Length of dungeons/levels

servantb7

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What are your thoughts about how long a good dungeon/level/mission should be? Obviously it will vary depending on the specific level, but any general thoughts?

I'm working on a forest level now and trying to design it to be about 20-30 minutes to explore and fight the enemies in it. I don't want the player to breeze through so quickly that the level is barely even an obstacle, but I also don't want it to get repetitive or boring. Any thoughts or insights?

Edit: This level currently has a maximum of 12 battles, not counting the boss. There are a wide variety of enemies, so you're not seeing the same troop/enemies repeatedly.
 
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Frostorm

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What battle system are you using? That would have the largest impact I feel. Also, is this an early game or late game dungeon?
 

magnaangemon01

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Early game dungeon should last about 5-10 minutes. Late game is when they can get pretty lengthy. It also depends on the amount of content you have in them and encounters. If I'm going to be in a dungeon 30 minutes or more, I would like more than just fights and scenery. Have some cutscenes or collectibles. Something that keeps me engaged. If they're just long with a lot of encounters, I'm going to get bored pretty quickly.
 

Chocopyro

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I generally set my dungeons to be similar size and length to the ones in pathfinder modules. The thing is, since you aren't looking up stats, rolling dice, and roleplaying encounters, it makes you breeze through much faster than the tabletop experience would take, but if you set each "Encounter" (I use encounter in the context of the whole scenario in a room, as opposed to just battle encounters) in the RPG to a range of about five minutes to do the puzzle, watch the scene, or battle through the room, you could generally add a lot more content to a dungeon in a way that keeps players feeling like they are chugging along at a satisfying pace. Takes a lot of QA testing to get just right, but since it's done in parts, it's easier to rework or get rid of certain parts in order to help the overall experience feel tighter. As a result, the length of the dungeon will feel "As long as it needs to feel" based on where you are in the story, and the thematic pacing the scene demands to feel whole and complete without being padded.

But without knowing what the story pacing is, or what mechanics are at play, I think 12 fights is pretty safe. Least on paper.

Side note: Been replaying the pokemon games lately. Love the size and layout of their caves/dungeons usually, but then there are all those dagum zubats, every two steps you take... :eek:

Other things to consider: Keep the amount of resources players will likely have in hand at the start of a dungeon in mind. That too also affects how a dungeon should be paced. As Magnaangemon01 said, lower level characters have less MP and potions to throw around than higher level PCs. So it makes sense for lower level dungeons to have less battles or content. Also keeping in mind that when you first get that new tier of spells and abilities, it will be more taxing than having leveled halfway through that list of tierd abilities, so keep track of that stuff and populate the rooms where you're likely to hit that range with resting spots, mp and health potions, new equipment, and loot to better compensate them for that dungeon climax.
 
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Black Pagan

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What are your thoughts about how long a good dungeon/level/mission should be? Obviously it will vary depending on the specific level, but any general thoughts?
Considering a Typical 20 x 20 or Below Map, I personally would prefer not to have more than 5 Encounters on a Dungeon Map of this Size. Anything more than this and I would simply lose my interest.

Even 5 Encounters would be stretching it a bit, unless you keep the Player interested with various Rewards, Dialogues, Puzzles, Grind, Quest or some other Feature. So considering the Average Battle to last 45 Secs, How long would that take ? 3 Minutes +/- 2 Minutes to Explore, So yea maybe 5 Mins is the Minimum duration of Player being on that Map ?

Perhaps you could assign Encounter rates from Fibonacci Series of Numerals, If you are unsure on how many Encounters you need for what sort of Dungeon. I'm just guessing here since I have no idea on size of your Map and how well the Encounters fit into your Dungeon.

Here is the Fibonacci Series of Numerals : 1.. 2.. 3.. 5.. 8.. 13.. So on. You could play around with this Series and start and end wherever you want and assign Encounter Rate for your Dungeons based on this Series, So the Player feels a gradual increase in Encounters without making it too difficult in the beginning. You could simply calculate the Duration based off this and also have an Idea how long the Player remains in that Map.
 
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servantb7

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What battle system are you using? That would have the largest impact I feel. Also, is this an early game or late game dungeon?
I'm using a CTB system. It's early game, only 3 characters in the party at this time.

Thanks all for the feedback! I think I'm going to add some mini-cutscenes and a few more hidden secrets throughout to keep it interesting, development the characters more, and keep it from being monotonous.
 

HumanNinjaToo

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About 30 ~ 45 mins is what I figure a good time to be. About 35% of the time in trash mobs, 35% of the time exploring the map, 10% of the time watching cutscenes and/or dialogue, and 20% of the time fighting the boss.
 

Kupotepo

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I think I ask a similar question to you. I think you will find this helpful to whatever decision you will be decided.
The players at least people here. They are more concerned about the battle length more. I think about 10 minutes of battles for a boss and 5 minutes for mob of monsters.

The dungeons can be any length, but people refer the short dungeon like 20 minutes or less.
 

TheoAllen

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I think about 10 minutes of battles for a boss and 5 minutes for mob of monsters.
5 minutes for the random battle is terrible. Ideally, the battle should finish before the BGM repeats itself. Except if the nature of the battle system itself already takes time to complete a battle.

----
As for the actual question.
I made my first dungeon to be 10 minutes, but someone took it like 30 minutes.
I made the second dungeon to be 30 minutes, but someone took it like almost an hour.
What gives?

Players getting lost at the map is a thing. The player navigates something and extends their playtime is also a thing. The player checking something every corner of the map is a thing. That extends the time they spend on your dungeon.
 

duty

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Early game dungeon should last about 5-10 minutes.
This is probably good pacing for the shortest path from the dungeon entrance to the end-boss.

It's amazing how it's possible to blaze through a lot of older RPGs once you know where you're going - and it's interesting how the dungeon always feels bigger when you have to explore it for the first time.

So maybe aim for the forest to be a 10 minute journey from point A-B with half the encounters along that route - with two optional 5 minute side-paths with 3 encounters each.

There should be some great loot at the end of those side-paths, too. The player needs positive reinforcement for exploring and should think, "Oh, I was so smart for going this way."

And it's always great when the side-path ends with a shortcut that drops you back on the main route.
 

ATT_Turan

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The players at least people here. They are more concerned about the battle length more. I think about 10 minutes of battles for a boss and 5 minutes for mob of monsters.
Those numbers are absolutely huge. If I found that a regular battle took 5 minutes, I would probably quit the game after 2 or 3 of them (enough to know that was normal). Similarly, I don't think I've ever had a boss take 10 minutes except maybe some of the Final Fantasy end-of-game bosses with the multiple stages.

To the OP: I think, generally, the question is a bit less about how many numeric minutes you spend in the dungeon and more about how many points of interest there are.

My main inspirations for dungeon design are Final Fantasy and, much more, Phantasy Star (particularly IV). In PS4, almost all of the dungeons are pretty large, but every pathway leads you to either:
- the door/stairway
- a switch you need to hit to activate something
- one or more chests
- a dead end that lets you see there are tasty chests to get (which I'd count as a point of interest)

If you just have a lot of empty space to walk around in, or dead ends that neither contain nor show anything useful, I'd reconsider the design.
 

CraneSoft

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Regular dungeons in an RM-sized game should last no more than 30 minutes including the random battles, the time spent on the dungeon boss and its related events are excluded as they can vary alot. Any longer, and you will need to spice it up with events, story checkpoints or mid-bosses to break the monotonous routine of exploring/puzzle-solving/battling and opening chests.
 

RachelTheSeeker

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While I prefer shorter dungeons, I also think they ought to have enough challenges within. A good amount of enemies, especially if battles are more involved; a few diversions to reward exploratory (or lost) players; a gimmick to make the dungeon interesting.

Across my finished games? Forsaken Isle had you active a magic brazier to open a door earlier on, which also had its own brazier linked to it. Painted Knight had this dumb darken-then-relight mechanic in one chunk, like the gimmick of "Blackout Basement" in Donkey Kong Country. A Maned Lioness has an optional fight to get a better weapon, and serves as a mini-boss of sorts if you desire. For my WIP, A Lion in Scarlet, the second dungeon will probably have a key-based mechanic, taking place in an abandoned fort overrun by baddies and their hostages.
 

Wavelength

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I feel like 30 minutes is a pretty good rule of thumb for dungeons (shorter is perfectly fine, longer is risky - only a couple dungeons in your game should go longer than 40).

But more important than the total length is that every 10 minutes or so should feel different in some way. Maybe a significant plot point in the current arc of the story unfolds. Maybe you progress to a part of the dungeon that feels aesthetically very different, or has a different gimmick to it. Maybe the dungeon changes forever when you get halfway through it due to an event. Maybe the gameplay changes up (e.g. first third of a 30-minute dungeon is a gauntlet through lots of monsters; the second third is mostly exploration to find objects that trigger memories in party members and open a door, and the final third is a cutscene where the boss toys with your party members, a quick battle against his minions, and then the showdown with the boss himself).

Even the same activities (mobs, exploration, puzzles, cutscenes, boss battles) can remain pretty interesting as long as you mix up the combinations that they come in, and provide changes of scenery and memorable moments along the way.
 

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