*** Yes this post is long, but please don't reply/debate with me unless you've read all of it, thanks for bearing with me. *** This thread isn't necessarily Half-Life 2 specific, but there is something I have noticed. I've noticed many many many people talk about how short games these are these days. We've always assumed that this was due to developers simply getting lazy, focusing on gfx, e.t.c.
What I'm left wondering after seeing the wide range of # of hours its taken for various people to beat the game is that the "shortness" of the games is probably only reflecting how we're improving. I've seen no small amount of people say they've beaten HL2 in 10 hours or less. (Thank god for Mods) Well, what happened to the old days?
When I first started playing FPS's, I used the arrow keys, and I could barely hit anything with the mouse. I was also extremely slow in aiming in the first place, let alone hitting anything. The proverbial noob, deny it if you want, but we were all once there. Then I learned the "wasd" setup, I started buying high-quality optical mice, I started playing online in Unreal. Games didn't used to be online hardly much at all, Doom is what really sparked that IMO.
It used to be people only played against the "stupid" computer, would spend many hours beating a game, then buy a new one. I think part of what sparked such a massive increase isn't just in the pure nature of the games we play, but the fact that competition amongst humans became both convienent and common. Now you don't compete with the other kids on the block, you compete with professionals across the world. I was taught something about the game of Chess, the more you lose, the more you learn. Why do other games, often not First Person Shooters, last much longer? Well, when I first played Final Fantasy Tactics, it took me 78 hours to beat it. (I unlocked everything, Cloud included) These days it takes me 20'ish hours to beat it. However, for the life of me, I cannot get the time much below 20 hours. Why do RPG's last longer?
I'm going to invent my own gaming term, "margin of skill". This margin of skill is very low in RPG's, and thats what attracts many people to RPG's. It takes relatively little skill to play "most" RPG's, and generally takes a healthy amount of time to beat them. You can't *really* improve in an RPG beyond learning weaknesses, strategies, and acquiring the perfect party. Once you've acquired all that, you can't really lower your time to beat the game much. Between the extended cinematics, excessive traveling time in some cases, various menial tasks, the time necessary to level up, acquire items, e.t.c. It all adds up. These tasks do not typically require skill, only knowledge of how, and the time to do it (minimum).
First Person Shooters, however, have a very *!high!* margin of skill. The margin between a n00b and a 1337 is so massive that it often drives many female and new gamers from the genre. (No offense to the ladies, but there just aren't that many of you outside MMORPG's/Teh Sims) There are so many skills in an FPS that you must master, that the margin just grows larger. Accuracy, for starters, is something that takes years, learning how accurate a gun is at what range, how many rounds to burst...so on and so forth.
In many cases, and Half Life 2 is no exception, you must master ammunition management. In almost any online FPS you must learn to work effectively as a team...this takes many people years. You must learn how to use the map as well. Then you've got speed, the main limited factor of many FPS players. Your reflexes become so attuned, that eventually when people watch you play it almost looks like each kill was a single "twitch". I refer to that level of skill as being able to "twitch shoot". Many AWP users use this in CS.
RPG's and games like The Sims attract so many gamers because almost anyone can play them. Once you have the basics down, you're done essentially. The difference between the average gamer in Final Fantasy, and the 1337 is so tiny you can't really tell the difference. There just isn't that much to improve on. Whereas in FPS, the mantra seems to be: "Minutes to learn, Years to master". It seems like an old cliche' used for boardgames, but here it truly applies. My dad's been playing catch-up with me in FPS's for years and still hasn't caught up. I dominate him 15 to -3 in UT2004. (I scare the poor old man into running off cliffs because I leap in front of him...poor guy...hence the negative score typically.)
However, if I taught my Dad to play Final Fantasy Tactics, within a month or so, he could quite easily get his time with my own. He doesn't have a snowballs chance of doing that in FPS's. So, I've discussed games with high margin of skill and low...what is in the middle? I would suppose that would be games that range from ratchet and clank, Mario, most platformers, simulation games, and similar games. Let me know if you think of more, at the moment I can't really.
FPS's, some RTS's (depends on which), and some fighting games have a higher than average margin of skill. They appear to be also where its more difficult to get the average gamer into unless they have an aptitude for it. RTS's take speed, resource management, tactics, unit strategy, movement, proper use of the environment, anticipating the enemy...e.t.c. Starcraft, I believe, was so popular because it eliminated many of those elements of the typical RTS. All you have to master (relatively) in SC is resources, unit use, and speed. If you take two very highly skilled players in a 1v1 in Starcraft, it boils down to a dice roll. Why a dice roll? It ends up being rock. paper. scissors. This unit is weak against this...you get the idea.
The kind of game that masters this margin of skill, would be a game with easy to learn controls, simple concepts to start with, but leaves room for improvement. The main thing that is ever improved upon for an extended period is typically reflexes. Half Life 2 is being played by people, including myself, who have played so long, raised the bar so much, that it appears to be so "easy". Yet, if you consider how good we've gotten, is it really that surprising? If we took a game of Half Life 2's or even Doom 3's difficulty AND length, threw it at ourselves 6-7 years ago. It would have taken 4-5 times longer for us to beat it. The developers can't do much without sacrificing something in the end.
If they make the game hard enough to compensate for those of us experienced gamers, it would be impossible for a new player to get into it. So they compromise with difficulty settings. Far Cry made a similar compromise with its very difficult and realistic settings. I only know of one person who beat Far Cry on realistic without any form of strategy guide or cheat. And it wasn't even me :D. Think about all the places and levels you breezed through in Half Life 2, think about all the cool tricks that the AI pulled that only caught you the first couple of times. 6-7 years ago, would you have been able to get a time anywhere near you initially did.?
The best valve can do to appease most of us, is the multiplayer, and the mods. Beyond that, its humanly impossible to make a game that would last as long as a Final Fantasy game without lowering the margin of skill. So, be happy with your 10 hour single player, beat it again on hard, get broadband if you don't have it and play some mods. Just remember, its not them that have changed, it is all of us.
Your thoughts on all of this please?
17th June 2002
I agree entirely. Half-Life 1 was the first First Person Shooter I ever played, and I found it difficult even on Easy. Nowadays, I laugh at how easy it is on Easy.
I think that's true of most things though. When you first start learning to drive, you can find some of it very difficult, but a year later, you don't even notice that you're changing gear, you don't panic if you're forced to manoeuvre in difficult directions and suchlike.
There are probably people who took 40 hours to complete Half-Life 2 -- and they're probably new to the genre. If you started off when it all started, with Doom, for example, obviously you're going to find a game much easier than a newbie. And being a newbie to gaming these days must be awful; games made to cater to us gamers who've been playing it to years, and then they come along having never played them before... I know there are difficulty settings, but even those can only go so far.
I think that long-term gamers are advancing their skills far faster than developers can advance AI, mainly because they play each other at multiplayer. While developers take five years to develop the next generation of AI, we pass beyond it before they're even finished by coming up with new ways to beat each other.
Whether or not the fact that games are more difficult now than they used to be drives newbies away or just forces them to come up with the skills faster than we did I don't know. I'm willing to bet money that 90% of people who played (or will play) Half-Life 2 will never visit an internet forum to share their experiences. And I'm willing to bet that most of those are casual gamers, who may have found the difficulty level just right. But because we're more vocal about it, it gives the appearance that games are too easy. When they're probably not.
Hmmm It's a choice. These dudes running through it at 10 hours, are doing just that. Running and gunning. Get through each level as quickly as possible. I must beat the game. Some on the easiest setting. Me, I take my time. Stop and smell the roses. Check out things. Look around. Play some areas more than once just because it was cool. I'd guess that it took me close to 30 hours to finish it in hard difficulty setting. But I wasn't in a hurry either. I think it is up the player. Also, with the advances in technology and the new engines, look at how much is going in to them to make them as long as they are. 5 CD's worth - my Valve folder is 4.5 GB. Doom2 was only maybe 25 MB! There is a hell of a lot more to it now to make them as long as they are. You don't see as many girls playing FPS because they don't like the violence. That is most significant reason why. Doesn't do anything for them.
I want to see a co-operative play option. I want to play a SP with my buds online. That would be badass. A nice inbetween SP and MP.
Far Cry made a similar compromise with its very difficult and realistic settings. I only know of one person who beat Far Cry on realistic without any form of strategy guide or cheat.
I beat Far Cry on realistic without any guide or cheat. It took me like... 30-something hours over a month an a half or so because I tend to get frustrated easily and give up. Also, I can't see why people would use a guide for a FPS...
Jeff is a mean boss
28th July 2002
i agree with you.....I beat HL2 in about 14 hours....i run and gunned....now im taking me time...im about 10 hours in and only on the coast part....im exploring EVERYTHING....
I have a friend who does nothing but play Halo 2 all day and his skill level is like nothing i have seen before, now im good at halo 2, i average around 70 kills, but hes into the 200+ range....but if i were to play him at COD id pwnd him so bad...Y??? because i have played COD so much i prob could lead you around the maps blindfolded while sleeping, i know every weapon, etc.....i still die alot becasue there are others just as good, or better than me.
Like he said, its impossible to make this a 30 hour game for everyone who plays it.....so if you take your time and enjoy what valve has created, then it can easily be a 30 hour game.
BTW: are you sure you dont write for gamespy or pcgamer????
Thanks for your thoughts guys. By the way, your wish for a co-op mode is granted. Once the SDK comes out Sven Co-op will probably update their mod if they haven't already started working on it. Sven was originally out for HL1 as a co-op mod (The first to my knowledge). I can speak from experience that it is a blast, although not always easy.
I've played in some servers with sven that had 50+ players. I can't wait to see how it develops for Half Life 2. You should probably google it and check it out. If you're looking for a more Halo ish co-op with a couple of friends just get familiar with Sven and host it on your machine or whoever of your friends has the fastest connection/machine. Enjoy.
People say I post too much
12th February 2004
Very good point, Blade.
Nobody could disagree with that, unless they are an utter 'tard. Can't wait for Sven, but i find for most games difficulties, easy is way down where its not even considered by most people, then medium goes up to about twice that, then hard adds on only about a quarter of medium.
This is excepted by games such as Deus Ex and FarCry which have Realistic as an option. Gotta love how impossible it is to try it when you've never seen the game before.
Thanks for the constructive posts guys, thats rare these days. :D A few added thoughts, the margin of skill on consoles appears to be lower, whereas PC Games are generally higher. Console games are typically easier, but less room to improve with a few exceptions. Using a joystick on an FPS for example, also lowers the margin of skill. I bet it would take longer for your friend to catch up with you on CoD than it would you on Halo2.
I sent my post to a friend and he asked me if I had any "solutions." Umm, there aren't any unless researchers accomplish the impossible, simulated human AI. You can rant sci-fi ad nauseum all you want, it is impossible within the bounds of logic/machines. I heard a hypothesis that quantum computers might be able to do it, but the only difference is that normal Comps = 1 and 0, true and false. Quantum computers have a superposition of the two, a middle that means both. This of course means uber fast computer. One more option in choices doesn't mean instant-AI. Do you guys constantly think in terms of high, middle and low? Is everyone cold, lukewarm, and hot? Meh, they'd have to make an infinitely precise scale of decisions, a computer capable of intelligently picking from them in order to make A.I. Thats impossible/years off.
So what are present solutions? Make them game harder? Nah, its bad for commercialization, no more new gamers will come in that way. I think Multiplayer will become the new standard of games. SP will still exist, but probably mostly as a n00b pacifier. (No Offense) Games, especially PC, have rapidly become more MP-centric. I see this as a trend that will continue. The developers aren't psychologists, nor Artificial Intelligence researchers. This all they can probably do with the tools available to them. Some of the most successful FPS games for PC have been MP centric, and provided necessary tools to the community as well. Quake, Unreal, and Half-Life are prime examples. You know anyone who actually played the Single-Player in UT2004? I haven't even clicked the option.
ID software, as much respect as I have for them, are getting quite dense. They're fighting the wave for the sake of being different. They helped create this new wave of MP centric games with Quake2 and Q3. Now they're fighting it with Doom3 and Quake4. It's bad for business, and I think Q4 will probably flop. Luckily Epic-Megagames has Cliff B. who has been observing the community for some time, he knew this would happen awhile back. Probably between the first Unreal and UT '99.
The limited factor in this new wave, I believe, is the price and availability of low latency, high speed, internet connections. As it proliferates more, and companies start intruding on each others "turf", the games will begin. Competition over prices will become very common. This is already happening in Dial-Up, but not so much in broadband. Why? Because phone lines are everywhere. The ISP owns the cable/DSL lines and they basically have a chokehold on their local areas. Gradually Fiber Optics are getting less expensive than they used to be, and it will start looking like the dial-up price wars. Thats very appealing to me, as I am quite disgruntled with Roadrunner at the moment.
Anyone else notice the trends I mentioned here?
Jeff is a mean boss
28th July 2002
i agree with ya......MP does seem to be were gaming is going right now...although i love SP, i think MP is my fav...theres nothin like playing real people...
you know.....i have noticed that a lot of the high speed internet companies commercials have said "great for online gaming".......theres more of my 2 cents...
Everyone, and I do mean everyone I know that has gotten it for some kind of gaming. May it be so that flash games load faster, for FPS, or to download total conversions/mods for their fav game. Someone who uses the internet for just browsing and email don't really need broadband unless they're impatient like me. Every console owner I know who has broadband has their console hooked up for da' internet. One exception I know of, and thats because he lives in a Fascist family...lol. I think we'll start seeing more games for consoles that are MMORPG, when that happens and they succeed, we can be assured that we are right.
RPG's were considered the last stronghold of single-player in many peoples opinions. PC's seem to have an advanced timeline as compared to consoles in many respects. Everquest (online) was released for PS2 you know...even though it flopped because of the monthly fees. If it hadn't had monthly fees, even I woulda even bought it. (That says a lot) The only RPG's I really played and enjoyed were FF:T (PSX) and Diablo2:LOD. Thats about it.