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Opinion: Why open worlds are a big backwards stumble

Over the last 15 years, the mainstream of gaming has shifted from highly-prescribed, two dimensional trips from A-to-B into sprawling 3D cities - whole worlds! - where the player finds their own way. The public reaction? You can hardly hear the demented applause for the over-excited gasps. But let's be honest: open worlds are a big backwards stumble. They're not progress. They're not even what you really want.... read more

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Postby nevernow » 10 Apr 2009, 10:47

1) To each his own.

2) I have played and enjoyed Saints Row (1), then I have played and enjoyed GTA4 and still love it.

3) Devs should focus on creating, big, living, believable worlds and giving the player something fun to do in them, not pick one of the two.

4) Playing as a Latin transexual and beating people with a giant banana prop is not everyone's idea of a fun game, especially if it lasts for more than 15 minutes.

5) Open worlds are not a step backwards, they are a possible trade-off between focus and freedom, between being led towards fun and being left to find your own, at the risk of not getting any.

6) I value the linear model just as the open one, but I think it's out of discussion that they are branches of game design, not different steps on a single path.

7) What exactly is wrong with GTA4? :?:
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Postby janishewski » 10 Apr 2009, 10:51

I could not possibly disagree with your article more.Open worlds,while I agree they need more "activities" in them, allow a level of immersion that the game industry has never come close to before.Oblivion, Fallout 3,GTA 4,etc.. all had their problems but I would never want to go back to some linear game progression to showcase what are ,99% of the time, boring,cliched,amateurish stories and a long chain of mini-games.I actually liked taking the cab in GTA4.It gave me a sense of the city,a feeling that I was a real character in a real space.I`ve been gaming since the 2600 and since Ultima 3 on the PC,and I just feel there is no going back from open worlds.I cant wait to explore more.
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Postby svd_grasshopper » 10 Apr 2009, 10:53

i have put close to 200 hours into GTA4. it is amazing. just TRY and go back to an older GTA, san andreas for example. great in its day, now feels like a cheap saints row game.

IV has bags of class and the realistic physics were hard to come to terms with but they were the right way forward. again driving cars in older GTAs is now a joke.

IV is such a deeper game that it takes a lot to get used to it, to get involved. most of the moaners havent even completed IV, its deemed cool to bash it. possibly because of the perfect 10/10 scores lavished on it from all angles. only idiots let hype wreck a game for themselves. this is no doubt a 10/10 game. certainly not perfect, but nothing is.

shame on this writer for jumping on the bandwagon!!!

if this isnt progress, what is?! walking down a narrow corridor? bumping into a chevron? walking into an invisible wall?!!
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Postby __SpUtNiK__ » 10 Apr 2009, 11:45

I HATED saints row 2 for every reason the author described. Its was so cheap and tacky.

I hated those mandatory mini games.

I hated the story, (Wich is particularly poor)

And i couldn't empathise with any of the characters.

Modern games should be about immersion and narrative, if they want to take on the likes of movies and TV.

Saints row 2 is one of only two games ive traded in recently, the other being Mercenaries 2. THQ should stop making games, their crap at it.
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Postby darkedgy » 10 Apr 2009, 11:48

I agree with the article.

Funnily enough, I enjoy linear games a lot more than I do open-world. Far Cry was more entertaining than Far Cry 2; I enjoyed Spider-man more than Spider-man 3; The Half Life games were brilliant and I still prefer Super Mario Bros to most modern games.

However, I don't agree that you can't have a fun open world game. It just needs to be done right.
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Postby DonnerKebab » 10 Apr 2009, 11:53

My god you (author) must need spoon feeding if you can't entertain yourself in gta4's work of art... you really must have a stunted imagination. I read people complaining that it's too serious with disbelief. I am so happy that rockstar didn't pander to the braindead twitching teens (and you, obviously).

Plus, I am sure that GTA4 will be throwing up alot of surprises - dripping both new characters, stories, and weapons, vehicles etc into Liberty City via dlc (as they did with Lost and Damned)... which suits me fine, and anyone else with even a dot of imagination.
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Postby The_KFD_Case » 10 Apr 2009, 12:14

I find this op-ed piece cogent and quite insightful. I also agree overall with the message it imparts: Interesting/fun gameplay trumphs massive worlds. I like both and I desire both, yet while I am impressed with, and love, the size and scale of games such as "Oblivion" and "FO3", I would rate a game such as "Vampire: Bloodlines" much higher on the enjoyment scale because it had a superior story and provided enough locations that were semi-open to impart a feeling of being in a much larger, breathing world (and the same goes for "Deus Ex" which although an "oldie" now is fondly remembered as one of my top games ever - that said, I doubt time has been kind to it). While I wouldn't mind it being even bigger and more open I will take an engrossing and mature plot over an open-ended world any day.
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Postby The_KFD_Case » 10 Apr 2009, 12:14

darkedgy wrote:I agree with the article.

Funnily enough, I enjoy linear games a lot more than I do open-world. Far Cry was more entertaining than Far Cry 2; I enjoyed Spider-man more than Spider-man 3; The Half Life games were brilliant and I still prefer Super Mario Bros to most modern games.

However, I don't agree that you can't have a fun open world game. It just needs to be done right.


Precisely.
"Unfounded optimism is no worse than relentless pessimism."
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Postby MuramasaEdge » 10 Apr 2009, 12:30

GTA 4 was garbage; it was buggy, the supposed 'realistic' physics were absolutely flawed, the main story wasn't much good beyond the halfway point, the characters were unexciting (Brucie was the only character I actually gave a damn about.) the cars were horribly slow; it wasn't the game it was hyped up to be, and it certainly has taught me not to buy into hype. That said, I don't think it's the crime of open world gaming itself, it's simple laziness from the designers. Saints Row works because you can go crazy and use it as a form of escapism- what's escapist about going for virtual drinks and looking at 'AMERICAN TEE-TEESS!!' with your snivelling cousin?


Yeah, I thought that was the answer.
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Postby flash501 » 10 Apr 2009, 12:35

If you think he's wrong just ask yourself this: Why has the wii done so well this gen?
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Postby allygray69 » 10 Apr 2009, 13:37

wooblah
Last edited by allygray69 on 10 Apr 2009, 14:26, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby will0787 » 10 Apr 2009, 13:50

IT'S CALLED DEVIL'S ADVOCATE FOR A REASON.

As in, argue on behalf of an unpopular or contrarian opinion.

I can't believe some people still don't get this.

The most interesting comments are those which agree - at least in parts. The whole point of articles like this is to make you rethink certain previously-held biases - so if Steve's achieved this in just a few people, he's done a good job.
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Postby StonecoldMC » 10 Apr 2009, 13:56

R* are artists and whilst the first GTA's and those that followed in the series were fun and almost gimmicky (yet still briliant) R* themselves have matured and grown up, they have also probably watched a lot of programmes like The Wire & The Sopranos and movies of a similiar ilk.

Dont get me wrong, It is fun to run around an Open World Game causing havoc and mayhem when your 14/15/16 and even now Im over 30 I can enjoy a bit of mayhem in GTA but I want more than that, I want to be enthralled and entertained and R* have delivered, and them some!

I cant actually believe the stick that GTA IV has recieved, for me it is the standout title this generation and I cant wait to see what R* have lined up for Episode 2 and of course GTA V.
"Nintendo want to make money by supplying fun, Sony want to make money by supplying Art, MS want to make money."

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Postby ledickolas » 10 Apr 2009, 15:04

I sort of agree in essence. With the last gen GTAs I liked the open world but felt that they hadn't really made much of a game to go with it. The shooting and driving just weren't done with any sort of flair. However as the open world thing bedded in with Rockstar they've got better at filling a world with more of a game.

I argue that GTA4 was advanced in the areas I wanted it to. The driving, after you get used to it is satisfying in itself, just tearing around in a ferrari like vehicle was exhilirating. The shooting and cover system did a lot to improve the combat for me.

The problem with a lot of open world games is what the author of this article says is that they don't have the great game to put to it. It would be like a linear game having great, immersive level design but it would be still be rubbish if the actual gameplay mechanics were crap.

For me, the worst open world game is gen is Assassin's Creed. So much love had gone into the story and making the world tangible that they hadn't really thought about how to make the game fun. They filled it with repetitive tasks and flag searching which every open world game seems to cram in to make you explore every nook and cranny.

Saints Row 2 and GTA4 i feel can each exist together, GTA went down the serious road and tried to create a tangible world but for me it was still fun because there was enough of a game in there. Saints Row 2 was a sandbox and I got enjoyment out of that. It was ridiculously buggy though.

So in summary, I would not say open world is the 'stumble backwards' suggested here. You've just got to remember that it is a game.
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Postby Vampyre » 10 Apr 2009, 15:21

The_KFD_Case wrote:and the same goes for "Deus Ex" which although an "oldie" now is fondly remembered as one of my top games ever - that said, I doubt time has been kind to it.


You'd probably be surprised actually. I've recently played through it again after a gap of almost a decade and if you ignore the understandable poor graphical fidelity (it was never that great graphically back in 2000) it still plays superbly. I'd forgotten just about everything, even the plot twists and I'm delighted I gave it another go.

Back on topic - the way I play games there is room for open world and traditional levels. Two of my favourite games this generation with massive open worlds, Oblivion and Fallout 3 could not be done any other way. Two other games, Mario Galaxy and Uncharted are perfect for the "level" model.

As for GTA IV I must admit that although I thought technically it was superb, ultimately it was like every other GTA where a quarter through the game all I was playing it for was to move the story along; I wasn't particularly enjoying it. That's just me though, it's a problem I've had with every GTA. I can fully understand why other gamers love them.
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