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Fixing Open World Games


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I really hope Mankind Divided's Prague hub acts as inspiration for the next gen. I'd still want that approach, but with an area large enough to make vehicles worthwhile. That's why I think a handful of Prague-like densely-populated areas joined by rural/wild areas would be awesome. Something like a Mars-set game, with settlements separated by tough terrain. Basically, let's have a proper sequel to Red Faction Guerilla.

 

I also think Metro Exodus does things differently and well - three smaller open areas joined by linear gameplay sections. The open areas are manageable, hostile and it's left up the player to discover their secrets at his or her leisure.

 

Of course, there's a GMTK about that as well:

 

 

 

 

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8 minutes ago, Thor said:

Mankind Divided is overrated though.

 

Struggling to reconcile that statement with its "8/10s across the board, sold three copies" status. MD's certainly flawed, and the general reception reflected that. It's hardly as if it arrived to rapturous applause and massive success.

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1 minute ago, Wiper said:

 

Struggling to reconcile that statement with its "8/10s across the board, sold three copies" status. MD's certainly flawed, and the general reception reflected that. It's hardly as if it arrived to rapturous applause and massive success.

8/10 is too high. It's a 7/10. ;)

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The problem for me with most open world games, and I'm including Forza Horizon in there too, is that I can never ignore the side quests and stick to the main progression line. I started playing AC Odyssey properly the other week, must have sunk close to 5 hours into the thing, completing every question mark every little icon on the map. So yeah, 5 hours down and all of a sudden I'm out to sea and the game title pops up. I realise that that was basically the tut and I have about a bazillion hours ahead until completion.

 

Same goes for something like Nioh which isn't even an open world game, I can't help ticking off every quest. A game I could have probably wrapped up many, many hours back has now long outstayed its welcome and I'm into 80 hours with many more to come.

 

I know it's my own fault, my own lack of willpower but I wish that these fucking maps on certain games were a little leaner. I love most of these games and want to spend time in their worlds, just not time were I can see myself physically age from start to finish.

 

So yeah, chill with the bloat.

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On the sidequest thing, I think I'd prefer the model of a much, much shorter main plot, uninterrupted by millions of sidequests, then have a bunch of post-story content for those who really liked the game to carry on playing. I'm not a big fan of looter shooters, but they do generally give you a relatively compact campaign, followed by the 'now play it forever' end-game. That structure satisfies both camps of players.

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1 hour ago, footle said:

 

Open World, no icons, as far as I remember?!

 

Well, there are - but they're on actual maps you have to pull out and look at in the game, and honestly if you can't have icons on maps in a pirate game I don't know where you can have them. 

 

  

27 minutes ago, Thor said:

8/10 is too high. It's a 7/10. ;)

 

7/10 is too low. It's a 7.6/10.

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31 minutes ago, Cappuccino Kid said:

For me, an engaging open world must either:

 

a) Be fun to navigate (e.g. Spider-Man, Breath of the Wild); or

 

 

 

I think that's why GTA was so successful (was it the first open world game in the style we see today?) Sure there was a lot of jank in there, but just getting into a car and driving around with some music on felt fun. I imagine it was popular not because of the god-awful missions, but because people just enjoyed joyriding around and then getting killed and respawning. It was a massive playground.

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I've tried to play Witcher 3 twice. First time on PS4 I got bored in Novigrad and parked it there for good. More recently, I tried again on Switch, with much more potential gaming time on that system. Made it to Skellige this time, and am bored of it again. All markers turned off, just following the main quests and a rare side quest here or there, and yet I'm still done with it at about L20. I admire its world and its writing, but I know it's a game I will never finish, it's just all so samey. I worry the same thing will happen with 2077 in a few months...

 

In fact, thinking about it, I've tried plenty of open world games, but the only ones I've ever finished are Far Cry 3, which was a chore towards the end, and BOTW, which I put 160 hours into and loved every damn minute.

 

So, yeah, traditional open world games probably aren't for me, unless more of them become like BOTW.

 

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4 hours ago, Wiper said:

That said, I think vaster open worlds can work, but they really need to lean into the scale, be willing to have their open spaces actually feel vast through explicitly not filling every space with 'stuff to do', instead making the traversal of empty spaces a core mechanic of its own. This is something that very few strive for though, never mind successfully achieve; I'd say Shadow of the Colossus, Breath of the Wild, The Phantom Pain (to an extent) and Death Stranding are about the only great examples I can think of.

 

I think the first Just Cause was good at this as well. There were huge areas that had next to nothing in them, mission wise. You could end up miles away, parachuting into some mist shrouded valley, totally isolated. But I don't think the sequels have quite captured that same feeling of isolation.

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1 hour ago, Lying Cat said:

7/10 is too low. It's a 7.6/10.

Nah, I hate scores like that. Percentages are more accurate. 76% I can agree with, but not 7.6/10. 

 

Spoiler

image.png.97b635cf1ea6eb88efccb4d5678a6bd0.png

 

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2 hours ago, therearerules said:

 

I think that's why GTA was so successful (was it the first open world game in the style we see today?) Sure there was a lot of jank in there, but just getting into a car and driving around with some music on felt fun. I imagine it was popular not because of the god-awful missions, but because people just enjoyed joyriding around and then getting killed and respawning. It was a massive playground.

 

Absolutely, I just found myself nodding to a post so it must have been a good one. 

 

Will the devs give up the open world bloat? I'm not sure but you are bang on about the early GTA games, the newness of the open world and just being able to tit about was brilliant. 

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I'd really like games where design drives the content and scope/size of the environment, for example I think Return of the Obra Dinn and Zelda Breath of the Wild are perfect examples of how this can be delivered and differ widely on scale.

 

Another curse of OW games can be staffing in companies, you have a large team of content creators who just fill out the large world arbitrarily so you end up with unfocused bloat, you have a cutscene team / underused animators and you get cutscenes. This kind of thing also reminds me of the FEAR AI setup, there was noone to author the explicit ai behaviours so the main AI programmer created Goal Oriented Action Planning so the AI could decide what was best to do :D

 

Short version : More core game design, more systems, less people.

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I know open world games are a lot bigger now, but with GTA3 and Vice City I knew everywhere from memory just by exploring. Games now just overwhelm me when I open the map and see 200 points of interest to check off the list. It's also detrimental to the gaming experience - you end up playing a game through a tiny minimap.

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15 hours ago, therearerules said:

 

I think that's why GTA was so successful (was it the first open world game in the style we see today?) Sure there was a lot of jank in there, but just getting into a car and driving around with some music on felt fun. I imagine it was popular not because of the god-awful missions, but because people just enjoyed joyriding around and then getting killed and respawning. It was a massive playground.


GTA 3?
also we hadn’t had two decades of similar games to compare to, and climbing up onto a bridge and firing rocket launchers at cars below was novel.

 

the only previous games that came close were probably the likes of syndicate, and they were isometric (and closed off) so you didn’t get that sense of scale.
 

probabiy worth noting that GTA3 had very limited numbers of question marks on the map too - you had the hidden packages, but you didn’t have a thousand side quests.

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I reckon the biggest sin in open world games is when the map is littered with points of interest, especially when you get loads in areas you haven't even been to yet. As much as I liked Spiderman on PS4, I really disliked the way the map told me the exact amount of hidden backpacks and other stuff from the very beginning. When it's done like this it feels more like a chore. 

For me the genre works best when you're awarded for exploring and personally I think BotW has done the best version of an open world so far. As soon as I'm dropped into a big world with a minimap littered with icons and a GPS I'm slightly taken out of the game instead of drawn in. Why bother exploring when every point of interest is already named and pointed out for you?

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51 minutes ago, Rayn said:

I reckon the biggest sin in open world games is when the map is littered with points of interest, especially when you get loads in areas you haven't even been to yet. As much as I liked Spiderman on PS4, I really disliked the way the map told me the exact amount of hidden backpacks and other stuff from the very beginning. When it's done like this it feels more like a chore. 

For me the genre works best when you're awarded for exploring and personally I think BotW has done the best version of an open world so far. As soon as I'm dropped into a big world with a minimap littered with icons and a GPS I'm slightly taken out of the game instead of drawn in. Why bother exploring when every point of interest is already named and pointed out for you?

The backpacks in Spiderman felt like a really obvious candidate for ripping off the orbs in Crackdown. Amazed how rarely that's been copied.

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Just now, Hewson said:

The backpacks in Spiderman felt like a really obvious candidate for ripping off the orbs in Crackdown. Amazed how rarely that's been copied.

 

Imho the orbs worked better because you never knew where they were, you had to explore to find them. The only hint you ever got was the lovely hum. In spiderman you could simply mark a backpack location on the main map and you'd get gps coordinates for it on the mini map. 

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A really great example of an open world properly designed to bypass the need for a minimap or any kind of map marker is Arkham Knight. You can find and complete every side mission in the game without ever referring to the map. Every side-mission type is findable by thinking and acting like Batman. Hostage firefighters can be located by getting up high and panning around to pick up their cries on the cowl's directional radio, Azreal leaves fiery bat symbols on rooftops for you to find, the mysterious serial killer's victims can be located by opera music playing nearby (Crackdown-style). Visual and audio cues that are all interesting and rewarding to find. I never once needed to use the map in that game.

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I think what this place needs to realise though is that this particular type of open world game does not need fixing. For a lot of people, a huge open world crammed with things to do over a period of weeks or months is just a nice bit of comfort gaming. You sit down, turn off and instantly settle into that loop of collectible/sidequest/mission and see where it takes you. There's a place for that. If you don't like it, not every game has to be for you. They sell gangbusters. Plently people do.

 

With all due respect, the idea that modern open world games could be improved by being more Deus Ex or Batman or BotW is nothing more than a plea for devs to make more games you like.

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3 minutes ago, Opinionated Ham Scarecrow said:

I think what this place needs to realise though is that this particular type of open world game does not need fixing. For a lot of people, a huge open world crammed with things to do over a period of weeks or months is just a nice bit of comfort gaming. You sit down, turn off and instantly settle into that loop of collectible/sidequest/mission and see where it takes you. There's a place for that. If you don't like it, not every game has to be for you. They sell gangbusters. Plently people do.

 

With all due respect, the idea that modern open world games could be improved by being more Deus Ex or Batman or BotW is nothing more than a plea for devs to make more games you like.

 

Yes! Thank you! 

 

It's also, not like games like Yakuza, Deus Ex, Hitman don't actually exist and are not being made! They are! 

 

whynotboth.gif

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Chapter 3 of Evil Within 2 has my idea of a good open world. It's small, around 1 square km, but every bit is jam packed with secrets and worthwhile investigation. You can end the area with a ton of items which help your journey, or you can just rush to the end.

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20 hours ago, Freeman said:

 

This is one small portion of the Forza Horizon map:

 

image.thumb.png.d05a82933c12afd790a51b45ec327108.png

 

I get no satisfaction from looking at that, and no achievement from completing 2 or 3 of the events either.  It might as well be a list, in fact, I'd prefer it as a list, then I could tick things off in whatever order, and see it reducing.  Currently, for me anyway, it's just a mess.

 

 

It's what stopped me playing FH4, icon fatigue and having to bloody drive everywhere to get to a race. Now sometimes having a cruise is nice, taking in the scenery and finding small things, but if you know what you want to do and it's miles away you just want to go straight there. "Oh but it strips away the discovery element-" at least give me the option, give me a list of events sorted by category, with my best times/places so I can keep track of all that. 

 

Call me old-fashioned but just give ma a list of events, some tracks, some cars, that's me. 

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55 minutes ago, Rayn said:

 

Imho the orbs worked better because you never knew where they were, you had to explore to find them. The only hint you ever got was the lovely hum. In spiderman you could simply mark a backpack location on the main map and you'd get gps coordinates for it on the mini map. 

Sorry - wasn't being clear - that's exactly what I mean. They should have removed clutter from the map and done the backpacks with an aural hint.

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35 minutes ago, Opinionated Ham Scarecrow said:

I think what this place needs to realise though is that this particular type of open world game does not need fixing. For a lot of people, a huge open world crammed with things to do over a period of weeks or months is just a nice bit of comfort gaming. You sit down, turn off and instantly settle into that loop of collectible/sidequest/mission and see where it takes you. There's a place for that. If you don't like it, not every game has to be for you. They sell gangbusters. Plently people do.

 

With all due respect, the idea that modern open world games could be improved by being more Deus Ex or Batman or BotW is nothing more than a plea for devs to make more games you like.

I think it's fine to like them, but the idea that because they sell gangbusters we shouldn't ask how they can be improved is a bit fallacious. The most criticisms fired at these games is about these things apparently inherent to open worlds games. Checkout the reviews for Ghost of Tsushima. Asking what open world games can do to stop players playing on a minimap, or making quests more purposeful is a fair question. And the fact that there are so many of these games played with checklists, maps and fast travel (seriously, loads) doesn't mean they're about to go away, but alternatives are severly under-represented.

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3 minutes ago, therearerules said:

I think it's fine to like them, but the idea that because they sell gangbusters we shouldn't ask how they can be improved is a bit fallacious. The most criticisms fired at these games is about these things apparently inherent to open worlds games. Checkout the reviews for Ghost of Tsushima. Asking what open world games can do to stop players playing on a minimap, or making quests more purposeful is a fair question. And the fact that there are so many of these games played with checklists, maps and fast travel (seriously, loads) doesn't mean they're about to go away, but alternatives are severly under-represented.

 

My argument is that you are not improving them for some people, only for yourself and those that share your criticisms. This is only supported by the reviews of Tsushima (which range from amazing 10/10 to meh, boring 5/10). You pay heed only to the criticisms that match your own.

 

I can 100% agree on better quest direction, but regarding the other stuff this all comes down to personal preference and should be handled in game via options. The Witcher 3 is amazing for this. You can turn off practically every map icon and the entire HUD. Even the UBI open world games let you do this. You already have this option in the majority of games.

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18 minutes ago, Opinionated Ham Scarecrow said:

 

My argument is that you are not improving them for some people, only for yourself and those that share your criticisms. This is only supported by the reviews of Tsushima (which range from amazing 10/10 to meh, boring 5/10). You pay heed only to the criticisms that match your own.

 

I can 100% agree on better quest direction, but regarding the other stuff this all comes down to personal preference and should be handled in game via options. The Witcher 3 is amazing for this. You can turn off practically every map icon and the entire HUD. Even the UBI open world games let you do this. You already have this option in the majority of games.

I disagree with your second part. A game designed to not have points of interest marked on the map is designed differently, it needs to draw attention to those areas organically, and think more about what goes there. A game without fast travel is designed differently to one with. More effort goes into making the journey worthwhile, and more thought as to when players are asked to travel around the map. Simply toggling the option off isn't really an improvement.

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17 minutes ago, therearerules said:

I disagree with your second part. A game designed to not have points of interest marked on the map is designed differently, it needs to draw attention to those areas organically, and think more about what goes there. A game without fast travel is designed differently to one with. More effort goes into making the journey worthwhile, and more thought as to when players are asked to travel around the map. Simply toggling the option off isn't really an improvement.

 

I think we will have to agree to disagree then, because I now get the impression you are seeing things you want to see in games you like/dislike. There is maybe one example of this and even BotW has incredibly generic map sections broken up by identikit shrines and towers. The idea that no consideration has gone into the map design of Horizon or Witcher and they are just a shotgun blast of icons on a map does a discredit to the developers.

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21 hours ago, therearerules said:

I haven't seen that one, but really like their look at 'follow the breadcrumb' and the indepth look at a fallout new vegas side quest. That's how sidequests should be done!

 

Fallout New Vegas is on my top 5 when it comes to writing. What Obsidian managed to pull off is simply remarkable. 

 

 

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