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Duration and Value

Image By Flickr user: Leon Terra (cc)

At the time of this writing, details on “The Order: 1886” have just been leaked on YouTube, and most of the discussion going on about the game is centered around its length; currently rumored to be between 3 and 5.5 hours. By posting time (Sunday), the reviews will have been out for a couple of days and plenty of eager player will have gotten to experience the game first hand. Until then, we’ll be talking about the supposed shortness of the game and will be resisting the urge to judge the game based on it’s length. Should we though?

At $60 each, buying games isn’t exactly cheap. So we as players are always on the lookout for those games that look like they’ll be worthy of that kind of cost of entry. Many of us feel that the more ‘game’ we get for our dollar, the better that same dollar has been spent. So when a highly anticipated game like The Order: 1886 is rumored to be much shorter than your average game, it’s understandable that its value would be called into question. This is a triple-A game after all. One would think that a developer with the time, manpower, and publisher support enough to make such a game would at least be able to hit the 12-hour mark that most major games manage to achieve. If The Order is not in fact hitting that mark, then we can’t help but wonder; not just if there’s something wrong with the game that’s caused it to be so short, but whether or not a short game in this modern generation is even worth buying. Is it? Well, I’d say it depends.

I can’t help but think back to many of the games I enjoyed back in the early days of my time as a gamer. Games like Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Super Mario 64 were probably among the most notable of them (I say among because there are sooo many more excellent games from that time!). Compared to many if not most games to be released in the following generations, these are all on the relatively short side. In fact, someone who knows what they’re doing could easily beat any of them in a few hours. Yet, in their case the length doesn’t matter. Of course it’s an attitude that could be attributed to simply writing off the length as a product of the times. Games were much more limited in the early- to mid-90’s than they are in 2015. Still I don’t think that’s quite it. Each of the games I listed aren’t just considered good, they’re held up as classics, as some of the finest games ever produced! If we collectively had an attitude of forgiving them for their length, I doubt they would be enjoyed such lofty status and praise in this day and age. No, there’s something else about them that sets them as a cut above the rest; and I believe that that something is the sense that they achieved their goals.

Each of these games can be considered relatively short, even compared to other games of their time like Chrono Trigger or even Super Metroid. Yet for those that have played them, their short length doesn’t register as much of an issue. I think that this is because games like Super Mario World achieve exactly what they set out to do. They offer a solid experience for the duration of our time with them, and while we often wouldn’t say no to more, their conclusion still leaves us feeling like it was time (and money) well spent.

A short game need not necessarily be bad, it’s really just a matter of whether or not it achieves its goals. If it does, chances are we’ll want to hang onto it and share the fun. If it doesn’t…well we all know how that goes don’t we? Will The Order: 1886 be good even if it is on the short side? Well, I don’t know…I suppose that remains to be seen. What I don know is that until it’s released, a relatively short play time doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

What’s your take on The Order:1886? If you’ve played it, what are your impressions of it? How does length factor into your opinion of a game?

5 thoughts on “Duration and Value”

    1. Funny how that happens right? Equating time to value makes sense, since time vs. cost is an easy relation to make. Play long enough though and gradually it becomes how much is packed into each hour rather than just how many hours are there.

  1. Ten years ago, my answer to the question of “How does length factor into your opinion of a game?” would have been a very indignant, “I”m not playing $60 for a 10 hour game. That’s ridiculous because it’s just not worth it!” Now…well, I have to admit that I’m still a bit of a cheapskate, but it’s not worth my time to hem and haw over game length as it relates to game cost. (Because I need that time to play! :) ) I’ve read from players that The Order:1886 is great, despite mixed reviews, and if it was a game that I *really* wanted to play, I doubt I’d have any trouble spending my money on it. But it’s also easier for the older me to see the value in 5 hours of exceptional and solid gameplay over 25 hours of filler. The younger me was too caught up in the whole “but I’m not getting my money’s worth!” scheme and would play games to the point of depletion. Now, I’d simply rather have memorable gaming experiences generally.

    1. I think the tricky part about being an older gamer is figuring out what’s actually valuable in a game. To a younger player with time to burn and little experience, value would definitely be found in length. Have them play long enough to know whats what in games and put a limit on that time though, suddenly value becomes something else entirely.

      It’s definitely in the experience to be sure, but just what about that experience makes it valuable becomes the real question.

  2. I actually thought Super Mario 64 and A Link to the Past were fairly long. I like games where you have a lot to explore, and if you want to prolong it, there is plenty of extras to do. It feels like many games are just getting shorter and shorter lately, on the most part. For RPG’s, I suppose they were pretty short back in the day, and they are way longer nowadays, but I think in general, most games are just getting too short, and yet they cost more than ever. I just really don’t like spending $60 on a few hours. I paid $50 for Skyward Sword, yet it took me a good month and a half to finish (I remember because I started it on New Year’s and beat it on Valentine’s Day). Then there are $60 games that take five hours. That really doesn’t seem worth it, no matter how good it is.

    It’s been disappointing Ratchet and Clank games have been so short lately, but at least the price is reduced. $30 is still a bit much for 5-10 hours, but it’s better than $60 for 3-5 hours. Someday, I worry I won’t be able to afford games anymore, but at least I have a nice collection already…. Sniff.

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