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Games Entertainment

The Happy Medium Of Game Length 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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The Happy Medium Of Game Length

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  • Less Is More (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blueZhift ( 652272 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:23PM (#13016832) Homepage Journal
    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 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ZephyrXero ( 750822 ) <zephyrxero@NospAM.yahoo.com> on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:55PM (#13017111) Homepage Journal
      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.
    • 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 figur

      • 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 require
        • 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.
          • 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.
        • 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 jus
      • 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.
  • Short but sweet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chonguey ( 567386 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:26PM (#13016860) Homepage
    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.
    • I enjoyed every minute of Final Fantasy 6, Tactics, Tactics Advance, and Crystal Chronicles.
      • Re:Short but sweet (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ZephyrXero ( 750822 )
        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.
        • 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...
    • 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.
    • 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 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:32PM (#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.

    • 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
      • 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 w
    • 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 pa
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • by TheSkepticalOptimist ( 898384 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:49PM (#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.

    • 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/MoH
    • 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.
    • 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. Certai
  • by Digital Vomit ( 891734 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:58PM (#13017123) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • 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.
      • 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

        • 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.
          • 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.
          • 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
        • 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.
  • 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 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 08, 2005 @06:10PM (#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.

    • 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
  • 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!....
  • by beowulfy ( 897757 )
    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
  • by jclast ( 888957 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @06:32PM (#13017387) Homepage
    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.
  • 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?
  • 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 ref
    • 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
  • 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 so
  • 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.
  • by paploo ( 238300 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @07:36PM (#13017777)
    "Quality, not quantity." --Unknown

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

  • 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 sa
  • by samael ( 12612 ) <Andrew@Ducker.org.uk> on Saturday July 09, 2005 @06:42AM (#13019836) Homepage
    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.
  • 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 t
  • 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 sim
  • 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
    • 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

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