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BackDoor's Ramblings: Does Length Matter When Your $$$'s Are On The Line?

First off, welcome to my first issue of 'BackDoor's Ramblings'. This isn't the original first installment of this editorial. I had a different article typed up and ready for your viewing pleasure, but after reading 3DActionPlanet's editorial of 'Does Length Matter?', I was inspired to do up my own article on the subject matter at hand, and present it to you, the consumer, gamer, and fan, as it should've been presented in the first place.

In their 'Does Length Matter?' article, 3DActionPlanet's Grey Loki & Hellchick, debate, discuss, argue, or however you feel like phrasing it, about the length of PC games in today's market. They make a valiant effort in their article to try and bring some conclusion to the long debate of whether or not does length really matter in games nowadays, but they fell a bit short due to their narrow focus of the subject matter. I am here to expand upon that, and make you all really think about does length really matter from a broader, more reasonable standpoint.

Does game length really matter? Does quality matter? We can go ahead and discard the question, "Does quality matter?" because we all know that none of us enjoy buying that special game that we've been waiting for over 2 years now, and as soon as we install it and begin to play it, we immediately see bugs and glitches, and think to ourselves, "What the hell were they thinking releasing this game in this state?" Even if the game isn't buggy early on and seems o.k., there's nothing that will turn you off from a game quicker than a show-stopping bug when you're well into the gaming experience. Well, almost nothing, that is. I know Tracy would be able to turn me off of my gaming experience and onto something else if she presented herself in the right way, but that has nothing to do with the game itself.

Anyhow, a recent game that comes to mind in this case is Rune. Rune is a sweet game that was jarred with a couple of show stopping bugs late in the game that turned many people off from the game, including me at first. It seemed as if Human Head Studios, the makers of Rune, were taking their sweet time in getting the patch out, when in fact, it was only a matter of days. To us consumers, gamers, and fans, we don't want to wait to play our games and we shouldn't have to either. We walk into that Best Buy or Electronics Boutique, purchase our game, head home, and we want quality right then and there. Should we not? Of course not. We lay down our $40-$60 for a product in which we believe in, and we expect quality game play just as anyone getting their oil changed would expect quality service.

Another game that comes to mind, and that has proven to be the epitome of 'What not to be' in the computer gaming world, is Origin's horrific release of Ultima IX: Ascension. Rune might have had some bugs here and there with a couple of show stopping bugs late in the game, but Ultima IX: Ascension was a travesty that should've been avoided all together. The game was so messed up, that even the folks at Origin's tech support didn't know what to do. Needless to say, my copy went back immediately, and so did thousands, if not millions of others, from disgruntled customers around the world.

Now that we've got the 'quality' issue out of the way, lets move onto the meat of this article, and real reason we're all here. Does game length really matter? Neither you, nor I can answer that one question all alone. It is absurd to judge a game solely on that aspect. It's simply inconceivable to even think that you can simply look at game play length and decide whether or not it's worthy. 3DActionPlanet's 'Does Length Matter?' debate covered some smaller aspects of the overall deciding factor, such as character development and story development, but both of these factors aren't really even an issue to begin with. If your character development is shoddy, then even the plot/story won't be able to hold it all together. Everyone wants great character development. They want to be immersed, and part of that immersion comes from feeling as one with the character you're playing. Character development can even be done in a way as to not give too much away about the character, and let the gamer decide for him/herself certain issues, or assume certain things about the character and still be pulled off smoothly and have the gamer totally immersed. A prime example of this is Thief: The Dark Project and Thief 2: The Metal Age. The Thief series has excellent character development, as well as plot development that coexist together, yet there are so many unanswered questions left to be answered by the individual assuming the role of Garret. Just head over to TTLG's Thief Series General Discussion Forums and see for yourself. There's always new things' coming up about the character and plot of the Thief Series based on individual gamer perceptions and theories. So, again, these two things shouldn't have been brought into the debate to begin with because they both are already essential in the gaming experience, and if the game doesn't have quality character development and plot development, then it shouldn't even be released, unless it's for free distribution that is.

The bigger decision factor in the big scheme of things lies in the almighty dollar. How many games or add-ons have you downloaded for free off the Internet, and although they only supply you with 5-7 hours of game play, if even that, you're perfectly satisfied with them? I'm sure we would all raise our hand to this one. If you're not raising your hand, then you probably are just trying to be argumentative. I have downloaded several games and add-on packs off the Internet in my years of gaming, and although the experience was short lived, I was thoroughly satisfied because they didn't cost me a thing. Was there great character development and plot/story development in all of them? No, there wasn't, but then again, they didn't cost me a dime either. I don't care whom you are, or what your morals are, or how you were brought up, but we (gamers) always have lower expectations of a product if it is free, or at least reduced in price.

I know it's hard to admit, even if you are English and would like to separate yourself from the stigma that plagues all of us Americans of being money hungry, that your financial status is a major factor in you purchasing a game, and that factor alone, mixed with game length are the final two decision factors. If you go out and buy a game for $40 and you get 25 hours of game play out of it, you'd be happy. That is, as long as it's a quality product. If you go out and buy a game for $40 and you only get 10 hours of game play then you might, and might not be happy. This is an issue within itself that stems from the wealth of your family upbringing. If you come from a conservative family like I do, this definitely wouldn't be a product I'd keep. It would go straight back to EB and I'd get my money back, and that's exactly what I had done with both Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2 and Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force. Both games provided great story and decent character development, or in Elite Force's case, it was already established, but they both fell short in gaming length, and were definitely not worth the $44.99 I had shelled out for both games. You see, since character development and plot/story development is already a must in every game, they are not weighing factors when it comes to purchasing a game. Since neither of those things should even be an issue, the gamer should be looking at how much game and pain, pain meaning dealing with bugs, he/she is willing to accept for his her hard earned buck. Again, this decision is strongly influenced by the upbringing of the individual, as well as the financial lifestyle he/she can afford, or is accustomed to dealing with.

So, again: Does game length really matter when our $$$'s are on the line? Of course it matters, but getting someone who comes from a financially well off family to admit it is a different story. They won't admit it, because they don't know the true value of the dollar. I'm not saying everyone who is well off doesn't know the true value of the dollar, because you're reading the words of a man that is well off, yet thrifty with his funds. I am saying that those who are well off are more apt to be so inclined to go out and get that short-lived journey which cost so much. Whether or not game length matters even when our $$$'s are on the line is still an opinion issue based upon ones financial status, because sadly, and unfortunately, our society is ran by money. And depending on how much money that individual has, or depending on how much money his/her family has, or how much they had while raising him/her, will definitely have a major impact on the outcome of their decision.

Besides the points I brought up above, there are other arguments to be made about 'Does game length really matter?' but those arguments dive into ethical issues pertaining to gaming companies, and that is a another article for another day.













     
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