features.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s