What makes a great open-world game? -- GameSpot's The Lobby2015 has been a wonderful year for open-world games. Justin Haywald and Peter Brown join Danny to talk about the elements required to make a great open-world experience.
2015 has been a wonderful year for video games many of whom have been whom which which probably which and not people. Many of which have been open world video games. We already had The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt earlier this year. Of course, Mad Max came out this week. As did Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. He has come too. He has. I got Peter Brand and Justin Heyward here to have a little chin wag about, I guess, what makes a good open world game? One of things I'm interested about is that our game of year last year, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. A fantastic game, really enjoyed it last year. But I can already think of a handful of open world games this year that have trumped it already. Open world games, third person ones especially, have really come along way, like Far Cry 4, DJ 5, we're in the sort of golden age for them at the moment. Animal crossing. Animal crossing. [LAUGH] [LAUGH] Of course why don't you ask [UNKNOWN]. So I guess I wanna ask you guys, what it is about, or what makes a good open world game? And where do other games fall flat? Justin, first of all, what do you think? I think one of the ways that some open world games really fail is in trying to give you, well so they'll, I mean you get either extreme. You'll either get their trying to do too much. Like here's a world where there's just **** everywhere. Assassin's Creed 3. Yeah. A perfect example. Of a beautiful world filled with things to do, that you didn't ever wanna do. It's like, this is actually getting in the way of my enjoyment. Versus something that's, what was that rock star game that had the great facial animations? Grand Theft Auto Five? [LAUGH] No. L.A. Noir? L.A. Noir. There you go. There was just a sparse world that was like, this is really cool to explore. I wanna do more. But there's nothing. Yeah. I guess I'll just fast travel. Need to drive around, but that's a waste of my time. So like a delicate balancing act of content against being overwhelmed. Cuz that's certainly how I felt about Assassin's Creed. I think Black **** is one of those games where, Some people are, actually sort of more predisposed to having long laundry lists of things to do. And then some people like myself and Justin are kinda like intimidated by it. I like things to do, Assassin's Creed 2 is a perfect example of a game. I collected everything. It is one of the last games that I 100 percented. With complete aplomb. I was so excited to 100% it. And then that's why like getting to [INAUDIBLE] the [INAUDIBLE]. I was so disappointed that it didn't have that same feel. It didn't capture me in that same way. But I think, you know, Peter you're someone who definitely play a lot of these open world games. But do you have time to collect everything? Do I play a lot of them? [LAUGH] Lately I've been playing a lot of them. It's it's difficult because we sort of work on a tight schedule here where we have to get games done and hit deadlines and such and I try to give it as much time as I can, but it's very important that the things that you're doing are interesting and when they are interesting I come back to them because I want to. I certainly don't complete games because I feel like it's Well, when it's my job to do it, I do it. But, you know, I don't feel like, if after I've beaten the game and done the review "well I better go back and finish stuff, because it's there waiting for me." Not of the trophy mind. No more trophies. It's like I want to get back into Phantom Pain, because the things that I'm doing, they may be similar to something I did a while back. Alright, there are 150 side missions in that game, that's a lot. But the thing is, in every one of those, you get a little snippet of audio, that's like where did they get the funding this? Hm. The Soviets, huh. No, they couldn't. You know what I mean? There's always a story bead that ties it back into it. And I think a lot of open world games fail to give you anything more beyond a task and a minor reward. It doesn't tie in to the bigger picture of the world. And that's what's really important to me because the difference between an open world game and a game where you're just given distinct levels where you kind of disconnected, is the fact that you have free roam within a world. You have the right to observe what you wish and make and decide what this world is all about rather than it being spoon fed to you so blatantly and when a game just gives you chores you're not learning anything. Hmm. Witcher 3 did that so beautifully Yeah. like that was a world where I was throwing in and I loved getting more story and finding out new things about stuff, but I was also happy to just, I'm going to go see what is over there. I'm going to get in a boat And, and like that was one of the first things I did once the world opened up. I just got in a boat and I travelled to the, to this next huge city and was like there's so much to, to explore that was intriguing. Yeah it's almost like the open world genre has like come from like two different genres. You had your You're sort of role playing games that were large like things like, thinking back on like, old elder scrolls games. LIke dragon force, things like that. Which eventually turned into the oblivions of the world and the fallouts and skyrims and what not. And then you kind of just have like traditional third person action games which had worlds that just Got bigger, so instead of having games like maybe MDK, which were like large open areas that you formed within. Then instead of them being sort of larger linear levels one after the other, they sort of just broke them out. So there you've got your Infamous and Crackdown and stuff like that. And kinda like Mad Max, that seems like a game where it's It's you've just got a bunch of missions. But instead of them being like one by one they're just like one after, they're in an open world or Far Cry for instance. But then games like Crime0s or like The Witcher 3 they almost seem like they are real worlds they created and they feel more fleshed out and to your point it feels like. Instead of just having a laundry list of missions to do you have more, I guess, agency to sort of explore and figure out what you want to do yourself. I mean you feel like the world isn't centered around you. Hmmm. You know you feel like you are a part of it. And I think that's very very important. And in games like, Mad Max tries to do that like it has different factions in it that have their own little societies but, you're always the center of attention and obviously that's the job of a main character, but you have to be the center of attention, but you want to feel like even if I wasn't in this world it's still happening around me. Well, right exactly so you go into your mission in Phantom Pain right and it's not like you're going there because there's some important person that's showing up. Whether you're there or not, that would happen. It's up to you to take care of that guy, because you know what's going to happen and it's the right time to do it. But like Mad Max you show up and it's like oh Max is here. That type of thing. I don't know. Even Assassin's Creed, which is probably sort of threads the line between the two in a way. That always felt like a world that was just going on. Like Grand Theft Auto, going back as far as GTA 3. Always kind of felt like a world that was happening. Even 1 and 2 actually, they felt like. Like sand boxes that were like actually. Or not sand boxes. Like real worlds that were actually happening. Then in Witcher 3 is probably the best example where even when you get involved, **** doesn't go the way you want it. So you don't even feel that powerful yourself because when you try to do good, like it sort of, reality kicks in and it gets skewed some other way. It's probably a weird example but the Legend of Zelda Majora's Mask is game that I think. Imitates that open world feel and having a world where stuffs happening all around you because it was a game where you do have things you can explore and you know things are gonna happen whether you effect them or not, it was very groundhog's day like these guys are gonna go through their day and do their stuff. But I can actually have an affect on that and do something about it and that changes aspects of the game and the way they interact and things that happen in the story. So the Open World genre's been around now for awhile like last generation we saw sort of like [UNKNOWN] where a lot of other genres started to bleed into it. We're now starting to see some really superb games this year taking advantage of it. Well, what do you guys think are sort of the main rules, like this is what you need to make a really truly great modern open-world game, like going throughout the rest of this year, into 2016. Justin, what do you think are aspects of open world games That we require now for a truly wonderful game, that you wouldn't have had four or five years ago, in a Crackdown Although we wouldn't have had [INAUDIBLE] I was just going to say, fishing. [LAUGH] I really want fishing. I just want to be able to sit Is it tattoos? Is it three watches? Is it customization? I love customization. And I'm always torn on this. I love GTA and having all the different stores and places you're gonna explore and giving you a reason to go to these places. But, at the same time, I like having access to all of the customization as I unlock it, which You know, that's always a weird kind of a weird balance to strike. A good open world game makes you feel like you're accomplishing something whether you're following the main story or not. Even if you're just wandering around, you're going through the world, you wanna feel like what I just did was worthwhile, and meaningful, that I got something cool out of it. Whether I was helping a dud out in the middle of a marsh, or whether I was following the set path and going down, like here's where I need to go in the game. One of the things I always, I think I'm the type of person who like I spend my weekends kind of you know exploring. And I like going cycling on my own. I genuinely have always loved like exploring new places. And for me, like, in these games I think the thing that really matters the most is that it feels like a world which something crazy is just around the corner. That it's not like, you know, a game I really enjoy which was Infamous Second Son, that came out it was the last year or the year before. Like you look at that or you look at a game like watchdogs like they just feel like video game worlds and you know exactly what's on the random next block it's going to be the same thing of people on their phones or whatever, whereas a game like witcher or fallout or sky room, you're kind of You never really have that sense of, you can see everything. It's kind of like you've got the blinders on. And I think that sense of wonder and discovery is maybe the most important thing. My favorite open world game is walking through the Tenderloin in San Francisco. [Laugh] [Laugh] Exactly San Francisco humor Life imitating art. I want to bring this up to you, you've played two open world games in the past week? Sorry, the founder painter, of course. On Mad Max. What do you think are sort of elements that are important in open world games in 2015? A degree of authenticity is needed, but it's not required. But I think the two things that are required you guys both already brought up, right? Which is feeling like you are a part of a thing without being the only thing that is in control. And the sense of discovery and surprise. You know, like, I think if the phantom pain was, it was a more consistently repetitive environment. You kind of get the sense that. You think at the beginning like, oh man, all Afghanistan is going to look the same. But yeah, I'm like six hours in and I'm kind of thinking Oh, is this what it is then from here on? Yeah, no, but you find new things, and the same thing happens again when you go to the next country. It is being in a place that is worth exploring with activities that are worth doing and a society that is worth participating in, whether that's for good or for evil. Having a pet helps too. I'm having a pet. That can't die. That's why Fallout 4 is probably gonna be the game of the year for 2015. [CROSSTALK] Actually Horse seems to be, you've got, actually Horse that seems to be, you've got D-Horse, is that his name? Yeah. D-Horse? D-Horse. Does the D stand for dog? Or dogs. Or diamonds. Or, yeah, dog horse. Dog horse, right? You've got dog meat or whatever the hell is in full air force, perhaps, we'll see. Got roach. Horses. You know what it is? An attention to detail, that's what more open world games need. Cuz it's the little things that add up, man. That's what the d stands for, detail art. Detail. Dollars. The details on the d. Thank you so much Peter Bryant, Dustin Haywolf, coming in and talking a whole load of mess about open war video games. If you have any thoughts on what makes a great open war game please by all means let us know in the comment box below. [MUSIC]