Simon J McDonnell

Creating cool stuff

Staying Linear in an Open World

This guy is having a great time

This guy is having a great time

I sometimes have trouble with open world games. There’s too much to do. I noticed it again when playing The Witcher 3 recently.

I’m the kind of player who has to complete everything there is to do. I draw the line at pointless collection fests like Ass Creed 2’s feather quest, but everything even mildly story related will usually be totally cleared out before I’ll move on. I’m the kind of guy who will complete everything even if it makes him over levelled for the next area, which he then fully completes which expands the problem for the next one, and so on. I’m the kind of guy who, in Deux Ex, hacked EVERY hackable thing in the game, read every piece of written text, and knocked out every guard (yes, every) in the entire game.

I like to complete things, okay?

But that’s a big problem in open world games. They pride themselves on content. On having a million and one things for the player to do and complete. This encourages the kind of player who likes to play loosely, taking the game as it comes to them.

This is really hard for me to do. I keep trying to complete everything, even when doing so is not even that fun. I’ll give you a couple of examples.

In Saints Row 3 I only completed the first two or so story missions, and then spent about ten hours completing assassination and car jacking missions. I had fun for the first while, but then it just became about completing all of them. I was no longer having fun, I was just completing things.

At the start of The Witcher 3 there’s a battlefield nearby. A couple of quests are completed there, but nothing starts there. Despite this I spent a good half an hour picking up rusty hatchets from the many many many corpses. I then died to some wild dogs because I am a fearless monster slayer with a weakness to things that bite me. So what did I do, as I reloaded to before I picked up these hatchets? I picked them all up again, of course.

A whole city of new things to collect! Great.

A whole city of new things to collect! Great.

These are minor incidents, but they exemplify a style of play that clashes really hard with the ethos of open world games. It leads me to playing things in a way that is really not that fun, and it’s something I have to guard against when starting out. I hadn’t even played the witcher in a week or two because I found it kind of boring. After doing some of the main story missions again I realised I wasn’t really bored of the game, just the endless procession of tiny quests I was doing.

The designers made these worlds to lose yourself in, to follow where you want, and do what seems fun, because there’s content everywhere. They didn’t intend for people to joylessly hunt down every piece of content in each area before allowing themselves to move on to the next. Because that’s crazy. It would take forever and wouldn’t be fun, and then you’d be left with a barren map, with no diversions from the main plot.

It requires me to relax my usual standards of collection and completion, because I’m not not taking the game the way it’s meant to be taken.

Open world games aren’t really meant to be finished, just inhabited.

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