So in my last post I talked about short games and how their short length not only doesn’t hurt a game overall but can even improve it. And now it only feels right to do the opposite and talk about how a game’s long length can make for a great experience as well and how tricky that can be! When it comes to making a short game the problem developers normally will face is the fact that some players might not feel like the game is worth their money. A long game doesn’t really need to worry about that though. Instead, it has to worry about players not feeling like the game is worth their time…
This is very much a problem that has gotten tougher in the current age of gaming. Back in the day, there weren’t too many games coming out all the time. You really just had a couple of big releases spread apart from each other and some smaller ones sprinkled here and there. Nowadays though? There’s a new game coming out nearly every week! For example, as I’m writing this, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes and the Capcom Fighting Collection both came out yesterday! And that’s not even mentioning the fact that another fighting game, DnF Duel, comes out next week as well… As you can imagine, making sure a player stays engaged with your game is hard even for shorter games but especially for long ones!
To clarify, when I say ‘a long game’ I generally mean games that have enough content to last you 50 hours or more. Think games like Yakuza or the Witcher. You could probably get these kinds of games done much quicker than 50 hours but they have more than enough content to last that long. And unless you are trying to speedrun the game, you generally want to experience all the game has to offer rather than trying to rush through it! When a player is just trying to push through content to get a game over with, that’s when you know a game is too long. And that is one of the biggest struggles for a long game, making sure players don’t get burnt out before the very end. Because you want players to enjoy the whole journey through a long game not just finishing it. Don’t make a long game long for the sake of it, you should make the game you want to make and if it ends up being a long game, so be it.
So, what kind of games have managed to justify their many hours of game play? Well, a great example of a series packed full of long, 100+ hour games is the Persona series!
I never really payed much attention to how much time I put into a single game until I finished Persona 4 Golden, saw I had been playing for more than 60 hours, and still wanted to play more! Which is good since you have to finish the game twice for the true ending… There are a lot of ways to go about getting players invested in a long game like this, but Persona in particular showed me that the characters and story of a game can be very powerful in this regard. Each Persona game has unique and deep characters for you to befriend and hang out with. And while each game in the series is a great turn based dungeon crawler RPG, it’s the characters and social elements that really drive players to keep going and is often what draws people to the games to begin with. When recommending any game in the Persona series rarely do you hear people talk about the combat alone. Instead they talk about the characters and their stories. They talk about Kanji and his struggles to accept who he is and not to care what others think. Or Futaba and her journey to gain the courage to be able to leave her room after being a shut-in for so long. It’s these elements that make those 100+ hours fly by! And more often than not, leave players wanting more.
Of course, having a great story and well written characters is just one way to keep a player going for hours and hours. There are plenty of other ways! Especially with game play. And one of my favorite examples of this has to come from Bravely Default.
While the Bravely Default games don’t have a bad story or characters, most of them are really charming actually, they certainly don’t hold a candle to Persona‘s though. Despite that, I’ve put so much time into each of the Bravely Default games! And that’s mainly due to their game play. Like Persona, Bravely Default is a turn based RPG, but unlike Persona, the games focus on a much more classic style that hearkens back to the original Final Fantasy games. But with a more modern twist to keep things fresh. Customizing your party of four characters with different Jobs is the main focus for the combat as it offers an insane amount of customization and player freedom! But I won’t be getting too deep into that here. If you do want to read more about that crazy mess of a perfect combat system though, I have another post all about it right here! The point is that the driving force to keep playing Bravely Default always came from seeing all the different combinations of Jobs and skills you could use to make your party unique and absurdly powerful. Bravely Default is always giving the player something new to tinker with and figure out. It’s constantly throwing new Job classes at you and it manages to carry the game from start to finish. And it was clear the developers knew that this is what kept players going since in Bravely Default 2 leveling up those Jobs was made even faster so you can see all that a Job could offer and either continue with it or pass it on for another altogether. This made it so that, despite spending so much time with the game, I never felt like I was wasting that time. There was always something new to experience or I could try changing up my party and Jobs if I wanted to completely change things up for myself. And this is what made sure the game never got old. That drive to see how I could build my party and characters by the end of the game really kept me going. And this kind of game play isn’t exclusive to Bravely Default at all! Basically any kind of game with character progression can benefit from this as well. But you need to be careful. If you aren’t showing the player new things either with new abilities, skills, or Jobs, they can lose interest real quick and it’ll leave your game feeling too long.
That constant stream of “new” is very important for every long game. Whether it’s a new part of the story or new piece of game play to enjoy. Coming up with so much content is obviously going to be tough and it limits the style of game you can make as most kinds of games don’t lend themselves well to going on for so many hours. And that’s not even mentioning that spending so much time with one game, regardless of it’s quality, can sometimes scare people off. Like I said before, new games are constantly coming out now and players only have so much time and money to spend. Despite this though, there really is something magical about getting lost in a 100+ hour game. It almost feels like going on a journey. It’s an experience that will always stick with you and hopefully will be nice to look back on when you’re finally finished. And honestly, that’s what really makes a long game worth it!
But those are just my thoughts! What are some of yours? Do you prefer long games over short ones? Are there any particularly long games you really enjoy? I’d love to hear your thoughts so don’t be shy!
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