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Old 02-15-2011, 12:05 PM   #1
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Default Design-thoughts on open-world adventure-games?

I think we've all thought at some point about how would an adventure-game be like if it was more like Baldurs Gate 2 and/or GTA,
it's one of those things that sounds like the perfect genre on paper, but as soon as you go into details it's really difficult to think of how such a game would be like.

What's your theory?

IMO I don't think you can make a good adventure-game plotless (like you could with a GTA-style game) so I think it would be a bit like Baldur's Gate 2 in that it starts by a plot (Aomen your party-member is kidnapped, you need to get her back) but very quickly it's made obvious that in order to get to the next chapter of the plot (to get to the island where she is held kidnapped) you need X# of gold-pieces, and that sets in motion a rough 20 hours of general quest-solving,
that may sound boring but since the city is so detailed it's actually really fun, and the idea of a higher reason (rescue Aomen) in the back of your mind gives the game a bit of direction (as opposed to the morrowind games that usually makes you feel like you're missing a direction other than just leveling up).

So in an adventure-game that would look like:
You get the plot inciting incident (preferably a mysterious question, rather than a exact description what you need to do), but then you realize you can't solve it yet because you need X# money, so then for first 10h of the game you just walk around the city picking up general quests that you solve by adventure-game-style-puzzles.

I think many might think Adventure-game/RPG hybrid and immidiately think of a adventure-game with added stat-based combat, but IMO I'm more interested in the open-world aspect of RPG's.
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Old 02-15-2011, 07:25 PM   #2
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It's impossible.
Confining adventure games to little areas is the only way to go. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to create such detailed environments and not a lot of hotspots to interact. And lets say for instance the developers managed to create an open world game brimming with hotspot, the game would become too much of a chore. Remembering every location and every item in place.
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Old 02-15-2011, 07:38 PM   #3
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It depends what you call an adventure game. If you refer to classic adventure gaming e.g. point n click, and so on, I'd have to agree with "Origami": it would be impossible.
However, if you would call a GTA clone without any fighting/action moments but instead the mission design revolved around puzzle sovling, I'd say why not?
However, would a "GTA" game without any action moments and with puzzle design be an adventure game?®
The upcoming "L.A Noir" seems like a big approach to what you are talking about, but it involves timed action moments, and may not be referred to as an adventure game.
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Old 02-15-2011, 08:46 PM   #4
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Isak i think the question is not about the interface and control.i mean it's just a difference in input source,but in the end they all are interpreted in game events one way or the other.

i think it has to do with the story.my opinion is that it's excess content and work to make it an open world.it depends on how well suited the story is,if it's worth it to be made into an open world game and how much more work needs to be done in designing and content.if Broken Sword was to be made like that and you tried to make it open world then you'd need to factor in content design many other possibilities.like for example you didn't learn something about the Templar's through Lobineau but through entering a library or a web cafe.but again it needs double the content so that you have alternatives.

if there are no alternative ways to achieve things then it's no different from a classic adventure game and it's not open world.open world doesn't just mean more places to go apart from the necessary.
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Old 02-15-2011, 09:08 PM   #5
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Origama:
I see what you're saying, it's easier to make a action-game large like GTA: San Andreas since for example most gun-shops are just the same whereas in adventure-games everything would have to be unique,

but have you played the great city of Amn in Baldur's Gate II?
It's not San Andreas size large but it's a really large and dense city and it's just as detailed as a adventure-game.

Isak:
Yes I think it's safe to say that it wouldn't be click and play, but atleast IMO that's never what defines why I like adventure-game anyway, I love the freedom in GTA to walk around with my own controller and jump into a car and cruise around to my destination, I think that would be great in a adventure-game.

"However, would a "GTA" game without any action moments and with puzzle design be an adventure game?"
Well I don't care so much if other ppl would define it as a adventure-game, as long as it's any game that has the element that we love so much from adventure-games.

What that element is is actually quite difficult to define, IMO I would probably say that for me adventure-games is about a game where the progression is linked to my full understanding of a story (which is probably why I like detective-games so much and dislike Monkey island type games) so rather than the story being exposition or being a optional Bioshock-style "learn the backstory if you wish or skip it" it's something that the challenge of the game is about (as opposed to the challenge being good aim or reflexes).
So to me if a game has that element then I don't care if other people define it as adventure-game or not.

Yes La Noir is my insperation for this thread
but a) I don't think they've revealed truely how it will work and b) my mind is set strongly at "seems awesome but will dissapoint me as usual"
I know they say there will be investigation but I just want to see it with my own eyes first.

jhetfield:
I'm not sure I see what you're saying but basically I think the main investigation could be non-branchable so I don't think it needs to be alternatives to the main plot, in fact in any open-world game the main plot should be of less importance:
in GTA you can pick up a controller and just explore the world and find a cool building and go in there to see what's in there while letting the plot be paused for a while,
in BG2 my favorite moments was doing random tasks and joining guilds and such which had nothing to do with the plot other than "you need X money to get to next stage of plot".

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Old 02-15-2011, 11:01 PM   #6
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Free roaming adventure games exist...they are called RPG's. I think that one of the major things an adventure game has is its tightly controlled story. When you add in the free roaming environment, you have to sacrifice elements of the control that you have over the story.
What you will be left with, at best, is a watered down version of both genres. A not-quite-good RPG, and a not-quite-good Adventure Game.

Designers could give the illusion of freedom tho. Having a city that you can fully explore from the get go could be done. So an adventure game where every location is accessible without having to go through a challenge/puzzle/story point to get there.

I cant help but think that that would be quite a boring game tho...the joy of an adventure game is discovering a new area. Just being able to walk there would kill out a lot of the feeling of 'unfolding story' you get in an AG.
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Old 02-16-2011, 12:43 AM   #7
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I am eager to find out what they do with L.A.Noire. I also liked Shenmue a lot, never got to finish it though since the Dreamcast was only on loan (and I played Grandia2 with it first). I think there is room for more open adventure games. Atm they are also either half action or rpg but I don't think they'd have to be so. Action elements alone I don't really care about but RPG action is sometimes very much at place. RPGs can become a grind though so it would be refreshing to have the grand adventures without excess monsterkilling and this is where more open adventures could come into the picture.
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Old 02-16-2011, 01:41 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pyke View Post
I think that one of the major things an adventure game has is its tightly controlled story. When you add in the free roaming environment, you have to sacrifice elements of the control that you have over the story.
This! And exactly what I wrote about Stacking in the stacking thread.
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Old 02-16-2011, 02:13 AM   #9
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mrLol what Pyke and Panthera said is very close to what i wanted to say.

as i said interface has nothing to do with it.the witcher is point and click basically and open world at some point(it needs some loadings so it fails a little).is there any difference?

also yeah rpgs are adventures basically.

another thing......have you played any adventure game that the story is of less importance?adventure games are adventure games because the story is the main thing.let's face it.otherwise it's an rpg.as i said the witcher is point and click and open world.but it still classifies as rpg.

also what's the point of having an open world for the sake of it and not have different ways to branch the plot?does it have any point as a world where you can visit anything but it really doesn't affect anything?it's like having an adventure game that has more useless areas than non-useless.

in the end what you want is an rpg with a story that isn't like classic rpgs.not set in a fantasy world with swords and different species,but in a realistic world.

and to tell you the truth i doubt there's gonna be more than a couple of developers that will try this.it's too much work for nothing or at least too much work with minimum point.what's the point of having a world to roam if all you do is meaningless tasks and no juice involving the main plot?in rpgs you do it happily but you also do it for the action.


i undestand the need for more places to go in adventures......i remember Broken Sword 1 where you got to go in France Spain Syria Ireland and there were other places hinted to exist but didn't like Germany and Greece.and i would love the idea of a game that spans to so many different places and all but it all comes down to more content.open world would have to mean being more busy fine tuning the extra content than paying attention to the story.something every or at least most adventure gamers out there would not be so happy about.

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Old 02-16-2011, 04:08 AM   #10
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Wuw lots of tricky questions here, this is good

"have you played any adventure game that the story is of less importance?"
Well let's not confuse story with plot!
Games can have a very strong story (background story, character, character goal etc) while also de-emphasizing the actual plot so as to make the game more open.

But I'm starting to understand like what Pyke says that some peoples main definition of adventure-games vs RPG's is something like this:
Adventure-game: Telling a story through a defined plot.
RPG: Telling a story through through open-world setting (the non-essential npc's, quests, locations etc) with only limited plot (usually that things narrows down towards the end of the game).

I think there's like a hundred different ways of defining the difference in genre (the most common being if it has RPG-type fighting/leveling or not) but this definition sounds like a pretty good one.

Hmmm to put aside genre-definitions for a while I guess what I'm saying is I like playing adventure-games but I don't like playing RPG's (I can't play 5 minutes of dragon age, mass effect, fable 2 etc without getting bored), yet that if I were to philosophize about the perfect adventure-game it would be to somehow make it feel less rigid in plot and have more baldurs gate 2-style city-exploration,
but sure one could argue that what I'm really asking for is a RPG with little to none fighting and where they've spent as much time/focus on story and characters as they would on adventure-games.

or something... all this genre-definitions is making my head spin


Quote:
Originally Posted by jhetfield21 View Post
what's the point of having an open world for the sake of it and not have different ways to branch the plot?
Tricky question indeed, I'm not sure I can put into words but lemme try:

For example let's write a imaginary game inspired by the plot from Eyes Wide Shut movie:
You're a cool guy who walks around in night-time NYC with a taste for adventure (preferibly also with a loose plot in the back of your mind), you can walk into any nightclub and just talk with ppl, as you walk into the jazzclub you talk to the pianoist and after befriending him and asking about his work he want to sound cool so he mentions a little secret that his gig later tonight is at this super exclusive party where he has to play blindfolded and know the secret password, you ask him for more details but he says he can't tell you where it is, besides all the guys are dressed in black robes with venusian masks so you can't go there anyway.
So if you're smart you now walk out of there and explore the open-world city for a costume-shop and somehow persuades the owner to sell you the costume despite it being closed, now you walk back to the pianoist and manages to persuade him to tell the address.

Can you imagine the suspense of going to that secret party to find out some secret infromation there? it's like it's a good mini-plot by itself to have in a movie or a strict-plot game, but the fact that you found out about it by yourself makes it twice as interesting, especially since you know it's not just a illusion because you know that had you been in a different bar asking questions there are other little gems of mini-adventures to go on.

does that makes sense? all I can do is imagine it myself as something that sounds cool (rather than a rigid plot where you had to ask him for it and then the city only contained the jazzclub and a costume-shop) but I can't nessesarly put it into words.

I can think of many RPG's that has given me that feeling of "omg I've just found some really sweet information I'm so gonna look into this!" but then it just leads to a little fight sequence and a chest of loot, which is possibly since RPG-fighting can be so interesting that they can get away with not thinking through much story of each quest.
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Old 02-16-2011, 04:21 AM   #11
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The idea of an open world adventure just makes me think that there really needs to be a 3D remake of A Mind Forever Voyaging. GTA IV graphics with that kind of gameplay. It will never happen but it'd be damn awesome if it did.
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Old 02-16-2011, 04:49 AM   #12
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Well, there were such games as Shenmue or Omicron which gave a lot of freedom (and took a lot of $ in production).
Personally when I think about open-world adventure games, Simon the Sorcerer 3D and Magic Turn are the first games come to mind. They are not exactly open-world, but they show potential in a way developers can experiment with 3D.
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Old 02-16-2011, 05:12 AM   #13
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It works for the RPG (which is really where the open world genre began) so I see no problem with that being expanded into the adventure genre. In a way, some of the early AGI Sierra games felt very open world. The first King's Quest particularly.

I don't think it's that difficult to achieve but just really expensive. Ever since GTA: Vice City I thought how silly it was that people were just using this open world concept to only make GTA clones like Mafia or Scarface or Saint's Row.

Developers have the tools and technology to create a living breathing world but I guess that price tag goes up when you consider all the elements that would need to go into an adventure game. If I want this open world adventure to be good, I want it to be flexible and have a lot of freedom and there's a lot more time and effort and money needed for that rather than just creating an amazing looking world and stripping the gameplay down to combat and fetch quests.

It's possible though and I really want someone to take that risk... I mean, Capcom has been taking huge risks in this genre and they're a MASSIVE developer. They could pull it off.
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Old 02-16-2011, 09:01 AM   #14
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i get what you are saying but it's too pricey and too much work.in order to put in that much freedom you need to make too many individuals rather than casual NPCs and up to 40 different NPCs with more interaction.basically a second life like game but with AI instead of humans controlling the NPCs.maybe not in that scale of population but in the end it's too much work in characters and the interactivity and dialogues with them.also if it was a little realistic they wouldn't be the same in terms of trust.so they would have to make too many different kind of behaviours and different standards in terms of trust meters.we already have a truckload of work which puts a stop to it.

other than that it's like a merging of many adventures in a common world.kind of like csi las vegas miami and new york where there are some episodes that they meet each other.maybe that would be easier in terms of budgeting if it was to be made by 2+ studios.

don't get me wrong though it'd be awesome if it was like the example you gave with the movie.you could be a "hero" like five times in a single game.but for one studio it's too much to handle and even a big company would be skeptical about this.

i think what you need is dungeons and dragons in a game but with a realistic setting.and also an mmo would really suit this.where certain people would have certain roles and you'd get to roam and do what ever you want with them.second life clone but with adventure as a goal.i'd also want to play this with pen and paper.multiple dms that also play the key characters that get you into certain a story/adventure and npcs and you get to choose which dm to listen to based on the possible story you get interested into.


PS:sorry if it's a little chaotic and not that structured with flow and the like but there are too many questions and thoughts for me to make a proper structure.
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Old 02-16-2011, 12:27 PM   #15
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This obviously depends on what you mean by an "open-world". To only have one very closed area at a time and only let the player do certain things in a extremely predetermined order are often bad game design if you ask me, regardless of genre.

The difference between an adventuregame and a RPG is basicly that in the first genre you interact with characters and the gameworld in order to solve different variations of puzzles to proceed. In the latter you fight enemies and gain abilities that the player can use to build ones charater in order to choose how to fight your way through the game. An "open-world" has nothing to do with either of these genre definitions IMO.

If you think about it there are already several adventuregames that let the player have access to many different locations at once. Monkey Island 2 did this and more recently Stacking.

How to tell an engaging and detailed story while still letting the player choose how it evolves is a conundrum that games have battled with since the start. We have seen examples of both boringly linear games as well as incoherently open games.

The trick is to have both and the big downside is that this often costs way to much money. Although there are many examples of this (Outcast anyone?) Stacking shows a way that it can be done with a rather modest budget. In other words, the future for adventuregames are looking good.
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Old 02-16-2011, 12:59 PM   #16
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I've never heard of A Mind Forever Voyaging, Shenmue, Omicron, Simon the Sorcerer 3D and Magic Turn but will definintely check out let's plays of next time I'm on broadband, thanks.


Quote:
Ever since GTA: Vice City I thought how silly it was that people were just using this open world concept to only make GTA clones like Mafia or Scarface or Saint's Row.
Yes exactly, when you play a open-world game like GTA you can hate the violance, the criminal attitude or some of the many flaws but it's very obvious that open-world is a winning concept, it just really takes advantage of what interactivity can actually achieve, and people love it and the profit shows it, yet whenever another company tries to take advantage of open-world all they do is steal the exact gta-concept with a minor twist (1940-era, play as cop, play as cartoon super-hero),
you would think that many genre's (incl. adventure-games) would be rushing to take advantage of that winning concept yet no such effort seems to be made.

Quote:
some of the early AGI Sierra games felt very open world. The first King's Quest particularly.
I agree that some adventure-games has a open-world-feel, but at least IMO those games like King's Quest is very different from what I had in mind since that is just a 3-trials concept gone (perhaps overly) large, there's not really any open-world freedom other than doing the 3-trials in whichever order (& simultaniously) you like and wandering around aimlessly hoping that your exploration somehow makes you progress in any of those 3-trials.

Quote:
If you think about it there are already several adventuregames that let the player have access to many different locations at once. Monkey Island 2 did this
I agree it very much depends on definition of "open-world" which is making this very complicated subject to discuss
I guess MI2 does not fit my description of true open-world, as it's just 3-trials, if you took 3 levels in Doom and changed them from being played in order into changing so that you can skip between them, then that's not really open-world IMO, as all you're doing is allowing you to play 3 missions simultaniously, but you're not really creating a open-world where exploration is meaningful since everything you do in this open-world-illusion is of direct relevance to any of your 3 tasks, if that makes sense.
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Old 02-16-2011, 04:50 PM   #17
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Mr Lol for you open world ,as i see it, means as closer to the real world as possible with different characters and different behaviours and so on apart from the abundance of locations to avoid the 3 trial problem.it can be done but it really is a big project and i dread the thought of the minimum specifications it would need since the AI would be massive.

also if you want to talk about this level of openness then you need to refer to GTA.they are the first to take openness and freedom to that kind of level while having 3D graphics and give the illusion that you really are in that world.i think the work they've done from San Andreas to GTA 4 is awesome.


but hypothetically if it could be done without worrying about specs i would certainly consider it having network/update capabilities and download new adventures in the game.i.e. before loading the save file check the developers database for a new adventure which would be something like a DLC and it would be integrated in the world after loading.that way the developers don't need to make all the content before distribution which would be very costly in time and money and afterwards make more as DLC..........maybe it could be integrated using a system much like Kinesis uses to dynamically load nodes and stuff or at least in a similar way.what do you think?
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Old 02-16-2011, 11:18 PM   #18
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jhet:
If it would make the thread any simpler I guess we could say that the thread is strictly philosophy so doesn't need to be easily developed,

but with that said I use to work on one of the 3d GTA-clones (cheesy I know, but I was young and needed the money ) and I think you are exaggerating,
but if it makes you feel better think of it as a topdown 2d/2.5d-game and with no fighting (perhaps even no driving, although I do like driving) that way there's no need for complicated AI-reactions when bullets starts flying or when you accidentally bump into someone elses car.
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Old 02-17-2011, 06:14 AM   #19
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For me, GTA and its other clones like Saints Row are signified by being allowed to just much around as muck as much as you want, and then give you the option to drive(/run/chopper/sail, etc) to a specific place where you start the mission, adn also continue the story. If you fail, you can either retry or drive around a while and then go back to the mission hot spot.

And for me, this is where my immersion is shattered. Yes, it can be fun running around doing silly things (I had fun hosing buildings with dirt and doing a lot of shopping in Saints Row 2) but its not part of the story, or plot if you'd like, and the story becomes "something to do when you have time or interest" instead of the purpose of the game, and what drives it forward.

Personally I found even Black Mirror too open in the start, since I could roam around visiting the whole castle and grounds without having a clear idea what I was supposed to accomplish or where to do it, and felt that instead of playing the story, I was just stuck exploring a rather vast space.

GTA, Saints Row 2, Just Cause 2 (though more amusing to watch as he keeps rappelling into the ground) and even Stacking and Zack and Wiki feel like they focus more on game play and fun/achievements than progressing the main plo,t and therefore does not feel like immersive, story-telling games.

What I would not mind seeing are adventure games that offer sub plots next to the main plot, in sort of a rpg setting, where you in big towns have the option to do small quests for merchants and towns folk to gain more information and status (of course without a stats system) before moving on.
While TLJ is driven by its main plot, I still found the small tasks you do for people in Arcadia amusing and somewhat rpgish, even though they're there to further the plot.
This is something I miss in newer games, as they seem to spoon feed us that everything we do is to further the main plot, and we must do it now, as fast as possible or else the world ends! Every interaction we do and every objective we complete is there just to reach the end of the game, where TLJ offers you the chance to learn much more about the characters and go down conversation paths that are not vital for the game.

I could see Archadias marketplace be made as an open, mini quest world, where you just explore the city and talk to people, do quests and learn about the place, without it becoming a RPG or sandbox game.

But, I think the "free-roaming" expression is wrong for AGs period though, as it seems to require the quests/missions being hid away and not in the way for the "fun".
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Old 02-17-2011, 07:08 AM   #20
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Quote:
the story becomes "something to do when you have time or interest" instead of the purpose of the game, and what drives it forward.
Agreed, the GTA plot vs. open-world-fun becomes too separate, I think many RPG's solve this problem by:
a) Allowing missions to be played simultaneously, in RPG's the quest can start with a NPC describing that he wants item X, and then you can either go hunt that item down immidiately or you can just leave it in your quest-book to perhaps take care of when you are in the mood or next time you are in the right location,
whereas in GTA if you take on a mission (which you cannot even read the description of before accepting) the entire game becomes closed-world (you can't do other missions),
this sometimes makes it feel (like I believe you were saying) that it's not meaningful open-world-game but just a mission-based game where you first have to annoyingly drive to your quest-giver and then drive to quest-location.
b) Each mission has a chance to define your role, in Fallout 2 many missions has nothing to do with the plot whatsoever, but they still serve the 'story' (not to be confused with 'plot') nicely as your actions/decisions in the missions are having a effect on the world and defines who your character is,
I was playing as a good character in that game but in one town in particular I took advantage of people during the side-quest since I thought it was irrelevant, but then in the (dynamic) ending the narrator told me that particular city died out because of my actions.
c) the side-missions are somewhat relevant to the plot, even if just as a cheesy "you need X amount of gold to take the boat to rescue Aomen in BG2, go and do side-quests for money", whereas in GTA money, weapons and car isn't that relevant since it will be provided at the beginning of the new mission anyway.

I know many people at both R* and the original DMA Designs and to my knowledge the reason why they fail to make "open-world feel more relevant to plot" (amongst other problems) is simply because they themselves don't really understand open-world, GTA1 was supposed to be just a rip-off of the old Amiga game A.P.B. but somehow they stumbled across it being open-world and since then just milking that concept without really analysing or understanding why it works.

But anyway a open-world adventure-game can easily solve those problems since it would hopefully be intelligently designed as opposed to the sweat-shop-system used by R*, but thanks for the input it's a good point (hopefully I understood your objection correctly).

Quote:
While TLJ is driven by its main plot, I still found the small tasks you do for people in Arcadia amusing and somewhat rpgish, even though they're there to further the plot.
Yes that's a good example, I was also amused arriving in that big city with a bit of RPG feel to it,
but like you said it has direct relevance to the story which sounds cool on paper but kind of ruins it as what could feel like a misc-side-mission now feels a bit like the developer is making really far-fetch puzzles and has me jumping hoops to progress the game,
I don't mind helping a merchant find spices, but if the entire plot is dependent on it (whether my plot is to save the world, or someone kidnapped etc) then it feels like "surely if this was a real world there must be easier more direct ways of achieving my goals than these farfetch missions".
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