Tobold's Blog
Friday, June 08, 2012
You're not alone, Stubborn!

Stubborn wrote a very good post on regressing in his preference for complicated games. As he sounded somewhat worried about it, I would like to use the opportunity to shout out to him: Stubborn, you are not alone! I've been spending more time this year with iPhone games and Facebook games than with complicated MMORPGs. The most complex game I'm currently still playing regularly is World of Tanks. And I have a library full of complex games both in unopened boxes and in uninstalled Steam games I look at from time to time and more often than not decide not to bother installing one and learning yet another complex game.

I don't think that age is the only factor here. I also have a rather busy and currently stressful professional life, plus I started a "new" old hobby of running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign which is eating up a lot of my time. Thus when I come home in the evening, driving a few tanks around a battlefield or tending my kingdom in Castleville are all I still have the energy for.

One added problem is that many game developers think that games of certain genres need to have a long feature list and thus be very complex. These days I find most strategy games from companies like Paradox Interactive to be pretty much unplayable, as it would take me a week of study to get into the game in the first place. It is relatively difficult to find strategy games that are both simple and deep. The old maxim of games having to be easy to learn but difficult to master is not a design principle of many modern games. In the case of MMORPGs I even find the reverse to be true: They are often difficult to learn but easy to master.

It's my Bridge/Chess analogy - both games have very simple rulesets. Very deep and rewarding game play. The current crop of game designers think the opposite. The complexity should be in the rules, to make more fun for the player we will never outline them, and as a result very simple gameplay because the unbalanceness of the rules ensures that there will be mathematically right answer.
Its kind of funny that you mention Paradox, because I love their games but even loving them it's just a massive pain to get into one for the first time.

I JUST bought crusader kings 2, but so far I haven't done anything with it because I feel like I am going to have to set aside a few hours just to go through the tutorials, and it will take hours after that before I first start to feel comfortable.
The "Explorer" in me actually likes complicated games because there is always something new to discover. In fact I prefer them to "easy to play hard to master" games like Chess. To my mind that type of game appeals more to "Achiever" players who enjoy playing with the same set of rules over and over to be the best they can.

Learning difficulty is a major barier for complicated games though and I too have a number of titles on my shelf I would love to play but don't have time/patience to learn. I think his problem can be minimised with good game deign however, with proper attention to tutorials and he development of game play.

Whatever complaints you have about mmorpgs this one area many of them do well. They are complex games with many facets but new players are slowly introduced to them in easy to swallow amounts.

Real time and turn based strategy games ususally take the opposite approach unfortunately and I have seen plenty shockingly bad tutorials in the genre.
First off, thanks for the link. Someone actually commented "You're starting to sound like Tobold" in the comment section of my post, prior to the link, just to add to the coincidence.

Koster calls what you're talking about with "required features" a problem that leads to "kitchen sink design," where you have to have everything in every game because it's "expected." I'm not sure I like the name (though it's very evocative), nor is it the actual name of the problem, but the symptom of the problem, but I feel like it gives us a vocabulary to start talking about what we'd rather see.

It's also funny you mention Paradox, because I just bought Warlock since someone suggested it RIGHT BEFORE it went to half price (how can you say no to that kind of synchronicity?), and it's... okay. I think I'll get a few games out of it, but I'm already feeling confused (to be fair, it's my first playthrough, there's virtually no tutorial, and there's no real manual - I've gone to the wiki about 100 times, though).

At any rate, my favorite comment so far suggested, like you do, that it's a combination of work and play that's the real culprit, not age (though I suspect it's a little of everything). Having had a job I loved in NY, I played occasionally frustratingly complicated games. Here, not having a job I liked, kind of slogging through two part time jobs where I ended up doing 150% of the work of a full timer, I didn't have the room for frustration in my private life. That makes sense to me.

Anyhow, thanks again, and it's good to know I'm not alone!
As a general rule...the less time you have to spend playing games, the less complex a game you tend to look for.
Perhaps video difficulty flows like a bell graph. When you're young you like it easy, then it peaks at some point, then as life changes you like it to drop off again. Atleast that’s how I imagine it would look for me. I use to love hard games. I was one of those people who would create artificial challenges in games just to make them tougher. However as I grow older, a few days from turning 31, I realize I just want to relax. I play video games as a way to unwind now. My real life has enough challenges and puzzles I use games as a way to… well not think. I’ve been playing a lot of Civ5 lately and I play on some of the easier difficulty settings. I played on some of the harder ones at first, and I was able to do fine, but it wasn’t fun. It was just too much work.

I don’t know, it’s weird I don’t like games because they are easy… I just don’t care for games where they are unnecessarily hard. I don’t fully understand the psychology behind it for me yet.
That depends on the core challenge of the game.
It look like you like deep tactical games, as well as card games, where you actually have to think, so the deepness of the gameplay isn't a bad thing.

But when the core challenge of the game is picking it up, and after you actually get hang of what's happening, things get pretty boring - that's a bad thing for sure.

I guess that's true for most gamers: we are for complexity in games, but we are against poor communication by game designers.
I disagree with this one. I for one get more and more frustrated with games being too simple. Hence I'm regressing back to monsters from the past. Advanced Squad Leader. Starfleet Battles. For board games. And Dwarf Fortress now as a game. Civ 5 as mentioned above here is the simplest game I ever play any more. Other than racing cars of course, have to race cars.
Take angry birds as an example. Seeing all the fuzz I tried it. Took me 5 minutes to get bored with it. If a game doesn't make me think (or is a racing game), do not want. Now back to the Paradox games :)
You're right, it takes some effort to learn how to play a Paradox title like CK2. And really, you need time to play these games.

If you do put in the time however, they're a ton of fun. In fact, CK2 is by far my favourite game of the year.

Personally, I play a big variety of games. Going from shooters that you learn in 5 seconds to more complex games.
You're not going to like Guild Wars 2 then, Tobold. It's a very complicated game, much more hardcore and twitch-based than WOW or GW1.
The difference I see is between gamers and MMORPG players. I rarely play any other type of game at all, not card games, board games or offline video games. I'm not interested in gaming itself, I'm interested only in MMORPGs.

The more MMOs seek to cater to an audience that sees them as just one type of game among many, the less likely they are to hold my interest or affection. If I eventually lose my enthusiasm for MMORPGs it's extremely unlikely I will move on to another form of game as Tobold has done. Far more likely would be a move to another hobby entirely.
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