RPG Analysis

Posted on Feb 26th 2015 at 10:06:04 AM by (Fleach)
Posted under Opinion, Game length, Value, Money, Indie, AAA, Howlongtobeat

This is a topic that's been on my mind for quite some time now, and with the release of the PS4 exclusive The Order: 1886 and the fiasco surrounding its length I'm going to chime in with my opinion concerning the matter of a game's length.

I probably think about game length every day. As a Community Playthrough leader, I can't nominate a game that is too long; similarly if it's too short, we won't play a game unless it's part of a competition. Consequently, I spend a lot of time browsing a website called How Long to Beat. This site has become an extremely valuable resource in selecting games not only for the community, but also for my personal gaming. While this may seem trivial to many, some people get really bent out of shape if a new video game turns out to be too short.

The issue of a game's length is nothing new to the gaming community. It's a relevant topic, but I believe that it's being approached completely wrong. The current assumption is that the longer the game, the better. That's somewhat understandable, since games are expensive and players want to get their money's worth.  However, using play time as a metric for value is too simplistic of an outlook. With this mentality, any game that's at least 40 hours long is a guaranteed good buy. Before you pick up that copy of Far Cry 4 think about the game's content. Is that 40 hours composed of unique, engaging gameplay, or will you have to slog through fetch quests half the time? (Disclaimer: I'm not hating on Far Cry 4, it's only the most recent AAA game in my memory).

In a similar fashion, you should consider a game's content. It doesn't haven't to be innovative, but it does have to be exciting. Is a longer game with dull, repetitive action any better than a shorter, thrilling game? FEZ, while only clocking in around 8 hours, had me captivated with its rotation mechanic and tricky platforming. It could have been a straight forward platformer, but instead FEZ challenges the way players have to think about the game world being 3D while only visible from one 2-Dimensional plane at a time. I'll take a perfectly grilled steak over haute cuisine, fine dining any day.

If thinking about 3D worlds one 2D view at a time doesn't hurt your brain, I don't know what will. By the way, isn't Gomez so cute? Smiley

It's important to think about what goes into making a video game when considering its value. Games, as we all know, are a big business and employee thousands of people. A major console release often has a budget of at least six figures, require loads of talent, and take years to develop. It's difficult, if not nearly impossible, to put a monetary value on a person's blood, sweat, and tears. So before you trash talk a game, remember that someone devoted a significant chunk of his or her life to make it.

What's really important when thinking about a game's length and value is its quality. A game doesn't need to be 40 hours, or even 15 hours. It only needs to be well-made, fun, and engaging. It should thrill and excite. Telltale's The Walking Dead is roughly 9 hours long, but it puts me into the shoes of a post-apocalyptic survivor, it forces me to make hard decisions, which I don't normally have to consider in my comfortable life. A quality game is as long as it needs to be. If it can fun and entertaining in an hour that's excellent, and if it takes 25 hours to experience this type of thrill that's equally as good.

If anything, this game length debate cements the reason to wait for price drops or Steam sales. You also have the option of purchasing indie titles since those rarely cost more than $20 and can be finished in one sitting. I know many of us here have jobs, families, and responsibilities, so we have to choose our games wisely and we also have to effectively get the most out what little game time we can slot in to our busy lives.

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I think you bring up some valid points and I agree that the entertainment value of a game far exceeds it's length. I've played some 40+ hour stinkers and some games under 10 hours that I love and play time and time again.  I think that the quality of a game greatly determines it's replay value and replay value should be considered when discussing the length of a game. Sure, you may beat a game in under 10 hours, but if you are provoked by its content enough to replay the game, another or multiple times, then I think the length argument is bunk.

Your last point is also good and perhaps as one of the "elder" site members I can really vouch for how true your closing paragraph is. As a kid, I played hours upon hours of video games, and when I got into college without any adult supervision, my gameplay increased even more. As I got into grad school, I had to devote much more time to my studies and my girlfriend (now wife), add 2 kids in my early 30's and a full time job, and here I am now. It's not that gaming is not a important part of my life, it is still very much so, but added life factors limit how much time I can allot playing games. I have changed from a heavy RPG 40+ hour gamer, to someone who carves out an hour or two a few times a week to play games (thankfully, it's a bit more now with the playthroughs, thank you excuses!). That's not sad to me, I love my family, but it does mean that I have to make more meaningful and thought-out choices than what I use to.

At the same time, my hobby of collection greatly influences this decision. While I use to be the guy who willingly forked over the $60+ dollars for new games and bought new systems, I'm just the opposite now. I make more economical decisions about what I buy (well....most of the time) and let time dictate the worth of a game's content. For instance, most Wii and PSP games are super cheap right now, so I research what titles people enjoy on those systems, watch a small bit of gameplay video, make a list of all titles that interest me, and seek them out. I don't really feel the need to grab something at launch or let what everyone is currently playing dictate my choices. I think what it comes down to is that as I have gotten older, I have gotten much more patient (err...maybe not with my 3 year-old). I'm not criticizing anyone for buying new games/systems, that use to be me, and that was a time in my life. I just think that sometimes life causes you to adjust and for me, personally, this has been an adjustment for the better all around.
i definitely think many games are too long. though i don't mind it too much, whenever i'm playing a game and i get to a point where i'm forced to grind for hours on end just to manage the next boss in the main story, it feels like a roadblock. it pads the play time significantly without adding anything to the experience. i much prefer when an rpg seems to progress more naturally, where you're just barely ready to take on the next boss to keep it challenging without requiring you to stop and go kill wildlife for the next 5 hours.

honestly even a 15 hour long game is pushing it sometimes. we consider movies long at 3 hours, and although books can be much longer (i tend to read on average about 20 pages per hour, so about 50 hours for a thousand page book), every second of them is something new. there's no where in a book where i need to stop and reread the same paragraph 20 times just to be able to progress to the next one. same with movies, they progress with something new every second. it's only in video games where repetition and padding the length seems to be commonplace.

i understand some games are made around that idea, like arcade games or schmups. those i don't look down on them for it though because they usually have little to no story, the whole point is the gameplay and not much else. but where a big focus of the game is the story, like in most RPGs, then they just need to get on with it and stop tripping players up every chance they get.
I have never understood peoples obsession with game length.  The games length should be slightly shorter than it's mechanics and story will allow.  You should always leave the player wanting a little more while still feeling fulfilled.

Game design has fell into a trap were every game needs to be bigger than the last.  If you design a game were at first the mechanics are quite fun but after doing it 100 times becomes tedious then there is no reason to increase that games length just for the sake making it a bigger game.  An example of this concept would be auto scrolling levels that crush you.  Rocket Knight used them to great effect because they added tension to the levels and gave the player a different challenge with the same mechanics.  Now think if those levels were 3 times as long.  No longer are they spike in tension they are an exercise in frustration and tedium.

Now I love a good long RPG but I have a stack of great RPGs that sit off to the side waiting to be played that I don't have time for.  So there are many times were I don't have time to invest in a good game and I will pop in a bad to mediocre game that I know might only be fun is short doses.  Johny Moseley Mad Trix is a very sub average PS2 extreme skiing game that I have played more than I would like to admit.  The reason I have played to so much of it is it is very easy to play in short amounts of time without get deeply invested.  If a got 30 minutes to kill before heading to work I have absolutely no issue with turning the game off mid way through a level.  Now I could just put in a much better game that is also short like Katamari but the gameplay is much more engaging and makes it much harder to just drop the game and leave.  There is that push to just finish this level or maybe I can fit in one more before work.
The length of a game is irrelevant to me. I can't understand why it's so important to so many. If you feel you won't get enough enjoyment out of a 2 hour game don't buy it. If you feel an 80+ hour game is too much, don't buy it.

I get a lot of enjoyment out of the 10-15 minutes it takes me to beat games like Super Mario Bros or Duck Tales. They feel like a full experience even in that short time frame. Conversely I never had a moment of regret putting 70+ hours into a single playthrough of Persona 4 as it felt like each extra hour was used meaningfully to explore the characters and their relationships with each other. I wasn't the least bit upset when I spent retail on Beyond: Two Souls and was done with my experience in about 6-7 hours. Every experience is unique and should be treated as such, time commitment included.

I find the bashing of The Order pretty ridiculous. At no point did they claim the game to be anything other than a beautiful cinematic experience before it came out. I wasn't surprised or disappointed hearing that it could be completed in less than 10 hours. It looks to be exactly what they always intended it to be. And this is coming from someone who paid only passing interest in it. We need games of all lengths and skill levels to fit the interests of all types of gamers, not just the ones that want to invest dozens of hours into multiplayer or achievement hunting. 
First of all, I thought you guys used the metric system up there, second, I think a lot of people compare the length of time spent on a game to the amount of money they spent on it.  People lose their minds when a game they spent $60 on only lasted for 7 hours.  As a person who doen't buy games at full retail prices, game that argument doesn't apply.  To Crabby's point, it's not like games that are short don't have a reputation for being short, if you are upset that a game is short, just don't buy it.  I really think that many of the loudest people in the games are too short camp aren;t actually playing the short games, they are just screaming because they don't like the idea of a 4 hour $60 game.  Lots of short games are great.
Length doesn't matter to me at all, but value does. With limited time to game, I want to enjoy that time as much as possible. As I understand it, the complaints about The Order is that it is short AND it isn't a very good game. Does cost enter into the picture? To a point, but that doesn't mean you can't charge $60 for an amazing 7 hour experience. I'll probably buy a PS4 at some point just to play Bloodborne. Why would I spend that much to play one game? Value.

i think duke nailed it, and bil too. it comes down to having a limited amount of time to spend playing games in one lifetime. would you rather play 10 games of under 10 hours each that are amazing, or 1 game of 100 hours that may or may not end up being a mediocre grindfest? even if the 10 games cost you 10 times more at retail value, the quality value of the game is high enough to match that. that's more or less what i was saying in my first post, that many games are too long because they pad the time with a lot of grinding or unnecessary things.

that's an argument against long games though. against short games i can see where people are coming from but i don't think they have any real ground to stand on. many short games can be replayed to get a lot more bang for your buck, especially when they have branching storylines. even when there isn't much point in replaying them, if the experience was good enough then every minute of it is worth more than a mediocre long game. two of my favourites are Journey and Dear Esther, both of which are less than 2 hour long games. though they didn't cost me $60, i've replayed them enough where i don't think i would have minded paying that much.
I find this opinion very interesting, both the article content and the comments it generates.  Regarding the article I'm completely on board with Fleach.  A lot of people mentioned price, which I've never cared about.  This being because I will sometimes wait up to seven years to pick up a game, and even if I did buy new, thinking about the value versus content would drive me nuts and take a lot of the fun out of it.  I'm cheap because I'm cheap, not because I don't feel the game is worth it.  Personally (and you know fun stuff always follows that statement), if I had to provide some sort of metric, I'd use length versus fun.  I hated the first hour of Legend of Heroes, but the shock delivered during  the game was enough to propel me through the next thirty hours of content (bad editing and all).  In contrast the entirety of Advent Rising was a horrible, Halo-wanna-be-schlock-fest of the lowest degree.  I often think about the zero-fun experience I had with that, and how I'll never get that ten hours of my life back.
With a game like the Order, I would have no expectations going in for time, because I haven't played any Order games before (assuming this one is the first). That being said, if they release Fallout 4 as a 5-10 hour game, people would lose their shit!
Wow! Lots of great (and lengthy responses)!

I've probably brought this up before but the current trend in video games puts them in an identity crisis of sorts. Should games be more like movies or should they have tight gameplay? Fans and developers seem to be pushing for more "cinematic experiences" but when they put out a game that meets these demands the fans complain about dull gameplay. So it becomes a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-don't conundrum.

I agree with what everyone has said so far. Sounds like there are some very intelligent and responsible people here.

Recently I stopped buying brand new games unless it's something I'm very excited about. It's saved me a lot of money and offered better gaming experiences since most games need to be patched post-launch. When I'm looking at which games to buy I consider how much I will enjoy it, if it'll inspire my imagination, or challenge me. If the game delivers on what it says it will I'm a happy gamer.

At the end of the day, I think the moral of the story is to not buy games at launch and block off enough time to enjoy your games while still upholding our responsibilities in our daily lives.
Good article, and I think you hit the nail on the head with regards to the core idea here: length doesn't matter, FUN does.  The experience, enjoyment, and value you get out of your purchase, whether it was $60 on day one, or $5 in a bargain bin is irrelevant.  If you had fun with it and felt like you got your money's worth because you got something out of that experience, than that is the measuring stick to use, not an arbitrary measure like the game's length.

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Role Playing games are my favourite genre of the gaming library. I feel it is appropriate to take a look at the games that have touched me in my time as a gamer and collector and share them with the community. Feel free to discuss your thoughts, ideas, and challenge my opinions. The conversation is welcomed.
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