Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Game length, gameplay, and story

There is an interesting article in The Escapist on the fact that one rarely finishes a game these days. Regardless of the affection you may feel for it, the Haloes and Witchers and BioShocks don't see many people get all the way to the final scene. Our best guess for Heroes 5 was about 10%, and we have a pretty hardcore following.
Tom Endo points out in his article a few points and problems; one is that once you figure out the gameplay the rest is just endless (more or less repetitive) variations on that gameplay. The designers try to pull you in with new tricks and some plot twists, but stacked against the odds of finishing is the enormous time commitment required to get all the way to the end.
I think that there are a lot of cogent arguments for trimming game story to a more manageable size while adding tons of extra gameplay content for the hardcore gamers. After all, if a player has to leave the game for a few days, will they remember who the characters are? What quest they are doing and why? Is there any point in writing an enormous sprawling plot that is the equivalent of two or three screenlays if so few finish it?
It might make more sense to make games smaller, tighter in both story and gameplay, and then provides tons of downloadable content for those who want to keep going. Mod kits, additional levels, and unlockable bonuses would probably be more than sufficient for the hardcore player who falls in love with the game.
Especially if the development costs drop, and the price tag along with it.
I recently played Portal, and was very impressed by it. It didn't have a story, more like an atmosphere, though I suppose you could argue that there was slender plot thread. It was brilliant playability, fun writing, and all over a great experience. It was widely lauded, won many awards, and took only three or four hours to play.
Is that the wave of the future? Maybe it should be, otherwise studios are paying to create, and players are paying to not play, an awful lot of game content.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The latest Yahoo! headlines

I see these every day -- Yahoo! takes a headline from the French newspaper Le Monde and runs it through some sort of translator. 'A' for effort, 'F' for execution. Recent samples:

"With the approach of the victory of Obama, arms manufacture filled the tank"

The article is actually about the fact that gun merchants are stocking up due to future regulatory worries. Doesn't quite come through somehow...

And this one:
"Garzon judge deprives himself of the investigation into the missings of Francoism"

Is subtitled:
"The judge, who was likely to see himself declared inefficient in this business, deprived himself with the profit of the courts of province."

Computers are just, well, not quite there yet...