Friday, August 21, 2015

Q Attack, Round 18 - Are Video Games too Long?
It only seemed like last generation when gamers were complaining that video games weren’t long enough. Today, they question whether or not video games are too long. Tiger and Rabbit tackle this very question as they chat about recent hit Dragon Age: Inquisition and Tiger’s favorite series, The Elder Scrolls.


Tiger: You know what gets me, Rabbit?

Rabbit: Is something chasing you?

Tiger: What? No, it’s just an expression. Anyway, I can’t believe how many articles I’ve read about how video games are too long nowadays.

Rabbit: Oh, really? I remember it wasn’t that long ago when we saw articles stating the opposite.

Tiger: Remember Heavenly Sword and all the complaints about how short it was. You were practically paying $10 an hour for that game.

Rabbit: I remember the rebooted Prince of Persia also getting critiqued for its length.

Tiger: There were so many other things wrong with that game though.

Rabbit: It was a good game, just not a good Prince of Persia game. I definitely had fun with it. Nothing spectacular but it was fun.

Tiger: Don’t get me started on that ending. Actually, you know what? We’ll have to do a Q Attack about video game endings sometime but for now, back to the topic at hand. Most of the articles I read about video game length were in reference to Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Rabbit: You’ve played that game, right?

Tiger: I have and I’m still playing it off and on. I will probably be playing it for a long time to come. I think DAI might even rival the time I’ve put into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Rabbit: Do you really have to go there every time we talk video games?

Tiger: Go where?

Rabbit: It’s always TES and Fallout. TES and Fallout, every single time we talk about video games, you bring them up without fail.

Tiger: *puts hands on hips* I do not and they are great games. I can’t help but bring up great games as examples. There are games that you love to talk about too, like Hakuouki.

Rabbit: But I don’t bring it up all the time. Sure, I know every character pales in comparison to Saitou Hajime, but that’s beside the point. I’m just stating that you need a new go to game to talk about.

Tiger: Fine, fine.

Rabbit: ^sighs^ Ah Saitou, my love.

Tiger: Putting that aside, I’m not sure what people are upset about with DAI. Yes, there is a lot to do and some of it is very annoying, I’m looking at you Elfroot, but you don’t have to do the majority of it if you don’t want to.

Rabbit: I think the bigger issue is not the length of a game but what you fill that time with. Yes, Inquisition is long but so much of that seems to be grunt work. Look at Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, there were a lot of things to do but most tasks felt meaningless. Did you even beat that game?

Tiger: *scratches head* Haha… ah, no.

Rabbit: See? If they didn’t stuff them full of “find ten million of this” or “deliver mail to everyone in the game”, you might actually have beaten it. I actually think the opposite may be true, that games are too short but have been artificially lengthened by filler. It’s just like how it is with the Naruto anime.

Tiger: I see your point but I also think those fetch quests can add to the overall experience of a game. I remember hunting for animus fragments in ACII and I ended up seeing a lot more of the map than I would have just by playing the main campaign. It was nice seeing all the detail that was put into the environment. I do agree that too much filler is bad for you. Traveling about the Black Flag map became a pain in the butt.

Rabbit: And did you see all those icons from Assassin’s Creed: Unity?!

Tiger: I don’t know how anyone can even deal with that. I’m too obsessive compulsive to play through a game without finishing every side quest or collectable, which is why DAI is going to last me a long time.

Rabbit: I worry this is going to become a mainstay gimmick for future video games. Where developers just throw in all these worthless quests just to make the game seem longer when in fact, it really isn’t. Similar to tacking on multiplayer for games that were generally single-player only. I’m worried that they spend so much time on little quests that add nothing to the story while sacrificing time they could have been working on that said story.

Tiger: There are games that have meaningful side and fetch quests. Think of Oblivion and Skyrim for instance.

Rabbit: ^throws hands in the air^ Here we go.

Tiger: It’s true! TES games don’t always have the strongest stories, they are a lot less linear than most RPGs, even less linear than DAI. The one thing I love most about TES games though is getting to spend time in the game world. So many of the story aspects of those games don’t come from the main quest, a lot of them are subtle and are found by completing sidequests. Similar to Fallout, if you pay attention to the details, you can find hidden stories that are told using the environment. TES and Fallout both utilize the environment as living characters rather than just a backdrop for the games. A lot of the sidequests help to cement this in the players' minds. So, they aren’t all fillers but I agree that quality needs to be valued over quantity.

Rabbit: You have to stop and ask yourself “is this worth wasting my time on?” when you’re playing a lot of these quests. Think of the Requisition Officer crafting quests in Inquisition, those don’t really do anything but burn resources that already take too much time to collect. I think they really made a mistake adding in that collection animation too. It may be short but it makes you wait just a few seconds while your guy or gal picks up a stupid flower. It may not be bad the first time, but after a zillion flowers, it’s annoying. At least in games like Shadow of Mordor, they had the wherewithal to make collecting items fast and painless. So you are right, there are ways to make sidequests and collection quests a lot more palatable but I still feel this could become a dangerous trend.
Tiger: Then do you think that video games are too long?

Rabbit: I do but only when you are questioning substance over fluff. Same with short video games, the real issue isn’t the length; it’s how the developers utilizes that length. You could have an amazing experience with a game that lasts five hours but have a terrible one with a game that lasts sixty. I enjoy long games but more often than not, these big games like Dragon Age are filled with fetch quests and nonsense missions that waste your time. If this is the future of gaming, count me out. I’d take an eight hour game that was masterfully crafted any day over a game that just has me running errands for people the whole time.

Tiger: Well, I don’t feel the same way. I like having all this extra stuff to do in a game. It makes me feel like I’m really living in the game world rather than just being a passive observer.

Rabbit: ^smirks^ Do you enjoy having meaningless jobs to do too?

Tiger: *grabs Rabbit’s ears* Hey, butt out, this is my segment. I think people should look at these types of quests as bonuses rather than fodder. All the sidequests in DAI aren’t required to beat the game, so you can ignore them. But by completing them you not only get to see more of the game world, but you also get to learn more about your companions and may even get some fancy loot. The point is, everything adds to the experience of a game and whether or not you experience it all is up to you, the gamer. I’d rather have more options than fewer options when it comes to what I can do in my games. So viva la length!

Are Video Games too Long?

Tiger     vs     Rabbit


  1. I'm with Rabbit on this one. If you're gonna have optional side quests, they should be more meaningful than just extra fluff to pad out the experience. One of my all-time favorite games is ICO. That game is a masterclass in game design that does its thing and doesn't overstay its welcome.

    1. ICO definitely is a masterpiece. It's very well paced and has great design and didn't need to be artificially bloated with filler. I wish more games would focus on what is necessary to make the best possible experience rather than trying to get your play clock past a certain number of hours.


    2. While ICO is a great game, Shadow of the Colossus is my favorite out of the pair. I really liked the open world setting and the extra content that was added. It's true too many developers are focused on giving you a lot of busy work but if they can make the extra content meaningful, then I think it's worth it.


  2. Great post. Gotta side with Rabbit (though, Tiger, you're right about those TES side quests). Of course you want to get your money's worth, but some games really do wear out their welcome.

    Like you said, Rabbit, what really bakes my noodle is the dozens of game nowadays – marvellous and mediocre – that demand you to pour 50+ hours into them in order to get those fabled 100 per cents. This often includes completing the game multiple times on absurd difficulty levels, finishing aimless collect-athons and/or participating in pointless multiplayer games for elusive online awards. All of this is just busywork. And for the person who enjoys sampling a wide variety of games – just as some people do music, or film, or anime – it's extremely frustrating, because, on the console-side, the options for opting out of Trophies/Achievements, save for having proxy accounts, are still nonexistent. So it certainly will be a grim time for the frequent, game-buying completionist if console games continue to be artificially extended.

  3. Are games too long? Only the bad ones and I've played my fair share of short ones as well as long ones. If the experience is fun, game length shouldn't matter. Unfortunately money is a strong important variable that affects most players opinions of games.

    When I worked at GameStop, I often caught a co-worker of mine answering the age old question "Is this any good?" with the answer "You'll beat it in x hours." The customer would make a sour face and put the game back on the shelf. Every time. Without fail. The sad part were that these were all good games being denied good homes by negatively emphasising the game length when it might not have been anything the customer cared about to begin with. If the game is good and you enjoyed playing it, who cares? But we're forced to care because of money. Breaking down a game to money spent per hour is no way to start thinking or it's gonna sour everything you play.

    A game is too long when you stop having fun whether that has anything to do with artificial inflation through extra stuff to do that doesn't progress the story, or the actual main objective itself. Game developers need to answer the question "Will our players have fun doing this activity?" instead of "What can we add to our game to get them to play longer."