Quantic Foundry’s series of blog posts in support of its Gamer Motivation Model continue with its most recent piece on open world games, which finds that when presented with an open-world, open-ended game, players tend to balance their urge to complete a campaign with their desire to randomly explore. Author Kaleb Embaugh argues that while men and women approach such gameplay equally, younger gamers on the whole tend to favor a more single-minded campaign over rudderless exploration. Unsurprisingly, players who leaned more heavily on exploration tend to score high on discovery and fantasy when taking the GMM quiz.
Embaugh bases his conclusions on data revolving around Fallout 4, however, which isn’t an MMORPG. But I wonder whether they couldn’t apply to our genre as well. We have certainly seen massively multiplayer online games that pull in elements from both ends of game design, such as post-NGE’s Star Wars Galaxies, which combined open-world sandbox mechanics with a starkly themeparkish legacy questline.
So how do you plot your gameplay in an open-world sandbox? Do you focus on exploring your own way, or do you buckle down and follow whatever leveling or achievement system the developers have implemented? And does your pattern change when you’re playing a themepark?