Fake Longevity in Games: Are you really getting your money’s worth?

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Thirty Flights of Loving packs quite the punch in only 15 minutes

Everyone wants to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. Especially now that game prices are rising and most of us have to be more selective with what we choose to buy. It’s all about getting a satisfying amount of content, so you don’t feel ripped off. I love long games and having tons of content as much as the next person. What I don’t like is padding that’s as boring as it is unnecessary and games that are made artificially longer without actually adding anything significant or particularly fun. There seems to be an expectation now that games be a certain length, depending on the genre and regardless of the ideal length for telling that particular narrative or to make the desired impact. RPGs in particular, get a lot of flak from their fans if they’re perceived as too short and the number of hours required to be seems to be rising. It seems that on average a good RPG should last at least 20 hours, which is much longer than many games of old and that number will probably keep rising. I think this call for longer games is a hindrance to games developers and ultimately results in a lot of games that would have been pretty solid, if it weren’t for the fact that it was watered down so that it would last for another few hours. Personally, I would much rather have a game that packs quality content into a few hours, rather than a longer protracted one that’s frankly weaker for its length. My point is that what I think really matters is the content and what you get out of it. I’ve seen games with just as much content as games twice as long and more disappointingly, I’ve seen the opposite as well, long games with only a few hours real content on them with a lot of padding. Of course if a narrative-heavy RPG ends in a few hours that might throw up a flag that there’s not enough there for them to sufficiently tell that story, but not necessarily. Many people finished Dishonored in 8 hours and to me that game is packed to the brim with things to do and see. That’s why I think length should just be a guideline and not a limiting factor in the development of a game.  In the rest of this post, I”ll be looking at some of the methods that developers use to pad our games and consider why these techniques might detract from our gaming experience as well as hinder studios from creating the best games they can.

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Sam and Sam’s Tekkit Ender Quest Part 24

As you may have noticed, I couldn’t get my usual post and video up yesterday due to a mixture of computer problems and general life, so I’m putting them up today instead! After having technical difficulties of the ARGGHHHH variety and losing our original footage, we went away, cried a bit and came back with a brand spanking new video where we show you guys what we accomplished in those lost videos! A grand tour of our newly done up factory if you will (that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but hey, we have a ceiling now!) Of course, we manage to fit in some healthy bouts of violence involving fire, fences, swords and bows in between.

Can games be too open world?

Note: I’m using ‘open world’ in a very broad sense and discuss games that are not really open world at all (like Mass Effect and LA Noire) and are merely non-linear or offer a degree of exploration. The reason for this is that my main focus here is to look at why these elements are becoming so popular in the games industry over strict linearity, so the distinction between true open world games and those with open world elements isn’t particularly important for my purposes.

If you follow my blog at all, you probably know that I love me some of that open world action. In the last decade in particular, the number of open world games has been on the rise and some of them have been incredible. However, it does seem that more and more these days, developers are turning to an open world or sandbox structure and though I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s become the norm, it’s certainly getting that way. Consider how many recent AAA titles in the past few years have been open world games. There’s Red Dead Redemption, any of the GTA games, Skyrim, the new Tomb Raider and Far Cry 3 to name just a few. Old franchises that weren’t previously open world have switched over to this structure. Sequels of franchises that were previously open world in a more limited sense have been lauded as bigger and better with each new sequel, like Assassin’s Creed. Developers have bragged about the size of the maps as if that somehow means the game is now better. To many, it seems that having increasingly expansive worlds has somehow become linked with quality and innovation in a game. My question is, can the narrative or any other element of a game suffer from, in essence, being too open world and expansive? The short answer is, in my opinion, a resounding yes. To be clear, my point isn’t that developers should stop making open world games or that they shouldn’t keep trying to push the limits of how expansive a game can be, because if done well, these types of games often are innovative, entertaining, immersive, creative and can enhance both story and gameplay. If done incorrectly however, the results can be at best boring and at worst game-breaking. To that end, I do think that developers need to be a little more cautious in deciding whether a game should be open world or not as it doesn’t necessarily mean it will automatically make it a better game and that they should also be careful in balancing that openness with other elements that they think are important. 

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