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Game Length

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I've seen people complain that games are getting shorter, often citing such epics as Baldur's Gate 2 or Final Fantasy 7 has the apex. We all remember the 50+ hours we spent on games like this (Baldur's Gate 2 truly was a huge game length wise).

 

But I was wondering, were games like that more the exception than the norm? Even for RPG games?

 

Despite knowing everything about the games, there's an asymptotic lower bound for the length of time to fully play a game like FF7 or BG that is still quite long. Even though I've played BG2 in it's entirety twice, I'm betting it would still take me around 40 hours or so to beat the game; it's just that long.

 

However, a game like Fallout really isn't that long at all. Granted, I'm talking from hindsight where I know most about the game, but I can literally beat Fallout 1 in pretty much a single sitting (a long one, but still). Certainly a weekend. Fallout 2 is a little bit longer, but still nothing like Baldur's Gate 2. The Final Fantasy games have always been rather lengthy, but KOTOR can be beaten by me in a weekend too. Ultima 7 is certainly a game that can occupy tons of time if you just goof around, but I recently replayed the game and beat it within a weekend as well. But I would never dream of trying to play Baldur's Gate 2 within the span of a weekend, unless I felt sleep was optional.

 

But the only games I've seen with really any length are RPG games (and adventure games too I suppose, but those are pretty rare today). I know people complained because Max Payne 2 was only a few hours long, and there were those disappointed with the length of Metal Gear Solid. Deus Ex was a long game (much to my joy), but System Shock didn't strike me as an overly long game.

 

However, when I look back, I don't consider many of the older games to be really that long. I have a friend that can beat Contra in like 10 minutes. And I remember back in the day claiming that we were "elite" gamers if we could "wrap" a game without dying. But I don't really expect them to be long, given that they couldn't save their games or anything of that like.

 

 

The only games where I've truly lost hours in were the more open ended games, without an actual plot (or at least a plot that had to be followed). This would include pretty much strategy games, generally TBS (Civ, SMAC, SimCity, etc.). An individual game may not last very long, but the randomness of said games were what stretched out the game time. Sports game could also be tossed in there as well.

 

 

But I can't think of too many games with stories that really occupied for much longer than most games today.

 

 

So are games really getting shorter? Or do we just remember the huge epic adventures of Baldur's Gate and Final Fantasy, and compare game length to them?

 

Discuss.

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There are plenty of old-school games that could be beat in a short time constraint because they were ports of arcade games. They could only swallow quarters so long.

 

However RPGs are another beast.

 

Are we talking about the length of RPGs or games in general?

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To me, personally, it definitely feels like RPG's in general have gotten a lot shorter. I do not, however, feel that this is a phenomenon that has affected all game genres. Some genres seem to be getting longer (action games) rather than shorter.

 

But the RPG's.. I remember playing the Ultima games (IV & V) for weeks. And that was with 8 hours of playtime most every day. Pool of Radiance also took weeks to beat (well, years for me since I didn't find the final boss.. grr). Wasteland was an awfully long game that took plenty of hours to complete. But these are all games with open-ended worlds where you can go around and explore, get lost or spend time in sub-quests. If you follow a walkthrough I'm sure they're not overly long, but that's not how you play the game the first time you play it.

 

Compared to Jade Empire, those games were epics. If Jade Empire is a hint of the future then YES, the RPG's are becoming a whole lot shorter!


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A full-length CRPG is nowadays around 20 hours, finishable in half that time if you rush it. We get more candy but less gametime.

 

 

Didnt Sawyer give some "how the bussiness thinks" microlecture the last time we brought this up? That games made for 20+ yearolds with real lives on the side cant be 100hour behemoths


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but I don't have a life to get in the way! I've got City of Heros! (booing from the penut gallery) :D

 

Yeah it feels like games are getting shorter, most of the newer ones are deffinetly not on par with FF7 or BG2. Some of the RTS's are getting shorter, at least in terms of multiplayer because the online community either loves a grand total of one map (Act of War) or it's online service gives my Network FITS (age of empires). I think Sid Miers Pirates! is one of the shorter games i've played recently. yeah it has a lot of replay value but it's learning curve is very quick between difficulty levels. Most EA games are iffy about multiplayer unless you register them VERY FAST. I cannot register it anymore because sombody with a keygen just registered it to their name. Shrugs


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I don't overly care too much about gamelength. Yes, shorter games are the norm and that is why I have branched out from just CRPGs. The problem I have with these shorter games is how quickly the character can become a godlike character.

 

Jade Empire, for example, you can get above 20th level in relatively short amount of time and be a god against all enemies. Seriously, where is the fun of being uber powerful and all your enemies are nothing but pissants? I like a little challenge in my games please.

 

If JE had proper level pacing we should have finished the game between 7th and 10th level.

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I don't overly care too much about gamelength.  Yes, shorter games are the norm and that is why I have branched out from just CRPGs.  The problem I have with these shorter games is how quickly the character can become a godlike character.

 

Jade Empire, for example, you can get above 20th level in relatively short amount of time and be a god against all enemies.  Seriously, where is the fun of being uber powerful and all your enemies are nothing but pissants?  I like a little challenge in my games please.

 

If JE had proper level pacing we should have finished the game between 7th and 10th level.

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But the RPG's.. I remember playing the Ultima games (IV & V) for weeks. And that was with 8 hours of playtime most every day. Pool of Radiance also took weeks to beat (well, years for me since I didn't find the final boss.. grr). Wasteland was an awfully long game that took plenty of hours to complete. But these are all games with open-ended worlds where you can go around and explore, get lost or spend time in sub-quests. If you follow a walkthrough I'm sure they're not overly long, but that's not how you play the game the first time you play it.

 

Yeah, the open ended ones are the ones that take a while because you can literally get caught up doing other things. I will concede that there does seem to be less open ended games out there. Spore will likely cause me to lose hours and hours though.

 

 

As for Ender, I was referring to all games, but perhaps a bit of focus on RPG as this is an RPGish discussion board. But I do remember people complaining because a game like Episode 3 was short, and my roommate made a comment about "There's no way he'd ever buy a game that only gave a few hours of gameplay," when I'm pretty sure there are plenty of action type games out there that do only offer a few hours of gameplay.

 

 

I don't overly care too much about gamelength.

 

Coming from the guy that determines the value of a game by the hour-to-dollar ratio? :thumbsup:

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I want games to be shorter in length. I don't enjoy many 3 hour movies, and I don't finish many games that take more than 40 hours.

 

Games in general used to be much shorter, across all genres. Adventure games used to actually be the big sellers (Kings Quest, Monkey Island, Quest For Glory, Space Quest, Maniac Mansion...) and they were all beatable in one sitting if you knew the way through it. I think the expectation of a long game actually killed adventure games, because you can't tell a great story if you are stretching it out for 50 hours.

 

Does a shooter really need to be 50 hours long? I think that just convinces the developers to put in more mindless filler. Give me a succinct storyline anyday.

 

RPG's are a bit different because they often have a degree of freedom. You don't have to follow the main storyline in games like BG 2, Morowind, and many of the Ultima's. You are given many side quests that have little to do with the over-arching theme. That's actually my least favorite part of RPG's. If my childhood friend has just been kidnapped, I don't want to clean up some freakshow circus tent. I want to move forward with the friggin rescue.

 

I spend $50 on games. I expect more than 5 hours of entertainment, but if I get a solid 15-20 hours then I am happy. I want good entertainment, not mediocre time filler.

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I would agree.

 

Length for length's sake is silly.

 

Deus Ex was great because it IS a long game, but the story is coherent and it's not just filled with mindless filler. Everytime I realized that there was more to the story I got all giddy :D

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Long good story RPGs is a thing of the past. To me it ended with BG2. Kotor 1 had a nice story but the game was too short. I like games that are long, that bring me back to the days of good old PnP.

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To me though, I almost think that the long, good story RPGs also started with Baldur's Gate.

 

Outside of games like Final Fantasy, I cannot remember many off the top of my head that were truly long, epic games.

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Didnt Sawyer give some "how the bussiness thinks" microlecture the last time we brought this up? That games made for 20+ yearolds with real lives on the side cant be 100hour behemoths

Well, that and the fact that most people don't finish even short games. How many people wrote/said, "Oh it's so awesome that BG II is over 200 hours long!" and either didn't play much of that side content or never finished the game?

 

EDIT: Better example: would you rather have had Icewind Dale II as it shipped or Icewind Dale II with 75% the length and a proportional bump in quality?

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I really like the idea of pay-as-you-go content updates...kinda like NWNs premium modules....although I've heard that they are a logistical pain to implement (for the end-user).

 

But I like the general jist of that...sure, sell me a 20 hour game for $50 but then sell me 10 hour downloadable expansion packs for $5 each....that is a business model that I think would work well.

 

There needs to be a middle ground between buying a stand-alone game and the MMORPG.

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A full-length CRPG is nowadays around 20 hours, finishable in half that time if you rush it. We get more candy but less gametime.

 

Didnt Sawyer give some "how the bussiness thinks" microlecture the last time we brought this up? That games made for 20+ yearolds with real lives on the side cant be 100hour behemoths

Also read The Escapist Magazine, Greg Costykian and part 2 for more editorial.

 

I am completely happy with paying for a game and then paying more for extended content, as I cannot see another way out of the current mess of marketing-controlled gameplay-independant games being produced based on the requirements of people who never have nor ever will play a game.


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Game length is a non-issue as long as the game's length makes sense for a given story. I don't think a game like KOTOR, with the story it was telling, needed to be 200+ hours long. I don't think Jade Empire's story would fit well with a 100+ hour game length.

 

Game length only matters when it feels like there was more the story could have told. In JE's case, I kind of felt that given another 10 hours of game time it could have been more indepth, but 10 extra hours IMO is hardly the same as bemoaning the fact it wasn't the same length as BG2 or Morrowind.


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or for example Deus Ex IW could have actually been better if you didn't spend 20 minutes doing the last three areas (i'm exaggerating but the game did seem to go from normal pace to mach 4 after Trier) Ultimatly what a company has to do is look at the game and the story. keep the plot points within distance so that the player actually has a goal to reach, and try not to get the plot points too close together or spred out all over creation. like trying to go from plot point a (person dies) to plot point b (you find out your a clone of your opponent) by running all across creation.


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I am completely happy with paying for a game and then paying more for extended content, as I cannot see another way out of the current mess of marketing-controlled gameplay-independant games being produced based on the requirements of people who never have nor ever will play a game.

To be perfectly honest, it's extraordinarily difficult to get publishers to consider a lot of stuff -- at least, it has been in my experience. I reached the point a while ago where I don't seriously respond when I'm asked for submissions/proposals.

 

Costykian's ideas are reasonably sound, but they won't be feasible for console developers within the upcoming generation due to spotty hard-drive and online support.

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Costykian's ideas are reasonably sound, but they won't be feasible for console developers within the upcoming generation due to spotty hard-drive and online support.

 

Very true - but this won't change until there is a reason for it to change.

 

Console developers could build hard drives and online support into their core systems right now. There just is no particular reason for them to do so. Online gaming is a nice increase to sales, but is only really utilized by a relatively small percentage of the market, and most of that percentage is willing to pay the extra. A lot of gamers are perfectly content with non-online systems, so it is only offered as an optional feature.

 

If Costykian's ideas were implemented and gained support of major developers, you bet you'd see online support integrated into core console systems in record time - because it would be a means for gamers to access more good mainstream games, and the publishers (along with the respective companies behind the next-gen consoles) would reap the benefits.

 

Undoubtedly a Steam-like system of Digital Distribution would start out as a platform for primarily PC games, but if they're mainstream PC games it won't be long before the consoles want to play them too.

 

Imagine PC/console titles like KOTOR and Half Life 2 being released through digital distribution only, and available on X-box Live instead of being a port you can buy in a store. Naturally the sales of X-Box Live would shoot through the roof, because gamers would want to play those games, even if it meant being online to do it.

 

The problem, of course, is that this calls for developers to collectively put their own necks on the line and deliberately open their blockbuster games to a smaller audience at first. No one wants to do that, and if the games don't catch on and those developers go under the game industry will be down some very innovative people.

 

It would be a risk, but ultimately I think it would pay off. Someone simply has to make the first move.


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Getting publishers to invest in digital distribution is akin to asking calligraphers to invest in your printing press. Most of what publishers do is tied into traditional distribution (and the rest is tied into marketing).

 

But distribution is only part of Costikyan's solution. The other is to provide niche space under the current A-level production value lockout that means all games need to sell over a million copies to hack it for the developer - which is necessary to provide an ecosystem for indie games that will hopefully be the spawning pool for innovation in the industry (which the publishers and slave developers can then ape). Now, if that's your goal his portal idea will work right now, on PC, as a parallel industry (rather than a replacement) and is only dependent on the formation of that indie aesthetic he refers to (which is the real trick). The idea is somewhat imaginable because PC gamers are already probably the closest to having that indie aesthetic, thanks to the fairly widespread appreciation of old console emulation and cherrypicking of old software, although we like those things a lot more often than we pay for them.

 

So, anyway, then in our fantasy this parallel industry is serving inexpensive (to produce) games that provide both innovation and indie identity to small quantities of snob consumers who demand constant novel experiences, and which ideally make enough money to finance the next game and keep those indie coders, designers and artists hip deep in ramen and supple fangirls. The reason that isn't currently possible is that you need a publisher to bully retail space for your game and people don't use mail order for video games. The responsibility of Costikyan's portals will be providing nominal digital distribution infrastructure and (more importantly) marketing, maybe through traditional means or simply by providing a penumbra of indie identity to the games it distributes.

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Costykian's ideas are reasonably sound, but they won't be feasible for console developers within the upcoming generation due to spotty hard-drive and online support.

I'm just curious which console will have spotty online support.

 

Sony has said they've considered something similiar to Live for the PS3 but free. The PS3 is slated to have...

 

Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T) x 3 (input x 1 + output x 2)

Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 b/g

Bluetooth 2.0 (EDR)

 

...out of the box, though they may cut down to one gigabit output. Gigabit networking for free out of the box?

 

The 360 will have networking out of the box, and free Live service.

 

The Revolution will have wireless networking out of the box and they are launching a (supposedly) free service for DS and the Revolution.

 

I'm confused which console will have spotty online support.

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The reason that isn't currently possible is that you need a publisher to bully retail space for your game and people don't use mail order for video games.

 

If you build it, people will buy. I remember Doom being a mail order game. An outstanding product will find a way to sell.

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Costykian's ideas are reasonably sound, but they won't be feasible for console developers within the upcoming generation due to spotty hard-drive and online support.

I'm just curious which console will have spotty online support.

 

Sony has said they've considered something similiar to Live for the PS3 but free. The PS3 is slated to have...

 

Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T) x 3 (input x 1 + output x 2)

Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 b/g

Bluetooth 2.0 (EDR)

 

...out of the box, though they may cut down to one gigabit output. Gigabit networking for free out of the box?

 

The 360 will have networking out of the box, and free Live service.

 

The Revolution will have wireless networking out of the box and they are launching a (supposedly) free service for DS and the Revolution.

 

I'm confused which console will have spotty online support.

The 360 looks like it will have solid online support out of the box, but hard drives are optional hardware. If Sony has something similar to Live but free, that's terrific. If it's exactly like Live is now, pay-as-you-go isn't something developers would want to rely on for distribution. Live requires people to buy physical cards at stores to enable it at home. Also, no hard drive comes standard with the PS3. If as many people buy HDDs for the PS3 as they did for the PS2, they can essentially be discounted. The built-in flash memory of the Revolution isn't big enough for most contemporary games. Also, the Revolution does support wireless, but not ethernet. If people buy a wireless router, that's great, but if people don't have them in their home by default, it again has to be considered optional equipment.

 

Even if Sony and Nintendo come zooming into the game with a great online service, the fact that none of the "big three" have a combination of standard hard drives and rock-solid online storefront capabilities means that distributing console games online for them as a primary method of sales isn't sound.

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