Single-player games are a dying breed. That's what happens when Call of Duty sells well into the millions and most gamers spend hours and hours in the multiplayer portion of a game. It's kind of refreshing that L.A. Noire remains a solo-experience.
Batman: Arkham City should be a breath of fresh air as well. Rocksteady is telling journalists that there will be a massive amount of content available to gamers looking to clean up the mean streets in Gotham. Game Director Sefton Hill (Sefton… what a cool name) recently spoke with reporters about the length of Batman's main campaign:
It takes over 25 hours to complete the main stories in Batman: Arkham City. To keep players engaged for this length of time, not only do the characters and the story need to progress, but the core mechanics of the game they are playing need to change and adapt as well.
So Batman has roughly 25 hours of story to complete? It's nice to know that Rocksteady is conscious of the monotony that can envelop. Is there anything else we can mix in with that single-player storyline?
The side missions in Batman: Arkham City are a good example. We have around 15 hours of story that's off the main path. It's completely down to the player when and how they want to tackle this – there's no right or wrong time. There's no other medium that can offer this kind of flexible experience where the viewer gets to tailor the experience they want themselves.
Hey, that sounds similar to the length of side-missions available in L.A. Noire. These two juggernauts of 2011 are looking more similar in terms of narrative structure. Oh, what's that Sefton?
In terms of narrative structure, I think games are much more analogous to an episodic TV series than a film. You have, say, 15 hourly episodes to fill, each requiring its own narrative arc but each plugging into an overarching storyline.
It requires a lot of planning to make sure that every single hour is consistent with each other, is feeding and driving towards a compelling crescendo, while remaining implicitly self-explanatory so players can pick up and play at any time and know what they are doing.
… So, nearly the exact same outlook as L.A. Noire. I don't know if you've been playing Team Bondi's massive game, but each mission starts with a hook, and then follows a structure akin to a Law & Order episode.
Frankly, I'm happy to see that games are becoming more like TV shows. Games have an ability to take up and involve a player in a much larger space. There's no need to blast a player with content. Give them a pacing structure that allows them to breathe. If a player wants to continue and play 8 missions in a row, then great. If they need a break after a mission and they want to savor the juicy gameplay, good for them too.