Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Hey Big Spender

I've just finished researching trends within the casual game buying audience, having scoured through hundreds of comments over on the Big Fish forums. The idea was to provide myself with handy reference lists to accompany the design of future projects.
These trends are extremely consistent - perhaps more so than I would have anticipated.
Thought it worth sharing my conclusions.


These are the attributes that players see particularly fit to praise/value.

1) Good length (3-4 hrs seems acceptable average). (Value for money!)
2) Puzzles not too hard and not too easy. (This seems impossible to balance without upsetting one half of the audience or the other. The greater of the two sins appears to be creating puzzles that are too easy, but it’s a close call either way. However, people are forgiving provided they feel they have value for money elsewhere! Quantity over quality?)
3) Immersive plot that ‘feels like it’s going somewhere’. (Plot which develops. When gamers talk of a game’s theme, they are typically referring to a single mood directed by the plot/story. Some like themes that make them laugh; others like the dark and brooding themes. There’s scant evidence to support the idea that a casual game can evoke more than a single emotion...)
4) Replay value. (Value for money!)
5) Originality.
6) Some backtracking: that is to say that a degree of freedom to explore is important; however, too much backtracking is annoying.
7) Clear goals.
8) Graphics. Not quite in the same league as music – good graphics tend to receive more praise than good music - however, like music, graphics are expected to be inoffensive by default. Beyond that, subjectivity reigns supreme.
9) Novelties. These typically include voice-overs and animations.
10) Customisation. This includes personalised cursors, and options for toggling/customising sparklies, timers, hint meters, and/or skip buttons.

It is long enough to make you happy with your money well spent, graphics are good, story line is even good enough to read along with, the items to be found are not too difficult, puzzles to figure out what to do next don't leave you scratching your head.
Haunted Manor: Lord of Mirrors.


These essentially boil down to frustration and boredom.

1) Glitchy code. This is a clear winner.
2) Repetitive music; overly loud music (esp. when drowning out voice-overs irrespective of adjustments in menu). Disappointingly, music is tolerated rather than treasured: its primary attribute must be that it does not annoy.
3) Puzzles that insult intelligence; hand-holding; overt use of sparklies. (Whilst target audience enjoys reliving their childhood, they now need a more adult context for what were previously immature emotions. In part, this is why we see so many scary dolls.)
4) Repetition, esp. repetitive, mechanical tasks; anything that induces boredom.
5) Penalties. Hint meter must refill quickly.
6) ‘Squinters’: very small hidden objects, or camouflaged objects, especially dark objects hidden in dark locations. (A good proportion of target demographic has poor eyesight!)
7) Time limits/restrictions.
8) No ability to backtrack; being confined to a single location; being evicted from a location.
9) Restrictions on length of user name.
10) Childish humour; sexy babes; male mentality.

I read the reviews and downloaded the demo. I was very disappointed. The story seemed OK but the graphics were poor.
The hidden objects were very easy to find and all the puzzles I tried were very simple.
Things may improve later in the game but I will not buy it.
Haunted Manor: Lord of Mirrors.

Just plain boring. Each chapter takes place in only one location and is very short. The puzzes or verrrry easy! I think I wasted my money.
Haunted Manor: Lord of Mirrors.


Here, people seem exceptionally more picky about getting value for money: they need serious incentives to fork out $20 for the CE when the SE is only $6 or $7.

1) Extra locations and puzzles are expected to make up the bulk of the CE material. (Players look for an extra 1-2 hours of bonus game play.)
2) Strategy guide must be integrated (accessible in-game).
3) HOG items should differ from CE.
4) Wallpapers and screensavers are discarded.
5) Reception to concepts tends to be pretty evenly split.

The concept artwork, built-in strategy guide, screensaver, and wallpapers would not tempt me to get the CE... but the extra hours of game play would.
Puppet Show: Souls of the Innocent.

And I'm glad to note that it says (and hopefully there will be) "hours of bonus play"; if that's the case it will truly be worth the hefty extra charge!
Puppet Show: Souls of the Innocent.


Overall an enjoyable game for me. The graphics weren't bad, nor was the music. There is a penalty for multiple clicking, but the hint button refreshing relatively quickly. Not sure about the replayability since the hidden objects were the same for me in the CE and the regular version. The storyline is a little odd, but there isn't really anything scary in it.
Haunted Manor: Lord of Mirrors.

I didn't find it to be a challenging game but that doesn't matter ~ it is a really satisfying game to play.
Haunted Manor: Lord of Mirrors.

The game does have a strength and that is the story. The story is intriguing and I found myself looking forward to knowing what happens next.
The Heritage.

I am limited in game buying so, here is my criteria:
1. Am I so into the game that I have to keep playing immediately after the hour is up?
2. Is the game re-playable? If yes, how likely am I to play it more than once? If no, will it keep me entertained for at least 3 hours of play?
3. How likely will it be available on another site, where there is unlimited play without buying the game?
The Heritage.

I normally do not like FROGS, but this one I do. Graphics are good and not to dark. There are no penalties for over clicking, which I seem to do when there are so many items I need to find. Hints recover in a nice time frame. Also appreciate that there appears to be no time to complete each level.
The Heritage.

Music wasn't distracting or irritating although I usually turn it off anyway.
Plenty of moving about - I like having to revisit areas to complete tasks. The H.O screens were clear and I only referred to the lists for the last couple of items in each.
Puppet Show: Souls of the Innocent.

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