The RPG Scrollbars: How Long Is Too Long?

Ha! I completed your game faster than you! Prick!

Please welcome Richard Cobbett to our roster of weekly columnists. Every Monday at 1pm, Richard will be donning his +8 cap of writing to present a ragbag of news and reflections on role-playing games.

It’s been a great year for epic, old-school RPGs. A good tax-year anyway, since that conveniently scopes in everything from Divinity: Original Sin to Wasteland 2 to the other week’s Pillars of Eternity, to say nothing of several smaller titles. As we all know, part of the joy of a good RPG is slipping into a world – when everything works out, the long playtime feels like an epic journey rather than a commitment. Or at least it should. In the wake of The Witcher 3 promising 200 hours or so to see everything it’s got though, I’ve been thinking – at what point do the scales start to tip?

Now, to be fair this is at least in part because when these games’ originators came out, I was in a very different position. As a kid/teenager/delete as appropriate, new games didn’t come along very often, and value for money was key. With this round, I was reviewing most of them (typically over at neighbouring Eurogamer). That meant having to condense the whole games into just a few days, pounding and pounding away at them to see as much as possible and condense the experience into about 1000-2000 words. No matter how good a game is, it’s hard to approach a deadline with a game that’s still happily throwing in plot-twists instead of a final boss, blearily look at a clock about to tick 4AM, and not on some deep inward level find yourself screaming “END! END! EEEEEEND!”

In general though, people seem to find it increasingly hard these days to settle in for the kind of experiences of old. Instead, the games that really reward that tend to be the ones played in short sessions over long periods of time – the Dotas, the Minecrafts, the Spelunkies, where the addiction creeps up on you rather than presenting itself up front. With an epic RPG, the challenge isn’t simply beating up whatever threat is conquering some country that probably has too many vowels in its name, but remaining invested while outside distractions come thick and fast – new games, new seasons of Game of Thrones, boring work and variably boring social commitments. It’s so much easier to put aside an hour here and there, even if that hour ends up being two or three in practice, than straight-up putting aside 50 hours in a month to fully enjoy your latest adventure.

Ah, turn-based games. Helping games hit triple-digit hour counts since... I don't remember, it's been so long...

The result is that it’s hard to imagine most people – and I’m not talking about the hardcore RPG community here, but the wider market of people who enjoy these games – getting close to finishing them. Check the Steam Achievements for Divinity: Original Sin for instance and you’ll see that 56.5% of Steam players get the first achievement, relatively early on in the game, while just 5.4% have collected the coveted Lipsticked Lady of Game Completion. As ever, these aren’t an exact science – achievements often don’t trigger, players will have bought it and not played it, or quit after creating a character or similar, but still, they’re usually interesting reading.

Don’t mistake this as an argument against length. An RPG that doesn’t feel like it’s presenting a world, or a universe in the case of the science fiction ones, really isn’t doing its job. In a game like Skyrim, part of the joy is knowing that you’re never, ever going to see everything it has to offer – that you can stride out in any direction and find adventure. In Dragon Age Inquisition, while mechanically it’s simpler than I’d have liked, the story of the rise of the Inquisition wouldn’t have worked if it took less time than watching the intro of Might and Magic X. No, wait. Bad example. Some intro that isn’t seventeen freaking hours long and still fails to actually set up the story properly.

In the case of a linear RPG though, I’m finding that really large numbers are often a turn-off. It’s one thing to fire up a game that you know you’re going to love, like The Witcher 3 is currently looking set to be. When it’s a new world though, with unfamiliar mechanics, a team without solid credentials and a mass of new lore to learn, I tend to get a bit irritable. If you want 50 hours of my time, then you had better goddamn prove yourself worthy of them early on. An RPG for instance that begins with that hoary old intro “Chapter 1: Get To The Town Where The Game Actually Starts” has a pretty good chance of being dropkicked back into the internet pretty quickly. One that starts with reams of bullshit lore instead of actual story – and there is a difference – is one that I find hard to assume will suddenly realise it needs trivial things like character motivation and pacing and drama.

(Developers! Do you want to make me despair of your game from the very first frame? I’ll share the secret. Your intro should begin in a tower, with a dusty old tome with your logo on it opening, while some ponderous narrator spends ten minutes explaining what I can sum up in exactly two words: “Dragons exist.” For the love of Christ, play classic RPGs like Ultima VI to see how an RPG can start – drama! Excitement! Mystery! Danger! Focus! Brevity! There is plenty of time to explain why your elves are totally unlike everyone else’s elves later on. Much, much later. Quietly.)

Look, I'll help you all out with your personal problems, but I AM going to give priority to the ones I'm trying to bang. If you want faster service, might I suggest having a word amongst yourselves about the orgy possibilities of us owning our own castle. Not you, Solas. You're on latrine duty.

Rating in terms of hours also tends to, perhaps unfairly, make me question the content of those hours. Now, I’m not accusing Witcher 3 of this, not least because the ‘200 hours’ being splashed around was the reply to a Twitter question about doing everything in its open world rather than a straight-up “Buy our game, it’s huge!” affair. In general though, the larger a number, the more I start thinking of filler. Assassin’s Creed style ‘collect 500 things, because… they’re there.’ Dungeons that exist to pad out the running time with generic textures and packs of inexplicable monsters. Final Fantasy games, their middle acts especially in service of player time expectations rather than the needs of the story, which since and including Final Fantasy VII would always have been greatly improved by being sliced to ribbons with a machete. If there’s an exciting hour-based number, it comes after the game comes out – people choosing to put over 200 hours into, say, Skyrim as a mark of how much it gave them, rather than a promise of how much it theoretically might.

And so ended the saga of Charcoal Pete, Skyrim's bravest yet least successful bowman.

So with that being said, a question! How many hours play do you like to get from your first play of an RPG? I’m not thinking in terms of how much a company has to promise, but what you consider a worthy purchase that you’re still likely to actually get from it without being called away or distracted or simply burned out on the mechanics? A hundred hours? Fifty? Twenty? Months of play?

For me, these days, I find that around 20 hours in I’m usually looking forward to the ending and to be ‘free’ from the main quest, with itchy feet really kicking in at the 30 hour mark. There are exceptions of course, and that doesn’t mean I won’t go back after the main quest for challenges like Pillars of Eternity’s Eternal Paths, picking up fun sidequests, completing DLC or other things. I find it liberating though to know that I can walk away at any point without having wasted the time already invested – that even if the ending sucked, I saw it, and can mark down another world as saved.

That being said, I suspect I’ll be spending a good more time than that with The Witcher 3 when it comes out, and absolutely can’t wait. If you’re still concerned about the promised hours though, for better or worse, fear not. I called my people and they provided me with this complete chart of how long most people are expected to take finishing the game. No, it’s okay. All part of the service.

It's SCIENCE!

229 Comments

  1. SAeN says:

    Dragon Age Inquisition is a game that is definitely too long, although that’s largely down to it being an absolute chore to play. If most mmo’s just play like a bad rpg, DA:I is an rpg that plays like a bad mmo. Bioware were far too dedicated to wasting the players time rather than put what was good up front. Too much time traipsing across a map too big and empty to be of any real interest just to put some flowers on a grave.

    I don’t mind if a game has a slow part in the middle, but DA:I was slow between every story beat. It’s not 60 hours I enjoyed it’s 60 hours that passed me by.

    • Luminolza says:

      Totally agree. So many players have that desire to complete things, or to simply explore, but it’s punishing them in what seems like an attempt to fill out the game’s hour count. The main story’s good, the characters are good, the game’s fun, but it’s such a hard game to enjoy. I’ll take a load of sidequests any day, but just make them vaguely interesting.

      • jezcentral says:

        I’m at the last mission of Inquisition, and all I want to do is keep doing the side quests, to put off the end. Every game is too long, if it takes longer than 20 hours, except for a previous few which describe a world I want to spend time in. Dragon Age, Saint’s Row, Xcom and Just Cause are on this list. Assassins Creed and Far Cry are not.

        That saidth Inquisition’s pacing is knocked off balance by its sheer length. But there is so much to love about it. I do not regret giving it half of my annual gaming time for one precious second.

    • Jimbo says:

      I can’t think of any other game which has been quite so badly vandalised by the ‘more padding = better’ design mentality – and I’ve played games made by Ubisoft. It was almost like a subscription MMO model in how wilfully it wasted your time.

      I couldn’t even finish it in the end simply due to how obnoxious all of that stuff was. That game could have been unrecognisably better if only for some ruthless editing (and a modicum of effort put into the mouse and keyboard UI I suppose).

    • fdisk says:

      I stopped after about 10-15 hours in because it became repetitive and monotonous. I hated the new combat system (No healing? No queuing skills? UGH) so even though I did like the story I simply couldn’t bring myself to grind for 30 hours as in an MMO for the 20-30 hours of decent story. I just uninstalled it this weekend and don’t plan to try again; I think I’m done with that series now, especially after Pillars is renovating interest in the traditional CRPGs :)

      • sharkh20 says:

        The combat really was awful. You do the same tactics for every single fight up until you get your subclass. Then you use only your new sub class tactics for the rest of the game. Every single fight plays out the same. Essentially, it was the DA2 combat on a game with more chores.

      • welverin says:

        What do you mean no healing? There’s healing in the form of potions, one of the magic abilities has the side effect of healing people (it’s primary use people to raise people knocked out).

        Of course the way the combat is designed makes magic healing far less significant, that’s what barrier and armor are for.

    • Occa says:

      The one stupid thing that annoys me about DAI is the way you have to actually grind to have a high enough level to advance in the story. All other DA’s always adapted everything to your current level so you could power through it if you wanted or play all the side quests. DAI forces you to grind and that is indeed very bad design.

      • Archangel says:

        Wait a minute — didn’t Morrowind do exactly this? Doesn’t Caius Cosades explicitly tell you to go out gain some experience before advancing to the next stage of the main quest? The alternative is Oblivion’s “everything scales all the time” design, which everyone hated. I’m honestly asking, because it seems we can find problems with both approaches depending on our wants/hopes/needs/fears.

        • Xzi says:

          Gaining enough experience to level up in Morrowind definitely wasn’t the chore it is in DA:I. You could level up just exploring while jumping around, or by killing isolated people in towns, or just by sneaking around and stealing their shiz. Basically, while both games “level-blocked” you at times, Morrowind opened you up to whatever kind of content it was that you wanted to enjoy immediately, whereas DA:I…not so much.

          If there’s a valid comparison to an Elder Scrolls game to be made, it would be to The Elder Scrolls Online. That being an MMO you know what you’re getting in to, but a single-player game like DA:I should not be as dull. Unfortunately, it is.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        DA:I also scales to your level, story missions aswell although to a lesser extent, but they explicity claim their level range and it’s usually too low if you really play the way you seem to hate: by completing everything.

        I wanted to do a lot of extra stuff and as such the story mission ended up being trivial, so i really don’t see how you are supposed to grind anything.

        Sure, there are some points you have to gather, but then i have 200 or so of them around that i don’t even know what to do with them, again this goes to show that it’s absolutely not a grindy game if you don’t want it to be.

        If anyone is getting the short end of the stick is actually people like me who like to clear a lot of stuff: we have some severe pacing and balance issues that someone just enjoying the story won’t ever know, and the story can sure be enjoyable and on par with many other good games.

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          Qazinsky says:

          Yes, exactly, I had to leave several areas more or less untouched because I was already too high level! I seriously think games like DAI and Borderlands needs either an xp lock that prevents you from gaining xp until you toggle it off again so that you can sidequest a bit or also have a checkbox when you start the game for [ ] Completionist so that the xp gets recalculated so that you actually need to do all the quests to stay on the right xp curve.

    • Hitchslapped says:

      DA:I really was a mess. There were some nice companion quests here and there but the main part of the game consisted of opening the map to look at all those f*cking icons sprayed over it like sprinkles on a cake and visiting all of them basically doing nothing. Collect some flowers, close the 204th rift, do one of those astronomer’s riddles that are far to easy with basic knowledge in maths, and don’t forget to tap the search button EVERY FIVE SECONDS while running around.

      I don’t mind length, if a game is filled with interesting stuff to do or has a really long, well presented story I’m fine with it, but if you fill your game with tedious work because otherwise you’d have a linear game of maybe 2-3 hours (which is the case with DA:I) then go f*ck yourself.

      • nrvsNRG says:

        ^This.
        Tried twice with DA:I. Stopped after 15 hours both times after the soul crushing boredom kicked in.
        It needs to loose half its weight at least.

      • UnholySmoke says:

        You can always ignore the scattered icons and just head for the story objective, maybe taking a detour if you wander straight by something interesting? I did that everywhere I went following the Hinterlands, left most of the crap untouched, didn’t have to grind a single bit, ended with a squillion power points to spare, and completed the game in about 45 hours. Had a great time apart from the pretty crappy ending. My point: if the shards/rifts/graves flowers/whatever aren’t interesting, ignore them. The game’s been playtested to death to ensure you won’t be too badly penalised for doing so.

    • Andrew says:

      Huh. Very much not my experience. I loved DAI. Took me 60 hours to basically do everything the first time round (including not skipping dialogue), and I think I’m about 25 hours into my second playthrough (although I’m taking a break to play other RPGs – Dead State, Pillars and Divinity: OS). I find the combat difficult to do tactically, but otherwise, no real issues. Good characterisation, sometimes funny, I want to know what’s going to happen. Plot twists!

      • congenetic says:

        Yeah, I played through once on Hard, and did every little thing and sidequest and collectible mission. Probably left the game running a few times, but wound up around 100 hours. Have been playing through again on Nightmare with different party compositions, etc., and not doing the unnecessary collectible quests. Turns out, you can play either way. The experience might be slightly different, but it’s really your own choice as to whether you’d like it to be “MMO-y” or more of a straightforward affair. I’ve enjoyed both for different reasons. Don’t strip yourself of agency, chaps. If you feel like your time has been wasted by “filler,” it was (mostly) your call to engage with that filler.

        • Jimbo says:

          If they choose to ruin the meal by putting shit on the plate then they’re going to get judged accordingly. It’s not my job to try and eat around it.

          • horrorgasm says:

            That’s a fallacious analogy though. The shit is not inexorably mixed into your meal. You don’t have to interact with the shit at all, you can just push the separate plate of shit aside and focus on the meal if you really wanted to, but instead you are willingly going out of your way to eat the shit just so you can complain about eating shit. Really sounds like a personal problem.

          • airmikee says:

            Yeah, horrible analogy. This isn’t a meal your mom made you and is forcing you to make, this is a meal that you willingly and knowingly purchase for yourself. If you buy the game knowing it has 200 hours of content and that turns you off, then you intentionally purchased a meal with shit on the plate. That is entirely about you, not the meal, the game, or the shit.

          • Rizlar says:

            Yeah, that was a rather faecetious analogy.

            Really it is more like someone ordering a meal, seeing there is broccoli on the plate then whining that they don’t like broccoli rather than just not fucking eating it.

          • Jimbo says:

            “The shit is not inexorably mixed into your meal.”

            I’d dispute that – plenty of the story missions have shit unnecessarily mixed into them too. The ‘Grand Game’ mission with its multiple flavours of completely arbitrary treasure hunt immediately springs to mind. Nothing says political intrigue like a sonar hunt for deer statues and picking up coins. Or any number of missions where the pacing is killed stone dead by the availability of painstakingly-slow-to-harvest resources which you have no way of knowing if you’ll ever be able to find anywhere else.

            Even if it were kept completely optional and neatly placed to one side I would still take it into account when considering the overall quality of the game. If you wilfully include masses and masses of junk calibre content in your game then it’s a given that it will drag the overall standard down. Again, I don’t consider it my role as the player to try and filter out the junk from the good stuff, and nor do I feel inclined to give them a pass for including it in the first place (I certainly wouldn’t be that generous when judging any other form of entertainment media). You of course may feel that is your role as the player and are free to judge the game accordingly.

            Personally, I think the game could and should have had its hour count reduced by at least 50% and it would have been significantly better for it. I think Inquisition had the potential to be an excellent game before it was padded to death.

        • Rizlar says:

          Indeed!

    • ubik says:

      I agree 100% with DA:I criticism calling it out on falling to trappings of a bad MMO, as well as it “Ubisofting” itself with map icon spam and collectables. That said… I still enjoyed almost all of it while I played it? Maybe I just have bad taste as well as too many hours of WoW under my belt.

      I have no desire to go replay it though, or even check out the DLC. A good CRPG invites replaying due to its depth – the first Dragon Age game had enough of this. DA:I is closer to an open(ish) world action game with some stats.

    • Juke says:

      While I won’t defend DA:I on the amount of fluff strewn about its huge zones, I do think the popular opinion has vastly overstated how optional most of it is. I rarely did anything more than scout out camps and keeps, and follow up on quests put forth by my companions, and I can only once recall having to find something to do for a bit before the next story quest was available. On the contrary, most of the time we were over-leveled and over-prepared for the core content.

      No, if DA:I did anything wrong, it was saddling the Inquisition with a villain who peaks at the moment of his appearance in the story. They meticulously crafted his entrance, which oversold the limp “wait for his team to make a move, then beat them to the punch! Over and over again!” plotting the rest of the way. I liked the game, but oddly, did not love it as much as its solid introduction led me to believe I would.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    > Please welcome Richard Cobbett to our roster of weekly columnists.

    Horray! One of my fav writers, at one of my fav sites, writing about my fav type of games. Welcome!

      • LordOfPain says:

        I for one am outraged that Cobbett is writing here! Too good for the place. :)

        • Zarf says:

          It’s infuriating, isn’t it? This place has really gone uphill.

        • nrvsNRG says:

          I may have to start coming back now he’s here. At least on Mondays anyway lol.

      • Zorlan says:

        Welcome back!

        Right?

        I feel like I’ve seen you around these parts before!

    • int says:

      I love Cobbett’s picture mouseover texts!

    • shoptroll says:

      Yay! So glad to see Richard getting picked up forms regular feature here. Loved his weekly stuff at PC Gamer and was really sad to see that ended recently. It’s great that we’re getting more of his writing here again!

      (full disclosure: I’m a Patreon of Richard’s so I might be a little biased!)

      Also, we’ve got Quinns and Richard doing weekly things. Will Kieron be next?

    • TheApologist says:

      Cobbett. Quinns. Rab…RPS is becoming like a videogame criticism super group at the minute.

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      teije says:

      Yes, this is awesome. They didn’t deserve you over at PC Gamer…

      • April March says:

        RPS will show you how to treat a smart, wordy, pun-loving columnist.

    • canis39 says:

      Agreed, glad to see Richard get a weekly column somewhere else. PCG has no clue.

    • alms says:

      Hooray !!!

  3. KDR_11k says:

    I generally operate under the rule that too long is better than too short, when I get tired of a game I can just stop playing but when I reach the end and want more there’s nothing left.

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      Wouldn’t all games ending by boredom be a bad thing? I like it when it ends before outstaying its welcome. As long as the thing (I’m not only talking about games – it could be a concert or something else too) is shaped, proportioned, in a way to feel complete.

      Granted, I don’t have much experience with RPGs. The only one I’ve played is Mass Effect 2, and I’m currently in what I think is the ending (fighting on Earth) of ME3. So I’m speaking more of things in general than RPGs in particular.

      • nrvsNRG says:

        Mass Effect 2+3 are RPG’s?

        • Rikard Peterson says:

          Are they not? In that case, I have not yet played any RPGs. (Kotor is in my Steam library, though. I’ve heard that one is supposed to be one of the best?)

          • welverin says:

            They are, some people mistakenly assume the type of combat is the determining factor.

          • nrvsNRG says:

            KotoR is a fantastic RPG. Games like Mass Effect and The Witcher are just 3rd person action games.

        • April March says:

          They are talky RPGs with inexplicable action bits.

          Well, the first was a bit more RPGey even in the action bits, and I haven’t played the third, but plotting a line from the first and second forwards I imagine that the third just tells you to play a Call of Duty level while imagining a gas giant in the background.

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            Grizzly says:

            Mass effect 3 actually extends upon the upgrading. You get more skill trees as well as s more skills in the individual trees (which all have two different variants like me2’s final skill). The weapon upgrade system makes a return too, and is a lot more interesting then that of me1 (it has both more different weapons then me2 as well as upgradable variants of those weapons and attachments)

            They’ve really went for a best of both worlds, and imo it has the strongest gameplay in the series.

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            Grizzly says:

            Moreover, cods weapon system isn’t even half as interesting as mass effect 3’s, and that’s without the power system and how they work together..

            It’s good.

          • Juke says:

            Concur. It’s a shame to play ME1 & 2 and assume the gameplay developed linearly from there. Bioware clearly spent a lot of effort re-imagining combat for ME2, to the detriment of some peripheral systems, but they did set about improving the depth for the third installment. It settled somewhere between ME1 and 2 in complexity (fewer items than 1, but more options than 2)

  4. golem09 says:

    Thinking about the actual lenght of Skyrim…
    I’ve spent more than 400 hours with it and I still haven’t seen what feels like half of it. I certainly never even finished half of the main quest.

  5. Philopoemen says:

    I have a lot of hours, on a lot of RPGs, but invariably, those hours come when I’m on holiday. When I can safely esconce myself in a room for 12+ hours for a few days in a row without interruption.

    Or in the case of DA:I, I left it on overnight to complete missions before someone told me there was an in game clock. Oops.

  6. Gibs says:

    There’s no such thing as “too long”, if the game/book/whatever is good stuff, you dont want it to finish, ever. If you get bored at the certain point, it means the stuff isnt that good in the first place. Too many games & other entertainment is just hyped mediocrity, which is the real reason why you get bored with it.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      There’s a reason people say ‘you can have too much of a good thing’. Case in point, the classic way that chocolate companies have dealt with the problem of people stealing from them is to tell employees that they can eat as much as they like. They promptly gorge themselves for a couple of days and then never want to touch the damn stuff again.

      • meepmeep says:

        I used to have a summer job at an ice cream factory with a similar policy. I can vouch that there is no amount of free ice cream you can eat that makes you never want to eat ice cream again.

    • Pazguato says:

      There’s no such thing as “too long” – Well, yes, it’s. There are a lot of examples. Just one: How I met your mother. It should be lasted three or four seasons less to be a great modern sitcom. Now it’s unbearable.

      • Blackcompany says:

        Good example with How I Met Your Mother. And I completely agree. If it had ended even one season sooner, it would still have been good. But the final season pretty well killed any love I had for it. Glad to see the two get together at last, but did it have to be such a downer in terms of how it happened?

        Should have ended sooner.

      • Vandelay says:

        Yes, very good example. Still not got around to finishing the last season. I kept going up until the painful moment with Boyz ii Men randomly appearing and the cast awkwardly dancing in the background. I decided I couldn’t take any more of watching it, when I knew how it was going to end (he meets their mother.) I do mean to quickly get to the end at some point via Netflix, but just haven’t built up the interest to do so yet.

        And as others have said, there are umpteen TV shows, films, books and songs that go on too long. I don’t see why people often single out games as something different, particularly if we are talking games with linear stories.

        • MacTheGeek says:

          My wife and I binge-watched the final season of HIMYM on Netflix. The entire season is misdirection; instead of 90% “Ted meets The Mother”, it’s 90% “Countdown to Robin and Barney’s Wedding, with Occasional Cameos By The Mother”. I can see how that decision would have irritated a lot of fans who were watching week-to-week; but taken as 3 consecutive evenings of TV, it wasn’t bad at all.

    • bill says:

      There are billions of examples of “too long”. In almost all forms of media.
      Of the top of my head: Homeland, 24, Alexander, Okami, Every final fantasy game I’ve played, Wheel of Time, etc..

      • Pazguato says:

        I was going to say Okami! XD Yes, great game but more than a tad too long.

        • jrodman says:

          Yeah, would have been a better game with some more editing, but for me at least the elongated journey remained entertaining, if strangely paced. I think that shows how strong it was that it worked despite the awkward structure.

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          Ninja Dodo says:

          Yep, Okami. Fighting the same boss a third time (Orochi), reaching a new region only to encounter the same set of enemies reskinned, and meeting all the bosses again at the end really hurt the game a lot. Still brilliant, but could have been half as long.

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            Ninja Dodo says:

            Worth noting there’s nothing wrong with bringing back an old enemy as long as you change it up somehow… escalate the difficulty, change the constraints (maybe you don’t have a weapon you had before) or *something*… but, if memory serves, every time they recycled an enemy in Okami it was literally identical…

      • Gibs says:

        sigh, the fact that something lasted more than it should have is what excludes it from the good stuff

        • theodacourt says:

          Exactly! Ideas and media don’t have infinite running time before the subject is worn out. An idea has a length and if it outlasts that, then it is too long.

        • Valkyr says:

          So you do consider the length as a criterium for being qualified as good. That contradicts your first argument “If you get bored at the certain point, it means the stuff isnt that good in the first place” which means that quality can be judged before even considering the length.

          • Gibs says:

            Nope. It would not feel too long if it were good no matter what length it had. If it does feel boring/too long at some point, it means the quality dropped or wasn’t that good to begin with (which probably means you had fun for a time only cause it was a novelty and not particularly good). A book or a game or a film can be also VERY lengthy and still retaining the entertainment factor from start to finish, what’s important is that it finds the right balance to keep you going happy. Thus it’s only the content in it that matters rather than it’s lenght, its quality…usually good lengthy stuff tends get better and better toward the end, quality rises (no silly “padding” in it, that’s a quality drop, like many games do). And WoT…what could’ve been perhaps the greatest fantasy story ever turning into mediocrity not due to its length, but because it simply wasn’t as good as the initial books, which were also rather long I’d say. I’m not a native speaker, Hope I’ve made my point.

        • jrodman says:

          Creative works have many properties. It’s entirely possible for a creative work to be really great in a variety of ways but yet run overlong. For film, or books this would usually mean a problem with pacing or progression. However for games there’s a LOT on the player’s agency. A player can be focused on being completist, or on achiving a perfect victory in ways that make the player wear themselves out. It’s difficult to carte blanche put exhaustion problems on the game design.

          Alternatively, it’s entirely possible for the reader/player/etc to simply lack the ability to focus for long enough. Pride and Prejudice was a great book for the first 150 pages and then I put it down.

          • Gibs says:

            “For film, or books this would usually mean a problem with pacing or progression.” But that would not be simply a problem of “length”. When a writer makes things overlong with nothing happening, he is simply stalling for whatever reason, maybe he wants to milk it, maybe he is simply not good at it and doesn’t know how to go on. Either way it means the resulting content isn’t good as it should be to keep the interest of the user for its length. A problem of quality IMHO, good writers can manage that.

          • jrodman says:

            Your own argument is that a problem with length is not a problem with length. Given that you have now related it in both directions you have a circular viewpoint.

          • Gibs says:

            xD
            How hard can it be to understand that there is a problem with length… only if there is a problem with quality first? And thus, it is truly a quality problem, rather than a length one. It simply a matter of tracing the origin of boredom, quality is the cause and noticing the length is one of the things that happen after the lower quality stuff causes you boredom (effect)… if the quality remains superlative or, even better, it rises, you wouldn’t notice the length, hours and days would fly by unnoticed, you’d go on and on with the content with not a care in the world cause even after hours and hours it’s still fkin good man. At least that’s what I think.
            /shrugs

          • jrodman says:

            The problem is your circular reasoning prevents you from ever possibly understanding there might be a flaw in your reasoning.

      • Blackcompany says:

        Ugh…Wheel of Time. Entire books where nothing of relevance happens and major characters are just…missing. Horrid – well, really a great – example of going on too long. Far too long, in this case.

        • jjman says:

          You just made me cry. It could have been so good.

          • jrodman says:

            No accounting for taste. I found that series was going on too long within the first chapter. The writing quickly convinced me to not to bother continuing.

          • Gibs says:

            I think that’s a totally wrong example of going too long. The first books are great, top notch fantasy and they ARE lengthy. The mid books are also lengthy…and they are boring as shit cause the writer (RIP) had lost his way, he digressed, he stalled, didn’t progress, he padded, simply the content wasn’t nearly as good.

      • Philomelle says:

        I have played through Okami three times and dream of the day Hideki Kamiya makes something like that again, And while sure, you could argue that it’s only three times because the game is 100 hours long, the fact that I keep coming back to it definitely means it’s not as too long as you believe it is.

      • dsch says:

        Homeland was too long in season 3, but it’s the right length again now after season four.

        • Rao Dao Zao says:

          Yeah, seasons 2 and 3 were a bit of a stretch but 4 really pulled it back together.

        • Pazguato says:

          **Spoilers about Homeland season 1**

          “Homeland lost its bottle during the final episode of its first series. Had Brody detonated his suicide vest and killed the vice president, the show would have been an indelible, beautifully finite piece of television. But then, if Brody died, what would Homeland do the following year? So it kept him alive and spent a further two years pushing him into increasingly ridiculous situations until it finally had the nerve to kill him off, at which point Homeland became a programme about nothing.”

          From the insightful The Guardian article “Broadchurch 3 – and other shows that outstayed their welcome” Google it.

          • dsch says:

            Broadchurch was too long for me by the third episode. 10% mystery, 90% moping.

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        I think I would die given a steady diet of JRPGs, but their too-long nature is a really nice treat every so often, like Richard’s chocolate example above if JRPGs were 20cm Cadbury cream eggs or something. …But sometimes filled with marshmallow fluff instead of the good stuff that drips all over your easter basket if you don’t eat the whole thing immediately. Fluff’s okay, I suppose…

        Anyway, I can’t think of any examples of this (for me) on PC other than Deus Ex (not exactly a JRPG, but hey), and I haven’t played any Final Fantasy more than 3-5 hours in #7, but there have been a few other JRPGs on various consoles where I start reluctantly expecting it to end soon, and then ¡twist! here comes the second half of the game! It’s like finding another Cadbury cream egg inside the first…except that would be like having just the one big one. It’s like finding 20 dollarpounds inside so you can go buy another one…after licking the note until it’s no longer sticky. It’s like finishing the first and finding a second hidden under the plastic grass in your basket…yeah, I think that works.

        As a bonus, sometimes the length of the game makes it so I forget huge chunks of the game after many years, which is nice. Sadly, I may have played Deus Ex too much for that to apply.

      • BooleanBob says:

        The problem I had with Okami was that I really wanted to find every bead, but I never found the power that lets you get at chests that are underwater. I’ve scoured the world dozens of times over, found all kinds of secrets I wasn’t expecting or looking for, but not the one lousy one I did. I’m worried I missed something in that section you can’t return to, the one I’m not going to be more explicit about because of spoilers, and as such I’ll never be able to complete the game. Sadness.

        • jrodman says:

          Buh, a game that encourages collection but has unreturnable sections is awkward.

          • BooleanBob says:

            I agree, but it’s the only thing I can think I might’ve missed.

        • Mezzo says:

          Just FYI, there isn’t a specific power to get chests underwater; you are just supposed to use Power Slash on them and the treasure floats to the surface.

    • suibhne says:

      The question isn’t whether longer is better than shorter, all else being equal. Rather, the question is whether all else is equal – whether length might tend to detract from a creator’s focus or the cohesion of the work. We can all cite a litany of examples where editorial constraint might’ve produced a better product overall.

      TW3 is one of my most anticipated games in years, so I’m sure as heck not going to cancel my pre-order just because there might be too much awesome. I found both of the prior games to be paced pretty well – occasionally uneven, but not overstaying their welcome. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to say the same of TW3. But “200 hours” sounds pretty daunting: 1) because it’s tough to find that kind of time in my adult life, with my career, social relationships, and other recreational ; and 2) I have a hard time thinking of any game I ever enjoyed much past 50-60 hours (tho I’ll sometimes play a game for 20-30 hours, shelve it, and come back later, as with Shadow of Mordor).

    • Abndn says:

      The problem is that length is usually directly correlated to filler. When people complain about game length it’s usually not because they don’t want more of a great and enjoyable game, but the feeling that it’s drawn out and full of boring filler content inbetween all the good bits.

    • draglikepull says:

      “There’s no such thing as “too long”, if the game/book/whatever is good stuff, you dont want it to finish, ever.”

      This might be true if I expected my life to be infinitely long, but it won’t be. If a game takes me 100 hours to complete, that’s 100 hours of my life that weren’t spent doing other things. I would rather play ten great 10 hour games than one great 100 hour game, because I’d rather have a life filled with more varied experiences.

    • April March says:

      There is such a thing as too long. The problem, and the reason I think is why you’re saying this, is that you can never say ‘this many time is TOO LONG and this many time is TOO SHORT’. Too long is always a relative concept. Any media is too long when it takes more time to complete than its ideas can carry it, and too short when its ideas are not properly developed (even if its ideas are THINGS ON SCREEN GO BOOM). There are some concepts, in the hands of skilled creators, that can go for wildly long times and never feel stale; but there will be a point when it will either need to end, or it will suffer some (sometimes unseen and gradual) change to remain going.

  7. Pazguato says:

    Spot on article. Congrats. Games need don’t need to be longer for the sake of it, but shorter and more focused (and free of boring and dated grinding).

    • James says:

      I think that can sometimes work against a game. Take Mass Effect, the main storyline takes about 10 hours. The story also wants you to keep playing the main story and to avoid deviating as the basic premise is that you are in a race against the antagonist, hence deviation from the main story is discouraged by the ‘focus’ on the main adventure. For all the missions taken together you could easily crank out 40 hours in one playthrough, but the focus of the game is at odds with the huge wealth of activities and missions in the game.

      Whilst I would prefer that developers focused thier games like a laser to deliver an awesome experience, producing a large amount of enthralling content can only be good for an RPG and is the holy grail of games like Skyrim that try to hold mass market appeal whilst also demanding your time. I seem to get to level 60 – 80 before I’m bored. From what I know that is not unusual. However length cannot be artificially created with a sprawling map of pointless guff, as is an increasing problem with open world games in general. *Stares judgingly at Ubisoft*

  8. Philopoemen says:

    edit because of early entering…

    I think Pillars, Wasteland2 and D:OS are all good lengths for RPGs. Admittedly I’m on holidays atm, so have had the time to invest, and I think I’m up to 85 hours in Pillars for the week. A lot of that though is leaving it on in the background, and then 20 hours doing Lvl 1-14 of Od Nua, and 12+ hours trying to do Lvl 15 of Od Nua.

    but for shortish titles, Shadowrun Returns and it’s expansion are great for bite sized RPGing.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I really dug Dragonfall’s length. Focused objective, variety in how you went about it, and everything was in the name of a specific goal rather than just generally Doing Stuff.

      • Philopoemen says:

        But Dragonfall and SR are different to a lot of RPGs in that the missions is the objective, rather than leveling up and getting better loot. Dragonfall had it’s side missions, but the reward was the story of the mission, not the loot or minimal karma you picked up. Plus the replay value even doing the same missions was great, because playing a different class meant a whole different game almost.

        Playing Pillars atm, I can see the same sort of replay value, but the length of it puts me off doing so significantly.

      • Juke says:

        Was actually here to use this exact example. I just recently finished playing DR: Dragonfall and felt its length was about right. My “time to enjoy” on games appears to be about 30 hrs also, as it was at about the 20 hour mark of Dragonfall that I wondered when the final stages of plot would unfold, and it was a few hours past 30 when I completed it, thinking, “I’m glad that wrapped up when it did, don’t know if I could have committed much more time to this game.”

        But I know that, because it gave every mission a point (even if just to describe some element of the setting & major players,) and didn’t set up a lot of needless timesinks, that I will remember it fondly among its contemporaries, some of which took longer to say less.

    • MaXimillion says:

      Personally I think DivOS really started to drag towards the end. Pillars was pretty much the correct length though. Haven’t finished WL2 yet so can’t comment on that.

  9. bill says:

    Thoughts:

    1- YAY! A weekly column from Richard! Happy dance!

    2 – For me, and I suspect many, RPGs seem to be the easiest game to bounce off of initially. I’ve bounced off of almost every RPG i’ve ever tried to play, and almost every one I have gotten hooked on has been one that i’ve gone back to and forced myself to play through long enough that the “almost levelled up! Then I can choose bonuses!” effect and actually getting involved in the world kicks in.
    The sole exceptions that I can think of are Daggerfall and Morrowind (because random exploring!) and KotOR (because star wars!).

    3 – As someone no longer in the “I’m single and I can play games all night” phase of my life, I find most games have way too much blatant filler and would benefit from an editor.

    4 – As such a person, I also find that numbers like “200 hours” are much more off-putting than appealing. It sounds like something I don’t want to commit to. It also sounds like lots of filler.

    5 – It’s all very well saying the main plot is 50 hours (way too long, anyway!). But every time I’ve tried to play an RPG by actually focusing on the main quest and ignoring all the side quests it has backfired spectacularly, as I’ve arrived in the mines still at level one, with no decent equipment, and proceeded to get slaughtered.
    NEVER listen to the guy who tells you that the main quest to save the world is urgent!

    (and if the witcher 3 is anything like number 1, then all the side quests and main quests are intertwined, and ignoring the side quests would mean that half of the main quest is either skipped or doesn’t make sense or seems very dumb. )

    • Pazguato says:

      Nice summary! Specially points 3, 4, 5… well, all of them! :)

    • farrier says:

      Point #4 is the same reason why I’m suddenly less than enthused about this game, and I didn’t expect it, and #5 is why I may end up passing. When Witcher 3 was first announced, I had just finished 2, and I was excited for as much openness in the Witcher world as possible. But in that span of time my priorities have shifted so much that I dread having to spend 50 hours on a game, let alone 200.

      I think DA:O was the straw that broke this camel’s lumbar. First, I wanted to do everything and take a long time to do it. Then it got tiring and I tried to just power through the main quest. But now I’m just so burned out that I can’t bring myself to complete it.

      That said, I don’t want these games to not exist. People with more time should be able to experience epic length games like that, just like I was able to pump 100s of hours into Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. I just realize I shouldn’t play them. Give me a 20-hour game for $30 or $40 and I’ll be happy.

      • jerf says:

        I don’t think you should extrapolate your DA:I experience to Witcher 3. All reports from hands-on experiences with Witcher 3 (including the report from a guy who spent 15 hours with the game) are unanimous in saying that there are no DA:I-style fetch quests and padding in this game. Give CD Projekt the benefit of the doubt.

        What I’m saying is that Witcher 3 might very well turn out to be a game that could keep you interested for 50 hours, without making you feel bored in between.

  10. Zallgrin says:

    How many hours play do you like to get from your first play of an RPG? I’m not thinking in terms of how much a company has to promise, but what you consider a worthy purchase that you’re still likely to actually get from it without being called away or distracted or simply burned out on the mechanics?

    50-60 hours is the most that I can manage to spend on a RPG without taking 6-month breaks between the next playing session.

    But generally, I enjoy short and succinct games that tell a great story to ponderous long games that drag out their existance. Dragonfall felt good and snappy with about 20 hours of playtime, therefore 15-20 hours of advertised playtime fully suffice for me.

  11. theodacourt says:

    I like this article! I agree that some games demand too much of your time rather than earning it. These concepts apply to all game types though I feel, it’s just more pronounced in RPGs. If companies could foresee that their game is going to be average and then make it half as long, they’d save so much development money and I’d be a lot happier with the game. But maybe it isn’t possible to predict mediocrity and I imagine pride would blind anyone to accept their own work as average.

  12. Blackcompany says:

    One of my favorite games of all time, is Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. Another is the recent Transistor, by Supergiant Games. Two more: Fallout: New Vegas, and Oblivion.

    Of the the four, I put more than 10 hours into two. The latter two games ate more than 1000 hours of combined time. Mostly due to mods, granted. Even there, though, I never spent more than 10 hours on a single story arc. Including the main quest.

    Fallout: New Vegas and Oblivion were not novels, to me. They were a collection of short stories involving the same main character. And I enjoyed those short stories immensely for a time.

    My feeling on it is this: If you cannot tell me a given story in your game, in less than 10 hours, you’re padding the experience. And to be perfectly honest, this is probably true at half that length. But I can tolerate some padding, if the combat is exciting or the characters interesting. Some. But gross amounts of padding and grind I simply cannot tolerate. (Which is odd, because the minute you give me a true sandbox such as ETS2 or Elite, I can play for hundreds of hours without complaint).

    So yeah…tell me your story. Efficiently. Without ruining the pace for the sake of grind or padding. And at the end of it, if you have other efficient, well paced short stories to tell me, that just happen to be included in the same game, great. Go for it. But please, dont waste my time with killing rats. Or collecting berries, to pick on a more recent title a little. The minute I see stuff like that I just give your game a negative review and go read a book.

    • thedosbox says:

      One of my favorite games of all time, is Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. Another is the recent Transistor, by Supergiant Games. Two more: Fallout: New Vegas, and Oblivion

      Transistor is a good example of a short game that kept me highly engaged throughout. FO:NV was much longer, but didn’t quite manage the same levels of engagement. Point being, I agree that pacing is more important than length.

    • alms says:

      Hat off for the short stories comparison

  13. NathanH says:

    If I like the minute-by-minute play, you can practically go on forever. So basically, if you’ve got a good game system, then the answer is “until you run out of good encounter design or are about to break your character advancement system”.

  14. Geebs says:

    So, how long does it take to complete an Eternal Path? Answers to the nearest hour, if you would be so kind.

    (Re: Mr Cobbett writing for RPS regularly – woohoo!)

    • Philopoemen says:

      took me on normal about 20 hours from Level 1-14, and then the final fight (level 15) I had to keep trying and failing repeatedly until I worked out a strategy that saw it end in 30 secs.

      I haven’t finished the game yet, but I’ve found I’ve hit the level cap well before the end of game, so I may suggest saving it for near the end rather than doing what I did and slogging through it under-leveled. Good loot though just doing the normal levels.

  15. Villephox says:

    I think that this answer is going to be different of everyone. Personally, I’m far too busy anymore to really dig deeply into a game. But story is 75% why I play games, so I find things like Spelunky and Stealth Bastard to be enjoyable, but ultimately unfulfilling.

    In an odd connection, over the last year, I have really gotten into comics. I’d buy them occasionally in the past, but lately, it’s picked up, to the point that I’m going to the shop nearly every week. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I figured out why. I started reading comics at about the same time I stopped being able to read novels. I was just too busy to sit down with a book, and reading a couple pages here and there was aggravating. Comics (especially the Hellboy stuff) filled that space nicely.

    If only I liked adventure games, I would probably be playing them left and right.

  16. Premium User Badge

    bsplines says:

    Very glad to see Richard Cobbett writing here, he’s a genuinely good writer.

    I have found about 30 hours to be the point where I usually start to lose interest. But it very much depends on how and when I am actually playing the game: outside of vacations I can only really play in the weekend, which means that these 30 hours of playtime are stretched to 1-1.5 months of actual time. So inevitably, there comes a time I want to try something else.
    When I do have more free time, there isn’t really a cutoff point, as long as the pacing of the game is good. Problem is, a lot of games (especially long ones) lag on their middle part (the Final Fantasy is a good example as Richard said) so the interest starts dropping off…

    (Also I can’t be the only one that initially read the title as the RPS Scrollbar and thought it was about the introduction of multiple pages in RPS, right?)

    • Hordriss says:

      Not just you – I (mis)read the same thing.

      Also +1 to the ‘yay more Richard Cobbett here’ sentiment.

  17. Grey Cap says:

    I’d say that twenty hours is about right. But I love to sink absolutely HUGE amounts of time into strategy games and open world RPGs, building different characters, doing different quests, trying out different factions. The key is that after about twenty hours, I desperately need to switch playstyles.

    So an RPG whos main quest lasted fifty hours would be hard for me, since there generally isn’t the opportunity to re-roll my character half way through. Going to give the witcher 3 a try though.

  18. SuicideKing says:

    I’d rather that the main quest finish more…naturally. Rather than “hurry you must go there! but it’s okay if you don’t…” I wish it would just naturally merge with sidequests and idle strolling.

    Optionally, have the main quest finish in about 20 hours and let the sidequests take another 50 or so, but with the world reacting to the end of the main quest.

  19. Orful Biggun says:

    It’s amazing to me how this kind of thing changes over time. The general public’s patience has become considerably shorter, and instant gratification is the norm. Many forms of entertainment that aren’t relatively “instant” are the exceptions that prove the rule, and, if successful, are hailed for being “visionary.”

    Richard’s comment about the frequency of new games and value for money is spot on. I played the original Wizardry, Ultima, and Bard’s Tale games for months on end without ever giving it a second thought. I look at my hours spent playing, say, L4D, and am amazed by the difference. If bang for the buck were measured by time invested, then yeah, those old-school RPGs were money well spent.

    So what competes for our leisure time in 2015? And how is that different than it was in, say, 1975 – 1980? IMO that is the most significant factor in this discussion.

    I grew up in the American south, during the 70s / 80s, witnessing the advent of cassettes, cable TV, game consoles, VCRs, CDs, and home PCs. Within the span of only about ten to fifteen years, most everyone in my region went from 3 channels (ABC, NBC, CBS) on their home television sets, radio, books/magazines/papers, and board/card games … to cable/satellite packages with so many hundreds of channels that remote controls were no longer a luxury but a requirement, VCRs, cell phones, and – most importantly – home PCs and the internet (with a nice graphical web browser, etc). In the years since we’ve added digital everything, DVDs, new gaming consoles, MP3 players, handhelds and smart phones/tablets, etc., and DVRs and social media and streaming video and podcasts and all kinds of similar time-killers. Steam and other similar services have come along and they bait us with their incessant sales so that we buy way more than we’ll ever have time to mess with (I have so much in my Steam account that remains uninstalled). And wireless and broadband have made things far easier for most everyone to get what they want, faster than ever.

    Entertainment, of course, has had to evolve right along with technology. A significant portion of the television shows and movies put out over the past twenty years are increasingly frenetic, with their quick edits and breakneck pace, and at times they resemble an 80s music video rather than a movie. “Too long; didn’t read” is a real thing (few people have read this far, I’m sure). Fewer people read books these days, as well.

    I can easily understand why all of this would make a difference in the length of a given game. Today, for any amount of time we might have to spare, we have more choice than ever before. Games, like other forms of entertainment, have evolved and adopted to reflect that.

  20. Trelow says:

    I’d like to stay around 6-12 hours for anything non RPG, 18-24 for RPGs.
    I’ve got a wife, 8 kids, a job, and actual meatworld hobbies as well.

    I miss getting to finish games.

  21. Cocoarico says:

    I too want to say its very exciting that Richard has joined the weekly rps roster.

    As for RPG length, my main activity in RPGs is usually exploring every nook and cranny or stealing everything not nailed down. So I usually only conquer the main quest in order to unlock more areas to explore, or level up faster. If the world isn’t fleshed out enough with little tidbits of lore and character than completing the main quest really isn’t going to happen no matter how long it is.

  22. 2late2die says:

    It’s not really about the length, but how it’s used, no pun intended! (get your heads out of the gutter)

    For example, I found Dragon Age Inquisition to be annoying – everywhere you look there was some shard, or scroll, or herb, or whatever else to collect because when you have 50 of those it gives you something nobody cares about. The main quest and the companion quests were very well done, but on every map I felt pulled into 20 different directions to collect all these stupid items. One could certainly argue that it’s on me – I didn’t have to collect them, but on the other hand the game itself did push me to do it – the design around those collect quests is such that it compels the player to collect them.
    So after 13-14 hours I was done. Very quickly I found myself rather than looking forward to play it, feeling an obligation to play because it’s supposed to be this awesome game and I paid good money for it. As soon as I realize that that kind of thing is happening I stop playing a game. To me it’s an indicator that the game failed to properly capture my attention and it’s manipulating me into playing it, and I won’t be manipulated.

    On the other hand Skyrim got me to pour almost 300 hours in it and I didn’t feel obligated to do it, I wanted to do it. I think a major part of the appeal of Skyrim to me was that it simply presented me with this world and said “here you go, you have the main quest if you want more direction, but otherwise do whatever you feel like man”.

    Looking at it in terms of developers, I think the difference between something like what BioWare did and what Bethesda did is that in the case of BioWare they specifically wanted to get certain number of play hours into their game – it was an artificial goal, in a manner of speaking, and so once the proper quests were done they just stared filling it up with filler content to make sure to hit that target. In case of Bethesday it seems like they didn’t really worry about how many hours of play time they have in the game, they just wanted to create a big sprawling world with tons of freedom for the player and the fact that it turned out to be such a time-sink, well that’s just a pleasant side-effect. :)

    As for Witcher 3, based on the first two games I look forward to sinking dozens of hours into it at the very least, but then again it is their first open-world game so who knows, maybe they ended up borrowing too much from Ubisoft and/or BioWare.

  23. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    I kind of feel like collectively saying to RPS “Speak for yourselves”. I’ve seen a lot of articles on here lately gradually implying more and more that short games are the optimal gaming experience, period. That’s simply not true though.

    I have absolutely no problem tackling a huge one. I love long RPGs too.

    I know some people are in positions in their lives where gaming time is limited, but there are just as many the same age who don’t fit into that bracket. I hope the RPS team can have a broad view of this and offer articles from both sides.

    • Douglas Fir says:

      I second that. Not everyone wants bite sized playing experiences where they can just hop in, play a couple of hours and be done with it. Some of us enjoy longer, more in depth experiences, and also have the time to persue them. Much the same way I often pick a long novel over short stories, I like being invested in something, and really spending some time with a creative work, be it a television series, game or a piece of music. If it’s worth the investment, of course. Not every game has to be a Spelunky or a Minecraft. There’s room for über-dense, time consuming RPGs too.

      • Myrdinn says:

        Amen brothers.

        • Risingson says:

          And yet none of you have said why you disagree so much with Cobbett (btw, welcome! thanks God you are here!), but only that you want someone to write that long rpgs are good.

  24. kud13 says:

    I’m pretty sure I already made this comment in the original 200 hours article, but here goes:

    I’ve played through the original Witcher 4 or 5 times. Each playthrough is about 60-80 hours-doing everything, but trying to be efficient and not backtracking too much. Although I’m no longer bothered by the swamps.

    I feel that if the game tries to do the “immersive” thing as one of its key points (and the original Witcher, with its hunger mechanics, was in some ways a survival-RPG lite), I’m ok with long playtime. I’m pretty sure the only other games I’ve sunk anywhere near to as much time over the years are the S.T.A.L.K.E.R games and Freelancer.

    I’m not sure how much time I spent on the Witcher 2, although I did do 2 full playthrough, and will probably do another run prior to 3 coming out. My plan is to start the original again in the last weekend of April.

    The only other recent “epic” RPG of comparable length I can think of having played recently is Dragon Age: Origins. That one did feel like it dragged at points, although I didn’t experience many of the traditional annoyances/complaints (such as the Fade/Deep Roads), having stumbled into a Rogue Build on my first try which basically broke the games due to stealth, which allowed me to scope out virtually entire maps before engaging in combat. Still, although it probably took good 60+ hours, it’s another one I could see myself playing through.

    At the end of the day, it comes down to world-building, pacing the story, and the quality of optional content. I’ve bounced off Planescape 2 or. 3 times before finally playing through because after getting out of the Mortuary, which was neat and original, I found myself doing regular postman quests in Sigil’s slums, which was anything but exciting)(especially given the combat was more of an annoyance than a feature).

    Since i’ve started playing Pillars of Eternity, I’ve probably put in over 20 hours so far (my party’ level 5, and i’m nearing an in-game month of playing). In this case I can see the replay value from the sheer variety of classes, though. Also, once again, the world-building is interesting, although the backstory’s been pretty clear from about 2 hours into Gilded Vale.

    I’ve begun to ramble. tl: dr – world-building, pacing, quality of optional content. If CDPRED avoid the “bring 50 rat tails”-type quests, and instead come up with 40 optional quests the quality of TW2’s, each one taking 2-3 hours of investigation/tracking/research, (I still don’t recall anything similar to the autopsy in the original Witcher in any other game I’ve played), i’ll be happy, and I won’t mind spending the whole 300 hours traversing The Northern Kingdoms without resorting to fast travel.

  25. Wulfram says:

    I’d expect 15 hours minimum. At least if I’m buying it for more than ridiculous sale prices.

    I don’t think there’s any sort of maximum. Including too much filler is bad if it’s at the expense of quality content, or if it’s unskippable.

    Generally, I think RPGs could do with more main quest and less minor sidequests. Particularly DA:Inquisition.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      I think its down to the quality of your sidequests – if its yet another ‘fetch 50 rats tails’ or ‘carry ten blocks of rock to [town on the other side of the goddamn map]” then yeah less of that. On the other hand if its an interesting vignette that stands on its own great, bonus points if your combat and gameplay is interesting enough in its own right that I’m looking for more opportunities to enjoy it, and gold stars for taking the opportunity to use side quests to world-build and/or offer different perspectives on the themes and main plot.

  26. Smoof says:

    The third paragraph absolutely nails it for me.

    I’m one of those few that completed Divinity: Original Sin, but I think a large part of that was due to the battle system. It kept me engaged at every turn and despite being a long RPG, was pretty concise and focused very much on the battles rather than the story. Completing an engagement in that game felt like making progress, as each one was distinct and well laid out, especially in the first portion of the game.

    Lately, I’ve been mulling over the concept of why I’ve played Cities: Skylines for 30+ hours and haven’t been able to go back to PoE after 12 and I think it’s simply the fact that I can engage myself in a game like Cities for an hour here and there, drop it and come back, not having to remember my previous play session. With a game like PoE, I have to remember what was going on with the story, where I was going and what I was doing and that’s a big mental block for me to overcome. Not to mention, with a game like Cities, I can sit on the couch and “watch” Doctor Who with my wife, switching between the two at will. Whereas many RPGs are constantly demanding my attention and unless I’m completely alone and have nothing distracting me (a very rare occasion), I just can’t do it.

    Great article.

  27. Fenix says:

    Who would have known that I could one day look forward to Mondays? Well hell, thanks Mr. Cobbet!

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  29. montorsi says:

    I don’t mind length too much seeing as how most RPGs these days just let you skip through any way you please. For the OCD it’s probably an issue, but me, I just do whatever quests make sense for my characters. My rogue isn’t going to help some bumpkin farmer, sorry, tell your sad story to the next poor bastard who walks through town.

    Thus games like DAI, the Fallouts, Skyrim, etc, don’t make me rend my clothing and wring my hands. Hell, I’ve probably put 400 hours into Skyrim and have done an absolutely staggeringly few quests in total. We’re talking like two dozen, give or take.

  30. Paul says:

    One of the best articles I read here in a long while, good job Richard.
    Fantastic ending.

    I will be one of those 200+ hours. I spent some 170 hours in Skyrim doing all decent sidequests (not autogenerated ones) and I think TW3 will be bigger. Taking a week off work for it.

  31. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    Most RPGs are a little too long for me, nowadays. However, that is partly my own fault because I never play an RPG twice but I still want to experience as much of the game as possible.

    That means that I will try to get as many side-quests and optional content as possible. To do that, I tend to explore the game very thoroughly and I usually even go so far that I skim over walkthroughs and guides to see if I missed anything, or if there will be stuff later in the game that can be missed.

    This means that I will spend a lot of time with an RPG like Skyrim or one of Bioware’s, and in recent times that has felt a bit too long sometimes. It’s not enough to put me off playing these games, but now I will take breaks once in a while, and play something different, shorter, before returning to the RPG.

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      Oh! Regarding the actual question in the article – how long I want the game to be – I have no idea, to be honest. Long enough to tell its story, I guess.

  32. Premium User Badge

    basilisk says:

    For most games, I think that about 12 hours is the sweet spot; it’s enough time to develop story and mechanics to an engaging level and to wrap things up before it gets too repetitive.

    For epic and sprawling RPGs and the like, I’d say 30 hours perhaps. Maybe 40 if either the writing or the core gameplay are exceptionally good and deep. Anything past that and I’m probably not even going to try. In cases like that, it’s pretty much guaranteed the game is at least 60% padding, and I have no patience for that any more.

    Games definitely used to be far too long back in the day; even many of the beloved classics (say, Grim Fandango or Half-Life 2) could do with some heavy editing, and RPGs in particular suffered from that hugely (I remember Baldur’s Gate as being monstrously long for a primitive story with a very low level cap). This is a trend that I don’t really want to see coming back, because there are few games that actually benefit from it. After all, I stopped watching blockbusters at about the same time when Hollywood decided that 3 hours is an acceptable length for an action/adventure film. It’s not.

  33. derbefrier says:

    I never worry to much about finishing a game. I have over 100 hours in Skyrim, probably only ever competed about half of the main quest. I have 50 or 60 in Divinity: Original sin, haven’t beat it either. I just find the endings of most games anti-climactic. I mean we already pretty much know the ending to most games before we even start. “Hero saves the world at the end” or some variation of that theme. for me the ending isn’t as important as the journey. I don’t feel i have missed out on anything not completing skyrim. I have lived and breathed that world. With the many mods installed, I have survived that harsh unforgiving place, fought dragons, explored caves, took control over a thieves guild. I made my own story and I am happy with that.

    also yay! more RIchard Cobbett! Always enjoy your articles.

  34. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    For RPGs I’m reasonably sure I’ll like, such as Elder Scrolls and Mass Effect games, the claimed length is of passing “how big is it compared to last time?” interest but ultimately irrelevant because I know what I’m getting into and that I can play it faster or slower at a whim, since I tend to explore rather than seek side quests. In my case, this means I end up with a couple hundred highly spread-out hours for a TES and 50-60 hours for a ME.

    With unfamiliar RPGs, though, a good WIT or substantial preview on RPS or elsewhere (depends on what I’m hoping to get out of it, and if it’s only on console) has no substitution and is pretty much the only relevant thing to me. Duration helps me decide when to play if it’s ~2-10 hours, but I consider the experiential descriptions of games to be critical when it comes to the actual purchasing decision. Outside of RPGs, though, I’ll often first hit up a WTF Is, Zero Punctuation, a few minutes of commentary-free Let’s Play, or even a soundtrack (which partially made my decisions for RPGs Xenoblade and Solatorobo but against The Last Story, and confused my decision against Pandora’s Tower), then check out something text-based, depending on the game and the whim of the moment.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      Oh, and for Kickstarted RPGs, I decide what type of game I want to support, and duration never comes into play. There are vague expectations like “Star Citizen is hopefully going to be similar to single-player Freelancer, but with less time spent making sandwiches while listening for pirate attacks”, but I’m also half in it for the gameplay wallet-voting a la “yay Torment’s choices and bizarre world, boo Eternity’s clickfest”, inaccurate or nuance-free though that particular example may be. My wallet’s still on vacation after that initial Kickstarter rush, though, whew! Hope I’m not missing much…

  35. linea says:

    I think for me it’s a matter of how long it should take me after I’ve tired of the (usually combat) mechanics of the game to finish the plot. If those mechanics stay interesting and challenging in every encounter (Dark Souls, Baldur’s Gate) then 100 hours is not a problem.

    Most RPG combat mechanics (Witcher 1 and 2, Mass Effect, Oblivion, Fallout 3, Wasteland 2 etc etc) become grindy and/or uninteresting at some point and at that point I just tend to engage a sprint for the end- and at that point I’d usually like it if I can get there within 10-15 hours at the maximum as that’s usually my limit for narrative unsupported by interesting mechanics. So 30 hours seems like a good target to aim at on average.

    • Premium User Badge

      Andy_Panthro says:

      I’m very much in the same boat as you. When the combat in a certain game becomes dull and uninteresting, but the game insists on putting ever more enemies in your path, I grow really tired with it. Oblivion, Fallout 3, Fallout: NV, Mass Effect 1+2 were all like this for me, and after a point I just completed the main quest and then uninstalled them.

  36. EhexT says:

    Did you seriously just link to a intro cinematic that’s 3 minutes, complain that it’s 17 minutes long and too long – then link to an intro cinematic that is LONGER and call it brief? Jesus dude, get some fucking facts up in this. You don’t get to complain that a shorter intro is too long and compare it to the positive example of a LONGER Intro.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Yes, I can. Because one intro is boring and soul-sapping and fails miserably to set up anything, and the other uses its time to be snappy and have interesting things happening that directly affect the player. It’s also in two halves when you actually play it, serving to get you right into the action. Context, sweetie. Context.

      • EhexT says:

        If your entire point is content, then don’t harp on the length and go the extreme hyperbole you did on the length. Even if that hyperbole fits your premise (RPGs are too long).

  37. Jools says:

    I feel like there are a ton of issues that always come up with any argument about game length. I hate making lists, but I’m going to do it anyway because I don’t want to write an article in a comment either:

    1) Games like Dota and Minecraft are, quite frankly, huge time investments. You can dip your toes in for an hour at a time, but you can do that with a big, linear single player game too. I’d argue that Minecraft in particular is a really bad example, because building anything worth building requires a huge amount of time and effort. I don’t think we’re seeing people shy away from “big” games at all.

    2) If you have time to play a lot of shorter games, then you have time to play one longer game. I’m not saying tha you should or that longer games are better, just that “I’m busy!” isn’t really an argument against them. Dota is basically a never ending game that demands a huge time commitment, and yet I continue to play it despite only having 4-5 hours per week of gaming time. It’s good, so I play it. I spent months beating Dark Souls a few hours at a time because I enjoyed it so much.

    3) I just kind of hate the busy adult argument in general, because it feels oddly narcissistic. Adults had commitments twenty years ago too, and there are kids playing video games today. I can’t help but feel that gaming has lost its way a little bit when professional reviewers can’t understand that gaming’s audience as a whole isn’t just us crusty old men and women. That, and the whole concept of a gaming industry focused on busy, career oriented adults is miserably depressing. I don’t need my hobbies to remind me of how terrible adult life is, thanks.

    4) It’s really easy to blame a game’s length when the actual problem is its content. Most RPGs are padded out with an endless grind of pointless fetch quests and that’s fucking boring. It’s easy to lose interest when it’s clear the developers were just phoning it in halfway through.

    5) It’s also really easy to blame a game’s length when the actual problem is the player. It’s not the game’s fault that you feel compelled to spend hours and hours completing side quests and item collection garbage. If you find the core game fun and the side stuff tedious, then don’t do that side stuff. The fact that something you don’t like exists isn’t a design flaw when the game isn’t forcing you to do it.

    I don’t know. The argument against length has been coming up a lot over these past few years, and it just doesn’t feel right to me. More often than not, it feels like making excuses for why you don’t enjoy a particular game or genre anymore, and you shouldn’t have to make excuses for that. If you’re too busy to play huge RPGs, then don’t play huge RPGs. You don’t have to extend your experience out into a prescription for how RPGs should be made.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      I started forming an argument as I read your third point, but then I finished reading it and the rest of your comment. I actually get the feeling most complaints I read these days regarding game length are about games being too short (CoD in story mode and the like), but I like the points you made nevertheless!

      And I would add that, even as a busy adult, one can occasionally find time for gloriously long sessions to really get sucked into a narrative or the characters or whathaveyou, and these are totally worth waiting for. Maybe you have to get your kid or spouse involved to make it happen (I personally don’t know yet), but I would guess that’s generally a good thing. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean co-op, either. Think Twitch, but with people who (hopefully) personally matter to you.

      In any case, in place of desiring shorter games (if we really do), I propose desiring the ability to save anywhere. I can’t think of any counter-examples on PC other than the (since patched) original release of Shadowrun Returns, but consoles seem riddled with checkpoint systems, which have their pros and cons but ultimately remove flexibility when not combined with save-anywhere systems. That’s relevant to both busy adults and busy kids (or even not-so-busy kids being called off to do whatever), I should think.

    • Smoof says:

      1) Games like Dota and Minecraft are, quite frankly, huge time investments. You can dip your toes in for an hour at a time, but you can do that with a big, linear single player game too. I’d argue that Minecraft in particular is a really bad example, because building anything worth building requires a huge amount of time and effort. I don’t think we’re seeing people shy away from “big” games at all.

      Here’s the thing I’ve come to realize about myself as of late: I like things to be tied up in a neat little package.

      Take, for instance two multiplayer games I frequently play: Planetside 2 and World of Warplanes.

      Often, I lack the wont to play PS2, because there is simply no wrap up to a play session. The battle just continues as I log in and out. Versus World of Warplanes, where I can jump on, play a battle that lasts about 7 minutes and then it’s over. From there, I can decide what I want to do next. The thing here is the fact that one has a definitive end and the other doesn’t; often times, I’m inclined to play more of the game that has definitive end points in its gameplay, because I can freely choose what my next task is going to be. Whether that be going to watch some TV, read a book, answer emails, etc.

      That’s my problem with many long, long single player games these days. I really want to love Pillars of Eternity, but it’s difficult for me to want to play it, because I have no definitive end point for a play session. It always feels a little weird to me to back out of the game at any given time.

      2) If you have time to play a lot of shorter games, then you have time to play one longer game. I’m not saying tha you should or that longer games are better, just that “I’m busy!” isn’t really an argument against them. Dota is basically a never ending game that demands a huge time commitment, and yet I continue to play it despite only having 4-5 hours per week of gaming time. It’s good, so I play it. I spent months beating Dark Souls a few hours at a time because I enjoyed it so much.

      Again, two different types of things. Dark Souls has definitive cut off points, in terms of beating a boss, an area, an encounter, etc. A game like PoE, I have to remember where I was, what I was doing, what the story is up until now and so on. Often, I just don’t have the patience for that. I just want to mess around for an hour or two and not have to worry about remembering all those little tidbits of story, character building and so on.

      3) I just kind of hate the busy adult argument in general, because it feels oddly narcissistic. Adults had commitments twenty years ago too, and there are kids playing video games today. I can’t help but feel that gaming has lost its way a little bit when professional reviewers can’t understand that gaming’s audience as a whole isn’t just us crusty old men and women. That, and the whole concept of a gaming industry focused on busy, career oriented adults is miserably depressing. I don’t need my hobbies to remind me of how terrible adult life is, thanks.

      I am a busy adult. But more than that, I do have plenty of time to play games; but the business comes from different aspects of my life pulling me in different directions. Most of the time, I only have a couple hours a day to play games and I might easily get distracted by something else or decide I want to spend that limited couple of hours doing something different than playing games. If I can jump on to World of Warplanes, play a battle or two over the course of a half an hour, I can put a definitive wrapper on my gaming for that day and go do something else.

      4) It’s really easy to blame a game’s length when the actual problem is its content. Most RPGs are padded out with an endless grind of pointless fetch quests and that’s fucking boring. It’s easy to lose interest when it’s clear the developers were just phoning it in halfway through.

      Can’t really disagree. But I tend to get bored of a game after a certain amount of time unless the mechanics remain interesting. That’s more of a personal issue though; suggesting I really shouldn’t bother with most RPG’s, since I can’t remember or be bothered to care about their stories.

      5) It’s also really easy to blame a game’s length when the actual problem is the player. It’s not the game’s fault that you feel compelled to spend hours and hours completing side quests and item collection garbage. If you find the core game fun and the side stuff tedious, then don’t do that side stuff. The fact that something you don’t like exists isn’t a design flaw when the game isn’t forcing you to do it.

      See above.

      It’s less about length to me and more about breaking up play sessions into manageable chunks of time that I can put a wrapper on and be satisfied with. That’s why WoW was so successful; being able to drop 45 minutes on it, run a dungeon for a new piece of gear or completing a quest and then you can call it a night. It’s tough to do that with a giant, multiple hour RPG.

      That’s all I got.

    • alms says:

      when professional reviewers can’t understand that gaming’s audience as a whole isn’t just us crusty old men and women. That, and the whole concept of a gaming industry focused on busy, career oriented adults is miserably depressing. I don’t need my hobbies to remind me of how terrible adult life is, thanks.</quote

      Then go looking for gaming commentary by people who are all about your age or devoid of any concern?

      You have either serious issues seeing the perspective of others or are trolling (see e.g. Minecraft where the thought that playstyles other than the one you seem to consider 'worthy' might exist and be enjoyable for other players).

      Either way your comment is really unpleasant to read and it's hard to shake off the feeling that it's exactly the way you wanted to be.

      • Jools says:

        Sorry, but I think you may have seriously mistook what was a self-deprecating, tongue-in-cheek comment. I am a crusty old adult gamer who’s too busy to spend much time playing games. That was the joke. I have no idea why you found what I said to be “unpleasant.”

  38. BooleanBob says:

    Welcome Richard! Glad to see you at Castle Shotgun.

  39. Dances to Podcasts says:

    “There is plenty of time to explain why your elves are totally unlike everyone else’s elves later on. Much, much later. Quietly.”

    Or, you know, show, don’t tell.

  40. Monggerel says:

    The problem with video games, the real problem, is that we’re all slowly dying,

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      That has to be the most entertaining comma I’ve read in years!

  41. fdisk says:

    Quality over quantity any time.

    I’m a 34 year old husband and father with a 40 hour work week; if a game is longer than 20 hours these days I see it as off putting; I’ll rally and play up to 30 but those are rare exceptions.

    If a game is 40-50 hours that means I will only get 50% of the story before I have to give it up due to monotony and loss of interest. I’d rather have a solid, unbelievable 10-20 hours experience for $60 than a 40 hour game that feels like it’s dragging ass for the whole second half.

  42. Papageno says:

    Wait, how bad are the RAM requirements for the Witcher 3? Will my 8 GBs be sufficient?

  43. dungeoncrawl says:

    I’m 45 with a family of 3 and I absolutely love knowing that Pillars of Eternity likely has 100+ hours of gameplay for me (at the pace I play). I know that a game I waited 2+ years for will consume 1-2 hours a night after the family nods off to sleep. I know that on some rare occassions (Friday night from 10:00 pm. to 2;00 a.m. maybe) that I can have a 4 hours block to play. It bothers me not at all that it will take me several months to finish the game at this pace. What’s the hurry??? I’ve got months until SR: Hong Kong comes up, many months more until Tides of Numenara comes out. I can pick up The Witcher 3 and work it in. The types of games that I love come out at a slow enough pace to where there’s only 2-3 a year, which leaves plenty of time to work in the other odd games here or there.

    • fdisk says:

      That’s nice if you only play 2-3 long games a year, but for me that doesn’t work. GTA V comes out next week which means that I will have to put Pillars on hold in order to play that; I want to play it online with my friends and if I wait 3-4 months while I finish Pillars they will all have moved on by then. Likewise with FFXIV Heavensward, I want to play that with them when it comes out, which is in about two months, so that will make me take yet another break from Pillars.

      All in all I’m looking at not finishing Pillars until the end of the year and stopping for a month or two while I play other games means I will completely lose track of the story and therefore interest in the game.

      Something like Skyrim is different since you can play it for 400 hours and not even touch the main story. However, that type of high quality, immersive open-world game comes out once in 5-10 years (Pretty much only Elder Scrolls offer me that type of non-stop immersion)

      • Jools says:

        Isn’t the solution to just not play those big games, then? There are a lot of things I did when I was younger that I don’t do anymore. Sometimes there is no good answer, and you have to accept that a particular thing just isn’t for you. I don’t touch big RPGs unless they’re truly spectacular for exactly this reason, but I’m not going to pretend that their length is a flaw just because I can’t devote that kind of time to playing them anymore.

  44. LurkerLito says:

    There is no such thing as too long or too short in regard for game completion time because it is relative to how much you enjoy the game. In general if it’s a game I hate, even if it’s 10 minutes long it’s too long, similarly if it’s a game I love, even after 100 hours I think it’s too short.

  45. James says:

    That diagram at the bottom got me laughing – props to whoever made that. There’s some good text in the 1000 words before it too – all of it in fact.

    Nice to see Richard Cobbett on here regularly.

  46. Premium User Badge

    doxasticpirate says:

    I get this vague sense of dread when I start reading a very long book; I certainly don’t think that a book’s length is a selling point. Same thing for a movie, to be sure, but a book represents a more significant investment in time.

    But even if the long book doesn’t have filler per se, the bar for how good it has to be to be worth my time gets raised. Sure, a very long book CAN be worthwhile, but on the top of my head, I can’t think of ANY examples of long books that wouldn’t have been improved by being shorter.

  47. BrickedKeyboard says:

    There’s a few complexities here.

    Long media – game, movies, whatever – that drag on are bad because

    1. They involve a tremendous amount of repetition. Not only are there are a finite amount of unique ideas, but in many cases a given piece of the media sums up to “we tried something, utter failure.”

    Stargate SG-1 is an example of a TV show that drags on. It’s somehow one of the longest running TV franchises ever filmed – and it’s got a lot to like about it. But there’s so many episodes where it’s clear the cast and crew had basically no money to make them, and nothing happens that will matter later, and even the episode itself has tons and tons of slow filler scenes of people staring at stuff.

    2. There’s a payoff for getting to the “end” that you want to reach. I’ve never actually beaten spacechem. I think the game is wonderful, and genius, but at a certain point I just got kinda tired – the puzzles were beginning to feel harder than my real life programming job. But, that’s ok to me. I can always go back and play it again some day (I probably never will, but it’s sitting there in my steam library) and I more than got my money’s worth and I don’t feel spacechem is repetitive.

    3. The length is a forced length by unskippable cutscenes.

    • airmikee says:

      I have to disagree with you 100% about Stargate. You’re gonna have to provide some examples and evidence to back up those claims. No money to make them? In the beginning of the series each episode had a budget of $1.3 million, by season 10 that cost had gone up to $2 million. And based on your description of the show, I have serious doubts that you’ve ever watched it.

      • BrickedKeyboard says:

        Ouch. Way to hate on me.

        All I can say is, I really did try to binge watch it about 6 months ago. I noticed that the SGC set is actually pretty simple and cheap, and that the “on earth” missions where they are in the bread truck are especially bad. It is true that occasionally, something they grab in a mission matters later, but this is not generally true – the vast majority of the episodes are stand alone and could be watched in any order. They constantly pass up opportunities to get better technology, the stated goal of their team, in favor of moralizing or the script writers just forgetting that the convenient reason of the week for them to have failed is not a good enough excuse.

  48. Urthman says:

    Do journalists really have no idea how irrelevant their whining about “This was so long I couldn’t enjoy it with my review deadline looming!” is to everyone who isn’t also a games journalist?

    I think deadlines distort reviews of longer games. For instance, I think the big Ubisoft games (the Far Cries and Ass Creeds) are a lot better if you don’t try to play through the whole thing in a few long sessions. When I see reviews complain about how “repetitive” some of the content is, I’m never sure how much of that is attributable to the poor reviewer having to plow through the whole thing in just a few days. I tend to play the Ass Creed games on and off over a period of a couple months, mixed with other stuff until I feel like going back and doing some more parkour and seeing some cool cities again. I’d much rather have a huge long game to dip in and out of than a short game I have to play more than once if I’m in the mood for more.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Oh, I don’t expect you to give the tiniest shit. I only added that for additional context that might have distorted what followed in one way or the other, since it’s a major part of how I’ve experienced the last ones. It’s implicitly to open and acknowledge the possibility that people who play more on the lines of how you do might be immediately thinking “What? Christ no, I love getting home and knowing I have a couple more hours waiting for me.” While still talking about the more general picture as observed, as continues in the next paragraph.

    • jrodman says:

      It’s not irrelevant to me, and I’m not a games journalist.

      • April March says:

        I know, right? I know it’s pretty bad to cringe at a plot twist that means I’ll be playing this game I like for a few more hours because I thought it was almost done, but I do it anyway.

        Then again, I didn’t do that after the mid-plot twist in Bioshock, and I should’ve!

  49. Kefren says:

    By 10-12 hours I am usually wanting the end to come. Even shorter is better for me. I would much rather have something that has a central quest that can be completed fairly quickly if you focus on it, and lots of other stories that are optional (note _stories_, not just collecting 50 of something), so that I can play again and again with different characters and different adventures and experiences, rather than one long slog that bores me and sucks away any desire to play the game again.

    There’s no reason why a game can’t provide that, but also keep happy the people who want to do everything and spend a hundred hours playing. Make something scalable.

    Nowadays I generally avoid sidequests because I know I’ll be bored by the end. I enjoyed some of Witcher 1 but it was too long; I enjoyed Witcher 2 more (and it lets you replay for a different story if you want), though it still felt a bit long to me.

    I actually enjoy sometimes installing Heroes of Might & Magic 2 or 3 and playing a single mission, treating it as an RPG story. Usually that fills 1-3 evenings, and leaves me satisfied and looking forward to doing it again in 6 months, rather than bored.

  50. jonahcutter says:

    As far as side quests adding to length, it might be interesting to see RPGs offer a “focused” mode, where all side quests are actually disabled in-game. The only active quests you can encounter in the world are directly related to advancing the main plot. You can kind of do this already in some games, by only having particular types of quests show up on the map. But having them actually disabled might help the compulsive completionists resist having to help find every lost cow. You still get some flavor text from the farmer bitching about how his favorite cow has wandered off yet again (and yet somehow he can’t muster the wherewithal to go find it himself), but he doesn’t provide any actual quest to tempt you from losing your focus on the main plot.