On Game Length

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Not too long ago, there was a coordinated blog effort with developers like Jonathan Blow2D Boy and more commenting on the length of games. The general consensus of these posts was that games should not be judged by their length, but if the experience feels complete or not. Something that we here at Frictional Games agree on.

Now that we have released Amnesia: The Dark Descent, game length has once again come into our lives. There have been several reviews of the game that have stated that the game’s length, 6 – 10 hours, was a major negative. Especially considering that the game does not have any replayability (although that is up for discussion).

This has made us a bit concerned. A major goal with our games is to have no fillers, to have a game where everything is focused on creating a certain experience. Since we do not have combat in our games, there is no way to extend length in a simple way (like filling a room with enemies). Just about every minute in our games requires lots of time and effort to implement. If we are to keep on improving the quality of our games, 6 – 10 hours is pretty much the maximum amount of gameplay time we can create.

Especially now that the first week of sales, despite overwhelmingly excellent response, were only moderate (more on that here), this makes us a bit concerned. If 6 – 10 hours for a $20 game gives it a negative mark, what if we increase the price to $30, would this drastically decrease the positive response? Even more serious, this negative feedback on the game’s length has made us having discussion topics like “how do we make this section longer?”. We try to push this aside and instead focus on more important topics such as “how do make this section more engaging?”, but it is still nagging at the back of our heads. Focusing on game length, is something I find can have very negative effect on a game’s design (discussed a bit here).

With this background information, we would like to hear your thoughts on this issue! I have set up a poll in our forum here:

Please take your time and register and place your vote.

Also, please tell us what you think in our forum or here on the blog!