Games these days are always being developed to be accessible; for the biggest target audience, to ease frustration and ease the learning curve. Popcap have always been one to aim for accessibility in their genuinely simple and fun games, take the smash hits Peggle or Plants vs Zombies of examples of how simple and focused a game can be. Mainstream games are constantly going down the similar route of easing people into the game, some overly so, especially on recent focus on the console formats. All this is well and good, I for one enjoy a good game of Team Fortress 2 as much as the next crazed gamer but some of my real long time favourite games have an almost vertical learning curve, becoming almost inaccessible.
Eve Online is an obvious example of this, the opening screen-shot of this article for example is from the market screen of Eve. The player driven market and economy in Eve Online has became so complex that CCP have even had to employ a professional accountant to track the games fiscal health. You could spend your whole “life” with-in the worlds of New Eden exploring the massive skillset of trade and production without ever firing a missile.
Eve Online’s skill system is based completely on time, further limiting how far a player can go right from the off. The main point of playing Eve Online is to get into the player driven “NullSec” space, it is open to conquest and houses some of the most valuable resources available. This is where Eve shines, becoming unforgiving to the unknowing player. To survive your character not only needs the right skills to pilot and fight but the player must also understand the ways of nullsec life, lest yee go kabloomy.
It doesn’t help that said skills can not only take weeks and months to train, no matter what you do in-game (though this has its benifits) but that they are completely unreadable toany new-comer as to what skills such as Dark Ochre Processing, Projected Electronic Counter Measures or Infomorph Psychology actually do. If you wanted to train everything to make sure you would do well in every situation you would have to invest a lot of time and money, it has been estimated to take over three years to train all of the skills, with new skills being added with each free expansion.
Anybody who is able to not only afford to play long enough to get decent skills but also battle their way through the interface and community into the null-sec player driven space is going to pretty damn adapt at the game. The point is though that because the game constantly tests and stresses the average player, the players who end up in null-sec tend to be good competition and better people, even the pirates who mug you in Eve Online are nicer than many of the Counter-Strike players I’ve met.
Armed Assault and the modification Project Reality have a similar threshold that needs to be passed before the player can be properly accepted, though the thresholds are lesser. The mechanics of said games force the decent players to shine through which makes the game much more entertaining. Games designed with a high level of accessibility tend to be less engaging in the end-game, especially when you compare some to the player-driven open economy and politics of Eve Online. The community and depth tend to grow into much more intersting things when the developers create a sort of natural selection through the game mechanics. You can’t pop into Eve or Project Reality for a quick match though, you’ll end up at 4am just trying to win that next two hour map with your tactial team.
Accessibility has always been an integral part of design, in whatever market the product is intended for, and more often than not it holds its place well. Some games offer a much higher amount of depth but also require a much larger effort on part of the player, both are awesome in the right hands. What are your thoughts?
And by the way ad_hominem, I do do work for this site =P