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Post by Steve Farrelly @ 12:06pm 21/01/13 | 14 Comments
Over the holiday break I hunkered down into the rich jungles of Far Cry 3's island deathtrap.

The game is an excellent romp, but many of its glaring shortcomings had me questioning elements of modern open-world design, in-game help systems and what I'd like to see from the genre moving forward. To this end, I wrote a piece exploring all of the above, with something of a small design pitch, and a few examples of where I think the game failed and where it succeeded.

Click here for the full feature article.

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Latest Comments
Posted 12:41pm 21/1/13
Nice write-up. I've played the game for about 50 hours and am only 2/3 of the way through it (20 or so outposts liberated so far, ALL by stealth for +1500XP). Still not bored.

The exploration part of the game I think is one of the best. Some of the tunnels and ruins are blended very well with the vegetation and geological features - I can't get over how good and natural the game looks and feels, especially when the rain kicks in. However there really isn't much to finding the artifacts. In most cases you just look around the map for the closest tunnel entrance and follow it to the prize. Occasionally you have to do some minor climbing. I would have liked some extra challenge/exploration with it.

Very happy with this game so far. Will be interested to see what they do with their next title.
Posted 01:55pm 21/1/13
Yeah, nice read, it makes me realise why I enjoyed Miasmata, and why that game felt so much like Far Cry 3.
Posted 02:49pm 21/1/13
I was thinking about this a while back, and I understand gaming is changing.. Working in retail most people who buy games today don't want to have to think too much but complain when the game last 10 hours. I was thinking back to Shadowman (as I was playing it on my pc at the time) and how you really had to think about where to go next. There really isnt much info or tips, you had to explore and be rewarded for it. Even some FPS's of old did not have a radar like todays game. Perfect examples are call of duty or even resident evil 6. I mean why is there an icon showing you where to go next? I know most games you can turn this off but I would like to see some more old school gaming come back, platformers etc. which don't hold cuddle you throughout your gaming adventure.
Posted 03:04pm 21/1/13
yeah I too have put quite a few hours in to the game, have finished the main story and captured all the towers and about 1/2 the outposts.

I really enjoy the exploration and the hunting missions / lost expedition missions.

though I do have some issues with the game:

1- its too easy
2- whats the point of money in the game? all the weapons can be obtained for free, ammo is recoverable off dead pirates.
3- this whole idea of forcing us to go up every tower. If i want to explore the map with out going up the towers and getting the benefits it should be able to, but not revealing the map even though I have gone through the area just pissed me off. they force us to use an unnecessary gimmick.
4- all the guns shoot the same, there's no recoil.
5- the inventory system has to be one of the s***est I have seen in a while.

apart from that, it is a fun game.
Posted 03:05pm 21/1/13
I tend to feel that making the game you describe would be retail suicide for a AAA game, or at the very least incredibly high risk that any major publisher would steer well clear of. Definitely not the right fit for Ubi and Far Cry 3, and I think that despite the obvious areas like loot, progression and narrative that they could have done better, they by and large went the right way about making a commercially successful game.

IMO, the game you're talking about, if possible, is something that's not going to be created initially as a whole product with a single release date like FC3, but rather as a more basic proof of concept, that if successful on a small scale, would get built out over time in an iterative development process like Minecraft Most likely by an indie studio, because that's not how the majors roll.
Steve Farrelly
Posted 03:17pm 21/1/13
Oh yeah, I know. But a man can dream can't he?
Posted 05:28pm 21/1/13
There was one mission which really highlighted the handholdiness of FC3,I was given some magic compass which points to your destination, the character puts the compass away and i followed the way point marker on my map thinking i would go somewhere and use the compass... nope apparently i was following the compass to my waypoint, this happened about 3 times in that mission.

That said i cbf playing games that dont do that kind of stuff to some degree these days, maybe 10 years ago i would have put up with it, but not now, far cry 3 was too far one way though.

Agree with the points about the bulls*** collectibles and stuff in it though, Assassins creed 3 was the same, they have an open world so they have to fill it with pointless bulls*** to pad out the game.
Posted 06:03pm 21/1/13
Something that I think has contributed to the increased level of hand-holding in games is the increased use of voice-acting. Once upon a time you were able to glean large amounts of information from NPCs. Receiving information via the characters in the game was a very natural kind of way to learn things. I remember in Morrowind you'd have no quest compass and you'd be forced to rely on the directions of NPCs to find your next mission location. Although having a quest compass is damn convenient, I look back fondly on having a conversation with a townsperson and using my own wits to follow their directions to the mine, tomb or cavern where my next mission was. It allowed me to stay 'in the game' whereas every time you look down at a magical quest compass you are being pulled out of it. Of course, sometimes the directions can be hard to follow or outright wrong... Milk anyone?

Story exposition and character back-story is something else that has been diluted down by voice-acting. Having NPCs existing solely for the purpose of being big exposition dumps on the PC is A Bad Thing, but when it is done well it is far more rich than what is done nowadays. Exposition is too cut-scene heavy these days, cut-scenes being another thing that takes you out of the game. Back-stories to me are also very important. They allow you to empathise or despise a character, and with back-stories being limited to what the voice-acting budget allows tends to weaken them a bit.

I am not saying voice-acting is a bad thing. It adds a whole boatload of realism to hear a character's voice and it should still be a prevalent feature in games. However as I said I really think it drains a bit on the aspects I discussed above. It also restricts the amount of paths a story can take. I have gushed about New Vegas on here recently, but the thing that really hooked me about that game were the branching missions and the amount of freedom you had to finish the game with a number of different factions. With a talented writing team and less reliance on voice acting you could have missions that branch dozens of ways and have numerous different endings that change according to the actions of the player. Voice-acting could of course still be used for key points of dialogue for dramatic effect.
Posted 06:02pm 21/1/13
Its a nice dream. May I add a loose class system and Oculus Rift support?
Posted 06:24pm 21/1/13
I remember in Morrowind you'd have no quest compass and you'd be forced to rely on the directions of NPCs to find your next mission location. Although having a quest compass is damn convenient, I look back fondly on having a conversation with a townsperson and using my own wits to follow their directions to the mine, tomb or cavern where my next mission was.

Yeah there's something to be said for letting NPC dialog guide the player, it's definitely more immersive & it avoids the drudgery of just following the quest arrow without knowing why. The downside is that if you come back to the game after a day or two or you have a lot of concurrent quests trawling through a quest log makes it difficult to remember the next step.

Very few if any games have found a nice medium between the flashing arrow and using in-game dialog as a guide.
Posted 08:39pm 21/1/13
AAA studios won't do this, but a lot of what you want is actually in Minecraft, without story progression of course!
Posted 08:56pm 21/1/13
I had a bit of a bash at Minecraft and I did quite like it. I loved just plugging away at the blocks and finding the caves and the little pleasures of finding rare materials. Also I was impressed by the overwhelming size of the world. It's a neat little sensation to feel like you are surrounded by infinity. Yes we are surrounded by infinity 24/7 but it's different when playing a game, okay? :P

However one of the most important aspects of a game to me is the story and how it progresses. I kind of like it to be movie-like except I am in control of the events that take place. Deus Ex was the first game that showed me games can have cinematic stories and plot-progression. I have been chasing the Deus Ex dragon ever since and never been quite as satisfied, though.
Steve Farrelly
Posted 11:24am 22/1/13
Quite a few people have said that I've essentially described Minecraft in my pitch, but that's not the case. The only real similarities are that you don't actually have a purpose other than exploration in a giant open-world with Minecraft. The game idea I've put forward is a far more detailed hub with layered narratives embedded in the world, and how you interact with that world will determine which of these narratives is your driving point. Moreover, Minecraft is a crafting/block-building sim, the game I'm talking about would have much more in the way of systems the player has no real control over, but can be interacted with and be exploited in various, creative ways.

Obviously it's just an idea, and I know Minecraft has opened a massive door that features a pathway to a lot of what I describe as needing to be broached in new open-world games, but Minecraft also lacks a greater sense of realism and narrative drive (at least in what I'm wishing for here :)
Posted 12:35pm 22/1/13
The reason they hold your hand is because they want to also appeal to more casual gamers.

I can't remember specifics, but the Crytek people were talking about the issues of bringing Crysis 2 to consoles and how the research into gaming attitudes for console players is different than PC. That many people simply stop playing if it's not guided enough for them. That was one of the main reasons the game was more linear than the previous PC only.

I am sure this plays a part in a lot of games. They want to appeal to the lowest, most fickle, most likely to just switch the game off the second they don't know what to do.
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