My Open-World Checklist

by Jeff Cork on Feb 27, 2013 at 12:00 PM

I try to divide my play sessions across as many types of games as possible, but I have a soft spot for open-world games. One of the things I enjoy most about gaming is the chance to explore new worlds and do things I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do in my unplugged life. Here are a few things I love doing – and when I get tired of this stuff, it’s probably time for me to stop gaming altogether.

Note: The embedded videos aren't mine, but they do a great job of illustrating my points.

Cars cars cars
If I’m able to take control of a car – whether through legitimate means or courtesy of a little virtual carjacking – my first objective is to get it to a nice cruising speed and then bail out. Once I calculate how far I roll away from the vehicle (some very impressive math is involved or something), I spend way too much time doing one of two things. Thing number one is to drive as fast as possible in traffic (downtown areas almost always work best), leap out, and then watch my character’s body flop around. If I’m not immediately struck by oncoming traffic, I consider this a complete failure. Best-case scenario, my body is launched high into the air before it lands on top of another car. The second thing I have to do is to go to the nearest marina (there’s always a marina) and propel my car into the water, diving out at the last possible second. This one isn’t as absurdly hilarious as my first compulsive car thing, but I still find myself doing it time and time again.

Hills optional
Where game designers see impassable hills and mountains, I see opportunities. I probably spend a good 15-25 percent of my time in Bethesda games jumping diagonally up steep terrain. It’s admittedly a huge waste of time (staying on the road would almost always get me where I need to go much faster), but each little hop that inches me forward is more satisfying than it has any right to be. Side note: I always invest in skills and abilities that reduce fall damage, because I fall. A lot.

Modern-day sandbox games are filled with crowds. Even though the vast majority of those people lack anything in the way of personalities, I do my best to elicit at least some kind of response from them. Are you carrying an umbrella? Not for long. Would you like a hand with that crate? Sorry. Does this look like a good place to read a newspaper? It is not. Assassin’s Creed has elevated NPC jostling to an art form, but a simple bumping maneuver is effective even if your character can’t actively reach out and push people. 

…Or throwy
When knocking things out of peoples’ hands isn’t enough, I’ll escalate matters by grabbing people and flinging them down stairs. GTA IV’s physics model is absolutely perfect for this. Other sandbox games allow you to do the ol’ snatch and fling, but Rockstar nailed the simple art of nudging people to their demise here. In addition to being a jackass, I’m also apparently a sadist, because watching pedestrian bail and slide down flights of stairs is the best thing.

Time is on my side
Unless there’s a countdown timer on the screen, the critical path is never priority. Sorry game, your kidnapped sister/helicopter hijacking/donkey theft mission is going to have to wait. And more than likely, that wait will be significant.