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An Overwhelming Bigness of Map

air_show

elementary my dear baxter
I'm playing Elden Ring right now, which is a Soulsborne game, basically, but with a truly gigantic, enormous map. Like, so big, that the first castle in the game, Baby's First Castle, is more huge and sprawling than any endgame castle from any previous game in the series.

It's impressive, certainly. It also paralyzes me, for some reason. I've reached a point where I'm getting a little stuck in the game, having a hard time motivating myself to play simply because of the overwhelming size of the map and sheer amount of stuff to do within it.

And this isn't the first time this has happened to me. It happened before in Dragon Age Inquisition. At one point, I'm wandering a huge map, seeing the hundreds of icons for sidequests and content to collect, and I just felt prematurely exhausted. I also bounced off Outer Worlds after reaching the third planet or so and picking up so many sidequests every 20 feet I traveled that I became overwhelmed. I just couldn't decide where to start and where to stop. Even as far back as the Batman Arkham games I had a distinct preference for the tight, smartly designed map of Arkham Asylum over the more sprawling open design of Arkham City.

Is this a thing for anyone else? Is it an age thing?

One "exception" I can make note of is Red Dead Redemption 2, with the caveat that I haven't actually completed that game either. But something about the atmosphere of that game inspires in me an extremely leisurely pace that makes the slow, ponderous exploration more of a feature than a bug for my mind goblins. Even still I tend to put it down for months at a time after making only modest progress.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Yeah, I get this sentiment - in most open world games I give over to the idea that I just won't experience everything. I think it's a little easier in a FromSoft game for me to accept this, because they tend to be full of items and pickups that aren't compatible with your character. I accept that I'll replay this game and experience stuff I missed in the first run. But it can be hard to get over that mental hurdle and will affect how much you can enjoy a game with an open world style.
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
Sometimes when I see how big a game's map is I give a little "oof", but it's never demotivated me from playing. It's not a surprise going into one of those games that the map is gonna be big.
 

zonetrope

(he/him)
That happens to me a lot too. Not just with maps, but with the amount of information that modern games tend to throw at the player. I managed to find my footing in Elden Ring, but I had to stop playing Deathloop because the core gameplay systems are so byzantine and overwhelming.
 

JBear

Internet's foremost Bertolli cosplayer
(He/Him)
Is this a thing for anyone else? Is it an age thing?
Oh, hi me. I didn't realize that I'd created a sock-puppet account.

Seriously, though, what you describe is absolutely how I feel, and I've always felt in the minority about it. I wrote a big effort-post about it back on TT 2.0, but I'm unable to find it, since we don't have a way to search the archive, so I'll just paraphrase here as best as I can recall. I hate open-world games. I just... hate them. But it's not them, it's me. I want to like them. And I keep trying to like them, to engage with them like a normal person and just pick and choose content and work my way forward, but I just can't. Even the "good" ones, where people assure me, "no, this is an open world, but this one is different, you'll be fine". Ron Howard: "He wasn't fine." They're just my kryptonite. I want to exhaustively mine my games for content, to do everything, and they just run directly counter to that. I feel overwhelmed, and I inevitably eventually get frustrated and bored and walk away.

My first open-world game was Oblivion for 360. I played that game for over 200 hours. I could bound across the landscape like the Incredible Hulk, was the master of several guilds, and I still had never made it to the first town that Captain Picard sent me to in the intro. I played 200 hours of Oblivion without ever seeing an Oblivion gate. It broke something inside of me. "Never again", I said... until the next one.

The next one was Fallout 3. This time, I said to myself, this time I'm going to do it how you're supposed to. I'm going to follow the critical path, not get distracted, and actually finish one of these. It worked... for a little while. But then I got to a city, and found a network of sewers, and decided to exhaustively map that city and those sewer, and before I knew it I'd been in that city for like 60 hours and quit in frustration and disgust.

I also played over 200 hours of Breath of the Wild. I have ~600 koroks, and huge bags full of laser swords and the like. I never set foot in 3 of the (~dozen?) major zones. I never made it to the bird town, or the desert town, or saw their respective animals/dungeons. I never set foot in Hyrule Castle. I got frustrated, got bored, and walked away.

For a while, it felt like every other game was open world, and it was deeply troubling, but there seems to be less of a glut of them in recent years, so it's become less personally distressing that I just can't deal with them. My next mistake will probably be FF 15, when I get around to it. Will this one be different? Probably not.

Thank god my PC won't run Elden Ring, at least. Normal Souls games take me a 100 hours to finish; I can't imagine what that one would do to me.
 

air_show

elementary my dear baxter
I wanted to like the newer Tomb Raider games, played the shit out of the first one and enjoyed the plot well enough, but by the time I gave Rise of the Tomb Raider a go I realized I hated the gameplay*.

In the older games there was a feeling of being inside an environment, an enormous puzzle you had to solve by observing and reasoning things out and applying your complicated set of movement skills effectively. It can feel clunky in this day and age but was also genuinely more immersive than New Raider was ever able to pull off with all its shiny Uncharted action sequences and poe-faced grittiness. In those games you just feel like you're on yet another map, with yet another set of icons to collect on easily telegraphed paths. The titular tombs have become nothing more than brief side quests, usually a small cave with a single puzzle to solve now and then on your way to yet another massive gunfight with a literal army of men.

*(also I eventually disliked what they did to the story. I realized it did really suck for them to take Lara Croft, this kind of charming byronic hero of her era, and reboot her with a bunch of trauma porn for the sake of Dramatic Story Cred. And then after that she just became a really boring generic hero with daddy issues and an even more boring and generic villain organization to square off against that Assassin's Creed already put its quarter on. I miss the ex-socialite adrenaline junkie who was disowned by her parents and uses double pistols because it makes her look cool while murdering hostile wildlife or rival treasure hunters. But that's a bit of a tangent)
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
I can certainly relate to the open world fatigue. For me it's not just that they're overwhelmingly huge, it's also that they usually just don't have much interesting to do in them. A lot of modern quest design boils down to endless variations of "Collect # of X Thing" or "Clear out Place Y" for a reward and to me that kinda stuff is just so bland.

Having a protagonist who can do fun stuff helps (ex. Link, Rico, Spider-Man, the Saints Boss) but that only goes so far. Game companies are so desperate to add more and more content these days in hopes that people will happily spend $60-$70 then pay more for the DLC, but I keep finding myself far more drawn to smaller and more finite experiences 'cuz they tend to be more polished and interesting.

Also as these worlds keep growing I am more and more disappointed when a game has barely any buildings I can even go inside. Not that I expect to go everywhere, but this was particularly egregious in Grand Theft Auto V, a game that makes a convincing facsimile of a living, breathing world as long as you don't mind not actually being able to go in any of the many fancy stores and restaurants.
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
I also played over 200 hours of Breath of the Wild. I have ~600 koroks, and huge bags full of laser swords and the like. I never set foot in 3 of the (~dozen?) major zones. I never made it to the bird town, or the desert town, or saw their respective animals/dungeons. I never set foot in Hyrule Castle. I got frustrated, got bored, and walked away.

I'm not sure how many hours in I am in BotW, but it’s quite a few, and while I’ve now visited almost every corner of the map (revealed all of it and hit every significant settlement) I’ve yet to set foot in a single Divine Beast. I *want* to finish it, ideally before the sequel drops, but it feels a bit intimidating to pick back up in any given short moment of down-time.

I did at least finish FFXV, having done most of what there was to do in it pre-DLC. That’s actually probably the most recent open world I’ve completed, since I stalled out on AC Origins. I love big exploration games in *theory*, I just have a real hard time making time to actually play them these days.
 

ThricebornPhoenix

target for faraway laughter
(he/him)
The fact that you can basically see all of the game's optional content at the start is one problem with typical (in my experience) open-world games. I feel fatigued just having a general idea of how many hours I'd have to dedicate solely to copy-pasted sidequests and pointless collectibles if I wanted to clean up the map. Nowadays I start feeling burnt out before the story starts to pick up.

I don't know what, exactly, but I feel open world games need a very different design philosophy.
 

Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
I learned this lesson the hard way with Skyrim. I got over 100 hours into the game and had barely touched the main story, and felt my interest waning. I tried to go back and push through the story, but nope, I'd gotten bored because I was plumbing the depths of every last bear cave I came across for a bunch of utterly useless garbage that I then had to spend just as much time organizing at my house. It sucked. The worst part is that as I was wasting my time doing samey bullshit and getting bored of it, the story quests were actually much more interesting and fun once I started pushing myself to do those, but it was too late. The game had already lost my attention and I never finished it.

Maybe games have gotten better with guideposts and breadcrumbs since then or maybe I've just internalized the lesson from Skyrim, because the games I've played since then have been much better for me. In Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Elden Ring I loved exploring all the nooks and crannies of the world and feel like I was definitely able to do so fully, but I also never had a problem gently reminding myself back toward critical path stuff pretty regularly.

I finished BotW in... 120ish hours, give or take? I had almost every shrine and a decent (but not remotely exhaustive) number of Koroks, maybe a bit over 200? I'd explored the entire map, found quite a few secrets... I was very satisfied. Same for Horizon - HZD wasn't as good at filling every last hilltop and crevice with stuff, so I eventually put my fine-toothed comb down and just explored for its own sake, moving on to The Content as I approached it.

In Elden Ring, there was a time about 90 hours into my first playthrough (I was on Altus Plateau at the time) when I was getting soooo tired of side catacombs and caves... so I just stopped going to them and directed myself back to the closest legacy dungeon, which immediately interested me much more. Interest recaptured, drive reignited, and I was able to swing back around to the smaller dungeons later when they took less time and when I could pace them out a bit more.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Very early on in H:ZD, I figured out what was the more generic content, and what felt like it was worth pursuing, and it turned my experience far far better for it. It's tough, though, to see all that stuff to do and be like, "I have to do all the things!"

I feel like games like Dragon Age: Origins were more my speed (or KOTOR before it), where there were some clearly defined quests along the way, and you could feel like you completed everything there was to do without experiencing a ton of filler content. I have yet to truly sink much time into Bethesda's oeuvre, so I'll have to figure out some way to stay on track.
 

Sarcasmorator

Same as I ever was
(He/him)
Big maps don't stop me, but icons do. In HZD I turned a lot of them off for much of the time to avoid overwhelm.
 

Issun

Avarice
I can count the open world games I truly enjoyed on one hand (RDR 1 and 2, NieR: Automata, Far Cry 3, and Xenoblade if that counts). The rest of them just get exhausting at a certain point. My Elden Ring character has been sitting outside the final boss for a month now with only a few attempts under her belt and I don't know if I'll ever go back. Skyrim was okay I guess but looking back at Far Cry 4 and 5 and HZD and Phantom Pain and any others I've played, open world fatigue is real.

I still want to play Witcher III and FFXV and to go back to BoTW but other than that I think it's time for me and open world games to part ways.
 

Ludendorkk

(he/him)
The funny thing is I've started going "Oh Elden Ring's Map is kinda small, isn't it", which is absolutely true as far as open world games go
 

John

(he/him)
I've been playing old Assassin's Creed games, which are small on the scale of Open World. I just finished III and Liberation, and started Black Flag. I like having lists of easy things to do, and these games are all about minor achievements doled out as fast or slow as you want them. I gather the newer games went overboard with all the stuff, but the earlier ones are manageable as long as you don't go for 100%.

The most modern of this style I've played for extended periods is probably LotR: Shadow of Mordor (not all that modern), which I did get icon fatigue with. My favorite of this style is probably Bully, the Rockstar not-GTA game, though I haven't revisited it since release to know if it holds up.
 

John

(he/him)
I took a breather from Assassin's Creed games and booted up Mad Max on the Steam Deck. I put about 15 hours of actual game time into it, and maxed out all the tasks in the first main area, but that's about as far as I'll take it. The open world-ness of this one reminds me a bit of Assassin Creed 1's wilderness sections, with not a lot to do, and only a handful of engagements repeated liberally everywhere. I liked it at first, but have no want to repeat the exact same tasks to build up the other strongholds around the map.

I thought about just continuing on the main story path until it forces me to do some grinding for currency, but instead I booted up Yakuza Kiwami. I played Yakuza Zero a couple years ago, so this is extremely familiar to me. I really like the Micro Open World that these games use, and the variety of all the different Things to be done. That's really where open world shines, and why the ones that I've burned out on (like Mad Max, Shadow of Mordor, AC1) fail in my eyes. Once I get tired of Finding the Doodads, give me minigames, or story quests, or something other than the same activities I've just done for hours. Also, have completing those side stories lead to something other than just checking a list, like earning experience or other types of points that I can level up with.
 
I recently had an extended discussion with a crew on my discord about this.

It came about when watching a streamer friend captivated by Ghosts of Tsushima to get 100% and all trophies and loving every minute of it. Whereas I was utterly bored and exhausted just from thinking about going through all those samey challenges.

We started talking about open-world fatigue but it bled into a lot of other topics, such as experience fatigue in general (at 41, too many AAA games just feel like things I've already played before), and also how some open world titles DO manage to be captivating by offering meaningful side exploration. There are a number of open-world titles where the exploration IS the point and what you do there affects the game in a meaningful way (finding/completing shrines in BotW), vs side-quests that have no impact on the overall progression and you could just main the "story quests" without any trouble which offer no incentive beyond the experience of the side-content itself. And if that side-content is the same 6 quests copy-pasted, then fatigue sets in really fast. I would posit that even BotW is mildly guilty of this with the "test of strength" shrines. This "disconnect" idea is part of a much larger discussion that I'm shortening for the sake of a single post here.

I think my fatigue with open-world games is a large combination of factors that are both personal and game-design related. I try not to begrudge those who feel differently because they haven't been through as many as I have, but I will certainly be spending more of my time in the indie space which is full of actual new experiences for me.
 
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ThricebornPhoenix

target for faraway laughter
(he/him)
I think traversal is hugely important in open world games. It's a strong point in BotW (climbing and paragliding) and PS4 Spider-Man (speedy, slightly skill-based web-slinging), and I don't think it's a coincidence that those games took a lot longer to start wearing me down than most. Rewarding exploration and meaningful sidequests/optional content are good, but they don't mean much if getting around is a slog.
 
I'm playing Elden Ring right now, which is a Soulsborne game, basically, but with a truly gigantic, enormous map. Like, so big, that the first castle in the game, Baby's First Castle, is more huge and sprawling than any endgame castle from any previous game in the series.

It's impressive, certainly. It also paralyzes me, for some reason. I've reached a point where I'm getting a little stuck in the game, having a hard time motivating myself to play simply because of the overwhelming size of the map and sheer amount of stuff to do within it.
I'm with you on Elden Ring. Its certainly impressive how big of a world From Software created. But I would say at about the 60-80 hour mark for me, new map reveals were met with groans and not excitement. When is this game going to end?

I think it comes down to how much I'm enjoying a game whether or not I appreciate a big map. I really enjoyed the chill vibes of driving around the large map in Final Fantasy XV.

I also think variety is the spice of life. I'm not the kind of gamer who will go from one open world game to another. I played AI: The Somnium Files after Elden Ring and found the few locations and relatively limited game play to be refreshingly concise after the sprawl of Elden Ring.
 

air_show

elementary my dear baxter
I learned this lesson the hard way with Skyrim. I got over 100 hours into the game and had barely touched the main story, and felt my interest waning. I tried to go back and push through the story, but nope, I'd gotten bored because I was plumbing the depths of every last bear cave I came across for a bunch of utterly useless garbage that I then had to spend just as much time organizing at my house. It sucked. The worst part is that as I was wasting my time doing samey bullshit and getting bored of it, the story quests were actually much more interesting and fun once I started pushing myself to do those, but it was too late. The game had already lost my attention and I never finished it.
Ok, now see for me, Skyrim hits just right. I feel like I've got a few more Skyrim playthroughs in me before the end.
 

Paul le Fou

24/7 lofi hip hop man to study/relax to
(He)
I didn't hate Skyrim, I just think its open world design did not mesh well with its item and inventory designs, and made for a bad experience for someone like me who's driven to be a completionist for all the nooks and crannies. I always had a vague notion that someday I'd go back and play it again, and only focus on stories and significant sidequests and ignore all the endless, pointless bear caves. I never got around to it and I have so much else in my backlog that I'll honestly never actually do that and I feel fine with that, but hey, the mood might still strike me one day.
 

air_show

elementary my dear baxter
Also I continued to play Elden Ring and got SUPER INTO IT for a while and really enjoyed myself but then very suddenly fell back into the everything's feeling huge and chorish zone. I almost stopped playing but then yesterday had a thought "why not respec? I've probably got plenty of respec goobles to use and a new build might make the game more fun again." So I fired up the game and promptly FORGOT to respec because first I went to go level up the weapon I had in mind to respec for and instead leveled up a few other weapons in particular a big ass rusty fish hook. Now I have only just now been struck with the genius idea to try and fashion souls a Silent Hill Monster, so you'll forgive me for not doing so immediately but I then decided to wander around Florida for a while and very successfully fought a bunch of those very annoying bats with my greatbow and giant hook. All the while constantly, I mean very repeatedly, being summoned to fight Radahn and failing every. Single. Time. Like either because I die or because the host dies and I'm like

My god how did I ever beat him in the first place.

Still though in my overland explorations I amassed a not unimpressive pile of souls. One thing that has plagued my gameplay lately is frequently amassing a pile of souls big enough to be worth spending but not enough to level, and then proceeding to lose it to very stubborn and foolish decision making. Yesterday would prove no different. I fell off a cliff while exploring a little too long with all that cash in pocket and then woke up at a grace much much further away because of how far I had traveled. I teleported to another grace, promptly tried to shortcut out the side and then fell down another cliff and lost everything.

I saved and turned it off at that point. I'm not sure if I had fun?
 

air_show

elementary my dear baxter
I didn't hate Skyrim, I just think its open world design did not mesh well with its item and inventory designs, and made for a bad experience for someone like me who's driven to be a completionist for all the nooks and crannies. I always had a vague notion that someday I'd go back and play it again, and only focus on stories and significant sidequests and ignore all the endless, pointless bear caves. I never got around to it and I have so much else in my backlog that I'll honestly never actually do that and I feel fine with that, but hey, the mood might still strike me one day.
Ok here's my current shtick and if it you think it might help you focus on just advancing the gameplay and not feel bogged down in endless maintenance here goes:

Pick six skills in advance. That will be your "class". Literally make it any six skills you want but you can only invest points in these skills. Let that constrict your gameplay. TBH I feel like the gameplay is absolutely bangin' this way and the three characters I've built play so differently I've invested long hours into all three and loved it. And this is on a vanilla playthrough for trophies, so no mods.

There are other "rules" but they're more like guidelines. Don't pick up things if they're not useful to your build. Create a character design that you like and give them a name that makes you feel like they have a personality, even if that personality is "this is a thieves guild guy". Don't loot armor or weapons unless they are useful to you or a follower, or are uniquely valuable at your current level of wealth. Otherwise only pick up gold and gems for bartering.

Mind you I've created these rules not so much to deliberately eliminate the more tedious parts of the gameplay but rather because I've played it so got damn much at this point that I've naturally honed my playstyle down for efficiency when just vibing with the atmosphere.
 

air_show

elementary my dear baxter
I took a breather from Assassin's Creed games and booted up Mad Max on the Steam Deck. I put about 15 hours of actual game time into it, and maxed out all the tasks in the first main area, but that's about as far as I'll take it. The open world-ness of this one reminds me a bit of Assassin Creed 1's wilderness sections, with not a lot to do, and only a handful of engagements repeated liberally everywhere. I liked it at first, but have no want to repeat the exact same tasks to build up the other strongholds around the map.
I also have not beaten That Good Mad Max Game because I similarly burned out from hitting it hard in a really completionist way, but I did enjoy it very very much and have been hankering to go back to it recently.
 

Büge

Arm Candy
(she/her)
I learned this lesson the hard way with Skyrim. I got over 100 hours into the game and had barely touched the main story, and felt my interest waning. I tried to go back and push through the story, but nope, I'd gotten bored because I was plumbing the depths of every last bear cave I came across for a bunch of utterly useless garbage that I then had to spend just as much time organizing at my house. It sucked. The worst part is that as I was wasting my time doing samey bullshit and getting bored of it, the story quests were actually much more interesting and fun once I started pushing myself to do those, but it was too late. The game had already lost my attention and I never finished it.
This is why I prefer Morrowind. There's just more to do in that game than there is in Skyrim, and it gives you what you need to finish quests but it doesn't lead you by the nose. The game even gives you a diegetic reason to go out and explore, join guilds, and do favours for folks.

Something else that I appreciated about Morrowind? It came with its own map. Like, a literal paper map with points of interest marked out: roads, paths, weird landmarks, even shipwrecks. You could literally use it to get around when you were lost in a canyon or whatever (of which there were many). Things like this are what I miss about the decline of physical media.
 
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