Category Archives: Game Design

What is Mid-core? An Essay on Outgrowing Hardcore

What is mid-core? Defining this buzzword is a hot topic in the games industry. Here’s my favorite definition which I have honed through multiple talks with other developers.

Mid-core is a movement to create games using a balance of meaningful gameplay and broad accessibility.

Mid-core is more than a buzzword — it’s the natural evolution of games! It’s a movement. Hardcore games have some of the most memorable gameplay moments in existence but many contain large barriers of entry that seriously limit their audience. Social and casual games have the opposite problem. They are great at getting players to where the fun is and they do it as smoothly as possible, but keeping players there is difficult because the concepts are overly simplistic or exploitative. There exists something in the middle of these two extremes and this is the place mid-core aims to take us. But where exactly?
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When Alignment Doesn’t Matter

Many games try to make character development interesting by allowing you to make good and evil decisions throughout the game. Here is a thought exercise: what do you get when a character makes a good choice, then an evil choice, then an evil choice, then three good choices? SW:TOR and many others will tell you this is a good character, completely eradicating the fact that at some point the character was evil twice.

Alignment systems with one axis are pointless. They lack the sensitivity needed to create interesting characters because they only indicate the winning opinion and can’t remember the number, pattern, or frequency of opposing opinions.

If you’re only using one axis to keep a tally of good vs evil, there’s only one interesting decision to be made, once, at the beginning of the game. Will this character be good or bad? Once you’ve made that decision it makes all the calls for you in the future. If you decided to be an evil character then at all decision branch points the evil choices are positive points and the good choices are negative points. If you mistakenly choose good choices your character ends up not evil enough.
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Everything You Know About Video Games is Wrong

Look at that troll bait headline! To clarify a bit, everything you know about video games is actually right, but only when talking about a niche of game players. This niche is called hardcore gamers. What makes you wrong is when you try and apply all your insights about this niche, years of information gathered from thousands of hours playing games, to the much larger set of all game players in existence. A surprising amount of professionals are making this mistake RIGHT NOW. Not making this mistake actually puts you in a minority of people that are poised to be successful in the coming years of video game development.

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