Why I take issue with open world games

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In general, do developers value size over immersion?

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ElectroYoshi
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Why I take issue with open world games

Postby ElectroYoshi » June 23rd, 2016, 3:09 pm

For the past few years (Since 2012-2013 or so), I've been kind of taking issue with the video game industry's sudden obsession with open world gameplay. And for the longest time, I really wasn't sure why. But last week at E3 Nintendo formally unveiled The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Since then, I've been hearing all over the place about how it's one of the biggest games Nintendo's ever churned out. In particular, I've been hearing a lot of people say it's 9-12x bigger than Skyrim.

Well, I've been logging a lot of time playing the Xenoblade Chronicles games lately, and compound with my somewhat mixed reaction to Breath of the Wild's reveal, I think I've finally managed to pin down what about the industry's obsession with these games put me off so much: Size over substance.

Let me explain. It's hard to know when exactly the concept of open world gameplay became so hugely popular, but it's hard to deny that Skyrim played a big part. Skyrim is a fantastic game with a lot of really cool things to do, and yes, a huge-ass overworld. It's been 5 and a half years since it came out, and people are continuing to find new places to explore in the game world even today. So it's only natural that people are gonna wanna start making games with a similar open vibe to Skyrim.

But the way other games have gone about it makes me think the developers completely missed the point! Take Grand Theft Auto V for example. That game's overworld is absolutely enormous, but when I played it... I couldn't have been more bored if I tried! There's not really a lot to do in that game in relation to the size of its map. At the very least, I didn't find much of it interesting. I had the same problem with Watch Dogs. Again, very open game, but again, not a lot to do that I actually enjoyed. Same thing with Fallout 4 (Yeah, I went there). That game's overworld is huge, and I just couldn't get invested in it because there wasn't a lot to do in relation to that size (Although admittedly my playtime with Fallout 4 has been pretty limited, so I suggest you take that one with a grain of salt).

And despite the fact that it's not out for another 9 months (at least), I can't help but fear that Breath of the Wild will fall victim to this problem too. I get that sometimes games "hand-hold" too much (Looking at you, Spirit Tracks), but I'd prefer that to a game that has a huge map just for the sake of having a huge map.

tl;dr I take issue with the genre of open world games mostly because of how it's executed. A lot of times developers will make their overworlds huge, and people will eat it up BECAUSE it's huge, without any regard for whether it's immersive or not. Again, size over substance. To me, that's a problem, because open world games have the potential to be absolutely incredible. Look at Skyrim! It's seen as one of the greatest video games ever made 5 years after its release. Most games have to be around for a decade or two to get that honor. But I feel like if developers are always putting size over substance, neither the individual game, nor the genre as a whole, can live up to its full potential.

So those are my thoughts. What are you guys'?

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Doctor Pie
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Re: Why I take issue with open world games

Postby Doctor Pie » June 23rd, 2016, 3:22 pm

Personally I agree that sometimes they don't always focus on Immersion, one of the big things in gaming, but personally I was immersed with Fallout 4. (sorry we can't agree with that)

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Re: Why I take issue with open world games

Postby ElectroYoshi » June 23rd, 2016, 5:32 pm

Doctor Pie wrote:I was immersed with Fallout 4. (sorry we can't agree with that)


Well, like I said, I haven't played a ton of Fallout 4, so I might've just ditched it before I got to the good stuff.

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Doctor Pie
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Re: Why I take issue with open world games

Postby Doctor Pie » June 23rd, 2016, 6:03 pm

ElectroYoshi wrote:
Doctor Pie wrote:I was immersed with Fallout 4. (sorry we can't agree with that)


Well, like I said, I haven't played a ton of Fallout 4, so I might've just ditched it before I got to the good stuff.


Well, I do agree with that. The side quests and DLC are the real meat, especially the Far Harbor DLC and the side quests "The Silver Shroud" and "Last Voyage of the U.S.S. Constitution". The main quest is kind of boring. Some quests might give a bit of fun (such as saving ol nick valentine) but the story is meh.

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Re: Why I take issue with open world games

Postby Bad At Gravity » June 23rd, 2016, 6:14 pm

Fallout 4 is fun though.

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Re: Why I take issue with open world games

Postby Miniike » June 23rd, 2016, 6:54 pm

I feel like this is kind of a uselessly broad topic, becuase the boring (but true) answer is just that it depends on the game.

The notion of "stuff to do" changes based on what a game's main draw/method of engagement is. Games like Elder Scrolls (and most RPGs really) benefit from open worlds because their core mechanics are meant to be as broad and customizable as possible. When three different players can approach your world in three different ways, it means the burden of having to polish one specific experience is lifted. This is inherent in the "play how you want" style of western RPGs. If you're an archer, you can use the world for sniping practice. If you're a warrior, you can use it as a hunting ground. If you're a thief, you can find places to be a sneaky bastard.

Open words can also be used aesthetically rather then mechanically. There's plenty of stuff to do in Fallout, but it still manages to design its world in such a way that it really feels like you're alone and helpless in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Skyrim uses its open world to make you feel like the epic quest you're going on has real gravity, because you've got a lot of "the world" to save.

In Zelda terms, ideally I would like to see Breath of the Wild use its scope to increase the amount of optional content. I think a big open world is a brilliant playground to work on a problem that the Zelda games have had for a while: making everything seem like a guided tour instead of an adventure. I don't work at Nintendo, so I don't know for sure what design philosophy they're going for, but stuff like the new survival and customization elements makes me think that Breath of the Wild is moving towards Skyrim not just in scale, but in mechanics.

I am personally all for that. It's been too long since Zelda games were allowed to be individuals. If Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, and Wind Waker were the only 3D Zelda games, the contrarian crowd of "Zelda games are soooooo formulaic and samey!" wouldn't exist. No one in their right mind could mix up the thesis statement of 3D adventure games, the wacko sequel, and the exploration-driven ending. But Twilight Princess was trying desperately to be Ocarina of Time 2, mostly by exaggerating the "we're in 3D now let's play around" design, which is not only outdated but forced it into a spectacle-driven mold. Skyward Sword made this even more extreme and shoved everything into an unsatisfying funnel. This flushing out of the hand-holding, exploration-resistant style looks like a great breath of fresh air, and since its design seems in step with its world, I say go for it.
:pigflag: for fricking fricks sake why do i still care :pigflag:
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Re: Why I take issue with open world games

Postby Miniike » June 23rd, 2016, 7:04 pm


^ check this out and all the other Zelda videos by this guy. He's a Zelda fan and an honest critic. And his voice tastes like toast. Nice, buttery toast.
:pigflag: for fricking fricks sake why do i still care :pigflag:
:lock: 1. Wild Life 2. China Pig 3. The Blimp (Mousetrapreplica) 4. Sugar N' Spikes 5. Ant Man Bee :lock:
:bomb: you'll love it, it's a way of life :bomb:

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Re: Why I take issue with open world games

Postby Phantomboy » June 23rd, 2016, 10:13 pm

So, let me quickly preface with, I've never played a single Zelda game, nor watched more than a few minutes of any given Zelda game…so whilst I've gathered a bit of knowledge on the franchise through cultural osmosis, my concept of what makes or breaks a Zelda game, is basically nothing.

What is something I can speak on is how immersion is an emotion brought about by media, whilst content is simply the segments of media. To be more specific, people can and do get immersed in vivid and beautiful nature walking simulators, entirely barren of any mechanical depth outside of movement and directing the camera. So, whilst it is kind of a nice short hand to tell developers to focus less on overworld size and focus more on immersion, there is a fair argument that just giving players a fair bit of room to roam around in is, for some, enough to be immersive. What it is seems you are more-so asking for isn't necessarily immersion but a balance between amount of mechanical content and size of playing field…which I can totally understand, many dislike long travel times between sporadic points of interest.

Something that I've seen, which I wished would be less of a thing is, when the open world is used as basically a glorified mission selection screen. (ie; you go to the library, speak with the librarian to activate just the book related mission path, then from there you are taken to the specific area of the map sectioned off for the "book quest" then you go to the race car driver and the map gets sectioned off again as just one bit of road is used for the "car race quest" Whilst it is a way to populate an open world with mechanical purposes, it takes advantage of the world is small segments, not as a large space to explore and roam through. Now, this sort of "quest, then blocked of area off activity, then repeat" method can probably be used well in some instances…but I digress~!
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Re: Why I take issue with open world games

Postby Miniike » June 24th, 2016, 7:44 am

Phantomboy wrote:What is something I can speak on is how immersion is an emotion brought about by media, whilst content is simply the segments of media. To be more specific, people can and do get immersed in vivid and beautiful nature walking simulators, entirely barren of any mechanical depth outside of movement and directing the camera. So, whilst it is kind of a nice short hand to tell developers to focus less on overworld size and focus more on immersion, there is a fair argument that just giving players a fair bit of room to roam around in is, for some, enough to be immersive. What it is seems you are more-so asking for isn't necessarily immersion but a balance between amount of mechanical content and size of playing field…which I can totally understand, many dislike long travel times between sporadic points of interest.

Something that I've seen, which I wished would be less of a thing is, when the open world is used as basically a glorified mission selection screen. (ie; you go to the library, speak with the librarian to activate just the book related mission path, then from there you are taken to the specific area of the map sectioned off for the "book quest" then you go to the race car driver and the map gets sectioned off again as just one bit of road is used for the "car race quest" Whilst it is a way to populate an open world with mechanical purposes, it takes advantage of the world is small segments, not as a large space to explore and roam through. Now, this sort of "quest, then blocked off area of activity, then repeat" method can probably be used well in some instances…but I digress~!

I agree with all this.
:pigflag: for fricking fricks sake why do i still care :pigflag:
:lock: 1. Wild Life 2. China Pig 3. The Blimp (Mousetrapreplica) 4. Sugar N' Spikes 5. Ant Man Bee :lock:
:bomb: you'll love it, it's a way of life :bomb:

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Re: Why I take issue with open world games

Postby Bad At Gravity » June 24th, 2016, 11:10 am

Those bug the hell out of me.

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Re: Why I take issue with open world games

Postby ElectroYoshi » June 24th, 2016, 3:51 pm

Phantomboy wrote:Something that I've seen, which I wished would be less of a thing is, when the open world is used as basically a glorified mission selection screen. (ie; you go to the library, speak with the librarian to activate just the book related mission path, then from there you are taken to the specific area of the map sectioned off for the "book quest" then you go to the race car driver and the map gets sectioned off again as just one bit of road is used for the "car race quest" Whilst it is a way to populate an open world with mechanical purposes, it takes advantage of the world is small segments, not as a large space to explore and roam through. Now, this sort of "quest, then blocked of area off activity, then repeat" method can probably be used well in some instances…but I digress~!


It's funny you say that, because Xenoblade Chronicles X (Which is a really kickass game btw) actually does this, but it does it very very well.

To get sidequests in Xenoblade X, there's this terminal you have to visit that lists out a bunch of sidequests at once, and gives you the option to accept them if you so desire. And if you decide you'd rather not tackle that quest for the time being, you can go back to the terminal and cancel it, which removes it from your quest list. And while the missions are generally focused in one specific area (or several, depending on what quest it is), the rest of the overworld is still available to you. There are missions called affinity missions that can never be accepted in conjunction with story quests, and that does hurt the system somewhat, but barring that isolation is a non-issue.

Now, I get what you're saying about mechanics and immersion, that's a very good point. My complaint though is that often the point of making a game open world is to make it feel like a real place, and when you're walking for an insane amount of time without finding anything, it tends to remind people (well, me at least) that it isn't.

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Re: Why I take issue with open world games

Postby crazyal02 » June 27th, 2016, 12:47 am

It may seem like a small thing, but I really like the new Shrines of Trials in Breath of the Wild. Perfect way to have Zelda-style gameplay as an open-world element

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Re: Why I take issue with open world games

Postby Bad At Gravity » July 1st, 2016, 11:27 am


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Re: Why I take issue with open world games

Postby Sebastian Lawe » July 10th, 2016, 11:48 pm

Ironically, I found Skyrim as bland and boring as any other open world game (Fallout included). GTA V on the other hand is fun to just create havoc and drive fast cars in (which I eventually lost interest in, but actually enjoyed for a bit).

Thusfar the only open world game I've truly enjoyed was Witcher 3. But literally, only because the story was damn epic. The moment I beat the story and DLC stories I never touched it again. I like the illusion of open world with a linear path story (never cared about hunting contracts in Witcher 3).

I'm actually rather concerned that I might not even like the latest Zelda title depending on how they decide to do their story delivery. The fact that the open world is so huge, and that I now have to worry about general survival and such is a deterrent for me. It looks cool, certainly, but theres certain elements in games I've never cared for (Hell, I never bothered using potions and sword oils in Witcher 3). I'm very much the kind of person who likes a linear list of things to do pointed on a map, that I can do at my leisure, as well as a story line that guides me through the world.

Without some sort of story hook for me to follow, a game just doesn't attract me to keep coming back.

With that said, Shrines in the new Zelda game might keep me occupied for a bit. I'll spend more time with them than the actual open world if I can help it.

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Re: Why I take issue with open world games

Postby Miniike » January 25th, 2017, 5:46 pm

also just so we're clear all zelda games have stories that are rudimentary at best and shit at worst

majora's mask is the only no-holds-barred exception, twilight princess a reserved semi-exception, and that's it

another thing i wish i could have told my 14-year-old self

ZELDA SHOULD BE ABOUT ORGANIC PLAYER-DRIVEN ADVENTURE NOT WHERE IT FITS ON THAT FUCKING STUPID TIMELINE
:pigflag: for fricking fricks sake why do i still care :pigflag:
:lock: 1. Wild Life 2. China Pig 3. The Blimp (Mousetrapreplica) 4. Sugar N' Spikes 5. Ant Man Bee :lock:
:bomb: you'll love it, it's a way of life :bomb:

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Re: Why I take issue with open world games

Postby Miniike » April 1st, 2017, 2:30 pm

^ also link's awakening i would say is a no-holds-barred exception

also this thread in general is just???? terrible???????

like it's taking issue with the tool at large when there's no reason to do that

it's the "lots of games have bad cutscenes so cutscenes are a problem" argument

also Bethesda is a mediocre company that doesn't have the greatest approach to making open world games, but inexplicably they are the most successful and ripped-off (i've grown to really loathe skyrim the more hours i put into it and the more i think about it)

but on a positive note BotW turned out to be an open world game with fantastic level and world design so maybe this can be a new standard of sorts (especially since it's becoming the most buzzed about Nintendo game in a long long long time)
:pigflag: for fricking fricks sake why do i still care :pigflag:
:lock: 1. Wild Life 2. China Pig 3. The Blimp (Mousetrapreplica) 4. Sugar N' Spikes 5. Ant Man Bee :lock:
:bomb: you'll love it, it's a way of life :bomb:

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Re: Why I take issue with open world games

Postby Miniike » June 29th, 2017, 12:35 pm

OKAY YOU PLEBIANS

i've been putting some time into some REAL FUCKIN OPEN WORLD RPGS recently and all i can say is "wow no wonder the people in this thread don't like open world games if the first things that come to mind are skyrim and bethesda fallout games" (both of which I've come to believe are total shit)

like the current gen of open world game are so fuckin plastic. they're huge but made out of tissue paper. the worlds of skyrim and fallout 4 in particular are padded to shit

there's no lush feeling of organic childlike adventure like breath of the wild, no achingly human and often funny details like vampire the masquerade bloodlines, no complex and involving faction clashing like arcanum, no enveloping literate feeling like planescape torment, no startling thematics like fallout 1 and 2, and no perfect mix of accessibility with depth of choice and conflict like fallout new vegas

these are some of the best damn games i've ever played, so all i gotta say is if you're reflexively antsy about open world games AS A WHOLE you're playing the wrong games
:pigflag: for fricking fricks sake why do i still care :pigflag:
:lock: 1. Wild Life 2. China Pig 3. The Blimp (Mousetrapreplica) 4. Sugar N' Spikes 5. Ant Man Bee :lock:
:bomb: you'll love it, it's a way of life :bomb:

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Re: Why I take issue with open world games

Postby Sebastian Lawe » July 16th, 2017, 8:29 pm

Breath Of The Wild managed to prove me wrong in a lot of ways with its open world. I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, the game has some peaves that are unrelated to the open world subject.


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