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Default Chris Avellone - Time Limits in Games

May 30th, 2013, 20:34
Critical Path a website dedicated to conducting short interviews with various gaming developers has a new video interview with Chris Avellone. He discusses time limits in games. You can watch it here.
From a gamemaster/game designer perspective, the idea of time limits is appealing. It creates pressure, and it creates an urgency for the player that's hard to beat.

In Fallout 1, the skill system and the plot was built around the design that you only had a certain number of days to find the water chip for your vault and then defeat the mutant army or game over. If you don't recall that, then chances are you played it with the patch that removed that design element, as the mutant-hunting-your-Vault-down-time-limit was patched out of the game in 1.1 because of the outcry.

So I love time limits. In Fallout 1, it was appropriate because:

- It reinforced the urgency and pressure of saving your Vault.
- It reinforced the brutal nature of the world you were in.
- It made time-usage skills more risky for players to use. Sure, Doctor was helpful, but you had to be careful because it could consume a lot of time if used repeatedly.

Players reacted negatively because:

- The time limit was unforgiving.
- It prevented them from exploring areas at their leisure, which undermined the non-linearity of the game suddenly you didn't want to go everywhere and explore everything, because the clock was ticking.
- It couldn't be reset/extended beyond the time limit except in a few places in the game, and only a finite number of times.
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May 30th, 2013, 20:34
Yeah I remember that, and none too fondly. Better to put time limits on quests, rather than the entire plot.
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May 30th, 2013, 20:55
Time limits are almost always absolutely awful.
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May 30th, 2013, 20:59
Agreed. I still don't understand what was the logic behind making Fallout 1 non-linear and than impose time limit which prevents you from exploring this non-linearity?
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May 30th, 2013, 21:07
Originally Posted by zahratustra View Post
Agreed. I still don't understand what was the logic behind making Fallout 1 non-linear and than impose time limit which prevents you from exploring this non-linearity?
Exactly. The design in itself was completely counter to the concept of a time-limit.

It CAN work in certain genres under certain circumstances - but an overarching time-limit that will end the game in a non-linear CRPG is one of the worst cases of its use I've experienced.

Avellone should stick to writing
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May 30th, 2013, 21:14
Yeah the time limit was an awful idea. Making the story more urgent than exploration is a bad design choice.
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May 30th, 2013, 21:16
I never had a single problem with it and completed every game on time. I agree the game is better without it though.

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May 30th, 2013, 21:19
I liked the time limit in fallout. It made every choice feel a bit stressful and important, which was great, but overall the limit was actually quite forgiving. Especially if you did the deal with the water caravan people, although there were negative side effects to that in the long run iirc.
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May 30th, 2013, 21:25
Well, to each his own.

I actually didn't play until they fixed it in some patch or something.

It just put a psychological barrier between my enjoyment and the game.
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May 30th, 2013, 21:34
Originally Posted by Couchpotato View Post
I never had a single problem with it and completed every game on time.
That's not the point though Couch. It was a erroneous and wasteful decision on Avellone's part. You don't spend money on developing large game world and than railroad player into only a part of it by the use of time limit.
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May 31st, 2013, 00:54
IIRC, once you found the Waterchip you could take all the time you wanted in the second part of the game and explore fully!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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May 31st, 2013, 01:01
didn't listen to it so not sure if it was mentioned but agree on the time limits that affect the whole game. short term time limits, however, like the dialogue in alpha protocol i think can work well if you're looking to force reactions based on impulse. an open sandbox game though is not one of those so yeah, out of place. though side quests like some in stalker for example can work well though as was the case with clear sky. though that game could also be a clusterF in trying to manage with the numerous bugs/problems that game had.

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May 31st, 2013, 13:25
I like time limits as much as I like being cut in little pieces and then fry the still alive pieces in oil.
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May 31st, 2013, 13:40
Without time limits, the game and player - in theory - can have infinite number of choices especially for an open world game, which I think is stressful for the player (think about if it happens in real life!) and for the game designer in trying to think of all the possible game paths and choices.

Introducing time limits can also be used by game designers to limit the choices and consequences in the game and reduce the size of the world. It is now being used by indie developers with rogue like classes. I don't think that this was the case in Fallout 1 as their design catered for an open world, but probably added it as something niche and adds urgency to the setting (which is understandable).
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May 31st, 2013, 14:21
Originally Posted by SpoonFULL View Post
I don't think that this was the case in Fallout 1 as their design catered for an open world, but probably added it as something niche and adds urgency to the setting (which is understandable).
"Something niche"? What the heck is this supposed to mean SF?
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May 31st, 2013, 14:26
Time limits can be a lot of fun in RPGs if implemented well.

Yes, they can limit exploration; but this is only an issue (if at all) the very first time you play the game. On subsequent playthroughs, I prefer if I have to choose a path through the game rather than being left to explore everywhere and do everything over again.

It's especially fun trying to conserve your time-consuming resources. For a lot of older games, it's the only way to rule out rest spamming.

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May 31st, 2013, 14:31
Originally Posted by zahratustra View Post
"Something niche"? What the heck is this supposed to mean SF?
I wanted to say something 'new' and this just poped up. I guess I should stick to my laces .
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May 31st, 2013, 16:16
Originally Posted by Sacred_Path View Post
Time limits can be a lot of fun in RPGs if implemented well.
A bit of special pleading there Sacred. "If"', "but", "when"…
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May 31st, 2013, 16:19
Originally Posted by zahratustra View Post
A bit of special pleading there Sacred. "If"', "but", "when"
Yes, but there are examples that I can think of where I found a time limit enjoyable, Fallout and the Magic Candle games among them. I also think Spellhold with Bodhi could have been pretty neat.

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May 31st, 2013, 16:37
I was screwed in FO 1 because I went exploring, found the water chip, delivered it, and encountered the conversation giving the quest only after that. There was now way to not loose the game since I could not fulfil the quest any more (it was already fulfilled) and the counter could not be stopped.

So I had to reload a save from days before.

The way to avoid the time limit was: Do never talk to the person, who gives that timed quest (or at least avoid the dialogue choice triggering it, I don't remember if you have to talk to the person otherwise). You can still complete the main quest etc. regardless.

Time limits are nearly always awful, except for side quests, where you can restart the quest as often as you like (e. g. in Borderlands 2 you have such quests, which are fun).
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