Is substance = quantity of what you can do ?

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Warrior of Light
Oct 9, 2014
Buenos Aires, Argentina
In the last 3-5 years in gaming, from my perspective (keep that in kind) i have seen many reviews and gamers throwing the word "substance" and "substance over style", for me the world substance is related to how meaningful, elaborated and integreted "X" element is to the game (be it a gameplay mechanique, level design, storytelling, gimmicks, lenght, etc).

While i have seen some using the same barometer as mine, i also have seen many reviewers and gamers associating(and at times overshadowing it) it with how much s*** there are and how much you can do with it, a tendency i have seen increasing (particularly in open world/rpg games)with the post Skyrim boom (again from my perspective).

If i were to ask somebody about what they would like more between (what follows is a generalization of mine but it is what i feel about it)
  1. FPS with 5 missions vs 15 missions.
  2. 100km2 open world vs 300km2 open world.
  3. JRPG with 1 playable character vs JRPG with 6+ playable characters.
  4. 12hs long RPG vs 30+hs long RPG.
  5. Fighting game with 15ch rooster vs fighting game with 30+ch rooster.
  6. Game with a linear structure vs Game with a branching structure.
  7. RPG were you can interact with 10 elements per zone vs area vs RPG were you can interact with 30+ elements per area.
  8. Game with 1 way to tackle an issue vs Game with 5+ ways to tackle an issue.
  9. Game with 2 gameplay modes vs Game with 5 gameplay modes.
  10. JRPG with 25 sidequest vs JRPG with 100 sidequest.
  11. Many, many similar more examples.
The second option wins in all.

You might be getting the impression that i think gamers are now rating quantity more than anything....and you are right.
I would like to heard your thoughts so if you have some minutes, please, post.


Network Boss-man
UFFSite Veteran
Site Staff
Jul 25, 2013
Solihull, UK
I don't necessarily think the idea is that gamers now rate quantity more than anything is true/fair, and I'll tell you why in three words: Call of Duty! The biggest success story of the last decade is a game with an incredibly short and finite campaign and a very replayable but also modestly sized multiplayer mode. This isn't just true here, think about some of the experiences that were big success stories last generation: Uncharted, Alan Wake, Gears of War, Heavy Rain, and so on and so forth.

I think what you're talking about can be attributed within the RPG genre, though. And one can't blame them for the stir that Oblivion, Fallout 3 and then really Skyrim caused; when you sell 21+ million copies (perspective: approaching double FF7, Square's best ever selling game) you sit up and take notice; everybody does.

However, I think there's a fallacy in trying to copy that depending on what kind of game you are and what kind of story you're trying to tell. It's not so much a quality/quantity argument, I don't think - it's more a matter of that these games like Skyrim and Fallout are about letting the player tell their own story and build their own universe. In doing that, what they have to provide is a large set of tools within a sandbox with which to construct. LEGO wouldn't be as fun if there were only two shapes of pieces, and the same is true here.

Let's flip that for a second, though - and rather than FF, let's look at another RPG, Mass Effect. That has open decisions, obviously, but is also a linear story-driven experience. Mass Effect also has, generally speaking, less going on than Fallout. Less systems, less customization, less open zones - but that's a conscious choice because they're trying to tell a story, and they focus on the things that assist the telling of this story with a side thing here and there.

I don't think people will always pick the large open world, but clearly they do resonate with people as games like Skyrim and GTA5 are proving in their performance. At the same time, though, there's plenty of room and plenty of market for more enclosed experiences.

One thing I do think, however, is this: If we bring this back to FF, which all on this board have in common, there is a difficult challenge for the developers in the modern age. That is that simply telling a story now is no longer impressive; even really shitty games can do this now. In 1997, FF7 was particularly impressive because of the movie-like quality of its CGI and of its music, and this helped to drive the sales of that game more than any gameplay did. It was a way of delivering a story that had never been done before, and people got very excited about it. Now -- that's common. And simply doing that is not enough. I think part of what drove Call of Duty to the insane heights it reached prior to multiplayer blowing up was how they handled story; the constant first person perspective throughout so you 'are' the soldier, the slick military briefing screens - all this played in massively. Skyrim again offers something new, in that the breadth it offered, while present in Oblivion, was finally presented with a style that made it click for people. I think when we talk RPGs stories are what really sets them apart, and the thing that has traditionally driven the market leader in the space has been story presentation rather than gameplay systems - but that's just my read of the situation.


Warrior of Light
Sep 27, 2013
12hs long RPG vs 30+hs long RPG.
Well, I don't know about those exact numbers, but I rather play a 20-something hour game than a 50+ hour game. I'd rather have a well written focused story than a disjointed story that drags on for long. I don't think quantity=quality. I'd rather have a good side quest than 50 boring fetch missions.