Some Stuff About Open World Games

By Jim Rossignol on July 15th, 2009 at 6:32 pm.


The notion of open game worlds has always appealed to me, ever since Elite. When there’s even the faintest whiff on a free roaming environment, or virtuality that I can go off an explore, I’m interested. It’s an impulse that leads me to spend endless hours in Stalker, or to expend an entire day driving around Fuel. But whatever game I play, I end up feeling somewhat dissatisfied. It’s kind of dissatisfaction that does not seem to be so common with linear or arena games. I think it’s to do with a specific tension that open world games create: between what the game is about, and what the environment – and its openness – implies.


The most obvious example of this tension that I can think of exists in Far Cry 2. The game’s environment is a brilliant Africa-in-miniature, and everything from the flies buzzing in the air to the gleam of the swampy jungle has been conjured spectacularly. The combat too is entertaining: fire propagation, over-wrought grenade physics, ludicrous close-combat battle-horror at the end of a semi-automatic shotgun. But the two systems do not mesh comfortably.

Far Cry 2 tries to push your experience as close to that of a traditional shooter as it can manage in this open environment. Once you’re outside of the key “safe” towns, anything and everything is an enemy, or a target. It is, like any traditional shooter, a rolling battle. This surprised and exasperated many gamers, because while they were happy to suspend disbelief for a game like, say, Crysis, which could be seen as a very wide corridor, they could not make the same leap for a game that did not really funnel you continuously in a single direction. The verisimilitude of Far Cry’s world – with its network of roads, villages, rivers and army encampments – seemed at odds with our experience of it. Where everyone was an enemy, and everything would chase, shoot, and attack you, the world seemed at odds with itself.

The very notion of it being an open world seemed to suggest that the game would support more life: civilians, passive enemies, the illusion of a wider world. I think about this, and I think about Outcast, the voxel sci-fi adventure. Right there, back in 1999, was a game brave enough to say: “here’s a world, it’s full of life, politics, danger, go deal with it and save your own world in the process.” You traipsed out into its pixellated valleys and did precisely that. Thanks to the freedom of movement and general neutrality of much of the world of Outcast, when combat occurred it was an moment of high drama. Combat in Far Cry 2, meanwhile, is often reduced to a kind of road-clearance. The Outcast player’s experience of being in a particular, although virtual, place was therefore (despite its incredibly lack of visual fidelity by modern standards) incredibly potent.

The illusionism required for an open world game is different to that of a linear game. For Half-Life 2 the illusion is all about momentum. As Gillen regularly points out, such games are all about forward motion, and they break down the moment we don’t see where to go, or who to shoot. Open world games go for quite a different illusion. They might simple be a big arena for stuff to happen in, or they might try to be a little more indulgent of our imagination, and to try to create the illusion that there’s really something going on, that there’s life.

Perhaps the best illusion of a living environment is the one generated by GTA4. The city of Rockstar’s most recent game is a masterwork on its own, without any of the game elements considered. I find myself lost in it, staring out of the window of a taxi with a similar reverie to that of visiting a real foreign city. Except here I can be much braver, and explore more fearlessly into dangerous terrain. It’s the potency of GTA4′s illusion of cityness that really gets me: the chatter on the sidewalks, the slow chug of the traffic around town, the general ambient goings on that pay little attention to you unless you specifically interfere with them. The failure of Far Cry 2 (and also in a related sense Fallout 3 and Assassin’s Creed) was that the design never really made a bid for that kind of suspension of disbelief. You were the centre of what was going on in those worlds, and you always knew it.

The illusion of life outside of your own in-game activities is, perhaps, one thing open worlds need pursue and exploit, beyond even the essential mechanics of their game. Stalker, for example, was fundamentally a shooter, just like Far Cry 2, but the existence of neutral or indifferent entities, the very-slightly wider range of interactions (an inventory, non-combat items) seemed to expand the illusion into something we wanted to poke, prod, and understand the limits of. This spooky Ukrainian countryside-dungeon really could be The Zone, and I could be the rogue, hooded individual charged with exploring it. While not precisely open-world in the same way GTA4 is, the game provided a sense of life and non-linearity that allowed you to get lost in it, and invest in it, because you were always given reasons to value the idea of exploring it.

Exploring. That seems to be to be the other aspect of open worlds that developers need to make the most of if they want to have their world mean something to players. Aside from the randomly distributed nonsense-money of Far Cry 2′s diamonds, it had little reason for you to poke about in particular points on the map. You could not expect to find many secrets – perhaps a hang-glider here and there. Instead, you followed the missions and did the violence where it was directed, and therefore most fruitful. I’d argue that where the open world model prospers is often when it gives you reason to explore and investigate its limits: finding the very highest jumps or the most obscure billboards in Burnout Paradise, for an example that is neither a shooter, nor trying to create the illusion of a living world.

I often feel as though open world games create fantastic places, but then fail to create a game that is appropriate to the environment we find ourselves in. Fallout 3′s mechanics, voices, and character design left me struggling to enjoy what is, clearly, an astonishing feat of world creation. I know that many people felt similarly aggrieved with Oblivion, although I actually got on with that a whole lot better. Similarly, when I played Assassin’s Creed my continuing reaction (aside from my indignation at the cutscenes) was a disbelief that the design team had done so little to exploit their astonishing medieval city. It felt, at times, that the assassination game was going on in spite of their bustling city around me – as if the team had created this beautiful world and then didn’t really know what to do with it, because they had this assassin game to be getting on with too…

So to come full circle with the sense of dissatisfaction with open world games: I think the way we experience them, by comparison with linear games, says something about how our gaming imagination functions. We seem to understand that when linear games point us in a certain direction, that’s the way to go. When an open world game appears, its very structure suggests something about how we should behave, or want to behave, and predisposes us to judge on the basis of how it entices us to go somewhere that the game itself hasn’t suggested, and on how it then deals with that action.

Further, there seems to be a need for us to feel more embedded, as if our actions matter more where we can come back to the scene of our actions. In Far Cry 2 I didn’t expect the enemies I’d killed at a checkpoint to reappear: the open world had led me to expect some level of persistence. In Fallout 3 I didn’t expect to be constrained by the ropes of the story, or the level structure, because that moment stepping outside the vault said: the horizon is the limit to this. Perhaps my own suspension of disbelief simply becomes less easy to manage, because the illusion of “worldiness” isn’t strong enough, or the game is really a linear experience in a very wide corridor, with no real reason for us to stray off the path.

One day I should like to see a game perform the incredible genre-splicing process required to marry up the elements that make various successful open worlds so strong. I should like that game to give me a direction, a purpose, without telling me exactly what I need to be doing. I should like it to ignore me, but nevertheless carry my mark when I choose make it. This imaginary game will, I hope, dump me on the midst of a strange place, perhaps with with a pyre of smoke on the horizon, and instruct me: “survive”.

I’d like that.

(Also, it would have an absolutely incredible map, but that’s another blog post.)

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189 Comments »

  1. Heliocentric says:

    You ask why farcry 2 got high ratings in the same world halo games get 10/10?

  2. Andy says:

    ” Jim Rossignol says:

    That is what dwarf fortress is about.

    No, it’s not, at least not in the same personal-narrative adventure way. Dwarf Fortress is an open world management game, I suppose, but its quite different from what I’m talking about here.”

    It is when you dump all your points into one guy, and then feed the other six to the wolves.

    Of course this usually leaves you in semi-control of a mentally insane emo dwarf

    Ultima Online player ran servers can sometimes fullfil the believable persistant worlds, but recently most servers either are full of d00ds waiting just outside the city limits to PK you, or nearly empty ghost towns because everyones out hunting monsters to get loot.

  3. ilves says:

    @OoohShinyGraffix

    LARPing has a point, but you can’t LARP if the endless world you’re in is repetitive and undifferentiated. Exploring/Role playing can be a point, but without a properly creating world, you can’t do it.

  4. Clovus says:

    I have a weird probelm with the open worlds in Oblivion and Fallout 3. I like just randomly exploring but I get very concerned when I stumble on a “set piece” like a camp or dungeon. I don’t like to explore them because I’m afraid I’ll end up screwing up some side mission.

    Just yesterday in Fallout 3 I stumbled on a little village of ghouls out in the open. I love visiting cities so I ran up. The inhabitants just started attacking me! It was odd since they had really crappy weapons and I just masacred them. I was really concerned and wondered if somehow a stray bullet from a scorpion fight a few minutes ago somehow hit a ghoul. Why did they hate me? Did I just screw something up? I almost re-loaded to a point before I even got close but eventually decided at worst it ruined a side-quest.

    Maybe I’m just weird….

    Any opinions here on Animal Crossing? I feel strangely compelled to play it, but I’d have to do so on my Wii and I don’t think I could take the ridicule. It has a sort of “open world” feel with characters who have their own lives. Apparently your actions affect the world.

    I wish someone would just make a game based on “The Road” that actually felt like that world. A real survival game with no main storyline besides surviving. Survive on your own, or maybe create a little village.

    Hey, what about Mount and Blade?? No main plot (that I found) and you definitely affect the world. No real exploring though…. put M&B into Oblivion’s world….

  5. Zyrxil says:

    phil says:

    Nice piece, though have you played Hunter? It essentially plonked you in the middle of war zone and told you to blow up the one of the biggest things in the game world.

    Link? I suppose you don’t mean the hunting game.

  6. Mort says:

    “Magically respawning, characterless enemies, colour coded signposts etc. repeatedly remind us that this is a game.”
    Or the OH GOD glowing interactive stuff in Bioshock.

    Also, I think that the mention of dwarf fortress was not about the fortress mode, but the adventurer mode, in wich you are dropped in a city with some equipment in the middle of an enormous and _continous_ and full of life map and have to go find your own adventures… only it´s a roguelike and not everybody´s cup of tea.

  7. Erlam says:

    One thing I would comment about how to promote exploration over combat, and have combat be meaningful, is to have combat be NEGATIVE for your character. It can still be fun – but, and I think STALKER came closest to this, combat should be a drain on resources. You should WANT to find new areas without enemies, to find caches of.. whatever.

    The main problem is that the games that try this are often “XP” based for levelling, and thus combat will always increase your character. However, if there was a way to reward for NOT going into combat, in a way that made it so the more you avoided it, the better you got, and the higher your level, that would be truly gold.

    I know many games have tried, but I think we’re still a ways off.

  8. jackflash says:

    Wonderful essay. I especially appreciated your articulation of Far Cry 2′s inherent flaws. Assassin’s creed was also a huge disappointment – I found myself struggling to play it for more than 10 minutes due to the horrible control interface and extremely shallow gameplay considering the incredible setting.

  9. Mike says:

    I finally see somewhere the criticism Far Cry 2 and Assassin’s Creed most definitely deserved. The “only-enemy-AI” is one of the dumbest decision’s in the history of gaming in Far Cry 2. And too bad of the jamming of the weapons, the the troubles of the car, the fire mechanics and the design of some of the levels. The fact that everyone was shooting at me broke the game in many many bits and pieces for me, a game I had high hopes for. They had it all there and they failed miserably. Assassin’s Creed has the same bad design, wasted potential disease that most UbiSoft games seem to carry on them these days.
    I don’s know if anyone of you guys has seen the conference at E3, but I did and I saw them bragging about how they rule in fitness games for the Wii. I hope they start making only those kinds of games and leave the great concepts they’ve squandered (I can’t even find an adverb to discribe the way they’ve destroyed these great ideas of games) to be dealt with by more capable developers. They clearly have neither the brains nor the guts.

  10. Clovus says:

    @Erlam: Wouldn’t a variant of Oblivion’s levelling system work for this? Just get rid of the part where you “level up”. If you like sneaking, using lockpicks, etc. then those skills go up as you use them. If you like combat then the combat skills go up as you use them. If you eat healthy foods then your HP goes up, etc. The game would have to be carefully designed to allow a non-combat character to finish the game though.

  11. Mike says:

    Jim, do you live with Quinns?

    I love open worlds. They’re also the seeds for the best game diaries (see link in name, folks!). But there’s a big variety, and some weird crossover, where open world games feel very linear (Fallout 3) and some linear games feel very open (Mirror’s Edge).

  12. Tim James says:

    One interesting thing to note about STALKER is that it was originally designed to be a linear shooter. That GSC was able to reboot and tack on enough content or design to make it feel like an open world is a positive mark for them.

  13. Lobotomist says:

    I think you guys are forgetting a wonderful gem called “Mount and Blade”

    In fact this is most sandbox game released in ages.

  14. Kadayi says:

    Great article Jim. Pretty much how I feel about the open world gaming scene. Farcry 2 is to me one of those missed opportunities. The game had the potential to be one of the great gaming experiences, but a lack of depth & fidelity to the environment undermined it. Which is a pity because there was a lot that the game did well. Still like anything one expects that what comes next will build upon the previous model. I’m optimistic for the future.

  15. Tom says:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that an “open world” environment and any form of heavy narrative is diametrically apposed. It just doesn’t work. Far Cry 2′s open world would have worked wonderfully if it hadn’t have been for the god awful re-spawning that made taking in the environment and “spending you time” almost impossible – but I still have a time for that game, but only in small doses.
    Open world environments are the territory of MMOs now, imo – the novelty’s worn off.
    I reckon simulated open worlds as RPS puts it, like Crysis, are the territory of any game that trying to tell a tale.
    GTA IV’s environment only works in multi-player imo. I can wonder around GTA IV for hours, it’s glorious. As soon as I start following any of the narrative it becomes tedious.
    I always think of an open world environment as a sand box. So surely it’s asking you to create your own adventure. Stick narrative in there and it starts asking you to follow someones else adventure.

  16. solipsistnation says:

    It’s all solipsism vs. non-solipsism. Traditional shooters are solipsistic. Far Cry 2 is still solipsistic, but it tries not to be. Fallout 3 is solipsistic, as are most RPGs. Writing games that aren’t is very very hard and complex and tends to mean you’re doing a lot of stuff. We don’t have the technology to be convincingly non-solipsistic yet, but people are trying.

  17. LeFishy says:

    The big problem I have with open world games is that they are often not at all open. Crackdown broke the system for me by really letting you go anywhere. Now I am distressed by my inability to scale every building in any open world game I play.

  18. Jim Rossignol says:

    Mike: I don’t even live on the same continent as Quinns.

  19. Mihai says:

    Funny, there’s one game you didn’t mention that I keep comparing to GTA4 in terms of “life”, and that’s Gothic (1, 2, 3, whatever). Even funnier, I find it more satisfying that the much more famous GTA4, with NPC’s that are persistent in the world, and don’t just vanish after you’ve turned a corner.

  20. solipsistnation says:

    @Clovus: Animal Crossing is fun and kind of a very small open world. You do interact with the other creatures, and they have their own lives. It’s very very simple, though, and much of the game turns into you, the player, running errands for whiny animals and usurious Tom Nook the Racoon. (Who it turns out was “Tanuki” in Japanese. Suddenly it all makes much more sense.)
    It’s fun, and there are lots of things to collect, and it interacts interestingly with real-world seasons and so on, but be prepared to get tired of having to fetch furniture and write letters to bubble-headed creatures who will get huffy and leave town if you don’t write nice things to them.
    And then you’ll take a vacation or something for a week or two and come back to find that your little town is full of weeds and everyone has moved out and left you letters asking where you’ve gone. Can you bear the guilt?

  21. solipsistnation says:

    @LeFishy: Yes! I want to climb everything! Thief spoiled me enough that way. I still need to play Crackdown, but knowing I can climb everything makes it that much more appealing…

  22. RagingLion says:

    For me it’s very interesting that you should right this interesting article now. In just the last few days I’ve been revisiting Assassin’s Creed and just roaming around the cities enjoying the atmosphere and picking off the soldiers on the roofs without even doing any proper missions. It’s the first time I’ve really done that before in a game but I do love the world AC created and it feels like it lives and breathes without you – it achieves much while there is so much more it could achieve.

    There are still many moments where suspension of disbelief occurs but I’m aware there are so many things that must be thought of in order to avoid it. I’d love to see a really immersive world like what you describe where there are so many possibilities for emergent gameplay because things react like you’d expect them too. I think many developers aren’t aiming for that though – they think of a few individual mechanics they can add to a game to increase realism but you need to come at it from the point of view of aiming for a truely believable world rather just a game – a much higher bar of expectation. I’m not sure developers fully see the realism of the world as of equal or greater importance than the gamey elements – not realising what a quantum leap in immersion could take place if they really started to deliver on a believable world. But yes, it would be a very hard thing to really pull off.

  23. Kester says:

    @Erlam: Or just remove combat altogether. I’d certainly play a game which consisted of exploring an interesting locale – Rapture, say – but didn’t have any of the traditional game baggage dumped on top of it. Take out all the splicers and Big Daddies and whatnot, and just have you, exploring this mysterious underwater city you know nothing about. Make exploring the game, not something to do when you get bored of shooting guys.

    Relatedly, Jim’s comment about using game systems to encourage exploring is totally off, I think. If you’re having to do that, then you’ve failed at creating an interesting world, and surely creating an interesting world is the point of creating an open world?

  24. TCM says:

    The empty open world is why I find myself more drawn to JRPGs than WRPGs: JRPGs are linear, and as time goes on, they’re more freely admitting that, and in spite of the linearity create fun games and engaging storylines. Overworlds and exploration, while they exist, are fairly superfluous. Towns and characters are unique and varied, dungeons can be designed around specific themes, and overall, the world, while small, is very interesting.

    WRPGs, on the other hand, tend to create absolutely massive worlds simply for the sake of it. Bethesda’s games especially suffer from this, and while things are certainly better now than they were with Daggerfall, Oblivion and Fallout’s dungeons and cities still have very few distinctions or unique qualities. They’re both excellent games, it’s just that there’s no reason to actually look at this gobsmackingly huge world, hoping you’ll find the one or two interesting bits.

    Good Lord, typing my thoughts on this sort of thing messes me up. Ugh. I could not be a games journalist.

  25. Eli Just says:

    That’s exactly what I was thinking too. I want a game that will go on if I’m not doing anything. I think Stalker did a great job of this, and to a lesser extent GTA IV. If somebody says “go kill that guy” and I decide not to, I don’t want that guy just to sit around waiting for me to kill him. If there is going to be an attack, I don’t want the attackers to wait until I get to my glowing spot on the ground and then stop sitting about and go. Open worlds need to be totally persistent, physically and temporally. Stalker almost is, with the exception of some triggers, but most games make time travel at whatever pace you like. In Far Cry 2 the same truck will drive the same ring for days on end until you blow it up. That just breaks the illusion.

  26. solipsistnation says:

    @Kester: That sounds like, uh, Myst and Riven and descendants.

  27. Da'Jobat says:

    This article made me think of Noctis. Anyone remember noctis? Brilliant DOS game, hopefully headed for an update soon, somehow manages to be beautiful in an incredibly ugly fashion with its myriad stars and planets and randomly generated animals and environments. Also, Outcast thought we would be sending shuttles to parallel world by 2007. AWESOME.

  28. Funky Badger says:

    I’d just like to say, the leery cab driver in GTA4 is my favourite of all the characters.

    (Well, maybe Baz Rutten – although he doesn’t really count as a character, per se…)

  29. Evernight says:

    I agree with Jim for the most part. FC2 was a major disappointment in world building. AC did a great job of building a living world that I was able to explore and run around in… I need a few more missions, but at the end of the game I was having a ton of fun getting caught and fighting/running my way out.

    As for FO3 – honestly, the FO3 world doesn’t feel “real” but that has some how not detracted my 100+ hours in it. I am still finding fun and new places to explore and new ways to explore it. I think the balance here is something very few games can achieve. FC2 felt too mindless action but had a good world to do it in…. AC had a real world, but little fun to have in it.

    So to achieve this balance we need a game that gives us a world where the borders don’t feel intrusive and when the missions/quests/action/fun are so meaningful and varied that we don’t “see” the borders – we are so focused on the fun. Imagine Crysis where three or four of the maps are converged into one large map with all those objectives and missions able to be in any order (with 10-15 side objectives along the way or hidden) and I think you would have achieved what we are all looking for. Because Crysis gave me borders I never felt because I couldn’t wait to ambush my next scouting party/village/encampment. Granted you still felt the “levels” but I never felt shoehorned into a particular way of doing things. But that is just me.

  30. Stromko says:

    It seems open-world games in general either choose to have a great illusion of being an open world, or have mechanics that reinforce the idea of being an open world. A game like GTA IV or Far Cry 2 skews on the side of creating a convincing illusion, while games like Mount & Blade give you open-world game mechanics but the experiential details have to be filled in by imagination.

    Speaking of Far Cry 2, and also Ubisoft’s apparent approach to this sort of product– it’s utterly unmoddable from what I’ve been told. Its open world cannot be enhanced by modders, which severely restricts the lifespan of the title– which means we have to go buy a new game, right? You don’t want somebody playing Far Cry 2 forever when you’re also trying to sell Assassin’s Creed and others.

    I usually attribute that sort of decision making to Electronic Arts, as I think they add deliberate flaws to every title they make just to ensure we only get a few giddy hours out of it and then have to buy a new game. It’s a rather logical and profitable habit for any big publisher, so I suspect both companies are guilty of it from time to time.

  31. Evernight says:

    EDIT: Crysis: That is until I got to the gay ass aliens section of the game…. lets all try to forget that shall we??

  32. Biz says:

    It’s very difficult to develop a connected open world. There can always be linear quests scattered throughout an open world, but making them meaningful outside of the stats/development of your playable character/party is a different matter.

    open world gameplay pretty much is exclusive to strategy games, but that’s more like multiplayer (even if against the AI). i guess you’ll see a few with some sort of narrative in a single player sense, but it would be generated.

    getting open world gameplay in something like an action game is more challenging. right now open world = “scripted events that happen in isolated regions that are part of a big world”

  33. JKjoker says:

    no mentions about the “Malaria” mechanics in farcry2 ? having the player drop everything every 2~3 hours of gameplay to go on a fedex quest though half of the map or die didnt feel like “fun” to me

    just like Prototype’s “hey, lets take away your powers for 3 hours, weeee”

  34. DaJobat says:

    @JKjoker Why is it that games developers still think that is a valid part of gameplay that people enjoy. It is at least ok in Metroid Prime because you lose your abilities at the very start so it does feel like a quest, but when you have them already and lose your power it is so annoying.

  35. Evernight says:

    @ Stromko
    As an former fanboy of the Battlefield games I saw first hand as EA would quite literally destroy a previous iteration to pave the way for their next. They messed with 1942 just before the release of Vietnam. Right after BF2 came out Vietnam became almost unplayable thanks to random server drops and crashes. People asked for a ton of simple (read: patchable) fixes and improvements for BF2, but instead found most of those improvements in 2142 and no patches to BF2.
    After all that BS I decided to leave it all behind. I tried BF: Heroes and it just sucks. Maybe 1943 will bring something around… but it will probably be ripe with DLC unbalancedness. Time will tell….

  36. suibhne says:

    To me, the malaria mechanic felt like the game forcing me to see more of the (exquisitely-designed but mechanically-empty and repetitive) gameworld, just in case I was otherwise resisting the impulse. Bah.

  37. LewieP says:

    Having just finished Red Faction Guerilla, I have this to say:

    If you are going to make an open world game, and put a jet pack in it, you should not also put invisible walls in places that would make excellent shortcuts.

    Top game though.

  38. Stromko says:

    Biz: That reminds me of something else that occurred to me reading through this thread. “but making them meaningful outside of the stats/development of your player character/party is a different matter.”

    A lot of folks here are wanting that, to have really great content that’s worthy of exploring without being key to gameplay. Just interesting places and things and interactions.

    I think though, that this doesn’t happen often because it’s a lot more difficult to make a compelling experience that doesn’t implicitly reward you. They expect us to be invested with our characters, such that anything which enhances our characters are more interesting and worthwhile.

    It’s a popular crutch because without it, the game rests entirely on how compelling the content is, and making compelling content is very challenging. Even if the developer is capable of it, it’s still more costly in time and talent than average content.

    The first example I can think of is Indigo Prophecy / Farenheit. Here’s a game with some really amazing setpieces that at least promised divergent plot, but they had to string it together with linear quick-time events to pull it off, and in the last act it completely falls apart.

    There might be a studio out there that can do it all right, either now or someday or definitely some time in the past (they really don’t make ‘em like that no more), but having truly compelling content from start to finish is something most developers just can’t do.

    Once they do, of course, our palettes will advance and it will be the new standard, studios will have to redouble their efforts to be the next big thing, which might be why Ubisoft and EA always take a big dump on their masterworks.

  39. Gorgeras says:

    Regarding MMOs, I’m reminded of a statement made by Warhammer’s Jeff Hickman which I explosively disagreed with where he said Mythic was trying to make a game whilst other MMO developers kept trying to make worlds.

    No Jeff, they kept trying to make games. The lack of any real open-world is a criticism I’ve levelled at MMO devs for years and they’ve all trotted the same thing you have in some form.

    Levelling appears to be the nemesis of open worlds and to a large extent even EVE doesn’t escape it. I’m waiting for developers to actually bother being original.

  40. Stromko says:

    Evernight: I made that trip as well, though I stopped short at buying BF2042. Battlefield 2 had a crashy UI and flaky servers from day 1 (after the flawless Demo) to day now, as far as I could tell.

    I distrust Relic for exactly the same reasons, though they’re particularly egregious with how they destroy game balance and rebork the network code with every _expansion_. They don’t even wait for true sequels to burn their bridges.

    It’s like if a car maker decided to make their cars break as soon as the warranty expired, to encourage you to go out and buy the new model. … Oh wait, a lot of people think they do that exactly. Moguls think alike I suppose.

  41. JKjoker says:

    eh, Red Faction GF is out for PC already ? i thought it was set for the end of August

  42. LewieP says:

    I have it on the 360.

  43. MarkN says:

    Sid Meier’s Pirates is still one of my fave open world games. It basically gives you a map of the Caribbean and a ship and says “Away you go, have fun!”. It’s lacking in variety for sure, but every time I fire it up it it gives me the opportunity to make my own mischief in a world that seemed to be getting on fine without me. More games that copy that template (and expand upon it preferably) would be most welcome.

  44. Richard Clayton says:

    Regarding Far Cry 2 I’d love to know what was dropped in order to get a commercial release.

    As Kad and others have said, FC2 did many things well. Its shortcomings were often rooted from the introduction of a number of features that were new to the FPS. I think it was a brave step. Some things worked others didn’t. Some didn’t work I suspect just because they weren’t given sufficient development effort.

    Clint Hocking has been pretty honest about some of the game’s shortfalls and admits that they had to compomise about certain elements (respawning for example) in order to meet certain deadlines.

    It is a franchise that I am genuinely excited about. Hocking has stated that he wants to revist the African setting and I’d love to think that the reason we don’t have those SDK modding tools is because Ubisoft Montreal have bigger plans…

  45. Serondal says:

    @stromko = I love relic’s games, loved DOW and all the expansions for it I’m surprised people would complain about getting new content. It is obviously going to change the balance of the game but that’s the point, they’re ‘expanding it’ it has to be rebalanced to include the new units. You don’t have to buy the expansion and you can still play online with it so what ev :P

    I loved the origonal Pirates! Gold, I played it for countless hours back on my Sega when I was younger. I didn’t like the newer release as much but it was okay. I’m still craving the ultimate pirate game. most don’t even allow you to have battle with more than one ship at a time. Pirate Hunter was okay but it allowed the enemy to use ALL their ship at once but you could only use one at a time O.o I disliekd that. At least in Pirates! Gold you could go one on one with just about any ship in the game as long as you were a good captain. I never ran into a ship I couldn’t beat (But I did literally ram a few ships I couldn’t beat by mistake ;P) I loved the fact that your character got older and slower as the game went on making it constantly harder to survive without making it unplayable.

  46. bananaphone says:

    @phil
    What’s this ‘Hunter’ game? Got a link?

  47. Tei says:

    Farcry 2 feel to me like another corridor shotter. You are on a dungeon made of forest, with a maze shape.

    It don’t feel to me like a GTA game. It feel like the engine can’t handle straigh long road. So this maze-ish shaper is forced on the game. And is boring and tiresome. .. *looking at a dictionary*.. “overwhelming or depressing to the spirit or sense”.

    Sure, there are a few open areas, that look different, but these areas are just …hum.. like a brief pausa.

    Farcry 2 is a game that I don’t want to play. Mercenaries 2 is make me feel much better at everything (maybe is also you can play “Carmagedoom” in Mercenaries, but no soo much in Farcry).

  48. Tei says:

    And everybody shots me. Why? WTF?

  49. Ayekay says:

    Grand post.

    You were the centre of what was going on in those worlds, and you always knew it.

    I never quite got over realising that no guard in a Thief game will ever say ‘ah, it’s probably nothing’ without being wrong: because they never say these things unless you’re there.

    It reminds me of a Greg Egan novel (Permutation City, I think) where a character who knows he’s a simulation in a virtual environment recalls that no element of the world is simulated in full detail unless he’s looking at it; and has to fight the irrational temptation to keep whirling around to catch it in the process of being simulated.

  50. LionsPhil says:

    This imaginary game will, I hope, dump me on the midst of a strange place, perhaps with with a pyre of smoke on the horizon, and instruct me: “survive”.

    What, WOLF?

    Hmm. Survivalist open-world game. Someone ask Ray Mears if he feels like consulting on a project. ;)

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