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Other open-world

Published on January 31, 2013 at 3:25 PM | by Tom Visco

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Why Open World Games Don’t Work

The first game I remember playing is “Star Fox 64.” When my brothers and I unboxed our Nintendo 64 and played Star Fox, they couldn’t help but marvel at the 3D graphics and the shadows on the water below your aircraft. I couldn’t help but marvel at the choice. At the end of some missions, the game presented you with a fork in the road, and let you choose your path to the game’s finale. The result was an immensely rewarding, replayable experience.

The first game I remember loving is “The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind.”  Gone were the days of linear storytelling. “Morrowind” placed the player in a fully contextualized 3D world, complete with a unique history, mythology, legends and divinities. After a brief tutorial period (about 5 minutes), the player is free to do as he chooses, be it pursue the main storyline, side quests or guilds.
This is a incredible compelling way to treat the player. The game designers constructed a fully realized world and entrusts the player with it. The player can decide how to enjoy him or herself. Since “Morrowind,” the fully open world genre — wherein the player does not have to pursue the main storyline in order to progress in the game — is a standard in the gaming industry with titles such as “Far Cry 3″ being the most recent critically successful entry into the genre.

Choice is at the heart of “Morrowind’s” storytelling, the same with “Skyrim” and other open-world games. But this game mechanic, which is the central component “Morrowind” pioneered, undercuts any attempt at storytelling.

Traditional storytelling is linear. Narratives move from point to point, chapter to chapter, and while games like “Skyrim” certainly have narratives, the game offers too much choice. That’s right, too much choice.

The quest lines in “Skyrim” are enthralling. However, the player’s immense freedom to roam the world risks estranging him or her from the storyline he or she started. A simple walk from Riften to Solitude (that’s right, walk, because fast travel is for those who never played Morrowind) can sidetrack the player for hours as he or she explores dungeons, bandits and other side quests. This undercuts any attempt at storytelling, especially for the more epic quest lines. I cannot be told that my actions will influence/save the world, and then given the opportunity to table the quest line for as long as I see fit. Or, rather, I can be told that, it’s just not good for immersion.

Of course you can just put on blinders during plots, and ceaselessly pursue quest lines to their end. But then what’s the point of the open world? 

Tags: gta, Open World, tes


About the Author

Tom Visco is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Politics and Philosophy. He writes about video games for The Pitt News and Arkade.me. Tom is a life long gamer. His most recent obsession is Dayz and Arma 2 Wasteland, and he's a dedicated Elder Scrolls and KOTOR fan.



  • ProfessorFessor

    The benefit of open world games is choice, yet if you choose to follow
    the storylines then the open world is pointless? What sort of sense does that make? If storyline is important to you then you can choose that and if it isn’t then do something else. Choice means you do what you want! I strictly follow storylines when I play Elder Scrolls games and afterwords I appreciate the open world because there is still a lot to do. The storyline makes a nice introduction to the world that you can now explore. I don’t remember the details of the storyline in Fallout 3 even though that’s the first thing I did but I certainly remember the roaming I did when I loaded my save just before Liberty Prime and started roaming around and found great, fun stuff like The Board of Education. The storylines gave me a sense of where I was which enhances the random adventuring fun.

    Also why is Morrowind an open world and Final Fantasy 1 not? If I want to ignore the storyline and frolic in the woods around Cornelia then that’s my choice right? Why is it that if in Morrowind I run around the woods finding caves and loot instead of completing a storyline then it’s an open world and if I’m just fighting Grimps for fun then it’s a linear storyline? Morrowind isn’t inherently more open than any other RPG, it just gives you more appealing things to do off the beaten path. Is an open world more open because you want to do more things other than the storyline or because there are things you can do other than the storyline? I’ll give you that Morrowind is a better open world, but as a “it is or it isn’t” kind of question, why is Morrowind an open world and Final Fantasy 1 not?

    Also, you know Morrowind was part three in a series right? Just because you didn’t know open world games existed doesn’t mean they weren’t there and the first one you happened to stumble upon pioneered it. I love how you imply you are so above people who use fast travel because they didn’t play Morrowind when you overlook two whole games.

  • ProfessorFessor

    Well in Morrowind you could walk to almost every location from the start and in Final Fantasy you had to complete some storyline to get access to everything. If FF1 had given you the airship, boat, and canoe from the word go it doesn’t change my point.

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