Let’s Chat: Are Games Too Long Now?

– This article was originally posted on 19th March 2018 and is being updated and archived here. Whilst situations have changed, I reckon a lot of the subject matter is still very relevant! –

A mix of work and a lack of a major theme in the gaming news recently has led Ashley Harrison and I to wonder: how are we ever going to play all the good games from last year, let alone the ones coming in 2018? It’s a topic that is coming up more and more as publishers release massive games boasting of their huge scope; is it really a good thing just to be a long game? The latest Let’s Chat delves into the subject!

William Robinson: So, Ash, in a week with no particularly standout theme, I think it’s a good chance to talk about just how long games are now. Is it just me, or are these impressive 100-hour experiences no longer the great sales pitch they used to be? Last year, with ZeldaHorizonPersona, and more, it was unrealistic for anyone to play everything.

Ashley Harrison: Length definitely isn’t a great selling point any longer. With the examples you just mentioned and more, it seems like the majority of “AAA” games recently are striving to build as big an open world as possible to expand playtime, but at the expense of the game’s overall quality and uniqueness.

There is a lot of content in Persona 5

WR: It also depends greatly on the situation, too – after finishing University, I had a window where playing 80 hours of Horizon was possible, but now I’m attempting to be an adult with a full-time job I struggle to see how I can keep up with EVERYTHING. What’s your situation? Do you think that it’s always been like this, and people just have their lives change?

AH: I’m not even in full time employment and I still find it hard to keep up with everything. It’s getting to a point now where if I see a game has open-world as a “selling point” it puts me off it completely. I just look at some of the games you mentioned – Zelda (I’ve beat one Divine Beast), Horizon (I’ve barely even gotten into the game), Persona I haven’t even bought. I don’t think it’s always been like this at all, I think it’s people who played a few open world games, and developers think people just want bigger and bigger open worlds nowadays, even though they’re 90% empty every single time.

WR: You’re right there, the rise in popularity of the open-world game has definitely changed things. This is why I’ve never really been an Assassin’s Creed guy; I feel there is little reason behind the things you’re collecting, and its just a waste of time. On the other hand, I find myself really enjoying shorter titles like Firewatch or Oxenfree, as I get a satisfying sense of completing something. I know I’ll probably never beat Persona 5, though.

A landscape view in Firewatch

AH: I’m with you entirely on that. Give me a linear, closed world any day of the week over an open world, at least that way everything I do relates to the storyline, and as such, means I’m closer to finishing the game every time. Whereas with open worlds, I just find they’re too big and too slow to get across, so I always end up getting sidetracked by something. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing all the time, but I do like to feel as though I’ve made progress towards the end of the game, rather than just do a load of stuff that is likely useless by the end of the game (should I ever see it).

WR: Is that a problem with the genre though, or the design? Horizon, for example, felt less of a chore for me; while massive, the game was achievable to complete or even 100%. Some games just go way too far – being impossible to complete isn’t appealing to me. Funnily enough, Spyro did it quite well scale-wise.

AH: I think for sure it’s a problem with the genre rather than design; there’s only so much you can fit into an open world without repeating anything, so the rest is mostly just barren space that looks exactly the same no matter where you are.

The world of Horizon Zero Dawn is varied and fascinating

WR: Or maybe one further, is it expectations? I think publishers are scared of being viewed as inferior in terms of scale, while more focused worlds – such as Yakuza, which Jim Sterling recently praised for a smaller but focused world – can actually be more interesting.

AH: Yeah, I guess it could be that developers are scared of being inferior. For me, Mario Odyssey hit the sweet spot for an open-world game, interestingly. The levels are big, but not bloated, and there’s always something happening somewhere in every world.

WR: A few games have done that – having a bunch of mini-open-worlds that stand separate from each other. Skyward Sword did it, and so did Dragon Age: Inquisition, and I think it makes those games more palatable. What are your favourite open-world games?

For me, Mario Odyssey hit the sweet spot for an open-world game, interestingly.

Ashley Harrison

AH: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is definitely up there for sure. I can’t really think of anything other than it that shouts “truly open world game I enjoyed enough to remember off the top of my head”.

WR: Would you say your taste in games has changed over time, and you look for different things now? I mean – what are you most anticipated games this year, too? There may be a theme.

AH: Yeah, I’d be lying if I said my tastes hadn’t changed, but I think that’s as a result of the games industry changing as well. As for what I’m most looking forward to, gimme a sec. [Pause as Ashley gathers his reply] Detective PikachuNi No Kuni 2Far Cry 5Hyrule Warriors Definitive EditionVampyrCaptain ToadOctopath TravellerLuigi’s Mansion, and The World Ends With You Final Remix.

WR: I mean, Ni No KuniOctopath and The World Ends With You are pretty extensive right?

AH: Ni No Kuni 2 and Far Cry 5 are for sure. However, not so much for Octopath (assuming it’s anything like the Bravely Default games) or The World Ends With You.

The World Ends With You -Final Redux- is an updated version of the original game

WR: Maybe we just have to accept that the way we play games will change. I find myself holding these big games back now for lengthy periods off; I’m not a big fan of playing a couple hours each night during a week. Maybe I’m getting old?

AH: Yeah, us getting old could definitely be a factor, haha. We’re losing the energy to dedicate hours upon hours into games.

WR: I joke, I joke. I still have a lot of excitement for games, especially with Captain ToadSpyro (hopefully) and Shadow of the Tomb Raider on the way. You know, actually, I think the issue is there is just so much good stuff nowadays, from TV to films to games. There is so much quality content to consume, and the sadness comes from the possibility of missing some of it.

AH: Too much to play/do/watch, too little time to do it in. I guess for me personally, too, the fact I work Thursday to Sunday, means that if I start a game on a Monday, and haven’t finished it by Wednesday, I’m less likely to return to it after my “work break”, unlike if I had say, the weekend off, where I guess it’s more acceptable to just sit back and relax doing whatever.

There is so much quality content to consume, and the sadness comes from the possibility of missing some of it.

William Robinson

WR: It does make portable gaming more appealing. The Switch has had such a positive effect on many gamers with less time to, well, game, and that’s another audience Nintendo has done a great job at tapping into. Alternatively, we’re just complaining too much and I should be spending this time playing Mario Odyssey.

AH: Yeah, you definitely should be playing Mario Odyssey rather than moaning about games with me.

WR: Hey, I feel attacked here. Why aren’t you playing, erm, one of a million great games?

AH: Because I already played a ton of I Am Setsuna on my Switch earlier. What’s your excuse for not playing Mario Odyssey yet?

WR: See, I like I Am Setsuna because it is achievable. That’s a solid 20-hour JRPG that I can finish and feel good about. Oh, and I have none. Captain Toad is in that game and I haven’t played it. What am I doing? What is the point of having a real job compared to that?

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is really enjoyable to pick up and play

AH: Anyway, we’ve digressed a lot, let’s forget about Mario for now. Yeah, from what I’ve played so far of I Am Setsuna, I can feel it’s going to be a fairly long game given it’s an RPG, but so far it’s had a linear world, so I do feel as though I’m actually progressing through the game at an acceptable rate.

WR: Look, you know digression is just the ways of things here! In all seriousness though, we should stop before we start getting too philosophical. Should we settle on celebrating how many great games there are, rather than them being too long? Or are you firmly sticking to open world games being flawed? I’m holding out for positivity here!

AH: You should know me, Will, I don’t do positivity, so I’m sticking firmly to the latter. The power of positivity isn’t flowing through my veins right now.

WR: Look, I tried. All in all, we came to the conclusion that… it’s different for everyone, based on their lives, I suppose. We have games to fill every need now – perhaps even too many. Maybe we can even play some before next week, eh?

AH: Definitely. And who knows, we might even finish one before then?

Ashley then proceeded to talk about pancakes, which led to my sadness at not having any. Ahem, back to the topic – we have such a plethora of media in the modern day that is can feel overpowering. Do you think it is too much sometimes? You can let us know in the comments!

Let’s Chat: So, That Nintendo Direct Was Pretty Great, Huh?

– This article was originally posted on 12th March 2018 and is being updated and archived here. I am bringing over the back catalogue of Let’s Chat gradually, and finding that going back to these moments in time has a nostalgic appeal! –

Fellow gamer Ashley Harrison and I experimented with a discussion format a while back, when we talked for way too long about The Last of Us Part II. Now, this format is coming back as a regular feature; starting here, the newly-named Let’s Chat will discuss a specific topic in each article. There was not much competition for the topic this time, as Nintendo blew us all away with a whole load of announcements in a Nintendo Direct last Thursday. Right, then – let’s get into it!

William Robinson: Hey Ash, how you doing? Recovering from the bombshells dropped by Nintendo? That Nintendo Direct last Thursday showed off the confident Nintendo we have at the moment, with a load of third-party support backing up massive announcements like Super Smash Bros., and, of course, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker! What was your initial reaction to the Direct?

Ashley Harrison: I think my initial reaction to the Direct was “I think Nintendo is finally going to be recognised as an actual console again!” because let’s face it, during both the Wii and Wii U days, the majority of “major” AAA developers skipped out on the console since it did not stand up to the rivals. However, with the ports of South Park: The Fractured But Whole and whatnot, I think it is finally going to change.

WR: I have gotta be honest, I think that realisation happened a while back. Nintendo has been riding the Switch wave for a while now, breaking sales records and releasing incredible games. We did see a bit more of the third-parties this time, but more on that in a bit; how about that Smash trailer, huh?

AH: Now, you are gonna hate me for this, but I honestly could not have cared less about it. I dislike Smash as a game, and I dislike its fanbase even more, so it did nothing for me personally. Although, I guess having the Smash logo show up in the Inkling’s eye was a pretty cool way to start.

WR: Hey, there is no problem with that opinion. Some games are not for everyone – though what if they put Spyro in? Also, that is how good the trailer was; even someone who is not a fan, like you, can see that it was awesome! What was your favourite reveal of the Direct, then?

AH: Nah, not even Spyro could save it for me, sans the ability to set everyone else on fire and win the game instantly. My favourite reveal was definitely Luigi’s Mansion on Nintendo 3DS! It is one of my favourite time killers, and knowing that the game was originally built with 3D functionality even back on the GameCube makes it cool that it is finally being realised on the 3DS.

That is one way to welcome a new participant

WR: Luigi’s Mansion? Wow, that is not what I expected. Do you not think it is an odd announcement though – not only that it is not on Switch, but that it is a game less feature-packed than the successor Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon? What are your general feelings on Nintendo continuing to make 3DS-only games like that and WarioWare Gold?

AH: Nope, I do not think it is an odd announcement at all. Let’s face it – Nintendo pretty much has 100% of the handheld market share; why not continue to produce games for the 3DS?

Let’s face it – Nintendo pretty much has 100% of the handheld market share

Ashley Harrison

WR: Because, well, people want their Switch games. The 3DS has to be near the end of its lifespan, right? You are seriously telling me you would not prefer Luigi’s Mansion on Switch?

AH: It is not that I would not prefer it on Switch, it is just I do not mind it is only coming to 3DS either. Not everything has to be put on Switch.

Luigi and the Mansion return! Say it with me: Maaaarrrrrrrio?!

WR: Right, we have gotta keep going, as there is a lot to cover here. Let’s talk ports – there are a lot of quality titles coming to Switch, but are you worried about how many are releases of old games?

AH: Nope, not at all. I have never understood people who are upset about re-releases, why not just enjoy the games you are getting? Just because you have already played something on another system, does not mean everyone has. It makes no sense to me.

WR: I agree with that, but the ratio of ports to new games was very lopsided in that Direct – I am not worried at the moment, but I hope we see some new games released alongside other consoles, which I think will happen with series like Call of Duty later this year.

AH: I am thinking the majority of new games are going to be saved for E3, this Direct just seemed like “here’s some old games that are coming to fill spots in our release schedule this year.

One of the series on the way to Switch is Dark Souls, adding to the library of games

WR: Yeah, and, “oh here is Smash Bros. too” However, the main focus of the Direct, at least according to Nintendo (they are trying) was Mario Tennis Aces. That do anything for you?

AH: Not really, I would be more interested in a new Mario Strikers game more than any other kind of sports spin-off. So yeah, Nintendo. Give us a new one of those.

WR: YES ASH. Those games were so good (and brutally tough) – I would love another one. Right, what else was there… Well, speaking of the ports, let’s run through a few. Crash BandicootSouth ParkUndertale… you think third-parties are committed to the Switch now?

AH: For sure I do, and I think the amount of third-party games shows that. Hopefully the releases keep up and don’t drop off!

It is great to see more and more games make their way to Switch – for example, Undertale

WR: Other than Luigi’s Mansion, what else stood out?

AH: Detective Pikachu! I have not got the slightest clue as to WHY I want it, all I know is that I NEED it!

WR: I like how you are that one guy excited about all the 3DS stuff. You are the one keeping it going, haha! Do not tell other fans, they will be after you…

Unlike in the Wii U days, there is really something for everyone

William Robinson

AH: This Direct just was not for me particularly, haha! Looking at the Switch announcements, I am not interested in Smash Bros. or Splatoon, and I already own the third-party games on my PlayStation 4, so I do not particularly want to double dip. Whereas on the 3DS side of things, it is stuff that either is not on a current generation console (Luigi’s Mansion) or just looks bats**t crazy (Detective Pikachu) and that is the kind of stuff that stands out and grabs my interest.

WR: It is nice to see that sort of different view though, and justifies Nintendo keeping their approach so scattershot at the moment. Unlike the Wii U days, there is really something for everyone – even just in that Direct. Would you agree with that view?

How did Detective Pikachu happen? All we know is that somehow it did

AH: That I would. And just to prove I am not trying to be some kind of weird hipster, I’m also super looking forward to Octopath Traveler. The Bravely Default games were among my favourites on the 3DS, so I am excited to see where this spiritual successor is going to go.

WR: The biggest shock was that name reveal. Who knew that Project Octopath Traveler would be called, wait for it, Octopath Traveler? In all seriousness, those hoping it would be called Final Fantasy XVI – there is a speculation line, and you crossed it. On a different topic, though: Nintendo has shown their hand with Smash, so do you think that is the focus for E3 (in the same style that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey have been for the previous two years)?

AH: I saw a thread on Twitter the other day, and each of the 4 playable character we have seen so far fit when you use OCTOPATH as an acrostic (?) O – Olberic C – ? T – Tressa O – ? P – Primrose A – Alfyn T – ? H – ? But yeah, I am fairly sure that Smash will be the focus of Nintendo’s E3 conference, especially with the game scheduled to release later on this year.

The art style of Octopath Traveler is stunning

WR: That is a cool theory that I actually can see being real. Yeah, and if they deck out their booth as a Nintendo Smash museum, that is gonna be awesome; in your mind, is E3 the next time Nintendo makes major announcements?

AH: It has to be if you ask me, but knowing Nintendo, I am sure we will hear of a new game before then with the usual “you’ll see more at E3” spiel.

WR: Makes sense. Before we go, I just want you to realise how much I have been restraining myself from making the whole conversation about Captain Toad. HE IS BACK, so who needs Smash Bros. (unless they put him in… )?

AH: I was wondering how long it would take for you to mention him, haha. I never played Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker on Wii U (it came out after I had lost all interest in the Wii U, to be honest) so it is definitely on my list of games to pick up on Switch – it just looks so much fun.

New Super Mario Odyssey-themed levels are being brought to Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker as well!

WR: Do it. That guy needs more recognition, doing all the hard work collecting power-ups for Mario. Such an ungrateful plumber.

AH: Let’s face it – he was the real star of Mario Odyssey and he deserves respect.

WR: I somehow still haven’t played Odyssey, so I am going to end this discussion and run away. See ya next time!

AH: You haven’t? God dammit, Will.

WR: Byeeeeee -disappears into the horizon-

Hopefully this format is working for you; if you have any suggestions on how we can improve this new series, you can let us know in the comments! Until then, you can also go here for the new archive page of Let’s Chat!