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!