Open world: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An open world is a type of video game level design concept where a player can freely roam a virtual world.[1] The term is sometimes used interchangeably with "sandbox" and "free-roaming".[2][3] Terms such as open world, sandbox and free-roaming allude to the absence of artificial barriers,[4] in contrast to the invisible walls and "loading..." screens that are common in more linear level designs. As with a physical sandbox, the user is entertained by their ability to play creatively, boundless of artificial structural constraints, and with there being "no right way"[5] of playing the game. However, many open world games still enforce restrictions at some points in the game environment, either due to absolute game design limitations or temporary limitations imposed by a game's linearity.


Gameplay & design

Story-telling in games in most cases is little different to the stories of those Harold Lloyd films of the 1920s. The player is stuck on pre-defined railway lines, forced to follow their character's pre-determined adventures, much as in a book or a film. In story-telling terms at least, games have not yet broken free of their non-interactive roots. The Holy Grail we are looking for in fifth generation gaming is the ability to have freedom, and to have truly open-ended stories.

—David Braben, writing for BBC News[6]

An open world is a level or game designed as a nonlinear, vast open area with many ways to reach an objective.[7] Some games are designed with both traditional and open world levels.[8] An open world facilitates greater exploration than a series of smaller levels,[4] or a level with more linear challenges.[9] Reviewers have judged the quality of an open world based on whether there are interesting ways for the player to interact with the broader level when they ignore their main objective.[9] Some games actually use real settings to model an open world, such as New York City.[10]

A major design challenge is to balance the freedom of an open world with the structure of a dramatic storyline.[11] Since players may perform actions that the game designer did not expect,[12] the game's writers must find creative ways to impose a storyline on the player without interfering with their freedom.[13] As such, games with open worlds will sometimes break the game's story into a series of missions, or have a much simpler storyline altogether.[14] Other games instead offer side-missions to the player that do not disrupt the main storyline.[15] Most open world games make the character a blank slate that players can project their own thoughts onto, although several games such as Landstalker: The Treasures of King Nole offer more character development and dialog.[4]

Games with open worlds typically give players infinite lives or continues, although games like Blaster Master force the player to start from the beginning should they die too many times.[4] There is also a risk that players may get lost as they explore an open world; thus designers sometimes try to break the open world into manageable sections.[16]


Procedural generation and emergence

Procedural generation refers to content generated algorithmically rather than manually, and is often used to generate game levels and other content. While procedural generation does not guarantee that a game or sequence of levels are nonlinear, it is an important factor in reducing game development time, and opens up avenues making it possible to generate larger and more or less unique seamless game worlds on the fly and using fewer resources.

Most 4X and roguelike games make use of procedural generation to some extent to generate game levels. SpeedTree is an example of a developer-oriented tool used in the development of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and aimed at speeding up the level design process. Procedural generation also made it possible for the developers of Elite, David Braben and Ian Bell, to fit the entire game—including thousands of planets, dozens of trade commodities, multiple ship types and a plausible economic system—into less than 22 kilobytes of memory.[17]

You need great simulational technology. (...) [Simulated worlds] have more power than scripted worlds because they allow people to play around in that world. (...) [Good world simulations] allow people to discover things ... to push the boundaries of worlds.

—Peter Molyneux, interview with GameSpy[18]

Emergence refers to complex situations in a video game that emerge (either expectedly or unexpectedly) from the interaction of relatively simple game mechanics.[19] According to Peter Molyneux, emergent gameplay appears wherever a game has a good simulation system that allows players to play in the world and have it respond realistically to their actions. It is what made SimCity and The Sims compelling to players. Similarly, being able to freely interact with the city’s inhabitants in Grand Theft Auto added an extra dimension to the series.[18]

In recent years game designers have attempted to encourage emergent play by providing players with tools to expand games through their own actions. Examples include in-game web browsers in EVE Online and The Matrix Online; XML integration tools and programming languages in Second Life; shifting exchange rates in Entropia Universe; and the complex object-and-grammar system used to solve a puzzles in Scribblenauts. Other examples of emergence include interactions between physics and artificial intelligence. One challenge that remains to be solved, however, is how to tell a compelling story using only emergent technology.[18]

In an op-ed piece for BBC News, David Braben, co-creator of Elite, called truly open-ended game design "The Holy Grail" of modern video gaming, citing games like Elite and the Grand Theft Auto series as early steps in that direction.[6] Peter Molyneux has also stated that he believes emergence (or emergent gameplay) is where video game development is headed in the future. He has attempted to implement open-world gameplay to a great extent in some of his games, particularly Black & White and Fable.[18]


Turbo Esprit (1986)

The space sim Elite is often credited with pioneering the open world game concept in 1984,[5][1][20][21] and other early 2D games such as Dragon Slayer (1984), Metroid, Dragon Quest,[4] and Legend of Zelda (1986)[22] also featured nonlinear level design. Furthermore, there were several early games that offered players the ability to explore an open world while driving a variety of ground vehicles. Turbo Esprit provided a 3D free-roaming city environment in 1986 and has been cited as a major influence on Grand Theft Auto;[23] and Hunter (1991) has been described as the first sandbox game to feature full 3D, third-person graphics.[24] Other examples include the DMA Design (later renamed Rockstar North) game Body Harvest (1998), the Angel Studios (later renamed Rockstar San Diego) games Midtown Madness (1999) and Midnight Club: Street Racing (2000), and the Reflections Interactive (later renamed Ubisoft Reflections) game Driver (1999).[25]

However, the games that had the greatest cultural impact were the Grand Theft Auto series.[3] With over 14 million sales,[26] critics sometimes treat the release of Grand Theft Auto III as a revolutionary event in the history of video games, much like the release of Doom nearly a decade earlier.[27] Still, Grand Theft Auto III is sometimes seen as having merely combined elements from previous games (the game has been likened to The Legend of Zelda and Metroid[4]) and fused them together into an entirely new and immersive experience. For instance, radio stations had been implemented earlier in games such as SimCopter (1996), and missions based on operating a taxi cab were the basis for Crazy Taxi (1999). The ability to kill townspeople also dates back to Ultima I in 1981. After the release of Grand Theft Auto III in 2001, many games which employed a 3D open world were labeled, often derogatorily, as Grand Theft Auto clones, much as how many early first-person shooters were called "Doom clones".[28] Ironically, some reviewers extended this label to the entire Driver series, even though this series began before the release of Grand Theft Auto III.[29]

See also


  1. ^ a b Sefton, Jamie (July 11, 2007). "The roots of open-world games". GamesRadar. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  2. ^ Logan Booker (2008-07-14). "Pandemic Working On New 'Open World / Sandbox' IP". Kotaku. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  3. ^ a b "The complete history of open-world games (part 2)". Computer and Video Games. May 25, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Harris, John (September 26, 2007). "Game Design Essentials: 20 Open World Games". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  5. ^ a b Barton, Matt; Bill Loguidice (April 7, 2009). "The History of Elite: Space, the Endless Frontier". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2009-12-27. 
  6. ^ a b Braben, David (31 December 2005). "Towards games with the wow factor". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-12-27. 
  7. ^ Chris Kohler (2008-01-04). "Assassin's Creed And The Future Of Sandbox Games". Wired. Retrieved 2008-07-26. 
  8. ^ Harris, John (September 26, 2007). "Game Design Essentials: 20 Open World Games - Air Fortress". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2008-08-02. 
  9. ^ a b Chris Kohler (2007-11-23). "Review: Why Assassin's Creed Fails". Wired. 
  10. ^ James Ransom-Wiley (2007-08-10). "Sierra unveils Prototype, not the first sandbox adventure". Joystiq. Retrieved 2008-07-26. 
  11. ^ Steven Poole (2000). Trigger Happy. Arcade Publishing. p. 101. 
  12. ^ Bishop, Stuart (March 5, 2003). "Interview: Freelancer" (HTML). Retrieved 2007-12-30. 
  13. ^ Chris Remo and Brandon Sheffield. "Redefining Game Narrative: Ubisoft's Patrick Redding On Far Cry 2". GamaSutra. Retrieved 2008-08-02. 
  14. ^ Chris Plante (2008-05-12). "Opinion: 'All The World's A Sandbox'". GamaSutra. Retrieved 2008-07-26. 
  15. ^ "Freelancer (PC)" (HTML). CNET (GameSpot). March 4, 2003. Retrieved 2007-12-30. 
  16. ^ Patrick O'Luanaigh (2006). Game Design Complete. Paraglyph Press. p. 203, 218. 
  17. ^ Shoemaker, Richie (August 14, 2002). "Games that changed the world: Elite". Computer and Video Games. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  18. ^ a b c d Kosak, Dave (2004-03-07). "The Future of Games from a Design Perspective". 
  19. ^ "Le Gameplay emergent (in French)". 2006-01-19. 
  20. ^ Whitehead, Dan (February 4, 2008). "Born Free: the History of the Openworld Game". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  21. ^ "The complete history of open-world games (part 1)". Computer and Video Games. May 24, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  22. ^ "15 Most Influential Games of All Time: The Legend of Zelda". GameSpot. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  23. ^ Retrorevival: Turbo Esprit, Retro Gamer issue 20, page 48. Imagine Publishing, 2006.
  24. ^ Fahs, Travis (2008-03-24). The Leif Ericson Awards, IGN, Retrieved on 2009-07-16
  25. ^ Guzman, Hector (2006-20-03). "GameSpy: Driver: Parallel Lines - Page 1". GameSpy. Retrieved 2009-12-29. 
  26. ^ "Recommendation of the Board of Directors to Reject Electronic Arts Inc.'s Tender Offer" (PDF). Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc.. 2008-03-26. pp. 12. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  27. ^ Game Informer Issue 138 p.73
  28. ^ Doom, Encyclopædia Britannica, Accessed Feb 25, 2009
  29. ^ Jeff Gerstmann (2006-03-14). "Driver: Parallel Lines Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 

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