Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fable II: "Story Lasts Thirteen to Fourteen Hours"

I just found an recent interview with Peter Molyneux, lead designer of Fable II, and one quote he said jumped out at me.

"So in Fable 2, the story lasts thirteen to fourteen hours and by the end of that story what you are like, what you look like and how the world treats you is completely up to you."

Really? Thirteen to fourteen hours? For an RPG? That's almost as bad as most campaigns for fisrst person shooters. If Fable II is touting itself as an RPG, the character development must be important to the game, hence the the distinction of role-playing. Choosing between good and evil in the first Fable was not a good example of character development and a thirteen to fourteen hour story is really depressing. If this is Peter Molyneux's views on gaming, then I will never buy a game from him, even if he does eventually develop for systems that I own. Here's some more crap from him:

"Now for me, as a designer, if I hear 'sixty or seventy hours', then in my mind that is the equivalent of giving me a book that is twenty thousand pages long. And if I said to you, here's a fantastic book, go and read that... Are you likely to finish a twenty thousand page book? No."

Personally, I love sixty to seventy hour adventures; it's not even close to a twenty thousand page book. That gives time for the story to go places, for the characters to truly grow and the length alone make the game worth purchasing, especially with games as expensive as they are now.

Also, I can't even remember the last time I heard a gamer complain that a game was too long. The only "long" reference I can think of in regards to video games is people complaining that, in World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XI, it took too long to get anything done. Long in that sense, is complaining about the needless repetition and grinding. As long as the game's story is advancing and pushing itself, I can't imagine a gamer complaining that a game is too long. Sure, less people will finish it, but just because someone doesn't finish a game doesn't mean that the gamer didn't like it. Maybe something else came up, but they still cherish the experience they had with that game. (An example for me would be Okami).

One commentor on kotaku (where I first found the story) gave a decent point as to how 13-hour RPGs, if done well, could be worth it:

"Its a 13 hr rpg that you will play through several times. I prefer this format better, specially if what he says is true and each play through will be different according to what decisions you make. " -Sweetsauce

It's a fair point but, thirteen hours feels rushed to me, no matter which forking storyline you take. Regardless, though your taking a different path, the world, environments and game engine will all be the same, so there will be a lot of unnecessary repetition. Why not make a 40-hour RPG with the same forking path choices? Is that really difficult? And why not have more than just good and evil? Hasn't that become a cliche already?

And please, don't give me the argument that the Zelda series is an action RPG and that it's just as long as Fable. There are two distinct differences between games like Zelda and games like Fable. Fable is focusing on character development. Zelda does not. Zelda is essentially an action-adventure game that has a lot less dialogue than a RPG and hence doesn't need the sixty to seventy hour time frame. Besides, Zelda games have never disappointed me in quality gameplay. So, thirteen hours is at least reasonable since I know those hours are going to be quality hours. The first Fable did not earn that trust, at least from me, so thirteen hours is more of an insult to gamers' wallets.

Tell me though, guys (and gals). Do you think a 13 hour RPG is okay? I think games under that format will slowly kill the entire genre.


Matt said...

My friends wanted to play Fable 2 so much and I did, so that for reason (I'm a Co-op lover) - I got it.

I'll let you know what I think of it after I play it

Lima said...

First off,I Would read a 20,000 page book if it were well written, but that's beyond the point. 20,000 pages takes a hell of a lot longer than 60 hours to read and books contain a lot more content per hour than games since they don't exactly have any gameplay or mini-games to take up the time. the book analogy makes me think that what this guy is really talking about is that he doesn't want to write a long script. It's laziness.

also I'll bet that the "good" path doesn't actually have a different script that the "bad" one. Last time all they did was offer a different looking characters and a few differing cutscenes.

Fable 1's plot was practically nonexistant, and character development? You're hair changes color when you kill people and you occasionally act like a douche. I like the multitude of things to do and I don't doubt this pleasantness will continue in the new one, but story is not their strong point. And it sure as hell won't get better with this kind of attitude.

Shawn R. said...

I completely agree with the critique. One of the principal reasons that I like RPGs, particularly ones with great stories, is that 60-70 hour long stories give you a better chance to get more fully immersed in them. I want a game that I (a) can engage with for that long (i.e. so that I can justify spending $60 bucks on it on a strict cost-benefit analysis), and (b) can enjoy being engaged with for that long (i.e. so that I can get the most joy out of the experience). Games like FF1, FF7, FF8, GTA3, or Chrono Trigger just to name a few, give the player a chance to be immersed (enjoyably) in a dynamic story, great gameplay, and a desire not to have the story end.

My point is: There's no problem theoretically with a very long (or perhaps a Neverending Story), provided that the story is good. There is definitely a problem with an incredibly short story . . . particularly when contained in a game with little replay value, and even more particularly when it costs the consumer $60 or so to experience it. Longer stories, provided that they're good, provide much more bang for the buck.

TheNightgaunt said...

Well I'm not all that surprised. While I enjoyed the original Fable, it too was far too short and linear to be a really memorable game.

The problem we are seeing is a graphics quality vs content issue.
There's only so much space on a DVD or CD and multiple discs are a somewhat unpopular option (probably more expensive to produce as well). But that aside there's also the amount of time effort and money that one puts into development.
Pretty graphics sell games these days. You have more gamers out there and while you used to be able to get away with gameplay being the big seller, the push towards casual gaming goes in the other direction. The majority wants something they can beat, and most of them can't dedicate a lot of time to a game due to work/kids/school/etc.. Similarly, if you're playing off and on and games are more and more expensive, you want more bang for your buck. And since you play casually, the best way that can come out is through better visuals.
So developers make games that are prettier and prettier and all that takes up both disc space and development time. As a result, you have less time, effort and capacity to devote to game content, storyline, and variety.

The prettier a game, the shorter it'll probably be. If you look at the reviews of Fallout 3, it's looking the same. They're all saying that you can beat the main storyline quest in alot less time than it took to beat the main quests in either Fallout 2 or Oblivion. And the concept of level scaling (where monster's are scaled in difficulty to match you character's current level) reinforces this. You don't have to work at a game or try to level up to take on a big boss, because whatever his level he'll allways be just hard enough that you can beat him.

What worries me is that game developer's are the products of what they played when they were younger. So what are we going to get with the next generation who are playing these games right now? An obsession with graphics, casual gaming and short storylines? The only hope is that some go the other way in rebellion and start looking at harder games with more content.

ultima301 said...

I disagree with the idea that a short main story means the game is unpolished. I think it's the opposite : I would far prefer a game that has a shorter main story but is polished and fleshed out, over a longer story where the game has obvious marks of being rushed toward the end (which is happening all too much in games these days). I think it makes a lot of sense too - a lot of us don't have the time to invest 60 hours into a game just to see the credits roll. The example I can best think of is Tales of Symphonia; great game, great combat, decent story, but way too freaking long. I got through a decent chunk of the story and then drifted away into other games - I was 30-40 hours in and other games were starting to catch my interest. By the time I had no distractions again I had lost interest in the story and wherever I was in Tales, and to this day I haven't beaten it.

The Fable 2 approach is much like what more and more RPGs seem to be doing these days - have a more brief main story and tons of side quests. F2 has a ridiculous amount of things to do; there's an entire economy / property system, jobs to perfect, people to marry, children to have, 50 hidden keys and locked doors with treasures hidden everywhere, and optional quests abound. The way it works is if you only have the 15 or so hours to invest into Fable 2, then get the best chunk of the game done, the story, and leave it at that. If you come back to it later you can always finish up some sidequests unrelated to the main quest or even start over again, since the game isn't that long the lost time investment isn't that bad. It gives the gamer the freedom to choose - you can make Fable 2 a 50-60 hour game if you want, or you can just play 13-14 hours and still get most of the same experience.

As a game critic I much prefer getting to play a lot of games than to be stuck in 60 hour stories for games I don't want to give a final judgment on until I beat. I'm looking forward to investing some time into Fable 2 (just picked it up today, so far so good). Expect a review when I'm done with the story.

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna have to side more with Kevin on this one.

I have no problem with a short game as long as it was fun throughout and there's a lot of replay value to it, or a lot of stuff to do on the side. Since it sounds like the former (and possibly the latter) are the case, I think I'll like it.

I'd rather play 15 quality hours than 20 quality hours which are interlaced with 40 hours of mind-numbing random encounter battles.

Since I'm in no rush to get new games, I'll wait on Kevin's review.

Anonymous said...

The metareview seems promising.

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