I have observed several people choosing to play Thimbleweed Park on Casual without realizing that they would have missed not just some puzzles but also entire branches of the story, locations and characters.
In other forums there are threads in which people ask what the difference is between “Casual” and “Hard”. They probably have read the descriptions of the two modes in the game but they still have doubts about how the more casual experience has been achieved by the developers.
The information that they don’t have is that “Hard” is the full game while “Casual” is a reduction of the game that doesn’t influence just the puzzles.
Do you think that it would be possible to provide this information to the players, maybe rewriting a bit the descriptions of the two modes? Something like “All the story! All the puzzles! All the characters! All the locations! All the work!” for the “Hard” mode, a bit like how Monkey Island 2 did:
(I’m not suggesting to change also the name of the two modes, but personally I would do that as well. I would rename “Hard” as “Full” or “Full/Hard”, because I have seen people choosing “Casual” without even reading the description of “Hard”)
I have played both, and personally, I do not agree with your dichotomy. In my view, “Hard mode” has deeper puzzle chains and more of them, so it is harder. I don’t consider it “the full game,” as if the “Casual” one were incomplete.
“Casual” mode has all the depth of the story and the main characters. The locations that are locked out are really inconsequential to this. Yes, it is fun to play the theremin record on the radio station DJ booth, but turning on any radio in town will bring up DJ Casey’s penchant for conspiracy theories, and indicate her “takeover” to protest against a government conspiracy, which is the main point germane to the story.
Same with the other excluded location, the underground bunker. Sure, it’s cool to hang out with the survivalist and conspiracy theory wackos, but the Pigeon Bros. Sisters and others in town already make allusions to “the signals” and that something weird is going on in town.
The core and all pieces of the story are all there, in my opinion – if not necessarily explicit, at least suggested by incidents and dialogues. You know, just like a suspense movie.
I see “Casual mode” as a perfectly good and complete game, albeit a short one; and “Hard mode” as an extended version with additional puzzles and deeper chains for the hardcore adventurer. In that sense, the designers did a brilliant job in the editing to keep the story and character arcs intact.
Personally, I prefer “Hard mode,” but I’ve played “Casual mode” a few times already and enjoy it just as well. In fact, I find the pacing a bit more consistent across all acts.
As for the names, I think they are perfect: “Casual mode” is precisely for newcomers to the genre and typical casual players who expect a shorter game that does not require a long commitment. “Hard mode” is just like it says on the tin, for hardcore gamers.
Both audiences exist, and both get to fulfill their expectations. What I think is strange is when hardcore gamers expect everyone to appreciate deep and complicated puzzle chains the way that they do.
The naming “Casual” and “Hard” is OK if you want to provide only information about the difficulty, but there is also another important information that some players would like to have and that the current names and descriptions don’t provide: the quantity of features each mode has.
My suggestion to modify at least the description was an attempt to show both the information that the game already provides (the level of difficulty) and new information that could also be very useful to some players to decide which version to play (how much of the sub-story they will get, how many locations they can explore, how many characters they can interact with).
This suggestion isn’t a personal preference or opinion but a consequence of a simple observation: some people have chosen “Casual” without realizing that they would have missed not just puzzles but also other things.
Maybe there is a way to provide this additional information so that future players can take a more educated decision.
I understand exactly what you mean, I really do, I just think that your premise of “important information that some players would like to have” is not necessarily correct. I think it is a very “hardcore player” perspective which assumes that others have the same appreciation on all aspects of the game.
I think that the type of player who relishes deep and complex puzzle chains, extra intricate details, and very long adventure games, is the type of player who would specifically go for “Hard mode.”
In my experience (as a casual gamer myself, and just a “dabbler” at adventure games, and being among others like me), the most salient difference between both modes is precisely the difficulty. This is because to some, the extra detail in “Hard mode” are not as important to have as it is to others.
I agree, to some people those details are not enough important; that “some” implies that there is another class of (probably fewer) people who would appreciate also that additional information.
So the choice of the designer is to provide just the information about the difficulty, which satisfies only the first class of players, or also the information that the Casual mode lacks sub-stories, characters and locations, which satisfies also the players that don’t want to miss anything, even if it’s harder. These people exist as well, I have seen them. What’s the negative aspect of satisfying both classes of players?
I agree that the casual mode is mostly story complete (although e.g. missing parts like the bunker are quite interesting).
But I also think like LowLevel that it’s important that players know the extent of this decision which happens right before the game starts and cannot be changed later.
Because if one completes casual mode and then discovers that hard mode would have suited him better, a lot of puzzles and experience would have been massively spoiled!
I can think of two reasons people wanting to prefer casual mode:
They don’t want to puzzle hard and just experience a story.
They don’t have the time to play a long game or getting stuck.
Maybe another way to describe the complexity of those two modes is to state the gameplay length in some way?
(e.g. casual: up to 10h; hard: twice as long as casual).
When I have played hard I’ve already experienced to game to it’s full extent.
I would never want it the other way around, already knowing all of the story and just piecing the new puzzles together (which outcome and partly the solutions I already know from the casual playthrough).
Sure, all the extra content is nice but IMO people who enjoy the hard mode are better off playing this mode from the beginning.
The description seems fine to me. Not only is it mentioned in the hard mode description that by choosing that, you’ll get all the puzzles, it is also mentioned again under the selection.
People that impatient not to read that would in no way survive hard mode anyway.
Because I submit that those people – the ones who want every detail; the ones who would feel cheated if playing “casual” first would “spoil” their fun when trying “hard” mode later; those people – are the ones who would avoid anything saying “casual” and would automatically go for “hard.”
I further submit that the number of such players who would make such a mistake and then never buy a game from the developer because it did not satisfy them, is exceedingly smaller than the set who would would do the same if they were to choose “hard” mode because it sounded attractive, but turned out to be too long, too hard, and too complex for them.
That unfortunately doesn’t solve the issue, because some people don’t suspect that the shorter length implies that there will be less characters or locations or sub-stories. It’s not clear to me how they think that the developers achieved a shorter/simpler game; the only think that I know is that I’ve seen people (even very recently) saying “I had no idea” after choosing “Casual”.
There is also an additional problem, that I mentioned earlier: some people don’t fully read the descriptions. When the game shows that page, their eyes immediately scan it focusing onto the two main key words “Casual” and “Hard” and then they read the description of the Casual mode, because it’s the one at the top of the page. Some of them don’t read also the description of the Hard mode, so in my opinion it’s important to (at least) hint to the different quantity of contents of the two modes through their name as well.
Yes, but deciding to postpone a playthrough on Hard mode because in this way the game provides new and more content the second time should be a deliberate decision of the player, not something that the developers achieve limiting the quantity of information given when the players have to decide which version to play.
What I’m telling is: let the player know and let him/her make a decision knowing that the full content is experienced only in “Hard” mode.
Yes, “all the puzzles” is the information that the game provides to the players. The information that some players would have liked to have is “all the story, all the locations, all the characters”. Some of them don’t realize that “less puzzles” also implies “less story, locations and characters”.
I disagree with this generalization, both because being impatient is not the only reason why some people don’t fully read the descriptions and because the attitude “if they are impatient and they didn’t notice, it’s their fault” doesn’t belong to the fields of usability and interface design.
If in a specific context some people don’t get an information that they would have liked to have, it’s up to the designer to analyze why this phenomenon happens and to understand if there is a way to minimize the issue. Let’s not forget that a simple way to catch people’s attention and increase the probability that some players will take a more educated decision would be simply to rename the “Hard” mode to “Full+Hard” or something similar. It’s an ugly name but it might work better because you have used an element that everybody reads: the name of the mode. And when that “Full” catches their attention, they are more motivated to read the description of that mode.
“Scanning for key words” is not a dumb behavior, it’s just how many people who are in a rush interact with pages full of text.
That’s what I thought when I applied a strict dichotomy and before starting to observe players asking a specific question on forums. But in reality there is a lot of grey area between the these two classes of people. Have a look at this statement:
I’m not too experienced in playing these sorts of games but have always been intruiged. TP looks like it has a pretty cool story so I’m in. My limited experience with other p&c adventures is that I very rarely seem to be patient enough to work out the puzzles myself and usually have to check out a guide or something. Is casual for me, or will I miss out on story/gameplay stuff? Thanks!
So, this person was asking suggestion on Steam about which mode he/she should play the game on. Usually he/she uses a walkthrough and he/she doesn’t want to miss the full story and the full gameplay. To this class of people experiencing the whole story is more important than solving the puzzles by themselves. As a consequence they ask on the forum what they will miss choosing “Casual” because that’s an information that the game doesn’t provide.
People who will use a walkthrough are potential customers as well. To them, knowing what they will miss choosing “Casual” is more important to know how hard the two modes are.
As I said, there is a lot of grey area between the two extremes.
I agree with this but I don’t think that it’s a good reason to not provide also that additional information.
I think Thimbleweed Park should have a Ghosts´n´Goblins difficulty setting by which you have to beat the game twice in a row to finish it.
The plot would even allow this, when at the end Chuck would tell Delores that she has to switch everything off in a game within a game to switch everything off.
A PC appears and Delores sits down and you play her playing Thimbleweed Park and only after that the game is really over.
I think it is because, at the end of the day, if you are trying to expand your audience and make a living, you accept that the hardcore players and fans are going to be more forgiving than newbies and casual players.
But then I’d blame the players. This is a story-based game, if one mode is double the length then there has to be more content. It’s not like a game like Tetris where you can easily tweak numbers to make more levels, or a racing game where you can reverse all tracks.
This is a voiced game and a lot of people nowadays aren’t so keen on reading (a lot of) text anyways.
Maybe having a narrator telling you the most importing things about those two modes when entering this screen could be an idea?
And maybe repeating it when hovering over a specific selection.
IMHO hardcore players like us are the worst but, although vocal, we are a too small group to have a negative impact and the positive things outweigh.
I mean, look at the discussion which ones better: MI1 or MI2. Those saying they like one better make it sound like the other one is utter shit
Well, I agree with you that they are the worst in complaining vociferously. However, they go out and buy the game anyway and follow Gilbert and Co. to the end of the world.
This is contrary to a casual player who doesn’t have the built in affinity for the genre or authors, who will probably get soured on the whole adventure game affair if it happens that the first game they play turns out to be much too consuming and complex than what they expected.
I ‘reread’ old sf books by transforming text into speech (voiceover, adjustments, training&finetuning, different voices and some serious processing time). It’s not like ‘real’ radioplays but it gives me a decent enough access to some great books which you can’t listen to otherwise.
This is very logical to us but not to everyone. Not all players know well how and adventure game is developed. In the Cyanide and Happiness comments somebody asked for multiplayer support as if it was something a common feature in PnC adventure games.
The more prior knowledge you expect from the players, the more you are shrinking your audience.
Assuming that everyone knows what he’s doing is an approach that doesn’t match with reality. If eCommerce websites would apply this philosophy, those companies would close in a year. It’s up to the seller to study his audience so that he can treat all the different kinds of customers in the best way possible. Providing less information or not helping the customer to easily detect key information has never been a sound approach.
If you have to sell something and if you want your product to be perceived in the best way possible by your customers, you can’t just say “I blame the customer”. If some customers behave in ways that you don’t find logical, it’s your job to understand if something can be improved so that you can better handle those customers as well.
Overall, I have not perceived this attitude. While exceptions exist, I don’t think that most hardcore players are like this.
And some of them also support the developers buying merchandise or multiple copies of the game.