For as criminally short and brutal as it seemed, 'Game of Thrones' season 3 came to a close with last night's finale episode, "Mhysa," leaving hungry fans to wait until spring 2014 for the next round of episodes. Given season 3 of the HBO drama's unique structure of adapting George R.R. Martin's increasingly lengthy books, however, what can fans of the series expect going forward? HBO head and 'Game of Thrones' producers weighed in on future seasons, and the answers may surprise you!

First and foremost, both HBO and George R.R. Martin remain confident that the series won't catch up to the books before the notoriously slow-writing author releases the sixth, and likely final seventh installments of the saga. Martin has prepared producers in either case by telling showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss of his ultimate endgame, but told Entertainment Weekly that “I don’t think I’d be happy with" HBO debuting plot points before the books.

Given season 3's structure of adapting elements from Martin's third book, 'A Storm of Swords,' as well as books beyond, season 4 will continue to draw from book 4, 'A Feast for Crows,' and book 5, 'A Dance With Dragons,' all the while wrapping up the full narrative of book 3. Given that books 4 and 5 chronologically overlap, with 4 considered among the weaker of the series, Benioff cautioned that forthcoming seasons would likely look to consolidate and condense the narrative more-so than those before:

The series has already reached a point where there are so many characters, particularly in season three we’re introducing so many new ones, we run the risk of bursting at the seams as we try to cram every single subplot and all the various characters, and it becomes impossible on a budgetary level and it becomes impossible on an episode-basis to jump around every few minutes to 30 different characters and locations. We don’t want to do that, and recognize that as a real risk and we will take steps not to fall into that trap.

As for the series itself, no concrete number has yet been determined for the amount of seasons 'Game of Thrones' will run, but HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo remains confident the series will effectively manage its large cast's increasing salary requirements, as with 'The Sopranos' before it. Multiple options are being considered, from a 'Spartacus'-style prequel series, adapting Martin's "Hedge Knight" stories, to hiatus in between seasons, but much of 'Game of Thrones' HBO future will end up determined by Martin himself as he writes the sixth and seventh books.

Benioff in particular remains wary of the series lasting 10 or more seasons, pointing out the apparent age of its child actors. "We don’t want to become a show that outstays its welcome and tries to turn each book into three seasons," says the showrunner. "Part of what we love about these books and the show is this sense of momentum and building toward something. If we tried to turn this into a 10-season show we’d strangle the golden goose.”

We'll likely learn more of 'Game of Thrones' season 4 in the coming weeks and months, but in the meantime what say you? Were you satisfied with last night's finale? How would you like to see 'Game of Thrones' continue adapting the series in the future? Go inside the finale below, and give us your thoughts on 'Game of Thrones' season 4 in the comments!

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