176: To Do: Finish Any Game

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To Do: Finish Any Game

Has beating games gone the way of the American arcade? Tom Endo examines the completion conundrum and how developers can solve it.

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Good story. I heartily agree - and I guess that a move towards smaller (cheaper?) games with paid addons (extra chapters?) might represent the ultimate way to go... and the best way to enjoy the medium too.

Games seem to have gone one of two directions: Become nearly endless (with tons of sidequests, sandbox play or something like an MMO which never, ever ends), or become almost too short, but very tightly constructed and with a compelling narrative.

I think success for the game industry lies in creating games that are both. Provide a short single player storyline that enables someone to feel like they 'beat the game', while giving the option to complete a wider variety of objectives for those who want to sink more time into the game.

World of Warcraft is a pretty good example of this - there are oodles of things you can do by yourself or with a small group that don't require looking towards beating the end bosses. But at the same time, those intent on grinding towards the end can do so, giving them the satisfaction of 'finishing the game'.

This is very much an area where episodic releases come into play. Based on the points made in the article regarding duration of storyline, it would be fair to guess that more people would complete these games due to their shorter length. As the storyline in these games would progress much faster, people may get more of a sense that they are actually progressing through the game, and thus be more motivated to carry on playing.

Additionally, if the player does not like the game and chooses not to continue, then they probably would not feel like they had wasted a large amount of money, compared to the experience of paying for a 'standard' game and only making it half-way through.

Great article.

domicius:
Good story. I heartily agree - and I guess that a move towards smaller (cheaper?) games with paid addons (extra chapters?) might represent the ultimate way to go... and the best way to enjoy the medium too.

I was reading the article and thinking the exact same thing. If the developer lets me invest just as much time, money, and energy into the experience that I want, I greatly admire them.

On another point, I can't recall how many games hooked me into the story, but I just didn't have the energy to PLAY the game to finish out the story. I suspect that the article is correct; we are going to see shorter, front-loaded, or episodic stories going forwards.

Definitely an excellent article.

donbueck:
On another point, I can't recall how many games hooked me into the story, but I just didn't have the energy to PLAY the game to finish out the story. I suspect that the article is correct; we are going to see shorter, front-loaded, or episodic stories going forwards.

I agree. Many games hook me in with their story. But often I start to lose the energy to actually finish the game once the gameplay gets repetitive. Or, as the article says, I've "figured out" the game and can predict what the opponents are going to do, easily counter them, and then move on.

The games that really drew me in were constantly giving me new gameplay challenges as well as new story elements that made me wonder.

I also have to say that the "pick up and play" element really helps. One of the great things about Diablo II was that I could play for an hour, maybe even half and hour...and be done for the day. One of the reasons I cannot finish many narrative games is that I know that if I sit down, I'm going to want to be with that game for at least two hours uninterrupted.

I have to completely disagree with your viewpoint on video games. I usually choose games specifically because of an extended narrative and view them in the same vein you describe for movies and books. It's an expected point of pride to complete the game (and here I'm using "complete" as you have: finishing the story arc) and it's only the truly poor games that I choose not to finish.

It simply sounds to me like you're trying to play too many games (a problem I must confess to as well). We don't have enough time to read every great book or watch every great movie, what makes us think we'd have enough time to play every great game?

Oh - the Director's Cut of Legend is pretty good - you should see it :)

Personally, I think you're looking at it all wrong. When you play a game, you are being introduced to a world. You can't expect to see it all in two hours any more than you can see London in two hours. It shouldn't be just like the movies - just over in two hours - and if it's anything like television, then that's because it's a longer-term investment of time and emotions, even if you don't see every episode and even if you stop watching before the end.

I stopped playing Vampire TMB before the end just like I stopped watching Nip/Tuck after series 3. Doesn't mean I didn't love either - and nor does it preclude me from going back to finish it another time. I saw enough to know that I enjoyed it very much and would recommend it. I'm under no obligation to rush out and buy season 4 tomorrow - nor am I obliged to load up Vampire and start again, having lost all my saves.

I finish some games, some books, and watch every episode of some TV shows - but those are rare. The important thing is to have seen at least some of it - like spending a few hours in different cities. They'll still be there when you go back to them, and Rome wasn't explored in a day.

mattaui:
I think success for the game industry lies in creating games that are both. Provide a short single player storyline that enables someone to feel like they 'beat the game', while giving the option to complete a wider variety of objectives for those who want to sink more time into the game.

It was done in Assassin's Creed. Sadly people either complained that it was too short or they complained that the side quests made it too long. Apparently many of those who want to reach the end fast also want to explore all the side quests, while many of those who want tons of side quests also want to finish the game NOW. As usual, some people can't be satisfied no matter what developers do.

ashtonium:
I have to completely disagree with your viewpoint on video games. I usually choose games specifically because of an extended narrative and view them in the same vein you describe for movies and books. It's an expected point of pride to complete the game (and here I'm using "complete" as you have: finishing the story arc) and it's only the truly poor games that I choose not to finish.

It simply sounds to me like you're trying to play too many games (a problem I must confess to as well). We don't have enough time to read every great book or watch every great movie, what makes us think we'd have enough time to play every great game?

My thoughts as well.

ashtonium:
I have to completely disagree with your viewpoint on video games. I usually choose games specifically because of an extended narrative and view them in the same vein you describe for movies and books. It's an expected point of pride to complete the game (and here I'm using "complete" as you have: finishing the story arc) and it's only the truly poor games that I choose not to finish.

It simply sounds to me like you're trying to play too many games (a problem I must confess to as well). We don't have enough time to read every great book or watch every great movie, what makes us think we'd have enough time to play every great game?

COMPLETELY agree. I play through every game I buy to the end unless it's just a crap game. some games are fun for a little while but in general just aren't all that enthralling. those may well get good reviews, but they just don't have the holding power.

I find that now that I have my own job, house and income I tend to want to buy every game that looks good, but when I do so I skip out substantially more in my gaming regardless of game quality. I've had to learn to buy only the most promising games available and play through those and then save the decent games for the slow seasons.

Beery:
It was done in Assassin's Creed. Sadly people either complained that it was too short or they complained that the side quests made it too long. Apparently many of those who want to reach the end fast also want to explore all the side quests, while many of those who want tons of side quests also want to finish the game NOW. As usual, some people can't be satisfied no matter what developers do.

but Assassin's Creed's side quest content was boring and tedious in an extreme. who wants to crawl around rooftops for hours killing off the same guards over and over trying to find obscure flags just to say you found them all? I played through all of the old kirby games to 100% completion because I only had to find one doorway to get to that point, and I didn't mind doing so. the same with Super Mario World. today's games pack on hours and hours of tedium for players to sift through as opposed to coming up with actually FUN extra content.

Your last name is Endo and you walked out of Pineapple Express? That's weak.

Thank God this is getting pointed out to developers more and more. Make the blasted games shorter and more episodic and people will finish them. Three hours is a torturous length for a film, why would a video game be any different?

Another good example of this is TellTale's adventure games. They're all fairly easy and have built-in hint systems. You can usually get through an episode in one to two sittings and enjoy the content before your attention span totally kicks out. I know the new Alone in the Dark experimented with it as well.

Why not just keep running with it? Why not have a Call of Duty come out that has five different episodes involving pitched battles in totally different wars and weapons? You improve value, you improve player experience, and you improve the game's options all at once.

airship:
Your last name is Endo and you walked out of Pineapple Express? That's weak.

I was not anticipating anyone making a reference to Doggystyle. But yes, it is weak, if not quite as weak as that movie.

I find I stop playing most games because they cease being a challenge - there is no question that I could complete the game if I wanted, its just a case of sinking 20 more hours into it. And I cant be arsed. Graphics may continue to evolve, but most games still have AI from the '90s - even games that make their AI a selling point on the box, like Supreme Commander, are cringe-worthy. There is no challenge in the single player part of most games after the concepts are understood.

The other problem I run into are bugs. I played UFO: Aftershock for a long way through, then my save got corrupted and that was that. X3: Terran Conflict I started, but again, bugs and poor AI made me decide to put the game down and wait for it to be patched into a better state.

Deus Ex combined length and narrative in a beautiful way. The plot always had a major question that needed to be answered at every turn, and it was its engrossing, player-defined approach to the game's solutions - both plotistically and physically - that made it such a great game. I personally mourn the shortness of many new games, especially if they are very well done, otherwise. I, for one, have no trouble beating games - even as a husband and parent - as I aim to get the experience I paid for. That, and I consider completing a game a sort of badge of honor. I think the newer gamers, spurred on by the excitement in the console industry, are mostly the ones who will jump from new game to new game, like a weekend fling. To them the approach to the experience of a new title is, "What's this like?" rather than, "How will this end?" They came, they saw, and made their judgement. The narrative seems almost unnecessary (Call of Duty games are a prime example of this. Many people who sink hundreds of hours into them online never played the singleplayer campaign.)

mattaui:
Games seem to have gone one of two directions: Become nearly endless (with tons of sidequests, sandbox play or something like an MMO which never, ever ends), or become almost too short, but very tightly constructed and with a compelling narrative.

I think success for the game industry lies in creating games that are both. Provide a short single player storyline that enables someone to feel like they 'beat the game', while giving the option to complete a wider variety of objectives for those who want to sink more time into the game.

World of Warcraft is a pretty good example of this - there are oodles of things you can do by yourself or with a small group that don't require looking towards beating the end bosses. But at the same time, those intent on grinding towards the end can do so, giving them the satisfaction of 'finishing the game'.

I agree. I used to be of the "play the hell out of a game until the disc is too worn to load" mentality, but nowadays I'm more impressed with a tight 4-6 hours experience with no downtime or redundancy. In a way, this is sort of a Portal vs. BioShock debate, and I think even the latter's most ardent fans will admit that you could trim a few hours from that experience.

I can't relate to this article at all because i complete the vast majority of the games i play and so do most of the people i know...so i have to say i'm suprised by the amount of people who have a agreed with you because i thought completing them was the whole point! It's definately teaching me another side to gamers.

I think one disincentive to completing a game are certain kinds of unlockables--the kind with the arbitrary unlocking conditions.

When you're 2/3 of the way through a game, the FAQ finally comes up, and you find out you can only get the best weapon/class/costume/whatever by having done random shit way at the beginning of the game, well, that's a good reason to pull the disc out right there and sell the game back out of spite.

ashtonium:
I have to completely disagree with your viewpoint on video games. I usually choose games specifically because of an extended narrative and view them in the same vein you describe for movies and books. It's an expected point of pride to complete the game (and here I'm using "complete" as you have: finishing the story arc) and it's only the truly poor games that I choose not to finish.

It simply sounds to me like you're trying to play too many games (a problem I must confess to as well). We don't have enough time to read every great book or watch every great movie, what makes us think we'd have enough time to play every great game?

I can't say I finish every game I'd like to, but I do acknowledge a sense of accomplishment to doing so. In fact I tend to organize my games in certain levels of priority.

Those which I truly want to play at that moment, once I'm done I go on to those which I usually want to play, finish the story arc, but am not all excited about. Usually these are decent games, but not the ones that completely immerse me in their worlds and entertain me hours on end. On the other hand, there are always are those games which simply do not make the cut. We try no to to buy those, but sometimes they're just no your style, aren't the type of game that demand extreme commitment, or simply suck to the point where you don't want to play.

Nevertheless, kudos for the article Tom. It reveals much the importance and difference between games and other mediums. A topic that must be and is continually discussed.

Jordan Deam:
I agree. I used to be of the "play the hell out of a game until the disc is too worn to load" mentality, but nowadays I'm more impressed with a tight 4-6 hours experience with no downtime or redundancy. In a way, this is sort of a Portal vs. BioShock debate, and I think even the latter's most ardent fans will admit that you could trim a few hours from that experience.

I have to agree with this comment. A few hours could be trimmed in order to avoid unnecessary repetition.

From what I understand, repetition is inherent to the game in order to justify the price tag and claim "At least 10 hours of gameplay" as an advantage.

It seems times are changing though, and what we need is more quality than quantity, after all gamers (the older generation at least) don't have the same free time available they once had.

Some games have opted for shorter "single player campaigns" and though the act alone is not enough, it seems like a step forward. Take Portal, Call of Duty 4, Fable 2, and Mass Effect, for example. All of these games offer content that caters to hardcore fans with hours at leisure, but their main story campaigns are considerably shorter in comparison to other games.

In my opinion, Portal, COD4, and Mass Effect offer short and linear, yet greatly executed, narrative arcs. Each with its own attributes (and Mass Effect scoring higher on the "hours played" count for being an RPG) and strengths justified the price tag even if not as long as the usual game from their respective genres.

I never finished Dead Space because I got tired of redoing a room over and over and over again trying to kill all the monsters so I could progress. I never finished Mirror's Edge because I got tired of having to repeat levels, or sections of levels, over and over again and over again just to learn the proper route and how to time my jumps properly for each. Essentially I do not have the time and energy to spend redoing sections of a game when I feel I should be progressing. I have a life to live, I have a full time job, I don't have time to waste with frustrating video games that force you to redo sections of the game.

On the flip side I have invested over 95 hours into FFXII and I replayed Bioshock and Max Payne 2 three times. Why? Because I loved the stories, characters, gameplay and environments. To note, a good story will keep me playing a video game more than amazing graphics or gameplay.

I'm an adult gamer, and from my perspective, I finish games at least 90% of the time. Even if I stop playing it for a month while I play something else, I make a point to go back and finish up where I left off. For me it's a question of economy, if I drop $60 for game you'd better believe that I want to get my money's worth. That's also why I'm so picky about the games that I play, I always read a couple reviews before I buy, and if it looks like something I won't finish, or it's a short (6hour) game I'll just rent it. The true test of a game is the replay value. There's a lot of games that I enjoyed, but if the gameplay is boring or not conducive to "pick-up-and-play" then I'll likely just play it once and let it collect dust.

You can't fairly compare games to movies though. Sure, they occupy the same couch space, but a movie is spoon-fed media with very little investment in time and money on the part of the audience. A (good) game is immersive entertainment, something you want to be sucked into and spend time with. It's the job of game studios to create worlds that people want to delve into, by creating compelling stories, interesting gameplay, and intuitive control schemes. It's the players responsibility to suspend their belief long enough to enjoy the experience. If you get bored playing a game once you've figured out how it works then maybe video games aren't for you. That'd be like quitting Super Mario once you figured out that all you needed to do to win was jump and shoot fireballs. :-\

I would like the idea of having a game that was similar to a movie. Perhaps a game that could only be 2 hours long and could sustain a story much like movies. Then again, you'd need a good game, so that you could enjoy playing/beating a game over and over again.

My saying is: "To know the value of a 1P game, you have to beat it at least twice."

I would like to see more games like Portal and Braid. They're short but challenging, for less than the price of a full game (Braid is about $15, I think Portal is $10 if bought on its own) But they give me my money's worth because they were so well done. Neither game has any filler. They don't try to stretch ideas more than they should. Instead they give you the best they have to offer and they end before they start running out of steam.

These are the kinds of games I talk about because they're the video game equivalent to a short story or short film, both of which I like. Short stories/films don't require a big time commitment and they're often just as good as the ones that take you hours to finish.

Speaking of which, does anybody know of any other really good video game "short stories"?

For me, the problem seems to be in their prioritization of content over execution. There's all these epic saga's with gigantic backstories and a very fleshed out world story, but in the end all it's all just information because there's no real effort made to suck you into the moment. And that's why, at least for me, games like Portal (and the old Abe games) and such were so fun. They didn't need to bombard you with backstory and motivations and the history of that rock over there. They simply made you feel like you were actually a part of whatever was going on.

When you take out the immersion in a games world or it's various situations, all you've got left is the core gameplay mechanics to play around with. Most single player games aren't too strong in the core gameplay department, and even if they are, there's only so much fun you can have playing with bots.
If I want to play an FPS that means nothing more to me than shooting people, an area in which multiplayer games excel, why wouldn't I just play a multiplayer game?

Deschamps:
I would like to see more games like Portal and Braid. They're short but challenging, for less than the price of a full game (Braid is about $15, I think Portal is $10 if bought on its own) But they give me my money's worth because they were so well done. Neither game has any filler. They don't try to stretch ideas more than they should. Instead they give you the best they have to offer and they end before they start running out of steam.

These are the kinds of games I talk about because they're the video game equivalent to a short story or short film, both of which I like. Short stories/films don't require a big time commitment and they're often just as good as the ones that take you hours to finish.

Speaking of which, does anybody know of any other really good video game "short stories"?

I would say indigo Prophecy, i found that it told quite a compelling story even if it does go completely loopy towards the end. It was short enough that it never dragged out, it was long enough that its well worth the price and i thought it was really enjoyable and easily in my top 5 games.

On topic though i've completed a fair few games and the ones i dont complete are for a very simple reason. They are or have become boring, simple as, if i dont enjoy it i'll stop playing, if that happens before the end of a game then o wells, if it doesnt happen and the end comes first then its a good game assuming it was long enough to be worth the price tag.

For the author. I bought my g/f the CSI Hard Evidence game for Xbox 360. Not only did she complete the whole game in a couple of days, but got me 1000 xbox gamer points on the way!

My personal reason that I have so many unfinished games, is usually getting bored part way through, or buying a newer, more interesting game before completing the first. Some I will go back to, but many more just gather dust on the shelf.

I'm all for episodic content. Give me 4-6 hours of a engaging story and fun gameplay for a reduced price. Drop a new episode every 4-6 months. He'll I'll subscribe to that.

I find myself more and more leaving games to rot, and not finishing them. However, it's not because I don't have time, it's that they don't interest me. I find the games I finish are the ones where the action is non-stopping, because it results in a continually interesting experience that keeps me hooked.

Oh, and goo article Endo.

I'd like to comment on something that this article brought to mind: The notion that story-driven games are a chore to play while games that do nothing but challenge our skills with little reward save for gloating about "beating Megaman 9 without taking a single hit" are all the rage.

I am of the mind that the opposite SHOULD be true... but have to sadly admit that I have seen far more people concerned with challenges of the increasingly difficult nature, rather than sitting down and enjoying a good story, or a simple to learn and fun to replay series of gameplay mechanics, or even the rarely seen 'go through the same game X number of times in an attempt to see all the possible variations'.

I LIKE being able to pick up my copy of an old 2-D Final Fantasy game and just dive into the story with only simple grinding that doesn't involve tracking or paying attention to 100 different stats or skills. I like being able to replay a game like Super Metroid over and over again, not because it overs an ever increasing challenge, but because it is something familiar that is practically built into me by now from all the many years I've spent replaying it. Super Mario World, and to some extent Super Mario 64, fit that notion quite well.

Far too often these days do I see people chanting "it's too easy" or "it's the same old thing over and over again". I am personally quite sick of seeing people say this, because I for one don't give to spits about 'challenge' or 'formulaic' gameplay. I don't care for difficulty in games anymore, because that just means it takes me longer to get through them. Increasingly used is the concept of genre-switching mini games of various degrees of difficulty (and all of them hard).

But far more than EVERY other aspect of the situation... the thing I'm seeing is that there are far too many new games coming out every year. You can go on about nostalgia and so forth in regard to the older years of gaming, but the fact was that not nearly as many games came out per year as we have today, and more often than not the games that did come out were better quality and had longer lasting appeal.

We didn't constantly "trade in the game that just came out!" bargins or deals, people weren't concerned with beating a game as fast as possible or being challenged to their limits. At least, I sure wasn't.

I have to admit that in today's increasingly boring (or insanely hard) video game selections, I'm finding myself far inclined to simply slap on Infinite Lives or Invincibility just to make it through some of these newer games where they put so much focus on "challenge" but not on actual gameplay or all around FUN. It's all about making it as hard as possible, or having you search an increasingly confusing huge city for a couple of tiny objects which you will never find without a map...

I can't take it anymore. I don't have the time for most new games today. I find myself returning far more often to the older ones, because they had less gimicks, more direct gameplay, and moved the story along with less necessary grind.

Kick Ass article Mr. Endo, well adresses some of the problems of Narrative in Games.

Excellent article Endo; very well articulated.

I can count the number of games I have finished on one hand. I think this is due to a few factors: repetition, purpose, and time constraints.

When I was a bachelor and college student, I had an inordinate amount of time that I could spend playing games. These days, I'm lucky to get a few hours a night. "Pick-up and play" games like Tetris are fine, but it's difficult to make progress in most 80-hour games an hour or two at a time. A large part of this is context: epic games typically require keeping track of the storyline, your abilities, your next objective, and a slew of other facts. It takes a considerable amount of time -- say 10 to 20 minutes -- to get back up to speed on these things and they are lost between gaming sessions. If for some reason you can't get back to the game for a day or two, you may well forget a large portion of this context. With so much spin-up time, it isn't worth picking back up unless you can devote a few hours in a single span.

For the longer games, I find repetition the most important factor in whether or not I will complete a game. I enjoy the challenge and discovery inherent in learning a new game, which drives me to try every new game I can get my hands on. Once this initial bliss is over, most games leave the player with little to entertain them. The game mechanic doesn't change or offer any new challenges, the "rich, immersive world" often only gives glimpses of innovation every once in a while, and the whole thing ends up becoming a repetitive grind to the end. Completion is great, especially if there's an interesting story behind it, but I won't grind through repetitive gameplay just to see how the story plays out -- that's like peddling an exercise bike to keep the power going to your TV just so you can see how the show ends. As much as games can include interesting narratives, they are still games and still need to offer interesting challenges to the player.

Lastly is the purpose for playing these games. Sometimes I want to delve into a deep story and I have a few hours to devote to it. Other times I just want something to keep me busy for an hour. Sometimes I want a feverish, fast-paced challenge; other times I want to sit back and contemplate my options. All of these purposes are served by different paces and lengths of games.

Of all the games I have played, few have lasted me any significant amount of time. Games with simple but constantly challenging mechanics (due to their multiplayer nature), like CounterStrike and Team Fortress 2, have given me the most lifetime. Even if I haven't played them for months, I can pick them up for an hour and have a good time, and because of this I have played them for months on end. Shorter immersive games such as Portal, Braid, and On The Rain-slick Precipice of Darkness have held me captive to their conclusion mainly because I was able to finish them in only a couple of extended sittings.

Even the better epic games, such as Fallout 3 (which I have loved every minute of), have failed to hold my interest to the end. It's not that I don't enjoy them, just that I can't devote enough time to them to finish them. I usually start off with a couple extended sessions, which get me solidly past the initial-interest period, but then something prevents me from picking up the game again for a few days. When I return, I struggle to pick up the story and remember where I was and what I was doing. After a few cycles of this, I realize I won't have time to really enjoy the game and I leave it until I can.

When I get a new game, I'll often devote a lot of time to it initially, but this isn't something that I can commit to in the long term. If a developer wants me to finish their game, they either have to make it possible within my initial burst of excitement (3-4 fours for 2-3 days) or they have to lower the cost of picking it back up such that I can enjoyably progress through it an hour at a time.

For most games, developers have to start by filling the time from 4-40 hours with something other than repetition of the first 4 hours. For single player games that rely on their game mechanic for this, keeping things new and challenging for 40 hours may be an unreasonable feat, at which point developers should consider gearing their games to be "completed" sooner, rather than trying to drag out a monotonous existence as long as possible.

ashtonium:
I have to completely disagree with your viewpoint on video games. I usually choose games specifically because of an extended narrative and view them in the same vein you describe for movies and books. It's an expected point of pride to complete the game (and here I'm using "complete" as you have: finishing the story arc) and it's only the truly poor games that I choose not to finish.

It simply sounds to me like you're trying to play too many games (a problem I must confess to as well). We don't have enough time to read every great book or watch every great movie, what makes us think we'd have enough time to play every great game?

I agree with this, and yeah disagree with the idea of "front-loading" stories in games. I rarely run into games in which the gameplay is *so* bad that even though the story interests me, I stop playing (and if that's the case, it's a failure on the game's part, not on my part if it simply doesn't interest me). Games that have an interesting story and good gameplay I will indeed complete; in fact, the story is a very important factor for me in my games.

Glancing at my collection of games, I've played through the vast majority of them (~80%), with the ones I did not complete games where the gameplay was indeed simply too unappealing for me to continue. But those games were the ones I regretted buying. Most of the games I've bought (and have been happy with) I've played through several times. Like another user said, I want to get my money's worth.

It sounds like you're trying to play too many games, and so trying to rush through the campaign while not enjoying it. When you're trying to rush through, then certainly you'll get more fed up with the gameplay - but this is just how you can get sick of the language in a book if you're trying to rush through it.

I certainly hope games don't become 'top heavy' with their story, sacrificing narrative and pacing just to allow casual players to get as much as they can. You're already playing the game, so why cater to you as opposed to the fans who will be disappointed if the story takes a hit? And more episodic content means higher prices down the line, something I am NOT looking forward to.

I don't get it. I honestly don't. I keep reading these comments of people talking about the importance they give to story in games, yet the one genre whose main objective is to tell a story (i.e. adventure games like Last Express, Longest Journey, Gabriel Knight, all faves of mine) is one of the least prominent ones. It's become such a niche market that the only games that have come out in years, aside from the Sam & Max seasons and the likes, have been independent low budget games. There aren't any big games because people just don't buy them, therefore the investors don't sink money into them, therefore less money is available next time, etc, etc. It has become very stale because there's little new blood coming in or support to very innovative things.

There hasn't been one adventure game I haven't finished, but games of other genres I have abandoned half way through because the actions start to feel irrelevant. If we were doing an analogy between a game and a book, a book's "gameplay" would be hand-eye coordination in the sense of reading words and flipping pages when the words reach the page limit. To string you through this VERY repetitive gameplay is the story. Most games today feel like a 500 page book with roughly 5 or 6 words per page, so of course the repetitiveness becomes all the more obvious.

I too agree that Portal's length hit a sweet spot and is certainly one the reasons it's been so successful. However, I do believe that games can be longer (and yet not really above 15 hours) and still maintain interest. I remember playing the original Tomb Raider for days and days. You can "figure out" that game's mechanics by the 5th level, but the design and atmosphere just kept you going. The industry seems to be popping out very advertised shells, but all of them break rather quickly, usually by being knocked over by the next over-publicized shell.

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