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Default RPG News - Does Size Matter? @ Gamasutra

December 3rd, 2006, 22:11
Gamasutra's latest Question of the Week is "Does Size Matter?" - "the importance of a game's play length, particularly in terms of monetary value". The article then follows with excerpts of responses from collected game industry professionals, with the introduction indicating the majority position was they didn't have time for epic games. Here's two opposing positions:
I believe that the game should be based on a "minimum hours to finish the game" calculated from the "Retail price in dollars = MINIMUM Hours needed to finish the game." Games that are short make the player (buyer) feel ripped off and like movies, games that are too long are usually less fun and less entertaining. In my Gamasutra article "The Pedersen Principles," I suggest this equation (The Yardstick) and use the acronym KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) to provide entertaining, intuitive gameplay.
Roger E Pedersen, PSI Software
I don't think that there is an actual hour-to-$ ratio that can truly be quantified. I think that it depends more on the actual game and how well it's crafted. I don't mind paying $70 for something that is truly engaging the entire time I'm playing it, whether it be 20 hours or 1000+ hours. Two games that were considered short that people didn't mind (that spring to my mind) are God of War and Chronicles of Riddick. Both were worth the price, but many felt they were too short. I have heard it said that if someone plays a game that they think is too short, then that means that they want more.
I would rather have a shorter game that was tight and polished than one that is 1000+ hours of bugs and crashes. One way we can help/compromise this may be with episodic content. Release the main game for a lower price, then have regular updates with new content for a lower price. It may work, but it suffers from the possible problem of charging way too much and having the same lack of polish a lot of games suffer. It all comes down to making and polishing your game to the Nth degree.
Liam Hislop, Full Sail
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December 3rd, 2006, 22:11
Personally I don't think size matters, but the game itself - certain games are so fun they have high replayvalues, so you end up playing them several times, meaning their "total time spent on game" is a lot higher than a very long, boring game.

An example is Gothic 1, which is not all that big compared to Oblivion, Morrowind or Gothic 3, but I still prefer G1 to any of those games.
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December 3rd, 2006, 22:42
Games that are long tend to be repetive in my experience. Getting in the same fights over and over without the only carrot on a stick being a couple levels and better equiptment isn't enough for me. Even a great story isn't enough for me. I have played PS:T to almost the end before quiting twice now. The combat was just unbearable. I love arcanum but never finished it, I love wiz 7 and never finished (I bought and beat 6 to import a party to 7 and still never finished it, tried a bunch of times to finish just to importa party to 8 and never finished).

I used to beat every game I played, but now, beating a game for me is a rarity. I just get bored. And the games i do beat tend to be shorter and games i don't really like, but again, are shorter. I beat kotor, arx fatalis, jade empire, fable, and thats about it. None of those games are even close to being near my top 50 games list, never mind my top 10. I beat bloodlines my about 6 months ago on my third try, and I really like that game for the most part. I did finish the first geneforge.

On my computer now I just started replaying wiz8 again (for like the 10th time, I only got past trinton twice, my first time I got about 75% through). I have BG install but quit BG after about 6 hours. I have pst installed, but haven't got far. I have FO installed, about 90% through. I have arcanum installed, right before the cave you need the glasses to find. I have wiz and warriors. I have a save game near the end, but I started a new party and I'm not that far in. I have JA 2, stopped after the caves in the SW area near the porn shop I think. I have UFO aftershock about 5 days after aliens come, I also have avernum 4, a good ways in.

If I was going to play any again i would restart, as character/party creation is one of my favorite parts of any game. Only ones I wouldn't for is UFO, since there is none. I wouldn't for pst since it basically doesn't have one, but I always forget what happens so i restart anyways.

I always quit a game when one of two things happen: I get to a new npc area/city and I don't want to run around and talk to everyone, or a get to a new dungeon and don't want to run around and kill everyone. Jade Empire nad Kotor had smaller npc areas/dungeons so it wasn' bad so i could force myself through it, same with arx. Somewhat with bloodlines, but the load times just killed me.

I also have my c:\oldgames with games i always turn to when bored such as darklands, the roa series, albion, darksun, etc. I'm still stuck at the same exact spot I always get stuck on when playing EoB2. One day I'll be smart enough or patient enough to figure it out, but I'll figure it out without a walkthrough. The last time i tried playing Buck Rogers i couldn't. I love it but I wish someone would come up with a UI patch that would making trading and equiping items faster. Having a mouse made me lazy.

Well, this was basically a useless post. Sorry if you read it. I have no punchline, just a lot of games I never finish.
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December 3rd, 2006, 22:50
I would broadly agree that size doesn't matter, except at the extremes. I think < 20 hours it is difficult to allow for much character progression or create much depth in the story and NPCs and over 50-60 hours is really going to stretch my ability to finish it. Overall, the game design should take precedence over length and I'd much prefer depth in different interactions in a shorter game than sheer length.

With the exception of very short games, price just doesn't enter into it for me. A good game is worth every penny (and more) and is cheaper than most other forms of media. A bad game is abad game, regardless of price. In fact, I'd happily pay much more for games I want (that noone is going to make).

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December 3rd, 2006, 23:04
I agree, extremely long games tend to be repetitive, and extremely short games tend to be too short to actually be immersive. Other than that it's up to gameplay, story, various element and so on to make it a good game. A rough indicator would be 25-75 hours or so in my opinion, although I have seen a few examples of longer/shorter games that were still good.
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December 4th, 2006, 01:00
If length equals 'padding', eg heaps of repetative, meaningless, and boring combat (such as the orc caves in NWN2), then I'd vote for shorter games. If every screen is totally engaging, then I might never want the game to end (the best of the Ultimas)!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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December 4th, 2006, 01:05
A closely associated question that should be asked: How do you rate one-time play-throughs vs multiple play-throughs?

I hardly ever finish RPGs any more. I used to finish them compulsively, now I'm lucky if I can force myself to get through to the end of the end-game once, let alone more than once.

And yet if the game is good, I'll start all over with a new character, play the game with a different style, and probably give up 2/3 of the way through. And start over again. I've lost track of how many times I've restarted Deus Ex — at least a score of times — but I've only gone all of the way through the end game four times. I just uninstalled Bloodlines, with 14 different characters. Three got to Griffith Park, and two made it all of the way through to see one of the endings, the final time only because I'd turned on god mode and notarget just to get it over with. Then I uninstalled.

Anymore, I'm more inclined to say if the game gives me 25 hours before I start over with a different character, and there's enough to it to replay three or four times, that's a good place. And have an end game that isn't a tedious and virtually unending onslaught of respawning monsters/ninjas/sith apprentices.

I'd certainly like to see longer games for my first time through, but only so long as that's not because I'm refighting the same pack of Savant Troopers every time I try to get from one merchant to another in town.
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December 4th, 2006, 11:21
Ridiculous. Some long games are boring rubbish. Some short games are lame. Some long games are awesome worlds into which you can immerse yourself for what feels like forever, from which you leave a slightly different person. Some short games are marvelous, perfectly polished gems.

I've gotten hundreds of hours of truly enjoyable gameplay from Rome: Total War, and look forward to the same with Medieval 2: Total War. I've slogged through tens of hours of tedium in Oblivion, and quit before that became hundreds of hours. I consider the ~10-15 hours of Escape from Butcher Bay a classic in its genre, and look forward to returning to it one of these days. I thought HL2: Episode One was sort of like a 25 cl bottle of German beer — beautifully refined and marvelously enjoyable, but about half too small.

Oh, and… the single NWN module that left me with the best taste overall was Pig Farmer, which clocked a whopping four hours or so. And the joke would not have carried any further than that.

Some games are slow. Others are fast. Some are big. Others are small. You can't price them based on that.
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December 4th, 2006, 13:34
Two things that increase game length and jump to mind are random encounters and random quests. In my opinion, random encounters, if used sparingly, can improve game quality as well, but for example in Wizardry 8 became really tedious when just going to another location was painful.

Random quests usually change the nature of the entire game, and can really improve quality if the variety is wide. There should be a meaningful reward like increasing rank and/or being able to access new areas or quests after completing several quests for a faction. Space exploration/combat games have done this for a some time, some of those with a result so good you forget about the main quest. That's why I thought Space Rangers 2 was a good game and worth every cent I paid, although the main story was not that long in hours.
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