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. noodlecake says:

    I was already put off by the open world. The extended length just gives me more worries. The focus of The Witcher 2 is something that allowed a very high quality story to be told. I am worried that both these factors will negatively impact the quality and focus of the story.

    The main thing that worries me, however, is the fact that it most likely will be the first game that is impossible to run on my PC. :(

  2. Sin Vega says:

    For me, RPGs have three lengths:

    1) Yet Another Fantasy RPG (< 15 minutes)
    2) Reach First Town, 200 Fetch Quests, Give up (15 minutes – 1 hour)
    3) Worth Playing Beyond The First Town (1 hour plus)

    Anything ridiculously long is very likely to be one of the first two. Breaking Bad ran for about 48 hours over 5 years, and even that could stand to trim several episodes. Your game's story and character arc are not as good or dramatic as Breaking Bad's. No, they're not. Stop it.

    • jrodman says:

      Good sir or madam. I have two irrelevant questions:
      1 – I have read your presence favorably on this website for years and cherish the contributions you make. However I am experiencing some sort of vertigo regarding the rename. Do you have any comments to share?
      2 – I made an attempt to peruse your site of web, and read one page before getting 403 forbidden. Did I offend the http gods?

      • Sin Vega says:

        Hello! (sir or madam is fine, I have no strong objection to either)

        The name change: I wanted a name of my own choosing (see a not-exactly-safe-for-work post that helped me come to this conclusion here: link to pervocracy.blogspot.co.uk), but have gone by ‘sinister agent’ online for most of my adult life so didn’t want to abandon it completely. It took me a while to change on RPS because my profile page wasn’t showing for some reason.

        The blog 403 thing: huh. That’s… a bit troubling. I have a very robust anti-spam thing installed to combat the literally thousands of bullshit incoming links and comments from bots, but I’ve no idea how it works or what proportion of innocents are getting caught up in it. Do you mean you can access the main page, but clicking on any links blocks you out?

        • jrodman says:

          Wow, that’s a much more interesting answer than I expected. I’m a bit curious though; sinister agent was of your choosing, wasn’t it? Or it felt more like an alias than an explicitly chosen name? Or it was chosen without deliberation?

          Regarding the site, no pages will load at this point. I do some fairly ridiculous manipulation of my http requests on my Linux system, but on this mac laptop it’s just Firefox talking to Squid (cache) talking to the site. WIth an ad-blocker (ublock).

          • jrodman says:

            Scratch that; it seems it was a temp ban. Maybe it flagged me for not finishing transfers (my internets are quite slow), or who knows.

          • Sin Vega says:

            Oh phew, that’s a relief. My spam thing does something odd with javascript, but it’s incredibly effective and doesn’t seem to inconvenience visitors either, so I’d be hard pressed to get rid of it.

            Re: names, I chose ‘sinister agent’ myself, but it was back in about 2002 and has a lot of baggage, plus it was from an old Amiga Power in-joke that goes back even further (1993 or so). It feels less ‘me’ than it used to. Also I kind of wanted one that people wouldn’t feel completely ridiculous calling me in person.

          • jrodman says:

            People called me “k8to” in person, and all of us got used to it. I find people are adaptable.

            Granted, people didn’t use that name around the office.

            Anyway thanks for the info. The blog is pretty great. Trouble with gamers resonates, as I find myself on both sides of that insight.

    • airmikee says:

      Since ‘The Witcher’ is based on a series of 8 books, six comics, a movie and a TV series spread out over the last 23 years, it’s entirely likely that the story found in the game can be far more engrossing than Breaking Bad.

      • Sin Vega says:

        Anyone who thinks their story requires 8 books is wrong.

        • Hedgeclipper says:

          No reasonable story takes longer than fifteen minutes to tell and the vast majority far less (lets be honest a good 90% of games are simply ‘girl/boy/alien saves the world’)nevertheless the beauty is in the detail and provided its not spread too thin there’s nothing inherently virtuous between short form and long if the goal is entertainment.

  3. cylentstorm says:

    Let’s see…I never “finished” the main quests in Morrowind, Oblivion, or Skyrim, yet still have hundreds of hours of aimless wandering and adventuring across all of them. My linear progress tends to crawl to a halt in those games and others that provide the option to explore and effectively ignore the central plotline; including–but not limited to–The Elder Scrolls.

    My tendency as of late is to play those games not to “win,” but to play a loose role of an inhabitant of their respective worlds. I’ve heard others refer to it as “roleplaying.” Crazy, I know.

    How long is too long? That depends on your playstyle, I think.

  4. skalpadda says:

    I love to poke around every nook and cranny of every cave and castle in RPGs and have no problem putting the main quest on hold indefinitely as I go exploring. I spent at least 100+ hours in Skyrim and Oblivion and never came close to seeing the end of either main quest.

    That said, I don’t tend to consider game length in judging whether a game is good or not. If an RPG took me less than 20 hours I’d probably consider it a bit short, but if those hours were good fun then that doesn’t really matter. If I were to finish a (full priced) game in an evening or two I’d probably start feeling it was shoddy value for my money, but that has never happened with an RPG.

    At the other end, I’m fine with the likes of Bethesda games being experiences I just sort of drift away from long before I’ve seen everything. Feeling a game has gone on for too long usually has more to do with how RPGs often force you through large final levels with battle after battle as you fight your way through the main baddie’s army, at a point where your characters are usually to powerful that combat is just a tedious chore. In those situations I just want the game to end, but that doesn’t really reflect on the length of the game as a whole.

  5. Premium User Badge

    syllopsium says:

    To me the length is important in terms of starting and individual quest areas, not in finishing. I mostly play RPGs for the story and experience, not the battles, so anything that requires a sizable investment of time needs to repay in plot. It took me six months to finish KOTOR, but that’s fine, because it’s largely well paced with an atmospheric world, and a decent story.

    Given the choice it would be better to have multiple decent experiences in the same timeframe than one all encompassing game, probably. So, I’ll be finishing some of the shorter RPGs before hitting Pillars of Eternity, etc.

    Of course, I don’t help myself. Still not finished Oblivion, and I always get distracted by side quests. I’ll also admit I enjoy just looking at the scenery and general crafting/herb gathering.

  6. Jason Moyer says:

    For me, the length of a game is a non-issue one way or the other. Mirror’s Edge took me something like 4 or 5 hours to finish, and it’s one of my favorite games of all time. The last several Bethesbryo titles took 100-150 and are among my favorite games of all time. I have something like 500-600 hours in Assetto Corsa, and highly suspect I will end up with 10x that.

    I’m interested in content quality, variety, and density. I become highly suspicious when I read adverts or reviews (ex. basically every user review on Steam) that emphasize a game’s length because I can only assume there wasn’t anything else positive to say about the game. It’s great that Far Cry 3 is “worth the money” because there are dozens of hours of content to experience; I found it to be a 4 hour game with 24 hours of indistinguishable nonsense tacked onto it, and to make matters worse, those 4 hours were kind of mediocre and seemed like they needed the development time/focus that was spent artificially cranking up the play length.

  7. nimbulan says:

    I don’t mind if a game is very long as long as the content is deserving of my time. That said, I have in the past burned out halfway through a game I was thoroughly enjoying (for example, Skyrim) and had to put it down for a month before I could go back and finish it. I am expecting that The Witcher 3 will provide the same sort of unpadded high quality experience that seems to be so rare these days.

  8. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    I’m very conflicted on this. On the one hand, I have the urge to sink deep into a huge RPG where I can spend hundreds of hours, like I did with Morrowind for example. That fits with my general completionist nature that I feel the need to check off all the boxes, no matter how silly. But that was a different time, before demanding job, kids, you know life… I also only prefer to play a game once – so I hate branching paths that lock out big chunks of content from a gameplay perspective, even though I support them from a story/RP perspective.

    So now I want RPGs that feel huge and epic and yet can be finished in 30-40 hours. And by finished I mean everything. I know that’s selfish and impossible, and I hope there will always be room in the industry for all kinds of RPGs from Shadowrun to Skyrim or Witcher, rewarding all kinds of playing styles and time commitment. But that’s what I’d like to see.

    Right now I’m playing through Skyrim and trying to do everything with one character. When I’m done, I’ll never touch it again. Ever. Then it’s back to Divinity, Wasteland, Shadowrun, etc. At this rate, I’ll be playing the new Torment in 2019. Which is fine.

    So after all that I can’t answer Richard’s question. Sorry!

    • Premium User Badge

      syllopsium says:

      I don’t know.. I feel that not being able to complete the games is far more realistic and involving than the ability to complete all quests. At some stage I may go back and play BG2 for a third time because even though I’ve completed much of the content, there’s yet more I have not seen, keeping it fresh and providing decent memories.

      On the other hand, whilst Planescape:Torment is possibly my favourite ever RPG I can now only rarely play it because all of the content has been exhausted.

      I will probably not return to re-play KOTOR again for years, but when I do it may be fresh and new, because I can replay as an evil, male character this time.

  9. heretic says:

    Welcome Richard! Really enjoy your columns, great that your writing is coming regularly at RPS :)

    Back on topic, I always wondered how reviewers coped with reviewing long games. It seems almost certain some review opinion / scores are deeply affected by the need to get the review out the door, do reviewers think: if I had taken my time to enjoy this game would I have liked it better? There are definitely some games I enjoyed much better by taking my time through them, but maybe that means the games aren’t “good” enough in that respect.

    I just finished Alien Isolation (Steam says 27~ hrs) and really enjoyed it, but I stopped about half way through as got distracted by 60 hours of Dragon Age inquisition… though by the end of DA I had enough, there was an OCD me that at least wanted to finish all the companion quests, but I realised I didn’t care anymore and just went for the end of the story. And I could see how Alien Isolation could feel too long and frustrating if you had to play it all in one go.

  10. airmikee says:

    I remember back when we used to complain that video games were too short. Battlefields 3 and 4 were widely panned for being too short, the internet is full of complaints that the campaigns were less than 10 hours long while the game cost $60. Now we’re whining that we’re getting 200 hours of entertainment for $60?

    Some people will bitch about anything, and the most First World the problem is, the louder and more obnoxious the complaints become.

    • Lachlan1 says:

      The issue is quality. Bf campaigns are awful, 200 hours of filler is no fun either

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      If you don’t like people complaining about “first world problems”, the comment section of a website about PC games is probably not somewhere you’re going to be comfortable.

  11. MarkB says:

    Glad to see Richard getting a regular column here, his stuff is always great.

    As far as RPG length goes I tend to drift away from games somewhere around the 20 hr mark. I think this is more due to pacing issues than anything though. That said longer games seem to have bigger problems with pacing as they are often stuffed with Ubisoft style content.

    Generally when I fall out of playing an RPG it’s because I’ve reached a low point where none of the quests I am working on are really particularly compelling. Eventually I decide I would rather just play some DOTA and then I’m done with the game for at least a few months.

    Tighter games with less filler like Dragonfall or something like Sunless Sea* where the quality of the writing is all very good are much easier to stay with because you don’t feel like you are wasting time that could be better spent on more immediate games.

    *I’ve heard the island Richard wrote is quite good, but my current captain is a bit too ethical to progress that storyline

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Try the Empire of Hands. You don’t need to be unethical there, only careful with your soul :-)

      • MarkB says:

        I didn’t realize you did the Empire of Hands as well! I thought you just wrote Saviour’s Rocks.

        I’ve been to the Empire of Hands a few times now, I’ve still got a lot to do there but I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve seen. The society there is weird and interesting and unsettling, even when compared to the rest of Sunless Sea (which full of weird/interesting/unsettling things). I’m looking forward to seeing how that story develops, but I’ve got a lot of cargo to ship there before that happens.

  12. BooleanBob says:

    I agree that for anyone with a time-strapped lifestyle a game of even 20 hours can be daunting. Hell, I have plenty of free time and I don’t want to think of a game taking more than a dozen hours going in – although if it grabs me, I’ll happily sink four or five times that without even noticing (Teleglitch and Risk of Rain come to mind at >50 each. And don’t ask me for my Dota total.)

    It always struck me as odd that due to professional constraints games writers are simultaneously the worst-placed people to review games as well as the best. As a salve for this, perhaps we could come up with a new paradigm – some sort of ‘leisurely review’? Still have A. N. Writer marathoning the game in time for release, but then maybe a month later, bring in someone with a more typical pattern of consumption to provide their thoughts? I know the news cycle might have moved on by then, but in theory this would be around the time the audience was coming to the end of their playthroughs as well, some of them at least, and would be ready to pick on something a little more reflective, perhaps a little more spoiler tolerant, to compare and contrast with their own experiences?

    Sort of like the gaming book club that I hear whispers of existing beyond this site’s mysterious bikini-grade chainmail veil, the one marked ‘Supporters Only’.

  13. onodera says:

    DA:O without the Deep Roads and the Fade would have been a perfect length for an RPG that you can replay, just like VVVVVV is a perfect replayable puzzle platformer.

  14. davorable says:

    Nice to see you here Richard! I’m not sure what the sweet spot is but Mass Effect 2 and Jade Empire were two of my favorite RPGs and I think they took me 24 and 28 hours to finish.

  15. InfamousPotato says:

    As I get older I’m realizing how little time I’m going to have in the future. I would very much like it if games focused less on length and more on making our time with them meaningful. Great article. Glad to have you writing here on RPS, Mr. Cobbett.

  16. Fomorian1988 says:

    “Player Who First Decides To Learn Fluent Polish The Experience It As It Was Meant To Be, Unlike The Proles: 3 Years”

    No offence, but I think you understated the time needed to learn even the basics of my mother tongue by people outside of the Slavic language family. I’m not being flippant, just realistic.

    • airmikee says:

      My cousin spent two years in Poland for a religious mission and can still speak the language fluently decades later. I think the time it takes to learn a new language depends entirely upon the dedication and amount of time one has to spend learning. There have been lots of studies on the process, and here’s one that shows it’s possible to learn 2000 words of a new language in 100 hours of instruction in a classroom setting. If that’s done full time it would only be a matter of months before conversational fluency was reached, and a couple of years before hitting academic fluency.
      link to hrd.apec.org (link seemed to be the most authoritative source, relative to Yahoo Answers and people selling language programs)

    • Lachlan1 says:

      It’s a joke you realise?

  17. Dances to Podcasts says:

    If you think that’s bad, how about those games that don’t even have a (singleplayer) story and have no end at all!

  18. Lachlan1 says:

    Hooray for getting Mr Cobbett on board, now increase his workload and let’s have less of that silly moba business!

  19. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    Also glad Cobbett is back. I read everything he writes in the Guardian voice.

  20. fish99 says:

    I’d done two all-quest playthroughs of Skyrim, which took 250 hrs each, and both times I wished there was another 100 hrs of content.

  21. Sui42 says:

    I genuinely think the main ‘quest’ of a game should last no more than 3 or 4 hours – an evening’s entertainment. Those 3 or 4 hours should be as intense, dramatic, and exciting as any blockbuster film. There should be NO padding.

    Why? Most people have lives. As Cobbett said, most gamers used to be teenagers with WAY too much time to kill. That used to be the target audience, but it’s changing. The gamers are growing up and getting jobs, families, [i]lives.[/i] Most people I know over the age of 40 barely get the chance to watch films. None of them have the time to play an old-school RPG.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean that the game shouldn’t contain 200 hours of extra bonus shit for the teenagers to do. Just that the core experience should be brilliant and concise. Imagine if you sat down to watch a film on your bank holiday friday – the kids are at a friend’s house, the spouse is elsewhere, your email inbox is cleared – and you’re greeted with a 3 hour long tutorial telling you how to watch the film. That would fucking suck. Frankly I’m not sure why we put up with this in games.

  22. AlienMind says:

    I can tell you about an RPG which is not too long: Deadly Premonition. I don’t know how long it took. I only know that I enjoyed every minute of it and I wish it were not over when it ended.
    So I’m kinda in the “don’t care” camp when it goes to measuring artistic impression by hours.

  23. welverin says:

    I agree with Richard, everyone should play Ultima 6. Not just for how it starts, but how it ends. How many game shave the guts to end without a boss fight, much less rpgs?

  24. April March says:

    This just makes me think about Driftmoon, which is apparently a game meant to give the feeling of an epic RPG while being short and to the point

    OF COURSE, I HAVEN’T PLAYED IT YET

    BECAUSE

    I DIDN’T HAVE THE TIME

    >:-O

  25. RProxyOnly says:

    Richard, you don’t speak for me, and to be honest I resent someone with the ability to have an influential (to some) point of view, using that point of view to potentially ruin my gaming experiences.

    I like long games, in fact I THRIVE on long games, I like that they exist and I enjoy them far more than games made for those who have the attention span of goldfish.

    OK, YOU don’t have time to play them.. tough fuckin’ shit, mate. I do and I don’t like that you are able to publicise and advertise a point a view that would marginalise my opinion or requirements/needs for my gaming experience.

    Some idiot developer might actually think you speak for anyone other than the brainless masses and might ‘tailor down’ their ‘magum opus’, ‘cos that’s kidz want… NO, we fucking don’t… and if you can’t think of anything to say in your article writing job about gaming other than YOU think they can be too long… then stop writing.

    If the games are shit or boring then that’s a case for it’s own (lack of) merits.. but duration has nothing intrinsically to do with it, other than the fact that it doesn’t PERSONALLY suit YOU… Who fucking cares?

    Stick to the part of your job where your opinion might count for something, intrinsic quality good or bad, but making a case for the length of a game on THAT point alone isn’t your purview.

    Yes, I’m aware that some games can be bad and be too long BECAUSE they are bad, but that’s not caused by duration,, it’s caused by bad or boring design. A bad game is a bad game and duration, either way (why bother at all playing a game if you have to make it shorter for it to be palatable) isn’t going to make it better.

    • Risingson says:

      It’s about ethics in journalism :D

      Anyway, this is just a column expressing some opinions. It is not Cobbett having the power to magically change the game design,

  26. Laurentius says:

    DA:I length is a poster boy here b/s it is not a very good game in the first place. The story, plot and mission structure are very weak but people tiptoeing around this, general on level character writing and dialouge, plus big budget hide this simple truth.

  27. Misha says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article and it made me laugh multiple times because I recognized so much of myself in it. Good job.

    Now “how long is too long?” You know, I no longer know. Suddenly I find myself thinking about all of the RPGs that I jumped at eagerly because they promised me 40,50,100s of hours of gameplay, only to grow utterly bored with them. And the ones I never played because reviews stated that even an average gamer would likely be done with it in less than 20. What if those 20 hours were the best ever. It’s still a good return on investment in entertainment terms? I think I may have cheated myself here.

    You have the ones that just grow on you, like Skyrim in my case, which I’ve played, according to Steam, for 750 hours but that’s way too low, yet I haven’t actually “finished” it and its DLC yet. And I’ve loved every minute of it and really don’t care if I ever reach the magical finish line with trumpets blaring. I’m too busy finding new things to do in it, story line be hanged. I still love every minute of it.

    Then there are games like the Assassins’ Creeds, which I’ve finished because I grew immensely bored with the “collect all of X to get a flowing new robe” filler nonsense and just wanted to reach the end of the “book”, but I still loved every minute of them because they told great stories. I could have done without the idiot filler but, on the other hand, would I have jumped and bought the first one if the filler (before I had a chance to actually experience the pointlessness of it) hadn’t promised me “at least 60-100 hours of game play?”

    I guess what I really want isn’t, anymore at least, a promise of X number of hours minimum before I’ll buy. I’d rather have an honest review of whether the story it is worth my time, if I’m going to enjoy myself for the hours I put into it and, ideally, the potential to waste enormous amounts of time on it and STILL enjoy myself.

    And I know I’ll never get that. But I’ll definitely pay more attention to games that offer quality over quantity now.

  28. Hedgeclipper says:

    So here’s the thing, game writing is rarely compelling enough for me to care about the end of the plot – if the game is awful sure put it out of its misery who cares? (but don’t expect me to buy another) – if however its something I’m enjoying I’m probably going to be annoyed to find they all lived happily ever after before I’m ready. In fact I’d be inclined to say I would prefer to loose interest in most games than see the ending and ideally I’ll “blearily look at a clock about to tick 4AM” and be amazed by the time flying. I may want to shoot the programmer in the morning but I’ll get over that and have more game to look forward to.

  29. Arglebargle says:

    Man, this isn’t quite the column for me. I measure my games’ interest in years of playing. Morrowind and Stalker running in at about 3 years each. Civilization in years per version. Several thousand hours in Crusader Kings 2. (Can’t tell exactly due to Steam’s old auto update combined with Paradoxes inability to deliver a patch that integrates old save games; which lead to numerous off-the-books playing).

    Different perspectives, I guess. What some consider to be the right size for a game, I consider to be barely long enough for the beginning/intro. The caveat is, of course, if it’s boring or becomes boring, it is way less worth playing.

  30. Zafman says:

    When it comes to games I’m a big sightseer. Sidequests? Yes, please! I often actively avoid the ending of a game, if at all possible, just to get the maximum amount of enjoyment out of it. Why can’t they all be open ended? *sighs*

    There’s no such thing as too much chocolate! ^_^

    So glad to hear you’ve snapped up a weekly column here, Richard.

  31. Oktober Storm says:

    I find Cookie Clicker to be a little too long.

  32. frightlever says:

    Kingdoms of Amalur is probably the first RPG that I rushed to finish (after around 80 hours played), abandoning side-quests and combat just to get it finished so I could uninstall it. It wasn’t that it was bad, I just needed to move on with my life.

  33. Oduglingen says:

    I played through Mass Effect 1, then Mass Effect 2. By the time Mass Effect 3 was out I had a child, and I could still play some but never got around to ME3. Now I have a four year old and a one year old, I kickstarted Wasteland 2 and Pillars of Eternity and have both sitting on the hard-drive, unplayed (and Torment coming up!). I’m not here to whine, what I’m getting to is this: If a game says that it would take say 80 hours to complete the main quest, that would for me mean that it would take me half a year to do, and that is definately a turn off.

  34. Kala says:

    “blearily look at a clock about to tick 4AM, and not on some deep inward level find yourself screaming “END! END! EEEEEEND!”

    And it screams back “HAHA, NO” XD

    I don’t really have a problem with length (fnarr) mainly because completing a game isn’t usually a big deal for me. I tend to subscribe to the “journey is the reward” type philosophy…which, *yes*, does take a bit of a hammering if the game itself doesn’t, and the journey is a chore with the reward being to finish it :| (in which case; stop).

    I haven’t ceased to get enjoyment out of Divinity though – either with my plethora of alty combos on singleplayer or the co-op with the partner. (except he won’t play it with me. because he’s playing Cities Skylines ¬.¬)

  35. headless97 says:

    I sincerely do not care how long a game is as long as the time I spend with it is enjoyable. I’ve had more fun with the 10 hours I put into One Finger Death Punch and Luftrausers than I did with the 30 hours I’ve put into Skyrim. And while I’m sure that the Borderlands games and Destiny and other co-op RPG shooter games have a lot of content, I’d rather play F.E.A.R. or Killing Floor because the shooting is actually good. I’ve spent more time with Kerbal Space Program than any other game recently, not because of how much content there is, but because of the quality of the gameplay. They didn’t even make a point about how long they expect the game to be.

  36. Xetelian says:

    As long as there is a good game to be played no amount of time is asking too much.

    Between playing it over with and without mods I’ve put 500 hours into Skyrim.

    When a game is good I’ll play forever if possible.

  37. kitlantra says:

    I’m glad my major social commitment IS gaming. XD having a group of friends who get together to play video games every week is the high life. lol. We mostly play payday2, dayz, and mass effect 3. payday2 is one of those ‘pick up and play for an hour’ type games, though, while dayz is a ‘have to spend 4 hours just to find a frigging gun and a can of beans’ type of games.