Rockstar, Your Open World Mission Design Bores Me

#1 Posted by realph (260 posts) -

So I got back into Red Dead Redemption this weekend, and it got me thinking about this again:

Coming back to Red Dead Redemption after many months confirms something I’ve known for some time now. The problem I have, and have had with open world Rockstar games for a while is the repetitive and uninspired mission design.

Now I don’t mean to single out Rockstar, but myself and many others think of them as the pioneers of the open world game (see Grand Theft Auto), and I feel it’s time for them to step up and repave down the groundwork once again, if only to revive this dated and ageing genre.

Rockstar’s L.A. Noire sort of fixed this problem by breaking the missions down into cases. This helped ease the pain of such monotonous mission design. Personally, I hate constantly doing the same things, for the same people, over and over again.

I realise in Red Dead Redemption’s case, John Marston has to work for the information he wants on Williamson, but it would be nice if nine times out of ten, missions didn’t begin by following an acquaintance on horseback and finish in a gunfight.

Whatever happened to a bit of mission variety? And no, that Texas Hold ‘Em mission (Lucky in Love) that turned into a duel doesn’t count. In fact, stapling two in-game side activities together is rather flat game design if you ask me.

Rockstar really need to address this in GTA V. I’ve heard the recently released Sleeping Dogs evolves on the sandbox blueprint Rockstar laid down so long ago with GTA. Let’s hope they’re taking note.

After writing that quick piece, I did some hunting online and found this fantastic article by Andrew Kauz (Destructoid) discussing the same thing. You can have a read of it here. Here are few extracts from the article:

The main problem of open-world games is that they do not play to the strengths of an open world. While not in a mission, you get to experience all of the joys of an open world: exploration, non-linearity, and multiple approaches to any given situation. You get to play the game your way, which is, essentially, what an open-world game should allow you to do. But as soon as you accept a mission, you're too often put on a path. Go here, do this. All in a very specific way.

James Hague, the design director for the massively enjoyable Red Faction: Guerrilla, seems to be the only other person talking about this problem. He wrote a fascinating article on Gamasutra quite recently that should be required reading for game designers and players alike.
One statement of his in particular strikes me: "An open world is more than just a lobby for starting linear missions."

How have we as an industry not solved this problem yet? The article above was written over two years ago.

I hear Sleeping Dogs has some pretty interesting mission design in it. Anyone care to shed a light on what they do different without spoiling? Since I do plan to pick it up at some point.

#2 Posted by falserelic (5445 posts) -

I sense a heated debate coming soon.

#3 Posted by Phatmac (5726 posts) -

I can see where your coming from, but that still doesn't really solve anything. It's a case of speaking blindly without knowing how the game is made and what limitations you actually have in an open world. I was certainly tired of RDR after several hours of doing repeated missions which amounted to gun fights. I still quite liked it. Perhaps it would have been better if it were shorter and more to the point. Though who knows how many people will cry foul at a shorter Rockstar open world game.

#4 Posted by GunslingerPanda (4793 posts) -

Rockstar aren't here, man.

Also how DARE you say a bad word against Red Dead Redemption!?

#5 Edited by realph (260 posts) -

@GunslingerPanda: I know I'm probably only a minority, but I didn't take to RDR like others did. I actually preferred Revolver. *equips shield*

#6 Posted by FierceDeity (358 posts) -

Thinking back on the GTA games, I've always disliked when you show up to a mission in a vehicle ideal for the situation, but the game just forces you to use a stock vehicle instead. If I want to chase down a group of gang-bangers in a minigun-equipped helicopter, I should be able to do it dammit! :P

#7 Posted by Aetheldod (3594 posts) -

I never found any problems with the open world missions from Rockstar´s games except that big turd that is LA Noir , and frankly it isnt a "proper" Rockstar game anyway , they just published it and helped a wee bit on the game.

#8 Posted by DivineShadow777 (106 posts) -

@realph: Nah you're not the only one. I played RDR got about 20 hours in and couldn't take anymore of the redundant activities. I also didn't like GTA IV. *Takes Shield* I need this more now thank you.

#9 Posted by mlarrabee (2971 posts) -

I agree. I enjoyed RDR, but I could never shake the feeling I was following the main story path, and only detouring to play a round of poker or shoot a few "stagecoach bandits."

Same for Saints Row the Third. Yes, Prof Genki is crazy, Tank Mayhem is fun, but I only get to know the universe and characters by sticking to the narrow, winding path.

It's why I love the Fallout series and respect the Elder Scroll series. Leaving the path exposes you to more of the universe, not less.

#10 Posted by laserbolts (5323 posts) -

What else could they do with the red dead redemption missions? It's a western there really isn't much they can do that doesn't involve horses and shooting.

#11 Posted by SomeDeliCook (2341 posts) -

Bully had a good range of mission types. Not all of them ended in fist fights. I remember taking someone on a date to the carnival and having to win enough tickets playing games to buy her a teddybear.

Why we don't have a new Bully is baffling to me

#12 Posted by Dad_Is_A_Zombie (1225 posts) -

LA Noire (which I still enjoyed) is really the only open world Rockstar game that I would agree with the OP's argument. Red Dead and GTA4 are structurally fine and generally excellent games.

#13 Posted by D_train_lives (107 posts) -

is it weird that I could never play more then 10 min of Read Dead without getting bored I tried it like 20 times too after it won spike GOTY this one just never hooked me

#14 Posted by Tim_the_Corsair (3065 posts) -

I've felt for the longest time that Rockstar lucked into their role as "open world pioneers" and generally have no idea what they are doing.

Boring worlds, bad gameplay, terrible stories that are stolen whole hog from other sources, and yes, repetitive mission design with almost no variation whatsoever.

#15 Posted by IkariNoTekken (990 posts) -

@SomeDeliCook: Ha. I remember that mission well. Like all good dates I passed out on the way back [to the dorms].

Forgot to sleep the night before. xD

#16 Posted by realph (260 posts) -

@SomeDeliCook Man, I need to hurry up and play Bully.

#17 Posted by Humanity (9377 posts) -

RDR has the same type of missions all GTA games have had only the biggest problem is that you no longer have fast cars and traffic to mess around with when getting to them. I beat and enjoyed Red Dead but honestly most of the missions were pretty boring and I absolutely hated having to continuously press A to gallop on the horse. I know it's not a car but I wish you could have just held a button for sprint or something.

Don't get me started on GTA4 though as the missions in that game were abominable as was the story and driving - which is a shame cause I was super psyched about Liberty City (New York City) since thats where I live.

#18 Posted by huntad (1941 posts) -

Call me a rebel, but I thoroughly enjoyed RDR. It's a fun game with a neat story. I hope that doesn't make me uncool!

#19 Posted by CookieMonster (2417 posts) -

I loved the shit out of gta 4 at the time. When it came round to playing rdr though, I thought it was boring as shit.

#20 Posted by Illuminosopher (329 posts) -

GTA III is the only rockstar game I have fully enjoyed (I have not played bully so I don't know about that one)

I think open world game have the most potential for greatness and the largest chance of failure.

#21 Posted by mosespippy (4205 posts) -

The missions have evolved some but not in the way that you want them to. GTA missions used to be someone saying I need you to go to place X and then place X would show up on your map. You would get there and you'd have to interact with whatever the thing was, weather it be a package or person to collect and bring to place Y, a group of guys to shoot, or a checkpoint race to start. In GTA IV they evolved the mission design at least some so that you can play with the map turned off. Everyone (at least up until the Taxi Depot is burned down) says a specific location when talking about where to go or what to do. They say street names or landmarks. So the entire mission can exist within the context of the world without a map magically telling you where to go.

It's still Go Here & Do This design but it's contextualized in GTA IV. I can't remember if it is in RDR since my roommate stole my copy to pay his phone bill.

I do like the car theft missions and vigilante missions in GTA IV. They felt different. Getting told a location of a car (like, the car wash in Willis) or getting sent a picture of a location and then figuring out where it is was fun. Having to find wanted criminals at their hangouts was cool and better than the previous style vigilante missions but it's still kind of Go Here & Do This design where you had to research the Go Here part first rather than having a mission giver tell you.

#22 Posted by believer258 (11949 posts) -

@GunslingerPanda said:

Rockstar aren't here, man.

Also how DARE you say a bad word against Red Dead Redemption!?

RDR takes place in a wonderfully realized, jawdroppingly gorgeous, fairly well written,

incredibly fucking boring

world.

I kid you not. I've spent all summer off and on with that game and some parts of it do impress, but it is the best proof I've ever come across that "decent story and/or pretty graphics do not equal good game". I can't make myself sit down with it for more than an hour.

And, as that's the only significant exposure I've ever actually had to a Rockstar game, that's the only one I have to go by. On the subject of open worlds, I fully agree with the OP - the purpose of an open world is to let us explore and approach things in our own way, not just a big, fancy hub world. In that respect, Red Faction Guerilla did do some things right - but that game has its own problems. Like a constantly red-hued environment and lots of gunmetal gray buildings all over the place.

#23 Posted by AlexW00d (6281 posts) -

@Tim_the_Corsair said:

I've felt for the longest time that Rockstar lucked into their role as "open world pioneers" and generally have no idea what they are doing. Boring worlds, bad gameplay, terrible stories that are stolen whole hog from other sources, and yes, repetitive mission design with almost no variation whatsoever.

This is really, saddeningly, true. ( I made that word up :( )

I still enjoyed RDR though, but fuck I burned out on it quickly.

#24 Posted by GunslingerPanda (4793 posts) -

@believer258: I disagree! I cannot fathom how someone could find RDR boring. But I do have a boner for cowboy movies, so...

#25 Edited by ExplodeMode (852 posts) -

I agree that a lot of the missions structures can be dumb: Go there and shoot these. But I think it works because the open world is usually a charming backdrop for the action game you don't realize you're playing. Rather than seeing negatives like, 'this spot wasn't as emergent as it could be.' I think people see positives like, 'this game has a working subway.'

As your lawyer, I advise you not to play Rockstar games.

#26 Posted by Godlyawesomeguy (6398 posts) -
Rockstar’s L.A. Noire sort of fixed this problem by breaking the missions down into cases. This helped ease the pain of such monotonous mission design. Personally, I hate constantly doing the same things, for the same people, over and over again.

Funny it mentions this because L.A. Noire was horribly repetitive, and Rockstar's worst game in quite a few years.

#27 Edited by Draxyle (1861 posts) -

GTAIV was definitely a big offender in the mission design. I don't think there was a single mission that allowed you to even choose what car you wanted, and they were all scripted to death on top of it. It felt claustrophobic and completely iconoclastic to the very nature of the game itself.

#28 Posted by Rebel_Scum (721 posts) -

Yeah they could work on the mission design for GTAV and try something different for how you interact with them but for me it ain't really broke. I enjoyed GTAIV (eventually) and RDR (immensly).

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