Grand Theft Auto IV ScreenShot
Video Game design is taking a turn towards the unpredictable. In the past, limited technology often prevented developers from pursing the game they actually wanted, they had to create games that were dependent and defined by their technological limitations. Now, with all the new possibilities available in the video game industry, developers will need to drop linear story game development and start offering sand box gaming across all genres of gaming.
This may not strike many of you as surprising, but the fact that so many games still offer the player little room for creativity or freedom baffles me. Take a game like Final Fantasy 13 for example. I understand it is an RPG, and yes, it is fairly well made for those gamers who are into that sort of linear style of gameplay. However, if developers want to attract gamers from other genres and create games that will have years upon years of shelf life, they will need to offers the player some form of creativity and some element of freedom. When those two elements are combined with multiplayer capabilities, you have the equation for success.
An example of a game that does this well is Grand Theft Auto IV. This game received a lot of flak for whatever reason, with claims of a storyline that is not compelling enough or for the multiplayer portion not having enough game modes, but the free roam mode was done in a way that offered the elements I previously mentioned. For example, you can wreak havoc within Liberty City with your friends, getting a high wanted level and fighting to keep each other alive. This alone would make the game worth getting, especially if the online portion allowed for a greater amount of players. I remember the many times where my friends and I ( a group of 5 or so) hid in a strip club or hospital, stacked to the brim with a mass amount of weapons and ammunition, trying to prevent the police from raiding the building for as long as possible. It began to get especially dire when all of your friends die, their wanted level wiped clean, and you are alone in a building with ten or twenty officers who want you dead.
Red Dead Redemption Screenshot
Even in the previous example, this is probably what Rockstar Games intended with the free roam game mode. But things that my friends and I just came up on the spot with were little games like “hitman”. When we acquired the high wanted level and one of us died, we would help out the police, and work to track down and kill the remaining person who had the highest wanted level. These chases would span all three portions of the world, land, air and sea and would last anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. I remember my friend successfully left the hospital, stole a sports car in a dealership nearby, drove to a helicopter pad and stole a helicopter, flew to the highest building in liberty city and camped there until he ran out of bullets, then hopped off to end himself instead of giving us the pleasure.
Games like that offer people the creativity and freedom to come up with fun activities on their own instead of developers fretting on features that every other game of the genre has. With improvements in networking capabilities and processing power, games should all adopt this strategy and offer as much freedom and room for creativity as possible, this way, players will not only have the game modes alloted to them, but the ability to start activities of their own that might even catch popularity and spread through the fan base. In some games, developers are beginning to implement advanced physics in order to allow players to dispatch their enemies in creative ways. There is an online game that actually allows players to bait enemies towards them, so they can set off a mass of rolling boulders to tumble on and crush their enemies, or perhaps break a bridge that will lead to the enemies plummeting to their death.
The one downfall to games that are developed in this fashion is that it requires a mass amount of time and a mass amount of money. Grand Theft Auto IV had a production cost that surpassed many high-end movies, and I suspect the next Grand Theft Auto game will as well. However, the potential pay off for a successful online game free roam game is astronomical. If one could take video game design and philosophy to the next level and throw 20 players into one fairly large city, while offering a plethora of features, freedom and room for creativity, then they would have developed themselves a game worth treasuring.
I am sure that I am not the only one who has thought up this concept, seeing as how Rockstar Games already offers this more or less with Grand Theft Auto IV and even in Red Dead Redemption. However, when the next generation of video game consoles come around, you will most likely see a jump in games that offer a free roam feature, and this is when games will have reached their peak. The evolution of video game design is headed in a great direction, one that will allow for players and fans to explore their creativity and use strategies and freedom to have fun or solve problems.