Expanding Horizons: Exploring Open World Gaming

Recent AAA titles have introduced us to the most expansive open worlds we have ever seen in video games. Will game environments continue to grow? At what point is big too big? We look at how titles like Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Skyrim have successfully balanced huge open world without distracting from amazing game play and story.

Nic Healey [Breakfast Host, 2SER 107.3FM], Mark Wilson [Game Designer, Bioware, Team Bondi, Riot Games], David Gaider [Creative Director, Beamdog], Tim Stobo [Principal Quest Designer, Guerrilla Games]

Here are some of my takeaways:

You always need to make narratives fit into an open world. To overcome the sheer size, they have to create a point of no return.

One Challenge they faced: light vs main content. Developers give less credo to the light content because it doesn’t get as much scrutiny. “It’s a side thing, no one will play it”, however with player behvaiour in an open world, they tend to play the sidequests first. Therefore the best games give equal waiting to both so that for the player, there is no distingushing between light and main content.

Systems and Design need to work together to be able to stop players from doing things that will prevent the story from continuing.

Goldilocks theory: You need to make it big enough to fit the world and the narrative for that game.

Anticipatory Exhaustion: Players have the sense of….”Oh man! I have to explore all of this?”

Fires in the dark conundrum: how to make fires to show and allow players to experience the narrative of the fire without needing to know the connection to any other items that may have happened previously.

Side joke: fires in an open world, the first time they tried it… was disasterous. Designers had asked for the fires to behave like it did in real life. So they researched it, found the right propogation and let it try as they went for lunch. When they came back, the win screen was being shown. Turns out, the fire had propogated through the entire game and killed the boss. So they had to go back to the drawing board and ensure the fire would propogate but only to a certain extent.

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