Tuesday, August 14, 2012

VG Talk #14 Short and Sweet

Video Game Discussion

It feels like it was only yesterday that we all wanted our games to be long spiraling epics and the amount of time you could invest in the game was one of the bigger selling points. Legend of Zelda games have always been incredible but they were also praised because they allowed you to sink tons of hours into them before even touching the sidequests. The same goes for the Final Fantasy series. Remember when Final Fantasy 7 was on three separate discs and everyone freaked out at how amazing that was? You were getting your money's worth and a great experience to go with it.

Then we had to obtain steady jobs, attempt regular social lives, and possibly grow up (that's debatable). Now we barely have time for those kinds of games. There's a reason the "save" function was invented. We might have to leave at any moment and we want to be able to come back to where we left off. We used to be able to get through a 40+ hour game in a weekend but now it could take us months if we don't schedule in a couple of hours of game time each night. Worse yet, we might only be able to play on our days off. *shudders at the thought*

That's not even mentioning any games that are grind heavy. We have learned to despise a heavy grind because it's pointless repetition to get to our end goal. It's unnecessary time wasted and we're busier now than ever. We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more! Except for all the times that we do but that's not the point.

A new breed of games has been emerging and I'm a huge fan of this direction. Games like Portal 2, Journey, Limbo, and Dear Esther are all actually rather short. This used to be an insult in the gaming community except now it's a blessing. Each one of these titles deserves your time and each of them has also managed to push game innovation on top of being a stellar experience packed into a tiny package.

Let me clarify and say that I don't want every single game to dare be this short. I want variety and it's something we're seeing more of in the game industry. There are plenty of times where I want a game that takes more than a few sit-downs to get through but I'm also a fan of these short games that don't suck up all of my time to experience something fulfilling.

It's also crucial to note that some games aren't allowed to be too short. The Darkness 2 came out and was overall enjoyed by many except for the fact that it ended way too soon. The only complaint about Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was that it cut out most of the exploration the series is known for which also cut down the game time rather severely. As you can see, it's going to depend on the type of game and the narrative.

Rather than this just coming across as a short article where I'm praising a few games, the point I'm trying to get at is this: game length has always been neglected as an aspect of game design. Some games do worse than neglect it and ignore the concept entirely during the design process. Hopefully designers will work toward fine-tuning the experience depending on what the game wants from the player and what the player is going to expect from the game.

What are your thoughts? Does game length matter to you? Do you prefer the variety of short and long games we are starting to see or do you have a preference? What are your favorite games that happened to be short experiences?

This is Kylak signing out before I take up too much of your time.


  1. Yeah, I remember I used to believe that short games = sucks, but like you mentioned in the article, you start working and such, then long games start to become more of a hassle to play. It is great that there are short games that are also really satisfying in the story sense like Portal 2.

  2. Yeah, I have to borrow the words of the internet for a moment, "I'd rather have an incredible 8 hour experience rather than 80 forgettable hours."

  3. I do really miss having the longer hours of game play. Even though adulthood kinda sucks I still find that I have a day now and then when all the roommates are gone and I have blessedly nothing to do other than wait for laundry to finish running before I have to throw it in the dryer. I miss that many of the games coming out recently don't have that feel to them any more. Looking at my game shelf I can't see a single current system game that isn't meant to be hour intensive. Even if it takes me months to finish it I haven't found a single game that gives me the same rewarding feeling as the epics.

    That said I'm not opposed to well developed, well written shorter games. I just haven't found one that gives me the satisfaction I look for. However, I acknowledge the fact that I'm an extremely picky niche player who's niche seems to be on the dying end of the industry. I suppose I will have to work on expanding my horizons some.

  4. Sorry in advance for the crazy long post but I was totally trying to be helpful and then got carried away.

    Seeing as I know you, I'm guessing when you say "epics" and "niche", you're talking about the major JRPGs of our day that were massively grand adventures? Please forgive me for assuming if I'm wrong here.

    To talk about JRPGs for a second, the actual problem is that Japanese developers took their sweet ass time even developing for the current generation consoles. Many still haven't moved on. In Japan, they're still making PS2 games even now. That should give you an idea of the real problem here. The genre is far from dead but they just aren't keeping up with the times to even compete. That's before even discussing the problems that SquareEnix is having (saving that for another time).

    If you're looking for RPG style gameplay and want a massive grand epic for this current gen (and you're willing to try something a little different), then you might want to look toward the Mass Effect trilogy, the Dragon Age games, Fallout 3, and Skyrim. That's been the biggest flip-flop about this gen. Western RPGs took over and became the new epics.

    If you're still afraid to step out of your niche then Persona 4, Disgaea 4, Valkyria Chronicles, Star Ocean: The Last Hope, and Eternal Sonata might be able to help you out.

    Alllll of that being said: I haven't even found the time for ANY of the games I've listed. Not a single one. Even finding the time to play DCUO with my league is difficult these days.

    If you haven't played Journey yet, grab it when you get the chance. It's a short game that proves a grand experience can be had without a massive time investment.

    Annnnd now I've rambled on too much. I hope that helps though.



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