Over at gamesetwatch, Duncan Fyfe has an opinion piece on how games don’t telegraph their finales. According to him, players have a hard time figuring out when a game is going to end.

Hmmm. To some degree, he’s right. This happens most when a lot of side jobs are stuffed into a game. Mostly, they are there to pad out the playing time, aside from providing experience and goodies.

Slogging through them can certainly make the game seem endless. On the other hand, if you simply follow the main line, it’s fairly certain you’ll know when the end is at hand. The main line is always a railroad with a conductor to make sure you don’t go wrong.

Oblivion is the best example of that. Ignoring all the “side stuff” and joining guilds and whatnot, you can finish in about a day, thanks (thanks?) mainly to the silly scaling system.

On the other hand, a game can drive you up the wall wondering when it will end. Thunderscape was like that. It started well, then degenerated into an interminable succession of caves and tunnels, caves and tunnels, caves and tunnels (and sewers). I really did begin to think it had no end.

Duncan mentions the original Fallout as an instance where the game continues unexpectedly (according to him). That’s when you return with the water chip, and are then sent back out to deal with the mutant menace.

That was no surprise to me. It probably wasn’t to many others, either. Did anyone really think the game would end when the waterchip was brought in? I have my doubts.

He says that no one really knows how long a game is. Actually, any game is as long as it takes you to finish it. The real problem is that so many of them are artificially lengthened by “side jobs” that a player can get lost in the welter of “things to do”.

Aside from that, there is so much information on the ‘net these days, it’s easy for a player to gauge progress. “Hey, I’m in the Vahnatai lands. Is there much more?” “Nope, after that is Melanchion’s Keep and then the endgame” “Whew!”.

Personally, I think Duncan is protesting too much. Most of the time, I’ve never had a problem with knowing whether I’m near the end or not (mistakes like Thunderscape aside). Just paying attention to what’s going on is usually enough to tell me if I’m near “Foozle Fight time” or not. For me, at least, this is a non-issue. What do you think?

When Should Games Say Goodbye? on gamesetwatch