Up For Debate - Is It About Time We Took A Break From Open Worlds

Written by Jon Sutton on Mon, Oct 5, 2015 1:00 PM

Open-world is the buzz term which never died. It used to seem like an impossible dream, whereas now it’s not deemed a AAA blockbuster unless it comes packing one. Think of all the biggest game releases of the last couple of years and an open-world is usually tied in somewhere. The problem is it’s generally an open-world for open world’s sake rather than a furthering of the game’s systems.

Creating a vast landscape for the player to explore means you have to fill it with content. You either use an algorithm like No Man’s Sky or any number of rogue-likes, or you hand craft it. Hand crafting it will nearly always cede the better results, allowing teams of designers and artists to work on unique content and landscapes to traverse. The dead end we have found ourselves in is the need to expand to larger environments, while needing ever more photo-realistic visuals, all within the usual 3 or 4-year development time frame.

The end result is we have these often-times gorgeous worlds at first sight, but peeling back the layers we see there’s little to do and little of interest to see. Oh sure, there’s things to do, but it’s needless busywork of the worst kind. I found Shadow of Mordor reasonably enjoyable, but hunting down the collectibles was an absolute chore. Far Cry 4 was great until the map became an unintelligible mess of icons, each promising a repetitive task. Opening chests in Assassin's Creed is a bore. Collecting scrap in Mad Max is dull. Perhaps most heinous in Mad Max is locking story progress behind collectibles and side content, a sure way to make sure nobody finishes your game. It’s content for content's sake, just so you can slap a sticker saying “60 Hour Game!” on the box.

I don’t want this to come off as all negative, because there’s some glorious open world games out there, but the endless busywork has created a sense of open-world fatigue among a segment of the gaming community, myself included. For every Metal Gear Solid V there’s a trio of Arkham Knights. MGS V works because it’s open-world is a genuine sandbox, and one in which you constantly get new toys. It’s unpredictable, free-form fun that doesn’t force collectibles on you. Likewise The Witcher 3. The Northern Kingdoms might not be totally packed with things to do or areas of interest but it’s aided by incredible quest design that lends its world character. A lot more character than you get driving through some rings in Far Cry 4.

Some of these games would have been so much more as semi-linear adventures set in open levels. Aside from the Nemesis System this would have been fantastic for Shadow of Mordor, while Mad Max could have benefited from scripted levels as you tear through the desert, or Far Cry could have gone back to its roots.

Over to you then, what do you think, are you tired of all the open-world games? Or can you not get enough of losing yourself in these worlds for dozens of hours? What games do you think do open-worlds right? 

Are you tired of open worlds?

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10:41 Oct-06-2015

Really just a teeny bit tired.Last year was pretty terrible for gaming and all the open worlds sucked(except DA:I).This year we had the awesome Witcher 3 and GTAV and MGSV and Arkham Knight but I still think we've had too much openworld.We need something new or we might lose our interest in open world.

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10:50 Oct-06-2015

In my opinion, atleast, Witcher 3 is the perfect open world game to date.
Much like Skyrim, but side-quests actually affect the main story line ending

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10:54 Oct-06-2015

Yep Witcher 3 is perfect and the sidequests are the most interesting ever in any game.It's perfect but for every Witcher 3 you have a Titanfall and a Watch Dogs.So maybe it's time to take a break.

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10:58 Oct-06-2015

Open-Universe will be the new thing. No Man's Sky and Star Citizen

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09:20 Oct-06-2015

Worlds can't be open enough for all I care.
In my opinion a game is never a bad game because it's too much open world.
It's a bad game, because it's a bad game. Period.
It's an "if, then" case for me.
The 'if' being: making an open world game about a subject.
The 'then' being: filling it with enough meaningful content to make it fun.
The 'if' is the premise you start with, if the game isn't good, it's because they failed at the 'then', not because it was wrong to set the 'if' as premise.
Does my point make sense to anyone else but me? :p
I'd also like to offer a counter-perspective to the resentment of "locking story progress behind collectibles and side content".
If I were a developer, and wanted to be proud of my work, I wouldn't want people rushing through the game going from main quest to main quest, leaving the entire rest of the game for what it is, and then complaining about the fact that the game isn't long enough.
Like when people gave bad ratings to Oblivion or Skyrim, for example, for the main questline being too short.
It is my belief that you don't (or shouldn't) play an open world game for it's main quest. You play it to feel like a part of that world.
I'm not denying that no devs ever create time consuming nonsense content for the sake of being able to "slap a sticker saying “60 Hour Game!” on the box", but I do think it's a dangerous (and frankly a bit overly cynical) generalisation to make.
You want people taking their time for an open world game. Exploring every nook and crevice to find stuff and go "oooooooh". It's what gives character, story and atmosphere to a game. But you don't get people to explore if you don't make a necessity out of it.

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10:44 Oct-06-2015

yeah sure but too much of a good thing is bad right?aren't we all a little tired?

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06:45 Oct-06-2015

No Way! :)

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04:13 Oct-06-2015

I do not really like open-world games unless it contains a good story in it like: GTA V, Witcher 3, Assassin's Creed 1-3, Prototype 1-2, Batman Arkham series.

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05:06 Oct-06-2015

Witcher 3 was big relief i actually thought its going to fail story wise because of the open world. Its nice to be wrong sometimes.

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05:10 Oct-06-2015

Well they developed the game for 4 years I think. Not like Assassin's Creed, ever since they started making new one yearly it started to get crappy

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06:40 Oct-06-2015

hmm, i'm not sure...just because AC released yearly, doesn't mean they start develop new AC yearly...keep in mind, making game is not easy...sorry if i wrong


sorry for the english

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00:51 Oct-06-2015

Never... I will never tire of open world games. Just keep bringing me more content. :D

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19:26 Oct-05-2015

The way I see it, we dont need a brek from anything, not even zombies. There is always plenty of people looking for a new game in the genre they love. What we NEED is stop the systemical saturation of market with the same genre.

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19:28 Oct-05-2015

So, dont stop making open world games but make fewer of them, same goes for zombies, modern and future combat or anything else. When I think about it it's really been a while since we had a nice WW2 or Vietnam FPS.

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19:30 Oct-05-2015

We never had a nice Vietnam FPS (I dont count COD BLOPS cause its not really vietnam a whole lot there, is it?)

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20:12 Oct-05-2015

A genre I would like to see that hasn't been touched on much is naval strategy, Battle-stations Pacific/Midway were great games!

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19:06 Oct-05-2015

Nah bro, I love open worlds. However there has to be stuff to do in it (e_e lookin at you MGS5) I am excited for Just cause 3 and fallout 4 i also really want another Elder scrolls,and EA Skate4

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20:13 Oct-05-2015

What are you talking about? MGS TPP has a more active open world than I have ever seen in any game. It's crawling with people and bases and side ops.

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17:35 Oct-06-2015

I don't know :/ I'm 28 hours in and the map, the war zone, just feels uneventful and repetitive. All there really is are outposts posted about the map. Side ops are, get this dude or kill this dude. fun game but a bit repetitive......

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17:36 Oct-06-2015

........And lacking in the open world dynamics.

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19:02 Oct-05-2015

and there's the fact that you won't see special effects like you usually see on a linear game on a open-world game... cod, uncharted, etc...


i remember cod's campaigns being 100% linear, but the explosions and the gunfights, just... amazing... and the same with uncharted like galloping on a horse in the desert and destroying a bad guy's caravan in the process, or escaping from a sinkin ship etc

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17:46 Oct-05-2015

If you mean the LEGO games's "hub like open worlds", then yeah. If not, I love open world games, 80% of them is my game library.

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16:51 Oct-05-2015

I've been saying this for years, but large open worlds NEED to go!
These overly ambitious open worlds just have a packs of generic monsters roaming about, and really little in the way of rewarding exploration, and in the worst cases have little in the way of interesting NPCs and side quests...


I personally feel like the best open world games have a compact, dense world, ripe for exploration, with adventure beckoning around every corner, it offers the perfect balance of instant gratification and non-linear gameplay.

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16:37 Oct-05-2015

Empty open worlds can get the door for sure. As much as I loved the game, MGS 5 could've benefited from being smaller but denser and especially from something happening between outposts! A war zone where nobody's fighting?

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16:13 Oct-05-2015

Is It About Time We Took A Break From Crappy Open Worlds
fixed

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15:49 Oct-05-2015

it will never died

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15:48 Oct-05-2015

i dont explore much of the open worlds and sometimes accidently leave out some part of the story of the game,,,,,,,,,,,and find out about the part from a cousin. So , dont hate open world but dont like it either.

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15:08 Oct-05-2015

it gives us plenty of room to play as we like and not been forced upon by someone developers thought ...but it should be filled with some interesting facts

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15:08 Oct-05-2015

No, all open worlds have missions and a story, so if you don't want to explore just go for that

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14:58 Oct-05-2015

Somehow it all depends on how do the devs fill the open world will interesting stuff. It has to be unique ! Everything u can explore should be different to something u saw before because if everything is like copy paste it starts getting boring as hell.


Also if I see Mad Max its just riding your car for hours from one spot to another.


The so called OPEN WORLD has to be full of adventures !

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14:51 Oct-05-2015

Doom is comming out, maybe they intend to make a new Quake....Linear storytelling is dying since it's too short for the price.

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14:32 Oct-05-2015

I'm tired of empty open worlds.


Open world games with plenty of good content is nothing wrong with.

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14:11 Oct-05-2015

Definitely agree. There's just not enough time to play them all and complete them 100%. A few more linear games would be appreciated

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