A good open world game makes you feel part of the world. Your choices have an influence on the environment. Open world games provide gamers with a sense of freedom and choice. You are free to explore the entire world and discover adventures and stories. Yet not all game worlds are as immersive and need additional content and characters to make them meaningful.
Developers want to create large and believable open worlds that are capable of making us forget about the real world. To be honest, most games fail to achieve this level of immersion. The exceptions to this rule are games such as Grand Theft Auto or Assassin’s Creed – Origins.
Believable characters and environments
The world of ancient Egypt in Assassin’s Creed – Origins is large but filled with cities and locations for gamers to explore. The citizens and villagers live in these cities and as a gamer you feel part of the world as you wander through the streets of the larger metropolis or around the market squares in the smaller towns inhabited by families, vendors and guards.
In Grand Theft Auto 5, you become a citizen in a large metropolis. To readers with minimal cultural context, Grand Theft Auto 5 is a game about provocative issues in a world designed in response to the ridiculousness of our contemporary society. Its credibility depends on the believability of the urban environment and its inhabitants.
To support the message, the different districts of Los Santos and its countryside have been created with attention to detail. Of course, an open world feels empty without believable citizens and characters to support the narrative. For this reason, the developer added a wide range of characters to the game to encounter throughout the story and your adventures in the world.
Decisions and consequences
Needless to say, it is not enough for the game world to be believable. The response to the choices and decision of the gamer also needs to be meaningful. A choice must have a certain weight to it and the response of the world needs to serve as a counterbalance. The reaction makes the world feel as it exists and reacts to changes.
In games such as Grand Theft Auto 5, Assassin’s Creed – Origins and The Witcher 3 – Wild Hunt, events in the storyline often leave a permanent impression on the open world. In Grand Theft Auto 5, you can hear news reporters on the radio report on the recent heists. The robbery site is also closed for further investigation.
These are small addition that offer an added value and show that the game world reacts to your personal actions. Each key event in the game needs to have a meaningful result on the world. Otherwise, the open world is nothing but a meaningless and blank canvas.
A repetitive experience
Developers often make the mistake to create an open world that is too large. It is not simple to fill it with relevant content. In Assassin’s Creed – Origins and Grand Theft Auto 5 you encounter more missions and characters as you travel the world. However, these games need to prevent the reuse of mission structures.
Tasks such as talk to a person in location A, find object X on location B and deliver it to another person in location B are an overdone formula. In an open world, gamers need to have the feeling that every mission is different and meaningful. It creates a sense of immersion. Each mission has to be a distinct gameplay experience.
Reconsider the scale of the world
To work out a detailed world full of objectives, activities and quests is an enormous task. The desire to create larger and larger worlds often has a negative impact on the gameplay experience. The addition of more and more quests may make the entire game too overwhelming.
The answer is clear, create a smaller and more detailed world with less quests in total but offer a wider range of mission structures to deliver a more believable experience and a more immersive environment.
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Disclaimer. This post contains copyrighted images from Assassin’s Creed – Origins, a video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. The fair use of copyrighted works for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting or research is not considered as an infringement of copyright.