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-   -   Rampant Games - How Long Should an RPG Be? (http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7947)

Dhruin August 25th, 2009 00:22

Rampant Games - How Long Should an RPG Be?
 
A topic that rises from time to time, Jay Barnson muses on the length of RPGs in his latest blog entry:
Quote:

When I was at Infogrammes (now Atari) , the company head Bruno Bonnell told us that a study had shown what many of us suspected - the majority of players never "finish" their games. They would eventually give up and move on to the next game. Bonnell's contention was that we were wasting half our development efforts if the players were only playing half the game. I don't think the math necessarily applies - you reuse a LOT of code and content in later levels that is needed throughout the game.

While he wasn't speaking specifically of RPGs at the time, but I've little doubt that most copies of RPGs in the 1990s never accessed the "ending sequence" file on the hard drive. Players tend to play until they grow bored or frustrated, and then quit. Those aren't reactions any developer wants to his or her game. But even the most sadistic game designer really wants and expects players to actually see the endgame.
More information.

Rills August 25th, 2009 00:22

Growth and Frustration = Plot Fatigue + Repetitive Game Mechanics. It is the designers who, IMO, get fatigued in the process and it shows too often in the last one-third to even one-half of games.

To me it isn't the length as the failure here but the failure to finish well with a good solid plot/story throughout. Some designers never really think it through; they start out well and then it goes down from there.

One of the worst things an RPG maker can do, again my opinion, is to have a ton of side quests that are basically Fed Ex. Yes, it can make the game longer but at what price? On the other hand, I want more than 20 hours of game play since I'm shelling out the cash for it.

JDR13 August 25th, 2009 01:32

Quote:

I've little doubt that most copies of RPGs in the 1990s never accessed the "ending sequence" file on the hard drive.
I have to disagree with that statement. No doubt the games were harder back then, but there was also a lot less to choose from in that genre. I would finish an RPG because there would simply be nothing else to play that month.

I find it more challenging to finish games now because there's always a half-dozen more just sitting on my desk waiting to be played.

Corwin August 25th, 2009 01:38

My issue with finishing games occurs when the last third is little more than continuous combat. If I have to battle non-stop for several hours to reach the final boss battle, I get totally bored and turned off. Unfortunately, many developers seem to fall into this trap as a game draws to a close. Even 2 relatively recent games I liked (Witcher and Drakensang) did this.

wolfing August 25th, 2009 02:36

I think maybe devs should start development of the end game and leave the start to the end :)

RampantCoyote August 25th, 2009 03:42

Wolfing - there are more reasons than one to do exactly that. :)

I think the problem with modern (mainstream) game design is actually that they set a bunch of designers loose all at once on the whole game - theoretically all in communication about how the game should flow - but towards the end they realize it's not a cohesive whole, and the plot / theme has kinda veered off a bit in an unexpected direction (or feels like it should), but it's too late for them to allow it to take its natural course. So as a result the longer you play, the weaker the plot feels.

As far as having too many plot twists - you know, I went back and watched the (very long) summary sequence that came with the DVDs for Final Fantasy VII - Advent Children, and realized I'd forgotten about 60% of the plot and twists. And you know - I was probably better off having forgotten them. It just got so convoluted at the end that it was impossible to keep straight.

Zloth August 25th, 2009 03:58

Long games can be done but it does take work. First, obviously, you've got to have enough story to fill the time. The second part, though, is to make the game play different. Too often, advancement in these games just means doing the same thing but with bigger numbers being tossed around. Replacing my red fireball with a blue fireball that does 3x damage doesn't change how I play but giving me a send-NPC-into-a-frenzy spell might. Replacing the 10hp kobolds with 100hp uber-khi doesn't change my tactics but putting in a mage that summons up decoys of himself might.

Those gameplay changes all take a good bit more coding, balancing, and testing. Longer stories mean more money for the writers and (probably) voice actors. Will your game sell better because if it? It will if the players find out about it, but I wonder how many will?

Zloth August 25th, 2009 04:04

Quote:

Originally Posted by RampantCoyote (Post 1060966627)
As far as having too many plot twists - you know, I went back and watched the (very long) summary sequence that came with the DVDs for Final Fantasy VII - Advent Children, and realized I'd forgotten about 60% of the plot and twists. And you know - I was probably better off having forgotten them. It just got so convoluted at the end that it was impossible to keep straight.

Well yeah, you watched a summary. If you watch all the FMV back to back, though, they make for a pretty good story.

Could you imagine something like Babylon 5 all crunched down to an hour and a half?

txa1265 August 25th, 2009 04:42

Quote:

Originally Posted by JDR13 (Post 1060966618)
I have to disagree with that statement. No doubt the games were harder back then, but there was also a lot less to choose from in that genre. I would finish an RPG because there would simply be nothing else to play that month.

I find it more challenging to finish games now because there's always a half-dozen more just sitting on my desk waiting to be played.

They are not talking about hardcore dedicated gamers, they are talking about the majority of gamers - and heck, those folks never fought Jerec or made it past the shareware areas of Doom …

guenthar August 25th, 2009 04:53

I don't finish very many games but if more games had features that made it so you can get back into a game after not playing it for a long time I would probably finish more games. It is frustrating coming back to a game after a few months and trying to pickup where I left off and not knowing what I am supposed to do and whats going on.

To make a game that people will want to finish everyone of these developers need to look at Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines as inspiration. I played that game with little sleep to finish it and still wanted to play after I was done. If all games were like that I would probably be dead from lack of sleep.

RampantCoyote August 25th, 2009 05:13

Bloodlines is one of the few RPGs that I've actually played multiple times, start-to-finish. Though it also wasn't a very long one. It kept me pretty invested.

Sentinel - It's different if you have already experienced the story and are then looking through a refresher than trying to pull out a story from a summary alone. The story in FF7 really did meander quite a bit to the point of being overly convoluted IMO.

I imagine a summary of Babylon 5 compressed into an hour in a half might seem a little… rushed. Kinda like season 4… ;)

Gorath August 25th, 2009 05:59

IMHO an RPG should be ca. 40 hours long. That's enough for a solid story, a lot of character development and many good quests. Everything beyond is often only filler material. I wish developers would leave it out and invest the resources in a higher quality for the rest.

skavenhorde August 25th, 2009 06:21

There are actually very few games I finish. The ones that I do finish I find have two things in common.

One is a great story. One that keeps me interested in it all the way to the end. Like any good book where I can't put it down and will end up reading to the wee hours of the morning.

The second is that the character doesn't become godlike. I need to have something to look foreward to or achieve with my character.

Some good examples of games that I did finish and follow these 2 simple steps are Torment, Icewind Dale I and II, Ultima IV - 6, Baldur's Gate I and II, Witcher, Bloodlines (of course ;)), Arx Fatalis, Fable (I don't care what anyone says, I liked that silly little game), Overlord I and II (Though not a RPG still followed those two rules) Dues Ex, KOTOR I and II, System Shock II, Gothic I and II, Wizards and Warriors, Realms of Arkania III, Quest for Glory I - 5, Mass Effect (varying opinions on the quality of this game but I had no problem completing this one all the way to the end), Divine Divinity, Fallout I and II, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

I had no problem passing those games because of they didn't allow my character(s) to become too powerful and they kept the game interesting so I just couldn't put it down.

The very best example of how not to do a game would be Fallout 3. Your character becomes overpowered way too fast and there is no reason to do any sidequests (no xp past level 20 and no way to better your character). The story is horrible to say the least. It's too bad because I had fun with that game as long as I didn't take the story too seriously, but then that gets rid of any motivation to see it to the end. Once I hit level 20 there was nothing to keep me going on. I didn't really care about the ending and there was no way I could get any better. So I never did finish Fallout 3, although I still count it as finished since I got to level 20 :D

Morrowind and Oblivion are also ones I never did finish. Not because of becoming too powerful, but because I lost interest in the games really quickly. I'm not exactly sure why I quit those games other than the fact that I just didn't care about the setting or the NPCs. I keep trying to get interested in those games again with mods because somewhere there is a fun game to be played, but it always ends the same way even with mods. I'll play for a week and then lose interest.

Other games I never finished are Beyond Divinity, Call of Cthulhu (I love HP Lovecraft but this one just never got me hooked. I never even made it to the point where you actually start using a gun :pout: I also don't like sneaker games), Temple of Elemental Evil (once you got into the temple the quests were over if you were a good character. I didn't like that at all), Jagged Alliance 2 (either too long or too hard. I liked it a lot but never seemed to be able to make it past the halfway point in that game), Hammer and Sickle (too hard, waayyy too hard), Gothic III (want to finish this game now that the community patch is out), Neverwinter Nights II (Not exactly sure why I lost interest in this one. Everytime I replay it I can't seem to get past Chapter 2 due to boredom), and Septerra Core (Waaayyy too many battles over and over again and a JRPG has to be really good for me to be interested in it).

Now that I've actually listed some of the games I've played and passed, I'm actually surprised by how many I did finish. They all had that good book mentality. I had to know how those stories concluded and they didn't allow me to become a god. Always challenging me in some way.

JDR13 August 25th, 2009 06:25

Quote:

Originally Posted by txa1265 (Post 1060966631)
They are not talking about hardcore dedicated gamers, they are talking about the majority of gamers …


I realize that. What I pointed out affects everyone, not just the hardcore.

DArtagnan August 25th, 2009 08:59

Oh, this is a big topic with many facets.

About length, I personally enjoy games in which the main quest line is at least 15-20 hours long. No golden rule, and it should end sooner if there's no meat left.

But I prefer freeform gameplay, and for that - I really enjoy the "idea/concept" of the game not ending before I say so. So, it's key to have many hours of non-main quest related content. This can be actual side quests - or all kinds of content. Just let me develop my character at my own pace, and make sure exploration is worthwhile. In this way, I think I generally end most games before the 50 hour mark - regardless of how good they are.

Anyway - I have many things to say about this topic, but I think I'll spare you the wall-of-text monologue this time.

JDR13 August 25th, 2009 09:20

Quote:

Originally Posted by skavenhorde (Post 1060966642)
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.


I loved that game, but I just couldn't finish it. The amount of bugs annoyed me to the point where I had to stop playing. I'm looking forward to going back though, I heard there's unofficial patches now that make it almost entirely bug-free.

Alrik Fassbauer August 25th, 2009 10:05

I think Tell-Tale's "eposidic adventures" are just a way, a try to adress this problem.

They are short enough to be "consumed" by the mainstream gamer.

Another thing that goes around in my head is the question of how much gamers are willing to endure - "endure" not in a negative sense, but just to "endure" long hours of gameplay.

My personal impression is that e.g. 10 years ago games were a bit more "hardcore", in the sense that a) the industry wasn't imho that big as it is today, and b) the games were harder. I, for example, could never imagine anyone finishing Zack McCracken. I tried it once, and i had some problems finding clues.

Could it be that gmes are nowadays … the more optimized towards the mainstream-gamer, the more short and easier ?

skavenhorde August 25th, 2009 10:26

Quote:

Originally Posted by JDR13 (Post 1060966667)
I loved that game, but I just couldn't finish it. The amount of bugs annoyed me to the point where I had to stop playing. I'm looking forward to going back though, I heard there's unofficial patches now that make it almost entirely bug-free.

I think the patches they made fixed a lot of bugs. It just took them a long time to get them out and when they finally did a lot of people were done with it.

I finished the game before they patched it up. It was annoying sometimes. I don't really remember any that bugged me to no end other than the one quest at Chernobyl. I had to go to some room to get something (sorry memory is fuzzy about this), but I couldn't get in the room because of some bug. So when I got to the end where the monolith was I couldn't get into the room past the monolith. The only ending I could get was touching the monolith and get the wish/curse. Pretty cool ending though. I got the one where it cured everything, but made you blind.

JDR13 August 25th, 2009 10:58

Uh….maybe some spoiler tags next time. ;)

I just got really frustrated with those hidden loot stashes not appearing on my map after discovering their location sometimes, or appearing at random when I shouldn't have known about them at all. Also, the respawn rate was screwed up badly in a lot of places. Sometimes enemies would respawn way too fast, sometimes not at all. All this was going on even after the 2nd or 3rd patch.

It's still on my play list though, along with STALKER: Clear Sky.

skavenhorde August 25th, 2009 12:35

Quote:

Originally Posted by JDR13 (Post 1060966689)
Uh….maybe some spoiler tags next time. ;)

:blush: Sorry about that. There are tons of endings though. If it helps, that was just one of them and not even the "good" ending. :)


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