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ShadowDurza

The flaw of an endless open world and how it can be overcome.

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First thing's first, let's address what is perhaps the greatest flaw any open world game has, emptiness. I'm not saying that every open world game has this flaw, but if this flaw goes unchecked, it can cripple an otherwise brilliant game. Many games have overcome this and have risen to be legends such as The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, Assassin's Creed: Origins, and (my personal favorite) Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. However, the one thing that no-one can deny about these games is that they have limits. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, rather the fact that those games have limits is probably what made them great because the developers could work extra hard to make everything they offered the finest they could. Be it through a colorful and motley cast of characters, utterly unique content, and compelling gameplay. But I'm not here to talk about your average ordinary Open World games, I'm talking about a special, new, and somewhat unrefined form of video game that offers an endless world to explore.

An example: No Man's Sky. No Man's Sky was incredibly appealing because it offered a game world whose vastness was beyond compare. It offered an endless amount of places to go, but that was it's undoing. Video games aren't just about going places, they are about doing things. When I played No Man's Sky, what I got most interested in was finding upgrades for the ship and multi-tool. But it lost it's appeal to me because I realized that despite the fact that you had an endless amount of places to go, you had a severely limited amount of things to do. Sure you could interact with the different species and scan the local fauna, but it was all the same to me, the multi-tool was your primary method of interacting with the world, but you could only interact with the world in certain particular ways.

Another example: Minecraft. Minecraft came close to defeating the flaw of an endless open world to the point where No Man's Sky tried to mimic it to save itself. You can build anything in Minecraft, and because of that, it can offer an endless amount of things to do. But it isn't the kind of thing that appeals to everyone, probably because not everyone has fun being creative just for the sake of creativity. The most creative thing I built was a flat-sided square building, first out of cobblestone, then out of solid stone, to serve as a home base for exploration, but what really appealed to me was crafting because crafting was doing something that could enhance future ways to do other things. I did have fun exploring, but once you've seen one cave, you've seen them all. So in a nutshell, Minecraft offered an endless world and an endless amount of things to do, but it did so in a way that they didn't match up well and doesn't appeal to everyone.

Some of my favorite games were (and are) Super Mario Sunshine, Banjo Kazooie, Banjo Tooie, Ty The Tasmanian Tiger 1, 2, and 3, Okami, Rayman 3, Far Cry 4 and Primal, and Sonic Adventure 1 and 2. What they all have in common is that they're sandbox games. Orthodox sandbox games generally revolve around collecting things or fulfilling goals to collect things, but collecting those things rarely serves to enhance gameplay other than to make a way to collect more of those things. But despite this, I keep coming back to those games. After thinking long and hard, I decided that what keeps me coming back is discovery and testing the limits of my skills.

Now to the hypothesis. The appeal to an open world game is endless discovery and endless things to do. But even with procedural generation, it is impossible to make a game like that without things getting a little stale and similar. Even if the game implements discoverable things that add new mechanics, eventually the players will run out of new things to discover and new things to do. But there might be a method to do it in a way which can allow the player to have a number of mechanics, tactics, and methods at their disposal so great that it would be impossible for one player to uncover them all. Instead of a discovery being just an achievement or new gameplay element, it should also offer the possibility to unlock more achievements and elements depending on how the player matches up or arranges the discovery with others. That way even if the number of discoveries is limited, the possibilities each discovery offers are beyond what anyone could do by themselves. And maybe a good way to go about it is to make the number of uses each discovery has limited so that the player has to constantly venture out in the world to get the most out of their favorite discoveries. But above all, the challenges offered to the player must not call for one specific mechanic, there might be a few that would make the challenge easier, but even if using any other mechanic would make conquering the achievement harder, it would encourage players to test the limits of their creativity and skills without making them feel restricted. How could something like this be implemented? I don't know. That's why I'm posting it here like a thesis so that maybe someone with the right capabilities would read this and make the game I and possibly many others have been waiting a very long time for. I had a few ideas myself, but that is a post for another time.

A few games that I feel helped me realize these ideas were Megaman Battle Network and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (Because of the number of abilities and mechanics they offered) Magika (Because of the mixing up of abilities) and Super Mario Odessey (for the different captures changing up the mechanics).

Like my ideas, want to add or expand on them, or have some of your own? Please, leave a reply!

Edited by Levi Lohman
Edit 1:Wrong word in wrong sentence. Edit 2: Slight clarification.

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19 minutes ago, Descent said:

It's very easy to overcome emptiness. Here is how to do it:

1. You need the size of your world. Split the world into 256x256 pixel areas (or higher, lesser).

2. Create a trigger for the entrance of each area, so that when player enters it, either a big boss spawns, earthquake appears, music changes, player dies and etc.

3. Each area should have a decoration that is random and does not appear in the any area that is close to that one

And etc.

That is a very good plan for a broad range of games. But remember, it's not just what you implement in a game, it's how you implement it. Content does not cover for bad gameplay.

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Elite Dangerous is pretty much No Man Sky with more interesting gameplay. It pretty much have an endless world with its 400 billion stars galaxy.

X3 is a much more complex sandbox (you can build your own space empire) which could also work in an endless map.

Mount and blade in endless space could also work.

Though an endless world is really not needed when you consider that you can sink 1000s of hours in non endless worlds of such games. It just needs to be big enough and the gameplay will take care to make it fun forever.

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I've been trying to make games like that for you for many years, Levi.  Nobody cares and nobody is interested.  I wouldn't hold your breath, nobody wants an "artificial universe".  You can't give one away...

 

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2 hours ago, Kavik Kang said:

I've been trying to make games like that for you for many years, Levi.  Nobody cares and nobody is interested.  I wouldn't hold your breath, nobody wants an "artificial universe".  You can't give one away...

 

Why? The only reason I can think of is that nobody has done it right yet, the community has become a little apprehensive when it comes to endless worlds and as a result, they often have cynical comments to make when faced with things like that. I know for a fact that not everyone has given up on the idea of a perfect endless world game, so if you ever shared that dream you should at least try to share your experiences and failures, or at the very least not say anything at all. BTW I hate cynicism. If everything in you says that someone is going to fail, then the best thing one can do to help them is to let them fail because their failure will offer a greater experience rather than giving up partway through, and who knows, you might be surprised.

Edited by Levi Lohman
Elaboration.

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You'd have to ask them why they have no interest in it.  Not a single person has ever contacted me about it.  It could just be because I am a "rock star game designer" and they don't allow us into the industry under any circumstances.  They decided long ago that they didn't want to become like Hollywood, where you either have a big name actor or director or you don't get to make a big budget movie.  They saw this same situation developing early in the history of their own industry with people like Sid Meier, Will Wright, and Jon Romero.  They came up with the phrase "game designer as rock star" as "the worst person you can have in your office" as a means of saying "don't let the true professionals into the industry" without actually saying that.  I was probably one of the inspirations for this phrase, and the poster child of exactly the types of people they didn't want to let in... because then who gets funded can be a random lottery instead of being a matter of who has the "rock stars".  They don't want their business to work like Hollywood, and to do that they need to keep out anyone who might stand out among the crowd.

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You're getting way off topic Kavik, this is not the place to rehash your apparent grievances with the industry again.

If you want to discuss open world design your input is welcome. Ranting about how you think you have been wronged or "the industry isn't fair" is not - take it to another topic or blog entry if you really want to talk about that again.

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I was just answering his question, it was not a rant.  I wasn't planning on continuing along those lines.

As for creating an artificial universe... "Time is the fire in which we burn."

 

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1 hour ago, Kavik Kang said:

I was just answering his question, it was not a rant.  I wasn't planning on continuing along those lines.

As for creating an artificial universe... "Time is the fire in which we burn."

 

I used to not like the fact that you had to wait so long for good games to be developed. My first console was a Nintendo GC, and it is what made me fall in love with video games. What I didn't like was that I had to wait many years for my favorite franchises to release new games. Then I got into PC gaming, and that completely changed my attitude about the subject. Some of the first games I bought for PC were so buggy, unfinished and corner-cut that they were practically unplayable until they got a lot of updates or I got a new PC. So I started to appreciate Nintendo and other companies that would rather make the fans wait than go through the shame of releasing an unfinished game. Detail over deadline.

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It's just personal preference, of course, but I've always only liked games on console if they are best controlled with a gamepad.  Any game that is better played with a mouse and keyboard, I like better on the PC.  In my mind, console games are gamepad games and anything else is better on PC.  Even then, because of it's the greater capabilities and wider range of options of a PC (even if it is a gamepad game, you still have the keyboard to work with for example), I generally think of all games as being potentially better on PC.  Not that console games can't be great games, it's just that there is always more to work with on PC where even if a gamepad is the best control device, you still have a keyboard and mouse to work with as well.

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