Is Open World games killing Single Player games?

  • You can make arguments about expression or advancing technology, but there's only one real reason the open world bubble has so totally encompassed 8th gen. Bethesda — who had been making the same kind of atmospheric, explorative first-person dungeon crawler open world RPGs since the 90s — made and marketed Skyrim on ~100~ mil and it made more than a fucking billion-with-a-b in gross profits.

    That's it. It's not like you couldn't make an open world game until this gen, The Wind Waker and Morrowind did on the freakin' Gamecube and Xbox. But after everyone sees that Skyrim money you get the emulator studios retrofitting linear or campaign-based series into listless open worlds. This is only fueled by the review circle jerk and stigma against linear games, serving to make 'open world' the most essential buzzword since 'dynamic' or simply 'action.' I don't see an imperative for why Metal Gear or Zelda or The Witcher necessarily needed to turn open world this time around, but it is very clear to me how the whole industry wants to be as popular and lucrative as Skyrim was.

    Even Bethesda is running scared of the frankenstein's monster that Skyrim helped spark, with games like Prey being called 'open world' in the marketing because every developer is so fucking scared of their game missing the trend and selling poorly.

    Open world really is nothing short of the worst homogenizing trend the industry has ever seen (unless you want to count the crash I guess). Because the other side of freedom is absence of any lasting meaning to actions. Devs don't make campaigns anymore, they make open worlds and then retrofit all the gameplay tasks they envisioned into a procession of quests, and with that any hope of a decent story goes out the window. Yes, even The Witcher 3's main story was a joke of a goose chase compared to 2 because the devs felt the need to send players back and forth across the very expensive map they had created.

    I mean it's hilariously telling when the best AAA story told this generation, Persona 5, is literally a last gen game.

  • I'm more concerned with micro-transactions/loot boxes. Nothing kills a single player experience for me like seeing paid content shoved in your face through in-game menus. Dead Space 3 was one of the earliest examples I can think of and it was just terrible. I'm not a fan of random rewards but something like Horizon can get away with it at least. When you can't purchase content with real money, it doesn't feel like the in-game economy was messed with to account for that fact.

    The AAA industry is always going to follow trends though. It was cover shooters for a while, then COD inspired multiplayer, etc. Now people are jumping on Destiny's model. It comes and goes. Open world was all the rage once before when GTA3 came out. Then that shifted when Gears and Uncharted became popular. Now it's back to open world with the added stipulation of "must contain crafting, endless menial tasks, and/or lite RPG elements". But there are lots of great single player games coming out that aren't open world. Gotta look beyond the AAA industry most of the time though.

  • @Haru17 Skyrim definitely had a huge impact on the video game industry. I even believe that Dragon Age Inquisition went the "massive" open world route mainly because of skyrims success. But it's not the only "culprit" imo. The success of Ubisoft games like Assassins Creed, Far Cry and Rockstars GTA 4 and Red Dead Redemption also played an important role in this.

    P5 is a fantastic example for how a good open world could work imo. And I'm not saying that P5 is an open world game, it just has some basic similarities with one because it gives the player a lot of freedom to decide where to go next and what to do. There is one big difference though: It isn't afraid to take that "freedom" away from the player to tell a (good!) story. That's something I'm missing in most open world games, you are free to do whatever, whenever all the time, but there is no real urgency and a lot of bloated busy work instead. Persona 5 also cuts a lot of empty traveling and allows the player to teleport freely to small hub areas. In a way it is a condensed open world with meaning, just like Prey or Deus Ex MD. And that approach works much better for me then those huge, but ultimately empty and meaningless spaces like in DA:I.
    Persona 5 also isn't afraid to take its time to tell a story or to be slow or even "unexciting" from time to time, instead of rushing from one set piece moment to another.

    But I could write for hours why P5 is such a special game, imo and why it is so different from all other AAA games this (or last) generation. I think modern open world games could learn some things from p5.

  • AAA linear games are definitely a dying breed, although they aren't a dead one quite yet. I feel like a pretty obvious reason for this trend is to increase the "value" (i.e. playtime) of a game. How many times do you go on the internet and see "oh this game was excellent, but it was only 6 hours for $60, not worth picking up until it goes on sale." This sentiment is a fairly common one, and one that developers and publishers most definitely see.

    "People want a lot of playtime for their $60 investment." Playtime is an easy metric of "value," so its easier to chase than, say, making an actually good video game. Between open-world and linear, it is MUCH easier to elongate playtime with the former by virtue of its design. Even if its the same amount of space, you'll spend more time in an open world - how many times have you looked at shelves and noticed all the detail in the books and utensils on them in a Call of Duty campaign? Now how long have you spent staring at shelves and menus in The Elder Scrolls as you look for crafting materials?

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    I am a little worried of this "everything needs to be open world game!!" mentality thats been in the industry over the past years and are still going. Sure freedom and exploring are nice, but I also play games for the story and sometimes I just want to be able to play through a great paced story without having to run around and do side stuff and grind materials etc.

  • @ISee Yeah, but Persona 5 isn't an open world game even if you just look at its physical structure and ignore the calendar stuff. There were hundreds of JRPGs with level, load-based worlds that you could revisit before the term 'open world' and that whole philosophy was coined. All of the 3D Zeldas except Wind Waker were like that. Crucially, most of these games had linear campaigns in those normal-sized, generally rich worlds. That's my point about Persona 5 being a last gen game released late like previous games in the series — it took developers who remember what used to made games good to make a standout story this gen.

    And I know Skyrim isn't the only example, but I think it was the tipping point where many either developers or publishers said 'make everything open world so we sell.' GTA always sold because it was GTA and the guns and taboo activities that the news got offended at were the same reason plenty of adolescents liked those games, at least in my experience.

    Last gen had a better development, marketing, and sales atmosphere I think. The series that were designed around being open world could be and the rest were under no obligation to change their design to break even. Japanese games found a niche on Wii and handhelds where they didn't have to compete with HD or open world titles.

  • @Haru17 Just some unsorted thoughts this time. Metal Gear going open world was fantastic and added so much replayability, which was needed since the development turned out how it did and the story portion was released unfinished. Who cares if it's a trend cause it makes money if it's fun? I'm all for shunning unfun open world checklist games, even mad about Assist Mode in Odyssey existing, because the dumb arrow that points you to your objective which is everything wrong with open world games and completely against the spirit of Mario. Things that make you run across the world to advance the quest have always been trash, even in more linear games that make you backtrack to much earlier areas. Unrelated to your comments, but I'm glad The Evil Within 2 has open world elements, because I can actually tell what's going on in it, unlike the first game where you got teleported around wily nily, so sections of the game all blended together into one messy glob.

  • @ChaosBahamut Countless executives of big name publishers have claimed the death of single player games for years now. "They don't sell very well." "You can't make enough money off of a single player game to turn a profit." Of course, this is a lie. If that were the case then companies like Naughty Dog, Red Barrels, and Insomniac would have closed doors ages ago. And the hype from the indie market takes it very clear that linear single player games have a large audience and a significant demand in the market.

    I think the real reason for this is the shift in the way publishers want to make money in the industry. The whole "games as a service" mindset where every single IP has to have some kind of additional pay out. That's why we see micro-transactions, pointless season passes, randomly generating loot boxes, and online multiplayer modes in games that don't need them. The largest companies pushing this are obviously WB, Ubisoft, EA, Activision, 2k, and Konami. But now we are seeing other publishers throw their own hats in the ring. And an easy way to shove these types of elements into a game is to make it open world.

    I know that there is a portion of the gaming audience that doesn't have a problem with the fee-to-play model but I hate that publishers paint it like this crap appeals to the majority of the consumer base, because it clearly doesn't. But just like when publishers claimed that horror games were dead in the industry, it took indie developers to prove otherwise. So, in the worst case, linear games might vanish entirely from the AAA market until the indie scene causes publishers to turn their heads more.

  • Most open world games are boring travelling through point A to B. they have too much quantity but very low on quality.

    GTA series the most overrated series of all time. AC games are mediocre except black flag, witcher 2 was better than 3 and that was linear.

    I prefer linear games but with sandbox design. like Deus Ex, Crysis1, System shock, Stalker, Hitman. they are not open world games but have sandbox design.

  • Honestly, Gravity Rush 2 is one of my favourite open world game. The traversal in that game is absolutely brilliant.
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  • Gravity Rush is one of the few remaining games that still has a traditional mission-based singleplayer campaign. It feels almost like the PS2 Jak & Daxter games in its structure: missions and collectables spread around the world. Trying to think of a better example...

    Importantly, it's open world works because you don't have to touch any of it, you can just fly right over. Quickly at that.

  • i think claiming open world games are killing games is stupid tbh. Because there are so many types of games out there. If you don't like them, then just don't buy them