Up For Debate - Do You Enjoy Open-World Collectibles and Checklists?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sun, Apr 21, 2019 12:15 PM
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I’d love to know the game that specifically started the trend of open-world ‘checklists’ of filler content to complete, just so I could fire said game into a molten-hot ball of fire 1.3 million times the size of Earth. I have my suspicion it's blame that should be laid at the feet of Assassin’s Creed. Ubisoft’s series certainly popularised the idea, although the idea of filler content wasn’t exactly new at the time.

However it happened, it happened all the same. In the here and now, practically every single AAA open-world game features a series of ‘zones’ with a number of copy+paste activities to be completed in exchange for some meagre rewards and watching the completion percentage creep up. It’s a terrible practice precisely because it’s so compulsive. These activities seldom seem to be designed for fun, but rather to pad a game’s length and satisfy some unknown urge in the backs of our brains to tidily finish something.

Such activities include hunting down tiny objects, lining up QR codes, beating up a bunch of people, taking over an outpost, hunting a specific creature, opening chests, discovering pages of tedious lore, or climbing towers to spot a further 5.8 billion tiny activities to do. In and of themselves, these activities are fundamentally boring and repetitious, saved only by the core mechanics of the game itself. A game that feels great to play can paper over the cracks of these activities far longer than a game that, well, doesn’t. Look at Spider-Man, for example, which packs some fantastic combat and movement toolsets to try to keep things fresh. Even Spider-Man becomes boring long before that completion percentage ticks up to 100% though; all that swinging and swooping eventually giving way to restless fatigue.

It can often end up a welcome relief to reward ourselves for collecting some pointless trinkets by heading into an actual handcrafted mission; a timely reminder the game we’re playing is actually great when it isn’t burying itself under its own vapid collectibles.

Sometimes though, just sometimes, a game can elevate itself with open-world collectibles and goodies. The essence of good collectibles hinges on having playful, versatile mechanics that reward creative thinking. Mad Max, as an example, is the total absence of this way of thinking. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Shrines? Ingenious little puzzles with multiple solutions that can feel as if you’re breaking the very fabric of the game’s rules. We know from this example that it can be done, but precious few do. Just the idea of an open-world Portal should have your head brimming with the potential. The titular portals are a deep mechanical system that would naturally aid collectible design.

But, aside from Zelda, another prime example of an open-world eschewing the collectibles checklist is Red Dead Redemption 2. There is one buried deep in there, sure, but it’s never presented front and centre. It never asks the player to clear out entire zones, effectively leaving them dead and empty. Players are instead invited to play in this world; to test out its systems and discover its secrets. In fact, if, after clearing out a zone of all collectibles, you feel no urge to go back there, that’s strong evidence that the game isn’t actually all that fun in the first place. The only driving force in that situation is the tick, tick, tick, as you gather each item.

Which all leaves me in a bit of a conundrum. Why are developers even putting this filler in games isn’t even inherently enjoyable? It can only be one of two reasons, both of which are kind of interconnected: a lot of players enjoy it, and it helps to bump up the playtime, thereby seeming greater value for money.

So I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. Are you a lover of open-world collectibles, checklists, and hunting down every item for 100% completion? Or do you believe this is all needless filler designed to make a game seem larger in scale than it is? And which games do you think feature collectibles done right? Let us know your thoughts below!

Do you enjoy 100-ing open-world games?

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20:30 Apr-23-2019

I enjoyed it in Mafia 2, where it is just a side thing, not important to the actual game, but simply adds something to keep your eyes open for.

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20:31 Apr-23-2019

agreed, it was fun

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05:21 Apr-23-2019

No..Even tho I heart witcher 3 ..The question marks in skellige were meh

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23:38 Apr-22-2019

As long as they are not time or level gated collection challenges. Nothing honestly pisses me off more than a challenge or collection that i'm 99% done completing and then get thrust into a new map or area when I CANNOT go back without starting a new game.(If its part of the design like game+ mode where I kept my progress and everything is harder that's fine) Doesn't happen often but still drives me nuts.

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16:30 Apr-22-2019

NO. Absolutely not.

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14:59 Apr-22-2019

It depends. In Just Cause 3 I actually had fun completing the gear challenges and treasure piece collecting, because the challenges were fun and the rewards were worth it (new weapons/cars/skills). In some games it feels like a useless grind (FarCry comes to mind) and the rewards are crap. For example in FarCry5 you collect the whisky barrels and you get some cash...nice... except that I have cash raining out my rear, so what's the point?

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10:57 Apr-22-2019

I enjoy them, IF you get somthing worth the time, like in SKYRIM with the jewels you get a pretty decent reward, and DA: I with the shards, but some games have them for the sake, and it sucks!

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05:30 Apr-22-2019

I end up doing most of it (collecting, checking things off the list, etc.) because of the completionist in me, but I can't say that I truly enjoy it, no. Maybe sometimes, but like others have said, only if it has a neat reward at the end of it that really makes it worth the time. And even then, I don't always enjoy it.

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23:02 Apr-21-2019

I first play the main story and probable secondary missions if they are insteresting enough, and after that i just travel and do hillarious stuff in the open world xD.But no i dont plan on completing the game 1000% because i get bored of it.

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21:25 Apr-21-2019

It really depends, they can be nice sideactivity, especially if there is some cool reward at the end. Though some open world games did overuse collectibles, which can be big flaw, especially if you don't get variety in game by having good "quest" system and game already feels like chore of repetitive quests.

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22:17 Apr-21-2019

I agree, i enjoy clearing open world as long as rewards are actually useful and quests itself are interesting. Assassins creed origins was quite good imo with side quests, although witcher 3 sidequests were probably the best.

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20:12 Apr-21-2019

I once used the mod on Far Cry 3 that didn't show the collectables on the map and had a toned down GUI. Was great, really made a great game even better.

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16:27 Apr-21-2019

i'd rather have the developers make story heavy and good side stories/activities.

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16:08 Apr-21-2019

Depends, I used to 100% everything but lately i don't have that much patience/time.

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23:02 Apr-21-2019

Lol same xD.

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15:08 Apr-21-2019

For Witcher I strictly play Main Missions!

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15:49 Apr-21-2019
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17:52 Apr-21-2019

I upvote you! But I had to say it. xD

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19:34 Apr-21-2019

i was joking but i did everything in witcher 3 at least and its still 1st place in my longest games i ever played

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14:39 Apr-21-2019

No. I don't think there's any open world game which I have completed 100%. I always do the main missions, I finish pretty much all accessible side missions, and that's it. I have never bothered to complete all the collectible busywork surrounding those games afterwards. That just sucks the fun out of the game for me and lowers my overall enjoyment of it so I just never do it.

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15:07 Apr-21-2019

I you play only Main Missions like in AC3, It's only 25-30% of the game. I completed AC3 97% and it was worth it. Side mission were really had good storyline side by side.

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16:21 Apr-21-2019

I 100% AC 3 Old one including the DLC, just 2 weeks back. Was damn tedious.

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17:34 Apr-21-2019

As I said, I finish the main story and all possible side missions, if they're not locked behind collectibles, then I don't think they're really worth it.

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14:24 Apr-21-2019

No... I definitely do not. I found collect-a-thon platformers to be dumb busywork to begin with, and the open world collectibles checklist seldom is much different from that.
I ESPECIALLY despise it when it distracts from an otherwise enjoyable storyline and/or if the story get's sidelined for that.

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16:32 Apr-22-2019

Exactly.

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14:02 Apr-21-2019

Nowadays less and less to be honest, because depends if they are fun or not and how they are integrated. If they are made so that you can get them while doing your regular quest/mission/etc then sure, if they have their separate locations and are isolated from the main content, only if I have nothing better to do once I've finished the game...

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13:39 Apr-21-2019

When there are also rewards, yes it's more enjoyable.

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12:51 Apr-21-2019

I've never been much of a 'completionist'. So no, I don't really care to collect stuff unless it somehow affects gameplay. Ghost Recon Wildlands for instance, gave you weapon mods and skill tree points for finding stuff outside the questlines. Even then, I didnt finish it all cause I was done with the game by then.

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12:41 Apr-21-2019

I will be the first to admit that I fall into the 100% craze sometimes. A prime example of this is Nightwave in Warframe for me. Having said that, I promises myself that I would stop it after the 1st Nightwave is over.
I'm sentient enough to know that it's just playing into my reptile brain reward center, and it's hindering me from actually enjoying the game.

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12:26 Apr-21-2019

It's addictive. It doesn't have to be enjoyable to make people buy it.

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12:41 Apr-21-2019

True, all to true.

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12:58 Apr-21-2019

Haha, true. When a game worth 20-30 hours of gameplay goes up to 90-100 because you can't control yourself and have to clear the map. It's addictive indeed. Looking at Witcher, AC Origins, Wildlands, Far Cry etc. Good games that take too long to complete then you can't be arsed to switch to the next game because it's too soon to spend another 100 hours of grinding and you sort of need a psychological rest period...

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