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Games length too long?


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I forgot to bring this up when I first read the article by Kristan Reed over at Eurogamer.net. But I've stumbled on it again today, and am wondering what you guys think.

 

He poses many very good arguments and points:

 

Now, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with giving the consumer better value for money, and therefore a longer and potentially even more enjoyable experience, but from my experience a worrying proportion of games will never get finished, and this is a crime.

 

He's got me there. I try to get through all of my games, but I'm guilty of not finishing a fair amount, as I'm sure a few of you guys are...

 

If that was a pile of DVDs, or a pile of CDs, or even books, the chances are you would come back to them, because putting a CD on for half an hour while you're getting ready, or spending 90 minutes of an evening watching a movie is easy. These are bite-size things to do. Getting back into a game you're 30 per cent into having left it on the shelf for a month or ten is a different story. The chances are you've forgotten what the hell happened in the storyline (which you weren't really paying attention to anyway, judging by the standard of most terrible videogaming narrative). Worse still, you can't even remember what you're supposed to be doing, or the controls. All those combos and tactics you were so good at - it's all a blur now, and of course the game's that much harder now. Bugger it. Let's put this new one on.

 

He also brings up a good proposition: Episodic games. Why not? After reading his argument for it, he's got me convinced that it could work.

 

Almost any level-based games (which is most games) can be episodic, and this presents the publisher, the developer, the retailer and ultimately the consumer with a potentially idyllic scenario. Firstly, if we're assuming games are delivered in bite-sized chunks, the consumer ought to be able to trial a game at a cheaper price (or for free if we assume the shareware/demo model). This gives the consumer the chance to take more risks, make impulse purchases and if they like it, they can demand more episodes.

 

From a developer standpoint, releasing episodic content has potentially massively advantageous consequences if approached the right way with the right content. Not only is the opportunity there to make more money out of the project over a longer lifespan if it works out (especially if they deliver it straight to the end user, Steam-style), but if the project doesn't make a splash, they may have saved years finding that out. Malice, anyone? Ok, this is a massively simplistic argument, not taking into account the years many developers spend making the game technology, the engine, and the animation system and so on, but with all that in place the principle of making shorter games - or breaking up exisiting games into smaller chunks - still holds weight.

 

For the publisher, is it better to have developers making more games, more regularly, or have them maxed out for years on one project? Longer games equals longer development time. The equation is fairly clear. If they considered splitting up those epic projects into shorter chunks, the commercial potential and lifespan of projects could be massively improved.

 

For the retailer, for example, having six 'episodes' of GTA or any other blockbuster over the course of a year would be an interesting proposition too, with games capable of extending their shelf life all year round, with a collector's 'box set' rounding all this content too, maybe with extra levels or a 'director's cut' for the real die-hards. All round, it's clear that things need to change.

 

Why not? I'd buy Half-Life 3 in episodes or levels. And then maybe we wouldn't have to wait another 4 or 5 years for the next one. Thoughts?

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At this point in time, I feel that games are definitely too short.

 

There have been many reviews in the past few years, where the reviewer talks about the great graphics, the awesome sound, cool level design...then, "but the game is quite short and should take no longer than a weekend to finish".

 

Hell...some of the games in the past year or so, can be finished in a few hours.

 

Sorry...that's just too damn short, imho, for me to drop $50+.

 

I feel that short games are going to become more and more the rule, while long games will become the exception. I base that on one of the things that the article touched on, and that's the cost.

 

Everyone wants to save money and make a ton of it at the same time. Shorter developement time, smaller developement team = less cost. I can't seem many developers bucking the trend and putting in more time, more cost with that creating more risk of a loss.

 

It's sad. I hate short games. Granted, every game I play doesn't have to be Morrowind but, I don't want them to be Ico either. Absolutely loved Ico, btw but...it certainly could've used a bit more game time! I finished it in 5 hours. A great 5 hours but, what the fuck?!!?

 

But then, what constitutes a long game and what makes one a short game? Where's the time limit?

 

Opens up alot for discussion and opinions. In my opinion, Halo was just about right and, I really loved the length of Half Life. Some will say Halo was too short and Half Life too long.

 

I think casual gamers, which more than likely is a larger group than us, whereby meaning they're the gamers that make the developers most of their money, probably don't care as much about length of the games which, will also contribute to developers making games shorter and shorter since their "bread and butter" customers don't really care much about the length of the game.

 

Kind of like the possible problem with widescreen versions on dvd's. Widescreen dvd's could become a victim of their own success as more and more Joe Sixpacks buy dvd players. Those kind of guys are the ones that bitch about "those dern pain in the ass black bars"!

 

Maybe I'm in a minority here since I don't have kids or a wife. When I get home after 2nd shift, I usually can play until the wee hours of the morning, ie 4 or 5 am. That's a pretty regular occurance at my house. I have an easy time fitting in long games. Speaking of which, I've finished Morrowind and most of it's missions. Level 69 character. I'm going through the Mournhold missions now and, when they're done I'll hit Soltsheim.

 

I realize everyone can't do that due to time constraints and responsibilities.

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That's not my point, and you know it. Obviously 10 sweet hours is better than 5 sweet hours, but from a development point of view, it's not as simple as "make 5 more great hours of game".

 

Frequently, the more content a game has, the more "padded out" it is to reuse the already produced artwork/design, rather than "cool new" content. Case in points: MGS' running back through the entire structure for a key from where you started, Halo's running back through the entire structure because we ran out of time for new content (which they've admitted).

 

Would you rather have the developers concentrate on making their 5 hours the best they can, or would you rather they stretched their artists/designers/coders out to produce 10 hours of 5 /good/ hours & 5 lukewarm hours because they don't have the resources to dedicate to make all 10 hours as good as they should? That's the conundrum that developers are frequently in these days as budgets spiral up.

 

I know the likes of Remedy answered that question by concentrating on making their 5 hours as sweet as they could.

 

Do I feel 5 hours for $50 is good value? Not a chance. Would I rather have a 100 hours of lukewarm gameplay? Not a chance.

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I think RPGs are definitely too long now. (Actually, maybe they've always been that long and I just don't have time to play them anymore.) The most egregious example in my opinion is Morrowind...I am all for an expansive world, but that game was ridiculous. Fifty hours in and I'm not even a third of the way done? And every single mission was a version of "go and get me this (in a dungeon completely across the map) and I'll give you that." Since it took 15 minutes to walk across the map, and since cliff racers would double that time with their pointless attacks, just getting from point A to point B added dozens and dozens of hours to the gameplay. That is the WRONG way to add length in my opinion.

 

Even the excellent Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is running on far too long now. I completed that game at right around 50 hours, but with only about 130 quests complete. I still have another 170 quests to go, after 50 hours! And most of them are pretty boring now that I have a bunch of high-level characters. It's just a question of gritting my teeth and wading through battle after battle after battle against hopelessly over-matched enemies.

 

One RPG that I thought got the length just right was Diablo 2. I don't remember how long it took me to complete the game, but I never got into the frustrating cycle of "leveling up" in random battles in order to take on the next boss/dungeon/mission, etc. Each mission progressed nicely into the next one, and my character was never completely overwhelmed nor totally bored by the caliber of the enemies onscreen.

 

I guess that speaks to Brian's point...it's not how many hours, but how many quality hours a game gives you that determines worth. Yes, if dirty disc errors hadn't submarined my chances of completing Morrowind I would have gotten 100 or so hours out of it, but they would have been 100 hours of utter tedium. It took me 50 hours to finish the main quest in FFT-A, and it will probably take about another 20 to finish the rest of the side missions, but most of those hours have felt more like work than play. Whereas I finished Panzer Dragoon Orta in under 10 hours, and I consider that just about the best $50 I spent.

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One RPG that I thought got the length just right was Diablo 2. I don't remember how long it took me to complete the game, but I never got into the frustrating cycle of "leveling up" in random battles in order to take on the next boss/dungeon/mission

 

To an extent. That third jungle world was the very definition of tedium. Run across the same maps killing the same enemies looking for your objective, only to run across more terrain. To be fair most of the levels in the game were similiar but the third jungle section really bored me to tears. (Hell made up for it :D ).

 

The most egregious example in my opinion is Morrowind...I am all for an expansive world, but that game was ridiculous. Fifty hours in and I'm not even a third of the way done?

 

I definitely see your point but that comes down to how you chose to play the game also. Morrowind in actuality only takes about 40-45 hours to actually complete the main quest. Everything else is ancillery and not needed to actually "beat" the game. Tribunal is a far more focused affair and Bloodmoon also has a main storyline to complete. We however come back to the afformentioned "padding" that Brian mentioned. How much is too much to be exact? Its great you brought Morrowind up as its a perfect example.

 

Whereas I finished Panzer Dragoon Orta in under 10 hours, and I consider that just about the best $50 I spent.

 

Another great example. (and not because its one of my favorite games of the year ;) ) Panzer Dragoon took what most would consider to be a short game and made it infinitely playable.

 

Pandora's box was a treasure trove of content that only the most dedicated player could unlock in its entirety but the replay value easily made the game worth every last penny?

 

Is five hours worth 50 dollars? Depends on the game experience IMHO. Is five hours and a load of replay value worth 50 bucks? Definitely.

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As discussed here, Metroid Prime is a mere 97 minutes long. What a ripoff.

 

I rarely finish a great game and think it was too short, but an otherwise good game can become tedious if it feels padded. I estimate I'm about halfway through Halo, and you're telling me I'm going to have to turn around and go back through all those endless corridors again? Sheesh.

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LOL.....yeah, it takes 97 minutes when you've played the game several times and have well documented where all the items are at. I think that game took me 25 hours my first time through, and it was an awesome time. Probably one of the best games I ever played.

 

Have fun with halo. It's a great game and all, but if you think things are tedious now, wait til you get to the library.

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Well you can put me in the "I want more than 10 hours for my $50" camp. Some of my favorite games have been less than 15 hours, but most of them have replay value. (Panzer D. Orta was the perfect example given...I'm still trying to improve my skills on the hard difficulty level)

 

Now lately there've been a lot of good games released, and when I read that Prince of Persia & Beyond Good & Evil can both be completed in 10-12 hours whereas I'll be getting 50+ hours out of games like Project Gotham Racing 2 & the Grand Theft Auto Double Pack, POP and BG&E become rentals. There's still a chance that I may enjoy them so much during a rental that I decide I want to purchase them...and maybe if there were fewer games released at this time I 'd buy the short games without hesitation as well.

 

On the other side of the coin, I don't think I've ever said to myself "Self, that game was too long."

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No, games are not too long. There are simply too many of them to play right now. Take a look at this excerpt from the guy's essay to see what I mean:

 

Again, let's check how this situation of a vast uncompleted games collection perpetuates and persists. Easy. Fast forward a few months and a quick glance at the racks will result in you dealing with the classic gamer conundrum: the sale. Faced with some gloriously cut-priced releases that have been on your list for some time, you can't resist. Oh, and what's this? "Three for a tenner" you say? Shit, I'll have six. Actually, screw it, better make it nine. Nine games for less than the price of one new one. Wow. Before you know it, you've got a pile of really great games that you've been dying to play for eons, and because they're not that new, you know you've got the kit to run them without having to take out a mortgage to upgrade your rig. Excellent. If we're talking consoles, then even better.

 

So you get home, studiously play through a bit of Deus Ex, maybe some Half-Life, Tomb Raider II's still looking good for its age. Hey, isn't Grim Fandango an underrated classic? Gotta love those old LucasArts games. It's all going well; for a few weeks you're feasting on games for next to nothing, and then what happens? A brand new killer app hits the shelves (or worse - two at the same time) that have been delayed for years, and you'll drop everything to play them. Of course you do - you need to keep up. You wouldn't miss this for the world.

 

So you do. If it's that really special game it'll be 3AM sessions, red eye, rushing home to play, whinging girlfriend, concerned employees, caffeine addiction, spots, terrible food, weight loss and a general lack of personal hygiene. Call the cops!

 

I think these two paragraphs summarize exactly what the problem is here. Too many hardcore gamers bite off more than they can chew. Instead of picking and choosing which games they want to play, they simply go out and buy every halfway decent title on the market. As a result, the absolute best games never get finished because the player feels an obligation to get his or her money's worth out of a mediocre title.

 

Then again, some games really are too long. I always cite Donkey Kong 64 as a premiere example of such a game. Basically, you had to play through each level five times to get to the end. That's just plain ridiculous, and once I finished it, I realized that it was possible to make a game too damn long. Put me in the camp that enjoys a good 10 - 15 hours of playtime for a title. That's about 2 hours a night for about a week. That seems like a reasonable time to finish a game, if you ask me.

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For long games though how much time is actually playing the game and how much time is just sitting there watching? It seems there is less and less actual gameplay these days and more and more just watching. If I want to watch a movie I'll put in a dvd. When I put in a game I want to actually be playing it instead of waiting for cut scene after cut scene to pass by.

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Games are too short or too long depending on the genre. RPGs are too damn long lately, dragging out their stories to insipid length and throwing in "optional" things that you ought to do if you want a hope in hell of beating the end boss. The last three Final Fantasy titles are good example of this. I forced myself to beat VIII and IX and each one took me over sixty hours. No story is worth that to my mind.

 

The best example of an RPG that is just right is either Final Fantasy IV or Skies of Arcadia. FF4 moves along at a cracking good pace for most of the game, ditto Skies. You don't need to spend hours levelling up to play Skies unless you want some of the super insane battles, but it's an option at least.

 

In my mind the perfect game otherwise lasts 20-30 hours. Not so long that I feel like I'm being punished for wanting to see the ending, but not so short that I feel it ended just when it was getting interesting.

 

Metroid Prime is a great example of this. That game does so much right it isn't funny, but it gets the length right too. I got to the ending just when I thought I should, and if I want to go back and play it again for 100% completion, I can.

 

Shorter works better too. Resident Evil, great games that last about 12 hours or so. Story wraps up just when it should.

 

is it better to have 5 sweet super hours or 10 average hours?

 

5 super sweet, any day. I may wait for the game to drop in price a bit, but a game that makes excellent use of my time and does everything I want it too cannot be too short if it meets my expectations. If people put down their controllers and go 'oh, that was it?' then it was too short, but otherwise that's good.

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Rez, in the main 'all five levels in one run' takes what, half an hour? You've seen all that Crazy Taxi will offer you in your first half hour of play, and Soul Calibur is just fight after fight after fight.

 

Yet these are some of my favorite games. The whole 'length too long?' question really boils down to what sort of game you're playing, really. I expect an RPG to take 30+ hours of leisurely wandering around, which is why I don't play them. I expect shmups and fighters to live in 10 minute intense bursts, and love them for it.

 

Its all down to what you want of a game, and when I don't have a huge amount of time for playing these days I want every minute to be brilliant.

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