Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Grind-free for the time-poor gamer!

I guess it’s generally considered desirable to promote a product for what it *has* not what it does not have. This is unfortunate because I can see a lot of ‘features’ that would enhance a product purely by their removal. My pet hate is the new squeezy nozzle on heinz ketchup, but putting my personal table-sauce related jihad to one side, and thinking purely about games, I can imagine several features, whose omission that would pique my interest…

  • Now featuring absolutely NO startup movies or publisher logos!
  • Now featuring a total lack of cheesy voice acting and macho quips!
  • 100% free from sexist and racist stereotypes!
  • Absolutely no grinding or filler!

All of these would get my thumbs up, yet nobody ever markets a product that way, even though I’m sure there are games that omit all these annoyances. There must be something about good marketing practice that means it’s a bad idea to promote a negative? (although ‘non-bio’ and ‘no sugar’ come close)

Take a game like portal. It is apparently short. I’ve never played it to the end, so I don’t know. I’m sure a lot of people would panic if a game was announced proudly as being short, but I also suspect a lot of people (middle aged, with kids especially) would welcome a game that was high quality fun, condensed into a reasonable length of time. I don’t care about ‘finishing’ games, but I find myself losing patience with any movie over 2 hours long. My time is limited, get to the point.

I spent a day playing Halo in the office at Elixir once (I was ‘on call’, not there to do work…) and was enjoying it right up until a bit where the next mission involved backtracking the last 15 minutes. This was clearly filler, to make the game feel longer. It was like a really tedious scene that any decent editor would crop from a movie.

Even from the Fellowship Of The Ring.

And yet, big budget games are full of that stuff.

I make sandbox games, so they don’t lend themselves to being marketed this way, but it would be great if some games did seek out the ‘time-poor’ gamer. I know there are lots of us. Aren’t there?

16 thoughts on Grind-free for the time-poor gamer!

  1. Most games that are praised for their epic length should be reviled for their abundance of filler instead. I am looking at you, Dragon Age Origins (and all other Bioware games, for that matter). Even the already shorter DA2 could have been improved by removing a few hours of pointless combat versus mooks.

  2. “yet nobody ever markets a product that way”

    Well, there are some exceptions. “No DRM” is a pretty common rallying call (and good for it). And I recall when no-resource-gathering RTS’s were a new thing that they used the negation-based phrase… but nowadays they like to couch it in some kind of positive statement about streamlining or focus or whatever.

    And having looked at a smattering of the current top-sellers on steam, I didn’t see any negative statements in the features lists. So yea, apparently the marketing folk want to avoid Apophatic advertising ;)

    But yea, I appreciate it when a game respects the value of my time. And I might appreciate it even more if it just came out and said “you know all that time-wasting crap you have to do in those other games? Not here.”

  3. “I know there are lots of us. Aren’t there?”

    Mobile games man. You can not get more to the point that those. At least the well-thought ones.

  4. But mobile games are often not quality things at all, they’re ALL grind and filler. Angry birds?

    This is not always the case, but much more the rule than the exception.

  5. I detest games’ startup advertisements. Maybe show me the first time I play the game, but having to skip them (even if they do provide a skip option e.g. escape key) every single time I play leaves a bad impression.

    I bought The Witcher 2 through Good Old Games and it has FIVE (maybe it was four) movies to skip. FFFFFUUUUU-

  6. I recently found Frozen Synapse and it’s a perfect example of a game for people with little time. It’s a simultaneous turn-based tactical game that is backed by a server storing your turns indefinitely, so it basically becomes a play-by-email game. :)

  7. I was really interesting in LA Nior until I heard it was 40-70 hours in length… that’s about 3 years on my current gaming time budget! (I’m married with child and make games in my “spare” time)

    Same goes for Fallout 3… didn’t bother starting because I know I’ll never have the time to get into it.

  8. I agree with the Frozen synapse comment, it’s an amazing game for those of us short on time.

    On a related note I have the same problem with DVDs, if they advertised a film as having “no anti-piracy message” or “No menu whatsoever” I would be a very happy camper ;-)

    “No clothes whatsoever” also a winner ;-D

  9. I’ve been playing Fallout New Vegas recently and it is doing reasonably well on the grind-aversion part. It is perfectly possible to get to the end-game without taking a look on most of the game content. There are tons of side-quests and many of them are rather grindy, but you can skip them if you want. I mostly accept the side-quests and do them if the main questline happens to take me to the same neighbourhood.

  10. Half-Minute Hero for the PSP is an example of a game that is primarily marketed in this way.

  11. There is no point in BUYING GAMES at high prices if they are short, remember you’re buying the game and that money is gone forever so it better darn well give you you’re moneys worth.

    Entertainment is a tough business to be in there is a market for every kind of game. No one needs to browbeat long games just because you don’t understand them.

  12. I don’t really mind the startup movies and publisher logos, sometimes they’re really well done and worth watching, I’d just like the option to skip them immediately. In games there’s sometimes loading going on in the background but there’s no excuse not to be able to just start a movie. Sometimes I think the people who design DVD menus are frustrated (and incompetent) game designers. :)

    Note to FBI/Interpol: Got the message, I don’t need 13.2 seconds of dire warnings in three languages about how I may already be a criminal for using the thing I paid for. Really.

  13. Cliffski, what do you have against squeeze bottles!!!!11!!!1!? I think they are very useful compared to the old glass ones, as when the new ones are used, sauce is transferred from the bottle to the food.

    There is however, a workaround if one still uses the deprecated bottles. One only has to insert a tiny, long-handled ladle into the bottle, dip it in the sauce and it will return several millilitres of sauce.

  14. I have just started playing Test Drive Unlimited 2, and when I start a race for the first time I have to go through a video sequence that lasts 20 seconds with someone talking about the race, and how the competition is getting tougher (I counted it with a stop watch) and I have no option but to endure it. If I restart the race, the waiting time is no more than 3-5 seconds.

  15. Actually most of that isn’t really filler, like for instance, Halo is a combat simulator. In real combat there will be times where you have to backtrack to a previous location. In RPG’s grinding is a feature, a challenge till you can take out that next boss. Calling them filler disregards the kinds of gamers that appreciate the realistic combat of Halo or grinding to the next boss. Honestly I don’t like grinding that much either, but I know people who see it as a challenge and brag about it later. They’re just not the kind of games your into, maybe you like a more arcade like experience some people enjoy other things.

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