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Cabinet The Arcade Cabinet #1: Open World Gaming

Petals For Armor
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Hey everyone! Welcome to the first edition of The Arcade Cabinet, in which your Arcade staff will introduce a new discussion topic every two weeks! These are meant to be controversial topics for friendly debate and discussion in the world of gaming. As always, please make sure your conduct follows the Arcade and Forums rules, so feel free to debate, just keep it civil.

Our first topic involves a genre that has been both praised and criticized for its content in recent years: open world gaming. Open world games are designed to give the player free reign to explore the setting of the game and interact with its characters; they are most often known for large worlds with limited restrictions as to where they can go and what they can do. The term Open World itself is quite broad; some consider games with linear storylines, yet big open expanses to explore, as open world games, whereas others refuse to acknowledge anything that has any sort of forced linearity to be open world.

Open world games have largely been praised for their ability to allow the player to truly mould their own experiences with their games, as well as the sheer expanse of their worlds, but have also been criticized for those same reasons, claiming that there is not enough story to really draw the player into the game, and for the lack of content/emptiness of those open worlds; that they are big just for the sake of being big.

So, what are your thoughts on open world gaming? Are open world games your cup of tea? Do you find that certain open world games work better than others? Let the discussion begin!
 
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I feel hype backlash towards it, mostly because according to some people every RPG should be one, which is something I disagree with.

A little bit ironic considering I had an idea for an open world Pokémon game before I knew games like that existed.
 
Petals For Armor
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I feel hype backlash towards it, mostly because according to some people every RPG should be one, which is something I disagree with.

A little bit ironic considering I had an idea for an open world Pokémon game before I knew games like that existed.
So are you pro or against an open-world Pokemon game?
 
Praise Euterpe
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I simply adore open world games! Nothing makes me feel happier in a video game than looking a wide expanse of land in multiple different directions and knowing that I can explore the entirety of it, instead of being restricted to limited paths. Open world makes an adventure game feel like an actual adventure and it is amazing! Anything else feels archaic to me as I always imagined this is what an adventure video game was supposed to be like but was limited by multiple factors such as hardware.
 
how we so, chasing gold
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there's a lot i want to say on this, but to put it succinctly: i don't think going open-world is something every game should strive to do. there are still some great games that aren't technically open world, Astral Chain being one of them. i feel that ever since Breath of the Wild was released as well as Super Mario Odyssey, they kind of set this bar that most other games pretty much have to meet when they don't really have to, nor is it an obligation to. personally, i'd much rather have a solid, non-open world experience than a choppy, sloppy open world experience for the sake of making it open world just to join the trend.
 
Petals For Armor
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there's a lot i want to say on this, but to put it succinctly: i don't think going open-world is something every game should strive to do. there are still some great games that aren't technically open world, Astral Chain being one of them. i feel that ever since Breath of the Wild was released as well as Super Mario Odyssey, they kind of set this bar that most other games pretty much have to meet when they don't really have to, nor is it an obligation to. personally, i'd much rather have a solid, non-open world experience than a choppy, sloppy open world experience for the sake of making it open world just to join the trend.
So I definitely agree that going open-world isn't for every game, and that there are some great games that aren't open world. Metroidvania games are some of the best games out there (Hollow Knight as the most critically acclaimed recent offering), and meet many of the same stylistic choices as open world games, such as a freedom to explore and little player direction, but you're still met with obstacles that prevent you from progressing (typically in the forms of special items or abilities you need to get between places) that force the game to be more linear.

However I don't think that the bar that BotW and Odyssey set was the "open world" bar; although BotW is open world and fits that bar, I would argue that Odyssey is a linear sandbox 3D platformer, not an open world game. Rather I think that bar is, to put it not so smoothly, "the ultimate capturing of the feelings that the original games set out to do." BotW takes more inspiration from the original Zelda than any other game, combining its ideas and themes with a modern setting. The game is so focused on the adventure, about discovering secrets that you'd tell your friends about on the playground or online. Odyssey is able to give the player platforming tools that, if mastered, can allow them to get literally anywhere in the worlds.
 
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Imo the ideal open world game needs to have a good balance between map size and content. What good is a large map if the majority of it is an empty landscape? RDR2 tried to remedy this with random encounters and bandits, but they only spawned once. You'd just be left with camps, abandoned shacks and occasional travellers out in the wilderness afterwards. On the other side, maps in Yakuza games are very small, yet densely packed with something to do on every street.
 
how we so, chasing gold
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However I don't think that the bar that BotW and Odyssey set was the "open world" bar; although BotW is open world and fits that bar, I would argue that Odyssey is a linear sandbox 3D platformer, not an open world game. Rather I think that bar is, to put it not so smoothly, "the ultimate capturing of the feelings that the original games set out to do." BotW takes more inspiration from the original Zelda than any other game, combining its ideas and themes with a modern setting. The game is so focused on the adventure, about discovering secrets that you'd tell your friends about on the playground or online. Odyssey is able to give the player platforming tools that, if mastered, can allow them to get literally anywhere in the worlds.
i haven't played Odyssey personally, so i likely misspoke there on that point o:

but i don't think we're on the same page as far as BotW setting that bar. i truly think it has; ever since its release, people ask themselves "if BotW can exist on a less powerful console like the Switch, why can't (insert other game here) be open world?" (really, you see this comparison with Pokemon all the time with people who give Game Freak a lot of grief). really, BotW being "open world" i feel like has influenced the rest of the gaming industry to some degree to think about the possibility of open world for their games (whether it fits or not, again, is a different discussion), but i don't think it's fair to downplay the effects of BotW and think it hasn't had much effect or as much (assuming you were claiming as such) on the idea of open world gaming as a whole.

the very idea that you can go quite literally anywhere, that you can play around freely with the game's physics as you please, that exploration is unhindered really shook things up and while i won't make the claim that BotW is solely responsible, i do think it has a large impact on why we continue to see more game developers give their own hand at their own open-world titles.
 
I'm a funny bug.
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To me, 'open world' should not be called a 'genre' of games. It is more a game design mechanic - and a grayscale on at that. It's neither good or bad - It all depends on how it is implemented.

I'll give an example: Legend of Zelda: Link Between worlds has a small amount of open world attributes:

-Hyrule has some linearity with the first dungeon, as well as requirements to unlock the other dungeons. But you could chose one of 2 dungeon paths to go to next - even though the game usually guides you to a specific one.

-Then in the Lorule arch, you get to chose which dungeon to go to first. One of them requires an item from another dungeon, but there are still 6 of them to explore without requirements. Often, however, players end up going to specific dungeons last, due to their isolated locations - As well as the daunting look of some of them.

You see, Link Between Worlds has some open world sense in what is possible, but there is linear guidance to the players in where to go and what to do. It's on the fuzzy boundary of being 'open world' because it uses such mechanics partially, and combines them with some linearity tactics. Open world-ness is neither black and white as a result.
 
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I'll be honest when I say that my experience with open world games is somewhat limited, but I'm probably in agreement with the majority of the responses here in that it really depends on how much content said open world has, as well as how well put-together it is. I don't recall ever personally playing a game with a poorly done open world, but like I said, my experience is limited. Breath of the Wild did it pretty well by scattering around enemies and plenty of Koroks, as well as making the world just gorgeous to look at so that even the simple act of exploring is enjoyable even if you don't find anything. But I think the best open world I've ever experienced is, believe it or not, Lego Batman 2. It's got a wonderfully crafted Gotham that you can explore, and you can't throw a Batarang in that city without hitting some form of content, be it a puzzle for a red brick or an escaped Arkham inmate to fight. It's all once-off content but there's so much of it you can spend an insane amount of time exploring and still not see it all.
 
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I love open world games, but sometimes they can just be too open and end up overwhelming me, especially if it has tons of content and collectables, like The Witcher 3, so much cool and interesting stuff to do.
Games like Skyrim I can play for hours, always discovering new places (until I discovered them all) and I get less burnt out, since there's nothing really forcing you to go anywhere, unlike The Witcher 3, where it has treasure stashes, hostages, monster dens and other things to do, that you would be part of completing the game 100%. You can just explore a random dungeon without a quest leading you there, or even get directed to one by a generic sidequest like "Kill the bandit leader" or "Find the missing artifact" which I love.
Some open world games are just so empty, sure the world is big, but there's really not much in it, like Breath of the Wild, beautiful game, lots of shrines and koroks to find, but so much of it is just empty, heaps of locations you'll probably never even visit because there's no reason to go there (Unless you're looking for koroks I guess, there are 900 of them), which while cool and fits the vibe of the story, it's just useless filler between point A and point B, and might not even be along the way.
 
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I like the idea of extensive exploration areas but I don't like getting lost, not knowing where to go or what to do next. Having a set storyline to follow, or something/someone to remind me about the next step would be greatly helpful. Or at the very least, a detailed map that shows the next destination so I can get back on the route when I want to.
 
Praise Euterpe
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I like the idea of extensive exploration areas but I don't like getting lost, not knowing where to go or what to do next. Having a set storyline to follow, or something/someone to remind me about the next step would be greatly helpful. Or at the very least, a detailed map that shows the next destination so I can get back on the route when I want to.
I'm curious, what open-world games have you played where you had problems getting lost? Every open-world game I have played (granted that's just open-world games released in the last three or so years) has had a great map with ways to mark where you're going and have that show up outside of the map to guide you.

They aren't like Final Fantasy VII's open overworld... where you have no guidance and you're constantly running into RNG monsters that drain your resources while you're wandering around aimlessly. Thankfully video games have come a long way since those days. (I played FFVII for the first time last year, so the comparison is fresh in my mind).
 
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