Sunday, November 05, 2023
Game length vs. fun time
I you look at a website like How Long to Beat, it will tell you how long it takes on average to play through the end in any given video game, depending on whether you just do the main story or do a lot of side content. What that doesn't tell you, is how long a game is fun for, because that is obviously a much more subjective number. Now in an ideal world the game length is about the same as the fun time. In the real world, it often isn't.
The easier case is if a game is fun for longer than it takes you to play it. Especially if it is a strategy game, like Civilization, where you can simply start over on a new map with a different civilization. But that kind of game is a bit old school, and most modern games have a main story to them. And then it gets kind of annoying if you are only half way through the game and the fun runs out. Do you press on, and play a game that isn't really entertaining you well anymore? Or do you stop playing, never getting to see the end of the story? Do you leave the game installed on your computer, promising to "finish it later", which you will never do?
I had this experience with The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria. This is a game that has some fun elements to it, especially if you are a fan of the LotR setting, and haven't played too many other survival crafting games already. But it certainly isn't a great game, and has some rather obvious flaws. And so, somewhere in Dwarrowdelf, the last-but-one zone of the game, I ran out of fun. The latter part of the game feels a bit like they ran out of budget, and constructed the last zones out of a mix of empty and previously used tiles. So, what should I do?
I realized that the reason Return to Moria takes rather long is the game loop of going out to explore, and returning when inevitably you health runs low and your inventory is full. It's a constant back and forth, returning to base during the night, either by running back, or by teleporting back. Which is a bit easier with the latest patch, that increased the drop rate for the Black Diamonds that are needed to build mapstone teleporters. But if you didn't run out of health, and didn't collect everything, you could skip that back and forth, and progress significantly faster in the story. So I used WeMod to basically turn god mode on, with infinite health. And using that, I rushed the last two zones, killed the final boss and got to the end-of-game cutscene. It's cheating, but it makes it easier for me to now uninstall the game and be done with it.