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I am working on an easy casual physics puzzle on iOS for kids and thought of this question.

In my honest opinion casual kids games must have simple gameplay - one tap or command for a step, several steps/decisions for a stage. But how thin is the line between casual and hardcore games for iOS?

For example, Angry Birds - on first stages it's easy and fun, but then it gets challenging - you need to calculate and determine how to strike with each birdy. For the player that means some heavier calculations, so does it become not so casual eevn though financial statistics say that it is?

Please, help me to understand, how can I make my game more complicated or involved but let it be still as simple as it can be. Feel free to say about some global things, without detailising. TY!!!

upd. Game is kind of physics puzzle in space. There are stars on gamefield, that behave like balls attached to rubber strings - you can move them in any direction on short distance, and after release they fly away in choosed direction. There's no gravity, so stars don't fall to the bottom of screen and stay on their place after momentum is over. Also there's teleporters (black holes), that deliver stars from A point to B point (other end of black hole), star wind, that transfer captured stars to some destination, etc. There's a authority thought, that this mechanics can be too hard for little kids too understand, also that no-gravity feature is hard to understand for kids. Still, everything is cute, music is calm, and main character, who operate with stars, is ultracute. The main goal is to put stars in direct order in the "goal line" in the middle of screen. Player got score bonus for doing minimum of star moves (hitting goal line with one move for each star), and there's no game over, so kids can have as much attempt to put each star in direct place as many times, as they need.

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Without a real example of what your game is or what kind of game you are trying to make we cannot help you or answer properly. Tell us about your game, give us some content or examples of your work. What are you trying to make more complicated? Read our FAQ to look at what a question requires. –  Blue May 14 '13 at 10:51
    
Sorry, will try to explain (feel little uncomfortable of that lots of questions are strictly about some deep mechanic and code stuff, and mine is some newbie theory stuff :) –  KatShot May 14 '13 at 12:24
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3 Answers

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In case you cannot share detailed information, the best bet in how to increase difficulty is getting verbal and non-verbal feedback from your players. Measurement is king and smart measurement rules them all (but it's also difficult, so be prepared).

Test them with your kids, your family. Deliver the game without saying anything to see if they can figure out the purpose and mechanics of the game. That way you can see if the mechanics and the game is self-explanatory (please don't put a lot of text because that's not game design at all). See what things they enjoy the most, which ones produce frustration and such.

In case your game has a mechanic that combines several type of reasoning or simpler mechanics, the way to go is to introduce them one at a time and build experience level by level. When you think is time to introduce the new mechanic, do it and when some level of mastery is achieved introduce levels when you have to combine those mechanics. By the end of the day you'll have several levels to complete (that's why you say Angry Birds feels simple at the beginning and it must).

On the other hand, casual games (IMHO and experience) are more aimed at the idea of playing it a little bit and then "go back to life" to whatever you were doing. Just like casual relationships (sort of). The fact is that you cannot underestimate kids, specially when new generations are getting fast the hangs of technology and videogames. The fact that they don't understand what zero-gravity means underneath, doesn't mean that they cannot understand what the effect implies in a game. Your train of thought should be aimed to the players and to deliver a good experience (whether they finish the game or not).

In game design, you give the tools to develop the required skills to master the game. Is their duty to use, exploit and master them. Otherwise, what's the point?

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Great response! Thank you! –  KatShot May 14 '13 at 19:54
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In my opinion, the line between hardcore and casual can be vast or very small depending on what the context is.

In games such as Angry Birds, the majority of players would say that you are playing a casual game because that's how the majority plays the game.

If you are trying to achieve a game that is alike to Angry Birds, what I suggest is making the goal easy to achieve but hard to perfect. If you could give more details as to what the goal of your game is, its more plausible for me to create a situation where the game can be casual and hardcore at the same time.

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Okay, I've tried to explain as simple as i can main gameplay and goal. TY for your response so much! –  KatShot May 14 '13 at 12:35
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It sounds cute! It reminds me a little of Universe Sandbox, or Solar. Anyways the way that you want to go is fine. You have to give them a little leway here and there. For example, the new Luigi's Mansion is a great example of this, it's hilarious, funny, but still manages to keep a level of seriousness which keeps the player tied to the game. Kids like to play with their favorite characters after all, and I can't tell you how many times I got stuck in that game at a puzzle, about to give up, when Luigi starts to whistle the theme and convinces me to find how to beat it.

The gist of it is:

you gotta make it difficult, make the player want to throw their Ipod across the room, but just before they reach boiling point, you give them a push in the right direction, be it a comet streaking towards the right goal/objective, or something that one of the characters does to catch your eye, this is called baiting the player, you present a hard challenge and just before they quit, you throw a hint, subtle, but noticeable.

Some games do this blatantly however, there is an art of hiding a hint in a place where it wont be noticed until the player starts to look for clues, some bad examples include Navi from Legend of Zelda ("hey, overhere!") and Cortana (in some aspects).

You want the kids to be sucked in, and to try and learn the physics and prowress of your game, so start out small, like angry birds, and slowly get harder as the game progresses!

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Oh, that's great idea, thanks! I will try to make such "before-boiling" hints and'll look what happens! TY!!! ^^, –  KatShot May 14 '13 at 19:56
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