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Cory Barlog on why GOW isn't open-world and RDR2 passing on positive lessons


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On GOW not being open-world:



Barlog: We kept describing it as “wide linear.” I was adamant that we couldn’t make an open world game. The cost of entry and the expectation level is so high that we’d never compete. We just don’t have the infrastructure and the systems. I don’t want to do that.


GamesBeat: You were 300 people or so?


Barlog: At our peak, yeah.


GamesBeat: Red Dead was more than 3,000.


Barlog: Yeah, I think they were closer to 4,000. At the time I thought the 1,600 that Ubisoft had on Assassin’s Creed was a lot. To do these things, to do the complexity they have, you just need a lot of people. For us, not only do we not want to invest in that aspect of it, but to me the world needed to feel large, and not empty, but with surprising moments of discovery. It could feel like there were areas where there’s not a lot going on, and then all of a sudden an entirely new level opens up that you weren’t directed to, that you just discovered.


Once we started saying wide linear—I didn’t have a term for it. One of the level designers actually started saying that. That was a good way to describe it, because I kept saying, “not open world.” That’s the worst way to describe something, to say what it’s not. It’s better to give a good picture. It was hard for people to understand that, one, I wanted them to do work that might not be seen, which is a really hard thing to convince people about. “You worked hard on this, and 50 percent of players might not see it.” I think that’s okay, because that 50 percent might be told by their friend, “Did you find this?” “No way, you have to go over here to see that?”


That was my experience with Zelda. I talked to other kids at school, and all of a sudden I’d find out that if you put a bomb next to a wall over here you’d find a secret. Those kinds of shared experiences, the sense of feeling like you’re the one discovering these things in the world, that’s very important. But the cost of entry for open world, the gambling systems and territory control—it wasn’t in the cards.


On games passing along positive messages:



Barlog:  Very few games – and I haven’t played everything, so I’m sure once again that I will miss something – but there are very few games that pass on positive lessons to people who play them about doing something that doesn’t require an immediate reward. There may be a reward and there may not be a reward. Red Dead, that sequence with the poison, where the guy gets bit by the snake? You have the choice to pass by and leave him there to die, or kill him and rob him, or give him some bandages, or actually treat the poison. If you suck the poison out you save him, and you don’t get anything. Thanks. That’s it.


But then later you’re walking through town and that guy starts talking about how you’re the guy. He’s so thankful that he buys you anything you want in the store. That concept is such an amazing thing to pass on to players. I guarantee you that there’s a percentage of people who are processing that enough to realize that doing a good thing might pay off later. You don’t need to get something immediately. That’s an amazing metaphor.


There’s the dog thing too, where if you feed the dog, when you have to sneak into town later on the dog won’t bark, because you fed him. Those kind of positive connections are amazing.


The whole interview is meaty and great.

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1 hour ago, Bloodporne said:

The thread title scared the shit out of me by having me think he means he's learning positive game design lessons from RDR2 potentially for GoW2...bullet dodged!




I figured that would happen. :p 


At the same time, his example I think IS a positive example for game developers to take note in more open games. :)  

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@Bloodporne I wish I remembered the video, but his Zelda example reminds me time and again of an interview he did where he touched on Shadow of the Colossus.


He said something along the lines of how great a feeling it was to stumble upon things in SOTC. He'd go to some corner of the map and see some cool geography or something, and he felt like, "I'm the first one here. I'm the only one who knows about this." And technically ANYONE who buys the game can go there, but the feeling of exploration is such that you feel like you did the work to get here and find place it seemed you weren't supposed to find.


And that goes with his "shared feeling" thing as well. Not everyone knew you could scale that place in SOTC, but your friends might have told you about it. So many times, I'd look at the map in GOW and go, "Lemme see if there's something there," and there was some secret place and, oh shit, I just found a new Runic attack that's my favorite move so far.


So yeah, feel good that games like Zelda and SOTC inspired him, too. :p 

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Im perfectly fine with GoW not being open-world. Most open world games follow the same formula and it gets boring after a while...and most of the time, the worlds feel empty and dead. 


Im totally ok with "wide linear" games. In fact, I might actually prefer them. 

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7 minutes ago, Dre801 said:

I find myself sinking large quantities of time into OW games only to stop before seeing the end credits.  I don't finish them consistently.



I've only ever finished Fallout 3 and I didn't even enjoy half the game at the time. I have some fundamental dislike of the open world template and its reliance on what feels like chores to me. I personally realized after about three or four open world games that I seem to confuse semi-OCD "finish task list" addiction with actually enjoying myself. 

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38 minutes ago, Dre801 said:

I find myself sinking large quantities of time into OW games only to stop before seeing the end credits.  I don't finish them consistently.




I've actually done REALLY well over the years of finishing open-world games. I think the one I didn't finish was... Black Flag. That's about it.


Back in the day, I wasn't good enough to finish GTA3 or San Andreas (probably partially due to the gameplay being more limited and my game skills being more limited lol), but I've finished both GTAs and both RDRs since the PS3/360 era.


Unless I'm just not feeling the game, I see it through to the end, even if it takes a couple months.

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15 hours ago, Bloodporne said:

"Wide Linear" the way he defines it here is actually a quite nice catch phrase for my ideal world design in an Action Adventure style game.


Yep same for me too. I’m really not a fan of true open world games(as impressive as those worlds may be). Games like God of War and Tomb Raider are my ideal world design.


 The only open world games I truly loved were Black Flag(the only open world I just loved being in), Breath of the Wild(because the sheer freedom to go wherever and do anything so was much fun). And Witcher 3(story and quest design is the best of any game imo) Everything else is impressive at first but then I get bored and don’t finish it. 

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