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May 26, 2019
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[AC - MGS] On Game Worlds and their Focus/Purpose

by Leo Karakolov on 01/20/16 01:14:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Not all game worlds are created equal. In Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, for example, there is nothing inside the game world that doesn’t have a purpose. There are no friendly NPCs except for Prisoners, and their purpose is to be an Objective or be Extracted. Everyone else Snake (and the player) can meet is an enemy, or their Buddy. This means that at no point are you interacting with anything that is there purely for window-dressing. Everything you see, do, or interact with in Metal Gear Solid V goes toward a greater goal.

Contrast this kind of game world with something like the recent renditions of the Assassin’s Creed games, and you’ll realize that there are a great number of things included in them that don’t need to be there. Blending with civilians has been dramatically reduced in usefulness from how effective it used to be in the early Assassin’s Creed games. This is due both to the difficulty of doing so, and to the lack of civilians in Target Zones in Unity and Syndicate: most Assassinations are indoors. This is true of both Unity and Syndicate.

When it comes to Syndicate, another thing to note is, there are not usually enough Civilians to blend with. but there are just enough to tax the hardware’s resources.

This is especially offensive because recent Assassin’s Creeds do not make strong attempts to honor the Social Stealth Model or give it much weight. Overall, the series has moved onto more Traditional Stealth or Line of Sight Stealth. Some might say this shift was unsuccessful, and I would agree with those people. One of the major reasons for this is a lack of proper AI Manipulation, and incentive to stay unseen that does not involve arbitrary “Full Sync” objectives.

This got me thinking about a game in which such a world would make the most sense both mechanically and aesthetically. That is, a world with everything inside it having a purpose or reason to be there, instead of being purely window-dressing or mood-setting. A place where there are absolutely no Civilians wandering the streets, where everything the Assassin interacts with has meaning and value.

Given these parameters and conditions, it's easy to think of one that would be effective:

A totalitarian regime with a curfew for Citizens, with the Assassin functioning at night-time or past curfew. There would be little to no Civilians in the game world, and it would be filled with meaningful AI interactions that all directly and obviously affect the game-state. If there are Civilians, they would be in trouble as well, and need rescuing by the Assassin, given that Assassins are usually thematically represented as fighting “for the People.” If the player is roleplaying as a more cruel or less Creed-respecting Assassin, or if they see an opportunity that is too good to miss, they can also choose to use these Citizens-in-Distress as bait, or distractions, allowing guards to harass or kill them while they sneak into whatever area those guards are not looking at.

There are many amazing opportunities with this kind of change, and this kind of game world. I would certainly like to play an Assassin’s Creed game with such a world, if only because it would force its developers to be truly creative and present the player with more fluid, responsive, and directly meaningful gameplay possibilities.

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