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Playing Time

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OrlandoPat
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Joined: 10/16/2008

Here's an interesting quandry. In its current incarnation, our next game takes about 3 hours to play.

To my way of thinking, 3 hours is way too long.

However, the game itself is extremely enjoyable. I'm not tooting my own horn here. After several weeks of playtesting, everyone agrees that it's just about ready to go to artwork. It's exciting, challenging, and at times, funny. The victor gets that deep sense of satisfaction that we're all shooting for. The losers, instead of feeling cheated out of victory, tend to feel either that they almost made it or that were fairly beaten.

By all my measurements, this game should be produced.

But it takes 3 hours to play.

What do you guys think? Is 3 hours too long for a non-RPG? Do you play any games that take 3 hours?

Anonymous
Playing Time

I've played lots of games that lasted WAY longer than 3 hours. A few of the historical games or wargames we would play with the knowledge that we would probably not finish even after 4 or 5 hours--the board game CIVILIZATION is pretty notorious here.

If I am enjoying the game, I would happily play it for 3 hours.

KEVP

Zzzzz
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Joined: 06/20/2008
Playing Time

Well my first thought would be, has any of your playtesting session every gone beyond 3 hours? If so, what percentage?

Without knowing what type of game your talking about, 3 hours on the very high side could be fine. But the game would have to be very fun, and contain depth. Keep in mind you are also reducing your target audience. From what I remember market research suggest that the average game player likes to play games under 90 minutes long. So this game would be an exception.

I guess I would tell you to look at WHY the game takes 3 hours (or longer). Is it a result of the depth of the game? Is it because players *waste* time eating chips and drinking beer?

You cant account for player habits of *wasting* time. But you can validate that the length is a direct result of depth. And depending on what market the game is targetted towards, you might be fine, war and civ games can easily push 3 hours, if not more.

Shellhead
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Playing Time

I agree with the last two posts regarding length of game.

In addition, I would like to mention that a game can be too short. In June, I bought Mall of Horror, a zombie/voting game. It's has a fun theme, great components, and some decent gameplay. But it only takes 30-45 minutes to play, which feels too short, especially for a game that cost $45.

Personally, I tend to like the longer games, even 5-6 hours or more, as long as there is enough entertainment value there. But I can think of two specific factors that should require a shorter play time, say less than two hours: player elimination, and lack of replay value.

When there is potential for a player getting eliminated from the game, it would be cruel to leave them sitting around for hours, waiting for the game to end, especially if there is the possibility that nobody else gets eliminated until near the end, if at all. While I love the Vampire/Jyhad CCG, it is harsh to be the first ousted in a long game.

Replay value needs a little more explanation. Every game theoretically can be played multiple times. But if there is a relatively limited number of variations on how the game plays out, I feel that limits the replay value. Just to pick an extreme example, Tic Tac Toe has bored me completely since 5th grade, when my best friend and I played it over and over again for one boring hour. If I never play Tic Tac Toe again in my life, I will die a happy and content man.

Anyway, it's possible that if a game lasts too long, all of the elements of the game come into play every game. Cut that play time in half, and maybe only half the game elements come into play each game, and not always the same "half", giving the game a fair amount of replay. On the other hand, if only 10% of the game gets explored in a given play, that might be too short. The afore-mentioned Mall of Horror has a deck of cards, and in a typical game, we might only see about 25% of the deck, at the most.

Gogolski
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Joined: 07/28/2008
Playing Time

Playing time differs a huge lot, depending on which people I play with. We usually tend to have a lot of side conversation during most games, and with some people it sometimes is too much for my liking...

Most estimated 'game times' have to be multiplied with 1.5 or evern 2 to get the time we normally use to play the game.

A 4.5 hour game (= 3 hours estimated playing time on the box...) is not unusual with the people I play with (the group differs about every time I play, but some people are more regular than others...), but it is a bit on the long side. Then again, it is not unusual and it is not a turn down for the people I play with.

Cheese!

Rick-Holzgrafe
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Joined: 07/22/2008
Re: Playing Time

OrlandoPat wrote:
Do you play any games that take 3 hours?

Railroad Tycoon. Age of Steam. A Game of Thrones. Arkham Horror. Twilight Imperium 3. Even Caylus takes 2.5 hours, with a full table. And I have friends and family who will happily play 8-hour games of 18xx or Diplomacy.

But the game needs to be challenging and immersive. All of the above games qualify (for me!) except Arkham Horror which I find a bit dull to play for that long. (I play it anyway because it's not bad and my wife loves it.)

So sure, if your game is keeping your testers happy through repeated three-hour sessions, I think people will purchase and play it. Zzzzz is probably right that shorter games sell better, but if you have to gut the game to cut playing time in half, that would hurt your sales too.

Patriarch
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Playing Time

I like long games. In fact I agree with just about everything Rick says...

And TI3 is my favorite game of all time. :)

johant
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Playing Time

i wouldnt worry, 3 hours is ok. There is definately a market for games that takes 3 hours even if it ist very large.
The potential market will of cource be smaller lots of people wouldnt ever play a game that last more then 2 hours.

The sweet spot for the casual gamer is maybe 75 minutes.
If u could achieve all what u are saying in your game and it would take 2 hours that would be even better.

//Johan

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Playing Time

The caveat is that a lot of the games that are long and sell are heavy-duty gamer's games (like Caylus) that have a specific audience (gamers) or are bix boxes o' plastic (like FF or Eagle's games), that also have a specific audience, but the amount of crosstalk between those markets is limited. In a world where every game needs to be playable the first time, right out of the box, learned in 5 minutes, and played to completion in 60, I think there's definitely a place in the world for substantive games that last 2-3 hours. The key word for me is subtantive. There are games that last 3 hours that really shouldn't last 3 hours.

So, to me, it's a matter of whether the game justifies its length and whether you're willing to accept that it might not sell as well as a shorter game. But as others have pointed out, that too may be a false dichotomy, since a shorter version of the same game may not be as good and might not sell as well either.

Good luck, and hope we'll hear more about the game soon!

-Jeff

bluesea
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Joined: 07/28/2008
Playing Time

Maybe the next few times you play test, have everyone remove their watches. When the game is over, ask everyone what time they think it is or how long they have been playing.

In my opinion, it is not the length of the game, but the perception of time passed. I've played games that take an hour that FEEL like 3 or 4 hours, and I've played games that take 2 or 3 hours that feel like time just flew by.

I think if your game feels good, and no one is complaining or saying, "Oh I like the game, fun and all, but could be a bit shorter," then you might be on to something.

John

Willi_B
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Playing Time

If everyone is still in the game at the end (no elimination) and has a chance to win, then 3 hours will be cool with most gamers.

OrlandoPat
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Joined: 10/16/2008
Thanks

Thanks for the great feedback!

My biggest concern has been the marketability at 3 hours, but you're absolutely right. If we're willing to settle on a smaller market, the three hours shouldn't be a problem.

It'll continue on its path and hopefully move to artwork either next month or the month after.

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