Let's talk Game Design! - Game length and cutting stuff

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Xenomic brought up some interesting points in his Touhou Fantasy project thread that I think a lot of developers struggle with nowadays. I think these are valuable points of discussion for any game designer. =o

I know that many game companies do this often, and I can understand why, but just what exactly is best to cut out?

I really enjoy the process of "cleaning up" and cutting stuff (way too much sometimes lol), so here's $.02 on the whole thing:

There are two ways that I've approached this: intuitively or logically. I always go with my intuition first and cut whatever feels like it isn't as fun for me or the player. If I'm writing a scene, generally I'll go over it and try to measure how much I liked it or get a feel for that while I'm writing it. Sometimes this approach is easier and quicker, but it can be easy to feel caught in between which scenes to keep and get rid of. When I took a class for Narrative Design for Games, my professor always urged me to take the logical approach. Basically, look at each scene / dungeon and measure just how much that contributes to the overall message you want the game to convey. The scene should back up the story quite well, and if you find one that feels like an "extra", it's easier for that to go first.

I usually go with my intuition first because, even if a scene is unnecessary, I don't want to cut it if it feels like something the players will really enjoy. I guess a happy blend between the two of them would be nice. ^^;

How do you determine just how LONG each dungeon is?

Another good technique for both dungeons and story-related events is to push things to the side and make them optional (easier said than done sometimes ;9). I think it's important to have a little variance in the length of a dungeon, to satisfy players that are impatience and the explorer types at the same time. For example, a dungeon that can be cleared in 30-45 mins may satisfy the impatient types, but the explorer type players are happier spending 2 hours in a dungeon. I think a good way to achieve this is by having a lot of optional content in the dungeon that rewards the more patient players.

Would it be wise to somehow relegate cut content to another part of the game? How do you determine how many dungeons your game has?

I think relegating content is not a bad idea at all, especially if you decide to make it optional or a side quest. Optional quests are great because they give options to the players that like to delve into the experience. Also, you don't have to worry about having too many of them because they're optional. ^-^


At least, that's my $.02... Everyone will have different techniques, so I don't think what I said is the right/only way to do things, haha. :p Anyone else have something to add - techniques? Points? Questions?

(I know there's barely anyone roaming around here nowadays and this will probably get ignored, but whatever !!)
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Ah yeah. I know how that feels on point #1. There's a few scenes that people have asked why are they even there and haven't been cut yet (mostly because they involve side characters and not the main characters), and while I understand how they feel, I feel that if I were to cut those two scenarios out of the game, that'd make explaining a scenario later on even more difficult (or worse yet, some characters lose some character development that works nicely in their favor). Heck, there's scenes that I feel that, while they can still stay as they work with the narrative, could probably be removed outright and the game could still be fine (but fixing up events and stuff afterwards would be a chore ugh).

Very good point on #2. I was thinking of having a sidequest/mission section (once the main game is done, of course) that'll have players return to older dungeons to do other things, especially in larger ones (smaller ones, obviously, are harder to do some content for heh). I generally try to make each dungeon a bit longer than the last, but there came a point where a lot of dungeons in one specific section of the game are relatively small and shorter than all the previous dungeons, before it goes back to being semi-decent length (because of a two 1-2 hour dungeons prior to all of those dungeons...).

Having story or character building material as side content isn't a bad idea, yeah. Although I feel that most of that should be in the main game itself, if there comes a point where it needs relegated, then it comes down to weighing which is more worth it I guess? Or, if it seems weird to put it in a side content area or whatever, and you really, really want those scenes to still be around (in my case, I have a lot of important scenes in a 2 hour dungeon that I'm cutting out and relegating to optional stuff only, because I don't want another stupidly long dungeon), then can always put them as flashbacks or something, as I'm going to be doing with this dungeon. That always works well, especially if you shift focus off of the main party and put it on another party until after that dungeon or something.

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I feel that if I were to cut those two scenarios out of the game, that'd make explaining a scenario later on even more difficult (or worse yet, some characters lose some character development that works nicely in their favor).

That's a tough part for me, too... I love writing dialogue and developing characters. ;9 Another alternative to cutting the scenes out entirely is to use fewer dialogue lines and shorten the wording of the ones used. Even if the change doesn't seem like much, cutting back on unnecessary words and phrases can really help speed up how quickly the player reads through the dialogue, making the scenes flow quicker. :)

I was thinking of having a sidequest/mission section (once the main game is done, of course) that'll have players return to older dungeons to do other things, especially in larger ones (smaller ones, obviously, are harder to do some content for heh). I generally try to make each dungeon a bit longer than the last, but there came a point where a lot of dungeons in one specific section of the game are relatively small and shorter than all the previous dungeons, before it goes back to being semi-decent length (because of a two 1-2 hour dungeons prior to all of those dungeons...).

I think it's certainly a good idea to have the player revisit dungeons as an option. :D I think overall that the first few dungeons should be pretty short in time length, but maybe the others should be around the same length (instead of longer)? Though I guess it would be hard to keep the time at a plateau while increasing the difficulty. ;9

Or, if it seems weird to put it in a side content area or whatever, and you really, really want those scenes to still be around then can always put them as flashbacks or something, as I'm going to be doing with this dungeon. That always works well, especially if you shift focus off of the main party and put it on another party until after that dungeon or something.

Good point! I never considered the use of flashbacks! :D Can definitely see this coming in handy if scenes feel unbalanced. It could be neat to have the larger scene end with some sort of phrase hinting at a discussion, then revisit the discussion later in a flashback to spread things out a bit.

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