Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Are games getting shorter?

I remember how long it took for me to finish the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time. It took me ages (damn that water temple). When I finally reached the end of this mountain trek of a game, it felt good. It seemed like such a long time since I started it, I could go back to the beginning and it would feel fresh again. In this day and age though, are there really any epically long games which take ages to get through. I don't mean complete them 100%, because whilst this may create replay value for some, playing the game on a difficulty setting that loads your enemies up with x-ray specs, hand held howitsers and more armour than a tank just to get a minutely better score just doesn't seem as fun.

Maybe I've just gotten better at games over the years, but they generally do not seem to last as long as they used to. Metal Gear Solid 2 was the first game that I well and truly blitzed through when I was expecting it to be a truly epic experience like the Playstation classic was. Admittedly I was sat in front of my television like the tinned beans in my apocalyptic bomb shelter, for quite a long time, but I still think it should have taken longer than a weekend to finish. Tearing through a game like a train through an unfortunate damsel's tethered down torso is not what should be happening these days, but I keep finding it to be this case more and more.

Army of Two was an incredible experience. It really was a fun and unique system where you could attract enemy gun fire whilst you partner snuck round behind the bad men ready to sodomise them with bullets. It was so fun in fact that me and my brother completed it in one sitting. Why did they make something so awesome so short? Surely once the amazing mechanics for a game in place, drawing up more unique and fun levels should not be too difficult, especially because there were only six to begin with.

Shorter games might be a good thing, because it means that the good ideas stop before they get old, meaning that sequels could be welcomed in with big open arms from gamers wanting their desperate fix. This was how Portal left us, and most of us have accepted that it was only meant as a taster for what is to come. The sinful part is that a lot of games seem to run through to a definite conclusion only a few hours in to play.

Gone seem to be the days like those of Final Fantasy VII, where wondering around aimlessly was time consuming but oh so rewarding. Side quests in games these days are few and far between and mostly seem to be an after thought. The latest Zelda outing has offered a lot in terms of gameplay, probably about four or five times more than most other games out there, but even this seems short when compared to the Nintendo 64 classic. The side quests I loved from Ocarina of Time seemed very lacking in Twilight Princess, which meant that I could not play extra hard to earn a new, difficult to get, yet very super sword like it was possible in previous games. It is almost as if such things have been dumbed down for the casual player.

It might be just me, but I know that I am not the amazing god of completing games that I usually picture myself as. The challenges in games lately just don't seem as challenging anymore, meaning that the game ends too soon.


Hx2600 said...

Perhaps its because the market is growing more casual? But I do agree, one type of game that still offers many hours of valued gameplay are sandbox style games. GTAIV for example based on write-ups seems to still be offering up the sidequests, and still have an engrossing Story mode sans sidequests. Anyway, nice blog keep up the great work. Always like to read your articles, hope to be starting one of my own soon.

Anthony said...

Why thank you.

Yeah, the market getting casual could well be a reason for games being seemingly easier and shorter these days. Mind you, the market seems quite awash with some of these casual games.

Whether this is good or bad I can't really decide. On one hand it brings more gamers in and so more money is pumped into the industry to be given back to the gamers in the form of amazing titles. Going the other way though, it does put a lot of rubbish games on the shelves intended for this 'casual' audience, that some gamers just won't see the attraction to.

It's all a bit hit and miss really.