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Default Rampant Games - Are RPGs Too Long?

June 29th, 2012, 21:13
In an editorial on his blog, Jay Barnson asks this very question and comes up with a few solutions also. The link: http://rampantgames.com/blog/?p=4563

The quote about his solutions:
#1 Shorten the game. I do love myself some big ol meaty epics, so I dont want all RPGs to do this, but just as all other media can be made or broken by the quality of the editing, so can games. We need RPGs that can be finished in a week or two (or maybe a single caffeine-fueled weekend).
#2 Improve the game mechanics to keep things compelling through the end. Maybe the reward structure is too regular, or too irregular. Maybe the challenges are too repetitive, or require such similar decisions on the part of the player that they feel repetitive.
#3 Punch up the narrative to fix the middle. Note that this may often mean changing the beginning or ending (which in game development can be pretty hard). Maybe its flowing at too even of a pace for too long. Things need to be changed up. A reversal needs to happen somewhere in there. Maybe a subplot just isnt working very well and needs to be removed or changed. Whatever. The story needs fixing.
#4 Do what Bethesda does and allow the player to go for the end-game at the time of his choosing.
#5 Break into pieces, as multiple games, episodes, or expansions. Treat each of them as a stand-alone story that simply have a larger arc running between them.
More information.
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June 29th, 2012, 21:13
Are RPGs Too Long?

No.

If I enjoy it but it takes a long time to complete, I can always take a break and return to it later. I did that with Fallout and Oblivion and it worked out fine. On the other hand, a poor game will suck greasy pigs no matter how short or long the designers make it.
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June 29th, 2012, 21:21
I haven't run into one that's been too long yet. I like some bang for my bucks. The bigger and longer the game, the more I will enjoy it, usually.


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June 29th, 2012, 21:24
#5 is how I would like Bethesda to tackle DLC. It'd be cool if there was a single story told over 3 or 4 fifteen hour chapters that reaches a satisfiying conclusion. Since we have the choice of siding with the empire or stormcloaks, I'd like to see expansion packs that deal with the aftermath of that decision. Regardless of who wins in the confrontation, there will need to be treaties signed to end the conflict. I'd like to see DLC that eventually tied up the loose ends. Neither party would want the Dragonborn as the controlling power; they're rightly afraid of that entity.

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June 29th, 2012, 21:25
Originally Posted by rjshae View Post
Are RPGs Too Long?

No.

If I enjoy it but it takes a long time to complete, I can always take a break and return to it later. I did that with Fallout and Oblivion and it worked out fine. On the other hand, a poor game will suck greasy pigs no matter how short or long the designers make it.
I think your mentioning of Fallout and Oblivion though brings up a good point - they are basically as long as you want them to be. Love or hate Bethesda, they USUALLY do a decent job of letting you chose how to approach a very large amount of content. There are certainly games that start out strong but then feel like a real slog going through content the game would be better off not forcing you through or even sometimes not including.

For me at least, Kingdoms of Amalur:Reckoning became the second sort of game in the latter parts of the main quest. It really turned into an overly long repetitive (and unchallenging) gauntlet towards the end where much of the content felt like it was just there for the sake of length. Even oblivion's main quest created a similar feeling with its oblivion gates - particular the required gates that appeared by the main cities towards the end. I suppose that's easier to forget at times, but that sort of required slog was a step backwards for Bethesda and something that was not so much present in Morrowind nor in later games.

Originally Posted by crpgnut View Post
#5 is how I would like Bethesda to tackle DLC. It'd be cool if there was a single story told over 3 or 4 fifteen hour chapters that reaches a satisfiying conclusion. Since we have the choice of siding with the empire or stormcloaks, I'd like to see expansion packs that deal with the aftermath of that decision. Regardless of who wins in the confrontation, there will need to be treaties signed to end the conflict. I'd like to see DLC that eventually tied up the loose ends. Neither party would want the Dragonborn as the controlling power; they're rightly afraid of that entity.
Yes - that's one of the best things about what Obsidian tried to do with their FO:NV DLC. Unfortunately I felt the final installment suffered from the same sort of problems that the near end-game areas of KOA:R did. Still, even though the final chapter of it failed somewhat for me, what Obsidian attempted made many of the other DLC installments more meaningful. I'd wish Bethesda would take that lesson to heart (the better rated Obsidian DLC was often praised by critics for that very reason) and make a similar attempt themselves. Perhaps the formula would work better over 2-3 DLC rather than 5 though.
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June 29th, 2012, 21:25
interesting thoughts i suppose, but if you dont like the games you play put your money where your mouth is and make one yourself.
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June 29th, 2012, 21:29
Duh nevermind, you meant the author of the article - who does make games. Sorry, misread that as referring to the people posting in the thread.
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June 29th, 2012, 21:38
What kind of question is that?
Are books too long?

Its primarily a matter of quality/quantity, secondarily a matter of what type of a story a game wants to tell, a type of character development mechanics it employs, etc.

My answer thus is resounding "depends".

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June 29th, 2012, 21:43
It's not the length, its the level of tedium (which is subjective).

About 2 years ago, I played through the Baldur's Gate "trilogy" with a bunch of mods. My total game play was easily over 100 hours, but I never found any of it tedious, so it wasn't too long.

I got about 2/3 through U6 Project just after before real life made me drop it (I'm planning to go back when the release 1.1). I had put in about 60 hours, but it was starting to wear on me, particularly the dungeons.

Right now, I'm replaying WoU Savage Empire. I probably have 5 hours on it, but I'm at least 1/3 through, yet the game doesn't feel too short.

I remember playing IWD Heart of Winter and finding it WAY too short though.

The subject and the quality has to match the time required to make your way through.

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June 29th, 2012, 21:49
Originally Posted by DeepO View Post
Are books too long?
Oh God yes! I read a lot, dozens of books a year, and I can never get enough. But I have abandoned a lot of books (or series) recently because they are padded out with meaningless drivel that does little or nothing to advance the story, characterizations, or anything else other than the word count. There are several entire volumes in the Wheel of Time books that could be eliminated without hurting the series at all, heck, it would improve it. There are a lot of such series I really originally like but the books kept getting longer and longer and the story content smaller and small with each one.

Editors nowadays seem to run spell check (if that) on what they get and then print it.

And the same is true of a lot of RPGs. Meaningless combat and Fed Ex quests that require you to run from one end of the country to the other fill much of the content of RPGs, older ones and new.
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June 29th, 2012, 22:09
I think you could make one full Wheel of Time novel with just Nynaeve tugging on her braid

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June 29th, 2012, 22:19
Reasons for shortening the game are not explained.

Why the urge? Is it compulsory to finish a game?

I still keep assessing a game through the gameplay associated to it. I do not care about finishing it to see an ending or get the last point of a video game delivered story.

The least satisfying the gameplay, the quicker I am likely to finish the game. The more satisfying, the longer I take to finish the game.

Dont feel a hurry to finish a game. I prefer to enjoy the gameplay as long as possible.
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June 29th, 2012, 22:23
You know, I have to agree with a lot of this. I have played a lot of CRPGs that just drag on for the sake of what seems like dragging on.

In my opinion there are so many games out there to be played. I have to agree that about 40 hours is enough. Now don't get me wrong, I have found some compelling games that are fun past the 40 hour mark, but it's usually at this point where I start to have my mind wander to other titles I haven't played, and I tend to get impatient and in a hurry.

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June 29th, 2012, 22:34
Originally Posted by crpgnut View Post
I think you could make one full Wheel of Time novel with just Nynaeve tugging on her braid
Hah, so true. And another two with all the men being confused by the women being upset with the men in general.
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June 29th, 2012, 22:44
The time a game takes you to be completed refers to "quantity" but I think the "quality" of a game is much more important than its quantity. Nowadays there are many games that you can finalize in less than 15 hours so I can't really understand why games like DA, NWN (or the others like them) try to lengthen the gameplay with foolish methods. When I was playing NWN everything (such as story, gameplay, music, etc) made me amused except some annoying problems such as countless enemies that would appear stupidly after each step I took and the quests that were completely irrelevant to main storyline, as if developers were stretching the game unreasonably.
In my opinion the usual and normal time to complete a game (main storyline) should be about 25-50 hours not 100 hours or more.

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June 29th, 2012, 22:50
WTF ?

No.

Well, except if you want to sell a lot of them…

The Germans are a cruel race. Their operas last for six hours and they have no word for "fluffy".

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June 29th, 2012, 22:58
not this again. We've stated our points already

Its not that they are too long. There is no such thing. The problem is the games focus.
They focus on length instead of content. I never finished any of the fallout 3 or ES games.

The second part is also about hypocritical games, that want to be something they are not. Those games I hate the most (FU BETH!)
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June 29th, 2012, 23:05
Well it depends on content.On Kingdoms of amalure I stoped doing most of side quest
after half of game and I still felt game was too long on the other hand playthrough Fallout:New Vegas with all DLCs can last over 100 of hours but I never felt game was too long.
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June 29th, 2012, 23:05
I don't think the arguments are well structured and there are several personal opinions in them, which are not necessarily shared by others. Some of his points are more of "I like this more" and others are like "make things better".

#1 – Shorten the game.
Standing like that it basically means that "I want less for my money" and is sending the wrong signals.
However, if it is not fun during the whole time, there need to be consequences. I am convinced that shortening the game time is not the best solution in most cases.

#2 – Improve the game mechanics to keep things compelling through the end.
Equals to "make things better" and therefore can't be a disadvantage. In addition it is a possible fix to #1

#3 – Punch up the narrative to fix the middle.
That is saying like "the story sucks" and can not be generalized. That might be the case for some games, but certainly not for the majority.

#4 – Do what Bethesda does and allow the player to go for the end-game at the time of his choosing.
That basically means that either you just want to get over with the game and get your shiny steam achievement or it means that the sidequests suck.
The first is a personal playstile, which I do not share. The second one is a problem of the game and needs to be fixed.
Of course a game can add more "mediocre quests" for the "hardcore players" and make them optional. But to be able to end the game every time you want is surely something I'd not like to see in every game.

#5 – Break into pieces, as multiple games, episodes, or expansions. Treat each of them as a stand-alone story that simply have a larger arc running between them.
So he prefers to spend like 3 times the money for the same content, just to be able to say "I finished Game1" "I finished Game2" "I finished Game3"
If he does not want to pay 3 times as much, well…that probably won't work, because of how the market works.
But this isn't really a "solution" to anything.


Personally one reason of not buying some games is simply because the play time is too short. My rule of thumb is: If I don't get 1h of enjoyable playtime out of 1€, the game is not worth my money.

And yes, I see problems in several games, which could be "fixed" in throwing away content.
Grimrock for example. I played this game for 22h. But at one point I just wanted to finish it because it just became boring and more of the same (for me personally). But instead of shortening the game, the better solution would have been to add some stuff to discover. Some NPCs, some events.
Skyrim is another example. I played the game for 178 hours. And I haven't seen about 1/5 of the conent. And after 2/3 it already was extremely boring as the game became a pure sight seeing tour. But my solution would not be to throw 1/5 of the content away, but instead to implement a much better leveling and skill system, which keeps the game challanging and in balance.
That said, I haven't even finished it, even if Skyrim implements point 4.

So my answer to the whole thing: Games are never too long. And if you think they are, they have some other serious issues, or you are just going for achievements or add another entry in the "games finished" list.
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June 29th, 2012, 23:29
They are definitely too long and too boring on the whole. Not that this is anything new, I think it is has always been the case. I don't think people used to mind when there was only one or two decent rpgs a year, but now the market is saturated. The expectation is that an RPG should take at least 40 hours to beat on average. I think this is the equivalent of making every movie 3 hours long. There are just so few ideas that are worth that much time, this is even more true of rpgs. They all have too much filler content, most tend to cut corners with the last half of the game, and they rely too much on being meta-crack with items and levels(Diablo 3 is the pinnacle of this).
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