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04/30/2003

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Bloodspoor

Yea. I have also noticed this trend in shorter games. I even remember something last year about Sony wanting companies to worry more about making the games look as good as possible, thus encouraging developers to worry less about game length and more about game content. For the PS2's primitive graphic capabilities (compared to the PC, Xbox, and Cube), I can see why they suggested this - to stay competetive in today's graphic-driven game world.

I'm not one to go all out on a game and try to beat it multiple times unless the story is completly different with different characters. The only exception to this is Hack & Slash and beat'em up, and shooter games (Diablo,PSO,Final Fight, Double Dragon, Ikaruga, 1949). In these games, it's more of a goal to see how fast you can beat a particular level or the game on a whole. In games such as Castlevania, I want to become fully immersed in the game and get to know my battle grounds. Because of this, I'm not sure how great Castlevania on the PS2 will be. They're using some combo system and I doubt that'll go over well with a Castlevania game. It could but, it might just turn into a DMC copy. Let's hope that at least this game is longer than a 2 hour romp through a castle.

frank*

Why not make singleplayer games as long as the player wants it? I can imagine a game where the adventurous gamer finds all kinds of different and new (sub)plots and miniquests/games, whereas the 'regular' player could run right through it in a couple of hours. If you really, really enjoy the game, it'll take you longer to finish.

Of course, the sub/mini/quest/games/plots would have to give the player the idea that he needed them to undestand the main plot, but i think that can be arranged, no?

Rahat

I'm not sure if it's by sheer chance, but the three most fun single players games I've played on the PC in the last few years have been Max Payne, Hitman 2 and Splinter Cell. All three of those games got marks taken off in reviews because of short length and virtually no multiplayer and/or single player replayability. So it's a bit of a catch-22 (which there seems to be a lot of in the gaming industry these days).

But in the end, as at least two of these three games have shown (Hitman 2 has good sales, not great like the others), people buy good games. Make a good game, length aside, it will probably sell.

Draigon

I agree with frank. :)

"What is the proper game length?"

Depends on the content. If there is alot of content, as in storyline or things that take time to explain to the user, it should be spanned out occordingly. If there's just too much content, they should find a way to trim it down, leave it a little more open at the end, and allow for the chance of a sequel. My own opinion anyway.

"...it depends on the type of game, the platform, and the quality of the content."

Not to mention the type of player. The example you mentioned sounded like they wanted to attract casual gamers as well.

To me the only thing that I think scares away casual gamers from lengthy games is when there's very little sense of accomplishment. The storyline keeps progressing and progressing, but there's not much of a sense that you've done alot. more like you still have a ton left to do.

Scribe

Hi, love the site, long time listener, first time caller yada yada...

In my view a game should be as long as it needs to be (sage I know). Fortunately I think we are (quite recently arrived) at a stage where length of play has become less of an issue and the 'padding' evident in some single player games (Halo springs to mind), is less likely to happen.

The 250 hours of 'possible' gameplay on Baldurs Gate 2 does seem shocking when written down, but compared to the countless hours I've wracked up on basically openended games (I'm thinking fighters in particular... even single player) then it stops being 'quite' as daunting.

Gamegeek

What about games without scripted content? Games where playing the game is an end unto itself and there as no plot or set of missions to act as a game timer. I'm playing Europa 1400: The Guild as an example. This game has no start or ending in the sense you're talking about. The number of hours of gameply I'll get out of this game is strictly a matter of how long I enjoy playing it. Tetris would be another example. Rez. Chess. Civilization. Poker. M.U.L.E. The list goes on and on. Tis true that most computer games today rely a lot on scripted content and thus have a number of "possible" hours of play before you have to just play them again. I guess that's why I mostly play multiplayer PC games these days...

Brent Gulanowski

Morrowind gets tired after a while. I can't speak for randomly generated subplots, but you can join any or most of a number of factions and receive sub-quests from the leaders. Successful completions eventually will see you taking over that faction (guild, house, sect, what-have-you).

I did too many sub-quests and tired myself out on the main quest, which is itself full of tedious side quests. After you kill a thousand monsters and see the same treasures over and over, the tedium becomes too much. The terrain gets to look the same after a while, and there are only so many combinations of faces and armour.

The game length should be proportional to the amount of unique playability in the game. Sorry if I can't be specific. With plot heavy games, it mostly means you depend on the creative content, especially maps. Trying to fake players out, like with the Library and other parts of Halo, only bores them. Games where the strategies change as you play can more than make up for that.

Alas, this cannot be said of Morrowind (and many others), where usually one strategy is the skeleton key to most encounters, except those where you needed to either fulfill some sub-quest (itself usually beaten with said strategy). Ugh!

Stuart Dennett

I think Brent hit the nail on the head when he mentioned unique playability. Forcing the player to repeat tasks already done, or similar tasks to those already done, in the course of a game is possibly bad design. It just prolongs the length of the game.

If the player wants to replay sections, she should be able do so by starting a new game or revisiting a previously cleared level. As for sections not yet visited, the player should have new content to look forward to as an incentive to continue playing.

Walter

Not to hawk my blog, since I'm about to shut it down soon anyway, but I thought my post here and the comments that follow are relevant.

Dave

I'd be alright if I found out that games were going to be shorter, but only if they got cheaper too. Don't think that's going to happen though, is it.

But they don't have to purposely cut down the games to make them shorter, they just need to cut out some of the pointless filler.

The main problem I have with really long games is that unless it really draws me in there are several points where I just wonder where the point is. I just sit there and think, how much time have I wasted just to kill another orc in order to get another nondescript magical item. Or whoopee I've gained another level with means 10 more hit points. The game should be no longer than it needs to be and I feel that a lot of games have too much time spent in the 'leveling-up' process.

The other problem with long games is that I'm less likely to go through them again. If I'm only going to go through it once, I'm more inclined to consult gamefaqs to be sure I don't miss anything spectacular. And then once I start consulting a faq, my enjoyment declines.

Right now I'm playing through Neverwinter Nights and I really doubt that I'll play the game again and repeat all the delivery boy quests just so I can kill orcs in a dress and heels rather than comfortable boots and a big sword.

jane

ha ha! that's funny, Dave, because that's exactly the way i play rpgs (although i didn't realize you could get heels in NWN!)

i guess i'm much less concerned about finishing the game. it doesn't bother me too much if i don't get to the end (and that's just a personality thing, i think.) what i love to do is simply explore the gamespace, in a variety of ways, try to do all the sidequests - and when i get tired of the gamespace, i stop playing. i never feel driven to finish a game just because the game designer thought the end should be some arbitrary play. i stop the game when i choose to.

justin laughs at me for having restarted Arcanum, what, twenty-five times now? with different characters. i play bout half-way through and then get curious about what it would be like as an ogre with an Int of 3.

the best games, in my opinion, are the ones which let you play what you want. the last game i finished was ICO, and as gorgeous as a game as that was, it was a frustrating experience. the game designers didn't care about exploring the game world - they forced you to figure out the solutions they had in mind to solve puzzles. once you solve it, you never ever feel like playing the game again. and ICO took me about fifteen hours, maybe. i finished it but i don't feel satisfied, i don't feel a rich sense of completion. i think i'm done playing Arcanum for now. but i feel like i had a great time, a richly rewarding game experience.

Bowler

I do the same thing with Morrowind. The only things I've really completed in the game is the Assassin's Guild questline, and now my character is so powerful that the world seems to lack challenge. I've stopped playing it for the time being, but ever so often I'll hear of a cool questline (like getting your own keep, for example) that will pique my interest and I'll pick it up and play it for awhile again.

I'd be curious to see if the "starting over" is a "girl thing," if such a thing exists. My wife has started over FFIII so many times I've lost count. It's not to play new characters (because obviously you're stuck with who you're allowed to play with), but because she forgets the storyline after being away from it for so long, and she doesn't want to experience the end without remembering the whole thing.

She's also started over FFX (but that was because she missed something you *must have* to finishe the game), and countless RPGs because she wanted to try a few different characters.

I'm curious if you every played Daggerfall, Jane, because that game was all about "exploring your gamespace." In fact, I felt it gave just toooooo many options. There are literally more dungeons in that game than any human could ever hope to finish in a lifetime. And some of the ones you're supposed to finish for quests go underwater, so if you don't have the right spell, that quest is screwed.

Dave

Oh man, Daggerfall. I remember playing that game solidly for a week and then losing interest because nothing interested me anymore. With the dungeons being randomly generated there was never any sense of exploration for that secret nook, only wandering around until you found the stairs down. A very similar feeling to Diablo II.

Have to say though, I've been tempted to get Morrowind, especially since a friend told me about a freaky encounter with a mudcrab.

Jane, I still haven't found a pair of heels that match my belt but when I do I'll let you know. Boy, wouldn't that be great? If you could cross dress in an RPG?

ZYirAH

Morrowind is a worthwile experience for anyone who enjoys RPGs. Take the advice of people who have played it. It's nice to enjoy the openess of the gameplay, but you will likely get a greater overall appreciation of the game if you actually focus on the primary questline from the beginning of the game. As mentioned, it guides you through lots of sidequests anyway, and is plenty long so you don't have to worry about not having gotten the chance to smell the roses. Like most everyone else, I burnt myself out on the game by trying too many side quests, exploring, and looking for ways to exploit the abilities of the various races. It has been a while though. I think Morrowind could be a game that I'd pick up again some time in the future.

As far as game length, this discussion has made me think that length really is a tricky selling point for publishers. I think casual gamers are daunted by 'epic' titles because any purchase feels like a waste of money if you know you'll never experience the whole product. Even if a game is short, some people feel they got their money's worth just because they were able to 'see it all', while others will complain that there wasn't enough.

I like the concept of a shorter primary objective path through a game with many secondary objectives. That sort of game can appeal to different types of players and moods. That concept is greatly augmented by a hub based level structure. This allows players to more easily re-enter parts of the game that they have already played to explore further and experience more without having to start all over again from scratch.

jane

Bowler, i also wonder if it's a "girl thing"... there's definitely research which seems to suggest that girls prefer more open-endedness in games than boys do. the simple shorthand is that girls' play is process-focused while boys' is goal-oriented.

of course there are always exceptions. it might actually be more helpful to say that some kids are process-oriented, some are goal-oriented, and it happens that more girls are the former than the latter.

Theleb K'aarna

I truly cannot say if this is a man thing as well, but I tend to have problems with games which expect me play them through several times. When I play a game like Baldur's Gate or Morrowind I want to see it all, want to play it all. The idea that certain parts of the storyline are withheld from me because of my chosen alter ego usually annoy me a great deal. For me adventures and CRPGs are like complex, interactive movies. What compels me most is the story itself, the way it is woven while You try to find Your way through it.

When I read lines like "includes half a dozen different endings" I get pretty frustrated as the game expects me to play it again and again and again if I am to see all the story that was created. Of course it is a wonderful 'invention' to be able to approach a game in different ways with the story unfolding in correspondence, but with such diverse directions I generally get a feeling of missing out.

With every game replay is repetition to a large extent. The same towns, the same people, and who knows how many hours of similar gameplay until I finally reach the part where the story forks. Why bother if there are other worlds awaiting my entrance, other stories waiting for my participation.

Maybe that's why I still have a crush on the good old adventure game, where solving puzzles is hard yet the story surrounding them deep and compelling not although, but because it is mostly linear.

jane

what about good ol' tabletop rpgs? you guys like those? those are pretty open-ended... i know a group who've been playing the same adventure, basically, for years. when i used to play, i loved the idea that the adventure was never over! but i think the social dynamic of a tabletop rpg is special - a small group of friends, an intimate setting, a sort of bond - it's tough to get that in a MOG setting.

sounds like i'm going to have to try both Daggerfall and Morrowind.

and Dave, let me know if you find those stylish shoes! my Rogue could use them, although she'd probably fence them. i *really* wanted to cross-dress in There, and was astounded that you can't. In Second Life, however, my female avatar wears a pair of men's jeans - and you know, they fit all loose and low like real men's jeans! brilliant.

Dave

One of the main reasons I bought Neverwinter Nights over Morrowind was because of the possibilities with the online multiplayer and having a DM. Helps since I've moved away from my gaming group, but my friends are a bit slow in picking the game up.

Re: fancy shoes
Yeah, what gives with no heels and dresses? There are plenty of rings and necklaces. Plenty of accessories but no posh frocks to wear. Even so, there's no place to go even if you could get dolled up.

Firstborn Dragon

Being a long time RPG player, I have noticed the fact that these games are getting shorter.

Just to pull out one series that I'm sure most people are familiar with, Final Fantasy. The original one was over 100 hours in lenght to beat, and it was also HARD! And to be honist, I never got around to finishing it, mostly due to the fact that our NES got abducted.

But other games of the time, like Dragon Warrior 3, or Dragon Warrior 4 ALSO had long play times. And I beat both of those, and thouraly enjoyed it.

In comparison, I beat FFX in like 40 hours. True enough I enjoyed it, but it just seems short. I mean, I would have liked more storyline to the game.

In fact, I belive it's been several years since I found a good RPG that took me over 50 hours to beat. Though Dragon Warrior 7 may be an exception, I can't remeber off hand.

What really dose tick me off is that they keep getting shorter and shorter. I mean these games have so much possabliity, RPGs in partcular, and yet people keep cutting and cutting and cutting.

At the rate they're going with these games, people won't bother buying em because you can beat them in the time you can rent them from a store. (I mean, I got half way though FF9 in a week when I rented it.)

Seems to me that developers are putting themselve out of bussness by doing this, ESPECIALLY on councle games that are big renters. Why buy a game for 80, 90 dollars, when you can rent it for like 5, and beat it?

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