Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Game Design Philosophy: Open-World Content

See also: Eastern RPGs vs Western RPGs

I've been playing a lot of Xenoblade Chronicles lately. ...A lot. What really attracts me to the game is the nice vast open world gameplay. Something that's really missing from the newer eastern-RPGs. (I think you all know what I'm referring to when I mean that.)
(Xenoblade Gameplay -- by CoreysCollection)


Final Fantasy XII does a similar world-design concept, and I think Xenoblade was heavily designed by it. XII was then inspired by XI's world design, which was an MMO, to give the player an impression that they had a lot of areas to explore. That there were areas to go to that weren't even part of the main scenario.

Players are encouraged to explore not just the areas they have to go to, indicated by the pointer in Xenoblade or the icon on the minimap in XII, but to check that crevice to the side, those mountains over there, or to just uncover the map in order to find new things or secret monsters.

(Final Fantasy XII Gameplay -- by aalsebti)

I'm also a giant fan of Rockstar's games, Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, Midnight Club, etc. Their various games have a lot of content to do in an open world that gets wider as you progress through. Midnight Club stands out as a racing game which allows you to go whereever you want and not along a defined track, as long as you the racer hits all of the checkpoints along the way.

The Zelda games particularly stand out as a sore thumb, but to the opposite extreme. I think I was turned off by those games by the un-explained nature of the earlier games. You're kind of just thrown into the middle of the game and expected to find things on your own. I was told this aspect was fixed in the later games in the series, but haven't had a chance to get around to them just yet.  

As much as I love exploring and searching every little thing in games, one thing that stands out in most of the examples is that the beginning is treated with a little too much freedom. I believe that the early parts of a game should be hand-holding you through the process and kinda push you where you need to go until all of the basic game mechanics are explained or at least your main quest/objective is outlined.


I almost forgot to mention western RPGs into this equation. A lot of those games do the very things I like. Open world gameplay and lots of freedom-of-choice. But I guess what keeps me from enjoying them is that there's no emphasis on a central story. I like seeing a game that has a story and the side-quests are used to advance the overarching plot.

I would like to see more games out there like Xenoblade. Games that have a central emphasis on a plot with well-defined characters that are present of eastern-RPGs, yet have the open-ness and freedom of western-RPGs.

That would be one hell of an obstacle given that one aspect inevitably takes away from the other.

Anyway, what games do you guys suggest that has a good balance between character development and open world story content?

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