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: Spyro’s Coming Back & We’re Very Excited

Time for Week 2 of this new feature, where Ashley Harrison and I talk over the big topic of the week. We’re rather excited this time, as a new Kotaku story claims that we will be getting a Spyro Trilogy (the PS1 games) remake for PlayStation 4 this year. We explain more specifics in the conversation, so, well, let’s get into it!

William Robinson: It’s Week 2 and we’ve already got one of the best stories I can think to talk about – according to Laura Kate Dale, reliable leaker over at Kotaku, a Spyro PS1 Trilogy remake is coming this year, in the vein of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy! Those Spyro titles are some of my favourite childhood games, so I’m incredibly excited about this. Do you think we can believe this as a legit story, given the track record of both writer and publication?

Ashley Harrison: I think we can totally believe it as legit. It’s not like it’s a massive surprise to me, seeing how well Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy sold – it was only a matter of time before Activision commissioned the Spyro remaster, in my opinion.

WR: Yeah, I thought it would happen – I mean, they’re better games, so it makes sense – but I didn’t think it’d be this quick. Apparently we’ll have an announcement next month and a Q3 launch, which is a snappy turnaround. Are you thinking September, the 20th Anniversary of Spyro, is likely as a release month?

AH: I’m expecting it to be a September release, yeah. Going by Wikipedia, there isn’t a single game release slated to happen (yet) in September, so it’d be a perfect month to release it if it stays like that. I’m going to have to disagree with the Spyro games being better than the Crash games though, sorry.

WR: That’s fighting talk. I don’t see any dragons riding skateboards in Crash Bandicoot, so your argument is dismissed. For me, Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer (the subtitle was Ripto’s Rage in North America) is the best, with Spyro: Year of the Dragon (the third entry) close behind. The first game, Spyro the Dragon, is naturally a bit rougher around the edges; hopefully, we get some updates and refinements, like Crash did.

AH: Yeah, but we have rideable tigers and polar bears in the Crash series, so… I’m torn constantly between Spyro 2 and Year of the Dragon being my favourite Spyro game; you could ask me every day of the week and I’d give you a different answer each time. Spyro the Dragon definitely needs some improvements in the vein of the Crash remaster. The lack of simple things from the later 2 games in the original trilogy such as hovering need to be implemented if you ask me.

WR: Mainly, I’m just happy with those games being available on my PS4 with a new lick of paint, and, of course, those sweet, sweet Trophies. Are there any parts you’re particularly looking forward to playing again?

AH: For me, it’ll be seeing Glimmer in HD for the first time. Spyro 2 was the first game I played from the original trilogy, so Glimmer holds a special place in my heart. Other than that, Breeze Harbour is a personal favourite level of mine, so it’ll be great to see that again. What about you?

WR: There’s so many classic levels and hub worlds. I like how there were secrets in said hub worlds, an element of 3D platformers that seems to have been forgotten in the years since. Beyond that it’s seeing all those awesome characters again (see: Sgt. Byrd & Sheila the Kangaroo) and, of course, the skateboarding segments.

AH: Oh man, the skating is gonna be so hype. I spent WAY too much time trying to get as high a score as possible when I was younger, and I just know I’m gonna do the exact same for this. I hope they implement an online leaderboard or something for the minigames in all 3 games, so I can brag about just how much better I am at them than you.

WR: Woahhhh. I wasn’t called The Spyro Master for nothing as a kid (yes, that’s a true story, and yes, it’s incredibly dorky). But I did 100% those games, and I am very much looking forward to doing it again. On a tangent, have you played the Crash remake, and do you think they will they keep things like the Squid Skateboard cheat codes in a Spyro remake?

AH: I bought the Crash remake as soon as it was available to pre-order on Amazon, they’re 3 of my favourite games from my childhood so no way was I missing out on them. I do hope they keep all of the cheat codes in the games, not just squid skatebaording. Big Head mode + Pink Spyro was hilarious to me as a kid, so I hope I can do it again in the remake.

WR: Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here, but could these nostalgic remakes be leading to something more? Between these, Yooka-Laylee and the more 64/Sunshine-esque Super Mario Odyssey, the 3D platformer with a bespoke hub world may be coming back into fashion. At what point do we start getting new entries in these series? Do you expect a new Crash?

AH: I expect a new Crash game, given a recent report that mentioned a new one coming in 2019 as part of Activision’s 5 year plan for Crash. Whether I want it or not though is a different question. We’ve seen multiple developers make their own spin on Crash, but none of them lived up to the feel of the original trilogy. Whilst Vicarious Visions did a good job on the one part of N. Sane Trilogy they made themselves from scratch, I’m just not sure if it’d be possible to capture that Crash Bandicoot essence again. I don’t expect a new Spyro game at all though, sadly.

WR: You think this is more just a microcosm of people taking advantage of bringing back these beloved games, more than a change in terms of the genres we’re getting, then?

AH: Absolutely. It’s been proven time and time again in multiple industries, that if there’s one thing that sells, it’s nostalgia. And whilst that isn’t necessarily a bad thing in its own right, I just don’t see the 3D platformer making its way back into the mainstream, sadly.

WR: Hey, as long as it stops Spyro being turned into some horrific alternate reality version of himself in Skylanders, I’m fine with that. Any other series you can see getting this treatment? You may judge me, but honestly, Gex gets my vote.

AH: Jak and Daxter. Tell me you don’t want it.

WR: I’ve… never properly played them. *Hides*

AH: Dammit, Will. I believe that The Precursor Legacy has just been released on PS4 as a PS2 on PS4 Classic, so get on it. Anyway, going back to Spyro, if there’s one thing that I want them to keep in for this rumoured remake, it’s the glitches.

Spyro Image

AH: Vicarious Visions seemed fine to leave in some of the more well known Crash glitches, and add a certain… hilarity to them, shall we say? That makes me hopeful they’ll leave in some of the Spyro ones too. Being able to finish the whole of Spyro 2 only collecting one Talisman and beating all 3 bosses is super fun.

WR: I think I missed out on this stuff! My playthroughs tended to be pretty glitch-free, but this sounds like some interesting stuff – especially for those already familiar with the game, like myself. Glitches and, er, dodgy moments are part of the PS1 aesthetic, y’know?

AH: If you ever get the chance, watch a speedrun of the game [we’ve embedded one below -William], it’s so much fun. Insomniac left a ton of non-solid textures in the game, as well as the ability to “double-jump” by charging whilst at the top of a jump, which breaks the game so much.

WR: I may have to do that! Talking of aesthetics, I think the visual style of Spyro can translate really well. Even now, the bright colours and clean polygons have aged better than most games from that time, which only makes me more excited to be able to enjoy that world in HD. Honestly, there isn’t much gameplay wise they need to change for me – perhaps some camera refinement? What about you?

AH: I’m totally with you on the camera refinement there, it wasn’t the best whatsoever on PS1. I’d also like to see the first person aiming improved for this release, too. It was way too loose, so this is a great opportunity to fix that.

WR: I’m sure we could talk all day about the details of Spyro – and I’m sure we will in the future – but until we get more info it might be best to leave it there for now. Suffice to say, I’m incredibly excited – this is now my most anticipated game (at least until a Captain Toad Switch game gets announced). Any final thoughts on what you’d like from the return of Spyro?

AH: Bring on (supposedly) September!

WR: Well, Laura Kate Dale, you better not be playing us on this one, or we could look very silly. Either way, it’s good to dream. Until next week!

That’s the conversation for this week! If you have any feedback on the presentation of this new features, or even any topics you’d like us to cover, you can let us know in the comments. Alternatively, you can read the last Discussion, on Xbox Games Pass and the Netflix model.