There have been quite a lot of talk and speculation recently about the kind of things that casual gamers like or don't like to do in StarCraft II, and I personally find this to be a very interesting topic to follow.
There are already a good number of discussions going on here on our forums as well as on other StarCraft related sites, and from what I have seen so far, there have been quite a few mixed opinions and thoughts on this topic. I therefore think it could be nice to get some more feedback on this topic from you guys, so I figured it would be a good idea to ask you guys a few questions.
The questions below are not targeted at anyone in particular, so please feel free to answer even if you do not consider yourself a Casual Gamer :-)
- Do you consider yourself to be a Casual Gamer in StarCraft II?
- In your opinion, what is the definition of a Casual Gamer in StarCraft II?
- In your opinion, what do you think Casual Gamers like to do the most in StarCraft II?
- In your opinion, what kind of things do you think Casual Gamers would you like to see more of in StarCraft II in the future?
I think there are various categories of casual gamers.
One category is "pure casuals", folks who play rarely, and do not want to spend a lot of time on games. They might play a game when they want a distraction, but only in very short bursts and until something else catches their attention.
The other category is "instant gratification" casuals. Those are folks that might potentially spend a lot of time in the game, and are willing to learn the bare minimum on how to play it, but only want the game to present an illusion of challenge, not actual one. In other words, they want rewards, they want content, but want the only requirement for that to be their presence.
Third are true "casual gamers", in the sense that they are actually gamers, they like games, they are willing to invest time to acquire some skill, yet they still treat games as a hobby and have limited time to actually invest in gaming.
IMHO, first category can freely be ignored. No matter how simple you make SC2 to be, it will not be simple enough. The second and third category are interesting and might probably be catered to with similar things (achievements, bonus content, fluff), however my opinion is that Blizzard should still decide which group they want to focus to. Problem with instant gratification types is that you can never really satisfy them in the long run - since they want most stuff for least effort they will consume everything you throw at them as quickly as they can and will just want more, more, more. The third category might be the most rewarding as customers, and catering to that category will (again in my opinion) result in a quality game. You need to offer actual challenges, and then present rewards for meeting those challenges - and you need to draw a fine line between the level of challenge presented, amount of available content and rewards given for it.
Levels for each race are definitely a step in the right direction (although that feature requires some heavy tweaking). Unranked ladder too (but again, in my opinion, it needs work, in the sense that it should offer something more then just "laddering with hidden league"). However I still feel there is a lot more you can do. You might start offering "challenge of the week" - think Starcraft Master map, only instead of bundling all challenges you give one new challenge on weekly basis. You could do the same with achievements, so each week new achievement pops up - not only will you provide incentive for the "casuals" to keep coming back regularly, you will give someone who left Starcraft for a few months a reason to revisit it, since there will be a bunch of new interesting mini-goals waiting for him. Furthermore you could spice up ladder (perhaps just the unranked one) with random goals which appear when the game has already started - like you need to get at least two expos, or build no lings etc., so the player can decide whether he wants to play regularly or meet up the additional challenge. Really, there is lots of stuff you might add to cater to casuals - the only guideline should be that the content should be new, interesting, not solely oriented towards getting an arbitrary number as high as it can be and finally - actually require at least minimal effort and creativity from the player, not just persistence (like the only current long term rewards - win counters - do now).
There. Hope that at least I helped just a little bit. :)