Guilty Secrets

I really wouldn’t say this piece on Destructoid about why folk don’t finish games delves particularly deeply into the matter (and nor will this one), but it did spark a few idle thoughts across the deadend pathways in my brain.

Most people don’t finish games, even games they’re dead excited about. The reasons are manifold – Valve tweaked Episode 1’s zombie/lift sequence to be easier, for instance, when their creepy online monitoring system spotted that a ton of players were struggling with it and giving up there and then. I know at least half a dozen people who didn’t make it far past That Moment in Bioshock, praising its power but in the same breath claiming boredom with the game’s admittedly repetitious structure and combat.

I’m guilty of plenty of gaming orphans myself. I’ve never quite completed a GTA game, usually because the level of driving ability required gradually becomes too harsh for me to enjoy myself. It took me 18 months of fits-and-start playing to finish Deus Ex. I made it to Chernobyl itself in STALKER, right on the cusp of answers and endgame, then found my savegame rendered useless by a patch and haven’t found the time/energy to start over. I’m still dodging KOTOR 2 spoilers, because churning through the game’s fight/collect/upgrade mechanics so soon after KOTOR 1 just felt too dreary, despite my burning need to know the plot’s secrets.

Worse, I’ve started Baldur’s Gate II around a dozen times, but always hit a point where its end still seems impossibly far away and just give up. Then there’s the half-dozen Final Fantasies (hey, two of ’em were on PC, so I can mention ’em here) I couldn’t finish because they kept interrupting me with the hideous, arrogant cutscenes that their hideous, arrogant fans believe constitute good storytelling. It’s the kind of thing I’d love to see some graphs on, and no doubt they’d show the faintly horrifying proof that the human animal behaves largely the same way even in experiences which feel so personal. On the other hand, it’d be reasurring to see that many people have given up in the places I did. At least it would mean it was the developer’s fault, and not my own.

There’s a thousand other games I’ve played for work assignments where I’ve had to fight on well past the point where my brain was begging me to stop, disgusted by the hackery and laziness of the storyline, or some ridiculously tough boss, or the agonising repetition of the shooting, or, as the Destructoid piece does mention, other games competing for my easily-distracted affections. The point of ennui is something a great many games don’t seem to be tested for, and it’s made me say some remarkably unpleasant things about their creators, who no doubt believed wholeheartedly that they’d made something fun from start to finish. Sorry, guys. You made pain, not pleasure.

Some do benefit from a thorough check for unintended misery – much has been written on both Valve and Bungie’s extensive focus group playtesting of their recent games, establishing the exact maths of what keeps people enjoying themselves, and not feeling frustrated or lost or overwhelmed. Then there’s Portal, which I’m furious has been consistently scored lower than HL2 Episode 2 and TF2 (standard criticism – “it’s short”) despite being the Orange Boxette that everyone’s now quoting from and making slightly unsettling fan art of. It’s such a complete entity in a way so few games are, with a defined start, middle and satisfying end, and its brevity completely suits it. It sets a scene, tells a story and says its goodbyes while you’re still on a high.

But both the playtesting and the episodic ultra-polish are investments few developers can afford to make. Valve’s main men were millionaires even before they started the company. Bungie could suck infinite milk from the Microsoftian teat. Almost every other developer lacks these resources, and risks a large part of their games’ audiences never seeing everything they worked so hard to create. One day though, I’m sure someone will nail the science of gaming boredom, and then we’ll have pleasures without end.

So, readers – what PC games you were enjoying have you stopped playing, and why? Let us know in comments (even you, Dave Lurk from Lurksville) and perhaps we can spot some trends.
And developers – any sense of the common causes of players giving up on your game?

90 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    John Walker says:

    I’m not sure that it would be quite so expensive for people to take a lesson from Valve/Bungie. While clearly very few develeopers could have their design and art teams spen NINE MONTHS in daily six hour meetings without ever touching a keyboard, I don’t see why they couldn’t lassoo some passerby and watch them play what they’d built so far. I want this rule applied everywhere, and mostly upon people who make mobile phones. JUST HAVE ONE HUMAN TRY AND USE YOUR MORONIC OPERATING SYSTEMS BEFORE YOU UNLEASH THEM IN THE SHOPS, YOU MORONS.

    More relevantly, I’ve never seen the end of very many games due to their stupid decision to have a bloody boss, that represents nothing of the bulk of the game, and builds a difficulty brick wall I’ve no intention of every bothering to scramble over. While not PC, Nintendo are the Earth’s greatest evil in this respect, and I’ll never know what happens at the end óf Metroid Prime 1 or 2, despite loving both, nor even Luigi’s bloody Mansion, which switches from kid’s game to ULTRA NINJA EXPERT in its last five minutes.

    Oh, and that bloody worm thing in Tron 2.0. I got past it once, and finished the game. But every attempt at a replay ends there.

  2. GibletHead2000 says:

    I gave up silent hill 3 on the PS2 because I didn’t want to leave the room I was in.

    I had no ammo, little health, and two great shambling monsters approaching me from either end of a dark corridor. Halfway along I found a doorway, which I nipped through. The monsters couldn’t fit through the door, and the room itself had a bed, and a nice collection of magazines on a table. I saved the game, switched it off, and never played it again.

    I guess if I booted it up again now (not that I can, my PS2 long ago succumbed to Sony Laser Syndrome) I’m pretty sure that I’d find my character had starved to death. Oh, well.

  3. Jack Monahan says:

    To say nothing of the overall difficulty curve of GTA games, there’s always the ONE mission that seems to have entirely escaped QA. I’ll take punishment enough where I can finish the majority of at least the core missions in GTA, but “that mission” even killed me in GTA:SA. In GTA3, there were a few missions that came under the impossible mission header, in Vice City, it’s the uber-unfair street race you have with the guy you’re trying to recruit for the bank heist, and in GTA:SA it’s the radio-controlled bomb plane.

    Oh, and as to Portal and its joyful brevity: more games could stand to be that short and delightful. (Especially when piggy-backed in with a game like Episode 2.)
    Reviewers have no qualms docking points for games they deem short, but when was the last time they gave a shitty game points for being long?
    There’s a long list of painfully draggy, repetitive shooters (Quake 2, Doom 3 spring to mind) that could have been improved drastically by shortening. People always got after the Max Payne games for this reason, even though they were really the ideal length for anyone with a life.

    Oh, and to answer your prompt more directly: Quake 2 I stopped playing “for realsies” somewhere after the huge disappointment of the Big Gun level (the level was not shaped as a big gun). I cheated through the extraneous 10 levels up until the Makron.
    FF VII, the game that does indeed prove that huge numbers of gamers have no taste or are completely beholden to adolescent nostalgia, I gave up on roughly 20 minutes in. Pick your reason.

  4. simonkaye says:

    You know, I’m going to be annoying and say that I’m a bit of a serial game-finisher. I can’t stand not pushing through to the end. So if I’m going to quit a game, it’s probably going to happen within the first couple of hours of play. After that, I’m committed.

    Unreal 2 is probably my biggest exception to that rule. Mostly because I realized how bad it was most of the time. Except that mission where you have to fortify the door and survive hundreds of attacks. That rocked.

  5. tcliu says:

    Never finished “Psychonauts”. The “meat circus” level was just too hard.

    Usually when I get stuck I just turn on the cheats and cheat from there onwards. It’s my game damn it, I play it any way I like. (Psychonauts didn’t have any cheats, so I just extracted the ending animation from the game and watched it. That’s closure for me.)

  6. schizoslayer says:

    I’ve been trying to tout the science of games design for a few years now as I firmly believe that with proper research you can determine why a game is fun. There is enough known now about how the human mind works that you can use this information to form rules and guidelines for a games design.

    Fun fact: Bungie calculate the speed at which the camera should move for Halo. This was based upon the players ability to track specific kinds of enemies in the game. You know how fast they move and you know the range at which you want the player to feel most comfortable. You’re just some maths away from working at the perfect number.

    The commentaries on Valve games reveal that they do nothing without understanding the result or reason for what they did. They don’t put that wall there because it looked pretty. They put it there because it caused the player to turn to move around it forcing them to look at something important that is key to the next section of the game.

    Once you get past the high-concept hand wavey stuff game design can be a science.

    Such a shame most designers get scared by the idea that game design can actually be learnt or taught.

  7. Cargo Cult says:

    Actually, I can’t think of any vaguely modern single-player, story-based games I’ve given up on. But then, I don’t play all that many – a mere handful a year.

    Homeworld 2 was probably the closest I got to abandoning – my first attempt was just too bloody difficult, and I gave up a few maps in. Ages later, I went back to it and completed it with the difficulty-reducing patch installed – mainly ’cause I liked the artwork and music. Hooray for colossal, ancient floating derelicts!

    Sometimes I’ll cheat just to get past an impossible fight – but only after spending ages trying to play it properly. The ending of Far Cry was a good example, with that ridiculous battle in the volcano – I’d got to the point where I was determined to finish the game, so I’d never have to go back to it ever again. That game was far too long, and the seemingly endless crap drowned out the few good bits.

    Oh, and System Shock 2. Big battle in the body of the Many. Absolutely impossible for me – I’d spent the week fighting an incredibly tense and stressful campaign through the game, rarely with any working weapons or ammunition, then immediately faced a battle I couldn’t even reach, let alone complete. So, cheat-modes activated…

    And talking about finishing things – I need to get back to typing emails!

  8. Chris R says:

    I’m kind of with Simonkaye here… I have to finish the game just to see the end of the story. However, if I do hit a roadblock or get really annoyed with a boss, I will cheat my way through.

    If a game is really good though (BioShock, HL2 + all episodes, etc) I won’t even think of cheating.

    Like Jack M. mentioned above, Quake 2 and Doom 3 (and Prey!) I cheated through all the way. Couldn’t stand those games for some reason, and not because I was scared or whatever. I just hated how closed in and linear they felt, so I cheated just to get through the story.

    Another example: Farcry, the “boss” fight where you have to shoot that F’er in the helicopter, while the ship you’re on is sinking. I tried to beat that bastard about 20 times without cheating (and I hadn’t cheated at all up to that point), and finally got so mad and frustrated that I cheated the rest of the way through the game, sort of as a “F YOU!” to the devs and the game, lol.

    So in short, when I get to a point in the game where it gets really annoying, or a boss fight is frustrating, I’ll start cheating at that point. I know that if I didn’t cheat, I probably wouldn’t come back to the game at all.

  9. tcliu says:

    @schizoslayer: “The commentaries on Valve games reveal that they do nothing without understanding the result or reason for what they did.”

    I disagree with this. Many, many times I have found that the effect the level designers were looking for wasn’t what they got when I came bumbling into their level.

    On the other hand, many times I’ve found their approach to me very constricting. Their method form a “visual language” if you will, and once you figure it out, it is as if the game is barking orders at you: “THIS is what you should do HERE. THEN you GO THERE, and DO THIS”. While every game is a rat maze in a sense – you are expected to do certain things – it isn’t fun when the maze gets too obvious. Nobody wants to be a rat.

    Bungie’s camera speed seems like a band-aid for poor controllers (analog stick instead of mouselook). A nice software solution to a hardware problem, but I wouldn’t call it a shining example of scientific game design.

    Still, I do think game design can be taught and learned – but you can only teach specific techniques. Applying them correctly is still the realm of talent.

  10. Monkfish says:

    Though I’m guilty of this sin, I do tend to finish most of the games I buy. I even force myself through, in some instances – one of the most notable being Far Cry with the horrid last couple of Trigen-infested levels.

    I also agree that boss fights are a real turn off, unless done with real panache. I think that’s the reason I ended up finishing Doom3 and Serious Sam 2 with cheats enabled, just to see the end, and feel justified in hitting the uninstaller.

    The games I didn’t finish:

    Firstly, there’s GTA – I didn’t finish Vice City or San Andreas. Sometimes sandbox games can provide too much distraction. I’ll put Oblivion into that category, too. I haven’t completed the main quest, as I’ve just been running off doing side quests, which seemed to offer more of interest.

    I barely started Fable on PC – I was having so many technical issues with it, and gave up.

    My most recent non-finisher is Tomb Raider Anniversary – probably the frustration factor and repetition being responsible. It’s still on my drive, but there’s so many other games vying for my attention right now, I’m unsure if I’ll ever get to finish it.

  11. Kieron Gillen says:

    Re: Criticism for being “Long”. Reviewers will normally use the phrase “repetitive” when they mean that.

    KG

  12. just_finished_okami says:

    Final Fantasy VII: The last boss was just too bloody hard. I mean, I had no problem whatsoever with difficulty during the whole game and in the final few minutes along comes this obscenely difficult boss.

    I realized that I would need to get into the whole fucking chocobo inbreeding game to get better summons, spend ages in the Gold Saucer for new limit breaks and spend at least a week level grinding to power up my party just to defeat Sephiroth.

    Thanks, but no.

    Final Fantasy X was a very similar experience, though I stopped playing it even earlier. At one point it became obvious, that I’d have to spend at least another week just level grinding and collecting monsters in order to beat the bloody boss that was blocking my way.

    People who claim that the Final Fantasy series is a shining example in game design should be shot. Seriously, there should be laws against such things.

    Baldur’s Gate II: I somehow ended up in that Illithid city looooong before I was supposed to be there and there was no way I was gonna survive that. Stopped playing right there. Which is a shame. Really. One of the best games ever made.

    NWN2: It’s just too long. And I think I ran into a bug. Or I missed some part of the story and there’s nothing pointing me in the right direction. Anyway, I think I’ll still try to finish it, since Mask of the Betrayer looks really promising and I’d like to play it with my character instead of creating a new one.

    WCIII:Frozen Throne: One of the last Undead missions was just too frustratingly hard for me and I lost interest in it.

    Far Cry: That big valley with the gazillion hulking mutants with rocket launchers. That was just insane. Just lost interest in it.

    I actually finished Bioshock, but only just. The last two levels were just a nuisiance and did nothing for the story, the atmosphere or the gameplay. I think the game would have been better if they just left them out.

  13. Kieron Gillen says:

    Re: Far Cry: I wish I could have stopped at that point, but I was reviewing it.

    KG

  14. Dave Johnston says:

    Hate to admit it, but I never finished Psychonauts. It was a fantastically created game, but just got way too difficult and repetitive about halfway through for me. I knew I should finish it, but just didn’t have the energy or desire to.

  15. dekoy says:

    Sadly I am one of those people who doesn’t really finish games. The list…is way to long. Its not because any of them have been to hard/scary/whatever I just get game ADD haha. Some like BGII that you mentioned I didnt finsh after…many many hours was because I got so into side stories/plots/quests that I lost sight of what I had to do. I also havent finished a couple of the Final Fantasies because I just…well got bored with the story! Games like HL2 usually I beat because the time required is just right for me (and yes I did beat HL2 and HL2E1). Anyway. The game that I most regret not finishing? Hm. Tough to say. BGII would be up there because I loved the first and REALLY wanted to finish the story (maybe now years later I’ll be able to…*writes a note to reinstall*) OH! I know. #1 game I should beat, that everyone tells me I should beat, that I played for quite a few hours and didn’t?! Chrono Trigger. Yeah. Sad, I know, especially since RPGs are my cup of tea. Alas I don’t even feel overly motivated to go back to it despite the fact I am sad I haven’t finished it. Anyway. Great post.

  16. The Fanciest of Pants says:

    I must be a freak, I can’t recall a single game I’ve enjoyed that I gave up on. I’m a “nothing in moderation” sort of bloke so if I like a game, I totally devour it. Conversely it’s very hard for me to go through games that don’t grab me within an hour or two(if I’m feeling kind).

    However one thing I AM guilty of, and I don’t know if I’m alone here, is failing to even begin some games which I was either HIGHLY anticipating, or is the next installment of a series I love. Laziness, cheapness or fear of dissapointment? You decide.

  17. Zeno, Internetographer says:

    BGII is totally worth finishing, especially with the expansion that ties it all up. That’s one of the few games I’ve actually finished, sadly. The thing is, when a game is really good, I don’t want to finish it, just because I know I’ll never get around to replaying it and I don’t want to be done.

    Also, especially on Final Fantasies, I don’t finish them because I spend so much time trying to beat the secret bosses that I get sick of the whole thing and quit. Like in FFVII, I kept trying to beat Emerald & Ruby weapon, and ended up too pissed to finish. Same thing with FFIII’s Iron Golem on the DS version. Same thing goes for obnoxiously hard collectibles/minigames/other various secrets.

  18. Nate says:

    I remember where they give you the gravity gun, back in HL2. They put you a narrow hallway full of crates, which ends a laddered shaft. One problem– the ladder is caged. My quickly honed gamer instincts kick in: “Oh! I can build a tower of boxes with the gravity gun!” It takes forever. Boxes break accidentally. They never quite get where I want them. I have to make multiple trips, bringing anything stackable to the shaft. Finally, I scramble to the top of my tower and jump on to the top of ladder’s cage– and I can’t climb. WTF? Turns out there’s a padlock at the bottom of the ladder that I have to shoot. Fuck this whole genre of games.

    Then there’s Nethack 2008. I guess it was the whole “uncanny valley” thing that did it for me there. I couldn’t stand to see another terrifyingly ambiguous facial expression, frozen at the moment of cockatrice battery.

  19. ed says:

    as someone who finished bioshock, what is “that moment”? nothing really springs to mind as a distinctive “that moment”!

    when i was young and stupid i used to never finish any games on my ps1, but that’s because i’d buy the latest, greatest game before i’d even got half way through the last game i bought. (that’s the single main cause of me never finishing a game)
    now i’m in a strict finish-game-before-buying-next-one mindset and i’ve actually played completely through a lot of/most games since i started playing games again (after a 3 year hiatus) earlier this year.
    It’s getting to that silly point in the year where there’s loads of great/hyped games being released in quick succession so it may get quite difficult. i’m already falling behind.

    anyway, so what’s this “that moment” in bioshock. i’ve played through the game so you can give me a subtle hint rather than a spoiler ;)

  20. simonkaye says:

    I’ll admit here and now that the main reason I’ve finished all of the Half Life 2 series a few days after release is because they have in-game-alterable difficulty levels. Sure, I’ll go back soon and sort out the last quarter of episode 2 on ‘medium’, but first time through? I still felt it was a challenge, and all I really wanted was to feel like an action hero.

    I look forward to the day when no game designer sees a ‘difficult bit’ as a sequence that will force the player to die and reload. Challenge needs to be pitched so that you feel threatened without having to be so messily extracted from your suspension of disbelief.

  21. Alec Meer says:

    Ed: the bit with the golfclub. You know, the really, really important bit.

  22. simonkaye says:

    Ed: Would you kindly cast your mind back?

  23. Willem says:

    To those who’ve never finished Psychonauts: Try again. Seriously. It’s very, very hard, I know, I’ve played it. Several times, even. And no, it doesn’t get that much easier the second time.
    It’s hard as nails and you’ll want to bash in your screen. But you won’t. You’ll keep trying and eventually, you’ll get the bunny up the circus, you’ll finish all of Raz’ dad’s challenges and you’ll beat the bosses. Then, you’ll feel complete, if only for a while. Finishing that game made it so much better than it would’ve been if I never finished it. The rush you feel when the credits roll. It’s just amazing.

    Oh, and the only really hard bit is the CHAIN FENCE OF FIERY DOOM. The rest is easy!

    Games I’ve never finished: Baldur’s Gate 1. I reached a point where all my quest options were closed, yet I needed a few more levels to get new ones. I was at Baldur’s Gate, but had to grind through thousands of annoying monsters to get in. I just couldn’t be bothered. The game hadn’t gripped me, for some reason. I barely even noticed the story and the mechanics just weren’t all that good.
    I still have BG2 here, too, but wanted to wait with playing it, ’till I finished 1. I might give it a go soon.

    Further: Homeworld 2, because you cannot finish it. Starfox Adventures is the same.
    NWN. I actually reached the end-boss twice, but couldn’t kill him with my shitty rogue. It was actually impossible, and I mean this. The second time, I think I used a paladin or something like that. Either way, I couldn’t kill him either and just smacked on god-mode.

  24. phuzz says:

    FFXII: I had exactly the same problem as above, the difficulty throughout the whole game was spot on, I was really enjoying the plot and then bang! A boss battle that’s about five times harder than any of the rest of the game, what’s that about?
    The remake of Settlers 2, I have to admit to giving up on about half way through, but then it was basically replaying the same game I’d already beaten years ago.

    Looking at the rest of the games I’ve got lying around, the one’s I’ve not finished have been for just those two reasons, either the learning curve suddenly became a cliff face, or it levelled off into what felt to me like an endless plane, with nothing new or interesting to come. (mind you, quite a few games [and films] I’ve given up on due to boredom, I later find out that I was 5 minutes away from the end)

  25. Muse says:

    It may have something to do with my personality (I come up as heavy Explorer in that type, blanking on the name) but I can stand games long enough to see what’s new in them, but after that I pretty much lose interest. The newness can be environment, gameplay, powers, bad guys, or (most rarely, but the best when it happens) story.

    The reality check where I stop playing usually occurs because I simply don’t have time to play all the games I want to play. That means that I have a stack of unexplored games sitting there, constantly in silent competition with whatever game I’m playing at the moment. If that game becomes too hard, or the newness fades away, I typically stop. The only ones I actually ever finish are the ones where the story draws me forward, and those are very rare these days.

    My reason for quitting matches pretty well with modern psychology research about choice, and the effects of having too much choice. At the very least, most game companies should realize that they only have gamers for 20 hrs max, and plan games accordingly. The extra time could be spent making the 20 hrs better and better, rather than making the game longer and longer, which only a few ppl will enjoy anyway. Gamers (and particularly reviewers) need to realize that there is a direct trade-off between length and quality, and figure out which one they prefer. Don’t say Portal is an amazing game (it is) but too short. Again, psychology would show that people will greatly prefer short but high quality to much longer and mediocre quality, and the economics should support it as well.

    It’s kind of funny to me that game companies would even *want* to make long games. I know a game that’s twice as long isn’t twice as expensive, but it’s certainly more expensive, and nobody has ever shown that length equates to sales (that I’m aware of) other than perhaps the distorting anecdotal evidence of MMO’s and FF games. Maybe there’s something I’m missing, but I’m guessing the “science” behind it isn’t actually science, but the collective wisdom of industry veterans. Those last five words were dripping with sarcasm, btw. :)

  26. Evo says:

    C&C3 :(

    Sad to say that despite owning a C&C fansite…I haven’t even finished the latest installment :(

    The story just didn’t hold me in :O

    Also STALKER, I got to Pripyat then had to go back for some stuff to the Military Base….getting back anywhere near Pripyat was crap and full of mutants :@

    Serious Sam 2 – forgot why I never finished it, same with Hitman Blood Money, both are sitting waiting for me to play them again!

  27. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    with just a quick look over at my bookshelf (which now days holds a total of ten books) I’ve probably only finished about one third of my games. A quick count was around 30 or so. Thats only the more modern-ish ones that come in dvd size cases. Mostly I decide they arent that good and give up on them. I’ve never once finished a final fantasy. You know that bit where your free to do whatever you want, just before going off to fight the last boss? Yeah, I do a few sidequests then get bored. I will admit, im in the process of going through a lot of them. like finishing all the baldurs gates (never finsihed any of the expansions) and icewind dales. I’ve been saving nwn2 until i get the expansion.

  28. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    Well, OBVIOUSLY I never finished BG2! I feel proud to not only have completed ff7, on the basis of these comments, but have not even FALTERED during the journey. I was hooked from start to finish. Haven’t come close on any of the other Final Fantasies, of course.

    Far Cry… well, about 20 reloads on that volcano with the rocket launching twats, but it was worth it when I shot the scientist in the face at the end.

    Recently, it had been my shitty pc causing me to not complete games, esp. Bioshock and Stalker, where framerates were too poor to carry on. However, with my new pc, I intend to revisit them both.

  29. ed says:

    ah. on the first read-through i thought it meant a combat piece as the context on the paragraph was previously about struggling with difficulty.

  30. Martin Coxall says:

    I in general won’t finish a game because it’s frustrating, or boring, or outstrips my stamina threshhold, no matter how good.

    A game I never finished due to idiotic Boss-flavoured frustration was Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. A game I never finished because it was boring was Halo 3. And a game I never finished due to stamina reasons, though brilliant, was Twilight Princess.

  31. schizoslayer says:

    To actually comment on the real topic:

    I give up on games when either the game hits a difficulty spike and frustration sets in or when I Grok (to use a Kosterism) the game and it offers up nothing but more content.

    The only occasions I will continue past this point is if the story is incredibly compelling (few are) or the mechanics of the game itself are deep enough to enable me a huge amount of variety (games like Civ 4 or multiplayer games for example).

    Essentially it’s all about Flow as described in any of Csikszentmihalyi books. The moment the game drops off the chart of Ability Vs Challenge either to ennui or frustration I’ll stop playing.

    Portal should be studied as how to maintain that balance as it treads the line so perfectly. By the end of the game you feel like a master of the games mechanics and that anything from here on would just be more content (although I feel the gun hasn’t exhausted all of its possibilities yet).

    A good story and lots of explosions may pull people into your game but without something to learn, adapt and exploit most games will begin to become repetitive. Stranglehold and Max Payne suffered from having incredible first half hours and then no depth to back up the length of the games.

  32. Brendan says:

    I find myself unable to finish most of the games I play these days. For some reason I seem to have contracted gamers ADD. I tend to get bored with any one given type of gameplay after a few days, I move onto something else with the intention of coming back. By the time I do, I’ve lost whatever knack that particular game requires for me to play the later levels proficiently. Cue me giving up in disgust as I can’t find the energy to start from scratch again.

  33. Iain says:

    I’m terrible for completing games. When you’ve got as many games as I have (over 250 on all formats at last count) something has to be really special for me to actually complete it. I’ve probably only completed about 15-20% of the games I own, but it’s not something I feel particularly guilty about. I have completed all the Half-Life games, though, and I did finally get around to completing Deus Ex a few weeks back.

    Some games I gave up on too early (probably):

    Far Cry – I stopped playing this as soon as they introduced the bullet-sponge mutants. The first few bits on the island were great – but as soon as it turned in Quake, I stopped playing.

    Halo – I lost the will to live after about six sections of The Library. I did get to see the end of the game, however, as I played through the last two levels with a friend, playing it on an 8 foot projected screen. That was quite cool. But The Flood? I’ll never look at brussel sprouts in the same way ever again.

    BGII – I never quite finished this – after the PC gets turned into the Slayer, my interest just waned away. I still have the save game lurking around, so I will get back to it at some point.

    Bioshock – this fell into the same trap as System Shock 2, really. Respawning enemies are bad enough, but having the Vita Chambers really killed the game for me, as they can actually give you an incentive to die if you’re really short of health and EVE and you don’t want to use a health pack or EVE syringe – and that really runs contrary to everything I want from an FPS.

    On the other side of the coin, games I completed then wished I hadn’t bothered:

    KotOR 2 – gods, the last hour was just so dire. And the less said about the Mordenkainen’s Flying Lightsabers, the better… (Alec, just read the spoilers – because playing the last planet just so isn’t worth it for the ending)

    Half-Life: Blueshift – talk about anti-climactic. I know it was essentially an aborted console game, ported to PC, but still… the final set piece is risible compared to Half-Life and Opposing Force.

    Neverwinter Nights – the end battle is just ridiculous, really. And you don’t even get to snog the cute Bard, Sharwyn…

  34. just_finished_okami says:

    I also never ever finished a single Zelda game. They just tend to drag on forever. Wind Waker was such a grand game, but once I had to start looking for pieces of maps for the Triforce parts by sailing the entire endless ocean I knew I’d never finish it.

    Twilight Princess.. I just got stuck in a temple and I was close to getting a tennis arm anyway from waggling the wiimote so I stoped playing it. Though I’m planning to get back to it someday.

  35. Andrew Farrell says:

    In GTA3, there were a few missions that came under the impossible mission header, in Vice City, it’s the uber-unfair street race you have with the guy you’re trying to recruit for the bank heist, and in GTA:SA it’s the radio-controlled bomb plane.

    The only one I really remember from GTA3 was the rampage with the sniper rifle. And I really loved the game because I can’t do driving games for shit, and it didn’t matter! Take car, drive like maniac, get out of flaming car, get new car, repeat: this was my mantra.

    The lack of driving acumen would have caused me to hate the race in Vice City as well, but I’d already nicked enough cars for the car dealership to unlock the ultra-fast car, which I just hid around a bend in the road. Start mission, switch cars, tear off into the future!

    And everyone hates the toy plane mission in San Andreas but, well, you do know it’s completely optional, right?

  36. Thiefsie says:

    Tcliu is 100% on the money for me… Valve and to a lesser extent Bungie are too predictable in their singposting for the player. You can basically look at a level (if you have a good view) and predict what is going to happen and what they want you to do, and I find that very boring and tiresome, I want some surprises in my gaming… not to be lead by the hand all the time. I also want to muck around and try different things, but half life in particular barely allows you to do this. There is one pre-determined way to do something… and that is it. Halo 3 hides this more succesfully purely because the fight areas are much larger and you can go about the combat in different ways to your liking.

    Also listening to the commentary I believe that half of the things done don’t actually work as intended and the comments are actually moreso justifing their decisions, but somewhat unsuccesfully.

    Prime obvious cases are like in EP 1 near the end (first that comes to mind) when you are leading people to the train… of course there are god rays (volumetric lights) that signpost exactly where you should be headed… I mean godamn, are people that freaking braindead? HL2 is about as linear as an FPS can get with no deadends, backtracking or secrets to speak of, and they still signpost the way to go!! In the same room it was obvious that the train carriage would fall down at some point and create a track you are meant to walk on (and obstacle)… seriously… so boring

    I didn’t finish EP1 until last week so I could go straight into ep2, and I purchased ep1 on release day… I’m sorry valve but the story isn’t strong enough and the combat wasn’t exciting enough. For all your studying of habits, you kind of know EP1 was a bit crap… and yes EP2 is a lot better, but still not fantastic, or as amazing as everyone remembers HL1 was.

    I remember reading an article on eurogamer interviewing gabe about the pros and cons of ’emergent’ gameplay vs linear and also game endings, and Gabe is obviously a stalwart for highly scripted, linear experiences citing his steam knowledge that people often don’t finish a game… let alone replay it much as a reason why valve games are highly linear and highly successful. Well news flash, ep 1 and to a lesser extent ep 2 (and yes even HL2) were pretty damn boring and predictable in parts. I can’t say anything shocked me in either of them except maybe Alyx getting wounded, which lasted a whole 20 minutes or so… Gabe was going on about how people were afraid of missing something, so were less sure of branching gameplay styles… and wanted to all enjoy the same ‘great’ moments as their mates without missing out etc. Well to solve that it’s called balance and options!

    He also mentioned that end-game was barely worth developing to any great length because so few people actually see it… well.. nice way to buck the trend mate, give people a reason to see the end of a game more than a 20 second fmv for example (OK yes not HL) and of course they are not going to be arsed to finish the game unless they are anal or really enjoying it.

    HL2 ep 1 and 2 are still great and all, but the scriptedness really kills replayability… and I bet Gabe is sitting in his chair looking at the figures laughing at all the people repeat playing.. but you know what? I reckon they do it for the commentary only… that’s the only reason I am. Even on hard HL2 and the episodes are barely a challenge.

    It’s things like these that are the ‘dumbing down’ of the games industry… and fortunately I realise unlike most that this isn’t caused by console gamers at all, but mainstream influences of gaming culture (that happen to include console gamers).

    I’m also a bit jaded, but the only time I have been genuinely surprised by a game in recent years is BioShock, and it’s a shame that the likelyhood of it happening is like near zero… kind of what the lionhead guy was harping on about in recent interviews promoing Fable 2.

    As for finishing games, I just don’t have the time before the next big thing hits and I get interested in that. I have a massive backlog of games that I fully intend to complete one day, but I have a life and hours upon hours of gaming is impossible. I have this fantasty that when I retire or I am really sick or something that I will go through all the backlog I’ve been building up over the years and enjoy them to the end. Well.. thinking about it I’ve got way too many games to do that realistically… but I would be able to do it a bit at least. Maybe the reason this is partly hard is I play most games I get on or near the hardest difficulty… greatly increasing play time.

    Because of thsi backlog I am somewhat of a games collector and I will hold onto the required systems until I have finished the said games. (I’ll keep a PS2 for example until I finish all the Ace Combats – but of course 6 will come out next month and push that back even further)

    Also because of this lack of time I feel I have to play games, I vehemently HATE games that force you to wait or waste time, which means essentially every mmorpg known to man (because grinding is just that) some rpgs, and to a lesser extent all RTS games.

    Last games I completed:
    Portal
    Halo 3
    Ep 1
    Darkness

    Games I have ongoing (installed and waiting to be finished):
    Bioshock
    World in Conflict
    Company of Heroes

    Notable games I haven’t completed:
    Far Cry… after the aliens have swamped you fo a few levels it just gets oh so tiring. The early game was utterly fantastic though!
    Fear… bland levels, uber combat though. Maybe scariness has a tiny impact. (or perhaps moreso wanting to be scared so only playing it in the dark up loud etc)
    Stalker: Patches and the problem of starting again.
    DMoMM: Just kind of bland the whole way through.
    Doom 3, not much needs to be saidfor this.
    All splinter cell games, just generic story bores me even though i am a sneaker game fan

  37. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    the thing with vita chambers is… well I don’t get what the thing is really.

    Its just like pressing f9 to quickload, except you start a bit further back and with less ammo. The only problem I can see is that it means you can go back and finish off a big daddy that just got you before you managed to kill it. But, if that’s REALLY such a problem, you could always just quickload anyway. I tend to hit f9 when im about to die anyway.

    That’s what I reckon, anyway.

  38. KindredPhantom says:

    Elder Scrolls: Morrowind.
    I played right through it, was close to the end and hard drive failure meant i lost my savegames. I just can’t get back into it like i did when i first played it, shame though.

    Same with Deus Ex, though i do think I’ll be able to get back into it sometime.

    The design of Final Fantasy contributes to the reason why people don’t complete it, you get to the final boss and then it gives you the choice of either to carry on or complete the new side quests that reward you with better stuff. The problem is that after playing Final Fantasy for so many hours it feels like a chore to complete these new sidequests have little to contribute to the story. Final Fantasy 12 is a little different but I’m in the current situation as described above, Ive been in that for 3-4 months.

    Oh and Final Fantasy is far more enjoyable on a console than PC.

    I think certain genres of games are more likely to not to be finished than others, i find it easier to start and finish a FPS than an RPG.

  39. Pesh says:

    I’ve never completed…

    STALKER – I don’t like being left to do my own thing… I felt like I was skipping entire portions of the game if I didn’t explore every nook and cranny.

    Oblivion – Same as above, but the difficulty scaling and player leveling mechanics were redundant and retarded.

    GTA3 – Again, too open-ended

    Final Fantasy X-2 – the game was terrible. I couldn’t backtrack to uncover secrets after I had completed a certain chapter. This is terribly frustrating. Like being forced to watch a season of Seinfeld, knowing all the jokes before they’re told, just to watch a scene you missed when you were looking down at your plate of spaghetti.

    Suikoden III – Same as above.

    KOTOR + KOTOR II – Too big. No direction.

    Unfortunately, I’ve never finished Half-Life without cheats. This is entirely my fault, though.

  40. Jack Monahan says:

    Great discussion.. and on a related note, with such limited time for game-playing, I find that finishing a game, and really wanting to finish, is one of the real marks of a quality game, something that affects me in some way. I’ve finished:

    Ico and Shadow of the Colossus (felt well-nigh obliged to finish out both and was happy to)
    every Hitman game (and replayed missions considerably–these games are replay kings)
    every Valve game (the Episodes might be feeling a little stale, but I always finish these)
    every Splinter Cell game (a sometimes uneven series, these still remain compelling)
    Max Payne 1 and 2 (ideal play length, game mechanics, and storytelling factor heavily)

    I realize looking at this list I’m mostly a shooter and stealth player, but I’m increasingly wanting to make time for “special event” kind of games, like the Ico/SotC team seem to specialize in–why can’t we have more developers like this?

    Oh, and this is an entirely different topic of discussion, but Portal’s inclusion in Orange Box begs consideration of a sort of short film compilation approach to games… what if we continued to pay the normal entry fee, but instead of one monolithic 50 dollar game running 9-18 hours roughly, we got 3-4 games averaging 3-5 hours a piece? Shorter, sweeter, and right to the point, like Portal.

  41. Citizen Parker says:

    Funny you guys mentioned this! Not too long ago I completed a list of terrible moments like those described above that prevented me (or nearly prevented me) from completing them.

    I really do feel bad about giving up on PLANESCAPE: TORMENT however, due to the “Many-as-One” cave. I fear for my eternal soul if I die before completing that game, based upon the sheer amount of written goodness I’ve been able to read about it.

    For me though, nothing made me feel less eager to keep playing when a sequence flagrantly violates the established rules or “feel” of the game up until them.

    Also, seconding the FAR CRY mutant sequence thingy. Perhaps that should have made my list…

  42. Jim Rossignol says:

    I completed Doom 3 :)

  43. Evo says:

    I completed Doom 3 too….though only because I used God mode for most of it….got stale running down the same corridor all the time!

  44. Turin Turambar says:

    I find funny when people critizes Doom3 or Quake 2 for being repetitive. Really, they are shooters. If you have to use cheats and pass the last levels, the game was not for you. These games are for people who like to shoot a things.

    And using cheats to finish the story? In a iD game? Lol?

  45. Chris R says:

    Oh yeah, people mentioning Splinter Cell (a sneaky type game) reminded me of Thief 3: Deadly Shadows… I thought that game had a great story and really drew me in. I remember beating that game in 3 days, no cheats, playing for 10+ hours a day on the hardest difficulty.

    Dunno why I was so crazy over that game… I spent hours in between the missions, stealing everything from the random NPC’s walking around the parts of the city. So much fun! “Hey!! Who took my purse of gold! It was here a second ago!” Hahaha, good times.

  46. unclebulgaria says:

    I have trouble with anything other than an RPG really.

    Managed GTA:VC,SA, DX2:IW, Max Payne 2, BG2 although not Throne of Bhall, NWN + all expansions, Shogun: TW. And that’s about it. No cheating either.

    Games I haven’t finished: RomeTW, Max Payne 1, HL1 or 2, GTA3, BioShock (although I intend to), R6 Vegas, Overlord (I mean, that last fight with Kane, WTF?!?), Medieval 2 etc.

    Usually I fail when I hit a difficulty cliff. I just don’t have eight hours a night any more to spend grinding through a game. I get three hours if I’m lucky which if it’s a bad night includes eating / cleaning etc. Some nights there’s nothing. Most weekends I’m busy. Just don’t have time.

  47. The_B says:

    OK then, deep breath. Still to finish in my collection:

    Medieval II Total War (Like, any of the campaigns.
    Jade Empire Special Edition
    C&C3
    Overlord
    Tomb Raider Anniversary
    Dawn of War
    Company of Heroes
    Devil May Cry 3
    Dreamfall
    The Longest Journey (I haven’t started the former because I want to finish the latter first)
    Darwinia
    TrackMania Sunrise (by finish I mean all the default tracks)
    Command & Conquer First Decade Pack (Except RA2 and Yuri’s Revenge)
    KOTOR 2
    Oblivion
    In Memoriam
    Vampire: Bloodlines
    Test Drive Unlimited (haven’t even got all the car showrooms yet)
    Dark Messiah of Might & Magic
    Serious Sam 2
    Flatout 2
    Dungeon Keeper 2
    Freedom Force Vs The Third Reich
    Operation Flashpoint
    Beach Life
    Black & White 2
    Boiling Point
    Sin
    Kingpin
    Beyond Good & Evil
    Planescape Torment

    *Phew*

    Most of time it’s because I get distracted by newer games very easily, and some of the time – mainly OpFlash and Beach Life – just didn’t hold my interest for long enough at all. I sometimes think I have some form of gaming ADD…

  48. Kieron Gillen says:

    Proper answer? Far too many. I’m a mayfly by nature, and being a games journalist makes it worse. If someone asks me to do a review, I pretty much have to drop what I’m playing for pleasure if it’s a game of any size, and by the time I’m finished, I could have lost the desire to dive back in.

    KG

  49. Adam Hepton says:

    I have an even bigger problem: I buy games and don’t even START them. Got Bioshock on day of release: installed it – but that’s all. I currently have twenty-four games in my collection I’m yet to start. I’m trying to discipline myself into not being allowed to buy any more until I have at least started to play all of these but, you know, Football Manager 2008 is out on Friday, and I’ll probably just play that for the next twelve months.

  50. Incognito_gbg says:

    Since I dont play single player-actiongames (except for Mafia, GTA: SA and Max Payne), there really aren´t that many that I give up on. I don´t find scripted games like HalfLife2 satisfying, so the latest game I really gave up on was these_

    *Baldurs Gate 2. And that was because it to difficult. To much time was spent on saving/loading, so there werent any flow in the game.

    *I gave up on Black&White 2 also, since it was such a letdown. I loved B&W1, but they had cut all the good parts from that in the sequel. And the AI was horrifyingly bad.

    *And I gave up on Jade Empire. That game had potential to be the coolest ever, but it was so extremely linear, and had to many enemies that werent suited for a fighting game, like the shooting ghosts. Massive dissapointment that one. :(