Tell Us Dammit: Does Size Matter?

Nothing in video game marketing bugs me more. [Insert sequel here] is 43 times bigger than [insert previous game here]! Get excited about navigating all this dead space for some reason! The size of a game world has never excited me in the least. It's what you can do inside that world that counts, surely?

So that's my question to you today: does the size of a game world excite you? Does it make you more or less likely to buy a video game? There must be a reason why developers and publishers are so eager to swing their figurative schlongs around. It must be this proven thing that attracts consumers.

Personally, I'd like to see game worlds be smaller, particularly if it allows for more detail, more things to explore within a smaller space. Some game worlds need to feel large — Red Dead Redemption is a great example. This was a western, it had to be set in a world that felt expansive. Does a Metal Gear Solid game really need to be 100 times larger than its predecessor? I'm not so sure.


    Size, not so much, but if a game is super linear that can turn me off. I don't play side scrollers for that exact reason. If I know I'm taking the exact same path as everyone else that has ever played the game I'll likely not finish it. Some games I push through, like TLOU, but I guess I've been spoiled by games like Fallout, Skyrim, the GTAs and Red Dead. I love freedom.

      Freedom in games is very different o filling a game. When a game like DA:I claims 80+ hours of content I expect 80+ hours of Bioware goodness, not 60 hours of WoW grinding with some nice story as well. (NOT SAYING DA IS A BAD GAME IT JUST WASN'T WHAT I EXPECTED)

        Yeah, I cant judge DA:I yet, I've only put about 10 hours into it. When I look over at the gf playing it, it makes me want to play it... she always seems to be making some critical choice or in a dialogue with some random. It'll be interesting to see how it turns out.

    They say girth is more important than length. I think the same applies to games.

      Dammit, you beat me do it.

      pun unitended

      Last edited 22/01/15 11:25 am

      My interest was aroused by the title, but I really just came for the puns.

      Last edited 22/01/15 1:56 pm

    I think game worlds should be as big as they need to be but not big for the sake of being big. Something like gta v was big and great because it felt like a real world. Some other large world games are large for the sake of it and just feel empty and annoying.

      I felt like GTAV was unnecessarily big, with little in the way of things to do other than the story/strangers missions, and many points of interest and interactivity were few and very far between. It probably has a lot to do with having planes in the game, as they can cover long distances in a short space of time, but that just made other forms of travel a bore.

      They only things I really felt that were in the game that allowed you to play in the structure you wanted were the convenience stores and armoured cars you could rob, pretty much everything else was a story/stranger mission and there wasn't much of them and in the case of the story missions they had to be done in chronological order.

        I absolutely agree. For how large GTAV was, there wasn't really a lot you could do in those areas, other than furthering the story. The north part of the map, for how interesting a more rural setting could have been, has next to nothing actually occur in it. I still really enjoyed GTAV, but I feel like San Andreas did a better job at populating the world with things to do, even if it was technically a smaller world.

    It depends on the game and the setting. Take the Arkham games:

    Arkham Asylum had the perfect sized world for what it was, and it was packed to the brim with stuff to find. Then in Arkham City you spend half the time grapple boosting across the city because everything is so far apart, then Arkham Origins made it worse by being bigger (yet somehow had far less to look at) but at least had warp points so you spend less time travelling.

    It kind of makes sense having a big city with Arkham Knight because the Batmobile is meant to be a part of that experience, but for the previous 2 games the city was a bit of a chore to get through.

    I think the map in LA Noire was far too big, or it might have just been the shape of it because driving from one end to the other took far too long.

    Last edited 22/01/15 11:29 am

      Oh yeah, I was constantly using my partner as the driver in LA Noire. I have a friend that didn't realise that there was camp travel in Red Dead. He rode everywhere.

        I knew about camp travel in Red Dead but I STILL rode everywhere because it was just so enjoyable looking at the landscape and seeing what you'd come across. I skinned HUNDREDS of animals that way.

    Nah, I love Persona 4 & Inaba is tiny.

    More about quality.

    The smaller the game world the better, I think. Make it packed with content or let it evolve as the game goes on.

    Warp points/fast travel is silly.

      I was going to comment that I don't mind big as long as you can fast-travel! It can be pretty annoying though, it should be about balance.

        I agree. I'm finding it occasionally frustrating in GTAV when I want to go somewhere and the only way to fast-travel is take a cab (I think). Stuff like *Spoilers?* delivering certain people to a place in the mountains using Trevor sometimes seems to take forever...

    Big is great, but there needs to be stuff to DO. Red Dead was pretty big but I found there was always stuff to do, random encounters, robberies, catching runaway crooks, hunting certain animals in certain areas of the map (which could be to rank up, or to get hides for selling to buy more guns/ammo) so it made the whole thing feel alive. Add to that the atmosphere and the uniqueness of the environment which made exploring interesting.

    Just Cause 2, Far Cry 3/4 and Skyrim all did well at populating their large play areas with things to do and see, whether they be things to blow up (that leads to money to buy more guns etc), Helping people in need, hunting animals, discovering new locations and mini storylines, collecting objects that unlock certain things etc.

    Contrast all that with something like GTAV where there were lots of people walking and driving around, but hardly any 'events' or anything that gave you a sense of purpose, or pushed you to explore. Lots of great looking buildings, but nothing going on in (if you could go in them, which 90% of the time you couldn't) or around them. I felt like I would go exploring and find nothing.

    Last edited 22/01/15 11:32 am

      Heh, sometimes it is fun just to go around being a dick in GTAV. Yesterday I went into the golf course, grabbed a buggy and just drover around like a hoon, mowing the odd person down, jumping over bunkers and eventually crashing into a lake, then running like buggery to escape the cops. Fun times...

      Yeah GTA had robberies you could stop which I liked but there seemed to be less buildings to enter than in IV and the countryside was somewhat pointless

    As a general rule, "it's not how big it is it's how you use it" will usually apply. But then with something like Elite: Dangerous where the sheer scale (and emptiness) of it all is kind of a feature, that's probably one of the few times when the size has excited me.

    I don't really go for open world games anyway, I'm happy with a smaller more directed experience. If a game will give me a good ~20 hours of enjoyment (oh hey there, other vaguely related article from today) I'll be happy.

    It's all in the trade off. If I can make Alien Isolation ten times longer while maintaining the same great gameplay and atmosphere that entire time, that's better. If I can make it twice as long but in the process change the bulk of the game to feel like unimportant filler content, that's worse.
    I think it's an important thing to really sit down and think about when making a sequel. The Arkham series in particular is really focused on one upping itself on a technical level without realising that the charm of the original game wasn't it's size or how many gadgets Batman had, but the tight gameplay and classic Batman story telling. Arkham Knight looks like it'll be a fantastic game but it won't have any of the charm that Arkham Asylum had.

    Depends on the game. DA: Inquisition in the end just didn't grab me, and it's huge. But I very much wish there was more of Skyrim, Fallout 3 and Fallout NV to explore - I love those worlds. So I'd have to say more is better - as long (and this is the key) as the content is there...

      Agreed! Skyrim had filler content that strayed from the main story like inquisition does; however Skyrims side quests involved their own narratives that sometimes affected the story-line. Yet to see that kind of depth in DA:I

        Oh look here's a note.... Sounds interesting.... Travel from one end to the next.... Dead body... Quest complete! YAY!

          Well every small detail in Skyrim means something to someone. That same corpse would be referred to by another quest or a character from another game, it would be more important than the shit the fleshes out DA:I. Granted, the main content of DA is great.

    Interesting how this has come up, and one of the other articles on Kotaku is a video talking about how we should stop complaining that games are too long.

    Granted, it's not the same issue (length versus....size?), but I think my problem with both is the same - having a game that's got too much filler content always feels like a waste of my time, and isn't the most valuable to me in terms of being an enjoyable way to spend my time.

    I've always preferred more guided experiences than open ones. Corridors are fine with me, provided that everything about them is interesting as opposed to endless pointless space.

    E.g. Riding between cities in Assassin's Creed was so pointless that they added a menu that let you skip it. That was a total waste of development effort. The cities, however, made sense because the game was all about using that space to stalk people and escape from pursuers.

    I much prefer semi-open games where u have central hubs that can access different area's. Much like Mass Effect & Deus Ex : Human Evolution. These games often gave off the illusion of being open but u didnt feel too closed in at times and it was in the context of the game (linear corridors on a space ship etc)

    In saying that I do also love to just get lost in the big open world's of GTAV, Skyrim, Fallout & FarCry 3/4 due to the random events filled throughout. I think we've met the limit of size vs enjoyment with these games, that's why I'm a bit skeptical about games like No Man's Sky and the size that game is supposed to be.

    Last edited 22/01/15 11:51 am

    I am with you mark, as I have said in a previous article "if coke started selling 5L bottles but the extra 3L was water, would you buy it?". This is the same concept. GENERALLY if a game has a ridiculous amount of playable hours in it, it is safe to say it is not all story related and of the same caliber as the main quest line. Perfect example is Dragon Age. Plenty of stuff to do, some of it is amazing, while a majority of it is killing 10 rams for their meat...

    I tend to dislike games that are motivated by achieving world firsts eg. "most players on one server", "biggest map".
    It tends to suggest to me that the publicity they seek is novelty- where I'd much rather they focus on customer satisfaction and enjoyment.

    The size of the world only matters if there's enough to do in it...

    I'd argue density over size. A great game can be packed with things to see and do, and only have small play areas; otoh, a huge game can be dull and boring if it's devoid of things to see/do.

    But it's also part quality - even if a game is densely packed with things to do, if they're not interesting, fun and/or rewarding, it's not going to hold my attention for long. This is where DA:I lost me, for example - so much to see and do, but it's all MMO-style filler that distracts (and thereby, detracts) from what I hear is an amazing story. Similarly with AC, Watch Dogs, et al - so much to see and do, but nothing all that interesting in the lot.

    Re pure size - are larger games better? Well... generally not. They have more potential, because the same density over a larger area increases the quantity of interesting things, but it very rarely works out that way; it can even work to make initially interesting and unique experiences mundane by repeating them ad infinitum.

    Last edited 22/01/15 12:03 pm

    I can't give a straight answer here. The size of the game world alone is not why I play games. I didn't play skyrim because the world is large. I wouldn't want the original Double Dragon set in a world that size.... on second thought that would be AWESOME.

      I wouldn't want the original Double Dragon set in a world that size.... on second thought that would be AWESOME.

      Sleeping Dogs springs to mind. The way they avoid giving you guns makes it sort of a brawler in a GTA style environment.

    I honestly don’t mind if a large world doesn’t have a lot to do if a lot of it is just adding atmosphere. I really liked GTA: SA for this reason. Just driving around, listening to the radio was awesome. Messing around and exploring in the desert was awesome.
    I have no idea why LA Noire was built as an open world though. That never made sense to me. As far as virtual tourism for LA in that era, it was cool but it just felt so blatantly unnecessary to me.

      To be fair, there were a few car chases and such in LA Noire, but I take your point. Half of the driving around in that game was to get the film reels and awesome cars :-)

    I was just saying on a another post that it should fit the context of the game. Don't make me run somewhere just because you built a big world. Does it fit the narrative, gameplay and structure of the game?

    AC:U has this problem. Missions start in a random part of the map unrelated to where the mission event take place, far from fast travel zones for no apparent reason. Far Cry 4 had a bit of this such as starting a mission on a hill but the events being 500m away, but was generally better.

    GTA, RDR, etc are fun big games. Heaps to do.
    Borderlands Pre-Sequel was big, but boring as hell!

    Different strokes for different folks.

    I thought AC:B and Tomb Raider got the open world/travel tedium right. Give me fast travel to specific areas then let me get around on foot. Throw in Destiny's public events, add in a bit more variety to them, and I'm stoked.

      Tomb Raider in particular I thought got the world size just right. Deus Ex and Mass Effect 2 and 3 were also very good in my view. Mass Effect and its Mako exploration... hmm...

    Because most gamers are so ridiculously biased, as soon as they hear that there is a chance for bias that's five times bigger or 10 times bigger or has 300% more content ( that's right, I substituted game length for gamer bias), then publishers know that it's a perfect chance for exploitation of creating more content and less quality. It's what really damages all games that are bigger than They should be. And that list of games is gigantic

    I think alien isolation is a perfect and grotesque example

    Last edited 22/01/15 12:48 pm

    Size doesnt matter if theres nothing to do.
    I got bored in Red Dead because despite claiming the enormous amount of random events that can occur they felt anything but random. They would pop up almost exactly 2-3 minutes apart every time. And it there were only 2 or 3 variations on what your mission was. Beautiful game but not enough in it to get the praise people gave it.

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