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Bar-sur-Loup Provence France

Game length, gameplay, and story

There is an interesting article in The Escapist on the fact that one rarely finishes a game these days. Regardless of the affection you may feel for them, the Haloes and Witchers and BioShocks don't see many people get all the way to the final scene. Our best guess for Heroes 5 was about 10%, and we have a pretty hardcore following.
Tom Endo points out in his article a few points and problems; one is that once you figure out the gameplay the rest is just endless (more or less repetitive) variations on that gameplay. The designers try to pull you in with new tricks and some plot twists, but stacked against the odds of finishing is the enormous time commitment required to get all the way to the end.
I think that there are a lot of cogent arguments for trimming game story to a more manageable size while adding tons of extra gameplay content for the hardcore gamers. After all, if a player has to leave the game for a few days, will they remember who the characters are? What quest they are doing and why? Is there any point in writing an enormous sprawling plot that is the equivalent of two or three screenplays if so few finish it?
It might make more sense to make games smaller, tighter in both story and gameplay, and then provide tons of downloadable content for those who want to keep going. Mod kits, additional levels, and unlockable bonuses would probably be more than sufficient for the hardcore player who falls in love with the game.
Especially if the development costs drop, and the price tag along with it.
I recently played Portal, and was very impressed by it. It didn't have a story, more like an atmosphere, though I suppose you could argue that there was slender plot thread. It was brilliant playability, fun writing, and all over a great experience. It was widely lauded, won many awards, and took only three or four hours to play.
Is that the wave of the future? Maybe it should be, otherwise studios are paying to create, and players are paying to not play, an awful lot of game content.

Comments

My son watched the clip of portal with me and he wants to know if it's a game nine-year olds can play.
My nine-year-old son plays it with me. The puzzles may be frustrating but there is zero blood, sex, etc.
Awesome. I think I know what to put into his stocking this christmas :) Thanks for the tip, Jeff.
Bar-sur-Loup Provence France

December 2011

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