Open World Gaming: From a few titles to an industry standard

The gaming industry has had its share of open-world titles in recent years, from The Elder Scrolls to Fallout to The Legend of Zelda and Red Dead Redemption.

After the release of “Grand Theft Auto III” in 2001, a game known for popularizing open-world gaming, the genre went from a select few titles to an industry standard.

Geoffrey Holmes is Lecturer in Film and Media Studies in the Department of English at the University. For Holmes, the main appeal of open-world games is their ability to appeal to a wide range of gamers.

“Open worlds invite different types of players,” Holmes said. “They give a lot of people different ways to play the same game.”

Holmes said open worlds act as a unique social space for gamers, further enhancing the appeal of such titles.

“Sandbox games serve as modern digital playgrounds,” said Holmes. “Games like Minecraft have given people a new space to come and have fun, especially open-world multiplayer games.”

Coyle Mitchell, freshman in computer science, said open-world titles are popular because they allow players to choose their own routes and adventures.

Mitchell said the ability to successfully deliver on the promise of diversity is what elevates open-world games.

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“I feel like there’s always something to take care of with open-world games,” Mitchell said. “And when they’re done right, they can be amazing.”

While open world titles have various appealing elements that set them apart from other titles, they are also notorious for their long development cycles.

It’s been more than four years since The Elder Scrolls VI was announced and more than a decade since the last installment in the series was released, but the game remains in pre-production more than a decade after the release of the last game in the series. It’s been almost a decade since “Grand Theft Auto V” and it was only this year that Rockstar Games officially announced the next part of the series. For this reason, it has been confirmed that the upcoming “Final Fantasy XVI” is not open world in order to avoid a long development process.

“Of course the development time can be long, but gamers understand,” said Annie Graziano, a senior double majoring in mechanical engineering and English. “I think the players know that the delivery will be worth the time it takes to research it. They would rather wait for a good game than have a bad game early.”

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In contrast, Holmes argues that the wide range of video games ensures that players have something to experience while waiting for a new open-world title.

“The games are not necessarily zero-sum,” Holmes said. “People are willing to leave GTA for a little bit in favor of other experiences and then come back to GTA.”

For Graziano, it’s important for developers to justify the inclusion of an open world beyond simply making it a feature for the market.

“If companies are doing it just to have something to say, like ‘look how big our map is,’ that doesn’t necessarily mean these things are worth it,” Graziano said. “The sense of oversaturation comes from companies being more focused on meeting trends instead of understanding why they are trends and what players actually like about them.”

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Holmes, who admits to being overwhelmed by the number of open-world titles, said developers need to use advanced technology to ensure future titles remain innovative.

“I think we’re going to see less directly created open worlds and more procedurally generated worlds,” Holmes said. “I think that opens up the possibility of user-generated worlds like Minecraft.”

No matter how technologically advanced a game is or how long it takes to launch, one thing is for sure: as long as there is more for players to explore and experience, there will always be a reason to return to the open world.

Edited by Andrew Onodera, Wyatt Miscough and Luke Chatham.


Contact the reporter at [email protected] and follow up @amir_amimam1 on Twitter.

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Amir ImamEcho reporter

Amir Imam is a reporter for the Echo, providing a unique lens for The State Press and ASU to look through pop culture and media. His articles cover major faculty projects, pop culture news, and student-related events.


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