A Half-Life2:Episode2 video entitled Portal is out showcasing a new type of weapon or possible stand-alone puzzle game from Valve. The game is rumored to ship free with Episode2 but it may be a section of EP2, it’s unclear at this point. Portal is impressively inspiring, showing that Episode2 will be another quality chapter in the episodic HL series.
Episodic. Yes, everyone knows that Episode1 was renamed from Aftermath to a serial name. Episode1 means there will be an Episode2. Episode2 means there will be an Episode3. Valve announced plans for a trilogy citing the advantages of developing continuously. Just like Steam easily and automatically pushes out the latest code, episodic content is released more frequently and can take advantage of the latest hardware or features. Continous, episodic, story-telling. Great. This is old news.
However, many people have beaten EP1 now. EP2 is in the works. Portal looks great. And yet, even with the hype of EP2, some are critical. After all, EP1 was $20 and it was only 4 hours of gameplay. For reference, Doom3 was about 20 hours. GTA:San Andreas was advertised with 150 hours of gameplay. Final Fantasy VII was 330 hours for me to beat. Gran Turismo was probably 400+ hours. And WoW still is racking up the hours with me personally.
Versus in the banner is flamebait.
Yeah, fine. But that’s what I’m going to compare here. Hours in-game.
Gameplay hours do not equal fun. WoW and HL are totally different games. People will enjoy them differently, fun is completely subjective. However, hours versus money is an easily measurable subject; easily and pointlessly measureable. A well-scripted and content-heavy first-person shooter/adventure game like HL is not remotely the same experience that a drawn-out ramp-up that a MMO is. However, one can easily argue opportunity cost. While busy with one thing, you are not likely to be spending money on other things. So it’s entertainment dollars I’m talking about here.
This post is pointless.
Probably. But beyond the fun of crunching the numbers and calculating entertainment dollars, we might come to a complicated conclusion. I guess we’ll find out. Let’s start with my personal numbers:
- Half-Life 2 was $50. It provided about 10 hours of gameplay.
- Half-Life 2:Episode 1 was $20 and it provided about 4 hours of gameplay.
- World of Warcraft was $50 to buy. I’ve been for 16 months at $14.99 a month with one month free. That’s $242. And here’s the kicker. I have logged 1,473 hours between all my characters. Holy crap.
That brings us to these ratios:
- HL2 = $5 per hour
- HL2:Ep1 = $5 per hour
- WoW = 16.42 per hour
But hold on a second! HL2 came with CS:Source which I played the heck out of. I’ll be generous and say that I put in 400 hours on my own server, at LAN events and on the Interweb. That puts us at:
- HL2 (with CS:S) = 12.19 per hour
So you see that HL2 is still a better deal in terms of distraction. Not to mention, as you play CS:Source, this cost would go down. The game has been paid for and you continue to log hours.
But hold on a second! I don’t play CS:S anymore. Because it’s the same round over and over. WoW’s subscription means patches and content. WoW’s large userbase means massive activities and Blizzard revenue. That money doesn’t just disappear. It comes back to you in forms of new areas, new things to do.
So now we start getting into the fun argument again. And I’m not going to get into that.
So what? No one wins?
My point is: it’s apples and oranges. Fun is preference and although movie theaters might pitch “the value of a $9 movie as compared to other activities like baseball game”, it’s not a good metric. WoW doesn’t have instant action and CS:S doesn’t have any character development. WoW is no fun to learn or watch unless you understand the ideas and CS:S wouldn’t have activities ranging from drunken chatting/fishing to capture-the-flag to player-run savenger hunts.
In conclusion, gameplay hours to cost isn’t something you can throw out as a valid argument of game superiority.