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Coming Soon, Shorter Video Games 637

Hugh Pickens writes "Blake Snow writes that according to one expert, 90% of players who start a game will never see the end of it and it's not just dull games that go unfinished. Only 10% of avid gamers completed last year's critically acclaimed Red Dead Redemption, according to Raptr, which tracks more than 23 million gaming sessions. 'What I've been told as a blanket expectation is that 90% of players who start your game will never see the end of it unless they watch a clip on YouTube,' says Keith Fuller, a longtime production contractor for Activision. The bottom line is people have less time to play games than they did before, they have more options than ever, and they're more inclined to play quick-hit multiplayer modes, even at the expense of 100-hour epics. 'They're lucky to find the time to beat a 10-hour game once or twice a month,' says Fuller of the average-age gamer. 'They don't feel cheated about shorter games and will just play a longer game for as many hours as their schedule allows before moving on to another title.' Even avid gamers are already warming to the idea of shorter games. 'Make a game worth my time and money, and I'll be happy,' says Casey Willis. 'After all, 10 hours of awesome is better than 20 hours of boring.'"
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Coming Soon, Shorter Video Games

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  • WHAT!?!?!?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ( 2100600 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @09:48AM (#37128892)
    So I can spend 50 -60$ on a 20 hour game? Yeah, that's EXACTLY what I'm after. Sounds like a good way to keep development costs low and reap in more profit. I call bullsh*t on this.
  • by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @09:54AM (#37128980)

    It's the quality of the game.

    Sure, you can "play" RDR. It has a halfway decent story. But it gets lost because of all the damn grinding, and getting lost, and generally farting around in the wilderness shooting birds and wolves. Or you take a weekend off and even with the mission hint system, you can't remember where the fuck you were in the storyline. It's even worse for all the goddamn JRPG's in the world. Or you have Celda Syndrome, where you play for a good 15 hours, and then spend 60 hours on "Hey Link, go sail a boat around the world looking for the 8 pieces of trash so you can make a goddamn macguffin and get back to the fucking story already."

    Borderlands does a lot better about it. I can put that down for a month, come back, read the mission descriptions that actually carry some fucking backstory, and get back into my character easier.

    Now, do we like shorter games if done well? Of course. Super Mario Bros. can be beaten in a few hours. The Megaman games, originals, had no save points but could be finished in a few hours. The key there is that they can be played over and over and over again, even after you've beaten them, and they are still goddamn fun to play. Just like how arcade games that generally only played for a few minutes - Joust, Galaga, Gyruss and more - were so fun and addictive that they could be played over and over and over again.

    But the key is not making the game shorter. The key is not doing the things that make people bored with the fucking game. Avoid grinding. Avoid needless "now you need to run back and forth around the map 50 times for quest X" garbage. And that means a few changes to game design, like making your enemies scale somewhat so that they remain a challenge to a high "level" character while not being unbeatable for someone who hasn't spent 50 hours grinding in the side areas of the game (looking right at you, Final Fantasy series).

  • And the price? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RenHoek ( 101570 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @09:54AM (#37128988) Homepage

    Shorter games? Fine.. but also drop the price then.

    Personally I like my games to be long. It's not uncommon for me to play a 6-8 hour single scenario of Sins of a Solar Empire or Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance.

    But if they are going to change it like they did with SupCom:FA to SupCom2 where they made it shorter but also just dumbed the game down, then I'm going to be mad. I've played through SupCom2 once, but I still play SupCom:FA.

  • Wow, really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AngryDeuce ( 2205124 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @09:57AM (#37129038)

    I've already pretty much given up on console gaming in lieu of MMO's because I want more than 10 hours of content in a game, and now they're pushing to make games shorter??

    Jesus. Gaming sure is starting to suck...

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @10:00AM (#37129074) Homepage Journal
    The problem is that most of them suck, in some way. Either the control system sucks, which will make even the most engaging game unplayable for me. Or the gameplay is boring and unengaging. Or in some cases I can't get into (Or outright despise) the characters. I could have played Beyond Good and Evil for another 60 hours and hold it forward as a shining example of awesomeness that didn't last long enough. Magna Carta sticks in my head as one that might have been an awesome game but which had a cumbersome control system that I just didn't want to deal with after a couple of hours. The games with crappy gameplay or characters (or both) are too numerous to list or even remember.

    I'm betting the "good" games have a substantially higher finish rate than the "bad" ones. So perhaps instead of making games shorter, you should make them not suck instead.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <joham999@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday August 18, 2011 @10:07AM (#37129174)


    * a computer doesn't call you a "noob fag" over XBL if you're better than them.
    * you can play at your own pace without having to hang around waiting for other people
    * the story can be the driving force and you can concentrate on it, instead of trying to read quest or backstory while your 12 yo "co op partner" is tea bagging the quest giver's dog
    * no griefing

    A good bit of multiplayer can be great - LAN play on Quake 3 Arena was a blast, as is hosting a direct-IP Civ4 game for your buddies. You'll note that neither of these things involves an online multiplayer hub owned by the game company designed to get you to play with strangers.

  • Re:WHAT!?!?!?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @10:12AM (#37129236)

    Really? 100 hours of entertainment at $60 seems like a deal to me compared to say 2 hours for $10 at the movies. In fact, pretty much all other forms of entertainment typically cost something in the region of $5 an hour. By that measure, games are insanely cheap.

  • by grimmjeeper ( 2301232 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @10:16AM (#37129310) Homepage

    It's been my experience that I'm much more likely to finish a game that has a decent story behind it. I don't mind a little senseless grinding if there's a worthwhile payoff in the end. But so many games these days have only the pretense of a story. There's just enough to loosely tie action sequences together but nothing to really compel you to continue with the game. It's like watching a modern action film. Cardboard cutout characters moving around with big explosions and lots of flashy effects gets boring fast.

    I guess this is a "get off my lawn" rant but I think that flashy graphics have ruined games. Without fancy graphics, the game developers had no choice but to make the games interesting. The first time I saw a new console game system with 3D I was impressed by the graphics but the game the guy had was nothing more than just driving around the game world grinding away at some inane monotonous task that didn't seem to have any purpose.

    I don't know how many times I spent grinding through Diablo to the end. The graphics were decent for the time but it was the game play that brought me back over and over. I wouldn't have cared if it was done in ASCII art, it was a fun game to play. I haven't broken out a copy of Larn [] in over a decade but it was one of those games I wasted hours upon hours playing over and over again because it was a fun game.

    A couple years ago I was playing one of the GTA games on an XBox. I spent quite a bit of time playing it but realized that I just didn't care about the endless monotony. The story wasn't interesting. And as it turned out, it didn't matter what I actually did on the side, the game forced the story in one direction. And that just made the grind feel pointless. And after spending quite a bit of time on it, I found out I was less than half way through the story. So I stopped playing.

    I don't mind grind in a game if the grind has a real purpose. Grind for the sake of grind just isn't interesting. So I guess I'm glad game designers are taking it out and making the games shorter. But it won't compel me to buy and play the new games. They're still not interesting. And even though the cost to me is trivial, they're still not worth it.

  • Re:WHAT!?!?!?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @10:17AM (#37129330)

    Like I said, the key is not the length of the game, the key is not doing the things that make the game fucking boring to gamers.

    If I put the game down for a weekend or a week or two due to Real Life, and then come back and there's no way to get back into the character and remember what was going on in the story, then I'm done with the game.

    If I play the game for 15 hours and hit a Celda-style "Hey Link, go waste 60 hours sailing around the goddamn ocean looking for the 8 pieces of the Crappy Macguffin before we'll let you back to the main story" setup, then fuck that, I'm done. Likewise for games like the Final Fantasy series, where I have to spend 30 hours or more running around the side-areas level grinding before taking on one of the bosses.

    I'm fine with a short game like Super Mario Bros that has almost infinite replayability and remains fun. Or the old-school arcade games that are the same way. I'm not fine with games that have inflated, worthless "X hours of gameplay" listed right there on the goddamn box, like being proud of forcing the players to go through 100 hours of level grind is something to be fucking proud of.

    If the game designers would stop giving a shit about how "long" the game was, and instead start making sure the game was fun from start to finish, then they'd be doing a hell of a lot better. It's not that multiplayer is the holy grail, it's not that people actually fucking enjoy level grinding (let's face it, most gamers don't play Call of Duty more than a month because by the time you play that long, you're SO done with the immature fucking hyperleveled kids who play all day long and shout "fag" into their headsets whenever they score a kill), it's that people want to have FUN when they play.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tompaulco ( 629533 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @10:32AM (#37129544) Homepage Journal
    To each his own, I guess. I played some multiplayer back in my college days, but I find that it is no fun to play against people who have nothing better to do with their levels but level up so they can kill you as soon as you join the game. I wouldn't play multiplayer now if you paid me.
  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @10:34AM (#37129580) Journal

    Not everyone is a good novelist. Some people are outstanding when they limit themselves to writing only short stories, but they'd get completely bogged down attempting a "War and Peace".

    The video game industry, by and large, has a problem because they've set expectations of how long a game "should be". Game writers should quit worrying about hitting any targets of a specific length of time to complete a game, and just concentrate on making everything in it as FUN as possible. When you run out of creative ideas, maybe it's time to end the game there and focus on cleaning up the details of what you already wrote!

    Replay value is another factor to consider. If a game can be completed quickly, that doesn't necessarily mean it lacks value for its price. If it's designed the right way, some people who finish it will still enjoy it enough to go back through it again (just like some people will re-read a really good book). It helps if the game allows completion with different classes of characters, and is flexible enough to make things play out in very different ways when it is played through with different characters. That's a potential advantage a book author doesn't have, with books being static.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LateArthurDent ( 1403947 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @10:40AM (#37129706)

    Why do people enjoy playing against a computer? I play COD, Quake Live, Battlefield, and several others, never touched the single person mode, can't stand playing a computer, it isn't interesting.
    But playing people, much more fun (and aggravation) than any computer opponent, they learn and adapt, conversation is possible and the greatest blast of all, a pub game where your human team actually works together.

    It should all be multiplayer IMO, but apparently some people like playing machines.

    Different people have different tastes, I guess. I never touch the multiplayer mode with any game.

    Mostly what I'm looking for in a game is the story. The parts where I need to go around and do stuff is either interesting if it's well integrated with the story, or parts that I'd rather skip to get to the next cutscene if it's not. Not all of us play for the challenge, some of us approach the medium as a more interactive form of a movie.

  • Re:I agree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CronoCloud ( 590650 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [noruaduolconorc]> on Thursday August 18, 2011 @10:41AM (#37129714)

    The great thing about Oblivion, FO3 and FONV are that the main quest line isn't too long....and all the other stuff is optional. so You can do what you like doing and play the game how you want to play it. They also have good quest logs, maps notes and whatnot, making them easy to get in and out of.

    My Oblivion save hit 200 hours before I ever visited Kvatch, and I STILL haven't completed the main quest.

  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @10:41AM (#37129720) Journal

    It's not just the price, though. Sure, if the choices was between 10 hours of truly awesome vs 20 hours of boring, and they both cost the same, well, ok, I might actually splurge on something that's awesome for a change. I mean, honestly, out of some games maybe a quarter of the time was actually fun, and the other parts were filler that didn't really bring anything worth my money. If I paid the same, but got only the parts that were actually worth my money, in the end I'd get the same value for my money, if not better. In fact not only I'd pay extra to have that filler removed, but I _have_ occasionally actually paid extra to be able to skip it. E.g., by buying a GameShark or the like.

    But that's unfortunately just theory. Anyone want to bet that that won't happen?

    I've seen games get increasingly shorter for two decades now, but I'm just not seeing that awesome stuff emerging. I'm not seeing many people actually cut out the parts that make a game boring, and leaving the juicy meat intact.

    The metaphor that comes to mind is basically imagine buying a nice suit, except it has 20 pounds of lead sewn all over it, so the tailor can claim you're getting a whole 25 pounds of material for your money. It brings no extra enjoyment whatsoever, it serves no function that I'd actually want, and frankly it even detracts from my enjoyment of wearing it. Would I pay the same money to get just the suit without the lead padding? Hell yea. I'd even pay extra.

    But now imagine that after hearing about how the customers don't want heavy suits, and lighter is the new way and all, you go to the same tailor, and now for the same money you get a shirt and jeans, and only 10 pounds of lead sewn to the pants. You got something lighter, but you didn't get the same for your money.

    Now the next round of interviews goes by and you're reassured by everyone that THIS time they'll cut only the unwanted parts out, and you'll get only 5 pounds of suit for your money, but it will be just the awesome part. Except what you actually get this time is a T-shirt and some shorts, and 4 pounds of lead sewn to it.

    That's been what's happening to games. Each time we hear them talk about how people don't want huge padded games, and how gamers would be ok with half the game, but only the awesome parts. And some of us would indeed. I would have paid the full again for some games, if I got a version with all the good stuff and without all the boring padding.

    But then the next game does come along with only half the hours, but the percentage composition is largely the same as before. Now instead of an 80 hour game, out of which maybe 20 are interesting stuff, you get a 20 hours total game. Yippee, it will be just the 20 hours of fun, right? Wrong. Now you have maybe 5 hours of fun stuff and 15 hours of padding.

    I'm seeing the same rhetoric happening again and again, and it looks more and more like a cheap excuse for gullible morons.

  • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarKnyht ( 671407 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @10:42AM (#37129734)

    Not to mention:

    * the aggravation of getting your hands on a game a month late only to find everyone else has memorized the maps and hacked their save files to break the multiplayer aspect.

    * having to constantly purchase the latest "shooter" or EA Sports title just to find someone to play multiplayer with (because everyone left or EA decided to shut the server down).

    * game requires $40 more spent to get all the DLC map packs so you can participate in said multiplayer experience.

    * multiplayer experience was bolted onto a game that should only be a single-player experience in an attempt to make money.

    Multiplayer can be fun with friends, but generally XBL has not been a fun online experience for me. Either the matches are so loopsided it is painful (and results in people dropping out making the problem worse), I am stuck listening to some teen or college student trying to relive his pre-teen pre-puberty singing career, or people think they should be free to say things that result in an ER trip if said in person.

  • Tracking us, what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Khyber ( 864651 ) <> on Thursday August 18, 2011 @11:20AM (#37130268) Homepage Journal

    "Only 10% of avid gamers completed last year's critically acclaimed Red Dead Redemption, according to Raptr, which tracks more than 23 million gaming sessions."

    I would like to know how they were tracking us and why we weren't told about this.

  • pathetic? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by uniquegeek ( 981813 ) on Thursday August 18, 2011 @12:21PM (#37131088)

    In fact, the attrition (or bounce rate) of video games is pretty pathetic.

    This line is pathetic in of itself. Some games aren't that exciting; not finishing it because of that is hardly a "pathetic" situation. Other reasons for not finishing games? Family, friends, work, school, other hobbies and commitments... What would be pathetic is feeling you have to finish the game despite all that.

    Games are entertainment or a distraction. It's not a necessity to finish it in order to gain some enjoyment or benefit from it.

    If the expectation is that almost every game made should make you want to finish it to the end, then... wow... what a dumb expectation. Even in an "ideal" game world. //yes I've finish Red Dead Redemption, among a couple others...

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger