Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Battlefront: Choosing Your Target Audience

In Star Wars: Battlefront, you can crouch but you can't go prone. That is pretty emblematic of the whole game.

I play a lot of first-person shooter video games on my consoles. I won't say I've played them all - or even that I've played a significant percentage of them. Because I haven't.  And, like most folks, I have my favorites.

The first game I bought for my PS4 was Battlefield: Hardline. It's a pretty hardcore first-person shooter. Before joining a multiplayer match, players choose their class (from four available) and loadout (players build these themselves by unlocking gear).

Each loadout has one primary weapon, one secondary weapon, two gadgets, and a melee weapon. You can also tweak the clothing and appearance of the character. There are, of course a number of options for each of these categories.

Additionally, the weapons can be customized. Most rifles have a sight that can be added, but the game also allows for barrel modifications, variant grips. and a few other adjustments here and there. And there are a number of options for each category, each of which changes how that weapon functions in the game.

And did I mention that you can customize your loadouts while the game is going on? You need to acquire a certain number of kills with a weapon before unlocking each category of unlockable, and you need a certain number of kills with the "basic" weapon in each category before you can buy other weapons in that category. But if you somehow manage to come up with six billion in-game dollars, there's no reason you can't buy every weapon in the game as soon as you have enough kills.

In other words, there are a ton of options for players to choose from when getting into a multiplayer game.

Additionally, the base game included nine maps (and more have been released, both free and as DLC).

Compare this to Star Wars: Battlefront. You play either as a Stormtrooper or a Rebel. Before launching into a multiplayer map, you choose three "cards" as player options, and which blaster you want to use.  Later on, you unlock the ability to have multiple sets of cards to choose from, but these are all set before the game starts.

You start with just the basic blasters for your faction. As the game goes on, you earn money that you use to buy more cards and blasters - but they are also level-locked.  That is, "You can't buy this gun until you reach level X."

The difference in play between the two games - despite the fact that they run on the same core engine - is stunning. Battlefield is, in a few ways, about as primitive as the original Halo was back on the original XBox.

Even more interesting to me is the fact that Battlefield doesn't have a single-player campaign mode. There are a few training scenarios that help get you familiar with the game modes, but that's really about it.

The core mechanics of both games are very similar in play, because they're built on the same core engine (or so I have been led to understand).  They're certainly from the same publisher.

The primary difference between the games is their target audiences. Battlefield Hardline is aimed at hardcore FPS gamers. It has options piled upon options piled upon options. Star Wars Battlefront is an introductory game.  Players who are good at one will probably be good at the other, but one of the games is more accessible to new players.

Remember a few years ago, when I said it was a good thing I didn't run a publishing house?  That applies here. Battlefront is aimed at the casual FPS player or the Star Wars enthusiast. And they're folks who don't want all of the bells and whistles I was looking for, here.

It also highlighted something to me: Tabletop gaming has a surprisingly high barrier to entry because we're getting used to each other. When teaching a game, I'll often use other games to find common ground. "Have you played Bohnanza? It's like that only without ... "  Or I'll use terminology that might not be as clear to non-gamers as it could be.

Even basic terms can be surprisingly difficult. Ever try to explain trick-taking to someone who's never played a trick-taking game before? Or set-collection? Or worker placement?

I think of these as basic mechanisms. I can think of half a dozen games that use each of these without even breaking a sweat.  I can even thing of a few games that use more than one of them (trick-taking as a set collection tool is not uncommon).

That's something that Days of Wonder has done so very well over the years. Their games - almost without exception - have been excellent gateway games. Memoir '44 is pretty simple. There are a few tricky interactions here and there, but nothing crazy. Once you've mastered the core game, there are a dozen or so expansions, each of which ups the complexity and shifts the focus more to the more hardcore gamers.  Battlelore is like Memoir '44 with all of the complexity dials turned up. Same core engine, completely different in-game feel. Fresh coat of paint.

I have said before that we need entry-level games. Not dumbed-down games, necessarily. But games that experienced gamers can use as stepping stones to more advanced games. And I stand by that.

1 comment:

  1. Your comment about terminology reminded me of a video that used the '1000 most used words' to talk about the solar system. It sounds 'dumbed-down' but all the pertinent information is there without suing words people might not know or understand. It is kinda neat. Would be interesting to see a version of a complex rule set do the same and see how it turns out.