Monday, December 21, 2009

In Excess

Usually, when you eat something really good, you almost feel sorry you're eating the last bite because it was so good you could indulge some more. But sometimes, you'll get something awesome yet as you get closer to the end, and while it's still good as it was when you first started, you just don't enjoy it as much. In fact, you actually start thinking it's good but it needs to end. That's when you know you had too much and as the saying goes, too much of a good thing can definitely be a bad thing.

What got me writing this? The latest game I've been playing: Dragon Age. For any RPG fan, that game is seriously bad ass. I cannot remember the last time I've so thoroughly enjoyed a game. And I mean the "counting the work hours left before I can go back home to resume my game" enjoyable. The story was awesome, the characters were fantastic, the world looked gorgeous, the gameplay, UI, enemy AI, you name it, got a big fat thumbs up from me. Obviously, the game had some flaws, but compared to its successes, they barely qualify as footnotes.

The problem? The game is extremely long. So long in fact that at some point, after completing a main quest segment when another quest chapter opened, I thought "are you serious?" I didn't know whether to be thrilled or annoyed because I was ready for dessert. There were just a few too many courses to that meal and my tummy was rather full at that point. Not only were there many chapters, but most of them were very long as well and had extensive literature.

It's somewhat strange to be complaining that I got too much for my money. But that game clearly displayed to me one of the things I struggle with the most as a designer (and even as a blogger!): moderation. How long should an event be? How many rewards should you give? How much text/journal/dialogs is needed for the players to they really understand what's going on? This is especially challenging with chain quests. I know players don't want to stop every 5 minutes to read a novel. So putting out journals and scrolls that give clues and some of the background story is difficult. It has to give enough but not be so long that players go "argh!" every time they stumble on a new journal.

The same is true with monsters. How many monsters should a player grind through before they reach their destination? If your goal is to simply fight a boss, do you really need to systematically walk through miles and miles of dungeon slaying various levels of mobs to reach him? Reaching a boss should be difficult but there are other ways which do not need to be a grind.

In the end, I much rather get too much than feel ripped off, but just enough is always best! The fact is there is A LOT of journals and books and what not to read in that game. It breaks the rythm, so in that sense I found it annoying and often just skipped right through a lot of it. But after I finished the game, I went back and started reading them and they are honestly worth it.

That said, I've had players complain some of my events were too long (the Death of the Council was one prime example). Yet I thought the length was just perfect and quite a few players felt the same as well. I guess it just goes to show that we don't all have the same appetite!


Stupid Miner said...

... like casting Wildfire 12,000 times and not being even at 90 Weaving yet. ;-)

Stupid Miner said...

The Treasures of Tokuno 3 event was a good example of this, just about everyone had what they needed from the first two, and most of the items were outdated. Which is why the ToT Majors sell for around 500k or less (cheap).
A bit harder to get, a bit more challenging to farm, and something to distract the players from the inherent grind, will go a long way in keeping people's interest.
Keep up the good work! :-)

Viquire said...

One of my favorite events to date was the Candle of Love quest chain. It was deeply gratifying to me to see some of my earliest memories of Ultima make it into the game I play with so many others. It not only allowed me to have a keepsake in game from formulative experiences that brought me to purchase my first copy of UO when I saw it on the shelf, it also allowed me to share the stories and importance of Ultima lore with people I was playing with that had no real understanding of the virtues and principles.

Quite a few complained about the spawn at the shires and how it worked, and they had valid points. It certainly would have been difficult to live amidst monsters that teleported into your house. I still would have liked to see this type of event replicated for the Bell of Courage and the Book of Truth. Iconic items like these in lore and with no real game altering abilities (but maybe a special trick or purpose) are very fun for folks who want real depth to the gaming experience.

The great thing about UO however, is that because of the nature of the experience, you are free to put aside lengthy quests and find other activities to fill the time and you are not severely disadvantaged. Things are not set up in a linear fashion so that in order to do any one activity you must first pursue this other activity to finish, and so on in order until you have exhausted the content of the game. Choices are good, in fact, they are great!
Just sayin'.

jeff sidlow said...

Sakkarah, this is Myner/Allanon from Atlantic shard back in 98. Had a house next to you for a few years. Been looking for you in game since i came back about 23 months ago. i hope you remember me. btw, the houses i'm talking about were along the mountains west of Trinsic. i've thought about you alot since i came back to UO and nobody remembers knowing you so i thought i'd do a search for your name. glad to see you're still involved. your friend, jeff (Myner, now Ryelkin,Frack,Braidon,Ja'ahl,Shaherrizzad & Ryelka) Still on Atlantic
hope to hear from you ma cherie