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Shorter games are the future?

Shorter games are the future?

Are shorter games like Portal a good thing for busy adult gamers? Let us know what you think in the forums.

In a recent interview over at Gamasutra, Portal-scribe Erik Wolpaw has been thinking about how long games are nowadays and whether most players ever get round to finishing the titles they spend so much money buying.

Speaking about how the time-restrictions of modern living may have affected the length and design of Valve's Portal, Wolpaw and lead-designer Kim Swift had this to say:

"They're constantly referring at Valve to people who really think a lot about games and play games, and many of my adult friends never, ever finish games anymore. Like, they don't finish them. We just thought it would be nice to have a game where, if you play it, you probably will finish it, unless you just don't like it."

From there Wolpaw and Swift speculate on what this might mean for games in the future, pointing out that they can use the Steam stats system to monitor play and completion times for games played over Steam. It takes most players around three and a half hours to play through Portal apparently.

"it seems to be a trend. In Call of Duty 4, the single-player is awesome, but I think it took me five and a half hours or something. So it's not super-long either. That seems to be the trend. BioShock was pretty long, but it almost seems like a throwback, in how long it was."

"There's a practical constraint on time for people who aren't 14 years old...A lot of games I would like to come back to, but there's this barrier of reentry, in which I don't remember what the hell I was doing a month ago," Said Wolpaw.

So, now we put the question to you - how many of the games you buy do you actually finish and do you think shorter games are a good or a bad thing? Let us know in the forums.

40 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
Mankz 26th March 2008, 13:04 Quote
I liked the length of COD4, if it came in epidoseds every 3 months or so, they'd be onto a winner for sure.

But the price would have to drop.
Blademrk 26th March 2008, 13:10 Quote
I can see where he's coming from, I can't count the number of times I've planned on going back to a game to complete it and not finished it.

This is my third attempt at Half-Life 2, I've installed it twice on my PC got so far and left it without knowing where I was when I attempted to get back into it, I've now started playing it on the 360 and got a hell of a lot further over the last 2 or 3 days than I had previously on the PC.

Condemned is another one. I played the first 2 levels after I bought it with my 360 just after release along with Kameo, I moved on to Kameo and didn't look back at Condemned until recently - nearly 2 and a half years after I bought it.

...and there's countless other games I've bought, played for a while and then moved onto something else, always planning to go back, but not getting round to it.
chrisb2e9 26th March 2008, 13:20 Quote
I would rather games were longer. I dont want to pay 40 to 60 bucks on a game for a few hours of enjoyment. make the game worth buying and maybe more people will buy them.
Krikkit 26th March 2008, 13:21 Quote
The only reason I don't finish games is when they're crap. In fact I think I've only ever not-finished 3 games: Bioshock, STALKER and MOH: Airbourne.

Personally I always crave longer games, STALKER was a good length, and you could stretch it out by completing all the quests, but CoD4 was too short (imo).
CardJoe 26th March 2008, 13:24 Quote
My main pet peeve is having short games which are "compensated for" by multiplayer. Multiplayer rarely interest me unless a game is designed from the ground up to be multiplayer, like TF2. Having a short but decent singleplayer game instead of a long and decent one but saying it balances out because of multiplayer winds me up no end.
The Jambo 26th March 2008, 13:25 Quote
I don't mind some games being shorter, such as games like portal, but as long as RPG games stay as they are, or last even longer.

I loved the 100+ hours of Oblivion, but obviously 50 hours of portal is insane.

Bioshock had a huge story, and i couldnt wait to get through all of it, but CoD4 needed to focus on its multiplayer.
Andune 26th March 2008, 13:25 Quote
Oh but i still want longer games like Mass Effect and others that you really can immerse yourself in.
Still i can understand what they are thinking about, some games are better short (like portal) but some games need to be longer.
Imagine an RPG the length of portal, that would have been kinda boring, there is nothing wrong with shorter games in theory but every game cant be short.
Firehed 26th March 2008, 13:28 Quote
Completely valid points. While I was in school and even just a few months ago I had enough free time to finish the really long games, but it's rarely the case anymore. Between the day job and various freelance projects, I'm lucky to get any time to turn on the Xbox or load up a PC game, let alone play it through to the end.
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
My main pet peeve is having short games which are "compensated for" by multiplayer. Multiplayer rarely interest me unless a game is designed from the ground up to be multiplayer, like TF2. Having a short but decent singleplayer game instead of a long and decent one but saying it balances out because of multiplayer winds me up no end.
QFT.
Faulk_Wulf 26th March 2008, 13:45 Quote
Drop the length, drop the price.
Some cames are fine if they're shorter.
But if I'm shelling out $40-$60 a title, I want more then 5 hours of gameplay.
I personally thought Half-Life 2 was short.
And episodic content is a joke.
Take one year to make one REAL game,
instead of 9 months for 3 crappy installments.
Plus I don't want to have to suspend my story for 3 months.
Don't get me wrong. I work part time, and college the other,
and my girlfriend the other. And still try and get some WoW-time in.
I get not having alot of time.
If I tried to go back and play Final Fantasy 7 now,
I don't think I'd complete it faster then 3 months. (80 hours first time I played.)
Still even after saying all that, I hate seeing developers
making shorter games no matter the reason:
Laziness, Society, etc.
You just don't see things like the first Half-Life, Fallout, or anything like that anymore.
(Maybe Bioshock's an exception, I've never played it.)
Command and Conquer 3 is the most recent title I've bought--
and that was a nice surprise.

Anyway, these are my thoughts--
pick them apart as you wish.
AlexB 26th March 2008, 14:02 Quote
Short games work for me- COD4 was perfect. It left me wanting more, which i'm getting from the multiplayer. I have never compelted half-life or oblivion, and loads of others. I don't have that much time for games.
[USRF]Obiwan 26th March 2008, 14:03 Quote
Episodic games are only usefull if they actualy cost about 10-20 euro and come every 2 to 3 months. With at least 3-5 hours of gameplay. If i have to pay (and i have hundereds of times) 40 to 70 euro for a game, i expect to last it like forever, not 5 hours tops. And I am a slow player because i love to see the details of the graphics and architecture, aka i'm not rushing through levels like a madman. The only game last year that 'ok' in game play time was Bbioshock.

I loved HL EP3, but it was waaay to short for the given timeframe of development it had taken. And now there is a lot of time passing by and still no signs of EP4. I thought Valve would develope new levels blindfolded in de source engine by now, they known the genre and HL engines for 10 years for christ sakes! IF i would be the fat man in charge I pumped out 2 hour episodes every month. But who am i...
shigllgetcha 26th March 2008, 14:03 Quote
it all depends what length suits the game, intense action games like cod4would be very drawn out and frustrating if they were any longer, but story based games are more immersing and for lack of a better word easier to play thru and therefore shud be longer
proxess 26th March 2008, 14:08 Quote
I dislike the idea of shorter games. I finished HL2 around 5 or 6 times. I always get some Ultima Online going, and never get tired of it, it lasts forever! Episodic content is annoying. I finished HL2 EP1 in one go. Still haven't bought EP2 :S. Bring me bigger action packed games please!
devdevil85 26th March 2008, 14:19 Quote
shorter games better be cheaper or they ain't getting my money.......even if they're "good" games.....
Millusdk 26th March 2008, 14:52 Quote
The length of the game really depends on the genre... RPG games can easily be long and have a grand depth, but shooters don't have to take as long time
cjmUK 26th March 2008, 15:12 Quote
I feel like we are slowly being conditioned to accept shorter (but proportionally more expensive) games. 20hrs for £25 down to 10 hrs for £19.99 perhaps?

There are legitimate benefits to shorter games both for us and for publishers, but there are drawbacks too. Regardless of any ill-intent, you are going to pay more for your games because (distribution) overheads are higher - there are less economies of scale. And it seems like the easy way out for publishers - develop a short game and call it Part 1; if it sells, continue to Part 2. If not, ditch it.

There is also the issue of dumbing down... in the same way half-hour tv program can't have the same plot complexities as a 2hr film, shorter games will tend to have less scale and ambition than larger (epic) ones. Imagine Oblivion with a third of the game-world... let's face it - you're not going to build a huge game-world if you can't be sure there will be a next installment to make use of it.

People have mentioned CoD4; I enjoyed the single player game as well, and I didn't feel like I was missing out on length - but that's because I didn't like the fact that it was entirely on rails. I would hate for that to be the role model for future games.

If I think back to recent single-player games that I've enjoyed, CoD4 was by far the shortest. Better examples were Oblivion, Crysis & Bioshock were better examples, and part of their appeal was the scale.

As for episodic content, for every HL2 there is a Sin Episodes...

I'm skeptical.
Javerh 26th March 2008, 15:12 Quote
Every game should be too short, though. A game is good if it lasts long enough but ends just a bit too short. If I'm playing I want to be left wanting more. It's a nice feeling to be clinging on the edge of the seat watching the credits whip by. Much better than sinking in on your chair, fancying doing homework to finishing the game.
Tim S 26th March 2008, 15:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Javerh
Every game should be too short, though. A game is good if it lasts long enough but ends just a bit too short. If I'm playing I want to be left wanting more. It's a nice feeling to be clinging on the edge of the seat watching the credits whip by. Much better than sinking in on your chair, fancying doing homework to finishing the game.

Yep, I agree :)
CardJoe 26th March 2008, 15:54 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Javerh
Every game should be too short, though. A game is good if it lasts long enough but ends just a bit too short. If I'm playing I want to be left wanting more. It's a nice feeling to be clinging on the edge of the seat watching the credits whip by. Much better than sinking in on your chair, fancying doing homework to finishing the game.

Many games I play are open-ended or I can set my own pace in, like Fallout or Planescape, so that isn't a huge problem for them. I agree though. The last game that definitely left me wanting more at the end of it was Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The end of it came around so beautifully and the game was so brilliant that, despite the flaws, I wanted to play it all over again straight away.

Other games I've played have come close to that, like Beyond Good and Evil or Deus Ex or Episode Two, but they've always come round in such a way that I felt that I was being lead through a story that was coming to the natural conclusion and was perfectly done.
Veles 26th March 2008, 15:58 Quote
I tend not to finish longer games, to this day I still haven't completed Final Fantasy IX, a game that I've had for 7 or so years. Not because I don't like it, but because it's just too long to hold my interest. I still haven't gotten very far in Fallout and Deus Ex, again, not because I don't like them, but because some new game will come along to distract me.

I forget where I am, what I've done, and what I'm meant to be doing, so it takes me about half an hour to figure out what's going on again. I remember I went back to Vampire the other day to finish it off, I had one quest I had completed but didn't hand in. I had to go back to someone to hand it in, but I had no idea who this person was and where they were.

JRPGs I tend to play in bouts, random encounters and the save point system just annoys the hell out of me after a while, so it often takes me a very long time to play through them.

Because I often forget where I am I restart games so often, I've started Fallout about 10 times already, and never got past the hub, but not only that, but because I'll find out I've missed something good previously.

It's not just something I've done now I'm older and have less time, I've always done it.
byronrock 26th March 2008, 16:35 Quote
I had never finish Half Life, is so nasty long. but is great.
I short game concentrate more action in less space/time. I enjoy a game not just because is enterteaning and funny, but also because i love to see the graphical desing and the advance of the computer graphics. So a "short" game can give me the two things at the same time, and also can give me time for remember that i have to be a productive person into the society
cjmUK 26th March 2008, 16:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
...but they've always come round in such a way that I felt that I was being lead through a story that was coming to the natural conclusion and was perfectly done.

Fair point - if there is no more story to tell, then it's the right time to end. Or in the case of Ep2, the chapter ended, but the story will continue.
Multiplectic 26th March 2008, 16:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Javerh
Every game should be too short, though. A game is good if it lasts long enough but ends just a bit too short. If I'm playing I want to be left wanting more. It's a nice feeling to be clinging on the edge of the seat watching the credits whip by. Much better than sinking in on your chair, fancying doing homework to finishing the game.

Totally agree. ;)

I never finished Oblivion, or STALKER. Games with more than 8 hours of gameplay are too boring for me. Of course, there are some exceptions.... KoTOR 1 and 2, for example. :D
HourBeforeDawn 26th March 2008, 17:19 Quote
Shorter games sorry if it took me around 2hrs to beat Portal then I wouldnt pay for it, I think a decent game that I would consider short would be at a min. 8hrs, I would prefer the average 15hr games to be whats considered short anything longer would probably get really drawn out like Oblivion but if it has a really good storyline then I guess that wouldnt be the issue but thats hit and miss most of the time.
Cadillac Ferd 26th March 2008, 17:27 Quote
Would people have been able to stand Portal if it was a longer game? It worked as a short game because it was such a simple game that there really was no logical way to stretch it out. I personally prefer the longer games (Oblivion, taking my time to do everything in BioShock) but since I guess I'm only a University Student I probably fall in to the market segment that has too much free time on their hands apparently.
AcidJiles 26th March 2008, 17:46 Quote
The price should reflect the length. Without a price drop on shorter games then its not fair to the consumer. Shorter games generally cost less to make so should expect a lower cost to purchase.
johnmustrule 26th March 2008, 20:12 Quote
Portal was too short period, a game as epic as that and produced by Valve could easily captivate for many more hours than it did. Honestly though the whole thing was pretty much a teaser and a tech demo, I can imagine it would be hard to elaborate on that stuff for much longer than it did. But then again look at the HL2 series, things just keep getting better, but it's notable that the only one's I've had the time to play through twice are the episodes and four times for EP1. If a game can continually captivate a player then it should be made to be very long.
LordPyrinc 26th March 2008, 23:36 Quote
I have around 85 PC games (no lie, just counted most of them). Out of those games, I have finished less than 10% of them. I recall beating Lords of the Realm 2, Return to Krondor, Might and Magic VI, Diablo, Diablo II LOD on Hell Difficulty, Dungeon Siege (never finished the DS2), Titan Quest Immortal Throne Expansion through Epic Difficulty (getting close to beating on Legendary). Out of those 85, I have about half a dozen or more that I purchased last year that I have either not taken out of the box, or barely gotten past installation. Some of those game are relatively new like The Witcher, while others are older such as Oblivion, KOTR2, Black and White 2.

Maybe I am just a game addict. Sometimes I buy a game, but don't play it till a year or so after the purchase. I find that I enjoy longer games, however, they take so much of my time that I don't get around to playing the shorter games. I'd say only about 10% of my games are casual games that I can pick up and play for a couple hours one week, then pick it back up months later where I left off.
Mentai 26th March 2008, 23:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
My main pet peeve is having short games which are "compensated for" by multiplayer. Multiplayer rarely interest me unless a game is designed from the ground up to be multiplayer, like TF2. Having a short but decent singleplayer game instead of a long and decent one but saying it balances out because of multiplayer winds me up no end.

Does that include CoD4? I'm not sure if that multiplayer was designed from the ground up etc, but I do enjoy it as much as TF2. Also the single player was the perfect length for me, short but decent (and it ran well enough on my 7600gt, which is always nice).

I definitely think that the fps genre is hitting the sweet spot in terms of length. I'm usually left wanting more at the end of it, instead of feeling like im working my way through parts of the game. Like in FEAR, I think that game would have really benefited from being cut in half and released at half the price.

I complete about 1/3 of the games I start. Some games I really want to finish, I've started Beyond Good & Evil + Psychonauts a few times now, I will get them done one day xD
Also I prefer RPG's to be about 30hours rather than the JRPG of 90. Kotor and Kotor 2 I managed to complete, but generally when I have an hour to spare I jump into a multiplayer game, and when I get the rare full day to play games I don't remember where I was in my most recent single player experience/ have a new game to try D:
cebla 27th March 2008, 00:45 Quote
I think the main reason people don't finish games is that they aren't good enough to play for so long. For example I didn't finish FEAR, because about half way through I just got sick of shooting the same people over and over and the complete lack of any interesting story didn't help either. I basically just went "stuff this I am going to play some CS instead".
DXR_13KE 27th March 2008, 01:10 Quote
it depends mostly on the game, as someone said: 50 hours of portal would be bat s*** crazy, but a 5 hour RPG is almost as insane.....
dyzophoria 27th March 2008, 03:00 Quote
length wont be an issue to me either, as DXR_13KE mentioned, depends on the game, or how the developer made the game, you could develop any game either be it long or short as long as it fits the game's gameplay, and COD4 would be a good example of a short game like this (though I was really wishing for more in the end :) )
Veles 27th March 2008, 03:15 Quote
CoD couldn't end quick enough for me, while there many bits I loved, I spent most of the time smacking my head against my desk in frustration. I don't know how infinity ward thought respawning enemies were a good thing after the first time they tried it.

I also thought Portal was just the right length, any longer and it would have gotten stale. There's no point making a game long if it gets boring, the value of a game for me isn't on how long I play it for but how much I enjoyed playing it.

When I get a game, I'll usually play it for the first week quite frequently, then after that I'll play it on and off depending on how much I enjoy it.
Bungle 27th March 2008, 07:56 Quote
Bejeweled 2 is the way to go.;) I find these games more fun nowadays. Maybe I'm slowly losing interest in the PC mainstream games market.
[USRF]Obiwan 27th March 2008, 07:58 Quote
There are 3 words i absolutely hate: To be continued
cjmUK 27th March 2008, 09:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bungle
Bejeweled 2 is the way to go.;) I find these games more fun nowadays. Maybe I'm slowly losing interest in the PC mainstream games market.

Getting old... you're turning into my mum. Next you will be telling me you are up until 2am playing Spider Solitaire.
Blademrk 27th March 2008, 10:30 Quote
Spiderman: Friend or Foe arrived on Tuesday for the 360 I got to the last level last night. It's a pretty good, if simple game which reminds of the old Streets of Rage mega drive games. I've really enjoyed playing it but at 5 levels (split into 4 chapters each) it is extremely short, but if you want the achievement for maxing out all the stats on your (14) characters you'll need to replay some levels to get enough chips to do it.
Paradigm Shifter 27th March 2008, 10:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by [USRF]Obiwan
There are 3 words i absolutely hate: To be continued

Agreed! :D

I play RPGs, mostly. That says the sort of length games I like. ;) Although to be fair, recently I've fallen behind in actually playing them for more than an hour, never mind completing them.
kenco_uk 27th March 2008, 10:47 Quote
I think sandbox-y type games, with clear goals, are the order of the day. I.e. games where you can wander about, take your time, but have a task to do to progress the story on. GTA3, or more recently Burnout Paradise are examples of this. I can spend ages just cruising around, enjoying the gameworld.
Xir 28th March 2008, 12:35 Quote
As a now casual gamer (2-3 times a week an hour or two after work) the length of CoD4 was just right for me.
And yes, I do lose interest in too long games.

"...barrier of reentry, in which I don't remember what the hell I was doing a month ago,"
that hits the nail on the head for me. especially in Vampires tmB or Final Fantasy 7 (or 8?)
Keep forgetting what I was supposed to do where (and how)

I've had to finish a number of games lately in order to make room for new ones, so I've managed to end C&C3, SupCom, Vampires tmB, and CoD4.
I cannot (or won't) finish Oblivion (never got past the first portal) and GTA3 however. (stuck in a single mission, just can't beat it) :(
Maybe I need a "God-Mode" for this mission. :D

Xir
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