The Map as the Canvas: Filling the Gaps in the Open-World


Boston – Massacred, Assassin’s Creed 3

As an artist, one tends to look at the world from a different perspective – years of visual stimuli trains you into becoming an observer, a critic of sorts and then you wish you could change everything you see…

My interest in video games is of an emotive nature – I play to feel and competition comes secondary; It has always been about the story, the world and the folklore and as we are on the verge of entering an extremely proficient era, I wonder if I’ll ever get to experience the depth I have longed for in games.

Over the last few years of play I have found myself heavily invested in characters and stories from countless of games, gritting my teeth for survival or finding myself dumbfounded by an end. It’s a great blessing to be experiencing such amazing story-telling in a medium that not so long ago didn’t take itself too seriously, but as we move towards the future I am hoping to see a change in the way games are put together.

Open world titles have always been great at selling millions of copies, with fan bases in hundreds of thousands, they are unbelievably expensive to make and take years of hard-work by a staggering amount of people. And as we approach the Next-Gen there are already a few good ones in the pipeline, but the trajectory is off, in most to say the least.

16 square miles of Skyrim

16 square miles of Skyrim

Recently boasting about a games map size has become a way to sell more copies and a competition between developers and studios to one-up each other; this says a lot about what the future of these games really is – and it might not be very bright. If Skyrim hasn’t taught you patience then play it again; wasting countless of hours playing through a dead world might seem like a great achievement but it is incredibly frustrating and dull. Expansive worlds become repetitive and too familiar with quests that don’t matter. This is compromising on quality – Where the density of world and variation of content should be a priority developers are focusing on filling up unmanageable canvases with a cloning tool.

Its like when you paint, every stroke you make has a purpose, with it the painting is complete and without it there is no story to tell.

And because of this very reason our gaming worlds have been left behind; where maps could’ve expanded in verticality and each object placed in the world could’ve had to a meaningful purpose to your story, we have chosen large empty movie sets that look like they’re going to fall apart like an 80s bad porno. There is nothing behind those curtains…

That's a whole lotta nothing, Red Dead Redemption

And that’s a whole lotta nothing, Red Dead Redemption

But hope – I wouldn’t say effort is not being made; some are already en route to building truly living worlds. The Devs of Dead Rising 3 are ambitious in crafting their version of a fully explore-able world, along with the Witness suggesting a purpose for every path you take. With scaling back on the vastness of these maps, one can only imagine how much more can be done; the living breathing town of Albion, sneaking under in its sewers and chasing through the rooftops, town-folk sitting in their windows till dawn singing and drinking, bustling marketplaces, a storm tearing down its stone walls and a girl next door; If this can actually be achieved then why aren’t we there yet ?

We all need a little bit of Molyneux in our lives.



One response to “The Map as the Canvas: Filling the Gaps in the Open-World

  1. Pingback: The Map as the Canvas: Filling the Gaps in the Open-World - Blog by 7kayhan - IGN·

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