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Default In Defence of the 3 Hour Games @ Wired

March 28th, 2009, 10:20
Wired writer Clive Thompson has gaming ADD but he still makes a valid point: how many longer games really have the content to justify their length?
But the truth is that most game mechanics simply do not need 40 hours to reach their limits. For example, I loved Fallout 3's fight mechanics and moody design, and played it for several evenings in a row. But then battles and environments began to feel too similar, and my attention started wandering. Sure, I know there's another 120 hours of stories and environments to explore. But I don't care: 10 or 15 hours is more than enough.
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March 28th, 2009, 10:20
Burn the heretic !

More seriously, he states a valid problem (I'll illustrate with Far Cry 2 since I'm currently playing it): artificial length added by useless back and forth in exaggeratedly huge environments (a mission is nearly always on the other side of the map from the mission giver), constant respawn of enemies (get a 100m from a checkpoint, and they are instantly back), horribly frustrating repeat of the same basic task ("you found 1 / 221 diamond caches !"), and so on.

But the solution is not to cut the length but to add content ! And if game designer don't know what to add, they can just mix 2 or 3 games together; for instance Fallout 3 (post apo setting) + Clear Sky/Geneforge 5 (factions) + Planescape Torment (story). How difficult can that be ?
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March 28th, 2009, 11:05
Not everyone can build a long game and keep it interesting. The games that gave me the most out of it's many hours of gameplay was the Final Fantasy series. I believe it was a mix of the constant feeling you made progress since you have 99 levels to fill up as well as tons of bonus content if you wanted it such as unlockable super weapons and a super-challenging monster if you wanted a challenge far beyond the end boss. But it wasn't only the growth of stats, the games were combined with interesting storylines with deep emotional characters that kept on twisting your head and justified pushing on just to see the story.

Interestingly the length of the game did add to it at the end. The journey was so long that it would absorb you fully. Playing one single game 1-2 weeks, 16 hours per day, will give you a very unique emotion once it's over, an emotion I haven't felt outside the FF series, maybe except Throne of Bhaal. When you leave the game, and your companions, with the emotional end cutscene and maybe a short story about what happened afterwards, you feel like you are saying goodbye to friends, memorable friends. I actually got the same feel in the end of Gothic 3.

This is something which Fallout 3, Oblivion and Morrowind didn't offer, since they barely had a story, they never touched your emotions, and you got no real companions.

I remember all the "before the end boss" talks that BlackIsle/Troika/Bioware/Obsidian offer. The ones where you pretty much ask your buddies if they want to go through with the end battle and most of the time they say "im with you to the end". That simple dialogue adds more to the game than miles of grasslands filled with generated foes.

Come to think of it, emotions are what I remember long after I forgot all the details, and games that made me remember them did so by evoking my emotions. Short games wont be able to do that in the same way since you wont have enough time to get attached to the game.

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March 28th, 2009, 11:35
An other good but old example and even recently renewed:
CHRONO TRIGGER.

Once you fight MAGUS you really feel a hate for him, and maybe that changes afterwards. Or the great char that Alex is or one of the others.
They became friends and it was so hard too choose wich one you would take with you on your yourney.

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March 28th, 2009, 21:38
Originally Posted by DR490N View Post
How difficult can that be ?
I am speechless.
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March 28th, 2009, 22:05
I've always felt that RPGs should have at least one option where the main quest can be done in 10 to 15 hours. And with added adventures and options to extend the game play. Example:

1) Save the World - ~10 hours
2) Save the World but be some kind of Lord/King after - ~20 hours
3) Save the World but have your son take over the reigns after you die - ~30 hours
4) Save the World but reverse time to prevent the inital chaos- ~40 hours

and on an on
for me, the only games that really had legs late in the end game where M&M 6 & 7 and that was because near the mid game you got to fly and it changed the whole game dynamics. Even my all time favorite RPG Gothic 2 was getting repetitive at the end. (and with the last battles being in some kind of Cave/House certainly didn't open any new vistas)

So I agree with the writer. Most RPG struggle to get 60 -100 hours of INTERSTING game play. And while I am down with a shorter time frame for RPGs, I want it as an option and not as the standard.
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March 28th, 2009, 22:30
Originally Posted by DR490N View Post
But the solution is not to cut the length but to add content ! And if game designer don't know what to add, they can just mix 2 or 3 games together…(snip)…How difficult can that be ?
Exactly. I would take that even further and suggest that it would be best to stop making individual games altogether and build dynamic single-player game worlds instead where the game and its content upgrade dynamically. Then instead of making and selling something once, you could continually create and offer access.

Most folks I've talked to about this automatically think in terms of more and more. But there's no reason to be limited that way, beyond the realities involved with the current $60 price point. Get out from under that, and all sorts of new options open up. In other words, think in terms of redundancy.

I can't imagine that working for pretty much any other kind of software. But CRPG is a clear exception. In fact most customers in this genre subscribe to a single CRPG (WoW). The benefits of that to the developer are obvious, aren't they?

Three things stand in the way of that, from what I can tell. The first is that the vast majority of customers understand relatively little about software (and half of what they understand is wrong). Equal amounts of inertia and naivety would be the second (no offense to anyone, of course).

But the single biggest problem standing in the way of that is credibility. Software is now, and always has been, a business where customers routinely get taken to the cleaners. So it's not hard to understand why customers would balk at the idea of ever having to trust a software maker.

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March 28th, 2009, 22:32
While I think RPGs should be longer than 3 hours, I would also say that most RPGs definetely overshoot in terms of one playthrough length. I'd much rather have them be A) much more tightly constructed, with all the rubbish cut out and B) providing a deeper experience. Put the length into replayability instead.

When I replayed Fallout 1 last time, I realized how few RPGs (really, Fallout 1 is the only one I can think of, with MotB trailing a bit behind it though I know many would disagree) are actually fun and worthwhile throughout. Both are quite short games (of course you can wander around in Fallout 1 if you wish, but…) for being RPGs. But I just love that there is no real downtime (again, MotB not as good as Fallout 1 in this regard). There is no real section where I feel the quality dips a lot.

Now, I can look at pretty much any other RPG (both that I like *and* dislike) and instantly point out at least one section of gameplay where the game really bogs down or where it just feels uneccesarily stretched. The NWN2 OC is one of the biggest offenders in this area, but there are many more examples (Fallout 2 is also good example since it's a sequel to Fallout 1).

So yeah, I'd definetely feel that more effort should be placed in tightening up the game and providing more actual options, rather than always going for "teh long and epic story!1!1"
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March 28th, 2009, 22:53
I still think the sweet spot for a CRPG is 40 hours. That's the right game length to tell a story and include diverse gameplay while still having enough time available to create atmosphere.
Everything beyond 40 hours is more often than not just filler material. Of course many players like to do a whole lot of nothing for 200 hours, but I don't.
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March 28th, 2009, 23:04
Totally agree.

If there were one change I'd make to Drakensang, I'd cut it in half. I'm getting antsy with all with running back and forth over the map - if the content were tighter, I'd be enjoying it more.

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March 28th, 2009, 23:25
I'd never buy a 3 hour game!! Simple reason, cost. We pay $90-$120 for games here so no way I can afford that kind of money for 3 hours of gameplay!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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March 28th, 2009, 23:38
I think he was talking about a little arcade downloadable that was presumably cheap. Anyway, I'm not advocating 3 hours games as such but I don't need 100 hour games with lots of filler. Give me the 40 hour every-action-counts version.

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March 29th, 2009, 03:01
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
If there were one change I'd make to Drakensang, I'd cut it in half. I'm getting antsy with all with running back and forth over the map - if the content were tighter, I'd be enjoying it more.
According to the Gamestar preview RL will address this by making the maps smaller, quick travel to known places (especially merchants) and a house boat. The game is centered around the big river you can see on Drakensang's world map. The house boat follows you, it's always nearby.
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March 29th, 2009, 03:21
I like short games when it fits, but my problem is with (a) the 4-5 hour shooter (Call of Duty X) and (b) artificially long games such as Far Cry 2.

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March 29th, 2009, 03:44
Originally Posted by Gorath View Post
According to the Gamestar preview RL will address this by making the maps smaller, quick travel to known places (especially merchants) and a house boat. The game is centered around the big river you can see on Drakensang's world map. The house boat follows you, it's always nearby.
Unlike area in The Witcher that make you feel enclosed, without to be very big Drakensang area give a feeling of space. And unlike Oblivion you don't feel a waste of empty space.

Quick travel is another very dangerous choice, it just break the feeling of space, you'll go from jump to jump, can be pretty hard to make an area live when its base is multiple teleportation.

If you don't like travel and explore, it's perhaps time to look elsewhere than CRPG. I know it could be modern CRPG design. Well well I wonder if Drakensang needs to join the mass.
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March 29th, 2009, 03:56
Let make it this ideal CRPG, quick travel everywhere to avoid any boring walk, no inventory to avoid some boring management, no merchants that's not fun gaming, short area, no useless NPC there and there, only those useful, no boring complicate class system and stupid points to handle, and so on.

Guys I know your ideal CRPG, it's a sort of shooter or perhaps just a novel.
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March 29th, 2009, 06:12
Oh, please. You think I spent 6 years building CRPG sites if I don't like CRPGs? There's a difference between a feeling of space and repetitive travel for no reason. I just finished up the Blood Mountain area of DraSa and there was no gameplay value in making me run around that map half a dozen times. I'd already explored everywhere when I got told to visit every witch; I'd already explored everywhere twice when I got told to defend the Witch Trees. And I killed the same bloody Ronkwer's Cronies and wolves every trip around.

Making an 80 hour game with 40 hours of running back and forth across the map with tedious filler combat is not good game design. Was I ever in actual danger from any of the Cronies? No. Were there any different tactics, outcomes or interesting loot? No. But the designers said we have this big map and we have to put something there, so let's put a trivial fight there, there and there - that oughta keep the player busy.

I'm not picking on DraSa, by the way, but wishing the design were tighter doesn't mean I prefer shooters.

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March 29th, 2009, 07:51
A game like Vmpire the Masquerade Bloodlines is the perfect example of a game that is just right in length and you can replay it many times and take different paths through the game.

Games like VtMB are very good but very long games can be good also. I like the Elderscrolls games because you can actually live a life of adventure in those games unlike the 40 hour rpgs. You go on many different adventures throught the games unlike games like VtMB where there is one long adventure you go on. If the Elderscrolls games were short they wouldn't be the same kind of game anymore.

I like both types of games myself and each gives it's own unique experience.
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March 29th, 2009, 08:18
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
I'd already explored everywhere when I got told to visit every witch; I'd already explored everywhere twice when I got told to defend the Witch Trees. And I killed the same bloody Ronkwer's Cronies and wolves every trip around.
Well this is a mix bag.

The third whining is about the lack of alternate path, a different subject, or are they regenerated? The witches side doesn't cause this problem.

Your first whining happen because you had freedom and it happens you behave like you described. That's the price of freedom, you could explore more than once an area because the game doesn't organize strictly your paths and explorations.

Your second whining isn't a problem you have when siding with witches, I see the point and that's a point to improve like by having a complex regeneration of events and special fights in area already empty. I agree this second whining is a good example of how better it could be organized.

For me, any CRPG with some freedom felt somehow in this problem and Drakensang not more than many other. But also the point is that it's the price of CRPG with some exploration freedom. The solution which allows do all the quests before have taking them is an easy solution but won't work if you want give to the player some decisional points.

EDIT: The uneven intensity of gameplay is a necessary weaker point of some sort of CRPG. Throw in an intensive action and most players will skip through most dialogs and story developments to go to next action. If you let freedom you cannot harass the player with a strict gameplay organization that won't let him 1 second without to have big fun. Some slow pace is a requirement of a good CRPG offering some good freedom.
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March 29th, 2009, 09:35
Drakensang is average in this area - I just happen to be playing it at the moment and it makes a good example.

Yes, freedom of exploration makes some retracing inevitable. Yes, it's good to mix up the pace. However, some care with the design will make things tighter.

For example, why do I need Yasmin's approval before doing the favours for the other witches? She isn't the boss…surely I can offer to help them when I come across them? Then there are the trees. DraSa uses the age old "locked door" method - nothing happens until you get the quest, then magically, the trees are being attacked. There's no good reason the quest couldn't be rearranged, so the trees are being attacked when I first see them.

What about Knowall? Isn't that a good opportunity to check against Animal Lore (or even having a mage of certain skill in your party) and getting the insight that this is a Familiar? Instead, we have a rote fetch quest; get quest to help every witch -> get quest to return familiar for one witch -> rescue familiar. Linear, rather dull and absolutely no roleplaying.

In fact, what is the purpose of the open exploration? What advantage do I get from exploration? I'm mostly punished if I don't encounter the content in the right order, by having to run back and forth. They designed the content like Dungeon Siege, but then gave us open areas to explore freely. A good design would make better use of this feature through better designed quest structure and more choices.

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