Are short games better? Well, not better, per se, but they certainly offer some advantages development-wise over their longer counterparts. Let’s take a closer look at why they may be a better idea for you, the beginning game developer.
Are short games better? Really?
One time I tried to make an epic RPG.
I got about 25% of the way through it…even with help…before it fizzled. The plot was too long, it called for too many puzzles that didn’t really help the plot, it used fully custom assets. It also didn’t use a tile system…the maps were fully parallax…so everything was hand-drawn.
It was a total slog.
And so, I burned out. It took so long that I looked back, realized I hated the plot and wanted to rewrite it, hated the character growth arcs, and couldn’t stand the (poorly written) underlying symbolism. With any luck, you’re the type who can wade through when the going gets tough, but if you’re not, here are some reasons to consider designing a shorter game.
Short games are just as good as long games
Considering the gaming backgrounds of many of us, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that to meet the standards set by our favorite games of old, more is better. But length doesn’t equal quality! Quality is created by excellent characters, tight writing and engaging gameplay…regardless of the length. Most small game companies or individual developers don’t have the time and resources to create epics rivaling the likes of Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy. Fortunately, we don’t have to. There’s plenty of room for RPGs of all shapes and sizes out there.
Short games allow for more detail
I’m one of those people who really enjoys walking into a game and finding high levels of detail. Customized menus, intricate landscapes, well-thought-out puzzles, animated battlers and so on make a game shine. It shows a level of dedication and polish that’s hard to accomplish when the game scale is so much bigger. If your game is shorter, it gives you much more time to focus on the little things, bringing your game up to a higher level of professionalism. It helps make your game more memorable in the long run.
And speaking of things that make a game memorable…
It’s easier to create a fully consistent plot in a small game…
…and it can be just as profound an experience as a longer game. Short games like To the Moon and Rakuen show that you only need a small block of time to
slaughter your emotions stir up the desired feelings in the player. The short timeframe helps keep loose ends and unimportant plot points at bay, allowing you to focus more intently on deep consistency in your work. If you’re using themes in your story, it also makes it easier to tie everything back to the main story theme.
You’ll quickly move on to implement the things you learned from previous games…
…and avoid past mistakes in your next work. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve looked back at my old works and thought “if only I knew then what I know now.” Every fresh start brings you a little closer to the level of skill you want to achieve. I still think it’s important to finish what you start, though, if it’s feasible.
You won’t get into a huge game and realize “___ isn’t your best skill”
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. If you get into a huge game and find out you’re weak at making interesting battles or designing puzzles, you might end up quitting without help.
And if you DO need help…
It’s easier to afford help for short games
The less you have to do, the less you need help with. That’s about as simple as it gets…and cheap. 🙂
It’s easier to create sufficient variety in smaller games
Ever played a game where you wandered map after map that looked basically the same with no particular variations? A smaller scale helps guard against this, giving you more energy to place into each individual map. Each map matters more. This is also true of battle systems, characters, etc. The less you have to do, the more you can do better.
And on a similar note…
Fewer assets to create
Again, the less you have to do, the more you can do better. If you only have three party members instead of eight, each of the three party members can have nicer sprites, more movements, and so on. You don’t get stuck in endless months of making graphics.
Bug testing is easier
Especially if you just added a new script/plugin to the game…and have to make sure it didn’t break something elsewhere. I recently had a script fail in my current project and had to go back and remove many of my references to it. I only had to search a couple of hours’ worth of gameplay to find everything. But what if you have to search twenty instead?
Short games give a sense of instant gratification
Even if you’re using stock graphics like RTP, games take an awful lot of time and dedication to finish. When you complete one, the accomplishment will help propel you forward to finish more. Ever sit up late working on a project, finally finish it and enjoy the sense of accomplishment for days afterward? Short games make this much more likely to occur.
Short games are more likely to get completed!
It’s so much easier to stay motivated when the end is in sight. It makes the whole thing feel doable, as opposed to being mired in an endless project where finishing feels inconceivable.
Are short games better for YOU?
There are definitely a lot of considerations when you’re starting a new project. The length is all a matter of what’s best for your story and what is attainable for you personally. Do you have a large game project in progress? Are you satisfied with your choice to create a game of that scope and length? Or do you prefer shorter, more manageable projects? Comment below with your thoughts!