Making An Open-Ended Game For A Linear Audience

The Hitman series has long been about choice -- bald-headed 47 was set loose inside a semi-sandbox with a target or two and players could come up with any of a number of ways to do away with them. That style of play is becoming increasingly uncommon, at least in mainstream AAA console games, at least in part because it can be a challenge to communicate that kind of freedom to modern players. But lo, that's what Hitman: Absolution makers IO Interactive are going to attempt.

In this interesting interview over at Gamasutra, Absolution director Tore Blystad talks about the challenges of building an open-ended game for a modern audience. Key bit:

And this is something that is also... it's quite difficult, actually, to educate players that this is what the game is trying to serve you, because people are increasingly used to games where you're told to do one thing, and if you stray from this line, there will be nothing else around. It's like, you have this experience, and that's it. So we're telling people, actually, 'No, no, no. You choose by yourself.'

If you want to go in here, or here, or if you want to kill them or not, it actually changes the way you play the game -- when you understand that you have the choice. So in the first couple of levels, we are continuously working [on it]. And still back in Copenhagen we're trying to find out, are we teaching the players everything that they need to understand about the gameplay and the possibilities of the game?

I do imagine that a player steeped in linear games would have a hard time getting much out of Hitman: Blood Money (a game I love). Then again, if there's anything we've learned over the last couple of months from games like XCOM and Dishonored, it's that there's still a lot of life left in older, more-complex game design, as long as it's done right. We'll see if IO pulls it all together soon enough.


    Wait...what? There's heaps of open-ended sandbox games available now. It's quite popular this gen.

      theres a difference between being open in terms of where you can physically go...and open in terms of how you can aproach a in stealth isn't an option for GTA games

      " it can be a challenge to communicate that kind of freedom to modern players. "

      did we all like...get dumber or somthing?

        If in this context the 'modern player' is the xboxlivecodfanboy then yes, I can see how communication in general is difficult to such a player.

        I think it's more to the point, that games have become so focused in their direction such as say CoD for example, that the younger gamers have nothing else to use as a point of reference. They don't really know any better. It's not their fault per se, you can't expect people to understand more open and free form games if they've never been exposed to them before.

        Last edited 04/11/12 7:25 pm

    The more I read about this game the more I want to play it

      I'd listen to Kirks suggestion initially (that is to say, pick up Hitman: Blood Money).

      I'm a long standing fan of the franchise, and I'm superkeen for Absolution (ESPECIALLY if the 'Sniper mini-game' is anything to go by).

    I love this type of level design. Hitman 2 is still one of my favourite games, and I'm loving Dishonored for the same reason (plus the beautiful art style). I'm looking forward to seeing what else IO have come up with for Absolution.

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