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The Happy Medium Of Game Length

Zonk posted about 9 years ago | from the goldilocks-would-be-proud dept.

Games 64

1up.com has a piece looking at the changing variable of game length, and current gamer tastes when it comes to time investment. From the article: "For better or worse, one of the main ways gamers size up a game's value is by length. After all, an RPG that promises 40 hours of gameplay must be superior to one that offers a mere 20, right? Not quite. The fallacies here are obvious enough. For example, what good is 40 hours of content if only 20 are worth paying attention to? Or what if a game takes ten hours to run through, but is eminently replayable? Despite these and other valid arguments, many gamers, especially in recent years, have subscribed to the 'longer is better' school of thought, without really considering what 'longer' actually means."

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Less Is More (4, Insightful)

blueZhift (652272) | about 9 years ago | (#13016832)

Quite honestly, if a game takes more than 10 hours to complete, that's really more like 4 to 6 months in real life time for me. I'd definitely prefer faster paced more densely packed chunks. Heck if a game really has to be that long, I'd rather have it in episodic chapters, reasonably priced of course. That said, I still love epic RPGs, even it it takes me years to finish them! But if the games were shorter, then maybe I could buy more games... I guess less would be more.

Re:Less Is More (3, Insightful)

ZephyrXero (750822) | about 9 years ago | (#13017111)

I enjoy longer games, like RPGs, but I usually perfer the shorter games as well. Just because some can get through a certain game in 10 hours or less doesn't mean you will. I remember when I was a kid it took me over a month to finally beat Sonic 2, but now I can do it in less than an hour...yet it's still just about my favorite game. Just like the parent said, if I want to play something like Final Fantasy it'll take me a few months due to lack of time. I think this is one reason multiplayer games are so popular these days because you can just jump in and play for half an hour and then be done with it (not counting MMOs). What we really need is variance. Having too many long games or too many short games is equally bad.

Re:Less Is More (1)

oGMo (379) | about 9 years ago | (#13017261)

Yeah, I used to love long games because they didn't end quickly. I'd see "80 hours!" and think "Yeah!" However, looking at games now, especially with limited time (full-time job will do that to you), I see "only 10 hours" and think "here's one I might actually finish!"

And, honestly, looking back on "short" games (anything around 20 hours or less), some of those have been the best. ICO, the one game that's unquestionably a work of art, clocks in at around 9 hours the first time through, and that's figuring out the puzzles yourself. Jak&Daxter, Jak3, Metroid Prime, and a number of others that are around 20 hours and just awesome leave you on a high note and wanting for more (but not feeling cheated); far better than playing for 40 hours and wanting less.

I've gotten quite annoyed with incessant menu battles in RPGs these days. If battles aren't interesting or fast-paced, I tend to move on to something else. I want to spend my time doing something, not hitting "attack" 500 times to gain a few levels so I can hit "attack" a few more times to beat a boss so I can repeat ad nauseam.

As for episodic, I thought the .hack series was perfect this way. Each episode was about 20 hours, something I could actually finish reasonably, and came with a great anime short. A bit pricey at $50 a pop, perhaps, and the gameplay was a bit dull, as well, but overall it worked well despite these limitations.

One exception or extension to all this is MMORPGs. I play FFXI. If I'm going to spend a lot of time, or sit around levelling, I'd rather do it in an MMO game, where my time investment today is going to still matter in 6-12 months. If I spend time levelling, it's with other players in my Linkshell that I want to socialize with. With expansion packs, it's almost episodic. Plus I only spend $15/mo on it, which is considerably better than spending $150 on 3 new games a month.

What I'd love to see someone do is create a small, subscription, single-player story-game/adventure/RPG that got small weekly updates. Maybe $2/mo.

Re:Less Is More (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about 9 years ago | (#13017583)

The other important thing is keeping the difficulty rising at the same rate for those 20 or 40 hours. I recently picked FFX back up after not playing it through the first time. 40 hours later, I get to the last boss. Despite easily beating every other boss in the game, he kicks my ass. I could easily beat him if I had the "auto-medicate" and "auto-potion" ability on everyone's armor, but to do that I'd need many hours of "optional" gameplay (the reason I need them is that whats killing me is the requirement to heal and status heal too frequently). FFX went into the pile to sell to Gamestop undefeated. I have better things to do than level forever to get an ability needed to beat only 1 boss in the game. Had the dfficulty been smooth, I would have leveled more in bursts earlier and it wouldn't have been so much like work.

Re:Less Is More (1)

oGMo (379) | about 9 years ago | (#13017811)

Hmm too bad, it's pretty easy to get a few optional and highly-powerful things without that many hours of gameplay. Pre-overdriving everyone and using buffs (Haste, Shell, Protect) will also make your life a lot easier. Speaking as someone who did put in the extra hours though, the last boss turned out to be a joke. One hit by Tidus. Poof. Oh well.

Re:Less Is More (1)

AuMatar (183847) | about 9 years ago | (#13019788)

It doesn't matter if it'll only take a few hours- I have better things to do than spend them. I shouldn't have to- if I need to, your game design is broken. And given the last few Square games have ended up this way, requiring huge leveling investments at the very end, I think it'll be a while before I send them any more money either.

Re:Less Is More (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 9 years ago | (#13020193)

I've given up much earlier, on the third battle with Seymour. Maybe I shouldn't have run from every battle on that path before (seriously, a looooong path with tough enemies every five steps is just too annoying to finish) but he usually wipes out my entire party with one attack and I'm not willing to spend half an hour watching cutscenes each try just to figure out if he maybe has a weakness. Maybe if I could just replay the fight I'd try a bit more but having to watch that loooooong cutscene each time just plain sucks.

Man, that game design is stupid...

Re:Less Is More (1)

KyolFrilander (730272) | about 9 years ago | (#13018398)

What ended up killing FFXI for me, though, was that by level 36 (monk) was that I needed to set aside at least 5 hours per "levelling" session. An hour LFP, an hour getting everyone to the camp, an hour figuring out who the asshat was in the PT (and other general meshing issues - who doesn't run around with food, who doesn't have oils/powders, etc), and 2 whole hours of experience time! This wasn't bad when I was working 2nd shift and could spend all morning playing, but evenings just didn't work out.

Ugh. I'm firmly in the keep 'em short camp.

Short but sweet (3, Interesting)

Chonguey (567386) | about 9 years ago | (#13016860)

Beyond Good & Evil was a fantastic game, but a short one. But I gladly take the 12 hours of BG&E over the 50 hour snore-fests that are Final Fantasy games.

Re:Short but sweet (1)

dancingmad (128588) | about 9 years ago | (#13016924)

I enjoyed every minute of Final Fantasy 6, Tactics, Tactics Advance, and Crystal Chronicles.

Re:Short but sweet (2, Insightful)

ZephyrXero (750822) | about 9 years ago | (#13017139)

Final Fantasy 6 took me 6 months to beat (around 60 hours or so), but it's still my favorite game. Different kinds of games need different lengths... RPGs are supposed to be long...think of it more like a thick novel than a little 2 hour movie. Yet, I will admit that in the later FFs there do seem to be quite a few filler moments.

Re:Short but sweet (1)

macshit (157376) | about 9 years ago | (#13017298)

It's always amusing seeing reviewers' estimates of game length; if they say "25 hours", I know it will take me approximately 347 hours to finish it.

I only tend to play once every couple of weeks, so with RPGs much of that time is wandering around in confusion trying to remember what I'm supposed to be doing...

Re:Short but sweet (1)

Dark Nexus (172808) | about 9 years ago | (#13017541)

Problem was that 12 hours of BG&E was if you took your sweet time about it. It also had very little replayability, at least IMO. Definitely worth a rental to me, but I wouldn't pay sticker price for it.

Re:Short but sweet (1)

scabb (670114) | about 9 years ago | (#13023589)

Beyond Good & Evil was smashing. It was brilliant, creative & original, worth evey penny. I recommend you all check out Psychonauts too, for a similarly different gaming experience with plenty of character.

Graphics before game (2, Interesting)

alvinrod (889928) | about 9 years ago | (#13016915)

Personally, I think that consoles games peaked in terms of length around the 16-bit SNES and 32-bit PS era. Despite that fact that companies like Square started ramping up the graphics in their RPGs, they still managed to be somewhat lengthy.

After this it seems like a lot of games have chosen to focus more on improving the graphics before adding more game. I suspect that this trend will continue to increase in certain regards with the next generation consoles. Developement costs are expected to increase, meaning that more things will have to be cut to stay within the budget. Higher resulotion also takes up more space on game discs, reducing the overall amount of content a company can include in a game.

However technology like Sony's Blu-Ray allow for a lot more content to be put in a game. If the next Grand Theft Auto game uses this space to its fullest we could easilly see a 300 hour epic in the making. However, on the whole, games seem to have gotten shorter. Every now and again you'll find a 10 hour game that seemed like it had the right amount of content, but usually people are just left wanting more.

Re:Graphics before game (3, Insightful)

Chosen Reject (842143) | about 9 years ago | (#13017127)

But sometimes being left wanting more is good. For example, TV always goes to commercial when it is exciting so that you are left wanting more, and thus you wait, but that's an obvious one. While I loved the Star Wars prequels, there was always something about Star Wars before them, when you had to say, "How did Anakin become Darth Vader?" and all you got was little snippets from the OT and some stuff in books. Wanting more is good. If you always get everything, suddenly everything becomes mundane. But if you are always stopped just short of that, and left wanting more, then you begin to crave that. That is why people make sequels, and it is also why sequels typically don't do as well. People want more, so more is made. But then when people get more, they realize it wasn't all it was cracked up to be, or that they had imagined it. Imagination is and always will be a big part of us.

Re:Graphics before game (1)

Soul-Burn666 (574119) | about 9 years ago | (#13017594)

I think what the GP was referring to is the "what? that's all?" feeling you get in some games.
Games that actually have this start-progress-interlude-progress-finale, but it feels artificial. It feels that they had to stick it in like that so it'll be "epic", but eventually it turns out boring, short and generally not satisfying. Maybe simply because it's the same formula over and over. It was fun the first time around, it was fun even the 10 times afterwards. But at the 20th time, the formula just doesn't work anymore.

Re:Graphics before game (1)

The boojum (70419) | about 9 years ago | (#13017267)

Indeed! I always thought that FF4 was the perfect length. Long enough to be satisfying when I beat it, but not so long that I couldn't beat it in a few weeks. FF5 and FF6 were a bit longer but still reasonable. The switch to the PS was about where they lost me.

Part of my problem is that I enjoyed the old FF games for the story. My problem is that if a game starts taking me too long to beat (not having as much free time anymore doesn't help) and tries to cram too much story in, I begin to forget the parts of the game's story before I can finish it. That's not so much fun for someone like me.

Re:Graphics before game (1)

Overdrive_SS (243510) | about 9 years ago | (#13018501)

Yeah, lots more content. Like more cut scenes. And more crappy media tie ins, like songs by crappy artist of the month. Oh, and pertier graphics. But I wouldn't look forward to more good content like story lines that make sense and draw you into the game. You may get larger worlds to explore, if you're lucky. Who knows, maybe I am wrong though.

Re:Graphics before game (1)

earthbound kid (859282) | about 9 years ago | (#13018620)

Not gonna happen.

A 300 hour game would take at least 5 if not 10 times as long to program. Unless they charged proportionally more than the regular price of a game and still got a normal amount of sales, they would lose a bundle of cash.

Re:Graphics before game (1)

BenjyD (316700) | about 9 years ago | (#13032377)

Baldur's Gate 2 (PC) is around 300 hours long (depending on how many side quests etc you do)

It depends on the gamer, or more, their age. (4, Insightful)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about 9 years ago | (#13017064)

As a kid, I routinely found it annoying that a game would end after spending days and weeks play it. Nintendo games never seemed long enough, and while they were fun to play, finishing a game several times in a row seldom left you wanting to play it a gain.

I really got into RPG's in university when the genre really matured. This is when games actually offered an actual time limit, or rather, given ideal conditions, you would finish the game in x number of hours. Of course, RPG's are great if your the type that likes to hang back and battle baddies to improve your experince and skills, or get enough gold to buy premium equipment.

After leaving university (that protective cocoon where your life is planned out for you, you only think you have freedom) and got a job, I found that I wanted to spend less and less time playing games. Or rather, couldn't invest the same amount of time playing these games because of stupid things like a career and life. Bauldur's Gate came out shortly after I entered the job market, and after staying up well past 3am and having to go to work the next day, I realized I really couldn't spend that much time playing games.

Now, I find that any game that requires 40 hours to play a real turn off. For the most part, while I still pick up the odd RPG, after about 10 or so hours of game play, I find it boring and repetitive, so I stop playing. I don't think I have actually finished a game in over 5 years, like gum, I chew on it until the flavour runs out. You could keep on chewing on it, but any enjoyment you got out of it long since vanished.

As the gaming industry now entices 6 year olds to 50+ year olds , the real trick is to find a game concept that can keep you entertained for as long as you want. For young gamers that can waste the hours away, offer a game that allows for long extended gameplay, but for older players with lives and careers, allow the gameplay to be tuned for more rapid progress.

For the most part, I prefer open ended games, like racers, RTS, puzzle games, or simple-RPG's like Diablo or Dungeon Seige, where I don't feel like I have to finish the game, but can come back and enjoy the game at any time without too much worry about the story. Games like Neverwinter Nights, or other real RPG's I find I lose interest quickly, then feel like I have wasted my money

As long as the industry balances out offering games with scripted content, and open ended gameplay, I think there will be no problem, and will cater to young and not-so-young alike. But the first person that offers a variable length game concept, where you can add more or less content depending you how long you want to play the game for would be a real coup, this may re-invent the RPG industry.

Re:It depends on the gamer, or more, their age. (1)

cannon fodder 0109 (787777) | about 9 years ago | (#13017416)

There's no real "right" length for a game. It depends on the story the game is trying to tell and the manner in which it does it:

the real trick is to find a game concept that can keep you entertained for as long as you want. For young gamers that can waste the hours away, offer a game that allows for long extended gameplay, but for older players with lives and careers, allow the gameplay to be tuned for more rapid progress.

I think it's already happening, consider the example below:

Call of Duty/MoHAA/Doom III (in single player mode) are heavily scripted "on rails" fps which can be finished in relativly short periods of time. They keep everything tightly under control, tell their stories well, but send the gamer away with the exact same memories as every other player who has finished it. The only way to tune the length of time you'll spend playing is by altering the difficulty level. They are all enjoyable technically competant games but are a little on the shallow side.

GTA:San Andreas/Vice City/other GTAs/Far Cry give the player the freedom to do more or less what the hell they want so the whole level/game world becomes the players own personal sandbox. Because of this they will send a player who has completed them away having had a (at least partially) unique experience.

It is games like these which we are going to see becoming more and more popular as the market for games diversifies. Simply because they allow the potential for someone with alot of free time to play them in obsessive detail, finding every scrap of content and easter-egg that there is going. While still allowing people with less free time to either jump in and just follow the story straight through or mess about and have fun.

For me this gives them a degree of depth that raises them above the polished but formulaic. This should be considered one of the fundamentals of good games design.

Re:It depends on the gamer, or more, their age. (1)

Mmm coffee (679570) | about 9 years ago | (#13020141)

But the first person that offers a variable length game concept, where you can add more or less content depending you how long you want to play the game for would be a real coup, this may re-invent the RPG industry.
It has already been done. It's called Final Fantasy VI.

Re:It depends on the gamer, or more, their age. (1)

justforaday (560408) | about 9 years ago | (#13020765)

Games like Neverwinter Nights, or other real RPG's I find I lose interest quickly, then feel like I have wasted my money

Actually, I found NWN to be perfect for my playing style. Create a fighter or barbarian or something and the game is pretty much a point-n-click hack-n-slash game. If you feel that the main campaign is too long, there're tons of 3-4 hour modules (or shorter or longer, depending on your mood) that people have made. Many of them are a perfect way to spend a crappy rainy day inside. Certainly well worth the 50 bucks I spent on it 3 years ago.

More randomness in games is needed (5, Insightful)

Digital Vomit (891734) | about 9 years ago | (#13017123)

I think games with a large element of randomness lend themselves better to having a flexible playing length. Take a look at the Civilization series of games. With the latest installments, you can shorten or extend the length of a game by deciding how large the world will be and how many opponents you will have. Plus, with a randomly generated map, every game is different. However, this can backfire and lead to horrible tedium (e.g. *cough*Daggerfall*cough*).

I think the next greatest breakthrough in gaming will be the widespread creation game engines that can be tweaked for length of play and randomness. Imagine playing an FPS where the levels are always different and where you could determine how many levels need to played until you reach the end. Or an RPG where story elements and characters are randomly chosen or mixed up. Or a space exploration game where the universe is always different.

Yes, this kind of thing really increases the complexity of game design, and it can fail spectacularly if one is not careful, but I would definately like to see more games with the randomness and customizeability of Civilization III.

Re:More randomness in games is needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13018024)

Or a space exploration game where the universe is always different.

Try SAIS (Strange Adventures in Infinite Space)!

http://www.digital-eel.com/sais/files.htm [digital-eel.com]

Re:More randomness in games is needed (1)

Tanmi-Daiow (802793) | about 9 years ago | (#13018314)

Personally i dont think a randomly generated FPS would be any fun. I think it would turn out something like Serious Sam. Just a never ending deathmatch. I really like story-based FPS's, like Half life 2 and Halo.

Re:More randomness in games is needed (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | about 9 years ago | (#13018475)

I was thinking of something a little more complex. I guess, at the heart of my post, was the concept of a random story generator; an engine that picks from several design elements and randomly builds a story out of it.

Or, perhaps, the story could remain static, but the levels could simply be somewhat random. e.g. "Your job is to infiltrate this factory and retrieve the secret plans from a hidden safe"...and the factory layout is different everytime you play it. It can be smaller or larger, depending on the desired length of play. And it would never be the same twice.

But, again, this could be a very complicated thing to do.

Re:More randomness in games is needed (1)

I(rispee_I(reme (310391) | about 9 years ago | (#13018566)

Randomly generated levels are the holy grail of replay value. Diablo 1 had them; Diablo 2 may also; haven't played it. I can confirm, though, that Diablo 1 still hasn't gotten old for me, because it's different every time you play it.

For a long time, I wished for a Super Mario Brothers game with randomly generated levels, but then it occurred to me that if such a beast existed, people would never have to buy another Mario game.

Re:More randomness in games is needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13018689)

Just seems weird, but Diablo 1 hasn't gotten old on you, yet you won't try Diablo 2 which is now definitely in the bargain bin (that is if you can find it anymore)? It's just....odd considering that no one I know would dare say Diablo 1 was better than 2.

People buy Mario games not entirely for the levels but for the great gameplay that goes with those levels. Every Mario game is somewhat different (new abilities whether it be a racoon, water gun, or a cape). People of all ages love the game because it isn't repetitive and every jump, dive, and bop can be important. A randomly generated level cannot have that kind of detail with any sense of purpose.

It's really funny that, while Diablo 1/2 is popular, it isn't because of the replayable levels that no one cares about. It's more that it's a simple and addictive game just like Tetris with items you can collect. Sure the random levels break it up, but ask any player that's really played the game for a while, and the randomly generated levels aren't on the forefront of their mind. It's the grind to get that next uber item.

Re:More randomness in games is needed (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 9 years ago | (#13020627)

You should definitely try Diablo 2, once you get used to the enhancements it brings you will never look back. At least not in a positive way.

Re:More randomness in games is needed (1)

robnauta (716284) | about 9 years ago | (#13032152)

SWAT 4 has randomness, not in the geometry but in the start position of the hostages and enemies. Plus the criminals wander around in the level. Every time you play a level it can be completely different, sometimes an attempt where you almost cleared the building is followed by an attempt that fails almost immediately, where suddenly two terrorists walk into a room where you are busy handcuffing the first suspect and open fire. The game offers much more gameplay pleasure than those boring scripted on-a-rail FPS games.

Re:More randomness in games is needed (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 9 years ago | (#13020614)

Considering how clicheed the storylines of most japanese RPGs are you could probably throw a set of templates into a generator program and few would notice that the storylines weren't written by a human.

Boy am I cynical on this... (3, Insightful)

(H)elix1 (231155) | about 9 years ago | (#13017219)

Seems to me the games are getting broken up into 'chapters' that maximize the expansion revenue. C&C:Generals, for instance, was way too bloody short. You got around seven missions with three different nationalities. Fine, except half the missions were introducing new portions of the tech tree. Add in the extra 'Zero Hour' missions and the solo play was about right. Add up the money spent and it was just wrong. Same applies to Warcraft III. Were it not for the multiplayer aspects and some of the solo skirmish stuff, I'd be pissed. What they have done is train me to wait till the game is sold together with the expansion set.

Total Annihilation was about right. Total Annihilation: Kingdoms struck me as a bit long. HL: Blue Shift left me feeling robbed by how fast it was over.

my RPG pet peeve (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13017224)

Actually I have 2...

First is a game implying there is time pressure (ie finish this chapter in time or else) when there is not. This makes it seem like you don't have time for all the side quests when actually you do (and in fact if you don't complete the side quests you don't have enough experience/equipment for the boss) which leads to my second peeve:

Having to gate in and out of the boss fight to recharge/get healed and gate back in to a boss who is still damaged. One should be able to deal with a boss without gating out 50 times... if a character isn't tough enough to take on the boss then either the boss is too tough for the game at that point or the character should get sent on a side quest to build some experience/get equipment before being allowed to face the boss.

I played to the end of Neverwinter Nights, couldn't handle the final fight (I get killed in seconds each time), I suspect because I didn't do enough of the side quests. Eh, it was fun while it lasted, but still, I think games should be designed with this sort of thing in mind.

Jack.

It's not that simple, IMHO (1)

Moraelin (679338) | about 9 years ago | (#13030783)

The illusion of urgency does serve the point of making it all seem more heroic. There's a reason why in movies they stop the bomb when the countdown is blinking at 2 seconds and not when it still has a good 18 hours left.

IMHO it says "you're _the_ one". Not "one of them". If you stop something in the last 2 seconds, it's fairly clear that if you fail there isn't much time for someone else to come do it. If there are 18 hours left on the countdown, hey, you could have called the bomb squad instead.

And then there is one game which did exactly what you say: told you it's not urgent and you have all the time in the world. In fact, there are at least a few more centuries, if not millenia, before it's really a threat. Don't worry if you fail, don't take yourself too seriously, another hero will eventually come and finish it. It goes above and beyond the call of duty to tell you that.

That game was Morrowind.

And, frankly, I just found that story to be a major turn-off. And yes I am aware that many people did like Morrowind for the sheer size and open-endedness of running around jumping into random caves for a quick hack-and-slash, or doing some fetch-quest for a minor village noone else even existed. But I haven't read anywhere anyone saying that MW's main quest was particularly great or felt epic/heroic/whatever.

The problem, however, exists in other games that you're supposed to just know that you're supposed to ignore that urgency in the story. You're supposed to play in a schizophrenic state of mind where you simultaneously suspend disbelief in the story and the urgency of your quest, _and_ know that you can run around saving pets from trees and taking years to breed the perfect Chocobo.

(Along with even more explicit inconsistencies between the actual game and the story/cutscenes. I still want to use a Phoenix Dawn on Aeris, dammit;)

There are a ton of RPGs where, yes, you're just not ready if you just did what you're told. I can think of a few (e.g., Lunar 2) where at one point, forget bosses, I couldn't even survive normal enemies in the next area without running around in the previous area, slaying random enemies for another 1-2 levels of xp and for money to buy new equipment. And that seems to me just wrong.

Maybe that's the real problem: artificially stretching the game beyond the real content, and assuming you'll _know_ you're supposed to do all that. There must be a more happy medium between (A) linear and (B) ignoring the main quest while running around saving little boys' puppies for extra xp.

For example, the Mandalorian camp in KOTOR2 comes to mind as an elegant solution to tell you basically, "ok, we have a bunch of optional quests here, but you must do at least half of them to proceed. Your choice which ones." It gives you a good reason to do them: you're not ignoring the main quest, that's the only way to get further in the main quest.

Maybe more games should use that kind of a plot device. Or in whatever other way, make those side-quests seem more relevant to the main quest, as opposed to feeling like you're ignoring the main quest.

Unreal and the like... (1)

vettemph (540399) | about 9 years ago | (#13017309)

That's what I like about UT2004. You can play a game in 20 minutes if you want. You can play again and again. There is no end point really. The game play changes with new maps and new players. It's like minesweeper without the painfull boredom. :)
Then again, why would you need anything other than ScorchedEarth3D? Aim, Fire! Aim, Fire! Aim, Fire!....

qaulity of time spent (2, Interesting)

beowulfy (897757) | about 9 years ago | (#13017374)

I feel that if the game is fun and innovative enough, and appeals well to the fans of its genre, then if its long, it can be time well spent. Having a huge amount of content isn't gonna matter if the content itself isn't what the player was looking for in purchasing that title. For example, I've always enjoyed the final fantasy series, but it seems that with the last few titles, the people over at square are adding more and more of these annoying little mini-games that look like they would appeal more to a 7 year old kid, than they would a more mature RPG fan. Time playing these mini-games for me is time I would rather be doing something else, and decreases the replay factor for me as well. It begs the question: did square add all these puzzle style mini-games because they thought the FF fans truly would enjoy playing them, or to quench the demands of RPG fans that want a never ending amount of content? It would seem to me that most RPG fans, and fans of FF in particular are playing these games for the fantasy element, the mythical storytelling, and the satisfaction they get from developing their characters. It also seems to be the general concensus that these little puzzle games are nothing more than annoyances that must be done in order to advance the storylines. So sure, longer can be better if its the right kind of content thats making the game longer. But game developers should never try to add content that might be of questionable appeal for the sake of lengthening the game.

It depends on what gameplay time consists of. (3, Insightful)

jclast (888957) | about 9 years ago | (#13017387)

I'll use 3 platformers as evidence here.

Sly Cooper left me wanting more. I think I finished in around 10 hours, and I had gotten all the extra moves. I tried some of the time trials and decided the commentary wasn't worth the insane difficulty. I wanted more story, and I have no problem saying the game was great, but too short.

Sly 2 felt right to me. I finished this one in about 20 hours. Got all the moves again and had a great time doing it. Varied mission ovjectives, characters, and play styles kept the platformer from getting dull, and the story was decent enough for a platformer that I didn't think it dragged.

I-Ninja felt long to me despite my finish time of around 15 hours. Why? 2/3 of my play time was replaying levels to earn extra content. Most levels had to be played 3 times to completely finish them. Why couldn't I have unlocked optional levels that were different?

So the answer is this. Leave me wanting more, and the length doesn't matter. Don't pad your game with pointless fetch quests and if I'm going to unlock bonus levels, they shouldn't be the same as the mandatory levels.

Yet another "games are too long" article (1)

Mirkon (618432) | about 9 years ago | (#13017473)

Yeah yeah. I know. I've read practically 40 hours' worth of these articles in the past few months.

Can we post something else yet, please?

Re:Yet another "games are too long" article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13017773)

If you only stay tuned for a few more articles we'll finally get the exciting conclusion where we find out how long it takes for girls to like playing short games.

It's only a matter of time!

Length is good if it delivers choice... (2, Informative)

Rolling_Go (859757) | about 9 years ago | (#13017514)

One thing that longer games like RPGs lack is the element of freedom. In your typical Square game, you go do the deed you're told, get your reward, and progress to the next part of the linear sequence. However, in a game like Fallout, the freedom they add (not so free as to be near-aimless, like Elder Scrolls games) brings a much needed element to the game. You actually feel like you're involved in the game, rather than just progressing through what the developer intended. In Fallout, your character reflects your choices, and becomes whatever you want him/her to become. Length is good, when you can choose your path...however, adding so many paths that it feels like a pointless maze is just a nuisance. Shorter games can be good as well, but they need to be filled with fast fun...this is really where console games shine. Check out Def Jam: FFNY, Burnout 3, and Katamari Damacy for good examples of a game you can just toss in and play and have fun. I guess games are just like anything else...you have to sift through them to find what's really suited to your needs...whether you're a diehard gamer that spends 10 hours a day playing, or the casual gamer who needs something to kill a bit of time between life's events, there's something there. Just don't play what you don't like, and try demos and the like before spending cash on something you might not enjoy.

Re:Length is good if it delivers choice... (1)

jclast (888957) | about 9 years ago | (#13017534)

There's a trade here. It's a lot harder to implement freedom if the developer wants to tell a story (as most RPGs do). And it's a lot harder to tell a coherent story when the developer doesn't know what the player is going to do next.

Riviera: The Promised Land is extremely linear, but I'm really engrossed in the story. I don't know if I'd feel the same if I could go wherever I wanted whenever I wanted.

Despite being a big game of dress-up, I think Final Fantasy X-2 is about as close as you're going to get to implementing freedom in an RPG while telling a story. Yeah, you had to pick missions, but you could do them in whatever order you wanted (for the most part).

As soon as you give the player complete freedom, you get the same experience as most MMOs offer. All the battling you want with none of those pesky plot points to get in the way.

Games that deserve mention (1)

73chn1nj4 (804117) | about 9 years ago | (#13017668)

Fable is an excellent example of a RPG with more effort put into gameplay over length. It lasted 10 hours to the dedicated gamer, with maybe 20 hours longer for the extras. I replayed it once with a different alignment, which still totals to half the length of a final fantasy game. The difference is that it was a good, solid game... and returns well.

On the other end of the RPG spectrum, there's Morrowind. I've racked up more hours on this game than any final fantasy game I've played (and that's saying something). Leveling is all skill based, so it doesn't matter if you're making small woodland animals explode or bribing NPCs. The gameplay has an open-ended feel much like a MMORPG, but actually has a good plot. You might want to replay this game to fully appreciate it's design.

Re:Games that deserve mention (1)

cthulhubob (161144) | about 9 years ago | (#13035568)

There are small woodland animals in Morrowind? The closest thing I ever saw was a guar. And when they explode it means big meaty chunks raining from the sky. :P

Or for World of Warcraft (1)

aliquis (678370) | about 9 years ago | (#13017686)

What good is 2 weeks of questing when it could have been done in a day?
Boring meet X, kill Y of Z, go to W.

People are Funny... (2)

paploo (238300) | about 9 years ago | (#13017777)

"Quality, not quantity." --Unknown

"People like tangible things. Quantity is tangible; that's why people get lured into its false promises." --Jeff Reinecke

Down with scripts, up with dynamism (1)

Peter Cooper (660482) | about 9 years ago | (#13017823)

I can't stand scripted games. The only ones I've found enjoyable were those in the HalfLife series. The best games are ones which have no length.

Things like SimCity, sports games, racing games, Tetris, puzzles, real time strategy.. you can hop into and out of those games. They match the way our spare time is structured these days. Lately I'm playing Wario Ware and Mario Kart on the GBA because I can just hop in and out for five minutes here and there.. most people nowadays don't have big blocks of time to spend on games.

So, developers, try and drop the scripts, and make games more accessible to casual gamers. Of course, the hardcore "I've got 6 solid hours to spend on a game" crew should be catered for, but I feel that with the advances in technology nowadays.. scripts aren't needed, and games can be truly dynamic.

Length doesn't matter (1)

grumbel (592662) | about 9 years ago | (#13017958)

In the end the length of a game doesn't really matter much to me. What matters is that I don't get bored half the way through and that I am not left with an finished story in the end calling for a sequel. If both of those are set, all that matters is that the game is engaging and fun. Quality is important, not quantity.

Beside from that time is also pretty relative, 2 hours in FF:Tactics can feel short, while 10min in Ikaruga can feel quite lengthy, simply because a heck of a lot more is happening in Ikaruga then in FF:Tactis per minute. Not saying that either of those it bad, but five minutes packed action seem to be more valuable then five minutes spend sorting through the item menu, so I don't mind that the price tag for both is the same, even so the time spend in the game might be quite different.

In the end I have to say that my favorite game is still Another World and that is one that can be easily be beaten in 30mins if you know what you are doing, yet, every second of it is engaging and stuff is never repeating, in other games I wouldn't even have found the entrance to a dungeon in that time.

Vagrant Story (1)

David Rolfe (38) | about 9 years ago | (#13018245)

I'd like to mention Vagrant Story, an older Squaresoft game, that has a great combination of both game length and replay value. The way the game and story is setup you can complete the main action and story of the game pretty quickly (esp with practice) but it offers a huge variety of replay goodies. If you can get past the low poly-count and low-res textures (i.e. you haven't been jaded by the current generation of actiony-RPGs) I enthusiastically recommend it, even today (oh, it's for the PS1 of course). I've been secretly wishing that Square-Enix would revive this story/universe with a prequel or sequel, as the characters and mythos were all very interesting to me. I'm wondering if the Ivalice of the new FF will share some of the old-Europe/Gothic flavor that is all over VS.

FF-X2, to a lesser extent, offers a little bit of this "shorter story for more replay" trade-off. Previous FFs avoided replayability for a kind of 'infinite playability' with the crazy difficult "Weapons" that require maxed out characters and other features that required ages of game-play to reach (growing Materia, collecting Monsters, in-game card games, filling the skill web, etc).

Re:Vagrant Story (1)

damnal (801923) | about 9 years ago | (#13027725)

I've been openly hoping for a continuation of Vagrant Story. It's was a great hidden gem on the PS1.

Vote with your dollars (1)

Mingco (883841) | about 9 years ago | (#13018708)

As long as people perceive "value" in longer games and buy them, the publishers will keep making them longer and putting that as a bullet point on the back of the box.

If you want to see shorter games with more densely packed content, simply stop buying long games like Final Fantasy that have a zillion templated useless side missions for more Phoenix Down and Chocobo Eggs or some crap.

The free market will do the rest.

enjoying victory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13018755)

After saving the world can I please enjoy the world that I saved? This is where the mini-game stuff should be. After finishing BG&E I was really looking forward to flying around & taking pictures of all the critters I missed. But no.

Re:enjoying victory (1)

jclast (888957) | about 9 years ago | (#13019136)

Well...there are no pictures to take, but Paper Mario: the Thousand Year Door does this. It wasn't after I beat the story that I went down to the Pit of 100 Trials.

It's definitely good for the completionists among us, and personally, I'm glad I could do it in that order. The end boss was easy enough without the Return Postage badge (which I know I would equip if I had it because it's the best badge in the game, in my opinion).

I would like to see more of (1)

Deltaspectre (796409) | about 9 years ago | (#13018904)

This may be a little off topic, but I want more RPG's (not mmorpg's) to have skills such as fishing ... something like Runescape, where you have to have a certain level to fish something and it gets faster as you level, but you can still beat many quests without any fishing xp just by buying shark

If... (1)

vga_init (589198) | about 9 years ago | (#13019333)

If short is good, longer is better.
If short is bad, longer is worse.

"Longer is better" assumes that the game is good. A truly excellent game is dissapointing if it's too short. In this case, additional length gives more satisfaction. If a game is not fun, the length can be gruelling.

Can a great game ever be too long? That's debateable. Take Tetris as an example. Have you EVER beaten Tetris? ;)

half life 2 epitomizes the "too long" (1)

joe094287523459087 (564414) | about 9 years ago | (#13019507)

this article articulates exactly how i felt after playing Half-Life 2:

why was that game 12 hours when it had about 4 hours worth of content?

every "level" went from exciting, to interesting, to ok, to boring, to mind-numbing. i felt like they didn't have the game done on time so they just stretched out the levels by 200%.

a game of perfect length is probably the underrated classic The Neverhood. lots of great puzzles and right when you start to lose interest, a 180 degree turn in the gameplay, and a big satisfying finish not long after.

More information is needed (3, Interesting)

samael (12612) | about 9 years ago | (#13019836)

I finshed Price of Persia: Sands of Time precisely because it told me how far through I was. When you hit 77% it seems silly to not plough through to the end.

Giving me a score to constantly improve is a _great_ way to push me onwards.

Deus Ex: Invisible War a prime example (1)

mindaktiviti (630001) | about 9 years ago | (#13020682)

of when games are too short, regardless of the replayability.

I was able to run through that game in 2 hours in-game time, and I've heard of people doing it in practically half that time. Playing the game *really* casually, exploring every corner to the point where replaying it would be almost pointless, and the game still came in only at like 10 hours. (Note: Deus Ex the original is in my top 5 favourite games list)

Games that are only 10 hours long should have at least a multiplayer element that makes them practically infinite in game play fun (i.e. Quake 3, Half Life with CS, et al).

A simple point game designers miss: (1)

mfterman (2719) | about 9 years ago | (#13021072)

Is a four hour movie twice as enjoyable as a two hour movie?

Obviously not. Admittedly, games tend to be more of a stop and restart phenomena, like a movie on DVD, so that allows lengths to go up. However I think most movie directors (there are certainly exceptions) understand that a movie needs to be as long as you need it to be to tell the story and no longer than that. They may not always do a good job of it, but that's another story.

Honestly I like the idea of shorter games with less repetition and simple levelling up and with more focus on providing an interesting and varied experience. And delivered in episodic format as well.

length != replayability (1)

LinuxRulz (678500) | about 9 years ago | (#13027545)

It's sooo true that length isn't all we should look at. There is this arcade sidescrolling shooter: Jets'n'Guns [rakeingrass.com] . A simple, well balanced game, with really GREAT gameplay. It's around 10h of gameplay, but it's soooo addictive. Once you've gone through, you MUST play again on harder levels. I've checked with friends and they all passed the game at least 3 times in a row. Now, that's a game of great value. It's nothing like doom3, which is costy and, once you've gone through, you don't play again cuz you "know where the monsters are hidden".

Re:length != replayability (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | about 9 years ago | (#13027717)

There is this arcade sidescrolling shooter: Jets'n'Guns. A simple, well balanced game, with really GREAT gameplay. It's around 10h of gameplay, but it's soooo addictive.
I wouldn't entirely agree - some advanced weapons feel underpowered for their price. Other than that, I'd say that it should hold players enough for two passes.

It's nothing like doom3, which is costy and, once you've gone through, you don't play again cuz you "know where the monsters are hidden". Doom 3 had a price drop. However, it is still true that replayability doesn't exist in the base package. That's way you begin to hunt for singleplayer mods. Alternativly, you can write your own random level generator. :)

Seriously, that's the main strenght in Doom 3 - while the base game isn't popular or replayable, iD Software has made sure that their games are almost always customizable (ever since Ouake, which is after they discovered that DeHacked modified the monster and weapon activity.)

Why can't games be more like movies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13035623)

Why can't games be more like movies? And please, not the games!=movies argument.

If games were comprised of 2-4 hours of quality, replayable gameplay with a tight, well-written story and sold for $20 each, who wouldn't like that?

It would force designers to design better games, without hours of fluff. I never replay games that take more than 10 hours to complete. Who (over 30) has that kind of time?

And at the price of a DVD, we could buy more of them.
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