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Default Rampant Games - Want players to finish? Let them quit!

August 4th, 2012, 00:05
Jay Barnson wades in on an issue peripherally related to game length - Want Players to Finish the Game? Let Them Quit!
There are a lot of important features to an RPG that make the experience really stand out for me. But these days, with my “grown up” schedule, the two most important features for any video game (not just RPG, but I’m focusing on RPGs here) are the following:
1. Make it easy for me to play a short session (~20 minutes. Or less).
2. Make it easy for me to get back to the game after taking a (possibly extended) break.
In other words, make it painless to quit and encouraging to come back to later.
I’m not saying I’ll only play an RPG for 20 minutes at a time – but I have problems starting a game these days that I think I’ll have to commit more time than that in order to get anything out of the play session. Once I get going, sure, I may end up playing for a whole hour or two, but that’s inertia. And taking a hiatus from a game is nothing new to me. I tend to play a lot of games, and even as a kid, I’d often take a break from some of my favorite RPGs to play with something new and shiny, only to come back after a few days / weeks / months and finish the game.
And that’s what it’s really about. I keep hearing game company CEOs talking about how players rarely finish the games, and they really only play for something like 8-15 hours, so why not make 8-15 hour games? The truth is that a lot of gamers – especially RPG fans – love the big ol’ marathon games, too, but we can’t play them like a marathon (anymore) to the exclusion of all other games. But I, for one, am happy to play a larger game in shorter segments over the course of weeks or months, maybe coming back to it after a long break or two. I want games that fit my life, not the other way around, but I do not think that should relegate me to some casual-gaming ghetto.
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August 4th, 2012, 00:05
This sounds like the start of my rant to a friend about why there should be more permadeath multiplayer games.
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August 4th, 2012, 00:10
No it's called getting older, having a job, or a family. It's not the publishes or developers fault.

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August 4th, 2012, 00:12
Originally Posted by SirJames View Post
This sounds like the start of my rant to a friend about why there should be more permadeath multiplayer games.
With permadeath if you quit for a while and come back rusty your saved character / party is in for a shortened lifespan

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August 4th, 2012, 01:12
Originally Posted by Couchpotato View Post
No it's called getting older, having a job, or a family. It's not the publishes or developers fault.
Well it is. Average gamer age is like 30 or so if I remember correctly, which means average gamer is not a kid, has a job and likely already started a family.
This goes to the developer. Have a good log that reminds you of what the story is and what you were doing last time you played. That's really all there is to it. And for the first point, it's not an issue for most PC games as you can save anywhere, not quite so still in lots of console games, which still force you to find 'save points' or lose your progress.
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August 4th, 2012, 01:19
Well, for a lot of games this isn't an issue.

#1 isn't a big deal as long as your game has a save-anywhere option. Saving in combat isn't really needed but having to trek to a save point or, worse yet, losing all progress even if you DO go back to the save point is a terrible situation. I've seen that in a lot of console RPGs but not much in PC RPGs.

#2 shouldn't be too bad as long as you have a quest history (again - very common in PC RPGs) and you have the ability to change difficulty.

That last is what killed me in Witcher 2. I put it down for a couple of weeks and, when I tried to play again, I was getting blown away on medium difficulty. I switched it down to easy but "easy" there translated to "total pushover". You can't get your skills back playing at that level so my only choices were to play it at too-easy for the rest of the game or start all over again. If they had an "easy but not a total joke" difficulty level, I would have finished it for sure.
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August 4th, 2012, 01:28
And just because you have a job and a family, doesn't mean you can't seriously game!

My biggest problem is putting down a game, then not be able to pick it back up again due to the momentum being lost. It's hard for me to have a party of characters, and specific combat rhythm, place in the story, and a hundred unfinished quests, then try to jump back into the middle of all that six months or a year later.

I put down Baldur's gate 2 about a year ago, and trying to pick it up again where I left off. It's not easy!
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August 4th, 2012, 01:33
Originally Posted by wolfing View Post
Well it is. Average gamer age is like 30 or so if I remember correctly, which means average gamer is not a kid, has a job and likely already started a family.
This goes to the developer. Have a good log that reminds you of what the story is and what you were doing last time you played. That's really all there is to it. And for the first point, it's not an issue for most PC games as you can save anywhere, not quite so still in lots of console games, which still force you to find 'save points' or lose your progress.
Well according to the ESA it's 30. It's just the cycle of life gamers get older and we lose time and interest. I will probably still game in my 50's but it wont be as much as I still do in my 30's.

Anyway the industry still has a mindset that games are only for children and teenagers. There M-rated games are just T&A with blood.



Link-http://www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/ESA_EF_2012.pdf

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August 4th, 2012, 10:13
I would not have guessed 37% are 36 or older. I happen to fall in that demographic, but I wouldn't have guessed it.
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August 4th, 2012, 13:08
I've said since a few years already that the markets of video games differ quite a lot depending on the age.

Or, in other words, older gamers have different "needs" concerning gaming than younger gamers.

But - "the industry" hasn't seen this yet. Onl in the "casual games" market, but not in the main games market - which is still aimed at younger generations having lots of energy to spend, a lot of free time, no jobs maybe even, no family …

It's as if these were 2 completely different human species, so to say.

Dragon Age for older generations ? Resulted in a Face Book game for the "casual games" market. Or maybe it even wasn't directed towards older generations at all. This is in my opinion just a strike mark of how clueless even bigger corporations (EA in this case) are regarding the needs of older gamer generations.

Just as a practical solution : Incklude an NPC who will approach you automatically after you've been staying away from the game 2+ months and let this PC retell you the whole story - until you've left the game.


Originally Posted by Couchpotato View Post
Anyway the industry still has a mindset that games are only for children and teenagers. There M-rated games are just T&A with blood.
Yes. It's really pathetic (and this is the very first time that I consciously use this word in this forum ! - Because it has the opposite meaning in my own language …)

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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August 4th, 2012, 13:25
Games are increasingly accepted as a valid and "normal" passtime. As such, the segment with most people will obviously tend to dominate - especially since it's a passtime that doesn't require much in terms of physical condition.
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August 4th, 2012, 15:37
I have to limit the games I purchase. I tend to have 1 main MMO and 1 or 2 SRPGs at any time on my PC. Even then I never did finish D3. Made it to the begining of Act 3 and lost interest compared to other games.

I prefer games that let you save a lot with good quest logs (my only thing with Skyrim … hard to remember all the quests and what they are about when I take a break).

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August 4th, 2012, 19:31
Found that on Wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_game#Demographics

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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August 4th, 2012, 19:36
I want games that fit my life, not the other way around, but I do not think that should relegate me to some casual-gaming ghetto.
It should though. If you have no time to play, then you should not play.

Cant hardly be convinced by the OP which reads more like wishing to conciliate opposite positions or support specific consumption habits:
And taking a hiatus from a game is nothing new to me. I tend to play a lot of games, and even as a kid, I’d often take a break from some of my favorite RPGs to play with something new and shiny, only to come back after a few days / weeks / months and finish the game.
No longer a matter of time available but the taste for novelty. No matter how good your game is, when a player loves novelty about everything else, it is impossible to satisfy his tastes by keeping him playing an already started game.

It is all up to a player to organize. Quitting a game is a matter of organization. Writing down notes that would indicate what is going up next time takes less than a minute and allows connecting from one session to another.

Basically, nothing in this article but whisful thinking.
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August 4th, 2012, 19:48
Originally Posted by ChienAboyeur View Post
Basically, nothing in this article but whisful thinking.
I don't agree. Having a good quest log in RPGs for example should be standard practice but isn't. In some games if I stop playing for a week or so (on vacation, traveling on business, etc) I can't jump back into the game because I forget some stuff. If the game has a working quest log that shouldn't be a problem. But some RPGs just don't have that.

And I do agree with the article in the OP. I mostly play for half an hour or an hour during the week simply because I have other things to do and want to do other things. Now for some genres this isn't a problem: Strategy games both RTS and turn based are ideal for it. I can stop playing a game of Civ for half a year and when I start it up I'll only have to look at some statistics and the map for a couple of minutes and I know what's going on.
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August 4th, 2012, 21:50
I also agree with the article from the OP. Getting back into RPG's after some time is in most cases very hard. I do like to check a lot of new stuff and am easily diverted, but try to finish games off.
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August 4th, 2012, 22:07
Books should be divided into self contained chapters which are 6 pages long max.
And if for some weird reason the author employs plot thread(s) across the chapters, chapters´ beginnings better contain a summary of what happened up to that point, or else.
I´m a hard working individual, I have gazillion of kids and I generally read 10 books at the same time, so this is how you write books.

I agree with some of the bullet points (journal, visual cues, etc.), but that´s because these pertain to making games less hassle-y, regardless whether one plays them in 10 minute long spurs or not, without compromising their other design aspects.

What I disagree with would be:
Short quests, or quests that have short stages that can be completed in a few minutes.
Nothing against short quests, or quests with short stages per se, but if this point is a call for such design to be exclusive, then I disagree because it would likely compromise quest design for arbitrary reasons, introduce too much hand holding or be at odds with quests that are supposed to be about exploration.
For longer quests, please refer to our well conceived journal .
And explore on your own once in a while, will you, maybe there´s even a quest solution waiting for you somewhere.

either allow me to save in mid-combat (best), or keep the fights relatively quick (<5 minutes)
I disagree with the first part, at least when it comes to non-action RPG-y combat or combat implemented in "staged" scenarios (Mass Effect 2, for example) - for the sake of people who for some reason can´t sit through a combat scenario for a few minutes, this takes a thrill out of battles for everyone else and very likely makes combat less tactical in general. And when you have a system that, at least to some extent, relies on players´ manipulation of probabilities (to-hit, etc.), how do you balance such system anyway (when players can save at any time)? In the case of action RPGs which employ an organic type of implementation á la Divinity 2 or Gothic 2, it´s probably better to allow to save everywhere as it´s often not clear whether a player is in combat or not, though I´m not sure if that´s exactly ideal either.
As for keeping fights relatively quick, that really depends - the article´s author´s own Frayed Knights do a rather admirable job at keeping the combat fast paced, yet reasonably tactical, but it has very rudimentary positional aspect, it doesn´t have any large scale battles and, well, it´s not isometric .
At any rate, kinda agree on this point, no slow animations please!

Don’t unduly penalize me for forgetting how the controls work. I play a *lot* of games:
As per the mplication of my wannabe satire up there in the post: don´t (or face the consequences) .
Control schemes should be first and foremost effective and appropriate to how a game is supposed to be played, not compromised for the sake of people who play 10 games at once.
Either lower the difficulty, if such option exists, or suck it up and accept few failures till you´re comfortable with them again.
Control schemes indeed suck sometimes, but sometimes the learning curve just has to be there for the sake of not compromising the other design aspects.

Allow grinding. I’m not a big fan of games that require a lot of grinding (all filler, no meat). But if a 15-minute excursion into a moderately challenging zone can serve to get me a level or two and some new equipment, then I always have “something to do” for a quick fix.
15-minute excursion into a moderately challenging zone which grants players 2 levels seems like a lousy feature for those who aren´t playing a game for the sake of "quick fixes".
Games that employ/encourage grinding as a central modus operandi aside, personally I think that "grind zones" only tend to work well when employed as means of pacing (and as such tend to be for naught when experienced in a "quick fix" fashion).

Provide hints and reminders to get a player ‘on track,’ especially if they happen to be short of quests at the moment and may not remember where they should go to regain the thread of the adventure.
With a good journal/quest log this should be redundant.


All in all, if an RPG is supposed to provide an engaging and/or immersive experience, I don´t think the bulk of the article is a particularly good recipe for how to achieve it.
Last edited by DeepO; August 4th, 2012 at 22:43.
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August 4th, 2012, 23:25
Originally Posted by DeepO View Post
15-minute excursion into a moderately challenging zone which grants players 2 levels seems like a lousy feature for those who aren´t playing a game for the sake of "quick fixes".
+1

It really feels like the author (J.B.) is trying to convince himself and his readers that red is not red but green.
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August 4th, 2012, 23:57
the market is big enough to handle every developer!

and there are games out there for every kind of player.

your a nolifer? play p2p mmo!
you a family man? play f2p browsergames!

what i really cant stand are the non ending "action tunnels" that are so popular in these times.

even in rpg games!

the inventory becames full, the ammo low, the dungeon wont end…
F5! goodnight! i have to work tomorrow!

i dont like bioware games
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August 5th, 2012, 08:43
Rampant Coyote really puts it as it is.

Was he that wrote about "Bite sized Hardcore" as well ?
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