Old content

This post is from one of several previous incarnations of this site and probably doesn’t quite fit the current format. In a former life this was a group blog and a tumblelog before it became a static jekyll site. If anything looks broken or is worded oddly that could be why. Pardon the dust.

Scale vs. Density

There were a couple of these maps floating around recently, comparing the relative sizes of videogame worlds:


Now, leaving aside the questionable accuracy of these comparisons. Whenever I see an announcement of a game world’s size I wonder if they’re aren’t missing the point. Or rather, they’re competing in the wrong direction. Expanding ever outwards when they could be compacting inwards.

What’s the use of a game world that takes 6 hours to cross if it primarily consists of mile-upon-mile of generated terrain. I imagine these things are roughly blocked in at a macro level and then built out with islands of content here and there, and it shows. Like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.

Couldn’t we see a kind of fractal detail in game worlds? Not just some surface sheen, but genuine, interactive, ludic detail. And not just some generative fakery, but everything put there by human hand. Could looking at and interacting with an environment like that matter more than moving around in it?


I know technical constraints abound. But that doesn’t mean it’s not something worth pushing at. I’d rather see a game played out in a single room as rich and dense as a GTA city, than roam around around the loose and vacant 3-man “towns” of Fallout 3. What happens if your world designer works at a building level, and your character designer works at an object level?

There are big worlds that do density well. I think the GTA and Ultima series both respect(ed) the fact that graphical richness should come a close second to richness of interactions. That every inch of map counts, and an empty space should be as intentional as a filled one.

Then there’s Shenmue, which understood that there’s a pure joy in walking around an intimate little world that you can believe in. Talking to the lady at the corner shop, waiting for your bus to work, saving a lost kitten. If only they’d dropped the epic quest aspirations of that game and kept it a meditation on small town living.

http://www.retrojunk.com/img/art-images/shenmue6.jpg http://plaza.fi/s/f/editor/images/wiikonwanha_shenmue_4.jpg http://www.rpgamer.com/games/other/dc/shenmue/screen/shenmue08.jpg http://i.ytimg.com/vi/wbzxnU7zkdg/0.jpg