Tuesday, March 17, 2015

8 Recent Open World Video Games

I've spend a lot of time exploring single-player video game worlds.  I wanted to reflect a bit on what I've experienced in the last few months.  Of course most of these are early access, but from my experience that doesn't mean a game will change significantly once they once they remove that label.

Not one of the 8 and obviously not new, but the benchmark.  If you want a tenuous connection for this series to pen and paper gaming, Minecraft is the D&D of open world games and the rest on this list are fantasy heartbreakers.  Which, actually is a pretty good fit because I think most of these games are trying to fix one of two traits of Minecraft -- making the world less cartoony and making survival more difficult.

7-Days to Die
Set in something like a post-apocalyptic Arizona, you scavenge, gather resources and try to survive.  It's a voxel based world, so you can dig up every block.  It touts its building physics which requires building with adequate support to prevent structural collapses (unlike Minecraft's floating blocks).

It's fun to go through the modern buildings looting, but there are way too many zombies for me.  I think this might be because it's aimed at multiplayer, so they expect you to have help.  Ammo is limited, weapons wear out and do less and less damage as they do, gathering and cooking meat brings more zombies down on you.  But worse, for a game that includes building, it undermines any kind of building you do.  You can't prevent zombie spawns in an area, so walls are useless.  Zombies will dig at anything in front of them, so ditches or moats will just mean they eventually end up digging up through your floor.   Worst of all, the dead flesh hands of zombies can break through anything given enough time, even reinforced concrete.  In my play-throughs the only viable strategy has been to build an underground bunker, which is kind of boring.

I finally got frustrated and turned zombies off completely, which turned out to be a lot of fun.  It felt oddly peaceful being the last person on earth.  I was quite surprised, then, when I came back from a short break to find out I'd been killed.  Apparently the zombie sieges are coded separately from normal spawns and there is no way to turn them off..  Hah, how's that for hardcore, you get monsters even when you specifically turn off monsters.

So anyway, this heartbreaker succeeds in being more realistic than minecraft, but over-does it on the difficulty aspect.  Unless you enjoy killing infinite zombies forever and living in a hole, it will lose it's shine quickly.

The other 7
I'll talk about these in future posts:

Stranded Deep
The Forest
Savage Lands
the Long Dark
Space/Medieval Engineers


  1. Replies
    1. I was about to say "What, no Dwarf Fortress?"

    2. I was about to say "What, no Dwarf Fortress?"

  2. I was thinking of putting our old Minecraft server up for OSR grabs, what do you think? I don't really play anymore, but maybe somebody would find it of interest. You'd be so proud of me, I've dabbled in linux for ten years or so but finally dumped Macs about a year ago completely. So sorry to hear you were back on Windows, hopefully a temporary set back? Cheers

    @Talysman: Dwarf Fortress! Now there's an arcane one, seriously deserving of a very, very long post. "Not for the faint of heart" category?

  3. @Eric/Talysman: Yeah, these are all first person games. The Dwarf Fortress I last played was more simulation where you watched your dwarves do things (maybe the adventure mode is more developed now?). A closer analog that I've played recently is Banished, a sort of medieval SimCity.

    @zeB: Yeah, put it up. No Macs?, wow, considering your livelihood. My whole blog/silhouette workflow was not just adequately handled by Ubuntu, but it did it better and easier than Windows 7 does. But games . . . I tried everything, they would say Fallout 3 would run on Linux, but it would crash, or a game would have no sound. I'm a free software fanatic at heart, but I have a hard time living day-to-day without something to occupy my mind and games do that.

    One thing I've noticed is that the majority of the games in my list above use Unity. If there was an equivalent to Unity for Linux it would be dreamy. Maybe certain Swedish new billionaires could put their money into developing something like that.

  4. Alright, I'll make a post about it sometime when its up.

    Yeah, I keep the Macs here but I hardly touch them when I'm home. Fwiw, I have 100+ linux games on steam. Most were humble bundled and weak to mediocre, but there's some grade A in that list that run on highest settings fine - Borderlands 2 for example. You do need a decent video card and the proprietary driver though. I use 14.04 - it was hard to let Gnome go but it was time and I've come to appreciate Unity. I know I'm not one of the cool linux kids because of it but meh.

  5. My wife has been enjoying the newest dragon age and despite my serious aversion to SJW politics in my games, I've been enjoying her enjoying it too.

  6. Sorry for the late reply, life got busy.

    You bring up another good angle, I've had hours of fun exploring the Fallout, GTA, and Elder Scrolls worlds and one interesting difference between the 8 games I list and those triple A titles is that the 8 lack any sort of over-arching narrative. And, interestingly, narrative is often used to control access to the open world in those bigger titles. In these 8 you can go anywhere you want if you have the means and the courage.

    One reason for the narrative difference is probably just the cost of writing tons of dialogue trees and adding voice acting, and I imagine if some of these developers had the resources they would implement npcs, plots, and relationships.

    And yet, Minecraft had the cash and never did. I think there's also an aspect of a game just trying to being a fun sandbox or open world and the quest of triple A titles that seem to be trying really hard to be more like movies (The transition of GTA:San Andreas' vast world with tons to do to GTA 4 is a good example of this I think).

    A note on terminology: I've never understood the use of Social Justice Warrior as a derogatory term because it seems like if you were going to fight for something Justice would a pretty good goal. It's one of Superman's cliche goals! And when I try to imagine what people opposed to Social Justice Warriors would call themselves I envision supervillains under banners like the League of Injustice, or the Guild for Defense of the Majority ; )