How much game play is just right?

So I thought I would take a break from my “How do I do such and such” questions that you’ve all been so kind as to answer and have more of a discussion. This is something I have been thinking about for a while as I think that it is something that is difficult to balance.

How much game play is just right? On the one hand players want lots of game play to justify their purchase but on the other we don’t want to be stretching out the story for the sake of it. My question to you all is how many hours of game play do you think is right for your average action adventure style game? If you could justify your answer as well that would be great.

See for me the story is very important and while I do love a good story, when I’m immersed in the game play I normally want the story to keep on going. However I often find myself impatient towards the end of the game. I’m currently planning the story for a future project that I hope to build and would like to get it just right.

7 hours and 12 minutes exactly.

Yeah, that’s kind of hard to say. In general game length I think 8 hours should be a minimum, and if it’s single-player only then much longer. The Last of Us was 16 hours which was a really good length

Well there’s 2 main variables:
1> game type: for a FPS 8-10h is the industry average, for an action adventure it’s about 8-12h on average, while for a proper RPG (not the crappy stuff they call rpg just cause you can customize your char or select different talents) usually can go from 20 to 40h plus many many hours of optional content.
2> platform: if you’re developing a mobile game then you need to make short session (10-15 minutes) count, and it shouldn’t be too long anyway.

imo, you need put the price in the Equation.

I agree with you.

If you have a publisher backing you, a large budget and you’re shooting for the $60 mark (in the US at least) consumers are going to expect a lot more out of your game. They are undoubtedly going to expect more if DLC is upfront and center as purchasing DLC is seen by most people as an addition to the off the shelf price.

If you’re a small/indie studio with a limited budget/manpower - then go for producing the best game you possibly can with replay value and charge a reasonable price for it.

Here is an interesting article from some days ago regarding quality, quantity and pricing and if you read the comments you might end up walking away thinking: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t!

Thanks for the responses. I’ve always thought that about the 20 hour mark for an action adventure to be alright. Its all about getting that balance. You want them to still be interested in the game at the end so that they would want to purchase any subsequent titles but you don’t want them feeling like they wasted their money.

Can never have enough game play but the determining factor is how much game play as a developer can you afford and how much to charge for the game that justifies the hours and volume of content put into the game.

For project cost averaging a good starting point is one dollar for each hour of game play.

Something to take into consideration from the development side of things is is how well the project can scale from concept to completion that adds options rather than restrictions to avoid redoing works already completed as to fit to finish.

It’s by far easier to make less out of two much than it is to make more out of not enough so there is no such thing as to much game play as long as it fits in with the development budget.

P.S. “Budget” does not just refers to monetary requirements alone but that’s another topic.

We often use the formula Dollars Spent / Hours of Gameplay. If it’s $1/hour I justify the purchase. For example South Park a 10 hour game for $60 I could not justify purchasing. However, if it goes on sale for $9.99 i’d justify the purchase.

There’s a lot of questions to ask but think of it as any other entertainment experience and would an individual be satisfied. Look at the game 2048. The game can last 2 minutes or you can continuously play it until you beat it and then even further if you want to achieve higher than 2048. Mark Cerny when developing Coin-op games said that ideally you wanted the player to put in a quarter every 2 minutes. Every minute and a half was better.

Good luck!

Personally I’m sick and tired of spending $60 on **** games with crappy stories give me 100 or more hours like Final Fantasy 7, it took you 150 hours just for the MAIN STORY and that’s speed running it, now if you took your time you could do everything in about 300-500 hours GIVE ME THAT!

But in this day and age an FPS is average 4-8 hours, Skyrim was about 2 hours or so for the main story, but could easily spend 300+ hours doing EVERYTHING. I personally think a true adventure game should take you at least 50 hours speed running it and about 75 hours just playing. Just my opinion

I very much disagree with the $/hour thing… first of all not everyone has time to spend playing a 40++ hour game (well depends on how good it is but yeah…) and secondly I believe quality > longevity.

In my opinion the best thing to do is have infinite gameplay (if that’s a possibility, it greatly depends on the game) and then keep the main story at least 8-15 hours or 20+ if we are talking about an rpg.
But then again it completely depends on how deep/good the story is and how much development time you have… I would rather have a 5-hour story that is developed properly and has a lot of stuff going on rather than stretch it to 15+ hours for no good reason.

Also IMO 300 hours of gameplay is meaningless if it’s boring… you want to have great variety in missions etc. otherwise I would say just keep it short and focus on quality.

That is why I used the Final Fantasy 7 game as an example. But I agree, quality storyboard and missions over longevity. If you can get Quality AND Longevity then you will have yourself a good game, also make a lot of side missions to where if people are walking around they get random missions/quests and they get pre-occupied and they extend the game’s story time by a lot, at least it feels that way…

I also think that quality over quantity is key for an indie production. ‘Faster than Light’ for example offers dozens of hours of game-play with actually very little content. But the content it has is well thought out.

I believe it is also ‘easier’ to focus on game-play rather than story. Since your resources are limited it is important to offer replayablitty. A story, even a great one, is once you discovered it often not motivation enough to play the game again. If the game-play is great, people will start over again even if the story was mediocre.

In conclusion: a story focused game must offer a long and complex story to keep the player busy for dozens of hours. That however requires a lot of content that is expensive to produce. A game-play focused game can keep the player busy for the same time with much less content and therefore much less production resources.