A time to finish

Timed games are something to be careful of if you’re a game designer. Your customers have so many ways of playing their games and the speed they want to finish them. An action game might be fast and pull the player into finishing the game fast, and some RPG might be more slow and demand the player advance slowly. Of course, this is just a black and white model we usually think in.

Speaking of Black and White, I recently heard something completely stupid in the latest Pokémon games. It seems that the game developers wanted the game to be played fast through, as it has two week time limit to finish the game all the way to the Elite Four or so, or you won’t get people and stuff in your version’s unique town; Black City or White Forest. That’s two weeks in real world time by the way.

What GameFreaks was thinking isn’t beyond me, but it’s completely and utterly stupid. Sure, we all know the reasons why such time limit exists, but the question is why it is punished to play the game the way you like? I enjoy playing Pokémon the slow way, balancing my team with every new area and testing everything out bit by bit. It usually takes me a month to finish the storyline, that is if I don’t rush. I’ve finished Pokémon games in a day or two without using traded Pokémon, so you can’t say that I can’t be fast. It’s the choice I opted for.

The two week time limit wouldn’t be bad if it was in-world, within the game. The game then should have it’s own time independent from real-world time. However, seeing the storyline in Pokémon games usually takes months to make any sense, this isn’t an option. You can always argue that yes, core audience will play it within the first week. Why would you want to limit your audience? I know working people who do not have enough time to invest into such endeavour.

This is completely different from, say… Third Super Robot Wars Alpha, in which you open a secret unit in the last stage if you’ve completed the game in certain amount of turns or less. Here you can reload your save to start a new game, so you can always try to get that secret again and again, but in Pokémon B/W if you lose your city population, they’re lost. You alone can’t do anything about it any more. If you want the population back, you have have a friend who has the population and link with him. It’s complete bullshit and they know it. I hope this kind of mechanic will never appear in Pokémon again.

On a side note, they should stop making Event-only Pokémon you can’t have inside the game, or make sure that everybody has a possibility to get said monster no matter what via WiFi or similar. Do continue giving special event monsters, but don’t cripple the games. Perfectionists will always be mad at you like hellhounds.

What the timed secret in Pokémon B/W has forced me is to restart my game. The game itself has no indication of the secret in any way, so I never knew this beforehand. Only few days ago I heard about this and I was astonished how stupid it was. Because of this I have no real motivation or reason to play it through the legit way. I traded few 50 and 70 level monsters from my other game and I’m currently breezing the game through just to get that one damn secret I barely give a flying duck about.

I’m currently giving more ducks to the current state of communism than what this game is

Another game with similar time limit is Final Fantasy IX. It has the secret weapon Excalibur II, which can be only acquired within certain time limit at the end of the game. Now, the speed run in NTCS is somewhat challenging, but SquEnix never took notice that PAL region games run on 50hz speed, making the challenge almost impossible. The time limit was never adjusted, and it’s completely stupid.

At this point we have four or five points why timed games are not a good idea. They’re a good idea when they’re not part of the main gameplay, or if they can be unlocked later on via replayed save or similar. Locking content from the player for a reason or another is not a good design choice at any angle you’re watching; it’s like buying a book, and never getting one of the chapters because you read too slow, or a movie on DVD is missing a chapter or bonus features because you never checked something in the menu or in the movie itself.

Customers have bought your product and expect to get 100% out of it. If they get any less you’re pushing them away. In games you may make the player work for the 100%, but never make it so that the player can’t access it. Game developers still make this and never realize that this design choice is rarely used for a very good reason.

This design choice is a good indicator that GameFreaks is losing their touch on their customers. Pokémon fans will eat whatever they’ll cater, but at the moment all new Pokémon games are intimidating as hell. I would still recommend people to play the first two generations, but anything after that stands far too firmly atop these two. People say that getting into Street Fighter is scary, but getting into Pokémon is far scarier. It’s just not as apparent at first.

I remember punching through every new Mega Man Battle Network game’s main story in around five or seven days. If I got the game on monday, I would spend all of my free time on it. Well, not all actually, just majority of it. I didn’t play it fast juts because it demanded it; I played it fast because it had much faster pace. I chose to play it fast and furiously.

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