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TIGSource ForumsCommunityTownhallForum IssuesArchived subforums (read only)CreativeMaking a world seem Open and Alive
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Author Topic: Making a world seem Open and Alive  (Read 11447 times)
McMutton
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« on: January 01, 2011, 08:34:49 PM »

Exactly what it says. I've always hated games who's worlds are all stagnant and seem very small. What are some ways to make it so?
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ஒழுக்கின்மை
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« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2011, 03:34:49 AM »

could you give examples of games where you felt the worlds felt particularly open and alive to you, and examples of games where they did not (closed and small, i guess)? it'd be easier then to identify the differences between those two types of world.
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ANtY
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« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2011, 03:48:06 AM »

Maybe Knytt Stories?
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« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2011, 03:50:16 AM »

that came to mind too but i think it's more productive to have a more extensive list; say, a dozen or two from each category? that way we can be more sure of what makes games feel open and alive and what doesn't. i'm also not particularly clear on what *he* considers open and alive worlds, because some worlds that i feel to be open and alive others would not feel to be that way.

for instance i felt the fallout 3 world was very nice, lots of immersion, felt like i really was in the future in a wasteland in a living world, but others felt it was empty or boring or just a variation of oblivion's world with guns. since tastes vary widely, it'd be easier to answer his question if we knew what he considered as examples of open and alive worlds.
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« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2011, 05:25:44 AM »

I'd say having varied environments and NPCs that move around and act without depending on player interaction, possibly even interacting among themselves, help to give the feeling of a living world.
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Silbereisen
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« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2011, 05:39:25 AM »

I think that small but detailed worlds (Deus Ex, Vampire Bloodlines, Ocarina of Time) tend to feel more "alive" than huge worlds like those found in the Elder Scrolls series or some of the GTA games. It's about quality not quantity.
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« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2011, 03:04:16 PM »

I'd say life between solid objects makes something feel alive. By this I mean visibly changing winds (rustling the trees, etcetera., or tumbleweeds), randomly created characters that still have some level of depth to them (think Fable, where each random citizen had a name, a social status, a sexual orientation, a house to call their own, their own view of the player character, and even their own families), etcetera.

You know, an environment that feels like it's developed in some way and has some level of thought to it, rather than blank corridors of lifeless objects. Fable did a great job, in my opinion, even though the interaction between the player and NPCs was worse than that found in the Sims.

Basically, a world that doesn't feel "placed", and interaction between the environment and the player - because nothings more lifeless than a world you just glide through. Here's looking at you, Theme Park World.
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Kuppo
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« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2011, 05:47:36 PM »

A big part of this for me is having npcs popping up in different places.
When characters travel around, it just makes the world feel more inhabitable.
The N64 LoZ games are a good example of this, I think.
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mankoon
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« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2011, 06:02:50 PM »

I love this question but I'm more interested if it was more like " what makes a world feel open and alive without the dependence of high end graphics." Art doesn't have to be super realistic to achieve this.

It's nice reading other responses and I hope there's more to come. I'm thinking it's the depth in interaction on small out of the way elements. In Shadow of the Colossus, there are these lizards that are out of the intended path that you could interact with if you choose to. You can kill them, eat them but you don't have to( I felt bad that I did because they were so frail). I'd love it if they'd have their own patterns. Insects in Monster Hunter Tri do this. They leave their nests, collect water and go home. They also lead you to honey. I always liked details like that especially because I tend to have fun trying to break the world in a game (finding invisible walls and whatnot). I appreciate it when the designer leaves something out there for me.

Fable was frustrating because I could easily drive people to love me ,then hate me and then love me again. It immediately breaks the immersion the designer tried so hard to build. Fable's world is very closed off to me even with it's high budget art. The question is more interesting if it disregards answers that involve realistic graphics.
Anyway yea, I would say it's depth of intersection in out of the way elements, be it npc, environment or items.
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« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2011, 06:15:28 PM »

Those lizards increased your health / stamina if you ate them. I love developers that do that.

But yeah, I see what you mean - I love them leaving little things not necessarily part of the main game that can be interacted with. It's one of the many reasons I love Red Dead Redemption - just walking through a town, I came across a murderer (literally about to stab someone), a man wanting me to help him recover his stolen horse, some drunkard who thought he could beat me in a duel (and was wrong), and various other things. That game is just amazing in every way.

Fable though... I understand what you mean. I still like the game, but it is really too easy to manipulate things. In Fable 3 though, they've made it a lot harder and unrewarding to be a good character, due to the now heavy reliance on cash in the end of the game (that, if you  choose the bad options, you are greatly helped with). Since Fable 1, each iteration of the game has been simplified from the one prior to it, but with the addition of a few gimmicks. Fable 2 took away armour and various other things, and added a dog and the ability to buy more houses. Fable 3 took away the menus (which means you can no longer see what items you have other than weapons and armour), the experience system (though, admittedly, I like this new one, because it's harder to be overpowered to hell and back), and a lot of the interaction was simplified as well, yet they added holding hands and changing weapons.

Fable 1 was my favourite amongst all of them.
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« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2011, 06:26:59 PM »

San Andreas did a fantastic job of making the world seem alive using audio.  If you left CJ in one spot and walked away from the game and did something else, whether in a city or out in the country the constant sounds of the environment were incredibly detailed and did a fantastic job of bringing the world to life.
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mankoon
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« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2011, 06:46:54 PM »

Yea, I guess I failed to mention the lizards are beneficial. I personally didn't want to eat them >.<

I've never played fable 1 but I've played Fable 2 completely and Fable 3 but didn't complete it. It's sad that Fable 3 doesn't seem like a better version of Fable 2. They include holding hands but completely scrap the ability to communicate with crowds. On top of that they took out choice in the type of interaction you do with one person and instead have the player go through them one at a time until the interaction choice you want pops up. I ended up not bothering with interacting anymore. As for overpowering, it seems long range completely over powers melee. Maybe it's not noticeable in single play but in co-op, if one person is ranged and the other is melee the melee player won't get to fight as much because ranged is so fast. It's really strange that a sequel would do that. I came to the conclusion that some of the game designers in Fable 2 must have moved on and fable 3 had brand new designers that just disregarded the charms in the previous game.

I should go try Red Dead.I Hope it's as enticing as it sounds. I'm not a fan of Gta style games (thats what I heard it was like). I should really just go try it.
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« Reply #12 on: January 03, 2011, 08:20:57 PM »

I think Dwarf Fortress is a good example of a game with very limited graphics capabilities (ie ASCII characters) that demonstrates a very detailed and complex living world. There's a lot of wildlife in that game and a lot of detail in just about everything. I think it helps that the dwarves themselves are aware of what's going on around them and will acknowledge events in various ways; They'll carve images, throw parties or kill themselves or any number of other things as a reaction to the things going on around them. They feel alive because you can't really control them.

Then there are games like the Halflife series that has all of this stuff that goes on in the background that you can't interact with. Little scenes like that help to flesh out the world in a more natural way than having lots of simulated crowds aimlessly walking around and filling up the gaps. I think the way they set up landmarks in those games was also a nice way to build the world. The Tower in HL2 is visible in most of the areas, and in the original HL you ride the train in and then end up going through a lot of the areas that you ride past in the train. Helps to make it all feel like one whole world rather than a bunch of separate levels.
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saturdaymorning
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« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2011, 02:35:39 AM »

I think that the spacing and pacing between the world's landmarks and events largely influences whether I stay "in character" or not. The flow of the game should only give my imagination enough time to wander from the inside (of the game) out, and never from the outside (perspective of a player) in.

Small Worlds for example, leaves no direct interaction between the player and the environment, but the sense of exploration and discovery left me wondering about potential inhabitants, what those red, blood-like stains are, what this underground base was used for. I wanted to go through every nook of every map -- not because it was the point of the game, but because I personally wanted to construct a better picture of the world. Well, all except for the green one. The green one sucked.

I think that small but detailed worlds (Deus Ex, Vampire Bloodlines, Ocarina of Time) tend to feel more "alive" than huge worlds like those found in the Elder Scrolls series or some of the GTA games. It's about quality not quantity.

I agree, and I think it's because the GTA games were designed and engineered to feel like toys. I'm never considering any NPCs motives at the in game mall as if they were real people. I'm always thinking about how many I can round up to toss a grenade at and wishing that I could somehow bring a car into the mix.

But this isn't a knock at the game though. I feel like this is an inherent sort of thing with all sandbox games because you're encouraged to think as a player outside of the game world instead of an inhabitant of it.

Link to Small Worlds:
http://jayisgames.com/cgdc6/?gameID=9
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« Reply #14 on: January 04, 2011, 03:47:54 AM »

This question could be aproched in two ways. On is very hard "to make the world feel alive", this depends on the world itself and what you try to represent, say fallout 3 for instans, some parts of the world feels "to much alive" because there have to be enemies everywhere etc.

The other way to interpet the question would be "how to make the world feel more real"

This is a diffrent question on it's own, how do I make a broken space ship feel like it's broken and not staticly built in a boring block, but real. How do you make a jungle seem full of life if the hardware can not support the multitude of life and wind in each branch etc.

In this case, the best thing is probably to anlayse the enviorment you want to capture, find the most important details. If the hardware supports it, varying wind that makes gras and bushs move. Sparks and the sound of grinding metal in a spaceship, or if you want to go hardcore, no sound at all except radio chater and grinding metal and sparks in areas not filled with vacum.

One small thing we wanted to do was adding tiny critters, birds etc, nothing complex but just something that added movement.

Metroid Prime 2 did this well, you have a area where you startle some birds who flies out of the cave over a large jungle. The jungle area is like any other part, mostly a feeling of a tunnel shooter, but that view gives the illusion of "more".

But it's a hard challange I belive to do well.

My current game will lack a lot of things that could bring it more to life. And thats just a fact due to time constraint.
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Silbereisen
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« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2011, 07:45:37 AM »

How do you make a jungle seem full of life if the hardware can not support the multitude of life and wind in each branch etc.
This was a big problem in Far Cry 2 for me. A game set in Africa that doesn't feature wildlife (or any animals at all) just seems... wrong to me.
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Fallsburg
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« Reply #16 on: January 04, 2011, 01:35:28 PM »

I feel the best example is probably Dwarf Fortress and that's because it is more a fantasy simulation than an actual game. 
To me, most games fail at creating worlds that truly seem alive.  That isn't to say they are bad games, but when I see the seams of the game, it completely ruins the idea that it is an organic world.  For example: Fallout 3 worked hard to create an open world, but the fact that I could effectively teleport to a location once I visited it, made the game seem very game-y. There was an abandoned police station that was my base of operations once I cleared all the mutants out.  Whenever I needed health, I would teleport there, sleep, and then teleport back to where I just was.  Sure made the game a lot easier, but didn't really do much for the immersiveness factor.

That isn't to say that not having a living breathing world is necessarily a bad thing.  Most games don't have such worlds and are perfectly fine or the better for it.  As in most aspects of simulation, there is an uncanny valley and it is best to not be in that valley.  For me, Fallout 3 fails because it tries to set up this world, but it just doesn't do it.  On the other hand Super Mario World never attempts at setting up such a world, but it doesn't have to.
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« Reply #17 on: January 04, 2011, 02:06:28 PM »

Maybe Knytt Stories?

There are a couple of reasons why his games feel so alive:
  • atmospheric music
  • variety of sound effects (footsteps, wind, etc.)
  • little critters everywhere, some with no point other than to look cute/cool
  • variety of backgrounds

I think it's a time investment.  You have to be willing, as a developer, to put a lot of things in the game that may never be noticed, with the chance of it making the difference in the game for the one guy who finally does notice.
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eclectocrat
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« Reply #18 on: January 05, 2011, 03:56:50 AM »

The question is really a 2 in 1. How do you make a game seem open? How do you make a game seem alive? These things don't always go together. I think that it is ideal to have both together, but if you have to pick 1, choose alive. No one wants to play games that are open and dead.

As an example of a game that really did it right I nominate Ultima 7.
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« Reply #19 on: January 05, 2011, 10:29:18 AM »

STALKER.
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