Are AAA games too long?

Develop 2011: "Gamers are losing patience" with 10-hour-plus games, say developers, while casual games have lowered gamers' expectations.

Who Was There: The session was made up of a five-person panel of designers and story writers: Charles Cecil, famous for his work on Broken Sword; Adrian Hon, chief creative officer of story developer Six to Start; Alexis Kennedy, chief narrative officer at Fail Better games; Patrick O'Luanaigh, CEO of indie developer nDreams; and writer David Varela.

What They Talked About: The panel discussed the relevance of narrative-based gameplay in today's world of casual and social games. Looking at recent AAA releases L.A. Noire and Heavy Rain--both heavily story-led--they debated whether their long length was still enticing for today's gamer. "Gamers are losing patience," said Kennedy, when asked about his own experiences with Heavy Rain, "so many people don't reach the end and lose the full impact of the story." He wasn't complimentary of its narrative either, questioning the benefit of basing a game on long-form narrative such as film, resulting in a "bastardised" storyline that doesn't quite work.

The panel was positive about other aspects of the game, though, praising its unique take on the adventure genre and not relying on traditional twitch- and skill-based gameplay mechanics. As to why gamers might not want a skill-based experience, Cecil weighed in, using examples from the adventure genre to show that "the way people play games has changed dramatically." Rather than the difficult or "contrived" puzzles of games like Broken Sword, the likes of Professor Layton showed that gamers wanted straightforward puzzles with a clear route of progression.

The panel also discussed how developers can incorporate narrative into casual and social games. The consensus was on implementing micro-narratives; that is, smaller bite-size storylines that can be consumed in the five-minute chunks that casual and social gamers play. While the point that social games might not necessarily have a definite end point was raised, the panel cited soap operas as an example of how ongoing storylines could work within a game environment. This could be aided by utilising social media to directly influence narrative and by implementing role-playing elements to further engage the player.

Quote: "There are people who role-play zero percent; they're dull f***ers. The people who role-play 100 percent; they're mental." Alexis Kennedy on how role-playing can influence a player's experience of narrative.

Takeaway: The likes of social and casual games, particularly the cheap games available on mobile, have changed the expectations of gamers, the panel concluded. By gamers are paying less money, there's less need to create 10-hour-plus gaming experiences, because consumers no longer feel shortchanged. This could be particularly beneficial for self-publishing indie developers, they said, who could charge less but gain a larger percentage of sales. As for the role of storylines, the panel was less conclusive, but all agreed that there's room for more in-depth narratives than the current crop of social and casual games are currently providing.

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Discussion

889 comments
simomate
simomate

Honestly, 20 hours is the perfect length for a game, but unless its really really good... 20+ hours is pushing it. Anything less then that, well between 15-20 hours is perfect. 

gussu
gussu

If the game and storyline is good I won't mind if the main storyline takes 1000 hours to complete. It has to be good enough to justify the length. 

Ibra8
Ibra8

Too long games are rare this days

thphaca
thphaca

I remember back when I was about 11 or 12, I clocked in over 99 hours in FF7 on the PS1 (that was the most it would show.) I wouldn't consider myself patient, but it was a game that wouldn't let me drop the controller. To this day, I've never had an experience match the one that FF7 gave me. It had the depth of a novel. I recently finished ME3 in what added up to around 27 hours. ME3 is nowhere near the standard of FF7, but it's lightyears beyond modern games in terms of story and flexibility. I wish game devs would really put their soul into what they do nowadays like they used to. Bioware, Valve, Square Enix and maybe Crytek (for its dedication to the PC, but still iffy in the stories) are about the only ones I can count on to do that nowadays. It's an art, but just like any form of entertainment, artists can sometimes focus more on marketing than fine-tuning their craft. After all, it's the sell that counts.

Vamp14
Vamp14

WTF!!! games can never be too long. What is wrong with some devs theese days. And some gamers are not in their right mind appearently too.

Stoopid_Fool
Stoopid_Fool

people are complaining that video games are too long? wtf?

theKSMM
theKSMM

From reading these comments, I guess I'm in the minority, but I would rather play a six-hour game with a tight, coherent narrative than a sixty-hour game that has me running back and forth across the same maps repeatedly. Of course, this may reflect the fact that my schedule doesn't permit me to game for ten or twenty hours per week. I'm slightly envious of gamers who have the time and skill to complete most games they touch in a week or two. Because I know that my chances of completing a thirty-hour game are virtually nil, I don't even try to get deep into many such games (e.g. Skyrim). So a good game that can be completed in under ten hours may be just the thing for me. Just my two cents.

Thuban_23
Thuban_23

10 hour plus is considered a long game? If it's under 30 hours and has no online I consider it a rental.

fillup0
fillup0

Gamers and reviewers are letting game developers get off with painfully short campaigns and allowing them to artificially prolong the games length by repeating the same 12 maps in multiplayer and making them play over and over again for reskinned versions of guns from last years game, It's wrong.

RazerBlade13
RazerBlade13

Considering the price of console games these days, I don't want, I EXPECT, a game to last. And while casual games have their place, I don't believe they will ever move the market as much as a long and well-drawn out story as impactful as Heavy Rain or others within the same vein.

mrmime777
mrmime777

I love lengthy games, but only if some nice variation occurs in story, environment, or gameplay. IE a well written hero's journey, or changing locales a few times. It changes things up nicely. I played Oblivion and Fallout for 50-100 hours each, so that gives devs an idea of how much good story and immersion alone can help your game. I guess yeah, 10 hours or less is good if your game is generic and mediocre. Otherwise people will play it to the end to finish it if it's actually good.

DirkXXVI
DirkXXVI

It depends. If that length is artificial and the pacing is terrible then yes 10 hour plus games are a bore. However these days I won't even look at a game if I can't get 20+ hours out of it. Either way I think everyone else here is on point. This is just a bunch of developers trying to justify charging $60 for a game with little to no narrative. These are probably the same guys wondering why Mass Effect has such a huge following.

thereal-15-cent
thereal-15-cent

@FMD129:Luckily it looks like a few good games will be out. TES 5:Skyrim looks like it will be worth the full price.

FMD129
FMD129

@thereal-15-cent lmao but yeah I agree with you, the industry is clogged with garbage nowadays, its rediculous

slainta
slainta

Yeah, yeah, yeah... Too bad that the top selling single player games all have long stories.FF XIII, to mention an heavly story based one, is on PS3 top 10. Who cares if some kids don't care to finish them. Cartel like this are there just to justofy their poor excuse for cheap short games at an high price. I don't want short stories. I am used to 15+ hours since the Playstation. The longer, often the better. No one wonder why games like the one from R^, Final Fantsy, Assassin's Creed, Bethesda RPGs are always big hits? Because they have a lot of things to do. And one can easily spend between 40-100 hours to fully complete them. Instead what bothers me the most is that to get 100% in one game I have to replay it 3 or 4 times. That sucks in a big way. One playthrough is more than enough. Just give us the tool for polishing what is left and that's it. Or make good use of New Game+, where we can speed run through the game and just enjoy the story without the hassle of dying every minute or so.

Serbitar1
Serbitar1

Braid was 15 euro, and If you had a good hunt for the stars, you'd have far more than 10 hours gameplay on your hands. Did I get bored? No, because properly good games don't bore you, games with a gimmick that get's old will bore you. I'd rather one 60 hour, 60 euro Skyrim than six ten hour, ten euro gimmicks

Apathetic_Prick
Apathetic_Prick

Oh yes, a panel consisting of a 3 to 1 advantage of Indie developers who specialise in small pick-up-and-play titles against an adventure game developer. Totally unbiased. The general consensus amongst people who play games that THEY PAY FOR is that they (well, we) are sick of games that are finished in half a day or less. Many of us feel cheated with 5 hour long single-player components that do sweet eff-all to prepare you for multiplayer, and thus many of us lose interest. You guys are developers, you need to get your fingers on the pulse; listening to see if it's still breathing isn't good enough. That means listening to gamers, not looking at the casual gamers who play your little Bejewelled or Sim City knockoffs that you have the chutzpah to call innovation. Innovated money-making is NOT innovative game design.

ebookerd1
ebookerd1

16 to 20 minimum. I love a good lengthy game less than that I don't want to pay full price.

shadow580
shadow580

I feel like 8-16 hours is the number I like. If the game is too short, then it better have replay value. If the game drags on forever, then I start to lose interest. I usually finish them in the end, but for that to happen, they need a strong story and characters (because game mechanics become repetitive after such a long time). Some games are short but offer replay value, either offline or online. The Cod series is the type that has great online replay value. This requires you to look at more than just the sheer length of the campaign or story mode, but also at how much juice you can squeeze out of it. Still, some may say a game is still too short even after adding on the online mode and offline replay value. Maybe games are becoming shorter, but as I grow older, I cannot ''grind'' as much as I used to so I'll have to leave that subject to the more hardcore gamers out there. When you get both, length and either offline or online replay value, then you get a game really worth your money (as long as you have fun playing it). Games like GTA IV, Fallout 3 (and Vegas) and MGS 4 are good examples. In some cases games have all the necessary length and sheer volume of stuff in it, but they are just too long. You just want to see the ending. For this reason, I would rather want some replay value than just sheer length. A some sort of middle ground is what I like best. When I lose my saved games in a very long game, that totally breaks my heart.

James00715
James00715

If they are going to start making only 10 hour games, they better reduce the prices to go along with it. The way I see it the needs to give me about an hour of gameplay per dollar. So a $60 game better last 60 hours. That doesn't mean all in one playthrough. With good replay value a 20 hour campaign could easily last 60 hours.

TigerRifle1
TigerRifle1

When people complain about games, they complain about how short they are not how long they are. If they think a game is too long and they don't like it they just stop playing, If they like it how long it was is the best thing about it.

theslimdavylp
theslimdavylp

I'd like to know which gamers they were talking to

Smokescreened84
Smokescreened84

How can games these days be too long? Maybe if people actually learned to be patient for a change instead of demanding instant satisfaction and everything handed to them on a silver platter then games wouldn't as short as they tend to be these days. If I'm going to buy a game and it's something like £30/£40 then I expect it to last for a long while with lots to see, lots to do and a challenge, or a well balanced challenge at least. Instead of some game that barely last a few hours, holds your hand the whole way through and pretty much plays itself while offering nothing new that hasn't already been done before by every other short lived game - The FPS genre, especially the wartime ones, being a case in point. Patience is a virtue.

thelegendlives5
thelegendlives5

Well a game should be made so as its fun throughout its duration, some games are fun for 10 minutes and then its crap, some games are fun for 100+ hours. For example a game like God of War 3 is fun for the 8 to 10 hours it takes, but I am sure if they stretched it to 15 it would still be fun, only would take them longer to make it = more money on R&D = less profit, so its obvious companies are greedy. I do agree that casual games are lowering expectations though.

trodeback
trodeback

Many main stream games I've started playing on the hardest difficulty just to prolong the gameplay. Even then I end up beating most recent FPS in 8-12 hours. It seems as though older games took days to beat, and only after reading walkthroughs and hints online to get around certain bosses/levels. Ppl wonder why there are so many MMORPG gamers out there, it's cause your average console game costs $60 new and provides 5-15 hours of gameplay, where an online game can provide you months/years of enjoyment before you get bored of it.

PC4Me
PC4Me

This is pathetic. Of course people prefer longer games. I think company's are looking at it from the point of view of, if it's long, many gamers won't buy another game for a while (face it, not everyone can afford to buy multiple games, especially in this economy), bottomline, "Greed".

FightingGuyX4
FightingGuyX4

as far as im concerned if a game takes me more then 2 days to beat,then i know i got my money's worth cause i almost always end up beating a game the first day i get it, i start losing my patience with games when they start with that whole delay process and were suppose to be out already

Darko-Ashitaka
Darko-Ashitaka

The longer a game, the better! I'm giving them money, after all....

covenan
covenan

on 2000, soldier of fortune (an FPS!) could took at least 20 hours to beat, and rpg was waaay longer back then 120+ hours was a minimum, they lengthy, but surely worth every penny of our money. Look what happen now!! even the Rpg like DA2 20 hour?! and FPs, for 60$ price tag..we got 3 hours of campaign XD..Game Developers getting Lazy these days :(

Darkmoone1
Darkmoone1

How can you be mad at a long game? You get your moneys worth for christ sakes! It also makes those days when nothings coming out for a while really nice.

TheodenofRohan
TheodenofRohan

Im personally SICK of buying games that only take 8-20 hrs to beat.. Where'd the good ol days go where a RPG took 60+ hrs to just make through the story alone, then another 10+ for side quests... This shorter game BS is ruining the gaming industry! These "impatient" players should just stick to Halo or COD since its a 2-3 hr game at max...BRING BACK the length!!! Its just plain laziness to say "im too impatient to finish ______" Dont like Long games?? HERES A FREAKING TIP! DONT BUY THEM!!! Let us TRUE gamers have our fun, full length games to enjoy! PERIOD

liam82517
liam82517

Yes lets dumb down gaming for the simple folk the same way tv and movies have been. How long before we see csi with little arrows poping up on the screen pointing to obvious clues. These panellists are muppets. The long games are the ones that sell the best. The ones that people look forward to the most. How long did people scream for another elder scrolls? 5 years? did they want a 2 and a half hour epic ED5? I think not muppets! Look at wow. it makes billions every year and is still going strong, so no, morons, people dont want little $10 games with a little monkey climbing up and down a tree to get a banana. They want something that helps them escape from the BS of everyday life. Should it be your whole life? No of course not, but its nice to play a few hours a night and watch a narrative unfold with your choices over the course of a few weeks or dare I say months. Not 5 minutes. I cant fart loud enough to tell you how much this panel has lost the plot.

im-a-roustabout
im-a-roustabout

@Funployee91 I think some people didn't get your freakin hilarious comment, there loss! Lol

im-a-roustabout
im-a-roustabout

I don't mind a shorter game so longs the price tag reflects the content. Also some games should be shorter, I don't want a forty hour call of duty but if final fantasy was only ten hours somebody's junks getting cut off!!!

conspirethis
conspirethis

Fail. All the best games are long, like Half Life 2.

Ultramarinus
Ultramarinus

Huh? What non-sense is this? I'm getting tired right, but of 6-hour long 60$ priced games! As long as the game is good and has enough content to go through, I can play hundreds of hours with joy. It just appears that cheapskate developers are trying to push the blame onto gamers for balloon games.

vallan2
vallan2

Is it a coincidence that when I searched these devs (Six to Start, Fail Better games, nDreams), I couldn't find any good games attached to their names? Just goes to show that listening to fools like these is a surefire way to put your company under, as some of these people did with their previous ones. If you're too lazy to put the time in to make a decent length game, then GTFO of the driver's seat and let someone else who will make a game worth playing. "There are people who role-play zero percent; they're dull f***ers. The people who role-play 100 percent; they're mental." this is a ludicrous way to talk about the people who could be potentially buying your games. What a dumbs***.

JSusie
JSusie

I like games that are more or less as long as you want them to be. Like the games where if you blitz through the game and ignore everything else you have about 10 hours in. But if you spend time doing sidequests, etc you can easily put 40+ hours into the same game.

jamyskis
jamyskis

There's a difference between being long and being drawn out for the sake of being called "epic". Many games like KOTOR and Final Fantasy (at least up to and including 10) have strong narratives that push the story along. There are other games like Oblivion (which I otherwise enjoy BTW) that sent you out on glorified treasure hunts that recycle the same content again and again for the sake of providing length. Beyond Good and Evil is a game that springs to mind immediately when asking this question. It was a game that was criticised heavily for its length when it was released, but it's 13-hour play time allows its strong narrative to shine through. If it had been any longer, the narrative would have become more convoluted and would have suffered as a result, or it would have been unnecessarily drawn out.

azumabob
azumabob

Only average games can be too long, because sometimes you just want to be done with them so that you can start something good. The truly bad you ditch straight away anyway, and the truly good never last long enough.

TheTrueMagusX1
TheTrueMagusX1

Hell with this article. I like my games long...I am proud to say I spent 74 hours in both Persona 3 and 4, over hundreds of hours in Oblivion, hell even fighting games like DOA 4 and FPS MP like Halo Reach I spent hundreds of hours. No, keep our games nice and long and make the 60 dollars worth it.

wooten9000
wooten9000

I try my best to extend the time that I can play a campaign by using all the different difficulty settings, skulls in halo, mirror mode in mario kart...

wwlettsome
wwlettsome

And here's another example of how game developers have lost it. People are bored with a 10 hour game? Sure if your audience is the crowd that plays Farmville. For those of us who have kept you in business over the last 10, 20 or 30 years...we're not bored with games that go longer then 10 hours. We're bored with the games that are less then 10 hours.

charlieholmes
charlieholmes

Ha Ha Ha! Really, gamers are losing patience with long games? Right, I invest hours upon hours in Oblivion, GTA, Godfather, Madden, Crackdown 2, NFS Shift 2, etc. etc. etc. for no other reason than I'm inpatient. Sounds like a cop out to making a low quality short game. This guy's smoking crack!

IncrediBurch
IncrediBurch

Certain games are better short, certain games are better long. Long games need a tight pace. That's where L.A. Noire succeeds. The chapter structure and skippable driving scenes help keep players in the meat of the game. Shorter games don't need long plots, just a solid, purposeful premise to explain the "why" of the gameplay. In example, Angry Birds: Why are these birds angry and attacking the pigs? Because they stole the bird eggs. Simple, direct, comprehensible. People can play 10-hour games just fine as long as their progression is continuous in both gameplay and plot. Game design is still full of padded gameplay. Single player games are getting shorter because developers are learning how to create the tighter game pace, removing padding. While I don't agree with the way it was stated up above, more digestible plot chunks are necessary in games. I suppose that video game plots might be better written like those of a TV series. But, we need games that will be written like Family Guy, and Lost, and House, and Soap Operas, and so on. Whatever suits the gameplay that is trying to be accomplished. If plot is significant to the game design, the player should always be receiving a little bit of plot every few minutes, keeping them wondering what's coming next and wanting to see it, keep them thinking. In shorter titles, it can be like a saturday morning cartoon. The plot is entirely self-contained in the episode, facilitating the gameplay of that episode.

neosantana
neosantana

Long games are never bad. with those games, you get your money's worth.

Peter23CU
Peter23CU

I love games that are more than 10 hours, it's worth the money (has long it's fun). Games that are less than 10 hours is waste of money (unless it's cheap). I never understand how a long game is a bad thing one bit. I haven't finished Fallout 3 because I have no idea what I'm doing but having lots of fun and I'm not complaining about the game cause I see it worth the money I payed out :D A game that last longer is better.

it009x9281
it009x9281

How is a long game a bad thing:(