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Eric Fenstermaker Narrative Interview at RPG Codex


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To clarify the long vs. short game statement, I wasn't suggesting making an 8-hr full-priced RPG. It's more an overarching approach: if you have x dollars to make a game, do you spend 80% of it on content and 20% on polish, or 60% on content and 40% on polish? If you are given a choice between putting in some of your more mediocre work into the game to add to gameplay time, or cutting it in service of overall quality, which way do you go? Choosing the latter in both cases sounds appealing from the standpoint of having a desire to make high quality games, but it would cost you a big chunk of your gameplay time, so it's not a simple choice. A 60-hour game could become a 40-hour game.

 

While I fully believe that there is such a thing as too short for a game, I also think there's room there to go in and at least find out, will a 40-hour, highly polished RPG be long enough to satisfy most fans, or does it have to be 60 or 80 hours? (Assuming the same price point across the board, because we're assuming the same budget for either scenario - if you drop price, you also drop profit projections (if we also make the assumption that the original price point maximized revenue) and would consequently have to spend less on budget.) I do not know the answer to that question, but I would be interested to find out.

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To clarify the long vs. short game statement, I wasn't suggesting making an 8-hr full-priced RPG. It's more an overarching approach: if you have x dollars to make a game, do you spend 80% of it on content and 20% on polish, or 60% on content and 40% on polish? If you are given a choice between putting in some of your more mediocre work into the game to add to gameplay time, or cutting it in service of overall quality, which way do you go? Choosing the latter in both cases sounds appealing from the standpoint of having a desire to make high quality games, but it would cost you a big chunk of your gameplay time, so it's not a simple choice. A 60-hour game could become a 40-hour game.

 

While I fully believe that there is such a thing as too short for a game, I also think there's room there to go in and at least find out, will a 40-hour, highly polished RPG be long enough to satisfy most fans, or does it have to be 60 or 80 hours? (Assuming the same price point across the board, because we're assuming the same budget for either scenario - if you drop price, you also drop profit projections and would consequently have to spend less on budget.) I do not know the answer to that question, but I would be interested to find out.

 

40-hour game is enough if content quality is higher IMO, but I would guess that for many the fear is that they will not actually see content quality improving even though game time is cut shorter. 

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While I fully believe that there is such a thing as too short for a game, I also think there's room there to go in and at least find out, will a 40-hour, highly polished RPG be long enough to satisfy most fans, or does it have to be 60 or 80 hours?

 

 

The Shadowrun games seem to do well enough - and are easily among the best I played in the last few years -, despite not being much longer than 20 hours each.

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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am suspecting that poe were a particular difficult game to balance various gameplay demands.  example: after every ie game, the pendulum swung.  based on weight o' feedback at the time, bg had far too much pointless mowing o' wilderness maps, but folks loved duralg's tower.  'course iwd were too "linear" and even bg2 didn't have enough exploration for folks.  so poe developers mistaken (perhaps) attempt to find a happy medium?  is no such thing.  make a game that largely eschews smallish encounters and quests that enhance gameplay hours and exploration and you got folks complaining.  place greater emphasis on exploration and folks complain that such resources coulda' been used on more raedric's keep kinda stuff.

 

am suspecting that a rather significant amount o' poe padding coulda' been removed w/o it being missed... but only in retrospect.  take out much o' the filler and padding content and people would then lament the paucity o' exploration.  developers got our sympathy.

 

HA! Good Fun!

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"If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."Justice Louis Brandeis, Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

"Im indifferent to almost any murder as long as it doesn't affect me or mine."--Gfted1 (September 30, 2019)

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While I fully believe that there is such a thing as too short for a game, I also think there's room there to go in and at least find out, will a 40-hour, highly polished RPG be long enough to satisfy most fans, or does it have to be 60 or 80 hours?

 

The Shadowrun games seem to do well enough - and are easily among the best I played in the last few years -, despite not being much longer than 20 hours each.

QFT

If I'm typing in red, it means I'm being sarcastic. But not this time.

Dark green, on the other hand, is for jokes and irony in general.

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Hypothetically, I have a few things I would want to play with. I don't want to tip my hand, so pardon the vagueness. One would be having fewer, but far deeper and more interconnected companions - interconnected both with respect to one another and with respect to the overall plot. "FEWER?! **** THAT," you say. But everything is zero-sum in this business, and every companion we add takes a ton of time to write and implement. So yes, fewer. But better. More memorable. More like a real group of people. Less likely to be collecting dust in your stronghold.

 

 

This. I'm a sucker for choices & consequences but I never liked choosing which of the companions to take with me in RPGs, Besides its immersion breaker sometimes; like when a companion tells my character how both them did this and that and how he/she feels about it when he/she wasn't even there with my character. I rather have fewer & deeper(better: limited by party size in my perfect world) companions than having to choose among them which most of the time doesn't have consequences other than having or not having those characters/classes in combat situations. 

 

ed: And I'd give these fewer companions different inert traits those matter then I'd give me(the player) the freedom for what to make of them; train them in different classes with their traits in mind. This would also eliminate the apparent necessity that having to have a companion of each class.

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https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/index.php?threads/tyranny-is-announced.913905/

 

In case anyone was wondering what was keeping Obsidian from announcing Pillars of Eternity 2, which some of us gave our speculation and analysis about from the previous Sawyer tidbits and interviews:

 

IRVINE, Calif. and STOCKHOLM - Mar. 15, 2016 — Obsidian Entertainment and Paradox Interactive today announced Tyranny, a brand-new role-playing game (RPG) coming to Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs. Tyranny,designed and developed by the studio behind award-winning titles such as Pillars of Eternity, Fallout: New Vegas,andStar Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, introduces players to an original fantasy world where a brutal clash between good and evil has taken place – and evil emerged triumphant. A nonlinear story challenges players to find their role within the dominant empire and live with the outcomes of difficult, morally unclear decisions.

 

 

I made the prediction that Paradox was talking to Obsidian about a Worlds of Darkness rpg, that that was why they weren't ready to announce what their future project was. They say the world is original, but it might have a tie in with the Worlds of Darkness brand Paradox gained from CCP. Hard to say at this time. It would be weird for Paradox to have two rpg world sets ready to go, though. They aren't really known for that kind of stuff.

 

Also Stellaris was announced for May 9th on the same day, by Paradox.

 

http://forums.obsidian.net/topic/84958-march-4-2016-josh-sawyer-interview-last-part-kind-of-interesting/?p=1784146

 

Old thread concerning Josh Sawyer and Obsidian's future unknown project(s). Intel analysis can be accurately acquired merely through open source data on the internet, metadata as some agencies call it, and correlating the patterns to project future results.

 

I also surmise that they are going to use Unity once again, with that "Linux" OS promise. They aren't porting it, if that is the case, else Paradox wouldn't make an unprofessional promise that they might have problems keeping later. If they are announcing Linux and Mac now, it's because the engine supports it, and it would make sense for Obsidian to push for Unity, as they have gained lots of experience with that in Pillars of Eternity, and working on another Unity game will synch well with POE2. Of course, that's probably not a difficult prediction, given the new Unity trailers.

 

For Tyranny, the player's background is set and his role/job is also set. That is good, it limits the initial conditions and creates a tighter narrative arc at the start. How people react to his decisions and how the player decides to tackle quests (cruel vs benevolent, greedy vs altruistic, etc) would change the world in a more direct fashion backed by the lore and mechanics.

 

If Eric is also working on this project as a narrative/writer/creative lead, then the Fallen of Malazan Empire would be a good source. Since that was also a story that began with people working for a Tyrant, in a Fallen World under threat, magical and imperial.

 

As for too many companions and party members, I also share Quillon's views. Planescape Torment's 7 companions for 5 party slots, felt good. Although I basically stuck with the core. The interaction of the party with each other, not just me, really helped bring to life personality traits that would not have, if all you did was "dialogue" people. There's even a youtube video with all/most of the party interactions in audio. That would help reinforce Eric Fenster's vision of companions that acted more like people. First of all, people interact with each other while npc companions are scripted to "ego stroke" the player. But you still have to do that, but hide it. Not make it obvious, and one of the ways is to have the companions pay as much attention to each other as they do the player. Even humans can find the pattern out after awhile, that the game is coded to cater to them and only them. Which means nobody else really matters. For a first person rpg like ME or Witcher, that's how it has to be designed, since it's just Geralt and Shephard +2. For a six party group, small team interactions (Special Forces teams) applies more. And writers might want to look at how small teams work and interact together for clues.

Edited by Ymarsakar
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Tyranny isn't WoD related according to Paradox and PoE is Obsidian's property not Paradox also leads from PoE have been working only for short time different project, which they moved after PoE was finished. Where Tyranny has been in oven for sometime already gathering from fact that they plan to release Tyranny during this year which usually means that they have developed it already for quite long time. Also Paradox has not had really time to get anyone to make anything WoD related in such shape that it could be announced. Only WoD products (meaning computer and console games) that we can really except hear this year are ones that they started before Paradox's acquisition or where they seek public funding (as it isn't usually that good idea to announce thing if you can't show anything to public for long time after announcement). 

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I think having less companions would be easier to justify if the game didn't have a six-character party and a large number of race and class combinations. Player-made adventurers help with alleviating these concerns to some degree, but I imagine a lot of players still like to play with only the story companions at their side (the achievement stats show that less than half of the playerbase ever made an adventurer.. that's a lot more than I expected to be honest, so perhaps I'm just talking out of my ass, but it still means that there's a significant chunk of players that play with only their own PC and the pre-made NPCs made by Obsidian).

 

Now, I don't know if Eric Fenstermaker was talking about the number of companions PoE had at release or the total roster with The White March included, but I'm gonna assume he was specifically targeting the base game, otherwise his statement wouldn't make much sense. (Less companions than PoE + expansions but relatively similar to PoE at release? Why not just say "roughly as many companions as the base game"?)

 

But, let's say hypothetically that there are only 6 or 7 companions available in a PoE2. That would mean that the majority of potential companions would have to be used to fill the party, in spite of the fact that the players might not like their personalities. It also limits the designers in terms of character-based reactivity, which is something we already saw in PoE. (e.g. if the only cleric leaves the players based on a choice made by the player at the end of a quest, the player will be deprived of a *very* significant tactical asset for the rest of the game.)

Basically, most of the problems connected to the companion design present in the original game would be exacerbated. There would definitely be *some* gain in terms of writing polish and, I assume, reactivity and unique content, but on the flipside, I think the lack of agency on part of the characters would be even more obvious because of that additional writing focus. 

 

Honestly, I don't know if *all* those problems can be solved, assuming a similar amount of money is invested, but I don't think the "less is more" adage is necessarily as obvious a solution as it's presented in the interview. What I'm personally hoping for is for a similar number of companions to the base release of PoE (7 or 8) but with stronger, more obvious ties to the central conflicts in the game, better structured dialogue trees (PoE's companions were all over the place in this respect), and a larger focus over a coherent character arc over a single personal quest.* 

 

* I think Edér and Durance were good in this respect, though the fact that Edér's quest concluded rather abruptly disappointed many players. In truth, Edér's development continues throughout the finale, but because the game gave no mechanical indication of that fact, plenty of players were well and truly pissed by that point.

 

P.S. : I'm also not going into the whole "companions are completely optional and have to be written with that in mind" can of worms, because, while connected, it's not the subject we're talking about. Also, I personally don't think it impacted the companions in PoE *all that much*, all things considered.

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Honestly, I don't know if *all* those problems can be solved, assuming a similar amount of money is invested, but I don't think the "less is more" adage is necessarily as obvious a solution as it's presented in the interview. What I'm personally hoping for is for a similar number of companions to the base release of PoE (7 or 8) but with stronger, more obvious ties to the central conflicts in the game, better structured dialogue trees (PoE's companions were all over the place in this respect), and a larger focus over a coherent character arc over a single personal quest.* 

 

 

Some of those problems can be addressed by melding combat mechanics closer with companion development. Instead of having the companion's class only level up through the mechanics, have the companion's story upgrade the companion's class/abilities through a branching narrative.

 

Similar to Dakkon's blade. So instead of soulbound weapons, you have upgradeable companions, which are unique. 

 

So instead of having to balance so many classes together, unique companions can multiclass or get class breaking powers, which helps the player, but doesn't unbalance the game so much. 

 

Given White March, it'll be hard to argue that making companions more powerful than normal classes, would upset the game balance. Look at the stats on those items and soulbound weapons and upgrades.

 

It would give the companions more content, at the expense of absolute number of them. And the problem with personality conflict always revolves around choice. Players might sacrifice Sagani for some bonuses, but if Sagani has a lot of content equivalent in game to 4 soul bound weapons with different upgrade paths due to narrative, would they sacrifice that for some gameplay bonuses? It becomes a more difficult choice. A more limited choice too, but a more difficult one. And it would resolve Josh's design philosophy of making companions useful in combat.

 

Lore wise, if you don't like a companion's personality, just replace it with something you do like, except done through something in character and for the narrative.

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You guys realise the point had nothing to do with making games shorter because games take too long to finish, right?

 

He's saying maybe it's better to make a shorter and better game because the demand for longer games makes it hard to polish, add quest reactivity, etc.

 

Well no, he specifically said that he is getting older. Yes he also made reference to polishing a quality product, but there is no reason that a longer game can't be polished. Just look at PoE. Also, let's not forget that games like the Stick of Truth are more appropriate on a Console; and it is notoriously easy to polish a console game than the more sophisticated attempts of PC gaming software.

 

 

I definately agree with Eric's remarks on shorter games. I don't have time to replay games that take 50-80 hours to finish. I work and I have other hobbies and games to play as well. Putting 160 hours into just one game just doesn't work for me.

Except that you are still putting in 160 hours of gaming time despite having a job and other hobbies. There are not enough games out there worth playing, especially as we get older and require more mental stimulation from software games (at least I do). I would rather play a single 80 hour epic masterpiece than 4 mediocre 20 hour video games.

 

 

As well, mark me in the group that would rather play a polished shorter game rather than one that less polished filler just to increase game play time.

Keep in mind that not all "long games" are unpolished, and not all "short games" are polished. The gaming market is flooded with terrible games in every genre. There isn't enough quality out there, in my opinion, to warrant ongoing 20+ hour a week commitment. There are exceptions that come around once every couple of years, like: the Elder Scrolls; Fallout, Pillars of Eternity; Grimrock. But with the limited selection of great experiences, there is no reason to shun the idea of longer games simply because the developers of those games are getting "older" lol

 

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Keep in mind that not all "long games" are unpolished, and not all "short games" are polished.

 

That's because some games are made by a highly talented and experienced and well-functioning team with a clear vision and lots of funding, and others... not so much.

 

No one claimed that shortness is an inherent benefit, or that all short games are good, or even that a random selection of existing short games would statistically be of higher quality than a random selection of existing long games.

 

It's just that when you have a given group of developers, and a given budget, and a given timeframe - then quantity vs. quality can become a zero-sum choice, such as:

  • Do you let your writers write additional companions, or let them go over the companions you already have to give them more depth and polish?
  • Do you let your artists and area designers create another area, or let them do a proper paint-over and optimize trash mob placement for the existing areas?

Some of us wish that game studios would dare to choose quality over quantity in such situations a little more often. That's really all that Fenstermaker said, too.

 

Again, no one claims that if the devs favor quality in such situations, that their game would automatically become better than any other game made by other developers with different funding etc. Just that it would become better than the same game made in the same circumstances except with quantity being favored.

 

So the whole, "But there are polished long games and terrible short games too!" counter-argument is kind of a red herring.

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"Some ideas are so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them." -- attributed to George Orwell

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Fenstermaker has made his position clear enough, both in the interview and in the forum post, that there's no need for anyone to misread it as 'i'm getting older i don't like older games let's just make it 15 hours' or 'long games cannot be polished'. 

 

Tyranny isn't stopping Obsidian from developing POE2; it began development before POE's release, and seems to have a different segment of the Obsidian developer population on it. Maybe Tim Cain is involved?

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No one claimed that shortness is an inherent benefit

 

I feel that some of the things stated do in fact portray shortness as an inherent benefit, where the benefit is more apparent to gamers who are "getting older":

 

"As a gamer, I'm getting old. I'm short on time. I'd rather spend $60 on a 12-hour experience that makes me laugh my ass off than on a 100-hour experience that routinely wastes my time." - Eric Fenstermaker

 

"I definately agree with Eric's remarks on shorter games. I don't have time to replay games that take 50-80 hours to finish. I work and I have other hobbies" - Flouride

 

Both of these statements depict a scenario that "with age comes less time to waste," and I find that to be a bit self-defeating since, theoretically, anyone who is over the age of 19 and still playing video games (even for a single hour) is probably wasting their time. The fact that someone decides to spend any amount of time as an adult playing a video game means that the person has already embraced "time wasting" as a hobby.

 

If people are playing video games in order to waste time, then it makes no sense to condemn something as time wasting simply because it lasts twice as long as the current time waster. Especially since the person wasting their time will make up the difference by playing multiple short time wasters as opposed to one lengthy time waster.

 

The entire "time wasting" concept is the true red herring.

 

 

It's just that when you have a given group of developers, and a given budget, and a given timeframe - then quantity vs. quality can become a zero-sum choice

 

Every piece of software is a zero-sum choice. Examples:

 

1) The original version of Microsoft Word ran 3 years beyond it's release date

2) Pandora Radio took over 7 years to finally turn a profit

 

 

Again, no one claims that if the devs favor quality in such situations, that their game would automatically become better than any other game made by other developers with different funding etc.

I said nothing on that topic either, so not sure why you felt the need to say that.

 

 

 

 

it would become better than the same game made in the same circumstances except with quantity being favored.

That is not true in all cases, such as First Person Shooter games like BattleField. Most of the BF games have very little depth (e.g., no single player campaign worth completing); yet as a Multii-Player game people can spend an absurd amount of time each day engaging in a quantity-based experience (playing the same maps on the same servers against the same people over and over again).

 

 

This is all about personal choice and the subjective interpretation of "fun factor." Time wasting happens by default, but it is excused due to the fun factor. So just because someone would rather spend 12 hours laughing at the Stick of Truth game and another person would rather spend 100+ hours playing through the Wizardy 8 campaign, doesn't mean that either of them is wasting more or less time than the other.

 

 

Do you let your writers write additional companions, or let them go over the companions you already have to give them more depth and polish?

    Do you let your artists and area designers create another area, or let them do a proper paint-over and optimize trash mob placement for the existing areas?

 

Software development, including gaming software, is an iterative process. Both quality and quantity can be equally improved throughout the iterative lifecycle.

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Pandora's CEo was deliberately not using internet ads however at the start.

 

One of the problems noted before with longer games is how when people get back to them, they get lost and don't know where all the things fit in.

 

That's not necessarily a problem with the content as with how it is presented, however.

 

In Pillars' case, the content like the Stronghold and the second city had to be in there. But if so, they might as well have used it to reinforce the strength of the critical path and/or companions.

 

Having a big city and a companion, that is interlinked, where everyone knows everyone, and is influenced by your companion, would add a little bit of something which doesn't require cutting the second big city nor dramatic changes. What it would do is make things more unique and thus unbalanced. So the same reason they cut down GM and Durance's dialogue because "VO was uneven" plus some other reasons, would apply. But that's not necessarily the right way to cut things. It doesn't, for example, make VO more expressive or emotionally powerful.

 

The idea that everything has to meet "standards" and must be "even" and it must all correlate to the same general content across the board, tends to end up with some weird circumstances. Just in this game alone. Because in the end, it's not even and that doesn't even matter. The Stronghold content and Endless Path was not equal or even with backer npcs, critical path, or other dungeons in game. It didn't really matter, what mattered was what they were going to do with this content now that they have created it. If all they were thinking of was wanting to cut it, because it was too uneven to be used in their narrative dialogue and critical path, then that's the wrong way to look at content in an rpg.

 

Make use of what there is to use. Otherwise people start creating systems that don't link up, in their own little world.

 

Iceland and Scandinavia tends to have interesting small team dynamics that better address this issue, I believe, of game design. It's not something that only applies to Pillars, nor would it only improve pillars. It would just improve their game design in general.

 

There was no way Obsidian could rebalance/fix the narrative, crit path, second city, and stronghold problems 6 months before game release. This is a strategic layered decision that was time sensitive. It can't be fixed at that time because the opportunity to do so has passed: long term planning and strategic vision.

 

Cutting content does save time, yes. But what would save time even more is to ensure that the content created could still be reused or repurposed, with the least cuts. That saves production time.

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Thanks for the reply, Y. I agree with everything you said there at the end, but I have a few additional comments.
 
 

Pandora's CEo was deliberately not using internet ads however at the start.

Yeah I saw one of his interviews, and the point is that he embraced a business model that involved waiting nearly a decade to turn profits. If he had been concerned with the zero-sum pitfall inherent in most software development, then perhaps he would have chosen internet ads and other sources of revenue at the start.
 
 

One of the problems noted before with longer games is how when people get back to them, they get lost and don't know where all the things fit in.

That's not necessarily a problem with the content as with how it is presented, however.

In Pillars' case, the content like the Stronghold and the second city had to be in there. But if so, they might as well have used it to reinforce the strength of the critical path and/or companions.

I honestly have never experienced nor heard of any problem with a lengthy video game causing people to get lost when they go back to it. Quite the contrary, people tend to have more knowledge and experience with the game, unveiling new methods and strategies each time they revisit it. That last part about the Stronghold where you state that they "might as well have" is rather contrived. We can say, "if you do this then you might as well do that" for a virtually infinite variety of things. Just because they did one thing instead of something that they might have done instead isn't an indication that the thing actually done is problematic.
 

There was no way Obsidian could rebalance/fix the narrative, crit path, second city, and stronghold problems 6 months before game release. This is a strategic layered decision that was time sensitive. It can't be fixed at that time because the opportunity to do so has passed: long term planning and strategic vision.

Cutting content does save time, yes. But what would save time even more is to ensure that the content created could still be reused or repurposed, with the least cuts. That saves production time.

I completely agree that content and components should be built in a way that allows them to be reused/repurposed. I feel that OBS did that quite well with the foundation of PoE in every aspect: the Stronghold, the character class system, the combat system, the leveling system. This is what allowed them to release the initial version which was worthy of an Award, followed by 2 expansions and several patches that served to further enhance an already solid product.

As it pertains to the article and debate: short games vs long games; the only way quality can be achieved in the first place is if the initial design architecture contains quality specifications. The idea that a Dev may have the choice to either add more content for the sake of quantity or polish existing content for the sake of quality completely ignores the fact that you can't "polish" something that does not contain quality design as part of it's fundamental architecture. In other words, you can't polish a turd lol

The design architecture for the Stick of Truth specified a short game from the onset. I agree that in this scenario the dev's time is better spent polishing existing content. Adding more content would violate the existing architecture. A longer game should be supported by an architecture that specifies lengthy quality content. Aging gamers, aging developers, and zero-sum pitfalls should not prevent anyone from designing a quality architecture that entails a lengthy experience.

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Shorter, more polished game that has amazing amount of replay value = sign me in... to YouTube for a "let's play" session lol
 
Thanks to all those "let's play" videos saturating YouTube, I rarely feel compelled to buy games unless they look truly worthwhile. In PoE's case, I didn't watch any player-made video's until after I bought and played it. But for the Stick of Truth and other short-term games? I'll let it run on YouTube while I multi-task blink.png
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xt4FpIzYlk

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I don't think the game's too long or its not too long for my taste, just that act2 to 3 transition felt strange... I don't know how to put it to words but when I arrived at twin elms it was like starting the game from scratch again, by that time I shoulda already been familiar with the world and stuff and anticipate/maybe predict the next narrative direction instead I got another portion of the famous lore dump, this times about glanfathans, tribes, their way of doing things etc etc... I had half a mind to rush through it since I was overlevelled at that point.

 

Most everything people don't like are likely outcome of the promises to those same people. I watched too many/maybe all developer interviews/panels, read forum posts etc. and the thing that always comes up: "We have to make this game feel like those old games". This certainly constrained/shaped their vision and I think resulted in a bad way and 15 level giga-dungeon took too much of the resources which could have been put to better use like diverting the story after act 2(cut content). 

 

I said it before, looking back now, Bioware's way with DAO seems better at modernizing those games. If certain criticizers are right one can deduct; If you copy too closely, your supposed fun system that is - developed for games, not tabletops - suffers cos its not "making something from scratch", its more like retrofitting. Tho I don't/can't care enough about combat to complain since my feelings towards the game mostly focused on the underwhelming story/narrative experience than I'd expected from The Legendary Developers of Dragonglass. And now we have one of those old games but in better fidelity, better UI, maybe better gameplay systems since I can understand and play this unlike the oldies. I still like it but without said constraints I think it would have been much better.

 

For companions I'd like to add: If there have be more companions than my party size then I'd rather choose while recruiting them. Like I get one of the two companions at the end of two branching paths(kotor 2) or result of a decision or recruting one can result another to leave my company(DAO) etc. Which would add to the replayablity value of the game and remove the immersion breaking spare companions at my camp/stronghold like spare pairs of boots. Or instead of abundance of companions give me non accompanying persistent NPCs with the same depth; give me a master of arms for Caed Nua who would train the garrison, a commander for my standing army, give me an advisor, builders, a prophesying old hag, shopkeepers, servants, cook, a blacksmith whose work I'd recognize with a look... I want to be lord of Winterfell. lol.  

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I feel that some of the things stated do in fact portray shortness as an inherent benefit, where the benefit is more apparent to gamers who are "getting older"

 

I think you've misinterpreted that "getting older" part.

 

It's not that grown-up gamers want to spend as little time as possible playing games altogether, it's that they want to spend as little time as possible on uninteresting (subpar/filler) content and as much times as possible on worthwhile content.

And yes, this is a realization that can come with age... kids tend to be more content spending their time on the first thing that comes their way.

 

On a side-note, I also don't understand why you (and others "on your side" of the argument) react so strongly about this, as if the mere idea of a somewhat shorter game directly threatens you and your way of life.

After all, if you want to prolong your total gameplay time, the solution is simple: Play two games instead of one. On the other hand, those of us who prefer quality over quantity, have no such simple solution - we have to rely on developers actually focusing on quality during development.

 

Is it a question of cost, not wanting to pay for two games instead of one?

Maybe that's the true distinction then, with regard to age:

  • Young gamers try to maximize value-per-dollar,
  • older gamers try to maximize value-per-hour.
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"Some ideas are so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them." -- attributed to George Orwell

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I find playing a longer game simple, I play a couple of hours a night and repeat until complete. However I have found numerous short games satisfying, Fallout for instance, Alpha Protocol, Dungeon Siege 3, the Max Payne shooters, Space Marine etcetera. If a tight budget and timeframe interferes then i'd ideally want the detail and quality prioritised over larger areas replete with trash mobs, copy pasted loot and no real content.

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Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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In the end length is not exceptionally important, and it shouldn't really matter as much as it does ("80 hour game!!! yells the marketing). From the interview and the forum post it's also abundantly clear that Eric's not arguing for 'shorter games' as a rule (because that would be a stupid argument).

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To go back to a previous topic Zenbane wrote about. Which was the topic of older games "wasting time" with games. I wouldn't classify it like that. What people are looking for is depth or entertainment. Or rather, depth to their entertainment. Most people's hobbies are not their jobs, meaning it drains money and time.

 

So when they choose to spend their time, they want the max value for their time as is feasible. Because there are no bosses telling them how to have good fun. If there was, they wouldn't be doing what they want in their free time, it would be on somebody else's time, cause somebody else would have paid for it.

 

This is why developers who work for publishers may produce conflicting products that the consumers want or don't want. It is also why Kickstarter changed some things, on a deep design level, not merely a funding level or type.

 

If a developer said that they would just do whatever felt fun to them, and ignored UI and game feedback from their users, that would lead to something interesting. Sort of like SOTS2' UI, such as the mission system, the reverse of the SOTS1 UI even. It also tends to remind consumers of Mass Effect 3's ending and the way the developers/publishers used game journalists to attack the motivation and concerns of their own customers as being "entitled" to something they didn't earn or deserve. In reality, it is the consumers paying the bank accounts that sustain the publishers and devs. They did not pay to be fooled into believing in deceptive promises. And due to later internal leaks, it was discovered that Bioware didn't even follow their own internal writing process for the ending. They not only betrayed their initial promises, they betrayed their own co workers by not bringing them into the process as usual.

 

None of that is supposed to be something concerning Obsidian's game. But the topic of games wasting player's time isn't something new by now. Reshaping the topic into players wasting their time by playing games, is talking about an entirely different theme. Whether a person is wasting their time with hobbies and entertainment is an entirely different cultural sub topic than the issue concerning game development quality.

Edited by Ymarsakar
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I don't think the game's too long or its not too long for my taste, just that act2 to 3 transition felt strange... I don't know how to put it to words but when I arrived at twin elms it was like starting the game from scratch again, by that time I shoulda already been familiar with the world and stuff and anticipate/maybe predict the next narrative direction instead I got another portion of the famous lore dump, this times about glanfathans, tribes, their way of doing things etc etc... I had half a mind to rush through it since I was overlevelled at that point.

 

 

It's not due to the kickstarter stretch goals or the promises, but due to the way they designed their content in preproduction. T Elms was designed at the same time as Defiance Bay. As its twin, so to speak.

 

Thus it feels the same way. The crit path was added later, with the content already preproduced and already in production probably. Without combining the two and getting player feedback, they didn't get the chance to iterate, based on the feedback. All the backer betas could test was dyrford. The crit path and the big cities, were not allowed to be BB tested. It was only internal testing. I liked Dyrford, it had a good sense to it and it attached itself to one of the primary plot arcs.

 

In a sense, the preproduction for the world lore was already done. So it was easy for them to make a big city about Glanfathans. That's in the lore. But it was not necessarily something that made the crit path more emotionally deep or satisfying. There were creative ways around that, as I've described before. But those decisions have to at least be thought about and argued on during preproduction. Not having time to iterate is pretty tough. As you lack the time to improve upon the way the product is executed. Many tests in the BBs were to balance the combat system, so to speak. And that's why the combat system started out pretty good. Well, other than the fact that per gave deflection, the BBs didn't suggest that as the solution.

Edited by Ymarsakar
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It's not that grown-up gamers want to spend as little time as possible playing games altogether, it's that they want to spend as little time as possible on uninteresting (subpar/filler) content and as much times as possible on worthwhile content.

And my point is that gaming in itself is subpar/filler in the grand scheme of things (e.g., spending time with family, friends, work is much more productive than gaming if you're an adult). Additionally, as gamers get older, instead of moving on to more mature hobbies they often acquire a misplaced sense of "quality standards."

 

 

On a side-note, I also don't understand why you (and others "on your side" of the argument) react so strongly about this, as if the mere idea of a somewhat shorter game directly threatens you and your way of life. After all, if you want to prolong your total gameplay time, the solution is simple: Play two games instead of one.

The first part of your argument here is a bit ad hominem and doesn't really further the discussion. As for playing 2 games instead of one... that was my point entirely. I argue that gamers who act as though they prefer quality over quantity are kidding themselves since in the end they end up playing multiple subpar games instead of one lengthy epic game. Granted, I understand that there are total garbage games out there, and I'm excluding obvious fodder from my conclusions.

 

 

To go back to a previous topic Zenbane wrote about. Which was the topic of older games "wasting time" with games. I wouldn't classify it like that. What people are looking for is depth or entertainment. Or rather, depth to their entertainment. Most people's hobbies are not their jobs, meaning it drains money and time.

 

I definitely agree with this sentiment. I suppose my perspective adds the fact that most games (even the most epic) are a regurgitation of at least one predecessor. So when people are proclaiming "QUALITY!!" I can't see how it applies with copy cat experiences. Which leaves one to conclude that the idea of "quality" is either highly subjective or is simply being used to mask something more subpar.

 

Examples:

1) PoE is great but it re-lives Baldur's Gate, IceWind Dale

2) Grimrock is great but it re-lives Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder

3) World of WarCraft is great but it re-lives Everquest, DAOC

4) StarCraft is great but it re-lives WarCraft

5) All dungeon crawlers re-live Diablo

6) All first person shooters re-live Doom

 

Is the definition of quality: "do a really good job of re-doing something else that was good" ?

 

Only a handful of games truly try to re-invent the wheel:

1) Fallout post 2010 vs Fallout in the 90's

2) The evolution of Elder Scroll titles (Arena vs Skyrim)

3) GuildWars 

 

In the end, I feel that the desire for shorter games in the guise of "quality over quantity" is just a ruse to hide the fact that the new age of "mobile apps" has created a breed of gamers with very short attention spans: instant gratification vs worthwhile investment. I remember a time when the "instant gratification" debates took place between FPS gamers vs RPG gamers. But now the debate takes place between RPG gamers. I blame the mobile app industry for this shift.

 

Lastly, I know some of the things I've stated may come across a bit accusatory so let me be clear that I'm speaking at a high level and am not accusing anyone here of being "subpar" or not living life properly as an adult lol

Edited by Zenbane
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