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Electronic Arts Executive Says 'Games Are Too Hard'

Complicated UI

Over time, the gaming community has divided into two camps. On one side, you have the so-called hardcore players, self-identified "gamers" who pour hours into relatively complex, largely competitive titles like Call of Duty, League of Legends, and World of Warcraft. On the other, there's the casual audience - people who dabble in games occasionally, but don't make it a regular thing. That audience prefers accessibility over depth; it's the market that catapulted the original Wii to the top of the charts, and made Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga household names. It's a largely artificial divide, and both hardcore and casual audiences are important parts of gaming's ecosystem. However, with smartphones and tablets putting gaming devices in the hands of everybody, not just dedicated hobbyists, gaming is becoming more and more mainstream. The line between the two sides is beginning to blur. Is it possible that, eventually, mainstream games will settle somewhere in between?

Electronic Arts Chief Creative Officer Richard Hilleman certainly thinks so. During a panel discussion at this year's D.I.C.E. Summit, an annual gathering of top video game executives, host Pete Holmes joked that all games should have the same controller layout, to make games easier to pick up for casual users. Hillemen agreed, saying, "Games are actually still too hard to learn." He went on:

"The average player probably spends two hours to learn how to play the most basic game. And asking for two hours of somebody's time - most of our customers, between their normal family lives...to find two contiguous hours to concentrate on learning how to play a video game is a big ask."

Note that Hillemen's not talking about the challenge provided by the games themselves, and he's not advocating dumbing down or neutering traditional game experiences. Instead, he's talking about interface and education. Complexity is fine, but it shouldn't take priority over having fun.

Somewhat ironically, during the same conversation, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor director Michael de Plater said that games will continue to get more complex. Claiming that "Every game is an RPG now," de Plater went on to argue that "progression and levels and XP" are a fundamental part of the gaming experience. At the same time, Plater says, games are also becoming increasingly social. In his view, game developers will eventually pick up the best ideas from both casual and hardcore games. After all, "good ideas propagate."

A game that provides depth without complexity sounds impossible, but it's been done before. Super Smash Bros., for example, can be enjoyed on two completely different levels. It's easy for players to pick up a controller and jump in for a casual match or two, while there's a robust technical brawler under the hood for more dedicated fans. Rock Band fills the same void. At higher levels, Harmonix's music game requires memorization and pixel-perfect coordination; on the other hand, it's also a lot of fun at parties.

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Source: Game Spot

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