Stop Teasing Me With Fake Freedom

By Jim Rossignol on October 19th, 2011 at 2:56 pm.

Freeeedooooo...no.
And in the game! Ahaha! Ah. My little joke about Determinism there. What this is really about is how I feel after playing Rage, which is a feeling not uncommon to gaming throughout the ages: the feeling that the options a game presents are actually an illusion. Read on for ramblings…

Having finished Rage, and having rather enjoyed it for the most part (just not most of the final part), I found myself thinking a bit about where I think it went wrong. It wasn’t in the technology. It wasn’t in the extraordinary design decisions where you have to pour entire clips of ammo into enemies to kill them (although that was ridiculous). It wasn’t even in the fact that despite amazing giant mutants appearing at the start of the game, the end involves little more than pushing some buttons and waiting in a shiny platform. No, the problem with Rage was the suggestions it made about what kind of game it wanted to be. It is, I think, another example of game designers failing to understand what giving a bit of freedom to a player actually means.

I’m not the only person who thinks such things about Rage. Take Brandon Sheffield’s follow up to his “hostile” Rage interview and resulting hoo-ha:

At the beginning of the game, you wake up in an “Ark,” and stumble outside. You’re almost killed by mutants, but are saved by someone in a nearby car.

The next thing you’re meant to do is get in the car with him. But as game players, we tend to like to test the limits of systems. So I looked around to see what else I could do. There was another path leading the other direction, so I figured I’d see what was up there.

“Oh!” I heard behind me. It was Andy Chang. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Nothing,” he chuckled. “You’ll see.” I walked up the path, and was killed instantly by a bullet from an invisible enemy. I got game over, and had to start anew, calibrating my controller all over again. This time I got in the car.

This sort of forced channelling away from apparent openness happens a bunch of times in Rage, and each time it seems forced and clunky. I can see exactly why that decision had been made, because it has appeared time and again in other games, but it was just the wrong way to do it. Offering players a glimpse of freedom and then arbitrarily closing the door is a kind of betrayal.

I’ve covered similar ground to this before, largely when talking about Far Cry 2 and GTA 4. There I argued that Far Cry 2 messed up because it didn’t understand what being an open-world game suggested to players. People were baffled by the road-blocks, pissed off by respawns, agitated by the unrelenting hostility of the world, and annoyed that there was no neutrality in NPCs outside the city. Worse, there was little in the way of persistence in the world to mark you actions. All these are RPGy traits, I know, but when other elements of RPGs have begun to show up in shooters, why not some of that freedom to explore, and persistence and change, too?

Rage’s real problem was in creating the idea of a world where back and forth and travelling about seemed like not just a possibility, but an imperative. Great big areas between encampments both hostile and friendly. An inventory where things could be collected to make other things, and locations where gathered items could be sold. All of this, combined with the capacity to travel about freely in the wastelands, and the stop ‘n’ shop nature of the hub towns, suggested that this was going to be a game with some freedom. A game where I could spend a bit of time pootling about doing my own thing, exploring and living in the post-apocalypse.

Of course I totally understand that this is a shooter, with long on-rails shooty bits. That’s fine. Great, even. I love shooting dudes in the face. I didn’t mind that each and every bandit camp was a linear loop that, ultimately, dumped you back near the entrance. I liked the combat, and I loved being sent off to do missions of megadeath in the wilderness. But I did mind that the bandits themselves existed solely within the railroaded plot that plunged through the middle of the game, always suggesting that you might stop a while and do you own thing, while never actually letting that happen. Sure, I could roam about in the wilderness, but there was no reason, ever, to go to anywhere that I hadn’t been told to go. No reason that I could come up with for myself, at least.

Rage’s sidequests, rather than being pleasant diversions, were intimations of a freedom from control that simply didn’t exist. The vehicular sections, rather than being exploratory, were simply about heading from A to B, with no mind for tinkering about the wastes. Sure, there were a few secrets, but it wasn’t enough.


I think what all this feeds back to is exactly the same kinds of frustrations that were expressed in recent Skyrim threads, over and over. These frustrations were generally along the lines of “yes, but it’s not actually going to be a living world, because nothing is real in these sorts of games”, or “it’s not really an RPG of any substance, because you actions aren’t felt in the world.” No real consequences, no real freedom. Just some wandering about and the script. I think Bethesda’s RPGs hold a good deal more freedom than a lot of people will allow, but I also understand what they are agitating at.

What I think is happening here is twofold. Firstly it’s about how we perceive space and action in games. The strength of linear games is based almost entirely on inertia. As long as you keep that forward momentum, and always perceive the way you are heading as the “right” way, then you never notice (or care) that you are actually in a corridor, or that your position in the world is simply triggering the things that happen. However, when things open up a bit, and we could go over there *or* over there, we will always choose to explore both directions. If one of those directions is always a dead end, and the space a “fake” one, then the trick that linear games had on their side vanishes. And we do not like being fooled, or denied.

The second thing that makes me and others dissatisfied with games like Rage (and other open but unfree worlds) is that we understand that games can actually be simulations. Games could, if game designers so chose, do more than create the illusion of our presence in a world, they could actually create systems in which our actions caused ripples, rather than triggering responses. We know complicated NPC responses are possible because we’ve seen games like Ultima and the Gothic games on one hand, and we know entities in the world can get on with their own shit because we’ve seen games like Arma 2 and Stalker on the other. We’re aware that the systems can be more complex than a series of pop-up targets draped across a linear story. Because we can see this, games that don’t even attempt to offer the “life” of simulation, never quite meet with our understanding of their potential.

This is a gigantic problem for game design, because actually creating games around simulations is difficult, demanding on hardware (and wetware), and ultimately liable to shamble away from the “cinematic” experiences that have been proven to sell. Because simulation, genuine simulation, is hard, it is rare. Because the content required to portray actions performed by entities in a world is expensive, it is almost impossible in games with the kind of fidelity that studios like iD end up making.

Rage’s mistake, then, was to suggest any semblance of freedom at all, because when it did that we immediately connected it with the games that have tried to offer freedom. And against them it is found lacking.

I’m sort of reminded of Eskil Steenberg’s open letter to John Carmack, where he said that the game was held hostage by artists. I don’t share quite the same diagnosis as Steenberg, but I do have similar feelings about what studios need to be doing if they want to secure both their future and the future of gaming. What iD did with Rage is not it.

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141 Comments »

  1. Justin Keverne says:

    Something… something… Looking Glass Studios…

    Though there are some assumptions that about what players “always” do that seem a little sweeping. I suspect lot of players don’t play games like reviewers or critics. I certainly don’t always explore both options if offered the chance.

    • danimalkingdom says:

      I could sound like a broken ruddy record, but it’s true. Those Looking Glass chaps cast a long shadow over modern gaming. Frankly I’m going to sidestep Rage until the new year and hold on for Skyrim.

      BTW Are we expecting bugs with Skyrim?

    • Nim says:

      I don’t know what “we” are expecting but I for one am expecting such a tremendous amount of bugs, glitches, crashes to desktop, angry forum threads and crying losers that I will put off playing Skyrim until 2-3 patches in.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      I’ve yet to see any dev team bother to produce anything approaching the excellence, quality, non-linearity and sheer greatness of anything like System Shock (either). I’d argue even VTM: Bloodlines falls short, but only because of the poor second half.

      Jim, your argument is falling on deaf “dev ears.” Nearly all of them are content with making casual games, or linear or “sandbox” third person action games with no true depth because that is What Sells On Consoles. Certainly explains why From Software never bothered to make King’s Field V.

    • Nick says:

      Of course it will be buggy.

    • endaround says:

      The Destructoid write up from the preview mentioned 3 game killing bugs in the three hours of play.

    • Groove says:

      “Frankly I’m going to sidestep Rage until the new year”

      I’m going to circle strafe Rage and spam the rocket launcher.

    • ukpanik says:

      “I will put off playing Skyrim until 2-3 patches in”

      and 20-30 mods in

    • Turkey says:

      Thief 2 is one of my favorite games ever. It had some linear levels, but the ones that were totally open like the docks or the bank worked so well. Instead of just giving you a level, it gave you a simulated area that you could approach any way you wanted. It was sort of like cracking a puzzle with multiple solutions, but it was more analogue than Deus Ex’s 3 different paths method.

    • jonfitt says:

      Groove says:
      “Frankly I’m going to sidestep Rage until the new year”
      I’m going to circle strafe Rage and spam the rocket launcher.

      Well played sir.

    • frenz0rz says:

      ““I will put off playing Skyrim until 2-3 patches in”

      and 20-30 mods in”

      I know where you’re coming from, but UI mods, bugfixes and high res texture mods aside, I’d recommend anyone plays games like Oblivion or Fallout 3 on their first playthrough without any mods, if only to simply get a ‘feel’ for the game. Only then will you know what you want changed, and what mods would increase your enjoyment of the game.

      I’m certainly not one to install a game I’ve never played before and install 1001 game-changing community mods, regardless of how highly recommended they are.

    • Sic says:

      The preview build that everyone is playing hasn’t had anything to do with the internal dev builds for ages, so there is no reason to expect that the previews have any sort of current information on the state of the game.

    • Danarchist says:

      I always play through games like Oblivion and Fallout in what I like to call “Vanilla Mode” first, then go out and look for mods. That way it is like playing two totally different games that I love =P
      I never seem to have the crashing bugs that others have, I wonder if I just have the worlds most generic hardware configuration or something. I will play it on release day (I am a nerd and the thought of working on on on day bothers me) and I imagine I will not have any serious bug related issues.
      Sometimes I wonder if there are people out there that want something to complain about so they wait for a bug to arise and then go ballistic. Just for a bit of perspective remember this: you did not have to modify your config.sys and autoexec.bat to get the game to run. Therefore no matter what your playing its an improvement!
      Yes I am a “Mana bar half full” type.

    • Dhatz says:

      I have to say I didn’t finish much more games that were actually good, like Psychonauts, F3AR, witcher2, Condemned, Dirt 3, Shift2, Metro 2033, TDU2 just because of that, and I didn’t even get off the planet in Precursors because it was such a typical well made RPG, it was pathetic.

    • The Colonel says:

      I think it’s being a bit harsh to Rage to criticise it for this. Id tried to move their corridor based FPS model to a much more interesting setting. At least visually the game would have felt terribly unauthentic if the setting had just been completely closed environments. The fact that you can’t deviate from the given path is, for me, more occasionally confusing than irritating or a “betrayal”. I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say here. I’m not even sure I agree with myself. Hmmm.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Some games are better to play with mods from the getgo. I typically play through games that are just good like Fallout 3 or smaller games that I do everything in like Risen or Stalker one time so I’d say go with the mods and have a better experience. I feel like games with comprehensive texture mods like Stalker or games with cut content mods, like Kotor 2 are a better experience with the mods in.

  2. TillEulenspiegel says:

    Games could, if game designers so chose, do more than create the illusion of our presence in a world, they could actually create systems in which our actions caused ripples, rather than triggering responses.

    Yes yes yes. A thousand times yes.

    There are so few games that even attempt anything like this. But isn’t that what most people truly want – an interactive world?

    • Justin Keverne says:

      There’s been a lot of thought on this subject from professionals and others. There’s a wealth of really interesting things possible with existing technology the problems are mainly the same ones encountered by the likes of Looking Glass, Origin and others who have tried. Namely that testing such high levels of interactivity and effectively communicating that to the player both in game and in pre-release material is time consuming and massively ineffective compared with making a game that’s similar to what’s gone before only with a different skin.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Thanks for the links. Marked for later reading.

      Namely that testing such high levels of interactivity and effectively communicating that to the player both in game and in pre-release material is time consuming and massively ineffective compared with making a game that’s similar to what’s gone before only with a different skin.

      Yeah. But. Take it from a different angle. Don’t try to emulate traditional story-based games. Take something like Mount&Blade – add additional interactivity on top of the types of games that are already built for it.

      It’s definitely true that communicating in-game complexity can be difficult. It’s one of the big complaints about the Football Manager series, where there can be a huge number of subtle effects based on any number of variables, and you’re not always told about them. It’s an area they improve a bit every year.

      I think that’s a good problem to have, though. It means you’re doing something interesting.

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      Bluerps says:

      I know I don’t.

      Don’t get me wrong – I think a game like that would be truly great and I would probably play it hundreds of hours. But I don’t think that this would be the best way to make games, and that every game should be like that.

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      It’s the old argument of player agency vs. dev control. See: essays by Clint Hocking, Tom Bissell, or Jonathan Blow.

      Hocking: http://www.clicknothing.com/click_nothing/2010/10/agency-past-present-future.html

    • Justin Keverne says:

      @Bluerps All I’m saying is, I like Rage, I just wouldn’t want every game to be like that any more than I want every game to be Minecraft or Ultima VII.

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      The Sombrero Kid says:

      I’m pretty sure we all agree that Game Design is the art of designing meaningful and interesting choices for players, no ones suggesting a simulation without design, I think what jim is getting at is that a lot of the choices outside of the First Person Shooting in RAGE are illusions in that they carry no meaning beyond themselves and are quite often the choice between using the designed content or declining to use it (that is not a choice) and also that the content is designed to look more open than it is.

      Doors imo are the most emblematic indicator, doors in RAGE have 3 states, openable, unopenable and locked, the first 2 are designed to make the world look like it’s much bigger than it is but actually have a claustrophobic affect and are an example of the visual art taking precedence over the interactive art, and the third is designed to provide the illusion of causality, you may not have enough keys to open the lock and therefore it’s optional content, but the game makes sure you always have more than enough keys.

      EDIT: This wasn’t really supposed to be in this thread, it was supposed to be it’s own separate comment.

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      Bluerps says:

      @Justin Keverne: Yeah, I agree. I was mainly answering to TillEulenspiegel’s line “But isn’t that what most people truly want – an interactive world?”

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      In terms of videogames that place you in some kind of realistic world where there’s an illusion of interactivity (this is pretty heavily qualified), I do think greater interactivity is the ideal.

      Not total free-form sandbox simulations. Just greater interactivity. The world reacting in ways that make sense to every possible action that you can perform. Nothing more, nothing less. Deus Ex (the first) is a good example of a game working towards that goal. Think holodeck, but on a PC.

      That can be more difficult than the sandbox, though. You can still do bits and pieces to improve your game. Make an attempt.

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      Yes, that’s what I meant. I think the Holodeck, without restrictions, would only work for free-form sandbox games, because this maximal amount of freedom would derail any story immediately. For example, blow up the Statue of Liberty and bury UNATCO HQ under the rubble – reacting to that logically, while still somehow preserving the story Deus Ex wants to tell would be hard, and that is only one example of infinitely many.

      I think, either there are things the player character cannot do, even if he should logically be able to do them, or it must be pure simulation.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      The world reacting in ways that make sense to every possible action that you can perform.

      Possible actions are, of course, limited by the game. That’s the point. Not “do anything you want” (which is simply impossible), but “do these things in various combinations, and the world will react in ways that we did not specifically plan”.

    • jellydonut says:

      No. Most people ‘want’ a mindless, boring, bland, cookie-cutter mass factory game that sends them on rails through a shooting gallery, filled with set pieces snipped from recent movies and TV shows.

      Why would studios fund the development of grand games akin to Thief and Half-Life when they can just make Call of Warfare: Modern Duty clones?

    • Wizardry says:

      @jellydonut: Half-Life? Seriously? Half-Life seems like the perfect example of what’s wrong with games. Incredibly linear and entirely scripted.

    • Shadram says:

      “Half-Life seems like the perfect example of what’s wrong with games.”

      If only they’d had turn-based combat, eh, Wizardry?

      When I read this article, Half Life was the first game that I thought of as an example of doing the linear corridor game right. There is never more than a single route through an area (bar a couple of branching corridors here and there) but I never once felt, in the many times I played through it, that I was being forced down a route I didn’t want to take. It’s the momentum thing Jim mentions, I guess, but it is, for me, the best example of this ever created.

    • Baines says:

      I think the Holodeck, without restrictions, would only work for free-form sandbox games, because this maximal amount of freedom would derail any story immediately.

      I think that if we had enough freedom for a long enough time, people would gravitate back to being fed stories even if they were allowed such extremes of freedom.

      Even Star Trek’s Holodeck showed this. Given the chance to run wild, they didn’t. Instead, they ran specific stories and mostly stayed within the rules by choice. There is no point cheating a training program. And no point to playing a game set in New York if you are always going to ignore everything to blow up the Statue of Liberty, or to off your bosses at the first chance.

      Even now in sandbox games, we tend to fool around for a while, and then go back to the story. At least if the story is decent enough. Running around acting like a jerk only entertains for so long when the only thing you are being a jerk to are npcs. And even if a single game can entertain with chaos for a while, imagine keeping that up for the next five or ten games you buy/play, with nothing you play (even puzzle games or browser stuff) openly forcing you to stick within bounds.

    • Doesn'tmeananything says:

      @Shadram

      Exactly. I’d probably reiterate what you’ve just said, but Half-Life is a perfect work of a linear (possibly cinematic too, but that bears many negative connotations now) game design philosophy. It’s a remarkable achievement from the standpoint of world building, aesthetics, ludonarrative and stuff. Now, many other games are embarrassingly trying to do the same thing, incessantly and obtusely restricting player in the process, and it’s a bit sad that what Valve did is directly associated with those attempts.

    • Shuck says:

      On top of the design issues around building more open-world games and/or games with more interaction, there’s the big stumbling block: budget issues. Building an open-world game is many, many times more expensive than making a limited corridor shooter. Adding interaction into things requires extras design and programming resources (and often art assets). Then there’s the “budget” in terms of memory, disk-space, etc. What it comes down to is: can you afford to spend a significant amount of your development funds on content that at least 50% of your players will never see?

  3. Milky1985 says:

    “It wasn’t in the extraordinary design decisions where you have to pour entire clips of ammo into enemies to kill them (although that was ridiculous).”

    Yeah i found that, and what was event more ridiculous was in the later areas of the game bullets effectivly stopped working due to the ammount of headshots needed to kill but a SINGLE SODDING WINGSTICK took down everything in one hit… and it tracks enemies for you, (3 in the case of the advanced ones)

    It turned the game in a FPS where you didn’t even need to aim.

    As soon as you open up the second area do yourself a favour and just get 99 of the gamebreaking little gits and just run in hitting q every time you see an enemy. Oh and a spoiler for the end “boss” , make sure to have lots of shotgun shells.

    • othello says:

      I actually liked the fact that enemies were hard to kill. It made the health regeneration system actually fit as a game mechanic, which is more than I can say for Call of Duty, Mass Effect, and so on. However, the wingsticks were a bit ridiculous, yes.

  4. Rao Dao Zao says:

    “Freedom’s just another word for ‘nothing left to lose’.”

  5. Quine says:

    I long for the day when designers will step away from the health bars and canned animations and actually make use of the 3d and physics capabilities of modern PCs- hit locations, proper physics-based traps, good climbing mechanics, and so forth.

  6. Premium User Badge

    The Sombrero Kid says:

    An unopenable door is worse than no door at all, an invisible wall is worse than a visible one.

    This all comes from mega texturing, mega texturing requires tight limits on where the player can see to optimise the texturing for those areas, t also requires static environments and lighting, which ultimately makes the game feel like walking around a 3D painting, which is a distinct waste of the potential imo.

    I said it before but i think Carmack is way off with this direction he’s taken & i hope it really was just to ring every pixel out of this generation of consoles and not a permanent focus for him, because smart people who control the future technology still listen to him & he’s wrong.

    • Orija says:

      I think the Megatextures tech would be better utilized on consoles with their limited hardware than for the pc.

    • Tin_man_Tex says:

      Megatexture doesn’t require static geometry or lighting, you could say it promotes it to a degree, because if you have full unique texture space then why not bake.

      But the tech behind it – virtual texturing – is ultimately just a replacement for texture lookup, thus can be used with any contemporary graphics techniques.

      See Brink for example of Virtual Texturing with full dynamic lighting and shadows.

      Brink is also an interesting example of compromising Virtual Texturing to be able to re-use texture data, mainly because as you alluded the killer for the technique is media space required.

  7. Stepout says:

    I had a bad feeling the second I tried to decline the very first quest that Hagar gives, the game won’t even let you leave his garage. My expectations were just too high when it came to how cool the world of Rage would be. I didn’t think it was very immersive at all. A bit fake and plastic for me.

  8. apocraphyn says:

    Excellently written, Jim. Agree 100%. Thanks for the good read.

    • jonfitt says:

      Once again Jim says exactly what some of us are thinking, but in a much better way than what we could.
      Thanks.

  9. Hoaxfish says:

    What’s the opposite approach? Minecraft? Where there’s basically no narrative, and you could survive for infinity by camping in a sealed hole in the ground made of dirt.

    I think it simply boils down to the fact that games are “meaningless” beyond their own scope. It’s not like getting a real-world job, or a partner, with both the benefits and problems. You stop playing, and you’re outside the bubble.

    Once you stray from the plot, you’re setting your own goals, but those goals are functionally meaningless. At best, the world grows without you, but the NPCs “recognise” your achievements (or forget them over time/NPC generations die/birth). But if it rolls like that, the pacing of any plot would probably be screwed. Throw in some randomly generated “plot-lines” and it may be a bit fresher… but eventually get repetitive. But growing like that could easily lead the real-world hardware issues with memory/cpu speed, etc.

    • Nemrod says:

      Try EV:Nova.

      Space was never that big, AND with such great scenarii.

    • Prime says:

      You’re sneering at Minecraft but that game didn’t become insanely popular by imitating the linear, uninteractive environmental experiences everyone else was doing. Look at it – along with games like Dwarf Fortress – as important milestones in the direction we’d love to see more of on the PC.

      The big modern games seem to be all about graphics and guns, a frankly ridiculous waste of multi-core CPUs. Where are the AI experiments? The simulation of physical properties and systems? Every game that made tiny little levels with bases to attack was put to utter shame by Just Cause and it’s sequel – why are other boundaries not being pushed any more? Why has gaming ‘product’ become so fucking generic that even the mighty iD have fallen to it? Is this why we can’t even have wondrous simulation efforts like Subversion*, a game people followed out of sheer excitement for six years (myself being one of them)?

      Great article, Jim.

      – - – - – - – - – -
      *The answer to that problem, Introversion, was to make the corporate espionage game to carry the much-missed spirit of Syndicate. Damn you for not seeing that.

    • Heliocentric says:

      Minecraft with hunger/starvation and npcs… I… wait that’s just when minecraft in the future.

    • GrandmaFunk says:

      Mount&Blade:Warband is an excellent approach at having a rich open world that is linked by a bunch of closed system that function on their own, giving the player the opportunity/choice of getting involved with as many or as little of them as he/she wants.

      The game can quickly become the game you want it to be, with the flexibility to keep that definition evolving with your moods.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I’m not sneering at Minecraft… certainly not because it sells well, just as ID likes selling FPSes.

      The issue is, Plot is a mix of specific pacing and progression revolving around set goals, while Freedom is almost exactly the opposite, no pressing goals, pacing set by the player’s whim, progression based on their own choice of what to develop (e.g. they want to be a lvl 200 ditch-digger rather than fight the dragon-king).

      This sorta thing runs into problems if, for example, the world is about to end, etc. If you spend too long digging holes, does your game suddenly end when it turns out the planet just exploded due to the plot’s set pace (that does kinda sound fun).

      What happens if you try the same thing with a less “wilderness” game, rather than medieval forests or apocalyptic deserts? How would Deus Ex handle a whole city of NPCs, and the ability to walk off down the motorway?

      The “line” has to be set somewhere.

    • jonfitt says:

      Minecraft does not follow the approach Jim is describing. Sure it is open and free, but it the world doesn’t change except for the landscape due to your actions. All creatures continue to spawn randomly, and each day is like the last. We’ll see how the NPC villages are implemented. I hope they expand organically and are affected by your interactions. I understand Love was a bit like that?
      .
      What would push the whole industry forward is a way to:

      Games could, if game designers so chose, do more than create the illusion of our presence in a world, they could actually create systems in which our actions caused ripples, rather than triggering responses.

      For example the presence of mobs in Minecraft could be a modelled eco-system, where the player could mess things up by over harvesting cows causing a village to starve, or kill all the enemies causing a pig population explosion. Etc.
      .
      Early on Stalker was supposed to have this.

    • SamC says:

      But player-made goals don’t have to be meaningless – the key is creating a system where there are rewards and punishments for the actions the player chooses, where play choice matters. Sid Meier’s Pirates or Mount & Blade might be better examples: you don’t have a linear path, you aren’t artificially constrained to one action, you’re given choices that matter. Do I spend the time to gather and train more men, or siege the castle with what I have? There’s no developer crafted overarching plot, it’s defined by the actions of the player. Even MineCraft has ‘meaningful’ actions – just because the game doesn’t specifically tell you to build a castle doesn’t make it any more or less meaningful.

    • jonfitt says:

      I’d argue that Civ is also a pretty open game. You’re given a starting position and a choice of winning conditions, but how you approach them is up to you within the options available. You can be a small peaceful Civ, or a rampaging horde.

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    The Sombrero Kid says:

    I hate that modern games are designed to work with your expectations on where is the ‘right’ way to go and old games are designed to trick your expectations, in a new game you see the way you expect is the way to go and deliberately go the other way, because in the olden days you were rewarded for that, now they’ve flipped it around so that progression always seems to be in the less likely direction & then, as happens in rage a lot, they lock an invisible door behind you, forever to be tormented by what was in the other direction!

    • Tuor says:

      Yes, in olden days, you *always* checked behind the waterfall, or beneath the stairs, or the top of a mountain, because there might be something (very) useful or powerful there, or even something silly or cool. It’s the same sort of habit, like in Zork or Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, of keeping every single item you come across, because you never know when you might need it. Or, in FPSes, of conserving your exotic ammo/weapons until you *really* need them, because you never know if you’ll ever find stuff that good again, and maybe the final battle will be all-but-unwinnable without that special weapon/ammo/thingamajig.

    • Baines says:

      In some ways, modern games are worse in part because of players being taught to look behind every waterfall and under every stairs.

      Now players *expect* items to be found in such locations, and search them, and complain if the locations are there but the rewards are not (or the rewards are too “minor”.) This also leads to multiple paths, where the player proceeds to backtrack through each path if allowed, just to make sure that they don’t miss something. (And then complain that there is no urgency. Of course if there is enforced urgency or paths are closed off, they complain that they aren’t allowed to check each path, or have to keep reloading to find the most rewarding path to take.)

  11. Premium User Badge

    dangermouse76 says:

    Sir it sounds to me like you want to live in the matrix…….and I applaud this. But I dont think we are quite there yet with AI in games to be realistically adaptive enough to deal with so many human interpretations of a maliable persistant world.

    The lack of building deteriation in GTA has been a bug bear of mine lack of building access. Lack of a real sense of a breathing world if you look behind the curtain for even one second.

    Not that I dont think it’s possible just not quite yet. A world has to be pretty detailed with a well hidden back narrative to say about 10,000 people with some good environment destruction before the illusion of choice can be more perminently banished.

    I do want that though.

    • Simas says:

      I do want that though.

      So do I, but I am afraid the gaming industry does not.. Why would a studio want to create a “perfect” open-world-simulation-game where you could have fun and not get bored off content for years? For $60? :)

      They would never give you that package.

    • Premium User Badge

      dangermouse76 says:

      ah dreaming I know but the thing is this Game creation tools are getting better and better and soon will be in the hands of more and more people. Hopefully some people with more of a sense of a game for it’s own sake.

      Maybe a community project… I’m not sure. But just as Photoshop, and digital photography has democrisised access to the arts in a visual sense. I think the likes of UDK, Unity, Cryengine etc are getting closer and closer to putting world creation and better AI in the hands of more and more people, people who may not just be looking at their bottom line.

      I hope so anyway.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I thought the Matrix was pretty balanced, until Neo downloaded that DLC.

      pfft, Pay2Win more like.

    • Premium User Badge

      dangermouse76 says:

      Hoaxfish says:

      I thought the Matrix was pretty balanced, until Neo downloaded that DLC.

      pfft, Pay2Win more like.

      Totally and using god mode cheat what a dick.

    • Zenicetus says:

      “Why would a studio want to create a “perfect” open-world-simulation-game where you could have fun and not get bored off content for years? For $60?”

      That actually does exist for civilian flight simulators like FSX and X-Plane, but those are also supported with 3rd party scenery and aircraft add-ons that help retain interest. The semi-open software design encourages an ecosystem of 3rd party payware development outside the main program. People fly the same core game for years.

      Of course that business model isn’t so great for the main developer, who gets a fixed up-front payment. Microsoft finally bailed on FS, and X-Plane is heavily subsidized by iPhone sales on the low end, and pro-level certified training versions on the higher end.

      Still, I wonder if this couldn’t be a viable model for other types of games? A main developer building the simulated world, and then open the game to small-timer and hobbyist outsiders who could sell additional content for small amounts of money to keep the world alive and developing? It works for flight sims. Could it work for a fantasy game? Or a modern infantry combat game?

  12. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    The problem is designers just haven’t figured out how to NOT suggest gameplay they can’t deliver on within the framework of their game.

    • Shuck says:

      Yeah, I think this is the big issue, though it’s actually something that plenty of games have managed (e.g. the first Half-Life).

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Yeah, certain games manage it elegantly: letting the player freely explore the tools they are presented with AND not teasing them with things they cannot do.

  13. Fox89 says:

    There is still some more middle ground to be exploited, which is less risky. Take a game like Mass Effect 2 as a good example I felt of the ‘illusion of freedom’ done well. The player was given choice in regards to the order they tackled missions in, and were also given plenty of options in game to shape the story and character relationships. I would hesitate to call that approach ‘linear’ but at the same time the freedom offered is very limited, very controlled, and leads to more or less the same end come the finale.

    But I felt Mass Effect succeeded in giving you that impression of doing your own thing the way you want to, even though it really wasn’t. More games like that would be nice because creating a truly open world based on systems is going to be a very risky endeavor. It can work, I’m sure, but getting it right will not be quick, cheap or easy. So realistically, I don’t expect too much improvement all that soon.

    • Burning Man says:

      Mass Effect 2 always felt like it was pushing me towards the goal. I could not progress in the story until I had recruited a certain number of characters, and every sidequest was a character loyalty mission, so it made no sense for me to not recruit the others as well. Not to mention that once the characters have discussed their loyalty quest with you, they refuse to communicate further and remind you to do their loyalty mission instead.

      Contrast with Dragon Age Origins, where you are saddled with Alistair and Morrigan, a melee and magic type as a bare minimum to do stuff with, but every other companion is optional. Only character-specific sidequests require the character’s presence, some explicitly require the character’s absence (Morrigan). You could play the whole game solo, skip an entire main quest line and it would still make in-game sense. You would just be facing the might of the Darkspawn horde with absolutely no backup. Even the defeating of the Archdemon held some rather interesting choices.

      BUT the game was linear. In that you do main quests, go to Landsmeet, and defeat Archdemon. Witcher 2 had a choice with much more impact (Act 2), but DAO cloaked it beautifully. While you made some minor decisions regarding who to sacrifice and who to support, they had limited repercussions that only affected the people immediately around them. But each character was very well done, well enough that the impact on them pulled on that emotional hook in you.

  14. diebroken says:

    Great article Jim, helped that I read the Gamasutra articles on RAGE earlier today beforehand, so nice and fresh.

    Regarding Eskil Steenberg’s open letter, I think he’s confusing John Carmack with the rest of the key id Software team last millenia, John Romero, Adrian Carmack, et al. who developed the games he’s so fond of.

    Anywho, I’m having a blast playing through RAGE and can’t wait for DOOM 4 (IV ?)…

  15. ResonanceCascade says:

    Dishonored is looking better and better every day. Their whole MO seems to be to make a classic-style immersive sim with modern graphics. I hope they aren’t fibbing.

  16. terry says:

    What do you mean, freedom?? Just look at that skybox!

  17. Taidan says:

    The problem with Rage, is that feel feels like the Future of Gaming… As envisaged in 1995.

    On the flipside, the amazing thing about Rage is that feel feels like the Future of Gaming… As envisaged in 1995. Y’know, when people built games from The Fun upwards, rather than starting with a features list of bullet-pointed U.S.P.s for the back of the box.

    There’s a lot wrong with Rage when you look at it in light of all that has evolved in gaming in the last decade. When it comes to actually sitting down and playing it though, I’d take it over something like Bioshock (1, not 2) or anything from the Battlefield series, any day of the week.

  18. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    “We know complicated NPC responses are possible because we’ve seen games like Ultima and the Gothic games [...]”

    I don’t understand this. I’ve played some Ultimas and the first two Gothics, but I don’t remember anything about the NPCs to be especially complicated.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I know Gothic was sold on the whole “NPCs have a work-sleep cycle”, in that they would walk home, and go to bed in the evening, then wake up and walk to work in the morning. I can’t remember if they locked their doors though.

      I never found it that impressive.

    • Wizardry says:

      That’s what the Ultima series did before any other. NPC scheduling. In Ultima V from 1988 the NPCs woke up, headed to work, met up for lunch in the local pub, headed back to work for the afternoon, met up for dinner in the local pub and then went home to bed. Even each individual town guard did this. Every single NPC in the game had a bed to sleep in. If you tried to sleep in an unoccupied bed you would get kicked out at the exact hour the bed owner was scheduled to go to sleep.

      Some NPCs also had special routines. For example, there’s a mage in one town who is only up and about at night while sleepwalking. A smith in another town goes on a walk at noon to a certain tree stump and deposits special keys there that you can steal. Another NPC visits his brother in prison every day in the morning with lockpicks. If you ever get arrested and put in prison, you can wait until he visits the prison and then ask him for lockpicks through the window in the prison door in order to help you escape.

      Of course, Ultima VI ramped this up somewhat while Ultima VII took NPC scheduling to level that is unmatched even today. In Ultima VII NPCs would do many more activities throughout the day and also do activities on certain days of the week. Almost all NPCs had a completely unique schedule and the world felt rather alive because of it.

    • Duckpoop says:

      I havn’t played the original, but in Gothic 2, the farmer could tell if you stole his clothes, you could get the Pirate inside through the city in several different ways (or not at all) and he would treat you differently accordingly. Once you joined one of the factions, the others would treat you differently and you would have different quests. There is plenty more I’m not thinking of, I’m sure…

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      There isn’t anything in Gothic that was impressive on a technical level, it was just the attention to detail and eye for character that made the world believable. People would react like people instead of walking encyclopedias. A lot of it was in the dialogue. Also nice touches like them getting angry if you walked into their houses (even if the door was open) or drew a weapon in public…

      And the game had a sense of humour.

  19. Dominic White says:

    But thou must!

    • terry says:

      I wish I could just upvote comments without posting, because this is definitely one of those.

    • BeamSplashX says:

      If you refuse the call to adventure at the beginning of Metal Saga (on the PS2), you get an instant game over.

    • Dominic White says:

      Not just a game over, but a legitimate ending, credits and all.

      But yeah, it seems like Rage is just packed full of ‘But Thou Must!’ moments. You’re given two (or more) choices, and unless you pick option 1 each and every time, you either die and make you repeat the choice, or loop round until you pick 1 anyway.

      While it’s not ideal, I really don’t have a problem with my character speaking up and making a decision like that for me. That’s a vastly better solution than presenting something as a choice, only to slap the player when they try to choose something other than the obvious ‘right’ answer.

      Being teased with the (false) hope of freedom is far worse than not having freedom at all.

  20. nimzy says:

    This reminds me of a rant I was thinking of preparing for a different site. Something something voxels, something something procedurally-generated something something sandboxes.

    I, ah, reacted rather strongly to the statement made by a game developer in a recent interview, “Game design is about limiting player choice.” I feel that this is perhaps the next frontier of gaming: now that our graphics have reached verisimilitude, what about our environments, and our interaction with same? People since the dawn of gaming have been chafing against our artificial boundaries, spawning an entire generation of people devoted to “getting out” and breaking the game in new and unusual ways. What we need are games that support the ambitions of players rather than limit them.

  21. povu says:

    One problem with RAGE is that it has tons of things that look like you can jump over or get to in a way, but actually has invisible walls blocking you.

  22. Red Serpent says:

    There is indeed a problem with open-world games nolonger being about freedom of choice. Mafia 2 aside from the story line the world is an empty yet crowded city. GTA4 same thing especially if you compare it to San Andreas. Even the STALKER games only show promise if you install some mods that correct some of the Faction interactions and such.

    While the Devs try really hard to get a good (or okay-ish for GTA4) story line going in their games, they often forget we play these games for more than the scripted parts. We want random encounters, secrets and most of all a HUGE frelling side order of sidequests and entertainment to make to world worth exploring and such.

    I think Devs fear making a persistent world. Once they ACTUALLY innovate it means their next game has to be equal in quality and functions or better, something we all know is another problem…

  23. Premium User Badge

    Museli says:

    It’s always vexing to run into an invisible wall. If you’re not going to let me go that way, then put a landslide or a broken door in the way. Similarly, don’t use a locked wooden door to block my path if I’m holding a mace as big as I am.

    • Prime says:

      To a large extent the only invisible walls in Minecraft are the ones you, the player, take in with you. This is why so many get frustrated by it and cry for more ‘game’, and why it’s such an important moment in PC gaming.

    • Groove says:

      “To a large extent the only invisible walls in Minecraft are the ones you, the player, take in with you.”

      Sweet. They should put that on the invisible box.

  24. jerkstoresup says:

    Freedom in games sucks. I said it. You want a game with 0 fetch quests, 0 story, 100% unlimited world and lots of possibilities? Play Minecraft. Bored? Play your goddamn directed single-path video game experience.

    • Prime says:

      “Freedom in games sucks…” for you. Other people are screaming to get out of the fake, plywood, linear corridors and get involved in something more creative and elaborate than shoot, run, press x, rinse/repeat.

    • Rhin says:

      Other people can play Minecraft then. I can’t bring myself to agree with the premise that “Rage sucks because it’s not GTA.” In the context of a linear FPS, when an NPC asks you to get in the car, you get in the car, because that’s how you advance the game. Rage’s only failing was looking too much like you had other options.

      Actually, if I were making Rage, the NPC would just get pissed off and drive off if you started wandering around after he asked you to get in the car. Then the entire world would get converted into Minecraft blocks, and everyone would be happy. I’m pretty sure Carmack could have coded up this feature on a spare weekend if he’d realize what players really wanted.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      ‘Freedom’ in this context doesn’t mean being able to do anything you want and having no story. That’s a straw man if I’ve ever seen one. Games have successfully mixed freedom with story. On a micro scale, you have Thief 2. Huge, self contained levels, but you can do anything you want withing their borders. You still have objectives and there’s still a story, but how you get to them is up to you. Same with Deus Ex.

      On a more macro scale you have Morrowind, which let you dick around on a huge island and do the story or sidequests at your leisure, while still managing to not become the dull wasteland that earlier open-world games were. There’s a balance to be struck, and most newer games fall squarely on the side of being too restrictive.

    • lupusaeth says:

      My question is why you can’t mix narrative with freedom. Yes, it would be difficult and time-consuming etc. but it’s definitely not impossible. You set up a variable storyline, which is triggered by certain NPCs with certain personalities (say rulers) and which is entirely politically based. You then give the player the option to pick what type of person they wish to be within this context (and give them the freedom to be violent or non-violent). Sort of what they did with Haven and Hearth. Except with NPCs as oppsosed to other players. Difficult. But imaginable.
      Obviously it wouldn’t be entirely free. But no games are. There are parameters: there have to be parameters: see Minecraft. But it’s the options within those parameters which count. I think we just need more options.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I don’t think open-world games need to be free of narrative, but I think the narrative should be woven tightly to the openness of the world. Player’s should have the same degree of freedom in terms of affecting the story as they do in how they achieve objectives or how they choose to explore the environment.

      I’d love to see a game that had a mix of the immersive sim qualities of Thief, Deus Ex, System Shock 2, Penumbra/Amnesia with the open world of an Elder Scrolls game and a Black Isle/Obsidian type narrative structure with choices and consequences that not only impacted the narrative but sent ripples throughout the world.

  25. LennyLeonardo says:

    Something that Jim seemed to want to say but didn’t get round to it: Freedom in games is ALWAYS an illusion, meaning that the key is not to increase the freedom, but to improve the illusion. True in life too, but that’s another post.

    The great thing is that the illusion has more to do with design than it does processing power. The reason games fail at offering freedom is not technological, it’s to do with imagination. When set dressing is done with imagination and intelligence the audience will forget they’re watching a movie even as they choke on their popcorn.

    • Groove says:

      “Something that Jim seemed to want to say but didn’t get round to it: Freedom in games is ALWAYS an illusion, meaning that the key is not to increase the freedom, but to improve the illusion.”

      I didn’t get that feeling from the post, nor do I agree with it.

      I thought the point was more along the lines of improve the illusion or do away with it entirely. Knowing you have no freedom is acceptable if that’s what you want. People still play on-rails shooting games for example. Having freedom (yes, I believe it exists) is obviously great.

      Rage’s big problem was that it’s illusion promised too much freedom, not just that the illusion was bad. If all the game had promised was exploring behind some boxes and possibly some dusty corners, like in Quake, then the game would have delivered. Instead it makes you think you have the whole world at your disposal, which makes disapoint all the harsher.

    • Zenicetus says:

      If the illusion is well-done, then I don’t care that I can’t climb that mountain they’re showing me off in the distance. Just give me a logical reason why I can’t get there, not a bullet in the head if I stray off the path. And for God’s sake, don’t use invisible walls. Don’t put me out in open farmlands with low fences like in Witcher 1, and tell me I can’t hop over a freakin’ fence to take a shortcut.

      I thought Fallout 3 and New Vegas did this pretty well. Most of the barriers to movement are natural obstacles like cliffs, or building rubble. Sometimes it was a bit heavy-handed, like the road you follow into a tunnel that’s permanently gated-off, or blocked by a landslide. But most of the time I felt that I had free movement, and the reasons I couldn’t get somewhere weren’t immersion-breaking.

      That’s all I ask — for the necessary limits in the scope of the game world to be logical. That includes the small stuff too. Don’t tell me I can’t open a wooden chest or break through a thin wooden door when my character is strong as an ox and holding a giant hammer.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      @ Groove: Yeah, I was probably being a bit hasty putting word’s in Jim’s electro-mouth. I stand by my point, but I think maybe there’s also an issue with defining what ‘freedom’ means in games. Maybe that’s for another article though.

      All I know is that I never felt more freedom in all my hundreds of hours with Oblivion than the moment I first made it out of the sewers.

  26. tomnullpointer says:

    I suspect that partly its to do with production pipelines. If you can script and linearize the experience then its much easier to set up seperate production tasks that wont interfere with anything else that might be ‘before’ or ‘after’. Big games have enough issue with bugs as it is, and more ‘open’ designs will inevitably lead to bugs or ‘emergent shit’ that can mess up things in a much more distributed sense. A bug in level 1 of a corridor shooter will only effect that level, a bug in an element of an open world system could effect the entire game.. (or maybe these are ‘fun exploits’).

    Open worlds are also, more traidtionally gamey, in that they are often about rule systems and your unmoderated experience of them. A lot of people come to games design from the new ‘cinematic’ tradition where your experience is highly moderated. They want to ‘tell a story’ and cant see how that could be done in an open world. Also, open worlds imply and support REPLAY (yeah remember that), replay is bad for mainstream game design (unless its PVP), because really you should play a game once (without too much obsctruction) and then get on with buying the next one……..

    Personally I think designers underestimate how much of the world itself IS the story. Im usually far more effected by my discoveries of unmoderated game environemnts than i am by a funnelled script cutscene. However I can see why open world design isnt a very comfortable space for mainstream development, it requires too much tme spent on integrating game elements into a dynamic game system, rather than integrating assets into a story.

    That said, I loved Vice city era GTAs, STALKER, morrowind, DF, Shadow of the colossus etc and IM currently enjoying Dark Souls (more of an open world than you’d expect). So all is not lost :)

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      Good points, I don’t think devs want to take the time (money) to make complex scripts, events, and assets surrounding an environment when they can get guaranteed ROI with corridors. Also, arguably consoles represent a limited amount of resources you can work within so why bother?

  27. Bart Stewart says:

    I also would very much like to see some games released that offer more real freedom and more world-simulation. This is behind the “Living World” game idea I’m hammering out, for example, where individuals and groups have agendas and act to realize them. I think there’s a sweet spot between first-person action and world-simulation that’s not being satisfied.

    But the reason why we see so few such games is not just that simulating big, interesting worlds is technically difficult — it’s that developers don’t want to do it.

    It’s as though they (generally) are afraid that if players are permitted even a microsecond of not knowing exactly what they are Supposed To Do, they will ragequit en masse and howl to the skies that the game is “broken.” Sadly, this is not entirely false — a lot of players (see WoW) do indeed appear to find it not-entertaining when they are free to decide for themselves what to do. Although some gamers feel pleasure when game systems surprise them with unexpected opportunities for choice, many other gamers strongly prefer simplicity and clarity. They want to know what they’re expected to do to “win,” and they expect to be told how to do it — within the rules of the game — as quickly as possible. Developers are, largely, simply satisfying this preference for eliminating all possibility of surprise.

    But the capacity to surprise is precisely what simulations require. Without systems bumping into each other in ways that even the developers cannot fully predict, creating novel challenges in the gameworld, it’s not a simulation. At best, it’s a scripted corridor shooter; at worst, it’s a movie.

    Explorer/Simulationist people like me (and a few others here, perhaps) love surprising gameplay, which rewards perceptiveness over persistence, but it has to be acknowledged that others don’t. A lot of gamers don’t like uncontrolled player experiences, and a lot of developers don’t like making such games. Those of us who do need to be clear that we’re OK with being surprised, and we need to find (or help make) developers who either already “get it” or who can be persuaded that there are enough of us out here to make developing gameworlds with surprising systemic effects worth doing.

    Otherwise, it’s mostly cinematic manshoots and fake-freedom corridor crawlers as far as the eye can see.

    • lupusaeth says:

      The game you describe in your first paragraph is exactly the game that I’ve always been looking for. Even subconsciously. And it has never materialised, and probably won’t, although it is realisable.

    • shizamon says:

      See The Guild II. I was never able to get very far in it.

      I would like a GTA-esque game that had a small town, maybe population of 300. All having jobs, limited number of police etc. If you are able to kill off police, townspeople rally. Not that you have to play it violent, but have the end game being power over the town or something like it.

  28. Turkey says:

    Maybe they’re just biting over more than they can chew. How about giving more freedom in smaller more manageable areas?

    The hub areas in Deus Ex and VTMB had their limitations, but I found them a lot more satisfying than the complete freedom of Bethesda’s copy pasted worlds. I suspect it has something to do with the areas something changing over the course of the game.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      This. I love a good sandbox, but I’ll take a small and (interactively) intricate environment over a huge generic wasteland every time. Freedom does not require scale.

      That’s more a criticism of open-world games in general than Bethesda specifically for me though.

  29. alundra says:

    I doesn’t take to be a rocket scientist to realize how poorly designed this game…err…tech demo came out to be, the astounding thing is how people insist in staying delusional and making up all sorts of unrelated excuses, like how great a programmer Carmack is.

    Well, he should stay in the rocket business because of designing a game, he clearly knows nothing of.

    At least people will be more aware the next time zenimax media intends to charge $60 for an ID tech demo, yeah, right…

    • Deuteronomy says:

      Oh whatever. Like someone else said, Rage is classic id, designed from the fun up. Moment to moment I’m getting more pure enjoyment out of this game than Human Revolution. The characters, art, movements and animation are so pitch perfect that it doesn’t matter that there’s no story or plot. Sure it’s not Stalker, Rage hasn’t touched my soul like that game has, but it has made contact with my id.

  30. Stevostin says:

    I think GTA Chinatown on DS really nails how freedom can be put to work in a gamey context. My theory is that basically we’re after the instinctive need or finding promising new territory, secure it and get the best of it. Actually, some gameplay just plays on that – strategy games especially. Mount & Blade, certainly. MMOs, of course. Now a lot of linear, story driven games, try to expand to this kind of “territorial” quality. They bring up neutrals, shops, hubs, vegetals and minerals to loot for craft, etc.

    What GTA taught me about this is that while it doesn’t feature a heap of interactions with the universe, it can work very well just because the territory game is there first, and then the story layer is put on the top of it. You could sell GTAs without the story mode, and that would already be a game, with a map packed with custom objective for the player. And GTA Chinatown did it better than any other, because you had all the drug traffic mode where you could choose where to buy, where to sell, and then how to deal with cops – and because you had stuff to do with the money, ie buying places.

    So IMO that’s the way those games should be done. Sure Dishonored is promising, but it’s another linear experience. I would like it way more if it was designed as a city to explore, whith dangers to deal with and money to seek, then with a story on the top of it. A story you could pause anytime to find enough money to buy a specific weapon that would make your life easier … in this story.

  31. Terr says:

    Couldn’t agree more with the article! The only game I ever played that has made me feel like I’m 100% free is Oblivion, which makes me wonder if Skyrim will even come close to that.

  32. Alehr says:

    This brings me to a scenario I’ve been thinking about lately, in which one of these sprawling RPG makers like Bethesda forced themselves to create an RPG that only took place in a small town and ended after two hours. What do you think that would turn out to be, assuming they put in the same amount of time and effort into it as they do with their physically larger titles?

    I think the product would be something like Jordan Mechner’s “The Last Express,” in the sense that a player’s role would be changed from one of sequential initiation to independent interference. The world just… happens and doesn’t give a shit about you. And then it ENDS.

    The player’s role is to interfere favorably with a time-restricted simulation.

    The short time limit allows certain scripted world events to happen at the right times while still interpolating procedural events, like narrative key frames, but the effect those keyframes have on the player are different every time, depending on how the player has been mucking around with the preceding simulation.

  33. PaulMorel says:

    This is exactly how I felt when I played Rage. I kept thinking, “ooh! What’s over there?! … Oh, an invisible wall … sigh.”

  34. Tim James says:

    I refer to the type of open world most of us want as “letting the game breathe.”

    For the type of open world I don’t like, I think of that as “overdesigned.” It’s where the entire experience is carefully managed.

  35. Pointless Puppies says:

    Isn’t it strange how we’re in the year 2011 and yet big-budget games still can’t get past the basic “here’s two doors. One is locked, so there’s really only one door” syndrome? It happened in games back in the day because it was simply not feasible to have branching paths and “ripple” effects in the game world that provided this kind of depth. In 1985. Hell, even some 1985 games are deeper in this way than Rage is. Goes to show just how stagnant this industry has become.

  36. Premium User Badge

    CelticPixel says:

    The thing that stuck with me more than any sense of open world freedom was the restrictions of all the invisible collision along waist high barriers and the like. Obviously, you’ve got to block off the edges of the world somewhere, but I keep finding myself expecting to vault over a wall for a quick short cut, and I couldn’t.

  37. Squiddity says:

    Regarding the article itself… Rage is a linear game. Yes, it offers you massive arenas in which to fight cars, but it was made abundantly clear from the get-go that it was a linear game. I think it’s somewhat silly to complain that it wasn’t non-linear or more free. The hostile Gamasutra interview was a bit silly because at first, he was all “why do you look so much like other post-apocalyptic games?” (which is as fucking stupid as asking “why does your pirate game look like other pirate games?” Genres tend to share visual traits, especially when they’re inspired by The Road Warrior) Then he went on to whine that it wasn’t free, like these other games.

    Reading the article, I couldn’t help but wonder if he had no idea what he wanted. Did he want the games to be unique or not? I don’t think so. I think ultimately, he confused difficult-to-answer questions with good ones.

    Now for the part that really confused me:

    “It wasn’t in the extraordinary design decisions where you have to pour entire clips of ammo into enemies to kill them (although that was ridiculous).”

    What?

    I never experienced this, beyond the two giant boss mutants and the Krakens, unless I was using weapons like my sawed-off shotgun and managed to miss, or I was using my pistol. With my crossbow, assault rifles, regular shotgun, and so forth, every enemy I encountered was easily dealt with.

    I don’t understand how it took entire clips to kill enemies. Just aim for the heads! They have location-based damage. Use emp grenades on the shielded enemies. Everything else is gravy!

    • Shuck says:

      Two things:
      The problem isn’t so much that Rage is a linear game, but that it appears to offer other paths, when it, in fact, does not. That’s a design failing. (You know how you can tell if it’s a design failing? If you need one of the game creators to stand behind you while you’re playing, telling you not to go places in order to have a decent game-playing experience.)
      Asking why it looked just like other post-apocalyptic games isn’t a dumb question. (Although essentially the question is: “Why is your visual design so uninspired that you’re ripping off the same fucking movie that every other post-apoc game is?”) That’s a perfectly legitimate question, the answer to which necessarily reveals a lack of inspiration on the game-makers’ part.

    • Squiddity says:

      @Shuck Rage IS a linear game, though. That he thought it was non-linear because he expected it to be like Borderlands simply because the game shares a similar aesthetic is a failure on his part, and says nothing about the game.

      Ever played Darksiders? Rage is a lot more like that than Borderlands. You have a series of linear areas that you are required to visit from a central hub.

      Because it’s also a car game, it has a lot of large, open spaces, but those spaces serve the purpose of allowing vehicular combat, NOT exploration. It is unreasonable to assume that open space = open world. In this case, the space is large because it’s a series of vehicular combat arenas.

      If you need one of the game’s creators to tell you that you shouldn’t do something (the game makes it abundantly clear that you should get into the car with Goodman, and who wouldn’t want to go hang out with him?), then you’re a miserable failure of a gamer. Expectations generated by aesthetics are absolutely stupid.

      I remember when people complained that Fallout 3 looked a lot like Bioshock because it had ruins and music from the 1950s. This is the same kind of thing–a bunch of people are being idiotic because they think it looks like Borderlands (and they think that this is bad), so it ought to play like Borderlands (that it doesn’t, however, upsets them, which is a dumb contradiction).

      Rage is based more on the game design philosophies of Zelda than the game design philosophies of Fallout, STALKER, or Borderlands.

      The game DOESN’T look “just like other post-apocalyptic games.”

      To go back to the Fallout/Bioshock example: just because the games share a few elements in common (in Fallout/Bioshock’s case, ruins and music; in Rage/Borderlands’ case, deserts and cars) doesn’t mean that they’re “just like each other.”

      That’s absurd.

      One game’s a cartoonish, cel-shaded title with crazy monsters and massive fossils. The other’s a stylized, but not cartoony, game that borrows a lot of inspiration from 80s sci-fi, from the Dead City being a lot like the one at the end of The Road Warrior, to a massive use of neon inspired by Blade Runner.

      Yes, they have a grand total of two similarities, but they’re not virtually idential, as much as some people seem to want them to be.

      That’s why the interview was so dumb. “Why is your game like this other game?! This is bad!” followed by “How come they’re so different in gameplay! This is bad too!” is stupid.

      I don’t care if it didn’t meet your expectations, and I’m getting increasingly frustrated by the insistence that a few similarities mean that things are identical. It was an awesome game. Ya’ll remind me of that Penny Arcade strip where someone’s telling a dog it should meow more.

    • CowardlyAnonymous says:

      @Squiddity If you look closer at Rage, I think you’ll find that it was clearly built from ground up to be a game with large degree of freedom. Only in the end they somehow decided to implement limited part of what it could be.

      Chosen setting – vast post apocalyptic planes – is nigh impossible to make completely linear without resorting to noticable cheats like magically opening doors, very conveinently located mountains and invisible walls.
      During most parts of the game the player does not have a clear goal – his character just crawled out into a new world and simply tries to live in it. Most of “essential” tasks do not seem more important than just a side quest, they only seem as only one of the things that can be done here. Contrast it with typical fps story (like in bioshock, dark messiah, cod, crysis, halflife etc, even borderlands) where from the opening titles and to the end there is always a clear short term goal, and usually a clear grand long term goal. The thought of “meh, this quest seems kinda dumb, i’d better do something else” does not really come to mind, there is just nothing “else” to do – you are being told a story with you as a main character. There is no sence in aborting hallife’s main “quest” – you will just be stuck in some random room with aliens taking over Earth. Similarly you aren’t really given any choice when you kill thousands of stroggs in quake. There might be small distractions here and there, but in a linear fps the difference between them and main story is always huge.
      With rage, quest structure almost resembles the likes of oblivion – there are hints that some quests are more important than others, yet it always asks, as if it wants you to choose what are you going to do or to become. It likes to provide you with interesting non-essential characters, quests, that a player can easily like more than non “essential” ones and generally likes to give player a feeling that there’s lots of “stuff” here.
      And when you actually beleive the game and don’t want to do any of the essential quests, this thin illusion quickly falls apart, taking large part of the enjoyment with it. When you try to have fun exploring the desert – the game punishes you. When it doesn’t punish you directly – it will make you go again and again and again to every location you just “discovered” – as a part of storyline, only now locations will actually have interesting things, not just blank lifeless loctaions. Crafting shows its raw mechanics in 20 minutes and is basically some gimmick slapped on to the side, that adds nothing of value to gameplay. After winning races and upgrading your car actually USING it becomes no fun, since you just drive the same routes you just been racing on over and over again.

      This is not a problem with players having wrong expectations, this is a problem with how a game represents itself, with what it hints at – and then fails to deliver. While not everyone will pick up on these hints and in the end leave disappointed, blaming players that do is wrong imho.

  38. Wulf says:

    This is one thing I wish that Bethesda would take to heart. From a personal perspective, I don’t see much point in an open world if they want me to go along a predetermined path in their storyline. If their storyline never branches enough to give me some actual choices, and the freedom to choose, then I might as well be playing something as linear as Dark Messiah anyway.

    To me, ‘choose where I go’ is important, but it’s not as important as ‘choose what I do,’ or ‘choose who I am.’ And that’s an important freedom that a lot of open world games lack. New Vegas got this so right, though. And there’s actually one mod that exemplifies this. I can’t remember the exact name of it, but it was something like ‘warehouse war-house.’ It had a silly title, yes. Look it up on the New Vegas Nexus.

    The point of bringing up this mission is that it exemplified just how much Bethesda’s engine allowed for choice. And how much your approach could change things, and even leave you with a bunch of lives on your conscience if you screw it up (I’m not the sort to reload if I make the wrong choice).

    But yeah, New Vegas and some of the mods out there really get the idea of having the freedom to choose your own path, and having a story that’s designed around that path. NV was clearly built with that philosophy from the ground up, and it’s one of the few games where I’ve actually felt free. Where I felt free to decide, and that my path would actually be different, and lead to a different world, even with different game choices, than someone who was making different choices than I did.

    Fallout 3 is a great example of being teased with faux freedom as I’ve mentioned before. One of the primary examples is to blow up Megaton or not, a simplistic black & white choice, not the best. But it’s the biggest ‘choice’ in the game. And even if you do blow up Megaton, there are no consequences, the quest lines are still available to you, the services are still available (at Tenpenny Tower), and Moira becomes a ghoul, and nothing really changes.

    And in Fallout 3, someone could do as much good with a gun as I could by talking to people, sometimes even more so. And even if they went around killing everyone, they could adjust their overly simplistic, black & white karma scale by giving water to beggars. They’d become the most beloved murderers in the wastes.

    Now compare that to the faction system in New Vegas, where there is no karma, but you can either gain or lose favour with different factions. Your choice with one faction may make you completely despised by a number of others. It’s impossible to balance, you can’t make everyone like you. And if you kill people in New Vegas, quest lines become unavailable to you. It’s not just “Oh, that’s an important person. They’ll now be unconscious for a bit, even after you filling them with lead.” No, they’d die, and all of the content you’d gain access to via them would be lost to you.

    I suspect that in Skyrim we’ll be back to the usual stuff. I mentioned on the forum that Skyrim is a morally simplistic and black & white thing, to the point where I can hear Lars in my head saying you GUD, dragonfire BAD. But the thing is is that I doubt I could even kill the nords if I wanted to. I can’t even choose to be the game’s notion of ‘evil.’ I suspect that the quest givers will be completely immortal and invincible, so I won’t have the choice to rid the land of dragon slayers and complete the game my way. Because Bethesda doesn’t want me to be free, they want me shackled into their linear, boring storyline.

    This, to me, shows just how incredibly, amazingly limited Bethesda are compared to Obsidian. And this makes me sad, it disappoints me, because I remember that back around Morrowind it looked like they’d started off down the right track. There was a lot of choice in Morrowind. I mean, I could even kill all the slavers in the game and free all the slaves, if I wanted. (Sure, this was accentuated with mods like the Twin Lamps, but the option was there in Morrowind anyway. They offered me the freedom to choose, to pick my fate, my own destiny.)

    Maybe I’ve just been watching too much Hercules: The Legendary Journeys lately, what with how he says in almost every other episode that people choose their own destiny, but… yeah. I mean, really. I want to choose my own destiny! If you set out a story and force me to follow it, then I’m likely going to try to break the game, because that’s what I do. I’ve broken many games as well, in hilarious and entertaining ways, which makes the linear storyline impossible to fulfil. I’m going to dawdle, I’m going to do just go off and do random crap, and everything I can to avoid the actual storyline. Because the storyline itself grants me no actual freedom.

    I think that as a hero I should be able to choose whatever the heck I like. And I think that those choices should be nuanced, complex, and they should carry consequences. It shouldn’t be a matter of “You good, them bad, you go hit them. Or not, but then you can’t complete the game.” because I don’t want to play something like that! I’m sorry, fans. I really am. And I realise that it’s probably going to be hard to understand my point of view. But if I’m presented with a world that says I can do what I want, then let me do what I want!

    Anyway. I can already tell from Hines’ diatribe that I’m not going to enjoy Skyrim. It’s a black & white, linear, choiceless affair, where the only actual choice you get is dungeon décor, and even that sounds random rather than an actual choice. And no, Hines, being able to pick whom you take quests from and when isn’t an actual choice, it’s an MMORPG. You might as well put exclamation points above their heads and call it done.

    I just look forward to modders getting their hands on this, and creating some content which actually gives me the freedom of choosing my own path, and my own destiny, instead of just following a pre-written script like a good little actor.

    Wulf. Not a sheep. (And by that I mean that I’m not a fan of being ‘herded’ through games.)

  39. Wulf says:

    I can never tell whether the comments system is just not showing the latest post, or whether it’s actually eaten my post. :|

    (Looks like it was just hidden. You need to look at that bug, guys. It’s a really weird bug, and definitely a bug.)

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      It always seems to happen to me shortly after I go on a particularly grumpy rant, so I always figured it was just awaiting moderation before it could appear. Guess not.

    • Wulf says:

      Nope, it’s actually a bug, relating to new comments over a certain length. I can tell it’s not awaiting moderation because as soon as I add another post, even immediately after with just a one line thing, it shows up. So it’s definitely not moderation.

      RPS tends not to do that though. Which I respect the hell out of them for, frankly. If they do edit, they fess up, and their name is attached to it. And they actually tell you why. A lot of forum moderators could learn a hell of a lot from these guys. It reminds me of the time I spent as a moderator, it’s just a professional yet personal approach that suits the Internet.

      There are forums out there that would cowardly delete a post just because it disagrees with a moderator’s point of view. I could name a few, but I’m a bigger person than that, but they know who they are. And one of the moderators from such a forum posts here. You know who you are. :P

      But yeah, RPS tends to not do that. They’re too cool for those sorts of shenanigans.

      So when I see a post getting eaten, it’s either their overzealous spam filter (which entertainingly acts up when I use a certain word three times in a post, and I’ve managed to actually reproduce this, so I know it’s an issue with their spam filter), or it’s the bug where the latest post over a certain length just isn’t showing up. The only problem though is that sometimes it’s hard figuring out whether it’s actually the spam filter doing it (and I have to track down the problematic words), or whether it’s the bug where new posts over a certain length aren’t showing up.

      And I’ve seen this bug happen to other people, too.

      Really, you know, I’d love to get my hands dirty with the code of their comments system and spam bot as I’m really curious what causes these particular bugs. And it’s hard to get frustrated at them because they’re just that: coding bugs. People who develop software are just everyday people that make mistakes, imagine that. But yeah, bugs are often funny to me, and all too often it can be really fascinating seeing how a bug works. There are some extremely emergent bugs out there too that do really weird things.

      I could segue here into how I do love buggy games, but that’s a topic for another time. Really though, some bugs are beautiful.

      Though I imagine the bugs here are probably more pedestrian. Just hard to fix.

  40. Shooop says:

    The repeated areas are also problematic too. Clear an area like the mutant sewers, then to return to it for a side quest to do nothing but perfectly retrace your steps.

    iD did take a step outside their comfort zone which is commendable, but it seems like the whole concept of a game world beyond one-way corridors frightens and confuses them.

    • Wulf says:

      I am so not a fan of repeated areas. The last thing I want to do is walk through an area which is memorable for being new and having story set in it, then walk through it again doing very similar things. There are a few games that have done this, and it really kills them for me. I’d rather then just use the assets once and provide a nice piece of short content with lots of choices in that content (replay value!) rather than use that same piece of content over and over to artificially elongate the length of the game’s life.

      It’s a shame that developers do this, though, because a game can go anywhere from 5 hours to 50 hours and really… sometimes it needs to just be 5 hours. But five hours of unique, meaningful content, which I’d be more happy to pay for than walking through all those reused assets.

    • Angel Dust says:

      Repeating content usually bothers me too but I actually didn’t mind the repeat sewer encounters, simply because the shooting in RAGE is ace and mutants are the most fun to fight. It’s all optional anyway, so if you don’t like it, don’t do it; it’s not like you aren’t drowning in cash (the reward for clearing the sewer) anyway.

    • Mman says:

      “iD did take a step outside their comfort zone which is commendable, but it seems like the whole concept of a game world beyond one-way corridors frightens and confuses them.”

      They didn’t seem to have problems with that in Doom and Quake.

    • Shooop says:

      A coagulated response to everyone’s replies:

      What bothers me most about the repeated areas is that you don’t do anything different at all. You go the exact same way, fight the exact same enemies, and find pretty much the exact same things for your troubles.

      If they opened up new places to go in those areas when you revisited it’d work much better. But the same doors that were locked the first time through are still locked.

      Doom and Quake didn’t appear to suffer these problems only because they kept you moving forward nearly all the time. You rarely revisited areas, usually only once you had the keycard for the locked door you needed to open.
      And the settings themselves were cramped, claustrophobic military bases. There’s a sense of urgency to get the hell out of there before an imp eats your face. But it’s a bad idea to try and do the same in Rage because it gives you a frustrating illusion of freedom and exploration.

  41. SonicTitan says:

    This article and subsequent discussion has me again thinking about something that I’ve discussed with my wife a number of times – the future of Game Design, as a whole.

    Right now we’re looking at two very specific types of games; in reality, the only two types of games we’ve ever had; open-world, open-ended products, and heavily scripted “stories”; what Chris Park, creator of A.I. War: Fleet Command calls “Exploratory vs. Curatory Game Design”. (Full article here: http://christophermpark.blogspot.com/2010/05/curatorial-vs-exploratory-game-design.html A highly suggested read).

    Park’s examples of exploratory titles include Grand Theft Auto and the first Legend of Zelda game, while he points to Uncharted as being a highly curatorial game. As we see, for a long time now triple-A game designers have leaned heavily towards the curatorial school of game design, attempting to tell a Story (note the capital “S”) at all costs, including true, meaningful freedom within the created world. In this sense, I think there IS something to be said for the notion that developer led story and meaningful player choices are irreconcilable, and I think the comment about game design being all about limiting players’ choices has merit, in the context of curatorial games.

    When Minecraft found itself improbably thrust into the mainstream spotlight, it brought with it an idea that the Dwarf Fortress guys had known for years – Developer led stories and video games may not be as compatible as we thought.

    For years now we’ve seen mainstream artistic expression take a turn – the line between artist and audience has been blurred to the point of being unrecognizable. And video games are a logical culmination of audience interaction with a piece of art (or a “product” if you want to be a cynical dick). I’ll come out and say it: Roger Ebert was at least half right when he said that “there can be no such thing as authorial control” in video games. Since the entire PREMISE of a video game is to give the audience (in this case the player) meaningful choices, then developer control over a story is tenuous at best. At least, that’s how it SHOULD work.

    Unfortunately, triple-A developers have it in their heads that video games are somehow just like movies, only you, you know, press a button every now and then, so it’s like, YOU’RE shooting that dude. Heavy, right?

    But that’s not how video games are supposed to work. The fundamental difference between movies and video games (and any non-interactive medium, for that matter) is that film retains authorial control. You’re just along for the ride.

    With games like Minecraft, Dwarf Fortress, Project Zomboid, etc. indie developers are throwing away any semblance of curatorial design. What they’re doing instead is giving you a set of boundaries (the
    rules of the game, so to speak) a playing field (procedurally generated random world in all three of these examples) and then saying “go do whatever the hell you want within these boundaries.” And the most interesting thing is that story isn’t actually being sacrificed using this method – instead the story is entirely user generated. It’s something you write yourself, within the boundaries of the world that the game designers made for you. Maybe the reason triple-A gaming feels so stagnant these days is because authorial control and video games were never meant to mix.

    Something to think about.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      in reality, the only two types of games we’ve ever had; open-world, open-ended products, and heavily scripted “stories”

      There’s a lot of gray area between those two extremes, though. Stuff like Deus Ex and Thief being prime examples.

      And video games are a logical culmination of audience interaction with a piece of art

      Indeed. Like I say, the best games are tools to help you create your own stories.

    • Wulf says:

      See, this is why I go on and on about Obsidian’s games. They tend to find this balance between telling a story and personal freedom. With NV, they struck a perfect balance, where every action you took resulted in more well written story bits.

      See, if you look at it in the way I am, NV is like… a field of VERY well written Choose Your Own Adventure Books. And these books are set up into regions, and you go into a region, you do the CYOA thing, you get your results and consequences, and a bit of great storytelling, and that can effect the other books around, too. It gives you a sense of freedom, because you can choose, but the story is there as well.

      I think it’s a myth that to tell a good story you need to be linear. And I say that it’s a myth because New Vegas objectively disproves this idea. If you play NV with an objective mindset, and try crazy things you wouldn’t normally try, you see just how much random crap they’ve accounted for. Like a player being a sane, good guy, and then going crazy half way through, and not reloading saves. They’ve accounted for so many play styles and choices. And each of these results in nuggets of story.

      I want to see Obsidian write a design document as to how they do this, then I want to take this design document to other RPG developers and force them to read it, at nerf gunpoint, if necessary.

    • Bart Stewart says:

      The Sims is also worth including in the list of games that create world-systems and then let players create their own stories through their actions.

      The fact that “The Sims” as a franchise has the fourth-highest total number of units sold (GTA is #5 while Call of Duty comes in at #6) suggests to me that, in addition to there being a lot of gamers who enjoy highly controlled play experiences, there are also plenty of gamers who enjoy having choices in their games.

      The “epic” storytelling that CRPG developers always seem to want to do may not be compatible with the mode of emergent microstories that seem natural to open-world, systems-driven simulationist games (like The Sims). But surely, with numbers like The Sims franchise has racked up, some publisher would be willing to take a shot at the potential market for a game that features character-oriented stories that emerge through player choices in a physically and socially simulationist gameworld?

    • Shooop says:

      I think authorial control and video games can mix to a limited degree.

      Most RPGs today have a main storyline you progress in a linear fashion, but they let you decide whenever you actually want to go do it. In Fallout you’re free to go explore the entire game world and do side quests in any order you want before even bothering with the story quests. You don’t have much control over the main story, but you get to decide almost everything else outside of it.

      The Witcher 2 took this idea even farther by making your choices directly effect the way the story progresses, even though it eventually does end roughly the same way. There’s still a main story written by the developers, but they leave it up to the players to decide how they get there and what events occur along the way. Your decisions actually matter. They decide where you go and who you talk to. Granted those events are still scripted and accounted for, but the way they unfold by player interaction makes them feel much more organic.

  42. Jimbo says:

    I don’t really buy that there’s anything wrong with the invisible wall sniper example at the start. They’re taking about two minutes to set up the game world – I don’t think the tiniest bit of player cooperation is too much to ask. I agree that the ‘freedom’ in the rest of the game ultimately boils down to little more than busy work.

    Also, if you took the padding and recycled content out of Rage it would be about 5 minutes long. It’s almost Dragon Agian in how bad it is.

  43. matrices says:

    Freedom is overrated. If you want to experience a quality narrative, you need to be directed. The only question is whether you enjoy the direction.

    Look at The Witcher 2. If CD Projekt had explained what the hell the in-game politics were all about for a second, I might have actually not dawdled a few months in between Act I and II. Once I picked it up again and finished it, however, I realized that it was one of the best games I’d ever played, from start to finish (aside from the embarrassing absence of political context; even the goddamn in-game political map isn’t in English).

    Now why was it amazing? It wasn’t because I got to jump out of a plane, karate kick the pilot in the face, and crash it into a disco blimp, as awesome as that may be in its own way. It’s because I was invested in the character – his history, his circumstances, his companions, and above all, his inability to just snap his fingers and fix the world. It was amazing because the writers behind the game (and of the preceding literature) understand how to make a character and world lived in rather than contrived. What you do has consequences and those consequences cannot be avoided. Or as Marx said, men make their own decisions, but they make them within definite circumstances transmitted from the past.

  44. HilariousCow says:

    I’ve been saying this for years: An honest restriction is better than a false freedom.

    But really, that’s just a re-phrasing of Doug Church’s article on Perceivable Consequence.

  45. Bobtree says:

    What I ALWAYS want from an open-world or sandbox or simulation style game is world dynamics. They don’t even have to be deep or elaborate, just understandable and responsive.

    My go-to example is always Sid Meier’s Pirates! The layer of lively geographic control is enormously addictive.

  46. dr.castle says:

    At least it lets you fling yourself to death over ledges without putting an invisible barrier in your way. That’s one slice of freedom that’s gone missing these days.

  47. scatterbrainless says:

    Surprisingly this was actual a factor that really annoyed me in DX3 – while apparently offering “freedom”, it really only offered 3 options, each of which had a relatively “correct” way of being approached. I really felt that it lacked the kind of simulation and emergent combination of systems that made the original so great. That also kind of gets mirrored in the morality systems: in original DX morality, choice and consequences are a function of gameplay, while in DX3, like Bioware games, it’s pretty much a series of discrete, pre-determined options.

  48. dellphukof says:

    I catch my first glimpse of made-over Peeta when he comes in the front door to collect me. He must have been swayed by the team’s opinion as he’s dressed in a soft-looking white long sleeve shirt. Like me, he’s practically been dipped in skin gunk. Before I realize it, I’m grinning at him. Seeing Peeta without his scars makes him look put back together. He looks more like the boy who introduced me to dipping pieces of bread in hot chocolate. He looks like he did before, without the constant reminders of pain and war. I have enough reminders. I really don’t need anymore seo service.
    The in-demand makeup team has an afternoon appointment, so they depart in a flurry of hugs, sobs and warnings to use conditioner.