Are there any modern rpgs that still use big open world maps? The only rpgs I can remember from the last few years that use them are the Penny Arcade rpgs and Lost Odyssey. What happened to all of the huge worlds and little character models, the airships, and the boats?
Edit: I thought that I would try pulling up some of the points other users made in the comments so that it is a little easier to follow the discussion:
I guess this is obvious but the problem with overworlds is they tend to clash with realistic visuals. One solution could be to change the downscaling ratio. So, if in most RPGs we could say the overworld represented cities and towns at 1/100th the size (for example) maybe 1/50th the size would look better for realistic RPGs.
Ultimately you want to the overworld representation of any given place to be emblematic of it but when it looks too small it starts to look silly. Imagine a knight as tall as Minas Tirith standing next to it. Kind of lame looking. FFVIII actually does have some "larger" representations if memory serves me right: Esthar is pretty big, isn't it? Looking at screenshots of Ni No Kuni, it looks like it has more middle sized representations of places too.
Another solution would be to really lean on vehicle travel for exploration. You can imagine a world that is "to scale" so that running around on foot takes ages, but maybe you have a super fast vehicle that flies around. This way big open spaces aren't just grind-a-thons or boring nothingness.
The biggest problem with the loss of an over world is the fact that it has eliminated iconography in gaming.
Icons are images that are used to represent information, and thusly can communicate more quickly than words or pictures. In Final Fantasy 1, one man represented your entire party. A clump of trees represented a forest. A few tiles of sand represented a building represented an entire town. Thusly, for the story to say "the Light Warriors walked through a dangerous forest and into a peaceful town" took all of 2 seconds to communicate.
The overly literal state of gaming these days means that it takes a million years to communicate simple, uninteresting information, or else it has to be communicated through cinema instead of gameplay.
Suggesting that games have "evolved past" the need for an overworld or icon-based gameplay is like saying films, with long-take cinematography, have "evolved past" the need for film cuts.
It's a way of communicating information that should be used and not forgotten.
Either render everything in the world at proper size or create little levels that connect everything together Final Fantasy X style.
Actually, Wasteland 2 basically has an overworld map that you travel across and get into random encounters. Though you're a tin star and not a sprite.
Totally agree. A world map destroys immersion of the world. And I really hope FFXV also has no world map bu rather a HUG Eopen world environment including airships etc.