Design – Know your Game Length

When designing a game, or balancing a competitive game, one of the most important things to keep in mind is keeping all of your players engaged for as much of the game experience as possible (engagement will be a common theme in these articles).  After all, the goal of a game is for players to play it.  A game that is too long can lose focus, or alienate players that have fallen behind (the “runaway leader” effect).

Take a moment to look at some of your favorite games, and see if you can pick out the target game length.  Aside from sandbox games (which allow players to target their own game lengths), start to think about how the “end game” plays out and it’s effect on your engagement level.  Don’t keep players doing the same thing for too long, just because you wanted to drag out the game (often known as “grinding”).

You can notice this phenomenon if you look at any other form of entertainment media as well.  Have you ever seen a movie that left you saying “That movie would have been awesome if it ended right after the part where…”.  They’ve tried to cram too much content into the product, without really focusing on the value within an acceptable length.  Don’t extend games just because more is better.  Same thing with a guitar solo that was just 4 bars too long, it can ruin the whole song.

Remember, you might love making games, but as a designer your number one priority is: Getting players to play your game.  Whether you’re designing for personal satisfaction, money or recognition, it takes players to make your game successful.

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