In some circles of videogameland it's common wisdom that more is better—I remember a quaint time when 30 hours was a "long" game, but today's big budget releases have been pushing that boundary well into the triple digits. In a recent interview with IGN, though, two Star Wars Outlaws devs promise to buck that trend with a "dense" and "rich" game that doesn't wear out its welcome.
Julian Gerighty and Navid Khaveri, the game's creative and narrative director respectively, told IGN that they don't want Outlaws to be "too big," with Gerighty clarifying that the kind of game he's referring to is one that "people don't manage to play, enjoy, and finish."
Gerighty went on to describe Outlaws as "a very dense, rich, open world adventure that [players] can explore at their own rhythm," and asserted that the game "is absolutely not a 200 or 300 hour epic unfinishable RPG." So it's pretty clear that Ubisoft's argument is that less can still very much be more.
Long games can be great, offering worlds that enrapture you for weeks or months and stick with you for long after. Done poorly, however, they can be a slog of endless grinding and to-do lists, leaving marketing promises of huge, epic games with endless entertainment and triple digit runtimes feeling more like a threat than a promise.
As to whether a rebellion against games that are too long becomes a trend, it does feel like some players have increasingly chafed against bloated game sizes, and now developers are ducking out of the game length arms race. With The Outer Worlds, Pentiment, and the upcoming Avowed, RPG studio Obsidian has deliberately targeted more mid-length affairs, promising depth and replayability over sheer scale.
It's interesting to see a Ubisoft team in particular take this stance. The publisher's tent pole Far Cry and Assassin's Creed games have become synonymous with ever-expanding checklists and sprawling open worlds with dots to visit. This switch-up for Outlaws looks like a very intentional response to criticisms of those games.
I definitely want most games to be more focused and streamlined, but most games also aren't Starfield or Baldur's Gate 3. Fall 2023's double whammy of monster RPGs has got the right stuff to live up to their bold playtime promises, by my reckoning. They're also perhaps the exceptions that prove the rule: oh, you want to make an unfinishable 300-hour RPG? Better have five or more years and hundreds of developers all around the globe.