(New Project) Exploring Open Worlds

So, finally this strange year has come to an end.

And naturally, this makes you reflect about what has happened so far, what I have achieved and what not, what I would like to do, or what I would like to stop doing.

When I browsed through my blog I was wondering, how I should continue with it, and had a strange realization. Because, when I looked at all the games I played, and the games I wrote about, surprisingly many were within the genre ‘Open World’. And funnier enough, this is a type of game I don’t really like at all. Actually, I always thought I would actively avoid to play them. Not because these games are ‘bad’, but simply because I could not comprehend, what and how an ‘Open World’ really is implemented within a video game, and how a story should unfold within such a game world.

In every ‘Open World’ game I played lately, I had the feeling that my job is to do only chores. Going down that to-do-list. Meaningless tasks to keep me playing, like running from question mark to question mark and kill and kill and kill like in Assassin’s Creed: Origins. Or like Cyberpunk 2077, in the prelude to the game, you have your first run with Jackie and a shoot-out with those gang members in this apartment; the mood and atmosphere is awesome! But when the first room is clear I stop, unroll my garbage bag and collect all coffee mugs, clothes and other crap that has been left in the room by those dudes I just shot. Just like a good garbage-boy. And my problem with this is: I can not NOT do it! I HAVE to collect all this trash! Why??!!

So, out of curiosity I browsed my library and found quite some games there, like almost all from Assassin’s Creed, The Elder Scrolls, GTA, Borderlands and some other, smaller games. And I have not played them yet. Next I went to Wikipedia and found the Open World Games Category, with more quite interesting games there.

And so I wondered… why not explore this ‘Open World’ genre more and start at the very beginning?

So why not – quite similar to the great CRPG Addict – start a tour de force through history, but with a focus on ‘Open World’ games only, and of course report on my experience when playing them.

Full with motivation I then started building a list from Wikipedias’ Open World category and it soon become obvious, that some cleaning up is in order. So I created my own Master Open World List, which I categorized into games to-play, games I would exclude and games I would at least consider.

After more thinking, tinkering and formatting, I arrived at the following selection criteria, for this quite epic endeavor:

  • The game must have a completable story line.
    This is important, as I would never finish with any game, or make it anywhere, if I do not have a completable state somewhere/-when. And, I need a storyline; this is really essential for any game I play.
  • The game should have a third-person perspective.
    I am not a big fan of first-person games, simply because I don’t feel the immersion. Cyberpunk 2077 showed me a new experience, so I softened this rule to notable exceptions within the Open World genre: Borderlands, Elder Scrolls, Far Cry and Fallout. I guess writing about ‘Open World’ and not adding these game series would be rather stupid anyway.
  • Chronological order is by year of first release.
    So when a game was first released on console in 2015 and came to PC in 2017 I will still consider 2015 as the relevant year.
  • I will only play on PC.
    Additionally I own a PS4 and Switch, but these are occupied by my kids, so it will be difficult to get a hold.
  • I will not play MMORPGs at all.
    For my own sake and mental stability; and my purse.
  • I will not play and free2play games.
    For my own sake and mental stability; and my purse.

This means that all games found on the ‘Exclusion’ tab fall into one or more of these criteria. I will add some quick notes to this table later in time, why I placed the game in this category. The ‘Considered’ category is there for my own relief and interest in the game itself. So maybe I start playing a game from there; or maybe not.

So when playing these ‘Open World’ games, again inspired by the CRPG Addict with his decade long experience of doing something like this, some more guidelines will apply.

  • Games will be played in chronological order.
    Within a year I will choose the game to play. When two consecutive games follow each other (e.g., Fallout 1 and 2), I will insert the follow-up game as a relief.
  • I will always play the best possible version of the game available at the start of my playthrough.
    Games age better or worse and I know my weaknesses. There are people out there, that can take it all (=CRPG Addict among others) and I am sure I would struggle, a lot! So when there is an ‘updated’ version, I will play this version.
    • When there is an ‘enhanced’ or ‘remastered’ version available (e.g., Wasteland), I will play this version.
    • When there are 4k texture mods available (e.g., for Morrowind, Oblivion etc.), I will use them.
    • When there are fan-remakes (e.g., Daggerfall Unity), I will play these versions.
    • As long as they do not restrict, cut or alter the original story or any core-game mechanics!
  • I will aim to complete the game and complete the main story.
    Of course I am aware, that ‘Open World’ games have the aim and possibility for players to explore the game-world or spend a lot of time in there, leave the main story, etc.
    Still, I will let myself go through the game as I see fit. Maybe I will enjoy the Open World and explore, or I will follow the main story when I am bored and so on. This will greatly depend on the game, so I will see how this will unfold later. I am still an Incompletionist after all…
  • I will play the game without preparation, guides or help.
    Only when completely stuck or I am plagued by bugs or any other sort of errors.
  • I will at least play six hours before I stop playing the game.
    Here I follow again the CRPG Addict and this rule makes a lot of sense in ‘Open World’ games too, as they take their time to unfold. I have also listed playtimes from howlongtobeat.com for each game, for better bearings in how much time the game will cover in various modes of play.
  • I will write a summary and discuss the Open World of each game following these attributes:
    These below are just a start and I will probably adjust them, when I have more experience with writing about it. I will not do a quantitative assessment in points; this will remain purely qualitative.
    • Believability of the World
      How is the world I am in actualized? What are NPCs doing around me? How are they reacting to what I do and what are they doing, when I do nothing?
    • Feeling of Openness
      Can I go wherever I like and to all the places I see in the distance? How expansive is this world?
    • Immersion
      How much do I feel being a part of the world, or being inside this world?
    • Level of distraction
      How (often) is the world leading me astray, motivating me to leave my current task and check on something else?
    • Level of freedom
      What and how much can I do in the game-world and how free am I in exploration vs goal-directed gameplay. So how much am I the actor in this world in terms of player expression.
    • The Story
      How good is the story and how is the story embedded within the world?

The first game on the list will be Wasteland (Remastered) from 1988, and I am really looking forward to this one, as I would not have expected it to have an ‘Open World’ at all.

And so I am off, into the Open World.

The Incompletionist

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