Dinocorpshunter4

How unrealistic would the creation of a long linear story driven narrative game be?

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Not sure if I have this in the right category so if it is wrong, forgive me. Now let me elaborate. Look at games like Elder Scrolls, Dragon Age, GTA, or Fallout.  Each one can give 200+ hours of gameplay and story through tons of quests. But then when you look at linear games( i.e. one path, set story, little to no backtracking, cut scenes) you'd be lucky to hit 20 hours. For example, Halo, Uncharted, The Last of Us, etc. Don't these games take less effort to create in many aspects?  Even Half Life 2 which is considered a long FPS is only around 20 hours( For my play through). Persona 5 and games like that kinda cheat since they use the same 5 areas for the entirety of the game besides palaces and mementos(still great games). I mean a game where you travel from point A to B to C and so on. Let me make an analogy.  Imagine playing Halo: Combat Evolved. You get to the end and you think "wow that was fun". But instead of it ending it was merely the first act. Then what would have been the Halo 2 campaign was the second act. Then the Halo 3 campaign is the final act. You know, a 60+ hour long experience. Look all the time and resources put into GTA V. If one were to put all that to such a linear game, couldn't such a result happen? 

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It's about resources and risk mitigation. It's better to finish and release one "act" at a time and use the money for working on the next one. If you have something that makes people think "wow that was fun", why wouldn't you just ship it? And working on multiple acts in parallel is out of the question, it just increases the money spent on a project that may or may not sell.

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1 hour ago, kolrabi said:

It's about resources and risk mitigation. It's better to finish and release one "act" at a time and use the money for working on the next one. If you have something that makes people think "wow that was fun", why wouldn't you just ship it? And working on multiple acts in parallel is out of the question, it just increases the money spent on a project that may or may not sell.

But would the resources used to create a game with parallel acts be more demanding than a game like GTA V? And I understand its a business but why not ever try to go beyond just letting someone have fun and instead provide an experience that you typically don't get with linear games. And you can actually then move on to a new story line as well, since you didn't split up the "acts". Would it really be that risky? Isn't it the same amount of risk and used resources as say a new ip open world game that took 5 years to make? 

 

Edited by Dinocorpshunter4

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Comparing to GTA V is a bad idea. Most developers do not have that level of resources, nor can they expect to sell that many copies. When asking if it is more expensive than "a new ip open world game that took 5 years to make" you're literally asking "why aren't there more games like the absolutely most expensive games that already exist". And the answer there is that money is a limited quantity.

"why not ever try to go beyond just letting someone have fun" - that makes it sound like game developers don't ever try to do the best they can, which is silly.

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7 minutes ago, Kylotan said:

Comparing to GTA V is a bad idea. Most developers do not have that level of resources, nor can they expect to sell that many copies. When asking if it is more expensive than "a new ip open world game that took 5 years to make" you're literally asking "why aren't there more games like the absolutely most expensive games that already exist". And the answer there is that money is a limited quantity.

"why not ever try to go beyond just letting someone have fun" - that makes it sound like game developers don't ever try to do the best they can, which is silly.

Sorry if it came off that way. Allow me to reiterate. I understand that many game devs really do try to give players an experience beyond just fun. The Last of us I feel is a good example.  But even with that considered, nearly all games like that rarely give you more than 25 or more hours. Halo , Half Life , Killzone, Bioshock  etc,. all generally last around the same time. And yea, the comparison may not have been best given the circumstances, but I was simply wondering why such a game has never been made. I not asking "why aren't there more games like the absolutely most expensive games that already exist?". I'm simply asking why there isn't any linear narrative driven games that have anywhere near as large an amount of play time relative to games like Fallout New Vegas  for example.  I'm not expecting a 5000+ hour campaign. I'm just asking why we hardly see such games even hit the 35 hour mark. And of course, Quality> Quantity, but I hope you understand what I'm trying to say. Imagine that Half Life 2 is the game equivalent of the novel Time-Like Infinity. Around 253 pages.  How difficult would making a game equivalent to the novel The Naked God be? 1,174 pages, still high quality. 

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Linear narrative is expensive to make, when measured as "hours of play relative to days of development", because the content is not reusable. Given that the amount of revenue you can take is somewhat proportional to how many hours of fun a player thinks they are likely to get, it's not practical to fund development of a game that has a lot of content that will only be enjoyed once per player. When you see a linear game that gives you 10, 20, 25 hours of time, that's because it takes the whole duration of a game project to make that much good unique content.

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Just now, Kylotan said:

Linear narrative is expensive to make, when measured as "hours of play relative to days of development", because the content is not reusable. Given that the amount of revenue you can take is somewhat proportional to how many hours of fun a player thinks they are likely to get, it's not practical to fund development of a game that has a lot of content that will only be enjoyed once per player. When you see a linear game that gives you 10, 20, 25 hours of time, that's because it takes the whole duration of a game project to make that much good unique content.

But doesn't that really depend on the developer? Given that aside, will such a game be generally forever out the question or it will ever be possible in the future as game development becomes easier?

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9 minutes ago, Kylotan said:

I don't see how the developer is relevant really.

I'd argue that AAA game development is getting harder, not easier.

Can you elaborate, if you don't mind me asking? Sorry, I'm sure I must be coming off as pretty ignorant right now.

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Even a great developer will still get more hours of player fun in a game where the player can re-use the content than in a game where the player cannot re-use the content. Reusable content gives more hours of enjoyment than linear content of equivalent quality. So that part doesn't depend on the developer.

As for development, it seems clear that budgets and team sizes are having to grow and that the complexity of it all is going up. That's a massive topic in itself though.

 

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Just now, Kylotan said:

Even a great developer will still get more hours of player fun in a game where the player can re-use the content than in a game where the player cannot re-use the content. Reusable content gives more hours of enjoyment than linear content of equivalent quality. So that part doesn't depend on the developer.

As for development, it seems clear that budgets and team sizes are having to grow and that the complexity of it all is going up. That's a massive topic in itself though.

 

I see. So the kind of game I'm proposing is too ambitious and not practical then? I guess I can accept that. But will there ever be hope of anyone doing it even if it's not practical? Such things do happen many times in other industries like the movie industry. Avatar was quite ambitious and payed off immensely.  Then again you do have failures like Valerian. If only entertainment didn't have to be constrained by profit. 

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5 hours ago, Dinocorpshunter4 said:

I see. So the kind of game I'm proposing is too ambitious and not practical then? I guess I can accept that. But will there ever be hope of anyone doing it even if it's not practical? Such things do happen many times in other industries like the movie industry. Avatar was quite ambitious and payed off immensely.  Then again you do have failures like Valerian. If only entertainment didn't have to be constrained by profit. 

I think it may be more accurate to see it constrained by cost rather than by profit. The reason for this distinction is that there are lots of artists who do what they do purely for the love of the art.

However, everyone has limited time and will have to end a project at some point. But yes, for artists who are running businesses they do need to ensure that profits exceed the costs.

 

Another point about the re-use of content being more cost-effective. This isn't just because more content does not have to be made. Another issue is that while making games a lot is being iterated and thrown out if it turns out it doesn't match the design. So, if you are making a 60 hour linear game and part way through development you realise that the content around hours 40-50 isn't fun, it could impact how that's made, the story and therefore the deadlines and budgeting etc.

 

Finally, there is a statistic (I can't remember the exact details of this), but it goes something like "only 10% of people finish a given game". This is VERY dependent on the game, so take that with a pinch of salt. But if you browse earned achievements for games and look up how many earned the 'finished' the game achievement you'll see it tends to be around that value. This tends to be why games tend be front-loaded with content.

 

However, there is always room for new games to break the mould :) 

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That and many games, unless they were to add drastic amounts of new content, would cease to be fun.  Take your Halo example.  Fighting the same three or four alien types over a course of a 15 hour adventure.  Okay.  Fighting the same three or four alien types over a 60 hour adventure, that's a boring slog.  

Also, if a developer / publisher can already get millions to buy a game with an 8 hour single player campaign, I'm not sure what the incentive is to make that campaign 10 times as long?  That's what DLC is for.  It's less upfront risk, more reward.

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18 hours ago, Dinocorpshunter4 said:

or Fallout.  Each one can give 200+ hours of gameplay

It is all about re-use of content.

Did you know that in Fallout 4 any screen where you can see more than 10 meters has 2 copies of an object? Just look at any screenshot from a Fallout 4 game. There will always be at least 2 3D models that are the same.

 

A linear game needs more set pieces because it will have less repeating parts. So half the content will only be seen once.

15 hours ago, Dinocorpshunter4 said:

How difficult would making a game equivalent to the novel The Naked God be? 1,174 pages, still high quality. 

For a story driven game like Halo it takes a AAA team +/ 600 people over 2-3 Years to make a game that lasts 25 hours.

So to make a game that is 100 hours long it would take more than 8-12 years for a team of over 600 people. Yet that won't happen because the changes in game technology would be to extreme for such a game to be possible.

The word next gen means just that, it's art made for a game that will be released 2-3 years later.

 

So unrealistically all you would need to do is form a team of 2400 people to make a 100 hour long game. If you payed them only $1200 per month that is +/- $10800 per person each year just so they don't starve while working for you(A month with no food will kill them, something a lot of revshare games forget).

$10800 * 2400 = $25 920 000 * 3 = $77 760 000.

So if you had 2400 professionals willing to work for minimum wage and around eighty million dollars. You could make a game that lasts 100 hours and then players will complain about how money grabby you are because you are trying to make back the eighty million dollars you spend making the game.

14 hours ago, Dinocorpshunter4 said:

If only entertainment didn't have to be constrained by profit. 

Yes if only humans didn't need to eat and could all live outside in the cold, that would indeed cut production costs.

Without profit there is no money for a next game. People won't work on your game that takes years to make if you can't keep them alive for that time.

That is why so many AAA companies died out and there is so few left, making a game is a billion dollar gamble for most AAA companies.

16 hours ago, Dinocorpshunter4 said:

But would the resources used to create a game with parallel acts be more demanding than a game like GTA V?

Yes but it's a lot faster, it also allows the game to pay for it's own development.

 

If you plan on making a linear game focus on the story and telling it to the player. Don't try something grand, just get your point across to the player.

Journey is a realistic look at what a small team can do.

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16 hours ago, Dinocorpshunter4 said:

Halo

Destiny is a pretty good example of how this works in practice. It's more-or-less a rebranded Halo, with the same 15 hours of content on endless cookie-cutter repeat.

You can play it for 100+ hours, but you'll be pretty burned out by the end of it.

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1 hour ago, Scouting Ninja said:

It is all about re-use of content.

Did you know that in Fallout 4 any screen where you can see more than 10 meters has 2 copies of an object? Just look at any screenshot from a Fallout 4 game. There will always be at least 2 3D models that are the same.

 

A linear game needs more set pieces because it will have less repeating parts. So half the content will only be seen once.

For a story driven game like Halo it takes a AAA team +/ 600 people over 2-3 Years to make a game that lasts 25 hours.

So to make a game that is 100 hours long it would take more than 8-12 years for a team of over 600 people. Yet that won't happen because the changes in game technology would be to extreme for such a game to be possible.

The word next gen means just that, it's art made for a game that will be released 2-3 years later.

 

So unrealistically all you would need to do is form a team of 2400 people to make a 100 hour long game. If you payed them only $1200 per month that is +/- $10800 per person each year just so they don't starve while working for you(A month with no food will kill them, something a lot of revshare games forget).

$10800 * 2400 = $25 920 000 * 3 = $77 760 000.

So if you had 2400 professionals willing to work for minimum wage and around eighty million dollars. You could make a game that lasts 100 hours and then players will complain about how money grabby you are because you are trying to make back the eighty million dollars you spend making the game.

Yes if only humans didn't need to eat and could all live outside in the cold, that would indeed cut production costs.

Without profit there is no money for a next game. People won't work on your game that takes years to make if you can't keep them alive for that time.

That is why so many AAA companies died out and there is so few left, making a game is a billion dollar gamble for most AAA companies.

Yes but it's a lot faster, it also allows the game to pay for it's own development.

 

If you plan on making a linear game focus on the story and telling it to the player. Don't try something grand, just get your point across to the player.

Journey is a realistic look at what a small team can do.

The "If only entertainment didn't need to be constrained by profit" remark was not literal my friend. And simply throwing more people at a problem doesn't lead to a solution or a quickened outcome, if anything, it can be a hindrance. Brook's law for example. I doubt that the behavior of game development is that linear.  Metro Last Light was made by what, eighty people? Took three years and its longer than most fps games on the market. Halo 4 took around the same amount of time ( if not longer), had around 350 people, and was no where near as long(granted it had multiplayer with ten maps). And Metro Last Light managed to maintain consistent quality. I understand that creating games is a huge investment for companies. Plus, 100+ hours is a bit much for any story. Not even rpg main story quests are that long. By long I mean around say 40-50 hours. 65 hours at the most.  

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5 hours ago, Scouting Ninja said:

It is all about re-use of content.

Did you know that in Fallout 4 any screen where you can see more than 10 meters has 2 copies of an object? Just look at any screenshot from a Fallout 4 game. There will always be at least 2 3D models that are the same.

A linear game needs more set pieces because it will have less repeating parts. So half the content will only be seen once.

Assets that need to look good only once or twice, in specific conditions, are probably cheaper than assets that need to look good in many possible situations.

More generally, if you know you are making a huge game, you can design for reusability, getting more hours of more repetitive content for a similar cost (doing less level design work vs. doing it more efficiently).

For example, a short RPG could invest in a comprehensive scripting system that allows level designers to tweak and control NPC behaviour in each set-piece encounter, while a long RPG could invest in robust physical/combat simulation and agent AI systems that allow designers to throw any creature into any environment and ensure the resulting encounter is automatically well-behaved.

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6 minutes ago, LorenzoGatti said:

Assets that need to look good only once or twice, in specific conditions, are probably cheaper than assets that need to look good in many possible situations.

 

The problem is that they are rarely cheaper enough:)

If an artist models a building to look great as you walk past it down the street, they have to do probably 75% of the same work they'd have to do to make it look great on all sides. So you save 25%, but need to produce 5x or 10x as many assets like this.

(This is also discounting the fact that the artist will probably be inclined to not cut too many corners; because producers have a strange way of coming back to you a few months later saying, "can we have another building just like that first one, but a bit different", and you don't want to make it from scratch again.)

There are other assets which arguably become more expensive - players expect voice acting for Random Shopkeeper #7 in an open-world game to be bland and uninteresting, or even to be unvoiced. But in a game where you meet every character only once or twice, they're going to notice when one of them sounds worse or more badly acted than the others.

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5 hours ago, Kylotan said:

The problem is that they are rarely cheaper enough:)

If an artist models a building to look great as you walk past it down the street, they have to do probably 75% of the same work they'd have to do to make it look great on all sides. So you save 25%, but need to produce 5x or 10x as many assets like this.

(This is also discounting the fact that the artist will probably be inclined to not cut too many corners; because producers have a strange way of coming back to you a few months later saying, "can we have another building just like that first one, but a bit different", and you don't want to make it from scratch again.)

There are other assets which arguably become more expensive - players expect voice acting for Random Shopkeeper #7 in an open-world game to be bland and uninteresting, or even to be unvoiced. But in a game where you meet every character only once or twice, they're going to notice when one of them sounds worse or more badly acted than the others.

Well, at the very least this has been a learning experience so far. 

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I want to clarify many things because you're confusing a lot of concepts.

On 8/3/2017 at 4:54 AM, Dinocorpshunter4 said:

Not sure if I have this in the right category so if it is wrong, forgive me. Now let me elaborate. Look at games like Elder Scrolls, Dragon Age, GTA, or Fallout.  Each one can give 200+ hours of gameplay and story through tons of quests. But then when you look at linear games( i.e. one path, set story, little to no backtracking, cut scenes) you'd be lucky to hit 20 hours. For example, Halo, Uncharted, The Last of Us, etc. Don't these games take less effort to create in many aspects?  Even Half Life 2 which is considered a long FPS is only around 20 hours( For my play through). Persona 5

All the games you just mentioned are long linear story driven narrative games. The difference between these games (DAI, GTA & Fallout vs Uncharted, Halo, The Last of Us, Half Life 2 & Persona 5). is that the former is an open world game with lots of side quests, and the latter are not open world (but rather area-based, level-based or chapter-based) and few side quests.

Technically, making long linear story driver narrative game is literally the easiest part. It's just writing a very long script, like writing a book (note: writing a good book people want to read is hard, but in comparison it's the easiest part of making the game). Early text-based game fit that description. Graphics Adventure games also fit that description.

What's hard is making a game to feel fun to play, keeping the game balanced, making all the art assets, animating the cutscenes, setting up the pacing correctly (cutscenes vs gameplay), ensuring the voice acting matches the animation, and setting up lots of side quests that are bug free (this is VERY hard) and don't contradict the main story (i.e. you can't be acting all Superman against an optional boss, reviving a forgettable character in a side quest; and then the main story treat you like you're just a regular mortal and toss in the perma-death of a main character) and many more details that make a game feel like an AAA game.

 

Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not a "story driven narrative game" at all, however it is very similar in terms of scope, length, difficulty and look to DAI, GTA & Fallout because it's open world with lots of sidequests.

Edited by Matias Goldberg

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11 hours ago, Matias Goldberg said:

I want to clarify many things because you're confusing a lot of concepts.

All the games you just mentioned are long linear story driven narrative games. The difference between these games (DAI, GTA & Fallout vs Uncharted, Halo, The Last of Us, Half Life 2 & Persona 5). is that the former is an open world game with lots of side quests, and the latter are not open world (but rather area-based, level-based or chapter-based) and few side quests.

Technically, making long linear story driver narrative game is literally the easiest part. It's just writing a very long script, like writing a book (note: writing a good book people want to read is hard, but in comparison it's the easiest part of making the game). Early text-based game fit that description. Graphics Adventure games also fit that description.

What's hard is making a game to feel fun to play, keeping the game balanced, making all the art assets, animating the cutscenes, setting up the pacing correctly (cutscenes vs gameplay), ensuring the voice acting matches the animation, and setting up lots of side quests that are bug free (this is VERY hard) and don't contradict the main story (i.e. you can't be acting all Superman against an optional boss, reviving a forgettable character in a side quest; and then the main story treat you like you're just a regular mortal and toss in the perma-death of a main character) and many more details that make a game feel like an AAA game.

 

Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not a "story driven narrative game" at all, however it is very similar in terms of scope, length, difficulty and look to DAI, GTA & Fallout because it's open world with lots of sidequests.

I mean linear game play along with the linear narrative. 

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I think it could be unrealistic, but it depends on your game idea. 

A long, 100+ hour game with nothing but a single narrative would most likely be tough to stay with. Unless its extremely well paced, constructed and intriguing. I'd say anything between 8-75 hours...yes that big a margin...is the sweet spot for nearly every single narrative games outside short indies. Now when you talk of Elder Scrolls games, or other big RPGs, then those have a huge abundance of narratives/quests not necessarily tied to a main questline, those can be a couple hundred hours long easily. 

Edited by Matthew Birdzell

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I feel like this is shoe-horning some types of games into a bucket, as well. Sure, many linear games only take 20ish hours to complete the story, versus non-linear games that you can easily sink 100+ hours into. However, it's a difference between apples and oranges in the RPG world, and the number of hours to complete may not be the only metric you want to measure by.

Open-world RPGs like Fallout or Elder Scrolls expect the player to cover all the map, see lots of different locales and experience lots of different characters (even if they're voiced by the same person, they're still a different NPC with a different model and objectives and quests). These games are easy to sink 100+ hours into, and it's easy to see why: the sheer quantity of different content to experience.

Non-open-world RPGs, however, perform a different function. Take Final Fantasy XIII, for example. There is a very finite (some would say too finite) amount of content to experience. But, one can also easily sink 100+ hours of time into it, grinding through the Ma'habara Underground or the Faultwarrens or save/reloading the same Oretoise in the plaza fight in order to accrue Crystogen Points and Platinum Ingots in order to maximize your characters' growth and inventory (I'm sure I don't sound bitter about this). Here, the time sink isn't the quantity of different content to experience, but mastery of the same content in order to maximize the potential of the party. JRPGs may be singular in this regard, though, but the point still stands: the time isn't spent experiencing new/different content, but grinding the same things over and over again. The endless grind to perfection.

Another concept to consider is replayability of the content. Sure, you might be playing the same story, but do the players have the option of experiencing different story branches by making different choices (games like Dragon Age or Beyond Two Souls are prime examples)? Similar content might be experienced, like the same enemies fought or the same side quests completed to get specific gear, but enough content is different to warrant a second play, which will increase the number of hours spent playing.

In short, a simple metric of the number of hours played may not be the best measuring stick - it may instead be more prudent to couple it with an objective. Do you want a 20ish hour main story experience, with additional 60ish hours of side content, or do you want 100+ hours of the same main story?

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Im pretty sure a 60h long campaign for Half-life 2 would feel TOO long, even if its made well. Story-games need an start, middle and ending, just like a book or movie.

Very "long" games like GTA or WOW or Elder Scrolls have open objectives, and they repeat many times in different variations. It's quite different. And online games like battlefield or DOTA can be played endlessly, even though the player repeat the same "content" (same maps, same weapons etc)

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