This is an article I wrote back in Summer 2009 about open world games. I hope you find it interesting!
GTA IV, Fallout 3, Elder Scrolls IV, Red Faction Guerrilla, InFamous, Prototype. Apart from being awesome games, what do they have in common? They are HUGE. As in physically. All these games have a common component that really adds to the overall experience, and that is an open world. Why are more and more games featuring open world environments? Is this the new 2009-2010 trend? And what does it mean for the future of gaming? Letís take a look and see!
With the arrival of next gen consoles like the XBOX360 and the PS3, not only do they bring new graphical capabilities, features like WIFI and a better online gaming system, but they also have a powerful processor. Microsoftís Xenon (consisting of three sinlge core processor) and Sonyís Cell (often seen as more powerful but more complicated to work with) have enourmous processing capabilities. They can process more information, faster.
That enables Game Studios to make bigger games, litterally, the main obstacle now being the size of the format (that is, untill the studios reach the limit of the processors, but we are not there yet!). The XBOX360 has the DVD format, and the PS3 has the bigger Blueray. You would think that with more space there would be more things, but all the games cited in the introduction are multiplatform (except for InFamous).
So great, you say (or not say as far as I know), the studios have better processors and bigger formats to work with. Why are not all games open worlds? And what is an open world anyway? Well letís define what that is first.
An open world game is a video game that features a big environment where the player is free to move wherever. If you take a game like Eternal Sonata, some of the levels are huge, but that is not an open world game. You can not run around in dreamland. But games like Fallout 3 that have cities that you can go to; or Red Faction Guerrilla where whenever you want to go to the far end of Mars, all you have to do is drive there, now thatís an open world. Itís pretty much the ultimate simulation of freedom of movements right now. You want to go to that place you see in the background? Then go!
But an open world has to bring something to the game. For example in InFamous, the PS3 exclusive title by SuckerPunch (the makers of Sly Cooper), Empire City is a huge place to visit. The city is divided in three parts that all become accessible at some point in the story. But itís not grandure for gandureís sake! The people walking in the city react to you. That and pretty much every mission involves you climbing on tall buildings. The same for Protoype, where climbing up to the top of skyscrappers is a good way to escape tanks! And as for good games, they usually mean no or few loading times. Missions and story events start by physically going to the locations, whether itís walking, driving or fastporting there (Fallout 3, Elder Scrolls)!
So what, should all games be open world, and have that sense of freedom? Now thatís just according to your own personal opinion, but I think not. I donít feel like Splinter Cell should be open world. How does the stealth element work with that setting? Or games like Bioshock, or RPGs are awesome experiences without the need of a big environment.
What does that mean for the future of gaming? Well, when you look at upcoming games like The Saboteur by Pandemic and EA, that takes place in World War II Paris, looks absolutely stunning. They need to fake the capital of France, and size helps a lot. And since it features GTA mission-like gameplay, the choice seems to be justified even more. The new installment of the Halo franchise, HALO ODST also has an open world component. You will be roaming the city, looking for your lost mates, therefore enhancing the feeling of actually Ďlookingí for someone and rescuing that person.
As you can see, Open World gaming now being a very feasible reality, and our consoles hardware making it possible, I think we are going to see more and more games like these. But the question will now become, who makes the best use of it? And that, dear readers, is a question YOU will answer.