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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...

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45 comments

  • oufour - January 4, 2011 11:04 a.m.

    Eh...some of these work?
  • BIOSback - January 4, 2011 11:11 a.m.

    Oh hai gaemz radar!
  • skyline19 - January 4, 2011 11:11 a.m.

    I think "ADD ZOMBIES" would be the best solution also, although I'm not the biggest fan of GTA4, I'd play the hell out of it if it had a "ADD ZOMBIES" moment.
  • Ricitor - January 4, 2011 11:25 a.m.

    You gotta love Galaxy 1. You just put a lot of your life into the game and Luigi is your reward for all the hard work :)
  • EvidentDead - January 4, 2011 11:50 a.m.

    I always thought some achievement/trophies did a good job of stretching a games length.
  • NESman - January 4, 2011 12:23 p.m.

    Great article. How about an article on games that need content added after beating the main story? (Like every Zelda since the first one, for example)
  • cronoman66 - January 4, 2011 1:09 p.m.

    oh god I remember the ending of NFS:Carbon, literally like taking a dump on top of my 360
  • EnragedTortoise1 - January 4, 2011 1:14 p.m.

    But I liked Luigi in SMG... Seriously, I got all 242 stars in the game. 120 with Mario, 120 with Luigi, and the 2 extra bonus galaxy-things. Nice tae have ye back, gamesradah.
  • bellium - January 4, 2011 2:01 p.m.

    Nice article, keep up the good work :)
  • Ilyere - January 4, 2011 2:21 p.m.

    Haha, Animal Crossing! I used to play that religiously every day. Anyway, that last one should be 'Add zombies to every game'. I'm getting tired of seeing DLC everywhere...
  • iSuperNova77 - January 4, 2011 2:24 p.m.

    I have to agree with EnragedTortoise1, I loved playing through SMG again as Luigi. I got all 242 stars as well. I don't think I would have played through the game again if it wasn't for Luigi.
  • Clovin64 - January 4, 2011 2:37 p.m.

    Now I feel like a rubbish noob for my pathetic amount of crappy trophies in Bayonetta. And thanks for reminding me how frightningly deep and hardcore Pokemon really is. Thanks a bunch. New Years Resolution: Get good at games.
  • myguyfromthe80s - January 4, 2011 2:42 p.m.

    Or you can be follow the Blizzard rule and make the game NEVER-ENDING!
  • pin316 - January 4, 2011 2:42 p.m.

    it can't just be me that's getting a bit tired of zombies...i mean, for a while it was fun, but it's starting to get a bit 'samey'. You can tell that some devs do it just because it's the in-thing to do rather than put any genuine effort into it (Red Dead beingg an exception - i was really dubious when i heard about it but it's a very solid add-on) rankings and bonus modes for me are the way forwards..i completely agree with the Bayonetta comments, that game is awesome in it's own right but the quest for shiny level rankings adds a whole additional degree of goodness. Stuff like Horde/Firefight is nice as well, especially when it's properly supported by the devs with special event weekends and/or challenges/achievements.
  • netlatnu - January 4, 2011 2:57 p.m.

    I was under the impression that most people didn't like the green star challenges in SMG2 because they felt like filler and were repetitive. I thought they were great and gave you a chance to really search the levels. and appreciate all there was to their design. Also, that @$%^ last star does take seven hours to get, but I had fun every minute of it. I also like the luigi mode in SMG, though, because it gave me an excuse to replay the game, which isn't that bad of a thing when the game is Super Mario Galaxy.
  • Crabhand - January 4, 2011 3:06 p.m.

    Man did Pokémon's stat tweaking and breeding ever nail it. I had a box full of Tyrogue from trying to get one with the right nature and ability to make the perfect Hitmonchan (which I never actually followed through on). But none of it felt boring, and that's the key. I've dumped hundreds of hours into Pokémon games but struggle to make other games last.
  • EdDeRs1 - January 4, 2011 3:26 p.m.

    hey, i liked the fallout 3 DLC
  • kuroda - January 4, 2011 4:02 p.m.

    I think developers should just make the game interesting enough so that people are glad they got to experience it, i've finished mafia 2 in about 10 hours, but damn what an amazing 10 hours it was! I didn't mind spending 60 bucks on it. First make a good game, after that and only if it's optional, think of ways to give your buyers more reasons to stay in the world you created. after finishing Mafia 2 I did search for the playboys though... cause you know... boobs.
  • Aletheon - January 4, 2011 4:27 p.m.

    Disagree about Animal Crossing. That game rules, and I played the last game for 6 months.
  • Evernight57 - January 4, 2011 4:42 p.m.

    I will admit to FO3 Operation Anchorage being trash, but the Pitt while short on content, was def. the best storyline in the DLCs and maybe even the game - Infanticide for the greater good?! Broken Steel got fixed and Point Lookout was great. A bit hostile. How about COD:MW2 for bad DLC - where they make you pay $15 for 4 new maps?!?

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