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Vol. 2, Issue 5
December 9, 1999

Pad Happy:

Size Matters

by Nick Ferguson

 

 

Who wants to spend 100 hours on a single game? Not Nick F, anyway...

  month ago I finally bought Final Fantasy VIII. I’ve played it for a good few hours but in the last week or so I really haven’t been able to bring myself to place the disc in my Playstation. The problem is, the game’s just too damn long! Ye gads - I can remember a time when no game was long enough, but now it seems that most new releases stretch for miles and miles. Call me an attention-span-stunted gamer (of the console breed, natch) but I see no joy whatsoever in these 100 hour treks. Its got to the point now where a potential purchase won’t make the cut because it’s going to take too long to beat; for instance, Tomb Raider 4 looks like a remarkable return to form for Ms. Croft, but I’m having second thoughts about buying it because I’m still mentally scarred from the ridiculous length of the previous TR game (which was just incredibly boring to play, so I stopped). Roll on Resident Evil Nemesis, I say.

I suspect that a lot of developers feel under pressure to make their games as long as possible, under the (likely publisher-led) delusion that a long, long game represents better value for money. There are certainly people out there who would heavily advocate that one game being longer than another makes it “better”, but the truth is it just makes that game longer. The reason the other game is “better” is more than likely because it has more ideas in it. Ultimately, a game contains only a finite number of ideas and if you try and stretch a game by limiting the frequency with which a player encounters your cool ideas , you’ll find that it’s not interesting enough to play. Think about the best games you’ve played recently and you’ll find that in a lot of cases something pretty interesting happens every five to ten minutes of gameplay. Conversely, think about the number of games you’ve played where all the best stuff happens in the first hour of play and from then on it seem like developers were looking to fill up space because they used all their cool ideas way too early (and then you didn’t bother finishing the game).

The real problem is that it takes a lot of talent to create a game entertaining enough to merit a play length of over ten hours, both in terms of game design and (if appropriate) the plot. I played about halfway through Final Fantasy VII before giving up (partially through boredom, mainly because someone managed to erase my save game) but the plot was already flagging – and don’t even talk to me about the tedious, repetitive battles. Final Fantasy VIII seems more gripping from the start, but word seems to be that the story isn’t quite as good as its prequel and the characters aren’t as engaging (uh oh). And those bloody Guardian Force animations go on for sooooo long – is there honestly no way to skip them? Life really is too short - how much “play time” in total do you think gratuitous battle animations add to the FF series, anyway?

 

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Credits: Illustration © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Pad Happy is © 1999 Niick Ferguson. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, so watch it - we know kung fu, gaijin.