Last time, I discussed what I perceive as a problem in the way that most open world games (specifically, sandbox games) design their maps and use the space that the maps offer - or fail to use that space, to be more specific. So many open world maps end up feeling less like actually playing the game, and more like a convoluted mission-select and collectible checklist screens. This problem is especially bad in the Ubisoft model of design, and is also a problem (to a lesser extent) in Bethesda's open worlds. Due to the popularity of these developers' franchises, many other developers have been cloning these styles of games to one extent or the other, to the point at which Ubisoft's open world model seems to be the go-to template for any developer trying to make an open world game. These games aren't necessarily bad. They just aren't very good at making the space of their maps feel meaningful in its own right.

Assassin's Creed: Syndicate - zipline
Many open world games have large, expansive maps that mostly feel empty and pointless,
as the player rushes through them simply to get to the next map marker or checklist item.

But now that I've established what I see as a problem, I want to focus on positive feedback. In this discussion, I'm going to look at a handful of games that should serve as inspirations for would-be open world developers. Ironically, some of these games aren't even open world games, but they still pose valuable lessons for how games that are open world could better use their game spaces. That isn't to say that the games discussed here are perfect. In fact, many of them have their own major flaws. But each of them has some element of design that utilizes the actual game map as a component of active play, rather than just a space in which game sequences exist. First, let's take a look at a game that was re-made recently, and use it as a "before and after" case study of map design...

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Dark Souls Collector's Edition pre-order content
The Dark Souls pre-order Collector's Edition includes a soundtrack, behind-the-scenes DVD, art book, and mini-game guide, along with the standard version of the game.

Despite it's insane difficulty, the PS3-exclusive RPG Demon's Souls became one of my favorite games on the console. Unfortunately, after my PS3 died on me and I had to have it replaced by Sony, I lost my save file for this game and never completed it. I was damned close too! I had cleared at least the first two levels of each world, and had even killed the Dragon God at the bottom of Stonefeng. I was pissed when I found out that save file had not transferred onto my replacement system.

With the sequel, Dark Souls, due out in less than a month, I figured I'd go back to Demon's Souls and try to finish it before I pick up the sequel - not going to be an easy task...

Hopefully, I'll have the game beat in time for the "sequel" to arrive. Although, as far as I can tell, Dark Souls is considered a "spiritual successor" to Demon's Souls, rather than a strict sequel (similar to the relationship between Shadow of the Colossus and Ico).

My excitement for Dark Souls has even inspired me to break my year-long boycott of game pre-orders and "special edition" purchases.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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