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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+
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Posted by JackSukeru

Most time I ever spent on a non-MMO game would be one of the Pokemon games, but even my 300+ hours in Diamond is nothing compared to some people's playtime.

Also I've never leveled a pokemon up to 100 (Without the early games' Rare Candy trick).

I usually like to grind for a bit if it gives me a later game advantage, but have almost never had the dedication to 100% somehing.

Posted by stolin
@Aetheldod said:
 Wonder how much time was it in idle? If any ...
 
Not many hours in idle..I'd say less than 10 for sure.  With the DS it's nice & easy to just flip the lid closed which stops the clock. 
Posted by SPCTRE

Not nearly as much time as I wasted in WoW, but then again, we're not talking about an MMORPG here.
 
An impressive (albeit kinda scary) feat!

Posted by mrangryface

I finished the main story of this game- and all I remember is how much I hated my wizard dudes magic speedo underpants. Finding good dps caster pants was kinda hard.

Posted by MormonWarrior

I've maybe put somewhere close to that amount into all the Pokemon games cumulatively, but no one game comes even close. I got 100% in Yellow and Silver and tried to in Ruby and LeafGreen, but...yeah, anyway, I put over 100 hours into each of those but never broke 200.

Posted by CharAznable

@patrickklepek

Please keep doing this sort of original feature, I love reading these. Every blog in the world posts the same old news, it gets tedious. Thank you for bringing something unique to the table, it's much appreciated.

Posted by GalacticPunt

@stolin: I am in awe of your gear. Besides "Mercury Prize" I don't have any of that, and I've clocked 203 hours. Heck I'll pull out the DS and check...

Defeated Monster List Completion: 89%

Wardrobe Completion: 54%

Item List Completion: 94%

Alchenomicon Completion: 36%

Quests Completed: 170

Time Spent in Multiplayer: a whopping 00:00

I don't have the fortitude for a true 100%, but I will come back to this later this year to grind out the remaining "DLC" quests. I lost momentum a couple months back, but I'll be back.

Posted by whitesox
@CharAznable said:

@patrickklepek

Please keep doing this sort of original feature, I love reading these. Every blog in the world posts the same old news, it gets tedious. Thank you for bringing something unique to the table, it's much appreciated.

Posted by stolin
@GalacticPunt:  Good work.  At that point now that all 184 Quest are out you could make those your next goal.  If you could find someone to trade A or S rank Grottoes for each theme that would really boost you for that next level.  Getting the Alchemy & Wardrobe completed is a lot work solo.
Posted by AsahiDragon

Wow, and I thought playing a game for 100+ hours was an accomplishment. This man deservers a medal, or maybe just a nice pat on the back. 700 hours is insane.

Posted by karatetron

That's fucking nuts. I just passed 100 hours in Fallout 3, and am just getting into the DLC, but that's probably the closest I'm ever gonna get to this.

Posted by CL60

"Cough"If Brad N posted this everybody would have jumped down his throat for posting something that isn't news worthy"Cough"

Posted by LiquidPrince

Singleplayer: 773 hours

Multiplayer: 0:01

Nice.

Edited by PenguinDust

I prefer DQ over FF, too but hot damn, that's what I call tenacity.  I'm about 10% there by his standard.  Back when I was heavily into WOW, I think I might have posted a similar "hours in game" number for my account, but  WoW is so much more than just the game itself so high numbers aren't that unusual for the faithful.  I admire this guy on one hand, but also feel he could have played a lot of other games in that time, too.  I know I felt that way when I eventually did kick Warcraft.

Posted by BUCK3TM4N

i usually only play games to about 85% never have the determination to get 100% 

Posted by Cybexx

Yeah I need to pick up Dragon Quest IX again. I actually imported the japanese version played a bunch of that, then got it when it came out in North America, but I haven't gotten close to finishing either. I also need to finish Dragon Quest V, start Dragon Quest VI and maybe even go back and finish Dragon Quest VIII. So I've got a ridiculous amount of DQ to play.

Despite that though I am pretty excited for DQX. Its Level 5 again and DQVIII was pretty much what I imagined a 3D JRPG would be when I was playing the 8 and 16 bit games. SInce it is the only JRPG to keep the over-world, instead of moving to an interconnected maze of areas or a menu system.

Posted by Jimbo

"Like watching an HBO mini-series that just kept going weekly for a year."

You know, one of those shows that puts out 15 hours of content per week.

I love how he's trying so hard to justify this to himself (not that he needs to justify it to me, do whatever you want). He sounds like a junkie or something.

Posted by HadesTimes

As someone who played World of Warcraft for 3 years, I can honestly say that I would never even be ABLE to play one game for 773 hours, let alone Dragon Quest.

Posted by ITSSEXYTIME

I have 1347 hours into DoW2 (+Expansions) does that count for anything?

Granted, it's mostly multiplayer so it's a bit different.

Posted by iirobdog

@thoseposers said:

this makes me wanna go play some long ass game and beat it 100%. and i don't know if i've ever actually done that

my thoughts exactly. Maybe AssCreeBro

Posted by iam3green

that is pretty crazy, he should get a life.... see what i did there because i have like 11,000 post. 
 
pretty crazy, i don't think i have put that much into a game. i did play wow for like 3 years. i kind of wish that games were long like that. i don't think i have played a console, or hand held that lasted that long.

Posted by Grumbel
@Jimbo said:
I love how he's trying so hard to justify this to himself (not that he needs to justify it to me, do whatever you want). He sounds like a junkie or something.
773h is insane, but compared to TV its still rather mild, as the average(!) person spends double that amount in front of the TV each year. Still, spending all that time with a single game, instead of a huge game collection, is rather insane.
Posted by ryanwho

Those grotto dungeons are ridiculous. Its just like 300 mouse mazes and 1 of 5 bosses at the end. Why the hell anyone would play through them all is beyond me.

Posted by Jimbo

@Grumbel said:

@Jimbo said:
I love how he's trying so hard to justify this to himself (not that he needs to justify it to me, do whatever you want). He sounds like a junkie or something.
773h is insane, but compared to TV its still rather mild, as the average(!) person spends double that amount in front of the TV each year. Still, spending all that time with a single game, instead of a huge game collection, is rather insane.

They typically don't spend that time watching the same show hundreds of times over though. How different was the 773rd hour of DQ9 compared to the 173rd hour? I suspect not very.

Posted by NekuCTR

Wait, how do you max out a clock at 99:99:99. since when are there 99 minuets in an hour and 99 seconds in a minute?

Posted by brownsfantb

Holy crap, I thought 80+ hours in DQVIII was a lot. I don't even think I've played 700 hours of Halo multiplayer over all 4 releases.

Posted by Kontrapunkt

Running out of news I suppose. 

It's great to see that he had loads of fun on the way. All too often I see people grind out playing games and then hating themselves over it.  (I also love the gear. Infinity trousers, Heavenly helm, Soul sucker!!!!!!!!)

What about the CS players which have logged over 2000 hours AFTER the steam update in 2008?

Posted by aceofspudz

I had 1 order of magnitude more hours in Everquest I and was nowhere near 100% completion.

Posted by Sander

I appreciate these stories but they're not interesting enough for their length. I wish Patrick would take up some of his former employers' technique and use some side bar action.

Posted by Red

That's pretty crazy. The most I've ever played a single playthrough--excluding WoW--is probably Persona 3: FES, in which I spent about 92 hours getting to fuse the game's best Personas, like The Messiah, and Lucifer. I managed to beat the game's final boss in practically one hit. While it was a lot of time spent grinding, the game sure made it worth it. Knowing that Satan is at your beck at call is a pretty great power rush.
More recently, I played through the original KotOR and did pretty much every quest in the game, although my play time was I think only 35 hours. 
 
Anyways, I love getting lost in a game like that, and recently, I've felt a greater need to be more completionistic. While the recent Fallout games couldn't quite grab me as much as I wanted to, I'm hoping that Skyrim this fall will be able to satisfy my maxed-out power-tripping needs.

Posted by gla55jAw

That's pretty awesome. I think I'm only 30-40 hours in and I haven't picked it up in a few months.

Posted by This_Dude

I'm on 53 hours and 35 minutes, and still haven't completed the story.  So I can see how he would've completed it in about 60 hours.  I haven't gone around wasting much time either.  You have to grind a lot to level up for some of the boss fights and to buy better equipment.  I can't wait to get into the Post Game and mess around with some of the dungeons and extra quests now that they're all released.  Great article.

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Posted by liako21

I love the dragon quest series and i really hope they dont change the formula and style of the game EVER!  
  
the fact the multiplayer is :01 is hilarious. probably not what nintendo and square enix were promoting about this one lol

Posted by Uberjannie

Wow, that dudes games budget must be 99.9% lower than mine. 

Posted by vinsanityv22

I've played over 80 hours of the game, and I haven't fought the last boss yet.  Trying new jobs is a grind, since it resets your level to level 0 for every new job you take on. Not to mention, you have to fulfill some crazy sh** to unlock about half the job classes. But make no mistake; a "grind" with DQ's super fast combat (especially when you turn on the AI for your teammates) is still a breeze compared to other JRPGs. You don't even realize how much time has passed.
 
The game is amazing. All the charm and endearing-ness of a JRPG, with great style and music, but all the sidequests, multiplayer, loot drops, armor sets, and party customization of a western RPG. It's literally the best of both RPG worlds. And the fact that it's on the DS is a technical marvel. It's actually kind of a shame, as I feel far more gamers would enjoy what DQIX has to offer if it were on other platforms. I really hope DQX is multiplatform.

Posted by PoisonJam7

It's crazy how much content they stuff into these JRPG's. Personally, I never cared for any of them, with the exception of Tales of Symphonia, which took me a long time to finish and I was getting pretty sick of it towards the end.
 
The last game I spent the most time on (outside of MMO's) was Mass Effect 2, which I played for well over 80 hours. I completed the campaign twice and did all the side quests, explored every planet completely depleting them of all resources as well as playing through all the DLC. I never once got tired of it while doing all this, and I can't wait for ME3.
 
I have the same kind of "completionist" personality as this guy, but not towards JRPGs. Achievements and Trophies go a long way towards adding an incentive to complete games.

Edited by JakeLogan
@Outrager said:
That's a little over 11 hours/day
 
773 hours/365 days = 2.1...etc hours per day 
Posted by Xpgamer7

Wow, That's why I can never keep playing RPGs. I get too deep and keep trying for a perfect score.

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Posted by MrKlorox

Why even have a game or story then? Seems like the grind is all that matters. Some people have broken brains.

Posted by mr_shoeless

The most time I've spent in a game so far is Persona 4, where I'm at 107 hours. I'm still on my first playthrough. Several of the social links I haven't even bothered with, I'm saving them for the next playthrough. I play it a few hours every week.

Posted by mr_shoeless

@TEAMHOLT said:

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 have to agree. I enjoyed visiting Giant Bomb more before they started trying to post all those uninteresting "news" articles every day. I'd rather they lower the frequency and just put up videos, reviews, and editorials where they truly have a unique spin on it. I don't need to know about every intra-company squabble or buyout rumor.

Posted by afrofools

I did that last year with Oblivion and Fallout 3. Out of all the time I have spent on GTA IV it would look something like half of his amount for dragon quest, even though I haven't got all the achievements because I still suck. I also have put a shitload of hours into playing BC2 online, even with my shitty ping that gives my opponents a huge advantage and has made me break 3 controllers.@Dunchad: Me and my gamer friends find that game so boring, glad you can actually enjoy it. I thought getting heaps of hours out of a game was normal, I was wrong.

Posted by Berserk007

Imagine losing the save file on that sucker!

Posted by sungahymn

2010? Could've sworn that the game came out this year. 
 
773 hours on a single game (beside MMOs) is insane, and it looks like a lot of people concur. 
The only game I came close to 100% completion is The World Ends with You (which, coincidentally, is also a DS game).

Posted by Seijur0

If Jeff and Vinny were to have played this game to 100% completion and played an average of 30 minutes per episode, it would end up being about 1,546 episodes total.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

"I don't want to play this game any more!"
 
"But thou must!"

Posted by SoulEdgeSlayer

@mr_shoeless: Sadly, this is due to the addition of Patrick to the GB team. Though I like him (and think that he's a funny dude), most of these stories are unnecessary...

Posted by lordofultima

@SoulEdgeSlayer said:

@mr_shoeless: Sadly, this is due to the addition of Patrick to the GB team. Though I like him (and think that he's a funny dude), most of these stories are unnecessary...

To each his own, I guess. These stories are fascinating, I never read news stories on Giant Bomb beforehand because it's the same news regurgitated on every RSS feed in the world. I want editorial.

Posted by MetalGearFlaccid

I support these editorials; it's the only reason I articles here any way.

Posted by Chet_Rippo

Endurance run it!
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