How long is too long?

Omnilore

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I have always loved long games that last at least sixty hours -- but I wonder how that would work in an RPG Maker game? Have any developers made a game this long, or is it usually safer to stay under thirty hours? I love to create epic tales that are large in scope. I am an aspiring writer and hope to one day own my own multimedia company. I want to pilot a variety of creative projects across multiple outlets such as webcomics, cartoons, video games, webseries, and indie films. Right now I am in the "starving artist" stage, just keeping my eyes open for that spark that will unleash the Fires of Creation :D.

For roleplaying games, I envision the world of Krystaria, with a variety of stories in mind crafting tales across tens of thousands of years, from the first vestiges of civilization to the farthest reaches of space. High fantasy, modern supernatural, and futuristic science fiction, all rolled into the same ever-changing world spread across vast expanses of time. From the first man-made fire to the last, the over-arching narrative of Krystaria would tell the entire history of the people. Krystaria isn't actually the name of the world, but the title of the series as a whole. Krystaria is what many people consider a goddess, an ancient fae queen who sacrificed herself to erect the Crystal Pillars, a network of tower-sized gems that dampens the gathering of Akudar, dark energy cast off by negative emotions.

Akudar, if left unchecked, is drawn together similar to mass/gravity. It clumps and becomes these dense spheres of pure negative emotion, and eventually gathers enough substance to become self-aware, thus sparking the birth of a minor demon. In that way, demons are given life by hate, fear, and anger. They can keep absorbing Akudar until they manifest a physical form or possess a body. The Crystal Pillars project a dampening field to vastly weaken this process, ensuring that the majority of Akudar fades from the physical plane of existence before becoming self-aware. The largest of the Pillars -- the Mother's Sapphire -- sits in Krysthaven, the capital of the known world. Encased within is the form of a beautiful young woman, frozen in time. Many consider this to be Krystaria herself, and have even erected an oppressive religion around it, eventually leading to the Holy Krystarian Empire and a series of crusades and inquisitions, similar to our own world.





The main story of the first game would take place in the middle of the timeline, where the Holy Krystarian Empire has an iron grip on most of the known world, but they haven't yet developed modern technology or conveniences, similar to the Dark Ages. The main protagonist is Darbin Crest, the teenage son of High Inquisitor Ladarsa Crest. Generally, there are twelve High Inquisitors and they answer to the Lord Commander of the Knights of the Mother. In most cases, each High Inquisitor will have a staff of lesser Inquisitors and will be tasked with maintaining religious courts of justice in one of the Empire's regional areas. They usually work alongside local Regents.


But Ladarsa is different. He was such a brilliant soldier and tactician in his younger days as a Knight, the Emperor and Lord Commander couldn't allow him to be shoved into a court once he ascended to High Inquisitor. He was granted his own army and a fleet of ships, and sent south to battle the growing resistance in the island kingdoms of the Sea of Uhlakar. Within only a few years, he had crushed the voices of most of the islanders, burned apostates at the stake and demanded complete and total obedience from all with absolutely no mercy. He took the port city of Hedenmoor as his capitol, executing the inhabitants of the palace and naming it his own. Ecstatic with Ladarsa's immense success, the Emperor also named him Regent of the Sea of Uhlakar and chose him as next in line to become Lord Commander.


Fast forward a bit, and Darbin is born. Raised in Hedenmoor and taught to hate all who oppose the Empire, he shows every sign of becoming the tyrant his father is. Once turning sixteen, Darbin is required to undergo military training and continue the legacy. On his first training mission, he accompanies his father on a voyage south to the island of Rendari, where reports of a young girl who can use magic have surfaced. Mages are rare and anyone with such talent is required to attend the College of Sorcery in Krysthaven and pledge themselves to the Empire.


So they arrive at Rendari, and after a chase through the woods, they catch the girl. Her name is C'marya, and Darbin is a bit conflicted because to him, she looks like a lost and scared child. At first, Ladarsa wants to take the girl alive so she can be sent to the College of Sorcery, but it quickly becomes apparent that she will not cooperate, and so Darbin is ordered to make his first kill and execute the girl.


Clearly disturbed by this, but bound by honor, Darbin unsheathed his sword and walks over to her. She cowers before him in the wake of the magic dampening chains that have bound her, and he lifts his blade to strike. He whispers, "I'm sorry," and swings downward. A moment later, he is frozen in place, and he hears his father and the soldiers yelling. Turns out the girl was only playing with them and the chains had no effect on her. She has placed an enchantment on Darbin, preventing him from moving. She comments that she can sense a kind soul in him beneath the layers of darkness, and that she will hold on to him for a while until he learns to respect life a little more. She then smiles and also reveals her enchantment compels him to protect her and to get her as far away from the Empire as possible.


Another daring chase scene unfolds as Darbin fights his father's men and struggles to get off the island with C'marya, his own personality still intact but driven by the enchanted compulsion that causes him intense psychological trauma if he does not comply. From here, the story opens up as they go on a series of adventures across other islands and eventually the mainland, gathering a cast of characters along the way. Darbin unwillingly aids in building a new resistance against the Empire, forced to obey by the enchantment. Over time, C'marya deliberately weakens the hold so that he is making these decisions with more and more of his own willpower, ultimately unsheathing the hero that was within him all along.


This is only the tip of the iceburg, and I feel like I couldn't accurately portray this tale if I cram it into a 20-30 hour adventure. I could do it as one huge 60-80 hour game, or maybe split it into a trilogy of shorter games. But what do you think, fellow developers? What has worked best for you? I played with the trial of MV and am purchasing the full version later this week along with Photoshop for parallax mapping, so I hope to have a demo with a 5-6 hour play time by the end of the year. I am skipping all my shows this year -- Walking Dead, Agents of SHIELD, Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, etc. -- so that I can have more time to work on my game. I have a full-time job at a call center, and usually if I try to fit in my evening shows, it's bedtime before I know it. So this year I'm skipping them all to open up an hour or two every evening and weekends for game development. Once I have a playable demo, I'm advertising the heck out of it through YouTube videos, a ******* page, my network of friends and contacts within the geek community, and any other avenue I can find.


But my main reason for posting this is to ask the question as stated above -- how long is too long?
 
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Leon Kennedy

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There is no limit besides when you feel the player might get bored. As far as I know nobodies ran into a map limit or a limit of events you can have.
 

bgillisp

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There is a limit on maps and events actually, and I think it is 999 for each (though I do believe the 999 map limit can be circumvented with a plug-in). Though I doubt you'll ever hit it. My game is a little under 20 hours right now, and I am in the low 200's on maps. So I think 60 hours is doable with a 999 map limit. I think even ff6, if someone sat down and counted out all the unique maps, was under 999 maps.


As for length, better budget a TON of time. My game took 2 years to get to this point, and I figure another 1 year to polish it so that it is a good 20 hour experience.
 
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Omnilore

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I didn't know about the map limit, so thanks! That's good intel :D. As for the time, I highly doubt it will take me several years to finish the game, as I'm usually pretty fast once I get going. I figure it will take me about four months to have a really polished six hour demo, and another twelve to eighteen months to have a finished 60+ hour product. But then again I am a very creative person and have been an aspiring writer since I was a teenager. I've been crafting worlds, stories, and characters for tabletop and forum RPGs for years -- granted, this was for my own adventures and campaigns with other players and not actually produced for sale, but it was still creation nonetheless.


In my late teens and early twenties I ran a lot of D&D campaigns on several sites, and eventually delved into mostly superhero RPGs after that. I once has a Teen Titans forum RPG that grew so popular it had too many characters for me to keep track of, lol. Eventually we split it into two teams and essentially two separate threads to make it easier to manage. I put a lot of thought and effort into any stories I craft, and RPG Maker won't be any different :D. The hardest -- and most time-consuming -- part will be the parallax mapping. However, I am open to the possibility that it may take longer than I envision and will not allow myself to become discouraged if it does. Even if it takes me five years, I'll make this game happen, though I think it's a realistic estimate that it will be released by the end of 2018. We shall see. Either way, thank you for the advice and I enjoy hearing different opinions and perspectives :D.
 

PixelLuchi

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I'd personally play a game that gives me 10 hours of engaging, quality content than a game that is padded with 60 hours of filler that does little to advance the plot (shrugs). You don't need to have a 40-60 hour long game to make it 'epic'. Tbh, as soon as developers mention they're going to make an epic RPG, I tend to stay far, far away. It's really up to the audience to decide whether a game is 'epic' or not. =) Trim the fat and keep the meat of the game itself.


Personally, I took about 4 years to finish Enelysion, which clocks in at around 12-15 hours.
 

Kes

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@Omnilore Please put that wall of text inside a spoiler.  This thread is about principles of game making, not about detailed exposition of one game's story line.


I personally have played several RPGMaker games that well exceed 60 hours.  The key question is always - what goes to make up those hours?  If it's just padding, and/or repetition and/or simply wandering around aimlessly waiting for a certain amount of in-game time to pass, then no.  But when it's full of decent game play, then I'm all for it.  However, such games are becoming increasingly rare for a variety of reasons.
 

bgillisp

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Right. I've always said that I can make a 60+ hour game with fights every step against 10000 HP slimes with really long attack animations, but it wouldn't a *good* 60 hour game. Plus, time is subjective. Some people read faster than others. Some just don't care to do every little sidequest. Some will think your wonderful minigame that takes a few hours to play is garbage. And so on. So aiming for 60 hours is tough.


To give you an idea, I've beaten some RPG's that are listed as 20 hour games in 7 hours, mainly because I read quickly, and I turn on auto dash as soon as I can (or put on permanent run).
 

Omnilore

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Sorry, hid the wall of text behind a spoiler :). And I completely agree, adding filler just to make a game longer works horribly. In my case, my desire to make it longer is so that I dont have to cram the story into a short adventure. I also can't cram too much story into one scene, so I need to spread it out a bit. But if a scene is lacking or doesn't fit well, I'll scrap it -- I am a writer first and foremost. 
 

Reese

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There are so many games out there that totally wastes time in grinding to actually progress through the


main story of the game in which I could find a little bit irrelevant but needed to keep the game as balanced


as it should be. Too long could be bad but if you could try and be resourceful in using such time, it could


be used upon the developers' advantage ^_^
 

BigToastie

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you shouldn't aim for a specific threshold for your game to last, it should be develop the game how you want it to play out and see how long it lasts.


Giving yourself a "I want 30hour game" mindset, will probably make you stretch out things making them less exciting, adding pointless things to just consume users time. and adding tons of Relay quests across multiple areas.


A bit of personal experience:

I am currently developing a Fantasy RPG style game, i plan for the world to be huge in terms of exploring, but how long the game will last is completely dependent if you want to do all Side Quests, wants to grind for epic gear, storm through the main quest line etc.


As a full clear of the game will be completely different to just storming through the main quests (as optional quests will be a huge part of the fun factor in my game imo)
 

Arcmagik

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I believe the general consensus because more goes into a game then just writing is for every 1 hour of game is 100 hours of production. This is a considerable amount of time for a single person but it is doable if you have the drive and can keep your motivation up. As for the player side of things I have put 60+ hours into games before losing interest (though I've come back to them later on). It is all about how engaging the game and content is!


My personal experience on development and gameplay hours!

I highly suggest playing around with the engine as you will spend a ton of time learning (almost a year of tutorials and youtube videos and just playing in the engine for me before I really started working on my first project which I set aside because I needed to learn more so I picked up a free project as a learning environment) before decided on your major features and gameplay time. Nothing is more frustrating and killing to the motivation then to hinge your game a major feature just to find out that you don't have the know-how and no plugins/scripts have been made to do it. I speak from experience.


Keep it fun, keep it light, and happy game making. Good luck!
 

Omnilore

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Thanks for the advice! I will definitely keep all that in mind. I won't really need to worry about too many plugins as this will be primarily a story-driven game. I have actually toyed with the idea of removing random battles all together and only including scripted fights relevant to the story, which would eliminate grinding except for like a specific area. 


As for the time, stretching it out isn't really a factor, but rather, shrinking it down to a reasonable length. I have enough story ideas and plots in my head to make this game hundreds of hours if I wanted, but I need to trim it down to a reasonable length. 
 

Kes

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Maybe save some of those ideas for a second game?
 

Omnilore

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Yeah, I did consider maybe splitting it into a trilogy of games, and also adapting some storylines for sequels and prequels. But I also want to make sure I don't water the first game down too much, as that will be the first in the series and thus will need to make the biggest impact with audiences. Once I have the demo done -- which will be the prologue of sorts -- I'll link to it in these forums and other places to get some feedback and then go from there. 


To me, the most important aspect is the story, but more importantly, how it unfolds and pacing and tone and mood. The right music at the right times, believable character dialogue, not too much story at once, etc. 
 

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People seldom take the risk of playing an unknown 50+hours game, unless it gest a very positive response from the press. The problem is that it isn't easy nowadays to gather the interest of the press sites, thus it's difficult to create interest among gamers. I would say that, for a beginner developer, the game should be under 20 hours, unless they can provide a good marketing campaign (albeit little) for their title.

 
 

Omnilore

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They'll play it if it's cheap :). The full 60+ hour game would be like 2.99 on Steam and Google Play Store, if the file size is even small enough for the mobile market, lol. I know it will sell well on mobile because I see really ****ty games for a lot more than 2.99 getting thousands of downloads. If I give them a good story for a decent price, they'll pay it. And I will build up a lot of hype prior to the official release between here and ******* and Facebook and YouTube. I'm also considering printing a huge stack of post cards and distributing them all over the place. I'll make business cards for my company -- Omnilore Productions -- and give them out to everyone I meet. I work in a call center with 1500 other people, so I'll hand them out at work too :).


I do want to say that I'm not trying to be cocky, and I fully understand my chances and that this project might fall flat. And if it does, I'll know I gave it my all and will make peace with that. And I do appreciate the advice and feedback, so I apologize if it sounds otherwise.
 
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bgillisp

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I don't think you need the game to be long for the game to have an impact. I took a little over 7 hours to beat Tale of a Common Man (@ksjp17's game you see in their signature in this thread a few posts up) and I thought it still had quite an impact as a story.


And about the price point, I don't think you can say $2.99 attracts buyers. In fact, if I see an RPGmaker game at $2.99 alarm bells go off in my head now, as most times games at that price point are games someone cranked out in a few days and somehow got through greenlight. I'd consider at least $9.99, if you get 60 hours legitimately. Then you at least say you value your work some and consider it something decent. Besides, you can always lower it later.
 

Caitlin

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I guess it would depend on the type of game being made.  A causal game that is 60 hours and more, well, that's just too long of a game, but if you had a game that was a more serious RPG could possible be 60 hours plus, if you did it correctly.  You'd have to remember that the game has limited maps, but if you had lots of side quests, main quests and made slightly bigger maps than most people do, you actually could succeed.  ^_^  Of course, I am going to make my game and if it  last forty hours, good, but I won't push the game to be as long I can get it. 
 

Omnilore

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Well, not the price point on its own, but paired with good reviews, game images, and a kick-ass trailer, people might be more willing to play the game if it has a lower price tag. Later games in the series might be more expensive, but I want this first one to be really easy to afford to get more people hooked into the lore. I would just release the game for free to maximize the potential playerbase, but I do want to make some kind of monetary gain to put towards launching Omnilore Productions. Though I have considered releasing the 2.99 game as the Standard Edition, and then eventually hiring on a few helpers and releasing a Special Edition for 14.99, which would have fully voiced characters and animated visual novel-style cutscenes, similar to what Star Ocean did with Second Story/Second Evolution.


As for the hours, I totally agree, seven hours works on some games, depending on the story you want to tell. But the story of Darbin Crest as envisioned in my imagination is a tale that would span a series of fantasy novels, from the tropical islands in the beginning to the deserts, fields, mountains, and forests of the mainland to an epic sprawling imperial civil war across all of it. If I think of it as a trilogy of novels with each book being 700 pages, and each novel being adapted as one game, then I see a trilogy of 60+ hour games to tell it properly. But right now I am just focusing on the first game, and more important that the actual play time is that the story is good and the game is fun, so I do agree with you there :D.
 

bgillisp

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Your last sentence might be the best way to look at it honestly. When I started my game (in 2014) I had no idea how long it would be until I started, even though I had the story written up in a word document. As I went I ended up deleting a few areas that ended up just not being fun in a video game, added a couple new areas to better explain things, and in the end ended up with almost 20 hours, at my playing speed (It says a hair over 19 hours, 30 minutes in my save right before the final fight). So, who knows?


Though, I'd say it sounds like what you have in mind is closer to what my game was. I think if I had written it out in novel form I'd have ~700 pages. I know the word document detailing the flow and such was about 90 pages, though I wrote it more walkthrough style instead of novel style.  It would say things like: "Now, you need to get the party to the town, but monsters block your path. You can choose to fight them, though one of the party members disapproves of this action and would prefer you go around. If you go around, then...".


Still, just be sure you are ready to do a long game before hopping in. If I have any advice I'd give you, I'd say work through Andar's tutorials to learn the engine well, and maybe make a short game (in fact, there's a contest on another site next week http://www.rpgmakercentral.com/topic/39382-indie-in-a-week-5/ to see what you can make in a week. That could be good practice for the main game). I actually didn't do that, and in the end had to reboot the game about 7 months in, as what I had was pretty bad at that point. Just an idea to save you having to do what I did.
 
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