For this fourth and probably last entry in the Millennium 5 Developer Diary series, I'm going to talk about an aspect that has been dear to me ever since I started making video games back in 2001.
Length is a very important criterion in an RPG, in my humble opinion. Don't get me wrong, every player and dev out there is free to prefer games of any size, and I encourage that; but as far as I'm concerned, I like my games to be long and give the player their money’s worth. There is nothing more upsetting than a game that ends too soon, feels rushed or is overpriced for what it delivers.
RPGs are tales, they tell a story, let you enter the lives of heroes and heroines, put you in the shoes of brave people facing a huge adventure or conflict. It's usually not a walk in the park!
The Aldorlea signature is to deliver an experience worth tens of hours of gameplay. I discovered RPGs through the likes of Phantasy Star and Shining Force back in the early 90's, and they definitely left an imprint on me and modelled my views of what makes a good RPG. Length is one of the quintessential criteria. I'm not alone in thinking this way. I've had many players thanking me for providing them with games that lasted weeks, sometimes months.
But why is it important not to neglect the overall scope of a RPG?
Twist and Shout
I like long games because they more naturally allow for important yet crucial things such as character development, plot twists, party building and secrets. It is certainly possible to do all that in shorter experience (think, less than 5 hours) but it risks feeling rushed, especially in a traditional RPG where the quest can take you to many extraordinary places.
Throw in the fact that you may want to have a big cast of characters (10+), secret ones, optional quests etc. and you quickly increase the chances of ending up with a vast game.
I like taking my time to develop a world and its characters, so I feel more comfortable working with a more expansive timeframe.
Asguaard, for instance, had no less than 150 hidden areas to discover and can last well over 50 hours. Even the first Millennium, shorter in scope (because of the episodic format), still boasted 40 sidequests. Quality is vitally important in a game, but quantity should not be neglected either, as it can help to bring together a compelling and memorable gaming experience.
However, as a dev, you have to ensure that the extra length is worth it. Players can tell when a game has just been padded out for the sake of it. Extra length without good quality content does not give a memorable experience to the player. All those elements I wrote about in the earlier diaries need to be present in every minute of the game, otherwise you are likely to end up with something that players find repetitive and boring. A long game is a lot of work, but it is, in my opinion, worth it!
The last and biggest dungeon in Asguaard
My RPG is EPIC!!
Epic is a word that is stuck onto just about every RPG on the planet. The hero who starts small and gradually builds up a little army of followers as he rises against the enemy to save the world. As a dev, you are certainly not obliged to follow this formula (I myself more often than not don't), but it is a type of game that requires some length to avoid certain pitfalls like a contrived plot or a rushed gameplay experience.
Writing an epic plot is a very exciting experience, and the more characters it involves, the longer it has to be. Picture Harry Potter or The Lord of Rings in a retro RPG. They wouldn't be small, would they?
In my own catalog, games like Laxius Force or The Book of Legends provide an epic-type plot, and for that reason are the ones that typically deliver the most in terms of length – think, 50 hours or more.
The Book of Legends let you play more than 30 characters
Millennium is my first and, to date, only episodic RPG.
As I am nearing the completion of the fifth and final instalment, I can safely say it will be the biggest, most epic entry in the series. I like series to finish in a big spectacular fashion and I certainly hope I can achieve this with Millennium 5. My previous experience was with Laxius Force 3, and I think most players ranked it as their favorite, because of its sheer length and spectacular ending. The last episode of a series is usually the longest (and hardest to make) because of how most characters are involved and all loose ends must be tied up.
You have a bigger cast to manage, more gameplay issues to address, a bigger collection of items to deal with etc. But for your fans, it is also the ultimate reward.
Will Millennium 5 live up to their expectations? I sure hope it does!
And Millennium 5 will let you play almost 20!
That's it for now. As I said above, I'm not sure if there will be another entry, but I hope you had some fun and learned a few things reading this Dev Diary.
Millennium 5 – The Battle of the Millennium is Aldorlea's upcoming release, and the final chapter in this popular episodic series of role-playing games. Additional information, including sneak peeks, can be found about it at the following link: http://www.aldorlea.org/officialsite/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=208