It's an old video game development problem: how do you make a world look large while keeping players out of unplayable areas? Some games block players from places they shouldn't go with impassable terrain, or barricades, or with the traditional invisible wall, or by straight killing you for straying too far. So I'm fascinated by one upcoming game's solution: train tracks along the edge of town with crossing barriers that are usually raised, but will always close just in time for an endless train to trundle past when you get near. Have a look!
Very tidy, that. Looks like the world continues (it really doesn't, a behind-the-scenes pic shows) and you're simply cursed by inconvenient train scheduling. This illusion of an exit is so much more delightful than a permanently closed barrier or constant train would be.
It's from Sushi Ben VR, an upcoming VR "slice of life anime sim" about moving to a small seaside town and getting to know the unwelcoming locals as you become a regular at a sushi bar. It uses 3D manga panels to help tell the story too, as you can see with the train alerts.
Here's a clip from an earlier prototype showing an attempt to get trapped in an endless train hell:
While unsubtle boundary walls are a clear sign, I would like to see more games be playful with dressing them. Especially when the classic debris dumps blocking corridors in so many games are clearly obstacles a person could pass. With water boundaries, you could have currents and rogue giant waves pushing players ashore. Or a horrible swan scaring you back. Some other games do already play with this, including the war games which dress the "turn back" warnings of their boundaries with artillery fire (though I think they could do the courtesy of making it more dramatic with nice explosions), but I'd like to see more do it in other strange ways. I mean, obviously a world that's coincidentally always against you is tonally unusual and can't work in everything, but also I do believe that every game world's borders should be policed by a terrifying orb chasing me down, The Prisoner-style. Let me flee with the hope of a tiny glimpse into the void before the orb fully murders me.