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Games, short and sweet.
July 10, 2012 5:15 AM   Subscribe

When was the last time you finished a video game? The case for movie-length, narrative video games.
When you are in that situation, and when you sit down on the couch after dinner with your family, if you're given the choice between a movie and you know that's going to be over in two hours and that's it, or a game and you never know when the game is going to be finished and how much effort is going to be required from you, it's obvious. We're basically lazy, right, so you're going to choose the movie.
Shadows of the Damned creator Massimo Guarini (quoted), amongst others, makes a case for shorter games.
All I can say is that I want to craft memorable experiences. There is so much more to be explored besides throw-away iPhone games and 40-hour long traditional productions. I think the best way for us to achieve our vision is to provide a strong emotional kick, packaged in a movie-length time frame, and sold at a reasonable price.
His company, Ovosonico, has yet to reveal actual details about their first project, but their website is kind of odd.
posted by 23 (96 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
If they're similarly priced, why not?
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:18 AM on July 10, 2012


I am replaying Borderlands again, so the last time I finished one was yesterday.

I'm all for games that have ends but replayability with different characters, different choices, different story branches or just different random factors that heave a nonlinear influence.
posted by Foosnark at 5:22 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


...if you're given the choice between a movie and you know that's going to be over in two hours and that's it, or a game and you never know when the game is going to be finished and how much effort is going to be required from you, it's obvious. We're basically lazy, right, so you're going to choose the movie.

How much more opposite of reality could it be? None. None more opposite.

If I have the choice between a movie that I'm not sure I'll enjoy but I know it'll take 2 full hours to find out vs a game I've already played for 15 minutes so I know I like it so far and could choose any amount of time I'd like to spent on it and save the rest for later, it's obvious. I choose the game.

And narrative video games = blech. I've given up on Zelda: Twilight Princess twice now because it won't. shut. up. STOP GIVING ME RED WORDS TO MEMORIZE AND MISSIONS TO DO. I want to a) solves puzzles and or b) kill monsters. Stop telling me a story and start BEING a story.
posted by DU at 5:26 AM on July 10, 2012 [32 favorites]


I got to the rocketship screen on Gameboy Tetris once, if that counts.
posted by thelonius at 5:29 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Modern Warfare games 1-3 all feel like incredible action movies. Each game is about 6 hours long, so its not distantly removed from the movie experience.
posted by Chekhovian at 5:31 AM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Portal and Portal 2. They have the right mix of guided gameplay and open-ended puzzle solving. It helps that the dialogue during the plot-driven half is genuinely, laugh-out-loud funny.
posted by zardoz at 5:34 AM on July 10, 2012 [19 favorites]


I'm Garcia F'ing Hotspur!!!

/oblig

Now that is over, the last games I finished in order were two endings of Hakuoki (otome game), Persona 3, and Trails in the Sky. They're long, but lots of fun. If it constantly holds your attention, why not have a longer game?
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 5:34 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I almost never finish games, either from a loss of interest or a lack of time. The last game I finished was Arkham Asylum which, after I beat the Joker, taunted me by letting me know I'd only completed 68% of the game. I've gotten to the city in Red Dead, only to realize that the animals I needed to kill, and flowers I needed to find were all in Mexico, so I started again, got back to Blackwater and promptly gave up again.

Before that, I finished Homefront, which seemed like it had a great story going for it (North Korea invades the western U.S.). The game led me by the hand so totally and completely that I was shocked it was over. I thought I'd just finished the tutorial, and the credits started rolling. So, while I finished it in about two or three hours, it was deeply unsatisfying. Torn, I am, between games I'll enjoy but never finish, and games which end far too soon to justify the time or money sunk into them.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:34 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are very very few games I've ever "finished", largely because that's not how I play games. A quick round of deathmatching in Quake or OpenArena or whatever, another session of Call to Power II, creating a custom battle in a Steel Panthers game, getting Plymouth Argyle into the Champions League, that's the sort of gaming I do.

and yeah, it's easier to waste a few minutes on a game, even a linear game, than it is to sit down to a movie for a solid two hours. Just like it's easier to spent the same time watching four episodes of Black Books.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:35 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also also, anybody who starts creating a new game worrying about narrative rather than gameplay needs to stop making games.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:38 AM on July 10, 2012 [15 favorites]


Finished a replay of Mass Effect 2 on the weekend. The article does describe me... it was the first and probably last time this year I was in the house for TWO WHOLE DAYS. Wow. Would rather have a game like a TV show than a movie though. Sort of a new 1-2 hour DLC every week over a number of weeks, with a nice arc.
posted by yoHighness at 5:40 AM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


He may be right. People who play games are already the sort of people who make time for long experiences in games; he's aiming at people who don't identify as gamers because they don't play games due to time constraints.

On the other hand, why would games want to be more like movies? Movies are pretty good at being movies already, and they have a 100 year head start.
posted by Grimgrin at 5:40 AM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


As it happens, I finished Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine just the other day (FOR THE EMPEROR!). Though I've only finished a couple of games on the PS3 (Dead Space, Fallout 3). I only devote a couple of hours a week to video games, so finishing 40K in a week or two was unusual, and at this rate I'll never complete Metal Gear Solid 4.

But isn't short length usually a complaint in video game reviews? I don't know if shorter games would be cheaper enough to produce to justify a lower price point, or if the lower sale price would make them popular enough to support development.
posted by Gelatin at 5:40 AM on July 10, 2012


It seems to me that if you know when and how it ends, then you really haven't been given much agency within the narrative, and if you don't want that then you might as well be watching a movie anyway. Even (great, great, incredible) plot-on-rails games like Portal 1, 2 and Shadow Of The Colossus allow you some freedom to explore that ultimately matters a lot to the way the game feels.
posted by mhoye at 5:41 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have a very limited window for playing games. It occupies that sweet spot between child going to sleep and my own bedtime. However, after the kid goes down, there are chores and random things to clean, so I lose time there. Also, due to my insomnia, I can't be playing video games, let alone engrossing ones, an hour before I go to bed.

So I'm left with a 1 hour window, at best.

Beyond shorter narratives or engrossing play, what I really want is a genuinely quick quicksave and an end to save points. I gave up on Arkham City because I could not make it to save points by the time my clock ran out. I keep going back to Minecraft because it's something I can noodle around with for an hour and feel like I accomplished something (as much as anyone ever accomplishes anything in videogames).

Movies and TV just fit better into my schedule. I wish it were otherwise, but there you go.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:48 AM on July 10, 2012 [14 favorites]


To my continued astonishment, Mrs. VTX likes to watch me play most games, especially when they have a decent story (Assassin's Creed springs to mind). The main thing that determines the video game vs. movie decision is how active I want to be about it. If I've had a long, tiring day, I'll probably sit back and watch a movie. Otherwise, I'll play a game. Sometimes I'm in the mood for one or the other. The length doesn't really enter into it.

If there really are people who don't play a game because it's going to last more than two hours (which I kind of doubt but I suppose they could be out there) I think a better solution is to make the games more episodic so that each mission and/or portion of the story takes 1.5 to 2 hours or so. So it would play out more like a show with two-hour episodes. I'll admit that I do like to save a game and shut it down after I've finished something. If I've just finished some task or reached the end of some kind of plot arch, it makes for a good place to stop and it's easier to start again since you don't have to jump back in in the middle of something.

I don't have the time to play a lot of mediocre games so if they are the type of game that can be finished and are good, I finish them. Battlefield 3's single player is lame and I still haven't done it but you can't really "finish" the multiplayer and the multiplayer IS the game for me.
posted by VTX at 5:51 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are very very few games I've ever "finished", largely because that's not how I play games.

Also also, anybody who starts creating a new game worrying about narrative rather than gameplay needs to stop making games.


Just because you don't like to play games that way doesn't mean everyone else does. I WANT a game where a developer worries about narrative just as much as gameplay. (Like the aforementioned Journey, Portal 1 & 2, also Limbo, Walking Dead, etc.)

Of course, I still want my BF3 multiplayer, but that scratches a different itch. And there's plenty of room for all kinds of itches.
posted by papercake at 5:58 AM on July 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm totally into the idea of shorter, one-sitting games, and am willing to pay a premium for them. "Journey" was pretty much the sweet spot for me. Even "Bastion," which I absolutely loved, could have been stronger from a storytelling standpoint if I had been able to experience it all in one sitting.

It's like when you start a movie and watch it for a half hour, then something comes up and you pause it and don't get to come back to it until two days later, and then you watch 15 minutes or so but then the phone rings and it's work and you've gotta do something and two days later you're back to the movie ... there's no way that's not a more disjointed and less enjoyable experience than if you could've sat and watched it end-to-end.
posted by jbickers at 6:28 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I do wonder how well video game production scales. If normally, a $60 games lasts for around 40 hours (for most players completing a single run through the story) and he wants to make 2-hour longs games, I doubt he is thinking about charging $3 for them. I think it's more likely that he would develop or license an engine and roll out a bunch of similar games with similar gameplay, art, and models (so the level design and story are the only major variables) and then charge $10 for each one. That way they'd be inputting the same resources into twenty games that most companies put into one but by the time the average consumer has gotten the same 40-hours of content, they've spent $200.
posted by VTX at 6:34 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Those of you who want short and sweet game sessions need to check out Strange Adventures in Infinite Space. 10 minutes a game on average, but entertaining enough to play six times in a row before bed.

Not much in the way of plot though.
posted by postcommunism at 6:39 AM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I concur, and empathize, with robocop is bleeding. I love video games. But my grown-up life just doesn't afford long windows of time or predictable recurrence of video game playtime. So when a game doesn't have a truly quick autosave or short load times or it takes a long time to load up or has narrative movie-like bits I have to sit through in order to actually play, that effectively rules that game out for me.

Even more frustrating than those things are games that require me to spend any significant amount of time "earning" important elements of the game. I just don't have time for that crap. I bought the game, now let me play it before I have to go do something else. (I'm looking at you, Forza 4, with your awesome cars that I will never, ever be able to buy, customize, and race because I don't have hundreds of hours a month to dedicate to "earning" the privilege of playing the game for which I paid green money.)

And that goes double for when my kids want to play. As a parent of kids under 10 years old, one of the most frustrating things video games throw at me is when my kids are playing a game that cannot be saved mid-level, such that I cannot let my kids play the game at all unless we have a large enough time window that I'm certain that they, using the meandering, exploratory fumbling characteristic of a six-year-old, will be able to reach the next save point.

With far too many games, that means I have to either let the six-year-old play more than an hour of XBox (and, frankly, the level of reasonableness of a 6-year-old rapidly declines after an hour of play) or just not have that game at all.

So, rather than games that are completely finished in a couple of hours, I propose a model where games are like long-running TV series, where you can play an episode at a time and where shutting off the game because it's time to go to soccer practice or do the dishes or take care of the baby or whatever won't mean we have to start again an hour or so back in hopes that this time we'll have enough uninterrupted time to get through the episode/level.
posted by The World Famous at 6:58 AM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


They have these already! They're called Visual Novels. You could definitely knock out an Ace Attorney case, Law & Order-style, in under two hours--if you're not obsessed like me with giggling over all the possible dialogue paths. OBJECTION!
posted by nicebookrack at 7:02 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


When you are in that situation, and when you sit down on the couch after dinner with your family, if you're given the choice between a movie and you know that's going to be over in two hours and that's it, or a game and you never know when the game is going to be finished and how much effort is going to be required from you, it's obvious. We're basically lazy, right, so you're going to choose the movie.

You assume, and thus you make an ass both of yourself and me.

I mean, that's not even factoring in that an endpoint is actually the desired outcome. You should never want to stop playing a good game.

/Fires up Frogger on mame.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:04 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I finish pretty much all of my games, because I almost exclusively play RPG-themed games with strong (in VG terms) stories. Look at the games I've played in the last couple of years (it has gone down quite a lot since fatherhood, but that was expected): Fallout 3 and Fallout NV, Mass Effect 2 and 3, The Dragon Age games, Skyrim, Portal 2, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution

The common factor of these games is the 1) strong story and 2) the modern invention of giving the player plenty of information to advance the game, in forms such as automaps, quest markers, etc. The best sort of game is one that allows the player to screw around as much as he or she desires, but also to easily further the plot, once the player desires to finish the game. I don't really consider finishing one of these games to be much of an accomplishment, frankly; one is almost literally led by the nose in a game like Skyrim so that they always know what the next objective should be and where to go. Completing a game like the ones I mentioned above is simply a matter of finding the time and will to do so.

I suppose that there is a market for shorter games, but I will always love the sprawling affairs that really give me the chance to experience a whole other world. I quite liked Deus Ex: HR, for instance, but to me, even with the hubs, it didn't quite have the massive, epic feeling of the original. A game like the original Deus Ex isn't like a movie, it's like an entire season of a show, or maybe even the whole series itself. I played Skyrim for going on 80 hours- how many seasons of a TV show would that be, taking out commercials? That's a form of storytelling that cannot be matched in any other medium; an interactive, long-lasting, freeform entertainment that still manages to tell a good story. Why would we want to move away from that to something shorter, more passive and movie-like?
posted by Palquito at 7:05 AM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


if you're given the choice between a movie and you know that's going to be over in two hours and that's it, or a game and you never know when the game is going to be finished and how much effort is going to be required from you, it's obvious:

Watch a movie about playing videogames.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:08 AM on July 10, 2012


/Fires up Frogger on mame.

QFT. This week I went to an exhibition of video games through the ages. They had tons of the classic games, in actual consoles, free to play (after paying admission, natch). Space Invaders, Pac Man, Galaxians, Qix, Asteroids, Robotron ... all of these are over in minutes. And such fun to play.

(Of course, you only had to "buy" them a quarter at a time...)
posted by chavenet at 7:11 AM on July 10, 2012


Space Invaders, Pac Man, Galaxians, Qix, Asteroids, Robotron ... all of these are over in minutes

Asteroids speedrun!
posted by shakespeherian at 7:13 AM on July 10, 2012


But this does seem like a version of an argument that is somewhat late to the ludology v narratology debate that videogame academics had close to a decade ago. Gonzalo Frasca sums it up pretty well.

Chavenet, I'm going to this as soon as I'm sure the school holidays are over. 125+ playable games apparently!
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:14 AM on July 10, 2012


Fair enough, but you guys are changing the subject. The article being discussed is specifically about narrative video games. These games, pretty much by definition, have an ending. Space Invaders, Frogger, et al have no written ending.
posted by jbickers at 7:19 AM on July 10, 2012


/Laments lost save file of 200+ hour Morrowind character.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:19 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


@The World Famous — you just perfectly described Telltale's Walking Dead series. Fantastic writing and increasingly uncomfortable/difficult decisions to make that change the story as you go along. The first two (of five) episodes are out.
posted by papercake at 7:26 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


all of these are over in minutes.

Maybe the way you play.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:27 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I rarely ever play video games, but when I do, I like being able to get immersed in them. As a casual gamer, I'd argue against this.

Short games can exist alongside longform games. There's no reason why we can't have one without the other.

On the other hand, I'll gladly expunge any element of a game that only acts as a time-sink. RPGs are especially guilty of this. I didn't finish Final Fantasy XIII, despite it having a great plot to start out -- it just got too long, and I finally gave up at the level grinding open-ended bit that felt like it had been completely tacked-on.

Also, this is probably an unpopular opinion, but I got completely fed up with Ocarina of Time. Every. Single. Quest. required you to run across that damn field. There was no point to it, and it always took forever. Yes, you eventually get the horse, but even that felt like a time-sink. I sadly ended up not finishing the game...

On the other hand, Twilight Princess kept me glued to the screen for the game's entirety. The story was perfect, and unlike the poster above, I thought the gameplay was phenomenal. It's still the best use I've seen any game make of the Wii controller, and I don't think I've ever had quite so much fun playing a game.
posted by schmod at 7:28 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


What do you mean, "finish" a game?

(Goes back to playing SimCity)
posted by the cydonian at 7:31 AM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is an interesting idea. I don't finish many games, personally, but not because I don't have the time - and I'm starting to finish more of them now. I'm all for exploring new ways of making games, though I'm a little concerned that "narrative storyline" will basically become "walk to each plot point in succession and watch a cutscene."

Still, provided a compelling plot, I'll give it a try. Why not?
posted by Urban Winter at 7:32 AM on July 10, 2012


I always find it an interesting thought experiment to transfer arguments about 'what games should be' to the earliesh days of cinema.

Where no one found it that surprising that newsreels, cartoons, and features, could all be shown on the same bill.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:35 AM on July 10, 2012


The author talks about people not "finishing" games and says that they have forgotten about the generation of gamers who used to game 20 years ago... who presumably played games like Space Invaders or Tetris - which had no defined end in the first place.

Games needing "endings" is a new phenomena. Cut it some slack: they will get better.

Also Mass Effect 2 and 3 pulled it off exactly like how he envisions it - a single game engine, packaging the 30 hour story into 30 bite sized chunks of 1 hour each which you consume one at a time, like a TV series.

Really seems like the author doesn't see the forest for the trees.

Last game I finished was Diablo 3. After beating Diablo on Inferno I sold all my gear on the RMAH and netted a few hundred dollars, enough to pay for every single game I will buy this year and more.
posted by xdvesper at 7:42 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Game development peaked with the DOS version of Dopewars, and everything since has been a giant wankathon. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to head to Brooklyn; I hear the Marrakesh Express has arrived.
posted by COBRA! at 7:47 AM on July 10, 2012


They say games are 'developing' but you never hear anyone much talk about Tic Tac Toe II, do you
posted by shakespeherian at 7:48 AM on July 10, 2012


Those of you who want short and sweet game sessions need to check out Strange Adventures in Infinite Space.

See also: The Binding of Isaac. I am hooked on this little shooter/RPG blend, not least because the more you play it, the more toys you unlock and the harder the game gets.
posted by mightygodking at 7:49 AM on July 10, 2012


I think this is a good idea from another angle, which is that the quality of narrative games is inversely proportional to the quantity of narrative you attempt to shoehorn into them. That makes sense when you compare great movies with great novels. Great movies tend to be a bit leaner and more focused by necessity. The Coens' True Grit communicates as much with expression and setting as it says with dialogues. The running commentary of adult Mattie that fills the novel is pared down to a minimal frame for the movie. Charlie Chaplin broke the 4th wall to give a moral to the audience once in the Great Dictator, and pantomimed many scenes leading up to it. Dragon Age 2 and Mass Effect 3 do it at the end of every chapter.

If games are going to put the player on rails, they really need to have tighter and more focused plots.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:51 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The author talks about people not "finishing" games and says that they have forgotten about the generation of gamers who used to game 20 years ago... who presumably played games like Space Invaders or Tetris - which had no defined end in the first place.

Hmm ... or perhaps they were playing Ultima VII or Alone in the Dark or The Legend of Zelda.
posted by jbickers at 7:52 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


@The World Famous — you just perfectly described Telltale's Walking Dead series. Fantastic writing and increasingly uncomfortable/difficult decisions to make that change the story as you go along. The first two (of five) episodes are out.

I'm guessing that wouldn't be quite right for a six-year-old, though.
posted by The World Famous at 7:53 AM on July 10, 2012


I've seen these appeals to narrative in videogames many many times. Games aren't films, though there is nothing wrong with drawing upon film conventions in making a game. I read the linked article. Sadly, it's a puff piece for someone reinventing the wheel. If only games had deeper meaning, and weren't just about space marines, /sigh. Have you seen many Hollywood films lately guy?

I often tell certain people I study interactive media, not so much because people tend to think that you are some kind of fraud if your PhD involves videogames, but because of the cognitive bias that certain words have. It's interesting that the interviewee name checks Dear Esther, because that's not a 'game' and it's a genuinely interesting media artefact otherwise.Shame it has to be involved in this tired old debate.

There are a bunch of dynamics here that aren't easy to solve. For instance something like Minecraft massively succeeds at providing narrative potentials for players that want to take such things up. On the other hand contemporary game design seems focused on creating pretty corridors for you to move down while providing a hint of back story and treating you like an idiot.

So no, I don't pick the movie. I pick the SPAD. Then I crash into the earth yet again. Fucking aerodynamics.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:57 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh. If I were to be sarcastic and dismissive I'd say that games companies need no encouragement whatsoever to make their games shorter and more reliant on cutscenes and scripted content.

Having read it... Well, I dont really mind shorter games, Portal 2 is a fine length and benefits from lack of padding, but I don't thing being "movie length" is really what that's about: it's just being well made and dropping grind and repetitive elements in favourite of keeping it fresh throughout.

And narrative... Well, it can be a nice ingredient, but it isn't the only ingredient or an essential ingredient, and TBH if a game isn't fun to play it isn't any more fun to play with a cutscene every five minutes or diary entries describing the events of the great disaster scattered through the level or what have you.

L
posted by Artw at 8:12 AM on July 10, 2012


(the Rogue L there is a clue in the "Games aren't Movies, Idiot" ARG, which was made for a game where you click on a square to get points but it's deeply fascinating because it plays movie clips occasionally and has and ARG, and that is DEEP everyone, like real art. )
posted by Artw at 8:16 AM on July 10, 2012


Do we go here to talk about Dear Esther? The only reasons it's a 'game' are because it's not really anything else and because they sell it on Steam. It's more of a movie that only plays when you hold down W.

Minor spoiler: they took the controls away too soon at the end! It lost a lot of impact for me for not having to do it myself.

I actually liked it a lot, but it's hardly a model for the future of gaming. I can't see more than one, maybe two similar titles per year being at all successful. Really, if you want to tell a story, a movie (or a book) is probably your best bet. If you want to provide an experience, a game is going to be better than a movie.

DU said it best above: games work best when they stop trying to TELL a story and start BEING a story.
posted by echo target at 8:40 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is no way I'm dropping $60 for 1.5 hours of gameplay.
posted by gatsby died at 8:40 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just pick a game like Dirt Showdown where the story is nil and you can be up SMASHING OTHER CARS in Multiplayer in 1 Minute.
posted by elcapitano at 8:50 AM on July 10, 2012


There is no way I'm dropping $60 for 1.5 hours of gameplay.

But if a game could be consumed in 1.5 hours, without the need to earn a bunch of extra content or download or pay for DLC, then there could be a compelling argument for the development of a Netflix-style game rental market that actually works, where you get the game for an evening, enjoy it, and return it. There'd be no reason to buy a game that could be consumed in the same time frame as a movie. And there'd be no reason for it to cost $60 even if you did want to buy it.
posted by The World Famous at 8:53 AM on July 10, 2012


Raph Koster (of Narrative is not a game mechanic): Two cultures and games
posted by Artw at 8:58 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do we need more games that have more/less narrative, longer/shorter completion times, and/or that are more/less realistic?

Yes. More games of all kinds.
posted by empath at 9:04 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Uncharted 2 is a great example of a narrative game that's way longer than a movie, but just as satisfying. You sit down for 40 minutes, play a chapter, lots of exciting stuff happens, cue quippy dialog, ZOMG EXCITING ANCHOR EVENT and that's enough. I'm not sure a "movie-length narrative video game" plays to the form's strength anymore than filming the pages of a book is apropos for TV.
posted by GilloD at 9:15 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm all for expanding game genres, just so long as that means they don't stop making the long-form titles. How awesome would it be to have an anthology of short-form games related by common theme, character or locale? Great concept if it was well-executed.

But I would not drop $60 on 1.5-2 hrs of gameplay, regardless of quality of the entire experience. Getting 50+ hours out of a title is one of the ways I justify my modest gaming budget.

Personally, I love games with a strong narrative--a game would have to have mind-bendingly awesome mechanics for me to overlook a crappy story or very poor writing. I also agree with many here the endless cutscenes are annoying and slow down the pace (DA II, I'm looking at you), and so the bulk of story development should be woven into actual gameplay. That said, lots of different people like lots of different things from their gaming experience.
posted by smirkette at 9:34 AM on July 10, 2012


But I would not drop $60 on 1.5-2 hrs of gameplay, regardless of quality of the entire experience.

Would you drop $10 on 1.5-2 hrs of gameplay, assuming the highest realistic quality of experience?
posted by The World Famous at 9:38 AM on July 10, 2012


I'd sooner drop $10 on a really good game that lasts a while and lacks the set dressing, TBH. And that's what the fabeled non-teen gamers actually do.
posted by Artw at 9:44 AM on July 10, 2012


You know, I'd really love to have this "finish all my games" conversation with the person who just bought this.
posted by jbickers at 9:46 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can't you get that as a phone app?
posted by Artw at 9:47 AM on July 10, 2012


what I really want is a genuinely quick quicksave and an end to save points.

This is the solution.

I don't hear a huge outcry for shorter books - books that can be read in two hours like watching a movie. Short stories exist, and can be extremely worthwhile, but most people seem to prefer novels.

Given proper "bookmarks," there's no reason people can't put down a game and pick it right back up later. I like a good short game like Portal or Limbo, but my very best experiences with games involve long, deep games that I was immersed in for several weeks.
posted by straight at 10:01 AM on July 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


I don't see the need for 2-hour games. Once you finish you'll have to decide what the next one to play is, then buy it, and you're already out 30 minutes of your two hour window.

Games where you're pretty much guaranteed something memorable within any two-hour block - something funny, something moving, something exciting - and where you can save at any point are a better way to solve this problem IMO. I'm working my way through the Witcher 2 on my 360 now and loving it even though it's fairly long and I play in bursts.
posted by Blue Meanie at 10:22 AM on July 10, 2012


Do we need more games that have more/less narrative, longer/shorter completion times, and/or that are more/less realistic? Yes. More games of all kinds.

And fortunately, that's exactly what we're getting. While AAA studios make shorter, flashier roller coaster rides (some of them excellent) as well as continuing to put out several very long and/or very replayable games (Skyrim, Assassin's Creed, Diablo 3, StarCraft 2), indie studios are making a huge variety of great stuff: Dear Esther, Spelunky, Cube World, FTL, Sir, You are Being Hunted, Xenonauts, Clang, 30 Flights of Loving...

And there's an every growing backlog of great games you haven't played yet. (Did someone whisper that there's a Steam sale starting this week?)

I almost completely disagree with this article, but I don't care, because even if lots of people follow his advice, I feel certain I'm going to continue to be overwhelmed with great games to play for a long time.
posted by straight at 10:35 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


game companies pretty routinely oppose the secondary market for video games. the big players also seem to cling to the pricing structure (luckily, indie gaming and mobile gaming are opening this up). sure, i'd pay 3 bucks to rent a 2 hour video game, as long as it didn't come with game breaking DRM, but i honestly don't see the big players offering something like that.
posted by nadawi at 10:45 AM on July 10, 2012


See, I don't necessarily want shorter games, but I have to be able to put a game down when the outside world needs me. So savepoints or chapters, yes.

Now, what I really really would like is a narrative game not bolted, glued and ductaped to rails. The first game designer that finds a way to tell a movie-like story where my actions have an actual effect on the story gets my money.
All of it.
posted by Sourisnoire at 10:51 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The first game designer that finds a way to tell a movie-like story where my actions have an actual effect on the story gets my money.

Fallout: New Vegas does this. I mean, it's not perfect, but it does this, and it was a helluva lot of fun to play, even multiple times.
posted by jbickers at 10:53 AM on July 10, 2012


I WANT a game where a developer worries about narrative just as much as gameplay

That's fine; it's when a developer starts with the narrative and the gameplay comes second that I worry. Storytelling and gameplay are difficult to get balanced and the first can so easily override the second.

Many games don't really need a story anyway other than having a rough idea of what you're supposed to be doing: first person shooters, strategic games (real time or turn based), sport games undsoweiter. Of course, we mostly do tend to give them stories anyway, even if only in our heads.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:02 AM on July 10, 2012


all of these are over in minutes.

Maybe the way you play.


Exactly. The arcade games I'm good at now are prohibitive because it takes too long to play one.

I still have a good 10 hours to go on Vice City. (I hear San Andreas is pretty good ... there is some sort of Hot Coffee mod in the news?!)

Would I be interested in a 1-2 hour narrative game? Sure, but it would have to be something totally new, I think. Lucasarts style adventuring wouldn't cut it.

So yeah, when I play video games I tend to play arcade games that I'm not very good at. Or Quake Live.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:13 AM on July 10, 2012


it's when a developer starts with the narrative and the gameplay comes second that I worry.

Myst was a huge hit. Pretty much all adventure games start with the narrative.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:13 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Zork
posted by mrgrimm at 11:14 AM on July 10, 2012


Myst was a pretty slideshow, not a game.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:18 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


...We're a relatively young industry at this point. We're nothing like movies at this point in terms of business and in terms of like, I would say, level of maturity in that sense.

umm...I'd def argue with all of this...think of where games are today, ~40 years in, compared to where movies were at the same relative time, say the 1940's...I would say that both are/were pretty well developed, mature fields...still with plenty of room to grow, granted, but with the majority of genres, motifs, and formats pretty well fleshed out...and as far as 'business' is concerned, yeah, games are nothing like movies at this point...they're even bigger business (IIRC, current game grosses are like 2-3x what the movie industry rakes in)

I mean, that's not even factoring in that an endpoint is actually the desired outcome. You should never want to stop playing a good game.

exxxxactly!....I've actually been 'finishing' games a lot less lately (and i used to finish the HELL out of games...remember donkey kong 64? yeah...i got EVERY banana...sigh, that game was a collector/completionists dream...and the addition of the original donkey kong as a cabinet game within the game was pretty sweet too...would love to see more of that...like bally midway licensing their back catalog to bethesda or whoever)...i tend to get right up to the end and then stop, and i think the reason is in part because games have gotten so big (in terms of hours of play) lately...not that it's the time involved, mind you...it's just that after being in a huge world, like fallout 3 for example, for such a long time it becomes so involving, so much like a real place, that you dont want it to end.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:36 AM on July 10, 2012


They say games are 'developing' but you never hear anyone much talk about Tic Tac Toe II, do you

Ha, I say. Ha!
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:40 AM on July 10, 2012


also, I can't really see how a 'movie-length game' could even be profitable...making the game 'engine' work, or adapting another engine (like unreal) takes a huge amount of time and effort...after that, adding more 'content' is the easy/fun part, so developers tend to pile it on. Your '2 hour gamer' is free to put it down and come back to it anytime, and making it shorter will just alienate the rest of your market...
posted by sexyrobot at 11:43 AM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know, I rarely finish video games despite liking plots and endings. I just find they go on longer then my attention span for any one game. I play it for a month or so, often get pretty near the end, then I get busy and never pick it back up. I've gotten to level 90 in Fallout 3 TWICE, yet never gotten beyond visiting the Pentagon in terms of plot.

Or I'll get stuck at one point, give up and never quite get back to it. All the while I buy new games because they are on sale on GoG or Steam, or get given them as gifts, and they just sit on a shelf or take up hard disk space.

I always feel a vague sense of guilt for not finishing these, like I'm not getting my full monies worth, and always want to know what happens next. I'd love to be able to buy some games with only 10-20 hours of play time, yet still have a full plot.
posted by Canageek at 1:10 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with everyone who has said this guy is the exact opposite of correct.

There is nothing... nothing in gaming to compare to an excellent 100+ hour RPG. That doesn't mean every game should be long. It doesn't even mean most games should be long. But the average game today is, if anything, too short not too long. Bioware and Bethesda RPGs are the exception rather than the rule.
posted by Justinian at 1:14 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bottom line: make better stories. That's all. Length has as much to do with games as it does with movies -- a long good movie seems shorter than the shortest bad movie.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 1:55 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


also, I can't really see how a 'movie-length game' could even be profitable...making the game 'engine' work, or adapting another engine (like unreal) takes a huge amount of time and effort...after that, adding more 'content' is the easy/fun part, so developers tend to pile it on.

I'd say that in the case of Bioware, piling it on is exactly the problem. The result is a lot of scattered, rambling, contradictory, and sophomoric plot wank. You can't take it seriously, because if you did, it would be outright offensive in its utter incompetence at tackling the issues they promiscuously drop into the narrative. It's what I call George Lucas badness. High production quality combined with excessive artistic ambition and a tin ear for actually dramatizing it.

At this point, I'd rather pay $10 for an indie or casual game that does a few things at a superlative level of quality than $60 for a cluttered, incoherent mess of a narrative. One of the things I like about both Valve and Bethesda game writing is that their main-quest narratives do tend to be a bit lean and simple, with additional narratives placed for the player to discover in the environment.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:38 PM on July 10, 2012


Oh look, another article that should have been about Journey instead.
posted by fleacircus at 4:05 PM on July 10, 2012


Amen, brother. Until Neal Schon is on the cover of Rolling Stone, I don't want to read any more crap about video games.
posted by The World Famous at 4:12 PM on July 10, 2012


Seems like most of the complaints here boil down to the fact the sandbox RPGs are huge time wasting grind-a-thons. I'd much rather play an excellently tuned work of art for 10 hours than put 100 hours into some time sink to get 3% more damage per second. I have a life to live.

And I like the mounting pressure of a sequential mission game system. Sandbox games by their very nature remove any sort of pressure to stop something immediately...you can wander across something that nominally needs to be done "right now", decide to fuck off and learn to make soba noodles instead for 10 hours, then come back and find the crisis at exactly the same point it was when you left it. Not much of a crisis, that.
posted by Chekhovian at 4:49 PM on July 10, 2012


They have these already! They're called Visual Novels. You could definitely knock out an Ace Attorney case, Law & Order-style, in under two hours--if you're not obsessed like me with giggling over all the possible dialogue paths. OBJECTION!

HOLD IT! In your testimony you said that you can finish a case in under two hours. However the autopsy shows that the victim played at least two hours and twenty minutes. How do you explain this contradiction?

A: Always see the introduction to the new case before switching off.
posted by ersatz at 5:11 PM on July 10, 2012


Anyway, de gustibus non disputandum est and so on. I've spent my past gaming hours watching amusing upsets in a historical context in the 'grand-strategy' games of Paradox. I know the way history turns out, but seeing a duke of Ireland inherit Russia or something equally unexpected never gets old. I get the point he's making, but the replayability of 2-hour games would suffer.
posted by ersatz at 5:17 PM on July 10, 2012


Yeah, crises are not exactly compatible with sandbox games. I think sandbox games can work if:

1: There's some sort of a meta-goal or challenge, like running your city for a certain length of time, building a dominating corporation, or getting to generation 10.

2: There's a few hundred beautiful or interesting things to discover.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:38 PM on July 10, 2012


That is, I won't grind for DPS, but I'll climb a mountain to see a supermutant with a wig and heart-shaped glasses.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:44 PM on July 10, 2012


Not exactly a sandbox, but I really liked the approach of the meta game in X-COM: you can do anything you like, but mess around too much and eventually the alien threat will overwhelm you.
posted by Artw at 5:50 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


mess around too much and eventually the alien threat will overwhelm you

Makes me think of this classic: "IT CAME FROM THE DESERT..."

Fuck around too long and the giant ants will eat you.
posted by Chekhovian at 6:04 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Uh, before Sony fucked me out of the ability to play games on my PS3, the last one I played that had an end to the story. So probably LittleBigPlanet or Uncharted 2 or Assassin's Creed. Oh, wait, I know, it was probably Heavy Rain, if I'm being accurate. I think that was the last game with a fully fleshed plot that I played before Sony ended the fun. If I could still play games on it, I'd almost certainly play Uncharted 3 to the end. The Uncharted series, BTW, is better than the vast majority of films.
posted by wierdo at 7:31 PM on July 10, 2012


"Movie-length" seems a little short, given how much time in a game is spent learning how to play. But shorter, yes. A game that goes much over 10 hours simply can't tell a real story, because there's no way to avoid bloat and contradiction (I'd put Bioshock at about 8, but ymmv). Among the many reasons why Portal is one of the best of this gen is because it's short enough that it doesn't need a bunch of wandery plot elements and narrative drift. Mass Effect was another approach---a game that lasts 30 hours, but breaks that into small chunks.
Certainly, games that don't rely on story don't need to follow this advice. But for games where story matters (a category that would, I think, include loose narratives like Limbo and Braid), 3-6 hours is just right.
Granted, I also love Super Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, but that game is so largely *about* infinite duration that it gets a pass.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:18 PM on July 10, 2012


Speaking as a person with a short attention span for games (and thus, not a gamer), I like this idea. But I am not the ideal audience for the video game market, and the sort of people like myself who'd rather do a shorter game are...probably not big sellers or a giant market. It's a nice idea, but I suspect it's not a winner.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:58 PM on July 10, 2012


However the autopsy shows that the victim played at least two hours and twenty minutes. How do you explain this contradiction?

NOT SO FAST! A quick screen-mashing finger and a handy hint-through will have you racking up courtroom wins in record time.

You miss a lot of fun dialogue, but you pass over the awful prospect of Phoenix LOSING and making a DROOPY-HAIRED SAD FACE.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:45 AM on July 11, 2012


Ha! The first time I played the last case of PW:AA, I was often guessing. I finished Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth a while ago without any problems, so I decided to replay the trilogy to see if I'd become better or if the last game was easier. I heartily recommend it and Edgey usually stays in control of the situation because he's a disciple of VON KARMA.
posted by ersatz at 4:53 AM on July 11, 2012


Myst was a pretty slideshow, not a game.

Whatever. When it came out, and I played it, or watched it flick past, maybe, I was struck by how rooted in a sense of place it was - months after finishing it, I was surprised to find myself nostalgic for the island as a place, and felt that I'd been there. Which was quite ridiculous then, let alone now, but it was something I became aware of feeling, and at the time it felt like that was a valid experience in itself. I also enjoyed the experience of constructing a narrative from bits of evidence I found, which wasn't new, but felt more immersive to me than previous iterations (such as text-based adventures), partly because it was easy to feel that there was a lot more information there than there was, of which I was seeing some. I realise that since it didn't involve wandering around firing a gun at anything that moves it doesn't qualify as a proper game, but it moved at my pace, which is fairly slow, so I liked it for that.

I gave up playing games around when Prince of Persia 2 came out, partly because they ate my life. I have to be careful - I absent-mindedly fired up Portal over the Golden Jubilee weekend and waved goodbye to the whole four-day holiday. I enjoyed it a lot, it's a very fine experience. What I'd really like, though, is a good 90-minute movie (it would be a wonderful two-hander - GlaDOS vs Shell).
posted by Grangousier at 6:16 AM on July 11, 2012


(It's Chell, isn't it...? Bah.)
posted by Grangousier at 6:35 AM on July 11, 2012


I was ignoring the troll, but... Myst is among the most popular games ever. It was beautiful. It was interactive. It was challenging. It was smart. It was great. Anyone who says it isn't a game has a horribly blinkered view of gaming.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:31 PM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the big thing it had going for it was a sense of immersion that was at the time pretty unique, and which made up for a certain weakness in the actual puzzle elements. TBH I think it was very much of its time and more impressive when CD-ROM technology and computer generated imagery were fresh, but it;s not bad for something built on Hypercard.
posted by Artw at 11:54 AM on July 12, 2012


Like a lot of games, the tech might feel a little clunky today. But a lot of art games like Limo or Dear Esther are still also-rans to Myst's sense of atmosphere, and it did a great job of pacing narrative elements. Plus, still super-pretty. I actually just got the iPhone port, and was shocked at how well it holds up.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:41 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Myst was a huge hit. Pretty much all adventure games start with the narrative.

Maybe. I'd wager it started with the architecture and landscaping and the narrative came later.

Games should be compared with architecture or sculpture instead of movies and books. I Design is much more important than narrative.

Myst was a pretty slideshow, not a game.

Yeah, right. And Catch-22 was a pile of papers with letters on them, not a novel.
posted by straight at 4:19 PM on July 12, 2012


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