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Length matters?
July 5th 2002, 14:27 CEST by jjz

All too often I hear people complaining of games that are too short.  Less frequently, I hear of games that are too long.  What's the ideal timeframe it should take to complete a game?
Home » Topic: Length matters?

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#1 by OwenButler
2002-07-05 14:37:56
Twice as long as it takes to half complete it?
#2 by MCorleone
2002-07-05 14:41:17
If($CostOfGame/HoursToComplete > 6)

Build a man a fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of the night.  Light a man on fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of his life.
#3 by Ashiran
2002-07-05 14:44:28
There is no ideal timeframe. What is too short for one is too long for another. It's just about how much you like playing it.

But if you really want to capture it into a sentance.

"One more mission after you discovered all there is to know about the game."


"Good writers are harder to find than nice breasts" - morn
#4 by Cliff
2002-07-05 14:48:34

Arcade games like Pac-man or Tetris can be as short as five minutes.  Sim-type games like Master of Magic can be played however long you want to.  The "length" question really only applies to games with "story", i.e. adventures/RPGs/what-have-you, and for me, the fun usually runs out before the game does: in a sixteen-chapter game, I usually get bored around chapter 6-8.  

Maybe it's me -- I don't have the time for games that I used to -- or maybe it's mostly a function of crappy game design: a lot of energy gets put into earlier levels while the later ones get less attention (for deadline reasons or lack of inspiration) and end up being repetitious.  

If the overarching storyline is a compelling part of the game, 60 hours is probably at the upper limit of what can work (comparable to, say, a 3.5 hour movie), and 30-40 hours a nice length.  But precious few games stay fun that long.
#5 by Dis
2002-07-05 14:53:58
I always thought the content over length argument (as promoted by Petri from Remedy) was a load of bull. No matter how good the content I want a +15 hour experience.

Of course then I actually played Max Payne and found its 10-12 hours to be a perfect length. Especially as I played it through 3 times.

Long games are nice. Never came close to finishing BG but still spent 80-100 hours playing ( had to restart a couple of times). Didn't bother me that I never finished because I felt like I had received good value for money.

Unreal took me ages to play. Of course most of the playing time I was bored out of my skull.

In summation then - a game should be long enough and good enough to provide a feeling of getting value for money. That variable will change across titles and individuals.
#6 by jjohnsen
2002-07-05 15:11:50
Deus Ex a little short
Unreal a little long
Half-Life perfect
Max Payne a little long
Jedi Knight II a little short

Thats the thing though, it would be different for everybody.  Unreal and Max Payne felt a little long for me because I just started to get bored.  The first time i played through Half-Life I wanted it to keep going forever(after I played through a few times it seemed long).  I used to play Dig-Dug in the arcade for hours at a time, and the game didn't have a lot of different level, or new characters popping up, it was just fun.  I agree with Ashirans
"One more mission after you discovered all there is to know about the game."
partly, but if the game=love I want it to go on for a while after I've discovered everything, so I can play around with it all.

The incredible insights you've given on many topics have brightened all of our lives and touched us in ways we can never fully describe.
#7 by Cliff
2002-07-05 15:19:43
Deus Ex a little short?  Shit, I got utterly bored/tired of the Hong Kong me, it's a shame when parts of a game start to look like suspiciously much like work, or filler.  

Maybe part of the problem here is that people have expectations about length, and companies play into that by advertising "80 hours worth of gameplay!" and the like.  Sure, if every one of those 80 hours was fun-filled and challenging...

Actually, let me revise my position.  The ideal length of a game is the three levels in the demo, which are usually the best three levels anyway.  Spending another $40 for the rest is like buying a CD when you've already downloaded the mp3s for the two good songs on it.
#8 by Dis
2002-07-05 15:23:56
Thinking a bit more on this...

Open ended games would surely be a perfect length. Assuming my daughter stops deleting my save games I will be finishing the missions in GTA3 soon. Once they are done I envision being able to spend little chunks of time here and there just blowing things upp and hurting people. Sometimes just driving around is nice.

Similarly it is a rare week during which I don't play Q3A. Only took me 6 or 7 hours to complete the single player on my first run through but I must have spent over 250 hours playing it over the past couple of years. At least :)
#9 by Warren Marshall
2002-07-05 16:04:15
I'd rather have 10 hours of action packed gameplay than 30 hours of so-so gameplay.

"It's pretty common for pussies, dumbasses, and their families to blame their problems on vague influences like the media and society. The truth is, fuck you."
#10 by Scrozzy
2002-07-05 16:07:52
Halo was about spot on. The part of having the player back track over previous levels was a masterstroke by the designers. It's so lazy it's cunning and ingenius, so props to them.
#11 by Scrozzy
2002-07-05 16:11:33
I think a lot of it is relative to the game. If it's becoming tedious, then obviously an early ending is ideal. Toutefois, mon petit buckets, if it gives you proverbial orgasms that are off the Richter scale, then please, the game must go on.

In general, FPS games reach the tedium threshold quicker than most. Adventure games a la Monkey Island take longer because they have a wider array of concepts to keep the player entertained.
#12 by Mank
2002-07-05 16:31:32
I remember seeing the remarks by some people that Max Payne was too short...some even said RTCW was too short...*shrug*

For myself, if a games storyline and progression can manage to keep me hooked to the point of saving when I've run out of time, versus saving when I've become bored or tired, then I'm more inclined to enjoy and actually finish the game, no matter how long or short it's been.

Half Life has yet to be matched where PC games are concerned. Deus Ex came close, but there were a few elements in the game that became distracting as the game progressed. Legend of The Dragoon for the PS has to be the most fun I've had with any console title to date, and at 5 discs, I'm really surprised that I didnt lose interest as the game progressed. The storyline, and the way that each new character was introduced as the game progressed made for a solid and enjoyable experience. I'm even in the process of replaying the game to see if I can find all of the stardust scattered about the game, just so I can fight the "special" uber boss that I've heard so much about.

If I can sit down to play a game at 8pm, and look up(what seems) a few hours later, only to realize its 3am, then I'm more than likely enjoying myself..=)

...on the outside looking in, banned by an epiphany at an EB store....
#13 by "Cliff"
2002-07-05 16:32:14 deleted
One thing to point out is that any really good game is going to end up seeming too short: it's going to leave you wanting more.  Whether it would actually be good if it were any longer is pretty dubious, though.  There's plenty of movies and books that I love, that I "didn't want to end", but, you know...they'd be different, and suckier, if they went on much longer.

I forget who the quote is from, but it's something along the lines of "a work of art is not finished when no more can be added, but rather when no more can be taken away".  

I, and I suspect many gamers, prefer a higher density of content than most games deliver -- because they feel they have to stretch it out over 40 hours, or twenty levels, or whatever.  Some games are more like a Monty Python sketch or an episode of South Park -- the jokes come fast and furious and there's plenty of asides (GTA3, any Looking Glass game) -- and some are more like an SNL sketch, where a mediocre-to-decent joke just gets milked and milked until you want to head for midtown NYC with that AK47 and at least give the folks at home some diversion.
#14 by Matt Davis
2002-07-05 16:32:35
I don't not pay to see a film because it's only 1 hour and 10 mins, and I don't feel like I'm getting a bargain when the film is 3 hours 30 mins.

I want entertaining in my games, I want to be challenged in parts of it, I'd rather feel like I really enjoyed the game and felt really really entertained even though it ended quite quickly than have a really really boring game that just goes on and on.

Length is not important, it's what you do with it (thats what girls say too).

This week I will be mostly wearing pants
#15 by mgns
2002-07-05 16:34:43
And you know they're lying through their teeth...

It's girth - but how that translates to games...

professional philosophical level design monkey.
#16 by "Cliff"
2002-07-05 16:34:52 deleted
Hate to break it to you Matt, but those girls are just trying not to hurt your feelings.
#17 by Matt Davis
2002-07-05 16:37:06
So we need to make games take up more space on the hard drive? (is this the best way translate girth to computer game terms?)

This week I will be mostly wearing no pants
#18 by "Cliff"
2002-07-05 16:37:35 deleted
Girth might translate to density of information on screen at any given moment.  Pacman = low density (you and four ghosts), higher levels of Galaga = higher density (lots of bullets and enemy fighters), the final levels of Smash TV = crack cocaine required.
#19 by Greg
2002-07-05 16:58:51
The perfect length of time for a game is really dependent on the game. If the game is interesting, engaging and fun for 80 hours, then 80 is perfect. For that game. Likewise, if it can only hold those elements for 10-15 hours, then that is the perfect amount, for that game.

Max Payne was fun and engaging for the 12 or so hours I put into it. I'm sure they could have added more, but would the fun factor have started to wear off?

Morrowind was the same way for maybe 50 or 60 hours (I didn't really keep track). They talked about having 500 hours of play, but I was pretty much bored of side quests and the like near the end. I don't think it would hold up for 500 hours.

Though other people brought it up, Unreal was one game that had way too much uninteresting content. About halfway though, I just turned on god mode because I wanted to see the rest of the levels, but I didn't want to invest any energy in trying to get through them.

Thread hijack: what about post length? What is the ideal post length?

Oh, I guess that last sig don't make sense anymore...
#20 by jafd
2002-07-05 16:59:20
Isn't it time for SmashTV 3D?
-we have the technology!-

Apropos quotes, POOMA:

"A good book is never too long, a bad one is never too short."

"A work of art is never finished, only abandoned."

"I'm sorry, but a ten hour game just sucks."

"You go to HELL! You go to HELL and you DIE!!"
#21 by snowcrash-22
2002-07-05 17:17:32
I actually welcome the 15-20 hour game length for console games.  Keep it focused, keep it short, keep it rewarding before tedium sets in.  I would rather see the money go into a tightly realized product that does not make riduclous demands on my free time.  I will never play BG as great as it may be, becuase I have no interest in spending 80 hours and not complete a game. Dues Ex came in great at 32 hours but any "extras" or secret spaces will have to remain secret, the only SP game I have replayed have been Q2 and Halflife and that was I wanted to see them on a new graphics card.

I think anything story based game over 35 hours is asking too much.

Kind of like any author that can't get thier point across in 2 books (maximum) will probably get passed on simply becuase...
#22 by Fallon
2002-07-05 17:20:09
I'm probably invoking being quoted by Scott Miller in order to justify Max Payne's length, but: "Always leave them wanting more!"

Of course, if your game is too short just make some of it slow-motion so it takes twice as long to do anything.

I'd feel more fulfilled making Christmas cards with the mentally ill.
#23 by Greg
2002-07-05 17:29:24
Strangely, I beat Max Payne, and barely ever used the Bullet-Time™.

Oh, I guess that last sig don't make sense anymore...
#24 by snowcrash-22
2002-07-05 17:29:48
if your game is too short

just add maze!
#25 by Ergo
2002-07-05 17:32:05
...or take away the player's weapons and equipment!

"Brian, there's a message in my Alpha Bits! It says 'OOOOOOO'!"
"Peter, those are Cheerios."
-The Family Guy
#26 by Matt Davis
2002-07-05 17:33:55
Or make it so it's impossible to get past a certain point but make the player think they've just missed something.

This week I will be mostly wearing no pants
#27 by Matthew Gallant
2002-07-05 17:35:16
The ideal length of a game is one hour longer than the game made by the company that you slagged for making that game because it was way too short.

Current market value of the Max Payne IP according to a comparison of the market capitalization of Take Two pre- and post- sale: approx. -$267,000,000.
#28 by zakk
2002-07-05 17:38:28
Isn't it time for SmashTV 3D?

There is/was a pretty good smashtv mod for quake3, actually.

#29 by Bailey
2002-07-05 17:41:04
Oh boy, the length discussion.

Halflife, well, I'm not trying to start up the discussion again, but losing half the levels in Xen would've made me a lot happier. I just didn't enjoy myself much there, time seemed to stretch. Though just the Black Mesa levels might not have been enough, as OpFor wasn't much holding a candle to HL.

In games like BG or NWN, after a while I just get bored and walk away. The only way these games work is you're constantly being denied actually accomplishing anything... there's always more enemies, more bosses, more dire plots in effect. Just think, if the forces of darkness had just six people as tough as your party in the BG games, they'd have wiped the Sword Coast clean in under 80-100 hours...

Length? Depends entirely on the individual preference. No universal rule or acceptable standard of what satisfies. That goes for girls, games, and cadillacs.

I wish your game would stop punching my exposed frontal lobes in such a manner to cause this intense hemorrhaging.
#30 by Charles
2002-07-05 18:09:56
If you are more worried about the length of a game, rather than how much fun you are having, then maybe you should just quit playing games.  Games are entertainment, not an investment.  The only rule I have for length of games is that once they get boring, they are too long.  Two noteable recent games fit this criteria for me:  Dungeon Siege, and Morrowind.  

It's funny how people bitch though...  I hear no end of moaning about how max payne was only 10-12 hours long, yet I've not heard one complaint like that about System Shock 2.  If a game is fun, from beginning to end, then I think you've got your money's 'worth', if you insist on thinking of it that way.

People who want to get their 'worth' out of videogames probably use coupons at stores religiously.  Me, I'd rather just have fun. the new SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.
#31 by Bailey
2002-07-05 18:17:57
maybe you should just quit playing games. the new KTHXBYE of cop-out discussions.

I'm developing self-rolling dice. It will render the nerd obsolete.
#32 by Darkseid-D
2002-07-05 18:19:39
why is it various eejits have a problem tying Deus Ex ? Its not that hard, oh well.

ideal length is entirely subjective to the player, their mood, the seat they perch upon, the time of day, the phase of the moon, the ebb and flow of the tides.

Some days you may be digging the hell out of GTA3, the next day youre annoyed at your neighbour waking you at 8am playing country and western music and its just not quite as much fun. Its on those days that playing Quake3 satisfies that visceral need for SPLUTCH that you crave, or perhaps cranking the mp3 list up and kicking back with some instagib UT is where its at.

a game you keep coming back to, time and again, is a good length

the game you beat once and put away is somewhat short

the game you never bother beating for various reasons strays to the side of overlong

the marker however is fluid and subjective to a persons own needs and biases.


On a thread derailment, any feedback on the `Americas Army` game released last night ?  For some reason I feel the urge to see if theres a Planetcrap squad in the offing, as I believe it would be tremendous fun to go stomping on people alongside the defensive crash, the gun toting liberal Hulka, the skilled at hiding behind monitors Warren M and the wizend sputum jar that is TomC.

oh, and aim high and right, the ar15s notorious that way.


Never argue with an idiot, theyll drag you down onto their level, then beat you with experience.
#33 by Bailey
2002-07-05 18:24:35
Feedback on AA in #planetcrap seems iffy at best, perhaps due to the shoddy servers and currently mandatory Gamespy browser. Perhaps because it isn't that engaging thus far.

I'm developing self-rolling dice. It will render the nerd obsolete.
#34 by Ergo
2002-07-05 18:25:27
#31 Bailey

He does have a point, though, Bailey. 'Crappers are notorious for moaning and bitching about games and generally not liking anything. Some here would accuse you of that.


"Brian, there's a message in my Alpha Bits! It says 'OOOOOOO'!"
"Peter, those are Cheerios."
-The Family Guy
#35 by Bailey
2002-07-05 18:28:05
That's because you're a WHORE.

I'm developing self-rolling dice. It will render the nerd obsolete.
#36 by Ergo
2002-07-05 18:29:35
But a cheap, lovable whore with a heart of gold.

"Brian, there's a message in my Alpha Bits! It says 'OOOOOOO'!"
"Peter, those are Cheerios."
-The Family Guy
#37 by ben
2002-07-05 18:35:35
To misquote my old German Prof:

A game should be like a woman's skirt.  Long enough to cover everything, but short enough to keep it interesting.
#38 by Bailey
2002-07-05 18:36:50
And for the record, from where I'm standing, that isn't a very valid point. The only options in discussing gaming are either a ferverent circlejerk of glassy-eyed, slack-mouthed fanbois; a good ol' style slamfest of everything for not being pong by a bunch of bitter, attention-seeking cranks; or an actual worthwhile discussion of opposing viewpoints on what might have been done right, wrong, or better.

The latter is the only discussion I find worthwhile. Praise and criticism supported by facts, observations, and personal preferences. Explained and expanded upon to justify said opinion. The other two aforementioned discussion types are both the natural environment of trolls, in my perspective, and equally reprehensible. Just because one is overtly negative doesn't make overtly positive any less sickeningly repulsive.

Do not embrace either extreme.

I'm developing self-rolling dice. It will render the nerd obsolete.
#39 by Foodbunny
2002-07-05 18:42:03
Max Payne is too long.  It should have been one crappy line of dialog and one demonstration of Bullet Time as you shot the crying baby and then a "THANK YOU FOR PLAYING" screen.  But that's just my opinion.

NWN feels too short to me.  Sure, there's lots to do.  Not BG/BG2 levels of stuff to do, but still quite a bit.  It's just that it ends far too abruptly.  People tell you to come back and talk to them after the final battle but you're never give a chance to.  That kinda sucks.

Game length isn't a big issue for me, I just want to be able to do at least a little bit after the final major battle.   Especially in RPGs.

"Ever been fucked by a bed?  You have no choice now. Feel my sheets. Feel my mattress. Feel my pillows. Feel me!"
#40 by Duality
2002-07-05 18:51:26
Games are entertainment, not an investment.

With the prices now, I'm not so sure.  Even someone as irrationally exuberant as myself won't go over $50 unless its really worth it.

#41 by Shadarr
2002-07-05 18:54:26
I don't think a game is ever too long, because if I get bored I can stop playing.  If a game is too short though, that pisses me off.  Sure you can play through it again only slightly different, but the fun-high has worn off.
#42 by "Ghost in my Shell"
2002-07-05 19:00:28
If a game is "short" I just want a decent ending of some kind. These one screen congrats endings piss me off. Also paying 50 for a short game sucks.

Lets take Elite Force the butt of all short jokes as an example. That game took about 5 hrs on normal with all the cutscenes I would have been uber pissed to pay more then 40 for it.
#43 by Matthew Gallant
2002-07-05 19:01:57
oh, and aim high and right, the ar15s notorious that way.

Having fired many different M-16s, both in A1 and A2 flavor, many times, I have to say I don't know what you're talking about. They fire straight when you adjust the sights properly. If anything, you want to aim a little lower if you want a more finely targeted hit on a 150m target because of the ballistic path of the bullet from a rifle that is zeroed for a 300 meter target. If you hit up and to the right it's a problem with your trigger squeeze and breathing.

None of this is in the game though. You get accuracy bonuses based on how you fire (sights/no sights, position, and breathing) and then it does a straight-line hitscan. And the breathing part is bugged.

Current market value of the Max Payne IP according to a comparison of the market capitalization of Take Two pre- and post- sale: approx. -$267,000,000.
#44 by Shadarr
2002-07-05 19:02:35
People tell you to come back and talk to them after the final battle but you're never give a chance to.

That's the exact opposite of a moderately fun but poorly implemented strategy/rpg called Birthright.  You "win" by accumulating 500 points.  Which happens long before you've conquered even half the map, and long before you're ready to attack the evil army.

However, it's just a short congratulatory video  and you can continue playing and conquer the whole map, which is actually really challenging.  But once you do that, nothing changes.  You could presumably keep running your empire indefinitely, though there's no point to it.  Very strange.
#45 by Cliff
2002-07-05 19:08:32
Speaking of length, I see Monty's blog is going swimmingly.  Day #2:

This got me thinking about what the hell a blog is supposed to be about, and how to keep it interesting after the initial spurt of energy peters out.
#46 by Ergo
2002-07-05 19:09:57
huh huh...he said "spurt" and "peters"....huh huh

"Brian, there's a message in my Alpha Bits! It says 'OOOOOOO'!"
"Peter, those are Cheerios."
-The Family Guy
#47 by Charles
2002-07-05 19:29:50 the new KTHXBYE of cop-out discussions.

Okay fine then Bailey.  Instead of not playing the game, perhaps you should step back and take a look at the value you are actually getting.

Say you pay 60$ for a game that turns out to be 10 hours long.  If you say that's about the length of 5 or 6 movies, then you've paid approximate amount as viewing movies in a theater.  Now, if you've enjoyed those 10 hours, perhaps you aren't being as ripped off as you think.  If at worst it's the same cost as watching movies, I think that's a good deal.  Or do you not watch movies in the theater either?   Perhaps instead you spend 20-30$ per DVD...

I just don't see the point in complaining if you've had fun.  Complain away if you didn't; but if you've had fun, then the developer accomplished their goal. the new SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.
#48 by Charles
2002-07-05 19:30:48
Oh, and the chances of seeing 5 or 6 good movies in a row is pretty low to begin with...  so that tips the favor even more in a game's direction. the new SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.
#49 by Charles
2002-07-05 19:32:35
Or perhaps the developers should make a graph of percieved fun and value vs age and temperament of the gamer... then you can just look up how good of an 'investment' it will be for you, and buy, or not, accordingly. the new SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.
#50 by LPMiller
2002-07-05 19:52:11
Oh, and the chances of seeing 5 or 6 good movies in a row is pretty low to begin with...  so that tips the favor even more in a game's direction.

Actually, they are damn good if you aren't an idiot that believes all previews and goes to every new opening as they happen.

I believe I can fly......urk.
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