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773 Hours Later, Steve Tolin Is Finished With Dragon Quest IX

The road to 100% completion is paved with hundreds of hours on a single cartridge.

Note the amount of time spent in multiplayer, or, you know, the complete lack thereof.

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies launched on July 11, 2010. The final piece of downloadable content for the monstrous portable RPG, Quest 184, was released last week, a whole year later.

Steve Tolin has been playing since the beginning, plucking away at the cartridge's every nook and cranny. The last quest finally allowed him to complete his ultimate objective of exploring every part of the game.

He had originally projected this ambitious task to take him 100 hours. As it turned out, not quite.

It took him 773 hours--just over 32 days--of game time to cross the 100% completion threshold.

"For the last couple of months I only played about a few hours each Friday to get the new quest complete," he explained to me. "Then a bit each morning once the DCVC store [an in-game online shopping network] refreshed to get the new items. So I've been staring at the game clock above 650+ hours for a while now. My sister jokes: 'Still playing those Late Night Chronicles.'"

35-year-old Tolin has been playing the Dragon Quest series since the Nintendo Power promotion where Nintendo unloaded more than 500,000 copies of the original as a benefit to subscribers, after realizing the game wasn't going to be a runaway hit.

Back then, the series was called Dragon Warrior, changed for the US because of trademark worries. It reverted back to Dragon Quest with the cel-shaded Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King for PlayStation 2 in 2004. The Dragon Quest series has never achieved same sort of popularity outside Japan as its rival Final Fantasy series, but fans are just as dedicated.

"I've played everyone of the mainline games and most of the spin-offs over the years," said Tolin. "Since then [I] have Day 1 purchased each game of the series. It takes long enough between releases that it's still an event for me. I even just replayed the DS trilogy remakes. I still have all the original cartridges and discs."

Whereas other games series have chased after Western design, Dragon Quest has stayed true to its Japanese roots, even in art style.

His day job involves being the owner and creative and technical director of game developer Deep Fried Games, who developed the PSP version of Full Auto 2 for Sega and ShadowPlay, the first WiiWare release to use the MotionPlus accessory.

It took Tolin an already-impressive 62 hours to finish the mainline quest in Dragon Quest IX, which means the vast majority of the ensuing 711 hours were spent working through the side content.

"It really wasn't until about the 300-hour mark that I realized how much more content there was to play," he said.

Um, yeah.

Tolin achieved 100% before the one-year anniversary of the game's release, which means 8% of the last year of Tolin's life was wrapped up in the latest release from Yuji Hori. That's especially impressive for a non-MMO. In games like World of Warcraft, sometimes the act of playing can take a backseat to chatting and socializing.

The first marathon session was during a two-month road trip from Vancouver to Yukon and Alaska. By the time the trip was over, the in-game clock read 250 hours. During his journey, he'd update the message board NeoGAF with his progress.

At 328 hours, this is what his DS looked like:

Time spent playing: 328:21
Defeated Monster List Completion: 87%
Wardrobe Completion: 64%
Item List Completion: 88%
Alchenomicon Completion: 74%

Only 445 hours to go until 100%.

The longest break Tolin took between sessions was two weeks--but only by accident. He simply forgot to bring the cartridge with him for a trip. He claims he didn't go through withdrawal.

This is what Tolin's character looks like after 773 hours within Dragon Quest IX's world. I wonder if my hair would qualify for "legendary" status.

"It wasn't an obsession, more like a few comfortable play sessions a week," he said. "Like watching an HBO mini-series that just kept going weekly for a year. If there's DQ withdrawal it's from the time in between title releases or having the next game released in Japan and then waiting a year for localization."

By "comfortable play sessions a week," he means four-to-six hours several times per week spent in front of the glow of his DS.

I know what it's like to play for a ridiculous amount of time, having maxed out the clock to 99:99:99 in several Final Fantasy games back in the day. The last time I sank that deep into a game was Fallout 3, where the downloadable content pushed me over 80 hours. And as much as I enjoyed those many, many hours, when I confess the total time to less dedicated gamers, sometimes I get a suspicious eyebrow.

Tolin said it was never like that for him with Dragon Quest IX.

"Everyone who knows me knows that I really enjoy and complete my games," he said. "Most of my friends and peers usually come to me for game advice or recommendations. Video games are also my career so it's never 'wasted' time. I've got a lot of deep knowledge of many game series dating back pre-NES days. I've put that to use and will continue through the rest of my career."

Dragon Quest IX is not the first game he's done this with, either, as he regularly sets out to 100% games that he's especially fallen for, but he does believe he's the first one to hit 100% on this game.

"There are quite a few forum posters who stop in the post-game around 100-200 hours," said Tolin. "Since Quest 184 was released and people have seen my 100% file they have messaged me that they are going to pick the game back up to play more."

For now, however, with Dragon Quest IX behind him, Tolin goes back into waiting mode. Dragon Quest X for Wii has not yet been revealed, but details on the game are expected later this year. He's also crossing his fingers the Operational Rainfall campaign to bring The Last Story, Pandora's Tower and Xenoblade to the US is successful. He may be waiting a while.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
173 Comments
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Posted by Cubical

The idea of playing a game that long on a portable system makes me sick. 
 
Games like this should only be done on the big screen.

Posted by edgefusion

Man I never even finished it! Guess I'm gonna have to flip open my DSi and keep playing.

Also, good to see Patrick keeping up the fine tradition of not proof-reading his work at all. It's spelled "series", Patrick. Not "seres".

Posted by Geralt

Talk about dedication...and he got a real job too :1

Posted by punpun

Ehh, I have more time spent in Monster Hunter Tri, and I don't even have everything yet. It's just what happens when you really like a game with lots of replay value and have too much time on your hands.

Posted by SilverShadow

Now he just needs to play another game for 775 million hours...

Posted by Sammo21

No thanks, lol. That's way too much repetition...then again, I did play WOW from beta until December of last year so who am I to say anything about repetition...

Posted by EgoCheck616

Someone give this man a medal.

Posted by Sil3n7

@Matoya said:

@Sil3n7 said:

I know someone who played monster hunter for 7500 hours. So, this doesn't even come close.

That means he played it for 12 hours a day, for 2 years. Every day, non stop. Hmmm

I know...I know exactly how ridiculous it sounds.

Posted by sonicrift

I love this kind of piece. Klepek, you're awesome. Keep up the great work!  

Posted by Rolyatkcinmai

Stick that on your resume.... and smoke it.

Posted by TheDudeOfGaming

Cool...i guess?

Posted by TekZero

Now that is money well spent. 

Posted by Ronald

I've seen plenty of people on Call of Duty games with a total play time over 40+ days or more. Which is crazy when you think about how they buy a new game every year and start that number over again.

Posted by sonicrift
@mjwyoshi64 said:
That's wild.  I think the most I ever dumped into a game to 100% it was Pokemon Blue way back when I had time to do such things.  And even that was only a little over 100 hours, I think.  Also, I really like that his multiplayer time counter reads 00:01
I maxed out the clock on Pokemon Red twice, but that was over the course of about 3 years. The thing about Pokemon is it's a team effort. You're not hitting 100% unless you have friends with the other game doing it with you. I happened to be the only one in my group of friends who bought Red, so it was really easy for me to get my Sandshrews and Vulpixes... Vulpixi?
Posted by Veektarius
I'm at about 250 hours on Shogun 2... definitely more on Medieval 2, but that's not on Steam so there's no counter.  Different sort of game, though.  
Posted by geirr

Impressive, sort of!

Edited by patrickklepek

@TEAMHOLT said:

@Sinful said:

News?

Nah, just some more boring bullshit people are going to pretend is interesting so they look like they are engaging on some next-level gaming discussion. People have been putting this kind of time into games for ages, even single player games.

Giant Bomb was one of the few gaming websites that neither inundated me with news nor posted overblown editorials just to look interesting, but now we get this kind of junk a couple of times a week.

I address that in the story, but I digress.

What would you want out of the news section, if not things like this? I'm genuinely curious.

And, yes, you're all right about my poor math. In my defense, Alex missed it, too. I'll have to ask Dave to add spellcheck-like calculator tools to Whiskey.

Posted by onan

Patrick, if this is going to be a thing and you're interviewing people in the industry with impressive/embarrassing game lengths, you should interview Cheapassgamer's Shipwreck. He not only spent something like 250 hours playing Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, he also wrote a spreadsheet for the game that's on gamefaqs.  
 
I'm shocked that 3 pages of comments later, no one has pointed out what utter BS it is that a game release was impossible to 100% until a year later due to counting weekly DLC toward the completion total. That's crazy. 

Posted by drag
@chickdigger802 said:

odd little article for Patrick. Would have expected a starky Alex article from the title ;P

I like to play this game too. You can usually tell who has written an article from the title but that moment of suspense is the only thing that gets me through the day. 
Posted by cyber95
@sonicrift: Singular plural.  There are multiple Vulpix.
Posted by lockwoodx

I'm not going to lie.... this has me excited.

Posted by CosmicQueso

This whole thing is equal parts fascinating and frightening.

I love the fact that there are games being made which can take that long to complete, but I start to brain cringe when I place myself in the shoes of someone who's spent 770+ hours in one game. That pulling need to get to 100% over that long a period of time only to finish, look down at the screen, see 100% and then realize there's nothing left to do but hit the power button and put it down.

It's amazing dude did it, and congrats, but wow.

Posted by Rabid619

Well I, for one, really enjoy these articles Patrick. Very interesting reads.
 
That said, holy shit that's a lot of game time!

Posted by stolin
@Video_Game_King said:
It took him 60 hours to complete the main quest? I'm sure I got it in about 20.
I've seen a few people streamline the story and complete it around 20 hours.   My "First Completion Records" state I already had Quests Completed 33 & Grottoes Completed 19.  I didn't rush to finish the story and had already spent a lot of time side-questing.
Edited by zameer
@patrickklepek: I'll take original content over reposts from other sites any day; I enjoyed this. 
 
I quite enjoy the "fluff" pieces on the site; as long as Patrick's not trying to relate gaming with the Arab Spring I'm totally OK with it. 
Posted by Winternet

That's an amazing feat.

Posted by mrangryface

Games too short- C+

Posted by billyhoush

How does one have the time to do such things? Are they on social assistance for disability?

Posted by stolin
@locolukah said:
I may be able to 100% it at 600 hours...I am very close right now at about 500 hours.
 
Post your Battle Records.  It's deceiving how much work it is.  Around 450 hours or so I made a spreadsheet to help me track all the items I would need for the Alchemy.  All the Agate Of Evolutions, colored Orbs and Gem Slimes for gold for the Chronocrystals really adds up.  You could do it much faster now that all the quests are out. Also if you have someone to trade high quality Grottoes with you could cut significant time.  I could boost a second player's cartridge now and cut at least 200 hours.
Edited by Crono
@mrangryface said:

Games too short- C+

Yeah, game needs to hit at least quadruple digits in hours for it to be a good value.
 
On a side note... can you imagine this same guy playing half-minute hero?
Posted by sickVisionz

And I thought my 244 into Super Street Fighter 4 (I call shenanigans but that's what the game clock says) was a lot. 
 
Also, no one game should have that many hours... *smh @ myself*

Posted by buft

I have a year worth of gametime on one wow character but thats an mmorpg and most of that time is spent talking to people rather than hardcore raiding. good times though thats also why i dont play anymore

Posted by WEGGLES

@patrickklepek:

I liked the story. Haters gunna hate. It's not "news" but it's still interesting. It's mid July, what are people expecting? megaton after megaton?

Posted by Koshka

@TEAMHOLT: I think it may have just been a bit slow the last week or two to be honest.

Posted by TheInsider

 Those hours are mainly spent grinding grottos to find alchemy items. The DLC quests have a cute narrative but are a much smaller part of the "grind it out" pie chart

Edited by Brackynews

Hell yeah, I got my Dragon Warrior from Nintendo Power too. Damn that was an awesome mag for a long time. I can still look at the FInal Fantasy 1 LARP grand prize they did and wish I could've won it. They converted a damn castle.

@patrickklepek: If you could push for a category of articles adjacent to hard News, I think that might suit everyone better and make these articles a lot easier to sort through. I am thinking a year or two from now when there are literally thousands of articles that I need to pick through to reference something.

Some witty portmanteau along the lines of "Core Interest" would be great. Keep with the bomb motif? Depth Charge? IED (Investigative/Editorial/Discussion)? (Pa)'Trick Shots? Ok that's maybe going over the edge. ;)

Edited by DarkbeatDK

Man, the most I've spend with a game has to be around 80 hours and that was Warriors Orochi 2 which I played on and off for over a year. I have tons of other games to play and other stuff to do too you know...

Posted by Qodot

It's certainly a different kind of thing, but I wonder how much time people have spent on GiantBomb. I know I've clocked ~200 hours in the Persona 4 Endurance Run, and about the same on Quick Looks estimating 30 minutes each... certainly there are probably veterans out there with many thousands of hours, if not more.

Posted by elko84

I'm not sure what the issue is, or if people just love to wine and bitch, but if you don't care about what this article says, guess what...DON'T READ IT.

Posted by Stefanten

I have over 2000 hours clocked in to the different versions of Street Fighter 4 and I'm still only slightly better than average :(

Posted by patrickklepek

@Brackynews said:

Hell yeah, I got my Dragon Warrior from Nintendo Power too. Damn that was an awesome mag for a long time. I can still look at the FInal Fantasy 1 LARP grand prize they did and wish I could've won it. They converted a damn castle.

@patrickklepek: If you could push for a category of articles adjacent to hard News, I think that might suit everyone better and make these articles a lot easier to sort through. I am thinking a year or two from now when there are literally thousands of articles that I need to pick through to reference something.

Some witty portmanteau along the lines of "Core Interest" would be great. Keep with the bomb motif? Depth Charge? IED (Investigative/Editorial/Discussion)? (Pa)'Trick Shots? Ok that's maybe going over the edge. ;)

We don't run enough articles to justify that, I don't think. It's better to think of "news" as a "news features" section, as it also has previews dumped into it. It's mostly material that's timely, rather than always breaking. I have no intention of making Giant Bomb into a Kotaku-type site.

Edited by lokilaufey

Haha time after time I am reminded of why I don't Complete (as in 100%) games. Such a time sink - though it can be fun, I have too many games to play. I applaud this dude for managing to :C: Dragon Quest IX though! DQ games are long enough as it is, let alone going for 100%!

Nice article, Patrick. I liked it a lot.

Screw what the haters think, I find this stuff interesting and it seems the majority does too. I mean... how often do you put one of these out? Not on a daily or often even weekly basis, so it's not frequent enough to demand it's own section or at all getting in the way of the actual news. The site is hardly turning into Kotaku or someone's blog.

Posted by MrMazz

DAAAAAMN thats kinda cool and scary at the same time when you think about it once a week for a few hours isn't bad but when you add it up makes you seem a bit odd

Posted by AssInAss

Great story, crazy how he got the time even with being a developer.  
 
The only thing I could boast was, 150 hours with Too HUman, yet with still 920/1000G. 

Posted by Brackynews

@patrickklepek: Totally agree with that sentiment. I believe you had mentioned RPS on the Bombcast, and I definitely appreciate that style of article and features. It has quite literally brought me back to reading GB daily.

Total faith in your news direction duder, just voicing that I'm happy to see the site continue to evolve. Especially in ways that categorize information effectively. #wikinerd #informationscienceismycareer

Posted by Zaxex

Impressive! I've certainly been addicted to games. Namely; Call of Duty 2 (450+ Hours) and much more recently with Super Street Fighter IV (and AE) (500+). Other than that a brief foray in World of Warcraft (300 Hours) and about the same in Oblivion.

I didn't expect a grown man with a job to beat my tallies without playing an MMO every day. I think he might actually be the smarter of us, in that he's set himself an achievable goal and has finally completed it. Rather than playing MMOs for levels and gear, Call of Duty for prestiges and K/DRs or Street Fighter for points and skill.

An addiction with an end seems like an alien concept.

Posted by Kyreo

Jesus.... talk about getting your money's worth.

Posted by Aetheldod

Altho Im no stranger into clocking over a 100 hours into many games (example in Dragon Age 2 I clocked over 100 ... no kidding) But 773 on one game , damn if that is too much. Wonder how much time was it in idle? If any ... and Patrick screw the haters , I liked this info at least you are giving something of a good news instead of the always "more lay offs" stories that videogame industry only tends to give us :\

Posted by Curufinwe

And Jeff and Vinny thought 99:59 was a lot.

Posted by NegativeCero

I put about 110 hours into this game and would gladly play more if only it was easier for me to get the grotto maps. I'm glad he posted a picture of his character, it was the only thing I wanted when I saw the article title. But I still can't imagine sinking that much time into any one game. I think Square should send this guy something for doing this, kind of like what Rockstar did for people who 100%-ed GTA:IV.

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