Open world vs level locking

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fireside 141 Sep 19, 2013 at 18:38

I was playing a game that used level locking a while ago, and I was surprised how I got sucked in trying to unlock levels. I notice on open world games, I tend to get bored and quit easily even though they do things like giving clear goals, etc. Is this something that should be used more, or are we using it more and I’m just not playing those games? I actually played the game with locked levels all the way through, which I hardly ever do.

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Reedbeta 167 Sep 19, 2013 at 21:58

Some open-world games do a form of level locking where they gate off access to parts of the open world until a certain amount of progress is made in the game. That can be difficult to do believably in the game’s world, though. Depending on the setting, you might be able to do it in a “natural” way using drawbridges over rivers, or gates through city walls or something. Sometimes it’s pretty heavy-handed, like in Assassin’s Creed where they literally put invisible walls that kill you if you go too far past them.

In the Infamous series we had electricity turned off to most of the city when the game starts. Since your character recharges his health/energy from ambient electricity, it makes you extremely vulnerable in the powered-off areas. You can technically go in those areas if you want, so they’re not actually locked - you’re just likely to be killed very quickly out there. :) Over the course of the game you gradually turn the power back on to all parts of the city.

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fireside 141 Sep 20, 2013 at 01:58

It is a lot harder to make it believable in an open world game, still those are pretty good ideas I think, except Assassin’s Creed. I know adventure games did it by opening places on the map. Since you just zoomed over there using it, it worked. You basically unlocked an area by finding a clue that lead to that part of the map and a new icon appeared on it. I always found that intriguing also and it helped keep my interest. The only trouble was, there was nothing to let you know that there was another area you could win your way into, which actually helps to give incentive.

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tyree 102 Sep 20, 2013 at 04:08

level locking is better. it forces you to focus more on gameplay, essentially 2d games do this better since there are no distractions on screen. look at the prince of persia series, god of war, legacy of kain. and you can throw ico in there.

they all use level locking and there all really 2d games in 3d world. what it boils down to in my opinion, if a game is good in a 2d space

that good 2d aspect will still register with the user. once put in 3d

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fireside 141 Sep 20, 2013 at 18:49

Yeah, I think 2d is kind of an abstraction, where you are boiling things down to what’s most important. I think architectural designers start out with a floor plan. It’s actually easier to visualize how things will work when looking at the floor plan first.
Level locking is only one aspect to a good game. If it’s fun to play, etc, then having those other cool levels to open up becomes important.

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TheNut 179 Sep 20, 2013 at 05:57

I think it depends on the game and whether or not you like the design of it. I generally love open world games. Beautiful looking, quick and fun action, no fuss. There’s some unlockables to keep the game mildly interesting, but otherwise just hop into a vehicle or aircraft to cruise around and enjoy the scenery. From what I seen in video reviews, Rockstar has gone completely overboard with features in GTA 5. The guy ran out of breath trying to explain all the things you can do :) So it’s easy to get lost in it all, but I think that’s where the fun is. Just the freedom to be you and do what you want and make your own story. No rules, no restrictions, and $800 mill in the bank :)

I’m not overly picky about locking features in an open world game. I do believe the story (if there is one) needs to feel like it has progression and there’s a time/reward element for it. Unlockables on the side are often fun to achieve, but they shouldn’t be mandatory. I think the crew behind Saints Row did a fairly good job with balancing progression and open sandbox. Just Cause 2 focuses more on the open sandbox, but it does it so well with its quick and fun action that the fun is in the execution and not the foreplay. It’s all about satisfying the different audiences.

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Stainless 151 Sep 20, 2013 at 09:11

It has to make sense.

The lock has to be something that you believe in rather than an artificial element put in by a brain dead games designer.

Assassin’s creed brotherhood is an example of how not to do it. You wander across Rome and suddenly the screen starts to de-res and you are told to go back or die. What a crock of shit

If it’s done well, it’s great. Gives the player a sense of accomplishment. I’ve managed to unlock X and now I’ve got somewhere new to explore. Great.

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fireside 141 Sep 20, 2013 at 17:54

” It’s all about satisfying the different audiences.”

Yeah, because there are two very different types, goal oriented and task oriented. A game like GTA5 is for task oriented. I don’t have a clue what to do in those games, although I never played GTA. I just find it kind of wishy washy. You can do this, or you can that, or you can do this over here. It doesn’t really matter. That just puts me off at the get go. The only open world game that sucked me in was this space pirate thing I played a long time ago. I got into delivering goods and upgrading my ship and didn’t bother with the story. But really, as soon as someone says you can do anything you want in a game, that’s immediately a game I won’t play.

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tyree 102 Sep 20, 2013 at 14:42

I dont think rockstar is the best example. essentially all grand theft autos since 3 have done well. that wont change and didnt they spend movie type money making the last one. if the number they claim to have spent on it. is true, there getting back there investment but I wouldnt call it a risk. grand theft exist in its own space like star wars.

good or bad it will make money

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tyree 102 Sep 20, 2013 at 15:14

im not saying gta 5 isnt a good game and not deserving of the money its making. there setting the bar that everyone else will try and follow. as far as open world goes. gta 5 is the exception to how good an open world can be and not the norm

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tyree 102 Sep 21, 2013 at 05:55

something else that should be pointed out, while everyone likes open world games. as a developer, you cant make an open world game without a large team. if your a single person or small group your not making an open world game. you will have to do level locking

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Reedbeta 167 Sep 21, 2013 at 06:20

Depends on what you mean by open-world. The Witness is an open-world game, and I don’t think there are more than 10 people working on that. Granted that it’s an exception.

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fireside 141 Sep 21, 2013 at 09:07

It’s an exception, and a large team for indies.

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TheNut 179 Sep 22, 2013 at 03:08

I would think that is the opposite. There’s less logic and testing you have to do with a vanilla open world, whereas with locking you have to implement that logic, add testing and use-cases, plus potentially deal with more software defects. By just sticking to the basics and letting the gamer do whatever, the only logic you have to implement is the rules of your game universe.

Where you have to draw the line is in the content. A small group cannot recreate LA, but they can create a procedural universe and play with that.

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fireside 141 Sep 22, 2013 at 09:13

Levels just tend to be used in more focused game play. I don’t think the logic is that difficult depending on the type of game. Open games based on achievements wouldn’t be too bad for a small group. What usually happens is you can see how small the number of AI are, etc, and it makes the game feel cheap and amateurish. Oh look, there’s another wolf in this endless boring terrain I’m walking around in. The day that you could impress people with a large open world came and went a long time ago. It takes content to match the size.

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Reedbeta 167 Sep 22, 2013 at 21:18

If your open world is big enough to need streaming (and it probably is, especially if you want to run on mobile platforms that have less RAM), then you have to do the logic to load/unload data seamlessly while the game is running, which is quite a bit more difficult than doing it behind a loading screen with all the game logic and rendering turned off. So I wouldn’t discount the technical difficulty of an open world.

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Stainless 151 Sep 23, 2013 at 08:36

That’s not as hard as you think, as long as you pre-generate EGL contexts.

The whole thing about OpenGLES and EGL being basically single threaded can be worked around quite easily once you realise how it all works, it’s just the docs that are crap.

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Reedbeta 167 Sep 23, 2013 at 17:01

It’s not just the setup/teardown of graphics resources, though; you also have to setup/teardown game objects, even though some of them may have interdependencies, be participating in physics or AI stuff, need to make/break connections with other objects, etc. Obviously it can be made to work, but it’s not trivial to get all the logic right so that the system is stable enough to load and unload data many times in a single game session without causing bad behavior, like NPCs going into a bad state when some object they were referencing unloads at an inopportune moment, and stuff like that.

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Vilem_Otte 117 Sep 21, 2013 at 13:24

open world games does not need to be huge. Take Gothic as an example. It is an open world game, it is one of the best RPGs out there (Gothic 1 and 2, 3rd was rubbish because Jowood forced PB to release it like 1 year sooner and 4th is even more rubbish, even not made by PB).

Although making Gothic really need just few men, basically thats the kind of open world game I would really like to make. The problem is time and my job. But I wont give up on that, so it is forced to be weekend project.

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fireside 141 Sep 21, 2013 at 15:28

Gothic 3 was pretty good except for all the bugs. It gets easier to make an open world game all the time because of engines. It’s just hard to make a good one. The worst is that the most inexperienced designers always want to write one. They either end up giving up in a while, or sort of disappearing for years and then turning up with a half finished, really bad game.

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Stainless 151 Sep 22, 2013 at 10:17

Just because a game is tagged with the “open world” flag, doesn’t mean you cannot have all the things that make a level locked game fun.

It just means you need to design for it from day one.

A massive space game with thousands of planets can easily be segmented into areas.

Hell Starflight did it back in 1985. You start out with limited fuel capacity so you can only go so far. Then you get the fuel capacity and wander into the wrong area and die because you don’t have the weapons.

Things like that can be built into any game.

You are free to wander anywhere you like in The Shire, but to get to Rivendell you have to be carrying the ring.

The problem comes when you just create a system that produces random environments filled with random encounters, and nothing else.