June 29, 2007

Open Worlds

I realized something this morning as I played a bit of Neverwinter Nights 2's single player campaign. I do not like open world designs, like that of The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, in my single player RPGs. I need guidance, clearly defined boundaries, and a path to follow. Linearity has a certain appeal to me. It doesn't force me to think too hard. Not that I don't want a game to challenge me, but who honestly enjoys being completely lost? Who actually enjoys exploring a single player world? Well, not me.

Neverwinter Night 2 (NWN2) has been both praised and smited for having a somewhat linear single player campaign. Unlike other classic D&D computer RPGs, for example Baldur's Gate II, NWN2 is a pretty straight forward game. Most of my time in NWN2 is spent going from point A to point B while completing tasks on the way. Games such as Baldur's Gate II tend to build "hubs" where you spend eons completing side quests and generally losing grasp of the main storyline for some time.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved Baldur's Gate II. However, I played it when I was single, had tons of spare time, and for the most part was still birthing myself into the PC gaming scene. I consider myself lucky to have enjoyed Baldur's Gate II inside and out. Funny thing is though, I had to buy a strategy guide for the game. I was just getting endlessly lost without one.

Back to the main point, I prefer my single player RPGs to be on some sort of rails. I want my choices to effect outcomes, but not so much that I have to change gears midway through the story. Give me a path to follow, and make it kick ass the whole way through. So far, NWN2 has delivered in this regard.

There is one genre in which I demand open worlds though; MMORPGs. Playing MMORPGs is one of the main reasons I don't want overly open single player RPGs. If I am going adventuring into a world, I truly want the chance to encounter another living being at some point. MMORPGs have spoiled my explorer appetite by just simply putting me into a world with other players.

Still, in MMORPGs, I want guidance. That was a main attraction of World of Warcraft. I spent literally no time outside of WoW searching for the next area to level. I spent my time inside WoW, learning the world, quests, and progression first hand. It is the only MMORPG in which that is possible.

This is getting long. Open worlds belong in multi-player games. Single player games need linearity.