We could do both compare them with and without counting template rooms (like mazes in Zak).
This is easier to answer without research:
Even though TWP plays in different times (flashbacks) and there as another (wireframe) world to discover it’s just this one podunk of a town and doesn’t feel like a big world.
In comparison with MI2 and its tri-island area or even MI1 where you are roaming the sea, or Zak where you are all over the world they all feel bigger.
In GF Rubacava is one big town but this is also only a part/year (although the biggest one) of the game.
That’s true for me as well, I spent a lot of time playing it and it has many different locations, but it was many years ago and I don’t remember how much its length was a consequence of me being stuck and how much it was a consequence of the size of the game.
Since TWP and MI2 are quite similar in lenght (Ron used to answer to the questions on the blog about the lenght of TWP with “about the same size of Monkey Island 2”) it is very difficult to me to say what is objectively bigger in terms of number of locations and characters. I should run them on my PC and do a count.
If I have to answer which one I felt was bigger, for sure I’ll say Monkey Island 2. And I think I know why. As I said back then on the blog, Thimbleweed Park design is similar to Maniac Mansion: all happens in one night. Complexity is more related to characters and their stories. In Monkey Island 1 for example, just the fact that we switch from night to day creates a feeling of flow of time, that grows the sensation of the lenght of the game. Also all the locations are near in the fictional space of the game (the characters go through on foot). While in MI2 there are different isles, changes in night and day. This approximates TWP to two of the Aristotelian unities of drama: unity in time and space. (Maniac Mansion is always totally into all three of them: one night, one mansion, one action: save the girl).
Grim Fandango was a huge effort by Lucasarts. Many people worked behind that, more than ever before. For sure it’s bigger than Thimbleweed Park, in terms of locations, of characters, of things to do. It also has a long story. A lot of locations, changes… there are four small adventures in four different years put together. For sure it is bigger, and it felt even bigger, for the reasons above.
Another factor is the playtime which is in TWP relatively constant because you aren’t that likely to get stuck while in other adventure games it’s more likely to wander around for hours, also making it feel like a bigger game.
In today’s world people would more likely resort to using a walkthrough quite quickly, making “hard” games feel much shorter than back then because it’s likely they will look up any other puzzle too as soon they are stuck for some minutes.
Totally agree with that. When you got past a location with all its puzzles, it loses significance to you, and seems “compressed”, not big as it was before.
Yes. That woul have helped in create a feeling of a bigger game. But that’s not a statement about the quality of the game. In ancient greek dramas, to keep the unity in time, other important actions of the plot were reported by the actors of the plot that is somewhat contemporaneus to the actual time of the viewer, exactly as it happens in the story of Thimbleweed Park. Agent Ray in the moment of now, talks with Sandy, which reports NOW what happened then. The more you put on the screen a scene that is different from now, the more the game seems bigger.
But while unity in time, space and action on stage have their reason in the fact that viewers and actors share the same place, the same time, and they are so close, for a videogame there’s always the media in between. You cannot establish the same connection.
So if you depict a greater world, with different times, locations, and actions, you put the viewer in the distance and that’s not bad, because he is already in the distance.
I’m not saying that a unity and contemporaneity with the viewer doesn’t work, no. It enhances the drama component towards the exploration one. (What a terrible english )
What is an objective measure of “size” in such a game?
I mean, if you had the very same puzzles in MI2 but all in the same island, would the game have been smaller, or just felt smaller?
TWP is big and complicated, but it’s restricted to the same N (albeit with a big N) locations which are also strongly separated - A Street and B Street only connect to Main Street, and all other locations are only reachable by map, which in addition shows a single road, making the whole universe feel quite “linear”. For this reason, I think the game feels way smaller than MI2, where you feel more the sense of exploration and adventure.
I think that we shouldn’t count template rooms unless the player can do different things in them. For example, I would count only 4 hotel rooms (Boris’, Franklin’s, Guest’s and the room with the easter egg).
Yes, I agree. Our feeling is highly influenced by how distant we perceive the locations or how much time it passes from a location/scene to another.
It felt bigger to me as well, the authors did a great job to help the player perceive those 4 years.
I’m still unsure about the quantity of Grim Fandango locations, though. I have not played the game recently and I suspect that the quantity of rooms is about the same or slightly more.
I don’t think that there is an objective metric. We could just choose a characteristic (e.g. locations, size of the backgrounds, etc.) and count/measure them.
I would say both: if you reduce the quantity of locations you get for sure a smaller game from a “spatial” point of view, and probably you also affect how the players will feel about it.
Counting Thimbleweed Park rooms would be tricky, anyway. I’m not even sure how I would count the sewer rooms.
Yes, this makes sense, those hotel rooms are actually a different thing than normal mazes.
The mazes like in Zak need to be traversed and for a normal playthrough you likely see most of them and not just the optimal path (which shouldn’t make such a big difference count-wise anyway).
You would wander around in the sewers in a normal playthrough and see most of those rooms, although there is a chance of finding the important stuff early and then just leaving it (but why would anyone choosing hard mode do that anyway?). I would probably count them.
There are a lot of other metrics we could also use like object count in rooms, inventory objects, spoken dialog lines/words. Those indicate if there are a lot of interactions possible and how much story time is there.
Another way is to look at actual play times, e.g. Grim Fandango is about 12 hours for main story line.
Sadly this site doesn’t differentiate between different game settings (like casual/lite vs. hard/normal) as you can see when looking at TWP, MI2 or MI3/CoMI.
From my experience I’d say TWP casual vs. hard is about factor 2 in time length.
Yeah, to me even the first MI seems bigger than single-location games like TWP, MM, DOTT, etc. because you explore two entire islands, as opposed to one general place. It’s kind of a psychological trick, but it works really well.
To me that was a big part of the appeal of the Monkey Island games and things like Fate of Atlantis and Grim Fandango… also things like Sam & Max where it’s across the whole US. I’m not a fan of the Broken Swords games (mainly because of the story/gameplay), but I know that people do enjoy the globetrotting aspect of it.
I think all the Space Quest and King’s Quest games benefit from having this kind of spread of locations, they really feel like you cover a lot of ground.
In SQ5 you go to a bunch of different planets, and even if they’re mostly only a couple of rooms, it still feels like a really large game because of it. Same with Fate of Atlantis, some countries are just a couple of screens, but it’s a lot more effective than if those were just two more rooms at the university.
I really liked Beneath a Steel Sky, but it felt like it was all in one place… I was hoping during the game they would take us further afield… it could have even been the same exact room art, but with a transition showing a train or whatever, just to give that feel of expansiveness and “going somewhere else”.
I feel like it refreshes the player when you move on from an old location and go to a brand new one somewhere different, like you kind of “start afresh” in a new location. There is a point where you get tired of going round the same area, so it helps to move on (eg. travelling to Monkey Island in MI1, eventually leaving Rubacava in Grim Fandango).
DOTT does get around it a bit by taking us back and forward in time, so it feels like there is some sense of travel even if it’s one location.
I assume Fate of Atlantis is a big game, in terms of actual room numbers as well as feel.
First: I agree with you, but there is a “but”. This trick doesn’t work in every game. For example in Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet the player explores several different locations and islands. But for me it felt extremely short and small.
So, just adding more different locations does not necessarily make an adventure “bigger” in your head.
That is true, it also depends on how the beats of the story fit in with the locations. In Thimbleweed Park, at first it seems that the entire world is constrained to the downtown and the story seems to mostly concern the murder investigation, for instance. Once you open up the vista, however, the story gets much bigger and all the new locations seem to take it in different directions.
That, I think, is the magic. I’ve played other games that do that as well.
There are a few of the Space Quest and Leisure Suit Larry games that, when I first played them at least, felt sprawling and epic – by the end of the game they felt like a completely different story from how they started. After multiple play-throughs I notice that it’s only three or four different locations, but they are unlocked slowly throughout the game, as the story evolved, that it feels larger.
Maybe Fate of Atlantis and M2 feel so big because you know you are travelling. To test this theory, what about Zak, where you travel to many places, but each one of them is small? Does Zak feel “big” or “small” to you guys?