For Ready at Dawn, developer of PlayStation 4 exclusive The Order: 1886, it's a matter of quality, not quantity.
Over the weekend a YouTuber called PlayMeThrough uploaded the entire game, including cutscenes, to the video site. Adding up the length of each video we get five hours and 30 minutes.
Last week I had a chat with Ru Weerasuriya, founder, CEO and creative director of Ready at Dawn, to discuss The Order's length after a previous report indicated it could be completed in just a few hours.
"I know there are numbers out there," he said. "I know why the question comes up. I know numbers have been put out there that are actually not right. It's impossible to finish the game in that time, so we know the numbers are wrong.
"At the end of the day, we're not going to comment on it. We can't stop people from writing the things they do. And we're not going to jump at every single mistake that is made out there. Every time somebody has the wrong impression of something we made, or somebody writes the wrong thing about what we did, it would be a full-time job to be like, oh no, that's not right. We make games. We do what we do for the players. And, ultimately, that's where I want to leave it."
While Weerasuriya denied The Order, which leans heavily on interactive cutscenes and quick-time events as it blends third-person shooting, exploration and puzzle-solving with in-engine cinematics, can be completed in just a few hours, it is clear the game won't be considered long by anyone's standards.
But how long, exactly, had Ready at Dawn's tests shown The Order to be? Weerasuriya wouldn't reveal the average playthrough time, but he was willing to enter into the debate about it.
"Game length is important," he said. "Every game has to take its own time to tell its story. Some games can be short. Some games can be long. I still remember the first time I picked up Modern Warfare, I finished the campaign in about three-and-a-half or four hours. And it was fun because they made that campaign work for that because they had something else.
"Any of these games need to pack in what it needs to to deliver the experience you were hoping to deliver when you first tackled it. For us that meant, it's not going to be a short game, it's going to be something that rewards you as you play through, that there is a storyline, that you have information there, and then also it opens the door to a lot of questions you might be able to answer either by what you find in the game, or hopefully by what you will find out in the future.
"Our industry is diverse enough that we need different games. We have to allow for different genres and single-player games like we do, multiplayer games, co-op games, social games, whatever it is."
The Order's length is of particular interest because it is a single-player only game. There is no multiplayer portion to turn to once the story is complete. So, the issue of value has been raised a week before the game goes on sale this Friday, 20th February. On Amazon, for example, The Order costs £49.
Weerasuriya said he understood concern about The Order's value as a full-priced game, but hoped Ready at Dawn's quality over quantity approach would satisfy players.
"I absolutely understand," he said. "To tell you the truth, that's something we always keep in our heads. We know people want to be entertained and have things they can play longer. But the industry has always had diversity. You go back 10 years, there were a lot of games that were just single-player, one time play. There were some games that were single-player and you could jump back in and get more. That's what we did in our game. You can jump back and get other things out of it.
"Do we all need to do the same thing? I hope people who do like these kind of games, do play them. But I also want to be in an industry where me as a gamer, I'm given the choice to do that. I've played games that lasted two hours that were better than games that I played for 16 hours. That's the reality of it.
"I've had many more experiences of very short games that have floored me, that have left me dreaming of the things I could do after, more than the games that have lasted 15, 16, 20 or 30 hours, where I've just been like, okay, I played it through and I got what I wanted, but I didn't get more than what I was expecting. Sometimes I want to be floored, even if it's for a short amount of time.
"Gameplay length for me is so relative to quality. It's just like a movie. Just because a movie is three hours long, it doesn't make it better."
As the debate about The Order's length rages on, most agree it's one of the best-looking console games around. Its environments and characters are highly detailed, and its Neo-Victorian London vistas are stunning. In short, The Order is quite the looker.
I wondered whether creating a game with such impressive visuals meant Ready at Dawn, which is 120 people strong, simply didn't have the time or resources to create a huge amount of content. But Weerasuriya said the development of the game wasn't so black and white.
"It's not the same people who go into both things," he said. "It never was a question of, we'd put our efforts in art so we're not going to create as much content."
Rather, Weerasuriya insisted, it was Ready at Dawn's focus on creating a variety of mechanics that meant there was more work to do than if it had made a straight up third-person shooter.
"If you want to talk about the number of gameplay mechanics, we probably have a lot more than normally any single game would have," he said.
"Across the board, like the different melee systems, from the different gun systems, the breadth of guns you can use in the game, the different navigation stuff, even on the puzzle side, the interactive cinematics, all of that stuff, we actually probably, piece by piece, if you look at it, and the diversity of it, we built more content than a lot of games would.
"We didn't rely on the same content. That's one of the things we did. We didn't want to be the one trick pony that went, all right, we're making a shooter, so basically forget everything else, you're just going to pick up a gun and you can go around and shoot at people. Not to sound like I'm putting anything down, it's actually easier to do that and say, look, that's all we're going to do.
"The harder part was to try and figure out a way to build all these different mechanics and then through the thread of gameplay through the game, and the storyline through the game, put all of these moments together that made you feel like you're going on a rollercoaster."
The Order has raised eyebrows for the way it uses interactive cutscenes, which cannot be skipped, as part of the overall experience. The game often thrusts the player into action during or just after a cutscene with a quickfire QTE or melee fight, to name two examples.
This, Weerasuriya hopes, will keep players engaged throughout the entire campaign.
"When story is important we lessen the combat, but when combat is important we lessen something else," he explained.
"Those spikes keep going all the way through to build an experience we felt was diverse. People would be always engaged. We'll give you time to just watch and not do anything. Great. You can find that in the game. We'll give you time to interact when you do that.
"But you better be careful, because as soon as an interaction is finished, you might have control of the player and you need to go forward, because if you wait, something bad might happen. That was the point. The point was, make sure people never felt like we were taking them for granted. We wanted them to understand there might be always something to do.
"Rightfully, some people just hate cinematics. Some people just hate certain types of gameplay. Some people hate navigation. The question for us was, we can't just satisfy one group of people like that. What we want to do is give you an emotional ride. An experience. That was the long thread throughout the whole game."
As The Order nears release, the length of its campaign is sure to play an important role in its success. But after a weekend of debate on gaming forums and social media, it's clear some at Ready at Dawn are ready for the game to do the talking.
Note: I am done commenting on clickbait rumors about game length, "downgrade" idiocy and such nonsense. Don't bother asking.— Andrea Pessino 🇺🇦 (@AndreaPessino) February 13, 2015
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