While playing the narrative piece of an open world game (Elder Scrolls, Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto, Watch Dogs, Far Cry), it doesn’t make sense that there isn’t a restriction or time limit between the main chapter beats. I get that one of the main appeals of these types of games is that you can go anywhere and do anything at any time. But as a storytelling mechanism? It’s certain unconventional.
Obviously it’s a little ridiculous to compare game storytelling to traditional written novels, but here we go. It’s as if you were reading a 400-page novel, and after every chapter is over, there are 40 pages of “And then things happen that are completely unrelated to the story” written over and over again. Nobody would read that novel.
If you’re going to tell a story, tell a story. If you’re going to make a sandbox environment for players to mess around in, then make that. But be more deliberate when combining them.
Maybe make more specific timelines and deadlines for the player to follow during the story phase. Give them limitations (get to Chapter 3 by 8pm tomorrow night [in game time]), so they know what to expect. Build in that free time, but don’t make it unlimited, and don’t let it interfere with the flow of the narrative arc.
June 7, 2015