Appealing to the Hard Core

Bear with me, guys. There’s a cogent thought in here somewhere…

I spent the last hour or so cruising the comments on Shack and Blues and VE3D (awful redesign, BTW). I think we can all agree that posters on the message boards on those sites can be safely categorized as “Hardcore.”

Now, this is certainly not empirical by any means, but it seems to me that according to these “hardcore gamerz,” everything sucks. Everything except Doom III and UT2003, it seems. And even then, I’ve seen posts where they knock Doom III! I mean, here’s a sample post, referring to Silent Hill 2:

I didn’t really think this game was so interesting anyhow… the gameplay was a big failure IMO. The monsters weren’t scary when they attacked in stupid ways and you had to fight them in stupid ways

Ok, so I’m not implying these guys are influencing many others except themselves, and I believe a lot of thier vitriol is mistargeted teenage angst. I guess it makes them feel cool and l33t to come up with clever new ways to slag a game using homophobic references. :roll: Whatever.

Still, this negativity can’t be good – ultimately – for the industry. If these guys think everything sucks, they won’t buy. If they won’t buy, we’re all in a bit of a pickle, no?

When we look to greenlight projects, we try to figure out who the target market is. It’s becoming apparent to me that these jaded bastards are impossible to please. Should pubs/devs bother with creating games for the “hardcore” gamer? Personally, I’d much rather work on innovative games that are supposed to appeal to the hardcore gamer instead of wasting time developing a mass-market cash-in like a Sims ripoff, but is there a point?

Alright, as someone who tried for YEARS to get a project greenlit, and finally gave up in frustration (despite its amazing hardcore appeal and product loyalty nearly a decade later, hell 3 companies ixnayed it precisely because it was a hardcore title) in exchange for making a ton of money as an engineer (a disturbingly common trend BTW), I’ll say my peace…

All you have to do in order to appeal to the hardcore gamers is frickin’ talk to them and ask them what they like. Once they know you’re legit, they’ll write rambling hardcore essays telling you exactly what your game should do - your product spec will emerge from the ether (it certainly worked for us). You’ll have to piece it together from your own imagination (assuming you have one), but really, it’s pretty easy unless you’re a creative corpse. These guys know what they like and if you really think it’s just UT2003 and Doom III, you’re out of your depth. Didn’t you even notice all that activity right here about Freespace 2?

Yes, the hardcore express strong opinions, and yes they’re easily annoyed, and many of them need to get a life, but so what? That’s not your mission here. Your mission is to understand them and learn what they really want to play (and goddammit lose the focus groups). The game industry jerks these guys around with poor quality software, shoddy drivers, and even near-prostitution at trade shows and then it throws a hissy fit whenever they decide you guys are bungholes. The short answer is that most of you guys ARE bungholes and you’re just the last to find this out.

And when all is said and done, your game will probably tank anyway. And the mistake here is to attach any real significance to this event. Most games tank. Just like most new TV shows and most new movies. Assuming you didn’t release a pile of buggy shovelware, a game that only its designer could love, or a poor rehash of an existing title, you just didn’t capture the zeitgeist, deal with it, que sara sara.

But, if you created a hardcore classic, you will find a small, but dedicated audience that will emerge and stick to your product. Remember word of mouth? These guys will serve as your army of darkness when you commence your next project. You can’t please all of them at once, but you can please most of them. Take care of them and they will take care of you. And remember, the next game will probably tank too. That’s the nature of a hit-driven industry.

Yeah, but that’s because you’re reading the Shack, Blues, and V3D boards. It’s a very different hard core gamer crowd from, say, the TTLG hard core gamer crowd.

There’s this myth that developers should just make a game they personally want to play, and if it’s good, other people will buy it. The reality is that games need to be about entertaining the player, not the developer. Then again, if you aren’t getting some personal satisfaction out of it, the game will probably reflect that.

Yeah, I know, not really a good answer to your question. Mostly I guess I’m saying that you shouldn’t fall into the trap of trying to please a group if you don’t fully understand them.

  • Alan

Marketing 101. As usual, you’ve summed it all up quite succinctly, Alan. :)

I guess what I’m miffed about is the negativity. Maybe I just need to get over it, and realize people just like to bitch.

If Major League Baseball had, in fact, gone on strike, I believe Football and Bitching would have both surpassed baseball into 1st and 2nd place, respectively, in America’s ranking of national pasttimes.

If you think the negativity is bad now, just wait 'til you start stepping on sacred cows whilst trying to create your Great American Videogame™. A thick skin is mandatory, just ask Derek…

Just because these hard-core gamers complain about a game doesn’t mean they won’t buy it. Some of them are complaining just for the sake of it, and others are simply voicing what they would want to see in a perfect world. I would venture to guess that most of these folks have several games in their library that they enjoy, and yet complain about bitterly online.

If you think the negativity is bad now, just wait 'til you start stepping on sacred cows whilst trying to create your Great American Videogame™. A thick skin is mandatory, just ask Derek…[/quote]

LMAO!!! 'e has no clue, does he? :D

And let’s not forget, in the case of Silent Hill 2, the criticism is warranted. It was a crappy game. Although not, to be fair, for the reasons he mentioned. I disliked it more for the incoherent narrative and the fog that shrouded everything more than seven inches away from your face.

I really dug Silent Hill 2 - it’s the only SH/adventure game I’ve felt compelled to beat. Great story and premise (much better than the rambling and disfocused Silent Hill 1), great graphics and art direction, and fuckitall - I liked the fog. In fact, if it had simply done away with the almost superfluous combat and made the puzzles a bit more contextual, it woulda been a classic horror adventure title.

Anyway. Looking forward to Silent Hill 3, I am.

– The credits roll, “The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular”

What Troy was trying to say is that they’ll keep making 'em as long as they pay the bills.

Gee,and I came to this thread expecting some hard core porn. :(


One of the best games ever, in my opinion. Right up there with Planescape: Torment and the Thief games. Much better controls than Resident Evil, an incredible visual style (the fog fit the atmosphere), and one of the most amazing stories ever seen in a video game. I did have to read a spoiler on GameFAQs to fully understand it, though.

Silent Hill 2 had a few things to recommend it, but the writing and the repetitive monsters (who seemed to be on loan from “Jacob’s Ladder”) weren’t one of them. It started well and quickly turned numbingly dull. Designers really need to learn, here and in The Thing, that emptiness has certain advantages.

As an aside, it’s coming to PC early next year.


I’ll chime in to agree with Adam. Have you ever noticed how many of those hate threads are prefaced with something like “I played this game for 4 months, and it’s totally boring”? People say those things without apparent irony. My advice, such as it is, is not to look too deeply into the forum board abyss. It stares back. :wink:

My favorite are those who were so crestfallen and angry about how a game turned out and then supposedly returned it within a couple of weeks to prove a point . These same people can be found to still be bitching about the game months later and, as justification, say that they will go back and re-purchase once the company straightens out all the problems. When you try to shut up their repetitive spamming, they accuse you of being the company’s plant who has been placed to dissuade any negativity.


Nice line Rob. One should take hardcore criticism with a huge grain of salt. The best advice I can give to developers is to only listen to the people who seem reasonable. Listening to the crazies will only depress you, because there’s crazies who’ll bitch about even the best game ever made.

To be fair to the hardcore gamers out there, many times complaints are made because they genuinely feel that a flaw should be fixed. When the flaws are addressed, they move onto some other complaint or, in rare cases, praise the game. Just look at the Madden football series. Few titles have morphed themselves as Madden has from hardcore gamer torture to poster child for hardcore gamer praise.

So while I am sure that the developers of Triple Play are annoyed that hardcore baseball fans believe that the game is a huge joke, well it is a huge joke. As long as the developer understands the game is a joke and isn’t concerned about the complaints, then the developer will probably maintain decent mental health. If the Triple Play developer can’t understand why hardcore baseball gamers don’t embrace their title as the greatest thing since sliced bread, then they deserve the abuse.

I know for a fact that the Madden developers spent some time trying to understand hardcore fans’ complaints about the series and did something about it.