Nervously Challenging Orthodoxy
DGD2: Game Tests

TV Episodes in Games

Tv_set_2Why do we tend to structure commercial games (which are 8-40 hours long) like films (which are 1-3 hours long) when we could structure them like a TV season (which is 12-24 hours long)? Perhaps it is because each game presents itself as a unitary item that we insist on treating it as a monolithic narrative (assuming it has a narrative) instead of structuring it into compartmentalised chunks of narrative. Nonetheless, I find it telling that there are very few commercial games which are structured like a TV season, or at the very least, like a mini-series.

Let's begin by very briefly looking at the unique writing challenges of writing for TV. I've never written for TV, and I'm not sure I want to, so it should be understood that I am writing as an observer, not as an expert. Also, because I live on Planet Earth and not in the US, I'm not going to talk about issues such as the five act structure and how it relates the commercial breaks, and the underlying challenge of keeping the viewer watching across the gaping maw of those breaks - US TV writers have to deal with this, but believe it or not there are TV shows which are shown without commercials. For all its flaws, bless the BBC for having no advertisements during their shows. (Of all the countries I've visited, only the US tries to get a commercial break both after the opening credits and then again before the closing credits, suggesting that the teaser is only an issue for that one country).

The chief problem a TV writer seems to face is that they have to write on time and on budget - this is radically different from writing for films. A film script can be developed over years by multiple writers in a refining process which can be rather like the refining of flour from healthy wholewheat flour to bland white flour. On TV, you have to create that blandness immediately or not at all. You also have to fit the episode length exactly - which is a burden the TV writer shares with the production/film editor. Also, you have to develop and/or maintain a format that will appeal to an audience (although after a show has run for a while, the staff tend to get arrogant and try and push beyond their format - usually this means a comedy tries to be drama and loses viewers).

When we write for games, we have the similar focus on time and budget - games are seldom granted much room to manoeuvre in terms of the production schedule, and the writer has very strict limits as to how many locations and characters they use. (Conversely, a film can use any number of locations - although it may be restricted as to the number of expensive location shoots, i.e. international locations, that can be used). And there are similar restrictions as to format - because the gameplay that the game will support effectively limits what can and cannot be done. We are, at last, beginning to accept that packing many different types of gameplay into one game is a recipe either to have all your gameplay substandard because you don't have time to tweak them all, or to rack up vast production costs.

Ten_forwardBecause a TV season is planned over multiple episodes, the budget is almost always distributed asymmetrically. Expensive shows - either because of location shooting costs or because of special effects - must be balanced with cheaper shows. The ultimate cost saving device in this regard is the bottle show, which is shot using only the core cast, and using only standing sets. Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation can generally spot a bottle show a mile away. Actually, I suppose the ultimate cost saving device is the dreaded clip show. The less said about these abominations the better.

Suppose we wanted to plan for a video game using TV structure. We would want to have a format which fits with the gameplay, and that includes a core cast (a set of character models) and standing sets (a set of levels that can be reused). I didn't play Deus Ex beyond the demo, but there was a base of operations in the game which would have made a great standing set. A game based around a particular space ship could use that space ship as a standing set, exactly as would be done on TV.

The advantage of using a core cast in a game context is that animations are expensive - so you provide more animations for your core cast than for your 'guest stars' and 'extras'. The advantage of having reused levels is self-evident. Many people in the games industry are against reusing levels - I believe this is represents a bias towards pathfinding. Obviously you can only pathfind in a location you don't know. But games like Animal Crossing use only one location for the whole game successfully, and it is easy to see how a central location can focus as a cRPG-style "village" most of the time, but an action level when it needs to. Indeed, one can see adequately used hub locations as the game equivalent of bottle shows in terms of cost savings.

Pragmatically, it takes many times more hours of gameplay to advance the same amount of narrative as a single TV show, because on TV you don't waste shoe leather providing exposition of irrelevant details, whereas painstaking investigation of the environment is a common element of games and that takes time. Nonetheless, if we wanted to build games on an episodic structure we could choose an hour long format - meaning each episode will contain very little narrative - or we could aim for, say, a three or four hour episode format, which might be more flexible.

Eternal_darknessOne of the few games that is based upon a TV-like structure is Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, which is constructed out of separate episodes shot 'on location', stitched together with a central narrative in a fixed location. Although the game fails to be very scary, which presumably it hoped it would achieve, it does make excellent use of its unusual structure. In particular, it reuses its locations by being set over the whole of human history, and setting seperate 'episodes' in the same locations but at different times.

Having recently completed Resident Evil 4, (skip this paragraph if you are especially spoiler sensitive) I have to say that I wish this game had been built upon a TV-like structure. There are essentially four completely separate locations the game is set in - the village, the castle, the mines and the island. There's no reason at all that the narrative needed to be spread across these four locations (after nearly 30 hours of play, I have to say that my wife and I were somewhat relieved to reach the end) - the game could have been built as four separate episodes (perhaps with an overarching plot).  It would have been more work narratively, but narrative is cheap compared to modeling and animation. I'm not saying the game would have been better this way - just observing that it could have been structured this way. It might have saved us from the recurrent theme of the game contriving reasons to kidnap our charge intermittently. It was a play element that worked much better in the village than later in the game, in my opinion.

All this leads to the obvious conclusion: if we could make games that were structured in TV season structure, we would be a step closer to the goal of producing episodic content - something many people in the games industry see of something of a grail at the moment. If your core game consists of, say, 3-4 episodes, you can then supply new episodes on (for instance) a monthly schedule (perhaps providing the first one for free). Then you can have the economic model of an MMORPG, but without the insane infrastructure costs. Not to mention you can spread your development costs, and consequently your risk. (You'd want to be using middleware, because you couldn't afford to be developing a custom engine).

As the shadow of astronomical development costs falls across the industry, it is worth having an eye on methods for structuring games which will either reduce costs or mitigate risk. I believe TV season structure has great potential on both counts.

Comments

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Good post. For a long time now I have been obsessed with a similar notion about using a reduced number of "sets" for games, attenuating the experiential density of gameplay more toward depth rather than breadth, as is more common these days but getting so, so much harder to realize. There are a rising number of game developers that seem ready to adopt some fashion of episodic content, digitally distributed... it certainly would behoove them to adopt more than just the basic concept of an episode, as you suggest.

While Eternal Darkness is an interesting example here, it also serves as warning of the potential costs: highly homogenated gameplay (as they can't possibly invent new mechanics for each of the 10-odd characters) and little player bonding with individual characters due to their individually breif on-screen appearances (though that is more particular to the way ED structured itself.)

Another example might be Diablo and Diablo 2, which is literally broken into 5 more-or-less independent acts. The advantage of the somewhat episodic structure is seen with the expansion pack that was later released, which simply added another act using existing game systems. Bonus points for housekeeping-play allowed by being able to travel to any act at will!

I'm not sure why you say RE4 is not episodic - it is broken up into 4 discrete segments. What is the tipping point, so to speak, for defining it as episodically structured? That there aren't any micro-narrative goals (of note) encapsulated within each act?

I agree that the throwaway characters was one of Eternal Darkness' problems. It had many problems... but it tried so very hard, I'm inclined to forgive it it's many mistakes.

Of course, RE4 *is* episodic - but it's not structured like a TV season. As you suggest, in a TV show, every episode (in general terms) must come to a satisfying narrative conclusion - although some episodes may conclude by foreshadowing a larger threat, and there will be the odd two-parter et al.

RE4 is structured like a classic 1930's serial - the kind that made Buster Crabb famous. I quite like this (it's a step up from film structure) but these serials couldn't maintain tension over more than 13 episodes of 20 minutes. RE4 has 19 parts of about 45 minutes. In my opinion, it's just too long to successfully maintain tension in this way.

If the five chapters had reached sound narrative conclusions, I feel the game could have been dramatically improved. As it was, I couldn't even tell you where the chapter ends were! :)

Hi (i'm new here). It just struck me that Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney for the DS serves as a better example of successful episodic design than Eternal Darkness.

Phoenix Wright is assembled in five cases, unlocked sequentially. Together, they form a larger story that develops a core cast (Phoenix Wright, his assistant, his prosecutor rival, his dead boss who visits him as a ghost, and the Judge). These cases are then themselves broken down into more managably sized episodes of about 30 to 45 minutes a piece (assuming the player doesn't get stuck in classic adventure game form) and ends on a tense or upbeat note. It has bottle episodes in the form of courtroom sequences, which require only the core cast and the witness being cross-examined.

So, it seems there's a good start. At least, in the world of portable games. The distribution model is still not great.

And just briefly on RE4: the game was a blur, especially in terms of narrative. Chapter breaks were largely arbitrary affairs, and there was little tension.

I'd like to see how Sin: Episodes does it.

As for RE4, I think the game's episode 'chops' as it were, seemed more driven by the location changes than any really major plot points.

I think the first chapter properly ended when they got into the castle, the second when they left it and the third, when you reached the science lab.

For me, the major plot points were:

Leo being injected.
Meeting Salazar the first time.
Meeting that annoying little sh*t.
Losing the girl again.
Rescuing the girl.
Killing the big arachnid/octopoid.

It's definitely the narrative structure that's the problem. Is each chapter split into a three/four act structure?

To me, the game - narratively anyway - feels like a very long and stretched out four act screenplay structure, yet the chapters emotional high points are not hit at the chapter ends, but rather some of the sub-chapter points, like 2-2 (or 3?) where Ahsley is kidnapped again in the castle.

Also, I'm stunned you haven't played Deus Ex. Chris - I don't know you well personally, but from what I read of your work, this game would very much be up your alley (I need to make clear that I'm refering to the first Deus Ex. The second is decent but way inferior to it).

Personally, i find it to be ahead of its time and easily one of my all time favourite games. It's a bit like System Shock 2, but that little bit more atmospheric and beautifully put together. Though its oldness may hurt your eyes in this age of pretty graphics.

Episodic games, like Sin Episodes and the Bone series (Telltale) is very bad news for the players. Telltale showed that with the first Bone episode (it costs $19.99 and takes 2 hours to finish). This is a case of players paying more to get less.

Maybe that's an advantage for game developers, but I doubt players will accept it in the long run.

That sounds more like a particular issue with one entrant's price point, rather than a fundamental flaw with the system itself.

What if the second Bone episode is at a cut rate, say $5-10? Perhaps the first costs more as a sort of "iniation fee" (since you're getting both the engine and content) and future episodes will be cheaper (since they preumably are content-only.)

I've been thinking about this and I don't get it from the player's perspective. I raised it briefly and our audience doesn't see much in it, either, although I acknowledge the cRPG market has its own logic.

I simply don't see anything but the most basic content arriving monthly and I'd rather control my own pacing.

From a business perspective, isn't there a danger that either buyers will wait for the whole thing (or a chunk of it) to be out, lose interest after an episode or two (in which case you've sold $20 worth instead of $50) - afterall, I know what the gameplay is like, the technology is aging and there are some shiny new games on the shelves to draw my attention?

Wondersaurus:

Thanks for letting me know about Phoenix Wright! Much appreciated!

Dan:

I don't play PC games, as a rule. I sit in front of the PC all day working. When I get home, I want a sofa. Hence no Deux Ex. (I also don't particularly enjoy console games with twin stick controls, hence no PS2 version).

Druin:

Believe it or not, I'm less interested in the business aspects of episodic content than in the narrative aspect. Most games have lousy narrative structure, and I believe TV structure would be a superior way of most games organising their content (assuming they want a narrative focus).

I'm arguing for TV structure in games. The fact that this could be delivered monthly is completely secondary. Since all of your points relate specifically to monthly delivery, and not episodic structure, I'm going to assume you're not against the structure - only against the monthly deliverables.

In terms of your specific concerns:

"I simply don't see anything but the most basic content arriving monthly"

Try harder. :)

I'm talking about an entirely new episode every month. At least 2-3 hours of play; new locations, new storyline, fresh dialogue, character development, plot development, changes to the world to reflect previous events, new items and periodic injections of fresh gameplay. The kind of attention to detail not possible in a regular development schedule.

Also, perhaps it would help if you think about it as a closed world game like Animal Crossing with each new episode being like a 'field trip' which takes you to new places. (And all places you've previously been to can be revisited at your leisure).

Players are willing to pay MMORPG organisers a monthly fee just for the priviledge to play with other players; I believe there should be some players willing to pay for narrative segments if the quality was high enough. I'm only thinking $3 a month - the same price as a comic. Perhaps, however, this is an audience which is distinct from the core audience of games currently.

An audience of 6-7,000 players (very small!) would be sufficient to support a developer for a game in this style, and allow for new gameplay additions every few months, and new locations and story materials every month (plus new cut scenes et al).

"I'd rather control my own pacing"

So you don't watch any TV shows or read any comics, right; you just wait for the DVD boxes sets and the graphic novels? :)

Huge games have huge budgets - the developer or publisher is literally subsidising your ability to control your pacing across the length of the game (as most games don't make back their development costs, so the money you and other players pay to buy it doesn't cover costs).

"Isn't there a danger that either buyers will wait for the whole thing... or lose interest after an episode or two"

As to the former, the fact that so many gamers complain about the price of games shows that gamers are rubbish at waiting. Because if you wait, all the games become a decent price eventually! :)

A TV season can run 3-10 years. A comic can run for 30+ years! A game like this could easily run for a couple of years. I don't see why anybody would wait years for all the material to emerge. They don't in other media.

As to the latter, yes, there is always a problem with the audience losing interest after an episode or two. TV is littered with pilots for shows that were never picked up, or mid season cancellations. That's why it has to be done well or not at all.

But unlike a TV show, which generally makes revenue from advertising and therefore requires very large audiences to make back costs, a game in this style could support a cosy 10,000 or less audience. So the game could be tailored to its audience better, and not need to resort to mass market blandness.

Plus, you can release your first episodes after just a few months of development; if it turns out what you've made isn't going to be popular, you know then and can try a different approach.

Gamers complain about the raft of sequels and lack of imagination in games. Well it's the financial crunch that's the biggest barrier to innovation. Any way out of that has to be worth exploring, doesn't it?

Thanks for sharing your concerns!

Thanks for the reply, Chris. I'll have to think on this because your responses makes sense but I've still got some mental intertia. :)

I think you'd have to have a pretty big team to be able to offer 2-3 hours of fresh content _every month_, considering that it usually takes over a year to make a game with ten hours of gameplay.

It's tempting to bring out Telltale as an example again. Really talented team, but they're still not able to offer 2-3 hours of fresh content each month. Quite far from it, actually.

Also, wouldn't it get a bit expensive if you're using actors (in a story heavy game) to get them to record their voices once every month?

Then there's the issue of pricing. What would be a fair price for 2-3 hours of gameplay? Obviously $20 is far too much, but say $15? Still, what if I buy three episodes. That's 7-9 hours of gameplay. At $15 each, I pay $45. That would be a little expensive. Add another episode, and we'd be looking at $60 for what's essentially an 8-12 hour downloadable game. Hmm.

And imagine if I find out about a new episodic game that I'd like to try. Problem is, I find out about it when it's at episode 4. What do I do? I'm not going to jump straight into episode 4, obviously (at least not if there's a greater story going on). And I'm not buying episode 1 unless I'm planning on playing the entire series. But I'm certainly not paying $60 (or $100 if we're talking about Bone) to be able to play the four first games either.

Okay, let's imagine they use a discount system. How much would I be interested in paying for four episodes, each lasting 2-3 hours? I don't know. Certainly not more than what I'd buy a normal 10-hour game for. And I usually buy games on discount, btw.

I think I'd end up giving it a miss, really. That's probably what happens with Bone. I'm a fan of the comic, I'm a fan of adventure games, but I'm certainly not paying their asking price for such a short game. But I'm not buying any other Bone episodes without having played through the first one either. So...

Thanks for your thoughts 'some random guy'. :) The reason it takes several years to make 10 hours of play is usually because of the cost of developing and refining the engine, and because in the upper market the game must be revised over and over again. But other projects generate 40 or 100 hours of play on the same budget. Clearly, a 100 hour game could be reorganised as 40 hours + 12 x 5 hour installments, so it is at least plausible.

But I should stress, I'm absolutely not talking about upper market games here, but mid to low market games. And I'm expressely talking about strongly narrative games.

It's largely a question of design. Adventures and cRPG games lend themselves readily to the addition of new material easily. Various other styles of games are not necessarily appropriate. The key factors are how easy it is to build new locations, and to add new dialogue.

I still maintain a fee of $3 a month would suffice, after an initial fee of $20-30 for the game itself. Remember, I'm talking about highly narrative games, and games with production values below that of the upper market.

You're may be right that recording dialogue is out of the question for games on the budget I'm talking about, though. You might be able to do it with up-and-coming voice actors, though, or possibly even drama students.

It's definitely achievable, and Telltale's failure to deliver is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that it cannot be done.

However, I want to once again stress that all I'm interested in is exploring the making of games with the episodic structure - I'm not that fussed about delivering that content episodically, although clearly once you *have* the episodic structure, you could sell it episodically if you wanted to.

Thanks for your comments, mysterious stranger! :)

You've got some good points, and I agree that something like this could work in the adventure genre (not so sure about RPGs, since a lot of the enjoyment I get from RPGs is that they're often non-linear, which gives the player a feeling of being in charge of his own adventures).

And sure, as a player, I'd be much more interested in episodic games if they cost $3 a month instead of $20 or $15 a month. I'm still fairly sceptical that it would be possible to deliver 2-3 hours of interesting, engaging (and properly playtested!) content each month, though, especially for such a low price. Even though we're talking about low-price games, players would expect a certain polish.

But anyway, I wouldn't mind games delivering content episodically. I suppose there are certain types of games where this would work very well - a Police Quest-type game, for instance, where you got a main story arc which could be centered around the main character (perhaps a romance or something?) while each "episode" could be about individual cases or situations that happened while he were doing his job.

I think your caution is justified - these are uncharted waters, after all. And your concern about testing is legitimate. I guess you'd want to be working a couple of episodes 'in hand' (i.e. always have completed two episodes more than you need, so you have time to test them). You're spot on about individual episodes having self-contained storylines - I think that would be essential for this sort of thing to work.

Chris sez:

I don't play PC games, as a rule. I sit in front of the PC all day working. When I get home, I want a sofa. Hence no Deux Ex. (I also don't particularly enjoy console games with twin stick controls, hence no PS2 version).

Dan sez:

Fair enough. Tis a crying shame though :(

I almost wish that Phantom console would become a reality, just so they can send you a free one so you can play it in the living room. From the limited amount I know of you, I really believe this game will hit your personal top 5 of all time. And yeah, the console version is knob. Don't bother.

A while a go I heard talk of a Deus Ex movie, and I was strongly against it, saying that it should be made into a mini-series, because the length, depth, and structure of the game lends itself to a many-hour series far better than a 2 to 3 hour movie.

The game has you frequently re-visiting the different areas, which act like HUBs for the missions, as the primary objectives are often located adjacent to the main areas. I guess the main reason that it doesn't feel like you are playing trough the same level again and again (oh god Halo) is because the 'HUBs' themselves are not very large and act as an area for action to take place, rather than a level to traverse - and since the action and enemy actors located there each time are different, it's a different experience in a familiar environment, allowing the player strategic knowledge as the game becomes more difficult - it's handy knowing where the cover, 'shops' and other such are.

Story wise the game is structured like a series because the game - though one continuous, uninterrupted experience - is divided into separate missions, with you returning to one of the HUBs in between for debriefing, chat, preparation and what-not. And you can re-visit locations and see how the the plot lines are developing, and how your actions have affect them.

I guess in this way it's different to Eternal Darkness since it is uninterrupted, but I think the episodic structure is essentially very similar.

The main source of appeal episodic games has for me is actually unrelated to storytelling. It's the workload.
I'm currently working on a singleplayer mod; at the moment our entire team weighs in at just over 10 people. With a team of this size, if we follow the standard practice of working towards one major release, I imagine it'd take a decent few years to reach version 1.0.
However with the episodic format, we're currently hoping for releases beyond the initial to be only 2-3 months apart.
Not to mention, it makes sustaining a community that much simpler.
In short, through my own (thus far, limited) dabblings with the format, I see it as an interesting and viable way to present a game.

The "Recent Comments" function really adds another level of depth to a blog, I wish I knew how to do it in Blogger script.

Nintendo's "Wii Connect 24" service and the prospects of online distribution in general have made episodic content delivery a promising option for indie company's to bootstrap, and for AAA studios to offset risk problems. A game doesn't catch on? Cancle it. Much more expeirimentation becomes possible.

I've also realized that constrained narratives with more local agency are not only possible, but the most commercially viable design approach at the moment. Episodic content ties right into this.

The only problem with using episodic content as a proving ground is that a substantial chunk of a game's development expense is required before a single episode can be released. This is part of the commercial problems with episodic content right now.

I agree with you that constrained narratives focussing on local agency are probably the most commercially viable forms of dynamic narrative content currently feasible. I also suspect that, in terms of audience appeal, local agency is actually more valuable to a wider range of people than global agency.

On the other hand, that global agency probably appeals to a Hardcore audience of some kind; probably not large enough to back up the costs of projects aiming to deliver that experience.

The bottom line is that all this kind of thing is still experimental... we still have a lot of corners to explore.

It will be interesting if more games comes in this forms. I look forward for any games like that.

Hey,

I know this has probably been dead for some time now, but I have recently been saying the same thing. With the advent of the PSN and XBLA it would be great to see games take an episodic route.

I honestly cannot believe you have written this in 2005. The more I read the more it sounded like what I have been thinking about in terms of games design.

I think this would not only help with the production of games, which could, using this format, have "seasons" where episodes are released weekly or monthly, but with narratives too.

In many TV shows there is time taken to use a few core characters and build upon each of their own motives and story arcs. It is this which makes us care and feel involved with certain characters and continue to watch to see what will happen next.

Unfortunatly certain elements of gameplay may make the player feel bored by repeated sets. With the player feeling he/she is just repeating what they have done already. This of course could be countered with story "twists" or taking control of different characters.

It would be nice to see this implemented with other ideas such as an evolving mechanics system; where players can be introduced to new mechanics to keep the game feeling fresh, but not too quickly or different as to ruin the gameplay.

Keith: posts on Only a Game are *never* dead! I'm happy for older material to be brought back for future discussion.

Bizarrely, I don't necessarily advocate episodic *delivery* of content, simply because this has a poor track record in the gaming marketplace. Players seem to lose interest quickly; sustained interest requires either a large pool of content, or frequent content, and therefore I feel it is difficult to get episodic content working for videogames (but not impossible!)

But the point I'm making here is that episodic structure can be used even in a game that ships with all content together - it's a good way to structure one's materials and narrative, whether or not the content is then sold in episodes.

Lastly, while I agree that players may get bored with repeating sets, this is easily countered the same way it is done in TV: a core collection of sets that are reused, plus location shoots and redressed sets.

Consider, for instance, how much of Star Trek takes place on the sets for one starship. A game could certainly play the same card - reuse the starship sets, but add new locations to visit throughout the game (or throughout future episodes, in the context of episodic delivery).

Players do need fresh stimulation, but as Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon clearly demonstrate, it is also possible to get them emotionally invested in a smaller space. This aspect of games warrants more attention in my view.

Thanks for the comment!

Thanks for the reply! I have to say I think this website is fantastic always something interesting and thought provoking.

It is true that games have a poor track record with episodic content in terms of delivery. That's a sad fact which I personally hope one day will change. However, I think there is a lot to be learnt from T.V in terms of episodic content. As I said before it is becoming easier for people to deliver frequent content via things such as PSN, XBLA, and some of the PC ones that are springing up.

You have posted previously gaming currently fails to make the most of its potential audience and focuses on its current one instead. I personally have been a gamer since I was very young and was until recently what I would call "hardcore". I am now unfortunately too busy to play games as much as I would like as I finishing my degree in games design and looking for job! Ironic as that may seem.

I tend to play for shorter periods of time yet I don't enjoy casual games as much as my usual staple. So often I find myself a little under-whelmed by games I know would blow my socks off if I had the time to play. It was this reason that I particularly enjoyed Portal as it was short, fun and had a brilliant sense of humour! I also find myself playing sandbox games and taking part in a bit of paidia; normally on Oblivion.

I personally feel it would help a lot of gamers in the same position as me to have this format applied more to games. Being able to play 'a series' of smaller games based around the same area and characters would be quite interesting.

I did take a chance to try the new Lost game recently. It pretty much did as you described; using main sets from the show and having flashback sections as location sets. It uses mini episodes with endings and re-caps.

Hope all is well with you.

Keith

Keith: thanks for the kind words, and the scoop - had no idea the Lost game was using this sort of form; very interesting.

The position you find yourself in - still having gamer hobbyist tastes, but lacking the time to commit to those games - is actually quite common. It's common enough that one of the recent Parks reports identified it as a niche market - the "Dormant Gamer". (The original design of Reluctant Hero was put together to take advantage of this audience, but I don't think it's current direction gives it much hope of seeing through on this, alas.)

Best wishes!

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