18 February 2009

Too Long, Too Difficult, and Too Outrageous

A Link to the Future posted a letter from an "accidental gamer" who was frustrated with games being too long and too difficult.

Recently, (now that I have a full-time job) I'm beginning to understand how people want shorter games and how it makes more sense for developers to make shorter games. Now that I have a full-time job, I don't have nearly as much time to complete the games that I buy. I always want to complete the story, but some games seem to go on longer than they need to. From the developer's perspective, it doesn't make sense to spend a huge portion of your budget on parts of the game that few of your users will play. Maybe I just listen to too many journalists, but there are so many complaints about games being too long and never getting to play games to completion. It seems to make more sense for developers and consumers to have shorter games at a lower price point and make more of them. Especially if you can reuse the engine and spread the development cost across several games.

However, I agree with the "accidental gamer" that all games (where applicable) should have an invincibility mode. These modes are really fun when you're just goofing around, or to enjoy some of a game that's too hard for you. Obviously, you won't get any of the rewards (achievements, trophies, unlocks) in this mode. But more importantly, a "god mode" should not be something that is unlocked after you've already played through the game.

I recently played the Fear 2 demo and I don't think I'd actually complete the full game mostly because I'm terrible at games with ammo scarcity. The game looks really cool and a lot of the scares aren't just because you feel like you're going to die, but it begs for a cheat code.

One issue with adding a "god mode" is that theoretically, someone can get through the game much faster and then sell it as a used copy. It's hard to justify the test effort for a god mode if it's just going to lower the time required to play the game.

The question to motivate developers and help them justify to the higher-ups: Would you pay a dollar to unlock a "god mode"? EA has recently come out with Downloadable Content in the same vein for Skate 2. The description follows:

If you are busy, or just plain lazy, "Time is Money" will unlock all locations, skaters and gear that can be earned by playing through Skate 2's career and online modes

Unsurprisingly, the internet has erupted in outrage.

However, I think this is a fascinating idea. As a traditional gamer, I think that the "Time is Money" is ridiculously expensive. A tenth the price of a game is too much for a cop-out. However, I'm glad it's not free. If it was free, then I'd have this constant temptation every time I failed a challenge to go grab it and just cheat my way through.

Putting similar DLC up for god mode would provide the option to cheat for anyone who wouldn't otherwise play the game, but the cost would provide the same will-power supplement to anyone who wouldn't usually cheat. Someone just has to figure out the right price point.

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