A word a thought – Open-world (C.J. Kershner)

You can found my first interview with C.J. here. He’s the head of Polyhedron Productions, « small independent studio and narrative consultancy located in the wilds of New York ».


« Open-world… what a complicated, controversial concept.

As a player, I love exploring these vast spaces; I enjoy traversing the geography and probing the interlocking systems that attempt to create a fully realized landscape.

As a storyteller, I love populating these worlds with life-like characters and weaving the threads of multiple narratives into a rich, coherent tapestry for players to uncover.

As a game developer, I’m seriously concerned about of the amount of content and production these games require. Hundreds (if not thousands) of developers… years of work… tens (if not hundreds) of millions of dollars.

And for what? Does the final project justify the often incredible sacrifices? Is the creation of a largely consequence-free world, real or fantasy, worth it? Is there an ethical responsibility to respect the player’s time?

I’ve been fortunate to work on a few games set in an open-world — like Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, and Homefront: The Revolution — and I’m proud of the efforts, but I can see the desire of large studios to constantly expand, to make something bigger and better, to provide even more for players to see and do, and I strongly believe we need to begin questioning whether this is the right direction for us as an industry and as a culture, rather than simply continue to do as we’ve done before.

I would like to create an open-world game of my own someday, but rather than attempt to build a holo-deck, I want a more focused experience. Firewatch could be defined as open-world and it achieved this balance beautifully; there is a sense of freedom and beauty but also a definite direction.

Ultimately this is up to whoever is making the game and what they hope to achieve. But where a major publisher will throw even more money and bodies at the next thing, small developers know that creativity thrives under constraint. »

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