Going Gold: Size Doesn't Matter

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Going Gold: Size Doesn't Matter

Gamers and creators alike are obsessed with a formula of "bigger is better" that simply isn't true.

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I agree. Physchonauts was a fantasic game and only about 8 - 9 hours long. Portal was also a slice of gaming perfection that was only about 6 hours long. The Half Life Episodes are similar. Short games are just as fun as long games.

But I still have enough time on my hands to appreciate medium long games such as 20 - 40 hours RPGs like Mass Effect or KOTOR.

What I no longer have enough time/patience for is the really long games like say Dragon Age, Baluders Gate, Morrowind, Fallout 3, any MMO. My time is now too precious to me.

For the most part I am inclined to agree, mostly because I'm a thirty-something with responsabilities who gets MAYBE 2-3 hours a night to play. I have a slew of titles on my shelf, all started most not finished simply because of thier length.

GoW, GoW2, Ao2, Ao2-40, ME, and ME2 are about the only recent games in the collection that I've gotten to see the final credits roll. Of those, only two titles are of the 20+ hour range and those two kept me entertained the whole way through (well, except for the mineral scanning nonsense in ME2 anyway, can't beleive we lost the MAKO for that garbage).

8 - 12 hours of good gameplay feels about right for me these days.

I disagree -- RPGs, at least, are supposed to be expansive. However, if you prefer to play a shooter like Modern Warfare, then have fun with it; but when we have a character to develop, 8 hours of gameplay isn't enough to really get to know her.

wtrmute:
I disagree -- RPGs, at least, are supposed to be expansive. However, if you prefer to play a shooter like Modern Warfare, then have fun with it; but when we have a character to develop, 8 hours of gameplay isn't enough to really get to know her.

You do know he just argued against that exact point? 8 hours is almost as long as the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Did you not get to know those characters?

I just like the fact that as a 9-5 Office Worker I can happily play a game with a good, long story for about a month. Longer games, at least longer games like Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age and (likely) Final Fantasy 13 are much more value and enjoyment for my money than a one shot weekend like a Call of Duty title. But this is a personal thing, I've always enjoyed "longer stories" as opposed to shorter ones, preferring the 4 good Seasons of Babylon 5 to say a single Sci-Fi film.

I suppose it has something to do with investment in characters. I can't really "connect" with the characters in a 5-8 hour narrative, they're just quick little flashes in the pan. I don't get into their personalities or find them nearly as compelling or interesting as those in a longer tale, there's no time to develop their stories and watch them change, just enough time to see them react to events in the game.

I suppose I could make commentary regarding Mr. Funk, his endless devotion to WoW and his disparaging comments towards my new favorite game but... it would be a pointless flame war. I'll just agree to disagree with Mr. Funk... politely of course, the man has excellent taste in Gundam.

I'm terribly disappointed by the seeming assertion that a longer game automatically includes a majority of crap with its bit of good and that length = collecting stuff and grinding.

I totally agree that we should get value, but that doesn't only mean replayability.

Would Dragon Age have been better if you didn't go around the different races recruiting help and just went straight from Ostagar to fighting the Dragon?

It would have been bloody ridiculous.

Certain games need certain things and I'm tired of people not realising (at least in good games) that the journey is the goal, not the completion of it.

It's always nice to see moderate responses on this site - that's why I prefer it over others. I can understand what you mean - I bought Mass Effect 2 the day after launch day but I still haven't played it because I was worried about getting my Shepard up to the maximum level before setting him loose in the sequel. The nearly fifty hours of gameplay I have accumulated doing that, while rewarding, also felt intimidating. Overall I think I'm glad though; I don't think I'll get similar times like these to really go for it for such a long time, as it looks like as I get older and more involved with work or, hopefully with a familly one day, the amount of time I have available to play videogames will decrease.

I think it depends on the game. As said, Portal is great and very short. Dragon Age is great and rather long. While length does not equal quality, length can be a quality of it's own (and I don't think anyone can really argue that getting at least 40 hrs out of a $60 purchase is better value than about 10 hrs for the same amount, assuming both are great games).

I do definitely think it's a fallacy to compare a game to a movie in this sense as it's far more than length that separates them. It's akin to saying that looking at a really tasty piece of cake is the same as eating it. Did we get to know the characters in the LOTR movies? Sure we did, but did we really get to see them grow and evolve like the characters in Dragon Age? Forget about grinding through Moria, what if we wanted to just explore it. In a LOTR game you can do that, in the movie you can't. What if I find don't just want to find out about Gimli in a scene or two, but want to have conversations with him and fight countless battles with him at my side?

I can see why some consider length to be a potential negative to a game depending on their lifestyle/level of interest/etc. but to essentially be saying that length is bad or offers no possible opposing upside? That's just incorrect.

Regarding retro gaming: in the past few months I indulged myself with the Wii virtual console. I can say that older games are in fact not necessarily longer. For instance, Secret of Mana, a staple of my childhood, went by so very fast and had a considerable amount of grind to it as well. Paper Mario (N64) wasn't that long either, but parts of that game are so fantastic that it's a great value.

That said, there is no real quantifiable indicator of "value" beyond how much of a timesink a game is, so it's not uncommon for it to be analyzed as such. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Ward's article, however, because as he says, "10 hours of awesome is much better than 5 hours of awesome, spliced with 20 hours of crap."

seditary:
I'm terribly disappointed by the seeming assertion that a longer game automatically includes a majority of crap with its bit of good and that length = collecting stuff and grinding.

I totally agree that we should get value, but that doesn't only mean replayability.

Would Dragon Age have been better if you didn't go around the different races recruiting help and just went straight from Ostagar to fighting the Dragon?

It would have been bloody ridiculous.

Certain games need certain things and I'm tired of people not realising (at least in good games) that the journey is the goal, not the completion of it.

Dragon Age - which coincidentally doesn't tout it's time as a bullet-point (instead favoring a quick blurb on the back of its box) - is mired in many, many pointless sidequests. I've been walking back and forth across the entirety of Ferelden so many times that I can't help but wonder exactly how long each trek takes, and how long the Darkspawn are willing to wait for me to deliver letters. Would it have been better off without them, or fewer? I can't say that, but it would be different and probably not worse.

-addendum-
Actually, this reminds me of the the Dragon Age novel, "The Stolen Throne" that I read recently. The story it tells is quite epic in scope and covers years of time with many important events, and yet is extremely streamlined. There are parts of the book that go, "And these two characters rode north with a small band, dodging armies and parleying with nobles as they could while fending off the occasional ambush by their enemies..." and I couldn't help but think about how if this was a GRRM novel, he would have gone about all of that in painstaking, real-time detail. Perhaps this contributes to the "length = value" correlation - the author (or developer) has the space to really flesh out their vision, meaning more content for the consumer. More content means longer time to explore that content, and so it follows that it's easy to draw the logical fallacy that the latter also implies the former.

I don't think I'm interested in encouraging game developers to shorten their games any. Certain games, yes, they do better in small doses. Portal was pretty much the perfect length. But I wouldn't be as interested in Dragon Age or Mass Effect if they were 10 hour games versus 30-40 hour epics. RPG's are supposed to be big and expansive, let's just keep them that way.

I do agree with Ward in this. The first time I played Mass Effect it took me a good few weeks to get into the game. I remember wandering around aimlessly, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do. I have no problems with lengthy games, but for sheer playability I prefer something when I can jump straight into the action. COD: World at War, with its terrible single player campaign (which I never finished) is still on high rotation in my PS3 due to the fantastically simple Nazi Zombie mode. It's frantic, it's fun and I can play it for hours. You can pick it up anytime, for as little or as long as long as you want and it won't detract from the experience.
What I'm saying is that it's the quality of a game that makes it enjoyable and makes you coming back for more. I mean, on Zombies, I have spent $70 for the game, an extra $40 for the maps and countless hours trying to beat round 39. I got my money's worth.

I never felt like I had to "grind" in Dragon Age or Mass Effect. I did side quests when I wanted to, and progressed the main quest. I never felt like I did with say a final fantasy game, where you need to level up at certain points and this requires endless battles.

Most western RPGs from about the 90s onwards are like this, so you don't have to kill every monster, nor complete every side-quest.

The ability to save and come back to a game helps me balance my gaming with social and work time, since I might only have a couple of hours in an evening for gaming.

At the moment, I'm replaying Mass Effect and Jagged Alliance 2 as well as recently started Titan Quest and Men of War. I don't feel intimidated by this (nor the other games I have yet to start), and find it hard to believe that you can't just consider spreading those thirty hours over a month... suddenly when you talk about an hour a day it doesn't seem so bad?

I agree with you entirely. My favorite games of all time have been 6-8 hours long: Portal and Machinarium among them. You can play World of Warcraft for thousands of hours, but you've discovered everything it has to offer within about 12 hours: the rest is just repeats.

Which brings up an interesting point: multiplayer games naturally have more replayability than single player games. A single player game only has so much story, so many enemies, and so many challenges, but a multiplayer game is continually changing. Sure, it only has so many levels or weapons, and these parts can get old, but your competition is always different. People are the ultimate random variable and this guarantees that each encounter will be different from the last.

But in single player land, 80 hours is frustrating. I really do want to see the end of Dragon Age: Origins -- I even want to replay it with different characters and different strategies -- but I don't have the free time to devote. I don't care how good the ending is, I can't play through 80 hours of the same game to get there: it's not worth it. At least with Portal or Machinarium, I only had to play 8 hours to be rewarded with the ending.

That's not to say that really short games would be better. I don't want a game that just gives away the ending in 30 seconds. The time and challenge it takes to get there is what makes it rewarding. But there's only so much effort I'm willing to put in; the reward needs to be commensurate with the challenge. I'm willing to spend a month working on a woman to get her to sleep with me, especially if I think it will lead to a steady stream of sexual encounters, but I wouldn't spend more than a few minutes trying to procure a chocolate bar. Likewise, I'm not willing to play a game for 80 hours just to see the ending, anymore than I would watch an 80 hour movie. It might be a great story, but it's not worth that much.

So why would I play Team Fortress 2 for over 100 hours when I haven't spent more than 12 hours on Dragon Age? Because Team Fortress doesn't cease being fun. Dragon Age is only interesting because I'm chasing down a story, but it happens slowly; I spend most of my time talking to people, killing enemies, and otherwise trying to fight my way through the storyline. But the whole goal of TF2 is to play it: the nail-biting rush of trying to overcome your opponent in frantic combat is its own reward.

In "On the Ball: Scanning, for Fun and Profit", Jordan Deam explained how ME2's mining seemed like it would add depth to the game, but it really just resulted in a terrible grind. This is no different than how many 80 hour games become boring. Chasing down quests can be fun, and fighting to stay alive can be thrilling, but when you are forced to do something unengaging for long periods of time only because it stands between you and what you really want, it's boring, frustrating, and decidedly not fun. At least when I'm shooting my opponent in TF2, I'm doing so not necessarily so I can win the round (though that's a bonus), but really because I want to shoot my opponent. The goal itself isn't as interesting as the journey.

Mirrors Edge was a very good game and just the perfect length. I just wish Mirrors Edge 2 would come out already.

I think you probably could have ended your article on the first page and your point would have been made. That "brevity is the point of wit" thing was particularly clever and I think really summed up your argument. It would have been a great line to end your article on. You probably could have squeezed in the bit on the second page about length not necessarily equaling quality if you'd trimmed the fat in your opening.

My point (which I could have gotten to earlier) is that when I play a game for six hours and stop, I don't think to myself "I wish this game were shorter, then I'd be done." I think "I wish this game were better, then I'd be more interested in playing it for many hours more."

Mmm I do agree that collectible type things in games are awful. There's no reason to have them present and they aren't fun, they're just something to add a pile of length to the gameplay.

I'm not sure how I feel about cutting out other aspects though. I suppose you're right that 10 hours of mediocre is worse than 2 hours of well done fun, but sometimes I'm just killing time with games and it feels like a rip off to only get 2 hours.

Not that I entirely disagree with you, but this"

After 3 hours of Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring, did you feel sufficiently involved in the Fellowship's journey? Would it have been more emotionally affecting if Gandalf had grinded around Moria for ten hours before the Balrog dragged him down into the abyss? Did you need to see Boromir have long, pointless conversations on various topics with all the other Fellowship party members to fully understand his betrayal and subsequent redemption?

Is a horrible analogue. Films are non-linear pieces of entertainment. Through editing, time is manipulated to suit a films pace, give emotional context -basically cram all the really important stuff- into a very small timeframe.

Games by contrast are completely linear: you play from one end to another. As such, film style time manipulation is out of the question.

It's not that short games can't have good story, but if they do it's for completely different reasons than films.

I honestly don't feel a game's length has so much to do with it's quality, as it does with the type of gamer who'll enjoy it. That being said, I'd abhor the idea of encouraging the industry to further truncate single player campaigns. I see people complaining about slogging through side quests in Dragon Age, why in god's name would you slog[/i] through any portion of a game, why would you [b]grind through any portion of a game (barring an mmo of course, an altogether different breed of beast). Such actions imply that you take next to nothing out of the actions involved, that in essence, playing, that portion of the game is merely a means to an end. That's damn near masochism. After over two hundred hours of DA, I can't remember grinding once. Why? Because I enjoyed sniffing out the side quest, I enjoyed stumbling over a babbling dwarf in the pub, spouting out gibberish about some horrible thing chasing him. I enjoyed that seemingly meaningless encounter, even when I didn't realize that twelve hours later, it would culminate in

.

Now... did those two hundred plus hours come in some massive multi week slew of non-stop eyebleeding gaming? No, they came in two maybe three hour bits four days a week or so (save for those first few ravenous, sleepless nights. University, work, church, concerts, parties... these things are natural, regular, occurrences. But every now an then, when the circumstances permitted and the itch set in, I'd pick up the bloody controller, and I'd have a blast. And now, I look forward to the same process with Mass Effect 2, and DA: Awakening.

Why are epic lengths games suddenly being compared with movies? As someone stated earlier, that's a fallacy, it doesn't make a great deal of sense. Rather, compare a 40 hour game, to a good, thick, tasty book. Yes, a book, those things that have become so foreign in this day and age, you know, the things with the bazillionty sheets of notebook paper and tiny print? Who sits down and reads Dune in one setting? It's not bloody healthy, and I doubt it's likely to be altogether enthralling. No, you read a meaty book, bit by bit. Let's hark back to the days of middle school, and twenty five minute bus rides. What did these bus rides consist of a.) chatting, and only in the afternoons b.) sleeping, more a morning ride activity, or c.) reading! In fact, nearly all time spent in an educational facility that didn't involve true active learning, piddled off into one of the three activities. And thus Dune 1-6 was read, bit, by bit, by bit. Savoring ever flavor, relishing every passage.

A western RPG tends to follow the framework of a book, at the very least in the sense, that you get as much out of it, as you put into it. If you were the kid who saw moving pictures with each passing senses, detected subplots, and got lost in a good novel, hell, a western RPG is probably for you. But if you need hook, line, and sinker wrapped, shipped, and in your hands before supper or bed time, then hell, relish the five and half hour campaign. Not necessarily a bad thing, there's a time and place for everything (Heavenly Sword was fucking brilliant), but gods above, don't shit all over a thing so many hold so dear.

And btw, who the hell spent a hundred hours on a single DA playthrough, takes like forty hours tops to 100% complete at a relatively, leisurely pace.

StevieWonderMk2:

wtrmute:
I disagree -- RPGs, at least, are supposed to be expansive. However, if you prefer to play a shooter like Modern Warfare, then have fun with it; but when we have a character to develop, 8 hours of gameplay isn't enough to really get to know her.

You do know he just argued against that exact point? 8 hours is almost as long as the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Did you not get to know those characters?

Both are correct. A lot of "long" RPGs have endless amounts of grinding and pointless BS that exist for no other reason then to artificially add length and could be cut without adversely effecting the game at all. However comparing the LoTR movies to a game thats set out to tell a good High Fantasy epic has its problems. They cut out large chunks of material from the source in order to shrink the movies down to a sane length. What they cut wasn't needed to tell the story, but it wasn't pointless or bad either. LoTR is quite short for that genre as well, only clocking in at 450k words (The mass of later books fleshing out the back story aside.). The Belgariad series clocks in at around 700k words, A Song of Fire and Ice is at around one and a half million with three more books expected, and the Wheel of Time saga is expected to finish at an insane 15 books and with a total word count of around five million.

A game should be as long as it needs to be in order to tell it's story. A well told game that lasts six hours, may be better then one that lasts forty but is half pointless filler but the inverse applies as well. A game that takes forty hours and has a very well told story with minimal amounts of BS is a hell of a lot better then one that tries to tell its story in 6 hours and as a result comes across as very rushed, with characters you don't give the slightest damn about.

Lord_Awesome:

My point (which I could have gotten to earlier) is that when I play a game for six hours and stop, I don't think to myself "I wish this game were shorter, then I'd be done." I think "I wish this game were better, then I'd be more interested in playing it for many hours more."

/applaus!!!

I disagree strongly with everything presented here. This is just... just awful. How long might it take you to read Milton's Paradise Lost? Or to teach yourself a new skill, like how to draw or knit, or in your case, write? (ok, cheap shot, disregard).

Thirty hours is not unplayable, unwieldy or lazy. Sure I hate filler quests and grinding, that's why I don't play MMO's but Mass Effect (the first one at least) used every moment of those hours to build a world. Every side quest, every dialogue and every visual "taught" you something about a world worth knowing. That world is back now, and it will mean more to people who put the time in the first one.

Also, Mass Effect one could easily be completed in 9 hours. Less actually, if you just charge through the main story. I know, I've done it. The game was exactly as long as you wanted it to be.

Is bigger necessarily better? No. But if you start telling me that Modern Warfare 2 was a fair size, I am simply going to stop listening to you. It was disgustingly, repulsively short. Most people paid about 60 dollars for it, and were done in one sitting. That is unacceptable, it is a disservice.

I'm sorry that you aren't in a position to prioritize your sources of entertainment. I'm sorry you're completely unwilling to not play every excellent game. I'm sorry you're not in a position to sympathize with those who feel that 10 dollars per hour of entertainment is ridiculous.
But its really your problem, not something worthy of a whole article.

pneuma08:
Dragon Age - which coincidentally doesn't tout it's time as a bullet-point (instead favoring a quick blurb on the back of its box) - is mired in many, many pointless sidequests. I've been walking back and forth across the entirety of Ferelden so many times that I can't help but wonder exactly how long each trek takes, and how long the Darkspawn are willing to wait for me to deliver letters. Would it have been better off without them, or fewer? I can't say that, but it would be different and probably not worse.

Its not mired simply because they are sidequests, you don't have to do them at all. I was talking about integral parts of the game, not miscellaneous fluff.

Length also comes down to gameplay though, how much time is spent actually playing the game as opposed to experiencing the narrative. Most longer games tend to spend more percentage of the time spent playing with narrative than shorter games do. Either situation is not good or bad in of itself, it all depends on the individual game.

Thats not the same thing. Lord Of the Rings was a movie, which is a medium where everything is already preset and is devoted entirely to the story and character development. In video games people directly participate, and usually a majority of the game is taken up by gameplay, and not character development.

And I really think tight, short games like MoW2. Some games are allowed too much time to ramble on and bore you while a short game (if its not too short and doesn't have an ending), or rather, a game that must be short due to budget or something, tells a much tighter, more fulfilling story, and usually you won;'t have to worry about things like repetitive gameplay (No More Heroes is the exception). And I thought MoW2 had a terrible story, but great gameplay, not to give anyone the wrong idea.

Crunchy English:
I disagree strongly with everything presented here. This is just... just awful. How long might it take you to read Milton's Paradise Lost? Or to teach yourself a new skill, like how to draw or knit, or in your case, write? (ok, cheap shot, disregard).

Thirty hours is not unplayable, unwieldy or lazy. Sure I hate filler quests and grinding, that's why I don't play MMO's but Mass Effect (the first one at least) used every moment of those hours to build a world. Every side quest, every dialogue and every visual "taught" you something about a world worth knowing. That world is back now, and it will mean more to people who put the time in the first one.

Also, Mass Effect one could easily be completed in 9 hours. Less actually, if you just charge through the main story. I know, I've done it. The game was exactly as long as you wanted it to be.

Is bigger necessarily better? No. But if you start telling me that Modern Warfare 2 was a fair size, I am simply going to stop listening to you. It was disgustingly, repulsively short. Most people paid about 60 dollars for it, and were done in one sitting. That is unacceptable, it is a disservice. I'm sorry that you aren't in a position to prioritize your sources of entertainment. I'm sorry you're completely unwilling to not play every excellent game. I'm sorry you're not in a position to sympathize with those who feel that 10 dollars per hour of entertainment is ridiculous.
But its really your problem, not something worthy of a whole article.

That MW2 sucked in many other ways (esp compared to the original) is besides the point.

I think he wasn't trying to attack the 42 or so hours it can take to play through ME or ME2, but games that have about 6 hours of actual content and 34 hours of boring filler (I'm looking at you Prey). I could probably argue that ME2 inverses that arrangement with 34 hours of some of the most fulfilling CRPG gameplay I've encountered since ME... and 8 hours of mind-numbing dullness scanning for minerals (LOL), but nobody gets everything right. Besides, the end sequence of the game is at the very least a good payoff for that 8 hours.

Personally, I like large games, as I have a lot of free time, but little disposable income, so any game which can't entertain me for a week feels wasteful, at full price. I recently played through Far Cry 2 in three days, and even without many breaks from it, it didn't get repetetive due to moving between stealth, sniping, heavy assault, and abusing Bush Fires. I used simulars tricks whilst traveling: Sometimes going off road; sometimes driving; sometimes sneaking past enemy camps; sometimes piloting a boat. I personally played Dragon Age in a week, and thoroughly enjoyed it and was honestly OFFENDED when the game ended. I set out to complete every game I buy, before my friends (I am "in competition" with BioShock 2 at the moment) and therefore need long games, in my opinion games should always supply a minimum of ten hours game play (SP) and some Multiplayer (Unless the games design flows entirely on Single Player then Multiplayer doesn't work: HL2DM for example). Ofcourse this is all subjective, so disregard it if you dissagree, but don't hate me.

StevieWonderMk2:
You do know he just argued against that exact point? 8 hours is almost as long as the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Did you not get to know those characters?

I do know he argued against that exact same point, and I disagree with him over it. I also got to know the characters in the Lord of the Rings trilogy pretty well, over about a week or two of reading those books.

Anyway, it's one thing for a passive medium like a book or a movie to present a characterisation in half an hour; it's completely different for a medium where I supply part of that characterisation -- I generally need time to get to know the world and figure out how a game is best played.

Another example: I had to play through Crysis: Warhead about four times in order to understand all the weapons and suit enhancements and get a feel for which were my favourites, and there are still some that I haven't explored properly. And that's a FPS... When we go into skills, internalising all the myriad things require a lot more than just seven hours of gameplay. Of course, I don't begrudge the fans of short games their fun; I, myself, prefer the longer ones.

This article completely missed the point. Size always matters. Whether that size is big or small depends on the game.

Royas:
I don't think I'm interested in encouraging game developers to shorten their games any. Certain games, yes, they do better in small doses. Portal was pretty much the perfect length. But I wouldn't be as interested in Dragon Age or Mass Effect if they were 10 hour games versus 30-40 hour epics. RPG's are supposed to be big and expansive, let's just keep them that way.

Agreed. When you get an RPG, or a game which has RPG elements. Most people are aware they will need to invest some time in them. With some games, yes, you can certainly complete them perhaps, in a day? Maybe a little more? With an RPG you know you have a commitment which make take weeks, if nto months to complete.

Christian Ward:
But when playing Shadow of the Colossus, was anyone disappointed by its lack of collectibles[...]

Erm, you mean shiney-tailed lizards, fruit, save shrines (did those allow quick-travel? I don't remember), and (apparently) forbidden fruit, time attack unlockables, and the brown and white horses?

Games like shadow of the colossus and demons souls show that there does not need to be 15 hours of mind-numbing small talk to create a experience.

Both games had little-no story line, no character interaction and you pretty much knew NOTHING of the main character.

Turning the corner to see my first colossus as well as exploring Boletaria was more thrilling and memorable than anything i rememeber in any final fantasy game or long-winded RPG (and i love FF games, so thats saying something).

In RPGs, length equals depth inasmuch as a system has layers you only uncover by spending more time with it. However, in most cases it's an illusion created by hours of grinding. Grinding in itself can prove satisfying, but if you strip away the trimmings and look at a game's core only to find a relatively shallow experience then I don't see it as something which is worth my time.

Disgaea is the perfect example. It takes hundreds of hours to power up your characters and while there's plenty of abilities to learn and master the actual gameplay comes down to "overpower the shit out of your opponent." Maybe it changes at the highest echelons of play, I don't know-the barrier to entry is too high for me to bother when I can go back and play Fire Emblem or FF Tactics again. (Without the broken classes.)

The numbered Final Fantasy games are a little less extreme but they all share the same fundamental problem. It can take hours to train up various magics, many of which are absolutely useless. Aside from a rare glitch like Vanish+Doom status ailments never hit their target (not when it matters) and everything else is just a timesink for your average player. The hardcore can get through the whole game at level one but your ordinary everyman is going to need higher levels (and high-level abilities) to get past later bosses. This means that while you don't have to grind in theory you'll end up doing it anyways. Later games are better about this, and some even have real depth (XII has one of the deepest systems in the whole series) but the senseless timesink gets pretty tiring when all it does is bar me from the content I want to experience. Reward me with challenging fights I win through smart tactics, not hours upon hours of grinding and min/maxing my equipment sets. Preparation is part of strategy but it shouldn't be all of it.

That's not to say there is no place for your traditional 40 hour experiences, just that length has no actual correlation with quality and focusing on that bullet point is holding the medium back rather than enabling it to expand.

Zombie Nixon:
This article completely missed the point. Size always matters. Whether that size is big or small depends on the game.

I totally agree with this.

Some games are like this, and some games are like that. Some are long, and some are not so long. I really don't see the point of this discussion of length in videogames given the fact that there are plenty of quality games at varying lengths. We are hardly at a point where we are seeing 24+ hour games around every corner.

So yeah...

I'll say it plainly that I don't think movies and games compare. Surely a better comparison is a Tv half season e.g. Oz or The Shield. A typical 6-10 hour game versus an 8 - 12 episode run. The end of a 2 hour movie or 8 hour movie trilogy may be a major milestone, but the end of a season of The Wire is of much less importance for the whole season. What really matters is the characters you meet, the issues they tackle, the world you learn about and all the inbetween details along the way.
P.s: To say you don't have the time, patience, or inclination for The Wire is the death penalty, be warned.

It takes time to build a relationship even if it is with a bunch pixels or a wall of text, and as good a job developers do at giving details while the shooty bits are happening, they all let you concentrate on the action when it gets intense, and stop for a breather at times to break up the game a bit.

Certainly I made a connection with modern warfare 2, but the strongest by far were with the visceral moments of action and with Price and Soap. I feel it's only those three because they are the largest (read: longest, but also most plot-centric) aspects of not only MW2, but also its predecessor. Given the two campaigns (where the two characters work together often and the action is non-stop) I've spent maybe 5-6 hours apiece with Price and Soap, as much or more than with any character in the roughly 20 hours its taken for each Mass Effect game. This is to say that its not the 30 hour, or 8 hour length of a game, It's the time spent with a character and all the details you glean about them in that time. I think there is an upper cap on the amount of details you can give a player before it just becomes obvious exposition, and it is the appropriate timing on what information to give and when that can enrich an experience instead of holding it back.

As for the settings of RPGs, whether fantasy or scifi:
Building a large cohesive world simply takes time, done well or not. Not because of desire for length, but because the human mind can only take in so much information at once. That MW2 simply chose to set it on plain old earth, present day is the shortcut for audiences and developers who aren't interested in the development and discovery of new worlds, and as long as they don't turn around and bemoan the endless stream of World War 2 games this is fine and good.

I hope all this makes any sense when its read in one go.

tl;dr, good things take time, the more quantity of good, the more quantity of time.

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