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How to make a game longer without boring the pants off everyone

Everyone knows that it's not how long it is, it's how you made it long. No, that's not right… anyway, it seems that games have to contain at least 15 hours of single-player gameplay these days or everybody feels short-changed. Just look at the argument we had over Vanquish. But there are two ways of making a game longer. One is easy – recycle content. The other is awesome, and that's where this lot come in.

 

Add a treasure hunt... like Super Mario Galaxy 2

Galaxy 2 is one of the best games I've ever played. Not only does it have just as many fresh ideas as its groundbreaking predecessor, it doesn't feature any superfluous content. And just when you've got all 120 stars (which already have some sweet re-use of levels with the Prankster Comets) and feel like you've got your money's worth, you realise you're in fact only halfway through the game. It's green star time.


Above: Damn straight you did

This changes the challenging levels into one of childhood's most treasured pastimes - a treasure hunt. Your only clues to the stars' presence are the noise they make when you get close and the light they emit.

Bouncing across lava on your scorched bum to reach your prize, perfectly timing a triple-jump on a moving platform to reach insane heights… almost every single one is a test of how well you know the mechanics of the game.

And come the end, you're given access to the Grandmaster Galaxy, which added another 7 hours onto the game for me. Why? Because it's just so damn difficult. In short, it all turns the game into something fresh and new. Let's face it, after 120 levels, a change is as good as a sequel. Just look at the enormity of the game in this post-win Wii message: 


Above: As if it wasn't hard enough getting all those gold stars the game near doubles in size. But brilliantly

 

Instead of… Super Mario Galaxy

The first Galaxy gave you a special reward for finishing the game - Luigi. So you could do the whole thing again, only in green. Yeah, I didn't do that.


Above: "Wow, did you? Aw, Luigi, you shouldn't have. No, really"

 

Add rankings... like Bayonetta

I've been playing Bayonetta again recently, just checking that I hadn't gone mad when I mentioned back on TalkRadar UK #52 that it was the best game of 2010 so far. Turns out I hadn't gone mad - it's still freakin' amazing. But while even the greatest directorial flair can't necessarily sustain repeat playthroughs indefinitely, there is one thing that does - a ranking system.

Bayonetta's is incredibly strict, yet also one of the fairest in any game. You got hit by an enemy? OK. But you can't have a Pure Platinum trophy. Nope, sorry mate, better try again. You can still get a Platinum trophy (not the PS3 kind, a level reward), sure, but not Pure Platinum. That's reserved for those who truly master the combat.


Above: Getting Pure Platinum on every level with every difficulty is not a challenge to be taken lightly 

No-one could say the game is short on their first playthrough, but adding in this kind of replayability turns the amount of time needed to truly complete it something like… a million hours. Yes, an actual million hours. OK, so that's 124 years and therefore longer than any human being has ever survived, but that just shows you how hardcore a challenge it really is.

 

With a score table that ranks you on every difficulty level on every stage and several sub-trophies to master in each one, there's an obscene amount of replayability to be had. I admit, so far I only have one Pure Platinum trophy, but I am very proud of it.

 

Instead of… Dante's Inferno

Dante's Inferno, which lets you play through the game again, only with your magic and most other items carried over. Still, at least you get to relive the nightmare, eh?


Above: You could argue Dante's Inferno was long enough as it was. More nipple knife babies, anyone?

 

Add online challenges... like Burnout Paradise:

I'm not talking about straight online multiplayer here. Apparently, the developers found that the online features such as Road Rules were almost universally the last thing people did when they were playing Burnout Paradise. But when they did play them, they were in for the long haul.

Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is incorporating this into the game in a much more prominent style - it'll affect everything you do. But it doesn't need to be that way. Addind decent online functionality can give any game legs - just look at Trials HD.

  

Instead of... Need For Speed Carbon

Carbon congratulates you after you beat all the challenges by suggesting you do it all again, but choose a different car at the start. WHAT?


Above: There is still lots of things to do in the game. Like learn grammar, for instance. Jeez...

45 comments

  • RicePuddingUK - January 6, 2011 3:51 p.m.

    Point Lookout for Fallout 3 was excellent, I spent a whole evening on that DLC and was immersed, I loved the quest involving the Chinese Agent
  • NightCrawler_358 - January 5, 2011 9:22 p.m.

    I definitely agree with skyline19, zombies are an easy addition that can add hours of gameplay. Even though i don't really care too much about them, achievments and trophies are fun to collect.
  • philipshaw - January 5, 2011 12:52 p.m.

    Great article and some great examples used here, at least AC has got better with their side missions
  • FauxFurry - January 5, 2011 6:33 a.m.

    You didn't include one of the most critical tricks of the trade used in recent(enough) days to extend a game's run time, not least of all by Bethesda Softworks: Let somebody else do it for you by way of mod tools. Maybe that oft-repeated phrase about 10,000 monkeys at 10,000 type writers (over 10,000 years or so) being able to produce the complete works of Shakespeare might actually have some merit after all,though the bright fellows in Bethesda's fan community needed far fewer keyboards and quite a bit less time to outshine the efforts put into what is contained in the retail package. Hundreds of talented tinkerers who may or may not have worked at a single PC or multiple PCs in tandem(each of which has the Elder Scrolls Construction Set installed)spending over 10,000 hours of unpaid labor on producing mod content turned humble Morrowind into one of the deepest,most vibrant game worlds ever developed and it only cost Bethesda a freebie software disc. Compared to that,challenges that yeild unlockable costumes and extra characters seems like a comparatively paltry means of prolonging a game experience. One obvious no-no left off of the list is pure,unadulterated, mind-numbing, finger-straining,life draining Level Grinding, Square-Enix's favorite vice/over-used crutch which leaves many of their games nearly completely lame. How about trimming a cinematic cutscene or 20 and reducing the graphical complexity a shade then putting in a few extra in-game missions and activities here and there,instead?
  • V13Dragongal - January 5, 2011 4:33 a.m.

    Great list. Love the PvZ reference xD
  • kachigop - January 5, 2011 4:32 a.m.

    Hah. I got the Plants Vs. Zombies reference. I am pleased. Good article.
  • civver - January 5, 2011 3:07 a.m.

    A bunch of zombies better than Fallout 3 Broken Steel. Yeah, sure. Most of these are just repetitive slogs. The first one did seem appealing though.
  • quincytheodore - January 5, 2011 2:56 a.m.

    Holy mother of pearl, Is that ALL Pure Platinum for real? I've spent dozens of hours, along with bits of my sanity, for all Platinum on Normal and (almost) Hard.. It almost takes inhuman reflexes for Pure in Hard.
  • BurntToShreds - January 5, 2011 2:44 a.m.

    Treasure hunts are subjective. I've read a lot of comments on message boards about how the Triforce hunt from Wind Waker was irritating.
  • rybell - January 5, 2011 2:42 a.m.

    i personally loved the broken steel dlc for fallout but i had it on the ps3 so no problems with it also, i loved all the extra crap in assassins creed 2. it kept me playing till i got all 1000 gamerscore points. then i realized my xbox isn't connected to the internet and that kind of ruined it for me
  • mrtimmy - January 5, 2011 1:51 a.m.

    I agree with thedonut. I put more than 200 hours into Monster Hunter and I still haven't beaten every monster. DAMN YOU FATALIS!!!!!
  • CandiedJester - January 5, 2011 1:27 a.m.

    Agreed. Also, if you make a game where you get to rid the world of evil, make sure there are a lot of little things to make pretty again, too, like Okami. Instead of say, Twilight Princess, where I am pretty sure, if I remember correctly, once you clear a portion of the map of evil it is all cleared. Also like Okami, put in a lot of treasures to search for, and things to dig up, and etc. I am on Okami mode because I just discovered how amazing this game is. You were all right! Maybe I should buy the "PLAY OKAMI" t-shirt now. Haha. :]
  • Jrm21 - January 5, 2011 12:54 a.m.

    Good list but breeding? seriously? I've never even heard of that
  • EroticInvisibleMan - January 5, 2011 12:29 a.m.

    And I of course meant GTA4
  • EroticInvisibleMan - January 5, 2011 12:29 a.m.

    @Skyline There are so many zombie mods fr GA4 it's not funny.
  • Overlord153 - January 4, 2011 10:31 p.m.

    I think unlocking God Hard in Vanquish was a pretty good way. After beating the game and feeling like a total badass uyou see the screen you unlocked God Hard. So you think "how hard could it be i'll just try it out for a few minutes." It's amazing that you can get past Act 1 mission 2 without dying 7 times in the first 8 minutes.
  • garnsr - January 4, 2011 9:04 p.m.

    I played the GotY fallout 3, so the DLC was just part of the game for me. I'd probably have been disappointed if I had to fire up the game just to play them, but as missions I just ran across they weren't bad. I don't think getting different medals or scores drives me to play any more. Sometimes that sort of thing just makes a game seem more gamey.
  • bobbybroccoli - January 4, 2011 9:01 p.m.

    I was so happy when I finally got all 242 stars in SMG2.
  • Spybreak8 - January 4, 2011 7:57 p.m.

    That's funny, the green stars in SMG2 sound exactly like the orbs in Crackdown. You can hear them nearby and then bam collect-a-thon!
  • Innounci - January 4, 2011 6:46 p.m.

    i feel as though every game could use a breeding feature like pokemon to extend gameplay... :3

Showing 1-20 of 45 comments

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