Monday, January 9, 2012

Density and the Open World

No, this post isn't just about Skyrim. :-) Path of Evil was an open world on the scale of Faerun, and Crimmor is an open world on the scale of the city.

Open world games have something to keep in mind that more linear games do not, the density of points of interest in the world. Think of the overland maps in SoZ, and imagine if there were only 3-4 places you could go on them. That would create two problems. First, it would be boring, and second, you'd spend lots of time just walking from between place. Now imagine the opposite, several hundred of places you could go jammed into the overland maps. That creates two problems as well. First, there's a logic problem, "You mean there's a dungeon/cave/ruin every 2 meters between here and the next place I need to go?", and second, the player may very well explore all those places on their way to the destination, with the "saving the world waits for me!" problem.

There's a happy median to be found somewhere in there. Open world games need to provide plenty of points of interest on the main land map, but not pack them together so tightly that they run into the problems from that.

In Path of Evil, the points of interest outside the cities weren't always as interesting as they could have been. Most of the quests centered around cities, or areas you could travel to from a city without needing to move to the world map. There were a few quests you could wander into on the world map, but for the most part the world map locations were just random dungeons of no particular interest to the player other than for what loot could be gotten. I think ultimately the campaign suffered some for that. I'm not sure what readers might think of the density of locations on the campaign world map, but I think the density of interesting locations was too low.

Naturally, this perceived weakness is something I'm trying to improve in Crimmor. It's making a lot of work in order to fill out the gameworld with enough to do. Currently things are going relatively slow. I've been playing some other games (sacrilege!) and not been super motivated (this is normal in the middle of winter for me). I havnt posted to the Bioware Social thread for Crimmor because there hasn't been anything worth showing, just some minor sidequests in existing areas, and some frustrating work on my commoner ai project that seemed to go nowhere. I'm considering redoing much of the work on that and getting a cleaner start based on what I know now.


  1. Hi Kamal,

    EDIT: I cannot get to your previous blogs comments.

    You are touching on a very issue I struggle with in general: Balance. Balance in all things is so important for a game, and "events" per game mileage is right up there with the most important in my opinion.

    That is also one of the reasons I divided my campaign into 3 parts to allow myself more time to "colour in" the events that would be needed to make the world more "believable".

    Furthermore, I believe the relavence of these events are as important as there being there as a "gaming activity" in the first place. i.e. Not adding interesting locations just for the sake of it. For me, balance, logic and a wholistic environment must all work together in unison to prevent a seamless whole where the player is not left bored, uninspired or even overwhelmed by the experience. A simple task ... NOT! :)

    Such is the hobby we keep doing. And the very fact that you recognise this and aim for it with Crimmor is another feather in its cap as far as I can see. :)


  2. Hi Kamal,

    Just to let you know that the problem accessing your comments is not restricted to your blog. Since reporting the problem, I have found others with the same problem, and I have found that I cannot access other people's comments *after* I have accessed one other comment. It's as if a variable is being set when viewing a comment that then prevents any further comments being seen, until I close IE and reopen and go back to a new comment. Most strange, but as I say, it has been reported now.


  3. Hi Kamal,

    I did a bit more research and found the following on Blogger's known issues:

    It says this: "We've raised this with Google Engineering. Until it is fixed I would suggest settings your comments to either Full-Screen or Pop up rather than Embed."

    From testing, I discovered that I only have the problem after reading any of your comments. Once I do that, I have problems looking at everybody else's comments.

    Blogger have not made it clear whether it is the reader or the blogger who needs to make the changes, but as I only have the problem with your blog, then it may simply be a setting you have done? Anyway, just thought you may like to know this, as I am having to change my web browser to leave commenst for you, and others may not know about this.