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April 16, 2005

Comments

Zack Hiwiller

I haven't played through Spider-Man 2 (yet), but I watched my hallmate play through it. I don't think that the barrier to people finishing it was that it was boring or broken, but that there was so much side stuff available to do at any given time. People are only going to be interested in your game for so long, no matter how compelling it is. If they really enjoy the races, they may spend hours and hours trying to beat all of them. By time they are satisfied with their race progress, they may be Spider-Man'ed out and forego playing through story mode.

People will buy the sequel ignoring what happened in the previous iteration's story mode if they had enough fun with the non-story elements in the previous game, I believe. That's not neccessarily a terrible thing - but I suppose it can be frustrating if you spent the majority of your time hammering out story mode and players end up foregoing it for Pizza Delivery.

Patrick

I think I beat 1 in 10 of the games I buy for my own enjoyment, and 1 in 20 or 30 of the total games I buy (I pick up alot for research purposes). For action-adventure games, if I wasn't compelled to complete the previous game I probably won't pick up the sequel or expansion pack. This has less to do with storyline and more to do with me not enjoying the game enough to see it through. I can’t think of a game that got too hard for me to not complete. If I *want* to complete a game, then I’ll find a FAQ and see it through.

For example, I really enjoyed GTA3, and did every single mission, and played it to the end. Vice City pissed me off very early (in terms of design decisions), so I never completed it. As such there was no need for me to pick up San Andreas.

But there are some genres that I’ll buy sequels for even if I don’t finish the original game. This goes for games with a strong multiplayer component, or round-based games like fighting games and racing games. Even if I don’t unlock every single vehicle or fighter or track or arena, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel like I got my money’s worth.

One game that I really enjoyed a ton but didn’t complete was Warcraft 3. I just spent more time playing multiplayer than the campaign, so I also picked up the expansion when it came out. Same goes for Battlefield 1942 and its expansions. (But the idea of Battlefield Vietnam never did anything for me.)

I wouldn’t feel bad about the percentages you’re getting. As Zach points out, SM2’s side-quests might have been enough for the player to get his money’s worth, and still be hungry for more in a sequel.

If anything your survey results sound high to me. My guess (and this is purely a guess) is that people are not being truthful in these surveys. If the survey is on the Activision website, or part of an Activision-survey, then players will want to brag to you about their skills. Until someone has in-game completion monitoring, we’ll never really know how far players get in games.

zachary.

I still haven't played through all of Spider-Man: The Movie: The Sequel: The Game: The Sequel To The Game For The Movie Sequel: Electric Boogaloo either :(
I did, however, play and finish Spider-Man: The Movie: The Game.
As an aside, Martin (depicted here: http://timedoctor.org/gimps/?RollID=byzakk&FrameID=irish_ho_down and here: http://timedoctor.org/gimps/?RollID=byzakk&FrameID=stalin-martin), has promised me a copy of Kelly Slater: Pro Surfer. As a fellow Slater, I demand my copy or else royalties to the tune of one psp per copy sold. So that should be one and a half psps, pony up, fat man!

Dan Olson

If people are anything like me, then they'll often get sequels regardless of whether or not they've finished a game... assuming they enjoyed the parts they did play.

I've bought and played 4 to 30 hours into about 18 Square games even though I've only finished one. This is just an example, but it helps that there is no continuity between Square's RPGs typically.

I guess the answer to this dilema was figured out by cheesy sitcoms years ago: put a recap at the beginning so that people who missed the first installment don't miss any necessary continuity. In a game, I'd hope it would be more subtle than the collection of clips typically used for sitcoms, and a little more thoughtful than the stupid DVD that shipped with Shenmue 2's XBox version... a good idea executed poorly.

I only played SM2 for a few minutes while visiting some friends at Treyarch, but it was obvious to me even from that little bit of playing that it was a much better game than its predecessor. It seemed like SM2 had terrific word-of-mouth, and I bet continued improvements in gameplay for the next iteration will keep people happy.

PaG

I good follow-up question to ask in a future survey would be "Why didn't you finish the game?" with choices like "It got too hard", "I got bored", "I started playing another game", etc. If many people don't finish games, I'd like to know why...

Zonk

A possible reason (I know the reason a friend of mine didn't finish the game) is that they uh, know the ending of the movie. I know that movie != the game, but once they'd had their fill of the sidequests and webswinging they figured there was no reason to finish out they story because they'd already seen it on screen.

Despayre

If I had to guess, I probably finish 5-10% of the games I get and that's probably on the high side. The primary reason is just because I am a total game-aholic and want to try anything I can get my grubby little hands on.

Usually, if I do finish a game it's because I will go back to it a year or two after putting it down just so I can get that nagging feeling off my back. The last game I think I played straight through from start to finish without stopping for more than a few days at a time was Planescape:Torment when it came out.

Of course, it also depends what type of game it is. If it's a driving game I guarantee I will never get 100% in any of those, but a good strategy game like Crusader Kings will keep me enthralled for years after it's release and I will play those games over and over just because I know the systems and every game feels different, unlike most script driven games.

Jeffool

I finished Spider-Man 2, but I'm someone who doesn't want to start a game unless I'm going to be able to finish it. (I'm the same way with movies, I hate having to pause or stop one.) What this really does is keep me from playing a lot of games that I otherwise would likely rent and play a few hours of. And if anything, I'm completely with Patrick in his guessing that your results probably had a share of false positives. What would likely be better would be a study asking about multiple games from multiple studios/publishers where yours is worked in. For instance, Halo 2, Spider-Man 2, and Splinter Cell. Ask players who have played all three to participate, if they've finished and why? (To 'conquer' the game, to see the end of the story, to see if they got anything special, whatever.)

Robert 'Groby' Blum

I'll repeat a point I've made a gazillion times (so ignore me - you've heard it before ;)


Games are *too long*. Don't listen to the hardcore freaks that want 100 hours of replay value. The fundamental mechanics of all games are boring and repetitive. If you keep me doing them for more than 8-10 hours, I'll put the game down - and so do lots of casual gamers. "More of the same" is still the same. It's boring.

The only way you could possibly capture players for longer is if you provided a compelling story line, or new mechanics along the way - I've yet to see any game with a compelling story line. (And *please* don't say HL2)

The same goes for novels - if you have to read it for more than 8 hours, and hour 8-16 are really a repeat of what you read before, it's not worth it.

Note to game designers: As opposed to most people in the industry, many game players do have something called a "life". We like to get back to it and not spend all our free time on a single diversion.

Patrick

Just wanted to say that both Zonk and Groby have excellent points. :-)

RodeoClown

Are the people being questioned aware that the storyline section of the game doesn't include the races, hint markers and so-on?

I know everyone here knows what the storyline part of the game is, but does everyone answering the survey?

I know I finished the storyline and wanted to hear Bruce Campbell say something different on every hint marker once I collected them all (how did I NOT see that one coming... great gag btw - even my wife laughed), I've collected a bunch of stuff, but once I heard that there is no reward for collecting EVERYTHING I kinda stopped trying. Occasionally I'll bring the game out and have a swing around (you guys really nailed that part!), but I don't really have much incentive to collect everything else.

I've finished the storyline component of every game I've ever bought (save Mario Party 5... though it doesn't really count in my opinion), but that's because as Iwas growing up I never had much money so I made things last. Ican't understand people buying a game then just stopping playing it... too much disposable income I guess :S

jvalenzu

Damn! That's a real indictment considering the fact that SM2 only has 4.5 hours of story-based gameplay.

Ben

I'm one of the people who didn't finish Spider Man 2.

The web swinging was fun but I got fed up with having to fulfill targets before moving on. The idea of doing this was fine but there wasn't enough varition between the challenges. They were basically one of three or four different tasks and these got boring very quickly. I wanted to get on with the story and forget about these side tasks.

I had no problem with them being there but being forced to play them was daft. Just making them optional so that people who want to save the citizens can, and people who want to finish the story can. Maybe there should have been a bonus for resuing people eg 'Thanks for rescuing me spiderman, have a cookie (health bonus)' ... I'm sure you can come up with something better though :)

As a side note I found it hard to navigate the environment. Not in terms of controls (they were really cool) but in terms of constantly getting lost and having to bring the map back every ten seconds to work out where I am.

I'll echo what Robert said above as well - my favorite games of recent times (The first Prince of Persia & Beyond Good and Evil) have been easily completeable within 10 hours. They probably stand out as favorites partly because I could complete them, on top of the fact that they were very good games.

Anyway - is this some sort of subtle market research for the next Spider Man game ...? :D

GBGames

I have every Wizardry title. I haven't beaten any of them. Some I haven't played much at all.

Zack Hiwiller

Come on, Groby. Do you really think people who don't buy games now would come out in droves just to pay _fifty dollars_ a game that was compelling for eight hours?

Most of the casual gamers I know play Madden (or NCAA Football) and GTA. These are games that adapt to their playing style. They want games they can dick around in. Give them Ico and see if they are as pleased.

Jamie Fristrom

Groby's on to something. I always thought that even though I wanted shorter games, our teenaged market had a lot of disposable time on their hands and demanded the forty hours of repetitive repitition. One thing I've just learned - the sweet spot in the console market is not teenagers but 18-24. My amount of free time decreased dramatically once I hit college, so maybe demand for shorter games will increase.

As for the fifty dollars thing - people came out in droves for a lot of eight hour games. It seems reasonable to me: if you're going to shell out $20 for a 2 hour DVD, why not $50 for an 8 hour game?


Despayre

It's a lot easier to justify 20 bucks over 50 bucks, especially for the 18-24 market...How many college kids did you know that had extra money to burn on anything other than the neccessary beer binges?

And, if you know it's a movie you want to watch over and over, you can easily put more than 10 hours into a dvd...and you can be reasonable sure you'll finish the movie at least once :)

Patrick

"It seems reasonable to me: if you're going to shell out $20 for a 2 hour DVD, why not $50 for an 8 hour game?"

Amen to that, brother.

Jeffool

Well counting commentary and deleted scenes/other extras I'd say 5 hours for $20. Just to round things off. Of course, I pine for the day we'll have a five hour game that I'd rather play than watch any movie, but that's just me. And in many games even if the narrative doesn't change, the gameplay does. (Not so much in Spider-Man, but say Morrowind where you can be different characters.)

Zack Hiwiller

My problem here is that short games imply limited worlds.

Why go to the trouble of creating a rich virtual world if you aren't going to fill it to the brim with things to do? If you aren't going to fill your game with content, why not just make a static, linear virtual world where the game commands what the player will do instead of vice versa? If you don't fill the world, you are left feeling like it is empty, so you must limit the scope of the world to the depth of your content.

It just seems far less interesting.

jane

maybe i can suggest a different way of thinking about it--a game is NOT a movie, or a novel, not really; the story is not, usually, the aspect that is the most engaging or the most interesting. it's tough when your ego is bound up in wanting to convey a complete narrative to an audience, but maybe you should let that go, in some cases. it's all about the play. do we really need to finish a game to feel that we've had a good, fulfilling experience? i didn't finish Spider-Man; i liked it. i thought Spider-Man 2 was even better, but i didn't finish that either. and yet i wouldn't say that it was because of any flaw in the game. it's just the way i play. i can count the number of games i've actually finished on one hand...and i've played a LOT of games over the course of the last 20 years!

so don't let that 45% get you down. they're still having fun. in their own ways.

Anne

I strongly disagree with the idea that the narrative is of lesser importance in a game.

The elusive, addictive quality of gaming lies in the level of immersion a player can achieve in the game. That's story . . . and that's why I have a kid who not only plays his games from start to finish, but also plays them out in "real life," too.

People don't finish games for a variety of reasons. Time is the usual reason. I am currently not finishing 4 games that I am completely enchanted with and am recommending to everyone. Eventually I will get to them. Maybe. Hopefully.

The other problem is that something new is always coming out, on one platform or another.

Again, that cuts into time.

Robert 'Groby' Blum

Zack: My beliefs don't really matter that much. Point of fact is, people complain games are too long - what's keeping us from trying shorter games? Instead of, for example, traversing the same room about threehundred times? (I'm looking at you, Halo!)

Lots of games that were successes packed a compelling mechanic into a relatively short time frame - see Max Payne & Spiderman, for example.

What's keeping us from selling a shorter game for less money, if we think that's the problem?

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The Games

  • Energy Hook
    3D grappling-and-swinging-and-running-on-walls-and-doing-tricks ... with a jetpack ... for style!

Jamie's Bragging Rights

  • Spider-Man 2
    The best superhero games of all time Game Informer
    Top five games of all time Yahtzee Croshaw
    Top five superhero games of all time MSNBC
    Top 100 PS2 games of all time Official Playstation 2 Magazine
    1001 Games You Must Play Before You Die Nomination for Excellence in Gameplay Engineering Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences
  • Schizoid
    Penny Arcade PAX 10 Award
    Nominated for XBLA Best Original Game
    Nominated for XBLA Best Co-Op Game