1. #1

    Open-world systemic loops on example of repurposed AC3 ideas and mechanics

    Here I am, talking about AC3/game design again, yaaaaay. Not in a form of a blog-post, as instead of carefully writing a message I'll just pour down my thoughts in a forum post in real time (there's no real purpose to this thread other than to just state my thoughts, to be honest). So with the release of Watch_Dogs there are talks around these forums in regards what open world games have, should have, and how that concerns AC. And I've been thinking about it, and the biggest problem in open world games is that eventually you run out of things to do. The thing is, even if a game has got a lot of random events, those events become 'just do stuff for the sake of doing things', it's still purposeless. Open world games should have a systemic loop. A sort of a 'board game' (metaphorically speaking, not literally, i.e. not actual board games) component when you replay matches over and over again because it's fun. At the same time this loop must feed into the more limited content: story/narrative, specifically designed missions, etc.

    AC4/Freedom Cry do this to a degree. For example, in AC4 the loop, in simple terms is: get more and more money to upgrade your ship to get to more challenging locations/places/actions. All side content feeds into that. It fits into the narrative and gameplay, but the problem is, there's an end to that loop as well: the Legendary Ships. You defeat those, and you find that while there are still things to do: ships to plunder, warehouses to rob, etc, there's no real reason to other than 'just because'. Now in a game where you can cause all kinds of havoc like Just Cause 2, 'just because' is enough. But you can't have every open-world game be 'weeeeeee whatever fun explosions blam using rope to destroy airplanes and stuff!'.

    So, we need a systemic loop that can be played throughout the whole game, that makes sense mechanically, narratively, and that binds the open world game together, and has still plenty of things to do for a specific reason even when we run out of a specially designed content (all of which should be able to be replayed, btw!). And it doesn't just have to be one loop, there can be several.

    But the main loop that I would propose for AC3 is (oh, and keep in mind that I'm writing this with a presumption that there are no broken core mechanics in the game, like AI detection or no reason to use items): Forts. Imagine Templar Dens of ACR, only better I call it the 'Liberation' loop. AC3 has got most ingredients for it to work (only it doesn't put it in that way).

    So, each Fort (and there's three in every city if we count the two mission specific ones in Boston and New York) has got two states: Liberated (not under Templar influence) and Occupied (under Templar influence). Each state provides the map with content for different purposes. When it's Liberated the nature of the content is to keep it Liberated, and when it's Occupied the nature of the content is to get it Liberated. So, yes, it constantly switches hands, and the content depends if the Fort is in the Frontier or a City. Okay, you know what, let's try organizing this a bit (as I said, I'm writing this on the fly )

    We have two loops:
    Liberation loop (the loop where Connor tries to keep the lands free from Templar's influence)
    Homestead loop (a.k.a. the character loop).


    Liberation loop is, as I said, based on forts. The advantage of forts being liberated is you can get access to stores (which work a bit differently) to get resources (no money system, and no weapons/ammunition/anything in the stores) for the Homestead loop.
    Homestead loop is based on upgrading your homestead, hunting, and crafting (i.e. upgrading your character and keeping him with stuff). The advantage of the Homestead loop is that you can support the Liberation loop with it (not to mention that you have more stuff!)

    A bit more about the Liberation loop. Forts start the game in the Occupied state. We want to get them liberated.

    In the cities, this is essentially combined with the Liberation side missions. Areas with Occupied forts are in bigger turmoil, and we complete Liberation side quests to lower the Templar influence. Lowering the Templar influence makes forts easier to infiltrate, as well as providing additional means to get to it (for example raising a riot to go marching on the Fort and distracting the forces occupying the fort while you sneak in to kill the captain and do the whole Fort-liberatey stuff).

    After we liberate a fort, the area is in a lesser turmoil. We have access to the store that can provide us with resources like iron/wood/etc. (and we barter hunting goods which have value - the better the skin the better the value and more resources we can get). However, Templar influence is on the rise. To keep it at bay and lower it, we disrupt Templar communication (i.e. couriers), search for and kill Templar agents on the streets (something like officials, and we find them by using, gasp, EAGLE VISION!!!!!), and if we see somebody starting a riot, kill the instigator (plus some other things that could possibly be done there). If we fail to keep the Templars at bay, the area gets into a huge riot stage, which we can stop with different means while it's going - but if we don't, Templars take back the Fort). As a possibility, we can place an assassin agent in the area to do it for us if we're too lazy (it won't stop the Templar progress fully, but it will slow them down). The downside of that is we can't use that assassin's ability unless we're in the area they're at.


    In the Frontier, it's kind of a similar situation but more 'war-based'. Again, to liberate the fort we need to kill the captain etc., and there are things to do around the Fort that can make things easier. Killing Templar convoys cuts the supply lines to the Forts (so there will be less guards in places). Also, the 'non-Templar' force tries to attack the Fort to take it back on its own. There are a bunch of small camps around the Fort, and if we free them (either when nobody's attacking it or during an attack), the 'non-Templar force' takes it, and if it gets to the Fort, they launch an assault when we get there (again, a big distraction).

    When the Fort is liberated, the same thing happens in reverse. I.e. the enemies try to take back the camps and kill the supply lines to launch an assault. So we can save attacked convoys, camps, and take back old camps. We can also send our own convoys to the Forts.

    Now speaking of the Homestead loop. There are no money in the game. Just resources. We can get resources actively, by hunting in the Frontier and then bartering in the stores (if we unlock them, if we don't - those moveable cart stores), or passively - by letting the Homestead peeps doing it for us.

    We can't buy weapons, ammo or anything. We can only ask our homesteaders craft them. (Or, well, loot people for ammo at the least). And no useless crafting like chairs or stuff, just the gameplay items. Plus we can send resources to Forts to keep them liberated (and ammo/weapons to our assassin agents so they could fight more effectively and keep a better watch on areas?).

    So, something like this. This is not perfect, there are lots of little neat things that can be added, and again, this presumes that there are no other problems with AC3. But I just want to state a point.

    In this example, we have a range of varying content all around the place (taking forts in some regions, keeping them liberated in others) that's constantly updating due to changing situations, we are never at a point of having TOO much things like money in other AC games (if we want to be efficient, that is) since there's a constant exchange going on, and there's always an alternative to things (i.e. we don't want to bother with hunting and trading to get ammo for us, we still can loot and passively get, admittedly lesser, resources). So even when we fully complete the main campaign and all the specially designed side-missions, when we get back into the game, instead of pointlessly running around and doing stuff or encountering random events just because, we still are Connor, and we still want to keep the lands free from Templar influence, and there's a purpose to doing everything. And players can even challenge themselves trying to optimize how long they can keep things liberated, and if they want to vary things around they can just let things rot for a bit (or maybe use a cheat to reset everything) and switch up the content.

    And this is what open-world games should have, I think. Not just random events happening all around the place. But a particular specific loop with a specific purpose (both gameplay wise and narrative wise).
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  2. #2
    Dev_Anj's Avatar Senior Member
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    I'd like to see an open world game with this concept. Also, please no Den Defense to reclaimed a captured fort!
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  3. #3
    Hahahahaha I disagree with this soooo much ! I will start by saying I think your ideas are well presented/thoughtout and that there's absolutely nothing wrong with them in principal. But they are orthogonal to my OW preferences!


    To me one of the core principals of open-world games is that they should never ever force content on the player (this includes any kind of punishment for not participating in an activity). Instead they should try to sell content by teasing/rewarding, but if the player choose to walk away there should be no consequences. Another important principal is that there should be no regress unless the player specifically asks for it (like the reset option for the camps in FarCry). This is actually more of a corollary to the first principal: you should not force the player to do a certain activity by threatening with regress. Your suggestions goes against both these principal. This to me leads to a game that is stressful, feels like a chore, is annoying and just overall sucks the fun out of playing.

    I also don't think activities being part of an overall loop is that critical. By far the most important thing to me is that the activities are fun in their own right. A deeper, more interactive parkour system would for example mean countless of hours of enjoyment as I just aimlessly ran around the city trying to find cool lines. Connecting the current system in an overall loop of (say) catching robbers would do nothing for me. I do see the value of activities being thematically consistent and having a similar style of gameplay (aka third person action, no strategy games). Having some sort of overall goal (like the legendary ships) is cool too. In general I want the content to mainly focus on action (in a wide sense: stuff you do) and exploration. Book keeping, economy, various meters going up and down etc I'm far less interested in.

    I think the idea of endless fun is an illusion and pointless to chase. It's simply impossible to achieve. Sooner or later you will get bored. To make the game last as long as possible you need to:
    1) Have deep and enjoyable mechanics that feel great to do in their own right.
    2) A variety of different flavoured content so you can go from saying sneaking in a plantation into fire a broadside into a Man Of War.
    3) Systemic content that constantly presents unique gameplay opportunities for the player.
    4) Option to reset/replay some content.

    It will never be enough though. Sooner or later you will just lose interest. Then you can come back a few months later and replay the game instead.



    Ok just some thoughts I randomly typed in as well
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  4. #4
    DinoSteve1's Avatar Senior Member
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    No AC3 sucked.
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  5. #5
    Sounds almost like a living breathing world.
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  6. #6
    shobhit7777777's Avatar Senior Member
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    I want to shove a cookie down your throat, through broken teeth and jaws....for bringing up systemic gameplay.

    Skimmed through the OP..largely agree with it. Templar Den/Towers are the way forward to showcase a game's strength...which is why other Ubi games are adopting it - WD, FC2/3.

    Dunno if they should be part of the primary loop.....but definitely the meat of the game lies there, for me atleast.
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  7. #7
    Dev_Anj's Avatar Senior Member
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    Originally Posted by Sushiglutton Go to original post


    To me one of the core principals of open-world games is that they should never ever force content on the player (this includes any kind of punishment for not participating in an activity). Instead they should try to sell content by teasing/rewarding, but if the player choose to walk away there should be no consequences. Another important principal is that there should be no regress unless the player specifically asks for it (like the reset option for the camps in FarCry). This is actually more of a corollary to the first principal: you should not force the player to do a certain activity by threatening with regress. Your suggestions goes against both these principal. This to me leads to a game that is stressful, feels like a chore, is annoying and just overall sucks the fun out of playing.
    I don't see this system "forcing" anything on the player. This system seems more to provide something meaningful for the players to do after the game. If you don't want to liberate forts, don't do it! What's the problem? If you don't put a mechanic where the fort is taken back eventually, then you're essentially making it a one time thing. Resetting may not help if the events are the exact same to capture a fort, and besides, weren't you the person telling that random events are overrated? Essentially, this just gives a stronger context to the events, so it doesn't feel like the player is participating in these events for the sake of it.

    But there's an easy to fix it for players like you. Disable the "fort can be retaken" option and put a "reset" fort button, and you're set!
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  8. #8
    Megas_Doux's Avatar Senior Member
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    If there is some open world to be "imitated", is AC IV´s.....
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  9. #9
    Originally Posted by Dev_Anj Go to original post
    I don't see this system "forcing" anything on the player. This system seems more to provide something meaningful for the players to do after the game. If you don't want to liberate forts, don't do it! What's the problem? If you don't put a mechanic where the fort is taken back eventually, then you're essentially making it a one time thing. Resetting may not help if the events are the exact same to capture a fort, and besides, weren't you the person telling that random events are overrated? Essentially, this just gives a stronger context to the events, so it doesn't feel like the player is participating in these events for the sake of it.

    But there's an easy to fix it for players like you. Disable the "fort can be retaken" option and put a "reset" fort button, and you're set!

    Note that I wrote: "never ever force content on the player (this includes any kind of punishment for not participating in an activity)"

    In Farlander's system you will get punished unless you constantly take actions to prevent forts from being retaken. In my view an open world game should never do that because it hurts player freedom. There are other options. For example the plantation model. You don't get any lasting perk from beating a plantation. For that reason there is no punishment in it resetting. On the contrary it gives you a chance to gather more resources.

    The thing is that I do like the open sandbox-stealth levels. In fact they are my favourite part of the game. What I don't want is for them to be locked in with a bunch of other content that I perhaps don't want to do.
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  10. #10
    Sushi, a loop doesn't necessarily have to be time-based Though, honestly, I personally don't have anything against real-time based loops, but that's all preferential. But the AC3 example was just an example, using AC3 elements. (And, to be fair, while Animus is a perfect narrative example that can justify every game mechanic, everything time-based kinda feels weird there...)

    The main point is in having an eco-system that won't die (of course it might get boring in a while, EVERYTHING might get boring in a while), that also provides a bunch of alternatives for different things (i.e. there can't be just one way to gather something you need). Here's the thing with warehouses: after everything is said and done, they're pointless. I have more money than I will ever need, and I have bought everything resources can buy. I don't care about resources. Because the loop, which is not a loop in AC4 but a spiral, has ended. When I was still in that spiral, I had a desire to be stealthy and try different approaches to get the bonus in the end, because I needed as many things as I can get. But then I got out of the spiral, and warehouses became an activity just for the sake of it, and as a result they become not as interesting much faster than they otherwise would.

    To me it doesn't feel good. AC is an open-world game with a more specific and realistic approach, and it's not a type of game where I feel like doing something just because. There are open-world games which are more suited for those kind of activities where I don't mind them, but I don't feel AC is one of them. So in case of AC4 and warehouses, for example, there has to be a part of eco-system where I'd like to invest the resources I gather in. Doesn't have to be time based, but has to be an activity/action/goal that does that. And an alternative that won't require resources for the same thing (but would be less efficient, otherwise there's no need for the first thing... or different enough... for example, in AC4 both boardings and warehouses serve the same goal - resources and money, but are different types of activities - so there are two ways we can get resources for this 'thing' that won't just end, whatever it might be). And this thing, preferably, in turn would give us something for another part of the core gameplay. This creates a loop. Now warehouses are never an activity that I do 'just because', now, regardless if I decided to go through one for fun or because I need resources - there's still a certain purpose to them. See what I mean?

    PS. Never play Sid Meier's Pirates, you'll hate it You have a limited life-span in there and you have to try and do as best you can before you die
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