How Long is too Long? (are we still doing phrasing?)



  • I remember a time when I would start a game and love it so much that I wished it would never end. I could freeze the clock on something like Final Fantasy 7 and still wish for more once the credits finally rolled. I even used to ignore RPGs if I knew they were "too short".

    Nowadays, I find that, no matter how much love a game when I start it, I get to a point where the joy has almost completely fallen out and I'm just going through the motions to complete it. In recent years, this has included Breath of the Wild, Persona 5 and Red Dead Redemption 1. Often I don't even power through and just stop playing it one day to never go back (Devil Survivor Overclocked and Strange Journey Redux; and no, I didn't play the original versions).

    This has lead me to ponder what the perfect length of a video game is. This may vary by genre so feel free to expand but I ask,

    what is the perfect length, in hours, for a video game?



  • It's tough to answer this question without being anecdotal about where I am in life currently versus how I used to feel about game length back when it wasn't even a thought of mine.

    Today, I much prefer shorter games (Resident Evil 7, Resident Evil 2, Uncharted series, Undertale, God of War). There is an immediate satisfaction of checking a game off your list, but shorter games fit perfectly between work, friends, family, gym, recreation, errands, etc. Long games seem to require long play sessions which generally do not fit into my life anymore.

    For example:

    The Witcher 2 played in 2012 (age 16) - 30 hours in 2 weeks.

    The Witcher 3 played in 2016-2018 (age 22-23) - 80 hours in 2 years.

    BIG DIFFERENCE!

    Here is the thing... life changed. Plain and simple. I prefer the Chapter structure of The Witcher 2 to the aimless open-ended structure of The Witcher 3 because it would fit into my current life so much better. Spending 5-10 hours on ONE CHAPTER helps you play through the game with story progression milestones and you can usually put the game down while feeling accomplished.

    Despite how enjoyable The Witcher 3 is, I get so lost in the world that I felt like I was going nowhere unless I sat down and played it for hours at a time. It took me forever to leave White Orchid because I was doing side-missions and just going nowhere in the main plot.

    With all that said, I think the length of both games are fine. You can beat The Witcher 2 in 20-40 hours mainline, and you can beat The Witcher 3 30-60 hours mainline. That isn't a drastically different length of time, but their approach to storytelling mixed with gameplay is drastically different. So therefore, its difficult to pick the perfect game length without looking at the game on a case to case basis.

    I'd say long games are fine (30+ horus) so long as I can put it down at any moment through an instant save mechanic. It helps if there are lots of story moments to make you feel accomplished even if you only played 60 minutes.


    GOOD EXAMPLE:

    Yakuza 0 -

    This game took me a leisurely 80 hours to finish beginning to end while doing lots and lots of side missions and activities. The game is fragmented into Chapters so I can play ONE chapter and get a solid beginning middle and end. This fragmented storytelling is exactly what I appreciate with long games. On top of that, if I don't want to spend the 1-2 hours completing the chapter, I can save at a phone booth at any god given moment and go on with my life.

    BAD EXAMPLE

    Persona 5-

    P5 is a great game but horrible for people who value their time. My main problem is that the day-to-day nature of the game is perfect for the downtime in-between major story points. I can play a few in-game days or weeks for that matter, then save the game in Joker's room and finish playing. But when you are involved in the story, the game can go for hours and hours without a break or opportunity to save. For example, sometimes when you are going through a dungeon, you have long periods in-between save rooms. This isn't a be-all-end-all but you have no idea whats coming after that save room and next thing you know, you're up 2 hours past your bedtime because the game just won't give you a break. Cutscene, then dialogue, then a long boss battle, then more dialogue, then cutscene, on and on and on.

    This fear of being forced to play without stopping made me avoid it unless I knew my time was completely cleared up. Thats why my 110 hours in Persona 5 took me 8 months. I probably would have gotten it done in less time if just just let me pause the story stuff and save somewhere without being dragged into endless scenes.


    TLDR; its less about the length of the game and more about the way its structured to fit within my life style. Can I put it down and save or am I stuck in long scenes for hours past bedtime? Length is manageable if the game lets me manage it.



  • @E_Zed_Eh_Intern said:

    I get to a point where the joy has almost completely fallen out and I'm just going through the motions to complete it. In recent years, this has included Breath of the Wild

    Good thing you can finish that game at any time, to your discretion.

    It isn't about length, just quality. The ideal game would be endless, and you'd never get tired of it. Games people frequently complain about being too long are only too long because the games try to stretch out the amount of meaningful content they have too far. So the length isn't the problem, the abundance of excess padding is.



  • No length is perfect, there's always either a yearning for more or a wish for it all to end soon, the best game devs can do is make all the time you spend in the game feel worthwhile, at the very least.

    Anyway, since I'm a sucker for linear story-driven games, a 10 to 15 hours game is the best thing ever for me.



  • I think it varies from game to game, Vanquish for example might be a 4-6 hour game but I got about triple that from replaying it.
    The various episodic games you can kinda count on being 3-4 hours per episode, minus a few occasions (memory might be fuzz but I swear the last episode for TWDS1 was like 30 minutes to a hour long)
    Breath of the Wild took me 40ish hours to complete, but I'm still going back to it on occasion.

    Also while I'm just now getting thru the final Dungeon of Persona 5, I feel the game gives plenty of opportunities to save when the story kicks up, more so then 3 or 4, especially since you can save pretty much anywhere that doesn't have enemies. At worst theres maybe 15-20 minute chunks of dialog that prevents you from saving.

    Although if there is one game that I currently feel is too long for it's own good its Assassins Creed Odyssey. While I do appreciate its giant open world, I'd say only about 60% of it is mandatory to explore, with the rest mostly being optional side quest or saved for DLC it seems, which does make me a bit worried for the end of the "Warrior" trilogy (Vikings)



  • @dmcmaster said in How Long is too Long? (are we still doing phrasing?):

    Also while I'm just now getting thru the final Dungeon of Persona 5, I feel the game gives plenty of opportunities to save when the story kicks up, more so then 3 or 4, especially since you can save pretty much anywhere that doesn't have enemies. At worst theres maybe 15-20 minute chunks of dialog that prevents you from saving.

    Just wait until the end...



  • @dipset said in How Long is too Long? (are we still doing phrasing?):

    @dmcmaster said in How Long is too Long? (are we still doing phrasing?):

    Also while I'm just now getting thru the final Dungeon of Persona 5, I feel the game gives plenty of opportunities to save when the story kicks up, more so then 3 or 4, especially since you can save pretty much anywhere that doesn't have enemies. At worst theres maybe 15-20 minute chunks of dialog that prevents you from saving.

    Just wait until the end...

    Don't you just suspend the game and put the PS4 into rest mode? That's what I always do.

    OT: Given there are many genres, each of which is going to have a different optimal length (that is if such a thing truly exists), I don't think there's a single, simple answer to that question. As for me, can't really say I've changed at all when it comes to what I prefer, the shorter games have always been the more appealing. I do love my RPG's, but even those I don't really want to exceed the 40 hour mark. Certain games really start to feel tired past just 10-12 hours though, The Last of Us and especially the recent God of War went on for far to long in my opinion.



  • It depends entirely on the genre and how often the game is introducing new elements - whether that be a different story arc/mystery, a new mechanic, or an enemy that requires a completely new strategy. The very moment you face a re-colored enemy that's only difference is higher stats, you've just encountered a game that is too long.

    In regards to Persona 5 being too long, I severely disagree - and I'm someone that has put in around 160 hours to the game (will eventually platinum with a second run). Some of the most critically acclaimed pieces of media are slow burns at time and P5 is no exception - you end up loving the characters so much because of the time invested. If time was shaved off, the connection isn't as vital or in depth as before and hey, if a 100 hour RPG isn't your thing, there are tons and tons of other options out there.



  • I don't have a definitive answer. Depends how I feel, sometimes 10h is to long and 50h not enough.



  • 2 minutes to 25 hours.



  • @sabotagethetruth Not that I expect reason from someone with a P5 icon as their user icon, but the moment Persona 5 kept going like 20 hours more after you defeated the person the game built up the entire time as the main boss was when Persona 5 became too long. Would've accepted it as a true ending under special conditions or DLC bonus ending, but as something in the main game that you have to slog through for credits, after having already defeated the big bad in an already respectfully lengthy game, that was too much. Also, you know it was too much, because the true final boss just reuses the big bad of the game's boss theme.



  • @mbun I don't agree with this really as there was a point in the story beyond the big baddie as you mention, but I'm in mobile right now with no computer access, so I wont go more into it since itb would just be a hassle, but why do you gotta discretid an opinion like that because of an icon? surely we can have discussions of games without having yo invalidatw them because of one's shown preference.

    Also just my 5 cents I dont think any game is too long so long as it can keep is core loop entertaining, how different games do that and how different genres can manage it simply vary a lot.



  • @bard91 said:

    why do you gotta discretid an opinion like that because of an icon? surely we can have discussions of games without having yo invalidatw them because of one's shown preference.

    When we're discussing extremely subjective matters, fanboy status is just a level of bias that's near impossible to overcome. I'm no better when talking about my favorite games, because of course I love them for being long and would wish them even longer if I could as to get to spend more time with them. It is just a different place than someone enjoying the game but not enough that they're okay with it doing anything to keep going.

    I've heard enough echo my opinion on Persona 5's last stretch to know it isn't some crazy opinion that they stretched it out way too much right at the end. Even if I counted, not from defeating the big bad the story built up, but from the end of the last dungeon, it was still painful how crazy they stretched out the goodbyes of the characters in that game. Emotional farewells are great and all, but we needed some Oscar music to make them wrap it up, because you got the point ages before they let the credits finally roll. I don't think I've ever seen any other game drag out it's ending like Persona 5 did, and that's not even hyperbole. I literally can't think of an example of a game as guilty of that. Even Metal Gear Solid 4, with the abundance of cutscenes, seemed quicker to wrap up, and that game had excuses for taking it's time that a game like Persona 5 simply did not.



  • @mbun I would comment more on how that ending really dives into similar endings the entire series (and SMT as a whole) has and also specifically touched on the themes the entire game was building up to... but as you said, I'm just a fanboy with bias so I guess there's no point. :D



  • @sabotagethetruth I just mean it isn't worth arguing over. You're going to enjoy it how it is. But in response to your counter, I don't think sticking to conventions of the franchise excuses it either, and that still doesn't explain why the goodbyes at the end take so long.



  • @mbun I think in a thread dedicated to the length of games, it's fair to hear opinions from both sides - and while it's off-topic, I don't personally discount the opinion of someone because they enjoy something. Damiani is the biggest Zelda fan I know but that also makes him pretty critical of the series because of how much knowledge he has coming in. You know a lot about Pokemon, that doesn't mean you excuse every problem the series has. I love Persona and will gladly call it out when it has problems (ie. downgrading Ann's rape to just "harassment) but I wasn't tired of the game at all at the end like I was with P4.

    Why should the ending speed up because the last boss is killed? That wouldn't match the pace of the rest of the game, which although it is faster to get you into the thick of things than the previous two entries, is still very slow and methodical due to the amount of character building involved. The game itself is very deliberate so it seems odd to point out just one section as too drawn out, especially a section that is literally wrapping up all loose ends. A rushed/truncated ending would be a disservice to all the character/world-building the game had worked on up to that point. I know people joke about the ending to the last Lord of the Rings movie as going on for awhile, but those films took us on a journey - why should we have questions left burning inside when everything could be explained if we're patient?



  • I mean, if the thread is about "whats the sweet spot for game length" I'd say its fair to criticize Persona 5's length. I think it dragged waaaay to much at the end.



  • @dipset Of course you're free to do so, and I'm free to say why I disagree. I just didn't appreciate having my opinion invalidated because I'm a "fanboy".



  • I think a game like Zelda BoTW has perfect game length in that it is completely decided by the player. I beat the game in around 130 hours, but I know someone who beat it in 12. It pretty much gives you a goal, the tools to reach it, and just says "go."

    That's not to discount games with a certain length, I just appreciate how fluid Zelda's is.



  • I rarely enjoy a single player game that is longer than 60 hours. After that point I just find myself wondering how much more time I have to sink into a game to finish it. When it comes to what length is optimal I think it really depends on genre. My favorite RPGs & open world games are usually around 40 hours long, they also have significant progression throughout most of the game. A lot of those RPG's & open world games that I enjoy less have you playing with pretty much the same tools for the latter third of the game, which can get kinda stale. The roguelikes that I enjoy the most are around 24 hours, with each session/life being less than 2 hours. I also really enjoy playing a game that can be beaten in one session. Games like Minit, SUPERHOT, What Remains of Edith Finch, and Clustertruck all hit that 2-4 hour single session sweet spot.