Into the Open World
SKOAR!|March 2017

Everyone is familiar with open world games. They’re insanely popular and they’re evergreen, so you can be sure that they’ll always be the “flavour of the month”, no matter what time of the year it is. However, have you ever thought about how they came to be? Or even what the first ever open world game was? Let’s go straight to the very beginning.

Manish “TriggerHappy” Rajesh

Open world games are incredibly diverse and while they are most commonly associated with RPGs, you’ll find the concept implemented in other genres as well. The one characteristic feature common to all open world games is that it takes away the linear aspect of games and gives you, the player, more freedom than ever before.

GIVE US ALL THE FREEDOMS!

What defines an open world game? Well for starters, an open world game should have a fairly large, open, world (You don’t say ). But there’s more to it than just that. There are plenty of games out there that do have huge worlds but we wouldn’t necessarily call them open world games.

The reason for that is the next aspect of open world games: the freedom to do things and go about the world as you please. If the game restricts you from entering a certain area of the world, or you need to complete a quest or reach a certain part of the story in order to access parts of the world, then we’re sorry to break your bubble but those aren’t open world games. Open world games deviate from a conventional level based structure (don’t get us wrong, levels still exist in some of them, but they’re not as limiting). The main goal is to give the player more freedom.

You will hardly come across invisible walls or roadblocks in a truly open world game. Additionally, the world is littered with stuff to do, and you’re free to skip out on them entirely or do them at your own leisure. Nothing is forced.

The final requirement for a game to be an open world game would be that you’re required to be a character in it. Meaning, you as the player, have to interact with the world through this character, and not directly. For example, we can’t call a game like Civilization an open world game, even though it meets with the first two criteria, right? Therefore, it is necessary that you be in control of a particular character within the game’s world for it to qualify as an open world game. And that’s about all that defines an open world game. Onwards!

THE FIRST OPEN WORLD GAMES, LIKE EVER

The inspiration for open world games most probably came from ASCII text based RPG games. There were also dungeon crawler wireframe games that played out in the first person, but neither of these can be considered open world games. However, open world games have definitely derived a lot of ideas from these games.

Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness: Now, for the first ever open world game, we have to go back to the 1980s. Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness could well be the very first open world game. Keep in mind that this is a game from the 1980s, so it was limited technologically. Despite that, it offered a large world to explore, and there was nothing stopping you from exploring it. There were no walls or gates or random NPCs telling you, “you can’t go here because blah blah blah.”

Ultima did many things differently from open world RPGs of today. For one thing, it wasn’t exactly seamless – while the world and the majority of the combat in the world happened in a top down view, the dungeons were all in a first-person wireframe view. Might not sound exciting now but it was heaps better than reading mountains of text. And they did set the foundation for all open world RPG games to come so, all is forgiven!

Elite: If you enjoy intergalactic trading and exploration games, you have this game to thank. This wireframe game is the first procedurally generated space simulator. Elite offered a boatload of features for it’s tiny size (just a few kilobytes!). You had the freedom to roam around in a huge procedurally generated universe. You could trade at spaceports and even indulge in ship-to-ship combat. The game was a programming marvel of its time. Elite set the definition for the space simulator genre. So if you enjoyed Freelancer and are psyched about Star Citizen, they probably wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for Elite.

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