The Beauty of a Short, Focused Video Game

It pays off to know when to let go of a good idea.

Jul 20 2020, 1:00pmSnap

Games are too long. Many big budget games, in order to justify long development cycle, huge budgets, and increasingly expensive retail prices, will use length as a selling point. "Bang for your buck" is valued, often at the expense of pacing. Often in long games, mechanics can overstay their welcome, and new ones won't be introduced quickly enough to keep things interesting. On the other end of the spectrum, the independent space has plenty of short, one sitting games that get their message across while introducing and iterating on mechanics at a much more enjoyable pace. This week on Waypoint Radio, we talk about the contrast between Paper Mario: The Origami King and indie game Lithium City, their different approaches to pacing out new mechanics, and more. You can listen to the full episode and read an excerpt below.

Patrick: You can see how how you approach the circle changes really quickly and I just wish more of that stuff was forwarded, but it's also what's propelling me forward because I'm like "oh, I can imagine the back half of this game being fucking awesome." Once they just kind of get the tutorial stuff out of the way it's like, "Okay, if you stuck around this long, we're gonna start making these circles pretty wild," and I don't know if it'll get there because I'm about eight, nine hours in. It seems like a really long game, like a 40 hour game. I just don't know I can't speak to where it goes. I mean, my guess is if you chose to not engage in a lot of the combat and exploration, the games actually probably pretty short. But yeah, I don't know, so I'm really torn on it, I really admire a lot of what it's doing. I guess I just wish I got there, a little bit faster. But I'm probably still gonna stick with it because I find myself charmed by what it's doing enough.

Austin: Your thing about the way new mechanic stuff, the pace on which it rolls out, reminded me to shout out a game really quick that I'd almost forgotten about but it's worth checking out. It's a game called Lithium City. It's like eight bucks on Steam, it's like an hour long, which is a plus for me.


Patrick: Ooooh!

Austin: It is an isometric, cyber-punky, action game. It's very much in the same broad space as Hotline Miami, Superhot, that style of "okay how do I get through this room" [game].

Patrick: This looks great!

Austin: Patrick, every level has some new mechanic, every room has a new variation on that mechanic, you blow through it.

Patrick: Oh I love this.

Austin: It's an hour long, or I beat it in an hour, I went back and played a little bit more afterwards just to like revisit some of the earlier levels. All the fights are really cool. I really enjoyed it!

This transcript was edited for length and clarity. Discussed: Paper Mario: The Origami King, 8:32, Lithium City 41:09, Deadly Premonition 2 46:51, Aria Chronicle 1:11:50

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Podcasts, Waypoint Radio, Paper Mario: The Origami King, Lithium City, Deadly Premonition 2, Aria Chronicle

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