Why I Think Casual Games Are Not Casual
First off, casual games are games that are designed to appeal to a massive player base without the need to commit to the game for a long period of time. However, I find that most casual games are not even close and require players to commit to a timed schedule or heavy amounts of gameplay in order to get anywhere in the game. While many of them can be played in short bursts, it quickly requires a long term commitment on a fixed schedule to continue advancing through the game, especially if you are pitted against other players who have the ability to steal your work from you.
A majority of casual games in the West are browser based games with a few MMOs attempting to market themselves as casual. Most of the games fall under either a “cooldown tick” system where events are triggered at regular intervals and resources are paid out at this time. The other type is the energy based system where players receive energy up to a cap and they have to spend it before it goes over the cap otherwise it goes to waste. However, building things takes time and you have to stick to a fixed schedule in order to continue development of your base area.
The tick system is where most browser games fall under where you have to build and collect resources at regular intervals. Most games pay out resources at so many minutes, but your overall cap is very low. On average, you will probably have to log in every 3 or 4 hours to either deposit all your resources so that it does not get stolen and the cap on your resources is often 12 hours or less. Other games have energy that determines how many actions you get and you have to spend your energy otherwise it is lost due to going over the cap. Energy based games tend to have a higher cap at around 24 hours worth of energy so that you only need to log in once a day or so. While building stuff is quick early on, times can double with each upgrade making it significantly longer over time.
What determines whether a game is “casual” or “hardcore” is the level of commitment that you need to play the game. Casual is a game where you can seem to login whenever and it is fine and you can continue to do whatever you were doing. Hardcore on the other hand requires you to commit to almost a sort of set schedule. As you fall behind, you fall victim to other players allowing you to be exploited by them where as they benefit from everything that you do. In a hardcore game, failure to follow the fixed schedule results in losses such as resources being stolen by other players before you can collect them or the items simply expiring because you waited too long to try to collect them. At that point, you have to follow a fixed schedule in order to play the game and that makes it “hardcore.” Even though you only have to do it a few minutes at a time, you end up having to dedicate yourself to the game in order to make progress.
In a true “casual” game, you would not have to do this. No strict schedule to follow, no need to stay online all the time. There is some wiggle room for development and you are not punished for not following closely to the given timers. It might take you longer to enter the “late game” or “end game” content, but you are not punished for it in any way. You will eventually have access to the same thing everyone else has given enough time though the people who play more will probably reach it first. The point is that you should not be penalized for failing to stick to a schedule yet many of the casual games on the market force you to stick to schedules based on the cooldown that you set where being a few minutes late means everything you did ends up being wasted.