Intimidated by Game Length

Hello there, I’ve been working on a few ideas, overviews, flow charts, etc. For a couple games I’d like to make but my biggest problem is the length of games. I would really like to make a game around the 50k mark that is fairly linear but I am worried that it will be lambasted for being too short. I’m pretty new to this so I was wondering what people thought. The longest I think I could go would be 100k and as far as I can tell most of the popular games are well over 100k. Am I doomed? Do I need to completely rethink this project?


Nothing wrong with a 50k game. The requirement for Hosted Games is only 30k including code, so if you really want to start with a 50k game then there’s no reason not to.

I personally don’t enjoy super-short games, but they have their place. :relaxed:


Out of curiosity. Since short games aren’t your thing, is there something that would draw you to one?

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Knowing the community I’d say it’d be less the length that might be an issue, but the linearity.


There was a discussion on this awhile back:

To summarize rougly what I said there, I’m explicitly not a fan of short games (<100k) because it’s a sign the game is very linear and lacking in the moments I look for.

I would suggest, however, writing the game at the length you think works, and getting feedback on it before you panic and scrap it, or talk yourself out of it (or pad it). I use length as a quick signifier of quality (in combination with other things), not length for the sake of being long. Maybe you’ll find some places to branch without any fuss. Maybe the game will work fine at its current length.


I will betalking to you from the heart as I have similar situations. Forget in fix the number of words before writing a real exhaust outline and a draff. Until that you are blind. I was supposed to do a 100,000 k project. with 12 or 13 chapters.
.I am in 90,000 IN CHAPTER 3… yeah.

So you have to plain really seriously and that or if not you will end like me lol. PLANNING IS THE KEY TO ENDING A PROJECT

that and if you find beta testers that are rare than diamonds as most will never say you anything


Thanks for the reference to the other thread, and that is good advice.

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Just FYI, Choice of the Dragon is 30k.


I can assure you one thing. Plan for a game that is 50 000 words long, because you are likely to end up with four times that length or more.

I know it might sound intimidating, but a game of 100 000 words is far easier to write than a book of the same length. Yes, the word count will be there, but a lot of it will be variations. I find it a lot easier to write, because I don’t have to come up with a 100 000 words story.

In interactive fiction a novella length story turns into a novel length book.


I would like to eco what @malinryden said.

You want to write a 50,000 completely railroaded game? That is absolutely the spirit to go for. Plan it that way, write it that way, and try to stick with it.

The reality is… my WIP Birth of a Superhero was originally written for a competition, it was around 40,000-50,000 words when I submitted it. I wrote it in about one month. But it just needed a “little” more work, like by the time of the submission I couldn’t quite write it to the ending I had i mind. The playthroughs were around 20,000-25,000 words, I think.

Fastforward to the present day (2 years later!). I failed to stick to my original plan. The game has ballooned to over 300,000 words, though the game is only 33% longer in playthroughs. Don’t get me wrong, it is a much better game, and I really thank all my playtesters for their wonderful suggestions.

But, if you really want to finish a game, my advice is to plan a 50,000 game, railroaded to death (as you intend to do, that is the way to do it). Don’t give anybody any real choices! Once you get to the ending you want, send it out for beta testing. By the time you are finished with that, it won’t be 50,000 anymore, but it’ll be a better game (with side missions, alternative endings, new branches, etc). But, the key to finishing a game is to get to that one ending… if you expand laterally at the beginning of the game you’ll get confused and likely never end…


I think that, ultimately, people are going to think what they are going to think no matter what you do. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be indifferent about their opinions, but at the same time you shouldn’t feel like you absolutely need to conform to popular demand.

The most important thing is to do what makes you happy and write what you want to explore. (:


Thank you for pointing this out…I was gonna be all “LONGER GAMES FTW!!!” but read your post and stopped because DAMN I love that game. I did think it ended well before it needed to…buuut that was probably because I am.always greedy for more of the good shiz!


Yeah it’ll probably (ok it almost certainly will) get blasted for shortness and linearity. If that’s what you want to write, I’d say do it anyway. So many games are unfinished because they got too long and/or complicated to manage. Particularly as a first effort that’ll have a learning curve, shorter but well planned and finished, is better than long and abandoned or with less quality.


I don’t really mind having a required minimum word count but really consider content quality far most and a reasonable pricing. Most of the veterans here already emphasized the importance of Planning - a key factor to continue moving on than abruptly end your progress. Don’t get overwhelmed with your idea right away…Quantify and Conquer! Never procrastinate!

Like you I’m also a neophyte in this industry and learning my ways on how to provide a solid concept by lurking in different threads including supporting COG/ HG products which I do enjoyed doing. My biggest obstacle right now is how to deliver a good narrative-interactive stories since English is not my mother tongue - also learning the coding. :grin: Staying positive though!

Good luck mate!

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I have no idea how people plan to write a specific number of words at the start of a project - regardless of whether or not they end up changing their plan in the end - as I find that incredibly difficult. I planned the plot I was interested in writing, while keeping in mind scope crawl, and just…wrote it and found out how long the game was at the end!

And yeah, I was definitely intimidated by the game length regardless of word count. They can be behemoths!


I’ll third this.

Guns of Infinity was supposed to be about 120 000 words.
So was The Cryptkeepers of Hallowford, come to think about it.


All this about ballooning length is very true. It’s never as short as you think it will be at first. My first was supposed to be just 100k and went to 160. My second was supposed to be just 100k and is already over 110 with several chapters to go.

Also, whether or not you do a short story is dependent on why you are writing. If it is for fun, or just to prove you can do it, a short HG is just fine. But if you want to actually make money, you need 100,000 words. The only title in recent times to have any real success under that length is Aether, and that is likely because it just tapped into a popular but underrepresented genre. And even then it was well above 50k. So don’t feel like you have to make it longer as long as you intend to release it for free or don’t care about how it sells. Otherwise, definitely feel like it has to be longer.


That’s great advice, hearing from experience always helps.


I’d say don’t worry about the length of the story, just write the story that you want to tell, and it’ll guide you there. If it ends up being too short, don’t compromise the story. Just expand it.

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“No plan survives contact with the enemy” is a phrase that applies here as well.

In this case the “enemy” in question is unknown and even changing over time. You have flow-charts and other preliminary devices to help you convert an idea into a published product.

Before you can even worry about game-length, I feel you will need to take the next step and construct a proof-of-concept for the game. This means successfully translating an idea into a working project.

This proof-of-concept should be narrow in focus and it should be limited in depth - which means producing a linear, railroaded 50k word experience is perfect.

This will accomplish a couple of things: first you will prove to yourself that your game concept works and that all of the mechanics form a whole that is integrated with the story you are telling.

Once you complete this phase, you should have a firmer grasp on the questions you have about the project as a whole. Is it feasible to draw the proof-of-concept out to a full game in length and scope among them.

Having approached the development the way you have has actually put you ahead of the curve in my opinion. Flow-charting and outlining are skills many of us don’t have right out of the gate and it seems like you have project management skills well in hand so far.

Other than this, I think everyone else has expressed my feelings on length.

Just to give you another example of the unpredictability of writing the project - one of my current projects had a projected introduction of 25,000 words. After writing the first third of that introduction out, it now seems the actual length will be 60,000 to 75,000 words long.

I have no doubt that the actual introduction in question will change at least 5 or 6 times before being fully written and so stressing over the actual word count will do no good until the time for submission occurs.

What I am trying to say is: focus on your actual writing and game-making - the word count issue will work itself out one way or another.