On Exploration

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The main problem with Thief: Deadly Shadows was the tiny areas. This was mainly caused by limitations in the graphics engine, or so I've heard. The same engine was used in Deus Ex: Invisible War, and we know what people think about that game.

A very good exploration of the theme. No one will believe me when I say I didn't intend the pun.

Yahtzee often illustrates and articulates my guilty pleasures in gaming. Sometimes I just feel like, "the dork" when I play games, because I always want a little more than what's offered. I scoff at minimaps and GPS features, unless the game explicitly supports it. Such as a high-tech futuristic adventure, it would be warranted. Though that doesn't mean there should be an arrow pulling you around like a silly child.

Oblivion is a prime example. Differing tastes in the game and series aside, one could hardly argue that it makes sense to have a fully illustrated map telling you exactly where you are, what your azimuth is (direction you're facing), and exactly where you need to go. Let's also not forget you could simply click anywhere on the map and go there..

How much more exciting and majestic would Oblivion have been if the map was just a hand-drawn antiquated sheet of cloth with ink blots and tears throughout? Whenever something need to be explored, a quest of sorts, then your character would vaguely draw a destination with ink and feather. So you look at your map for a minute and note to yourself that you must go north until Cheydinhal, then branch off the western path until you find the big boulder & tree landmark, cave destination directly to the north of that.

Seriously, isn't that what fantasy exploration is all about? Forget arrows and waypoints, it doesn't make sense anymore. Developers spend all this time designing fully realized and detailed 3D worlds, yet instead of using them in any sort of logical gameplay mechanic, they'll just design them as "pretty art". Not enough I say. It's time to start abandoning minimaps and waypoints altogether for the appropriate games.

I want my next quest NPC to tell me to leave the southern gate, and travel along the cobblestone path until I find the abandoned hovel, then proceed towards the tree line to start my investigation for the missing child kidnapped by bandits. As Yahtzee stated, I don't want to stare at a 10x10pixel minimap when I should be taking in the beautifully detailed world, and actually using it.

I don't want him to brifely say, go fetch the child from the bandits, then have a destination pinpointed on my map, on my unable-to-malfunction compass and in full 3D in the form of an arrow on the horizon. How silly. I don't care if it "takes time" to find, that's kind of the point of a quest... you know, an "adventure", a freaking quest?? Not a monotonous task.

If people complain and whine that it's "too much work" and "not fun".. then.. get this.. they could make a separate difficulty!! The possibilities.... I shall journey to the patent office immediately!

Y'know, I actually have a PS2 now. I need to get my hands on SotC. And Ico. Meh.

Anyway. There is a fine line between "exploration" and "big empty space that I have to waste my time crossing to get to the next interesting thing", and then a pretty thick line between that and "dry, lifeless nation full of angry young men who have come to the Republic of SocialCommentarystan just to ruin your day" (I'm looking at you, Far Cry 2). There have been a handful of games that have nailed it down on at least a few tries- that lonely culvert with the windchimes in Half-Life 2's canals, the broadcasting tower in Fallout 3 looping a taped plea for help from 200 years ago, even Oblivion's drowned troll (with poorly-spelled suicide note). It takes a conscious decision for a developer to spend time on something that people can easily blow past, that half of their audience or more will never spend the time to look for, just for the few who like to putter around and find interesting things that change nothing but how we look at the game world.

Of course, those developers also have to make sure that we have a chance to find these interesting things without twenty armed thugs at every street corner with nothing better to do than shoot at us.

Hey, I think I know that xSmootx dude. He's a half-troll on the Kingdom of Loathing boards. I remember that after they added a great javascript fight menu to replace the clunky html-based selection thingy they had before, and even made it option, he said he didn't like it because it felt unnecessary.

I think this column must have made him sexually aroused. Like, a lot.

OT: This is probably why I'm enjoying playing FUEL so much more than all signs say I should.

SOTC had a GPS system. It isn't as obvious as said giant arrow, but you could hold down the "tell me where to go button" and the light acts as the GPS. But people preferred to use the light beam as a pointer then ride off in that direction.

But it was so much more than just the GPS, it helped to put you in Wander's position. The giant arrow is intended for the gamer. your character doesn't see it. the light beam on the other hand is intended for both Wander and the gamer.

(As much as I hate the game I'm going to talk about) Prince of Persia 2008 also did a very good job of incorporating the GPS into the game. Elika made a ball of light which would guide the Prince to his destination.

that isn't to say that games without massive exploration aren't fun. Super Mario Bros/World were entirely "run to the right"

However, games where gameplay is made to deliver the player to the next cutscene, they walk a very fine line.

I love Kingdom Hearts, but there is practically no exploration value of any kind. Everything to see is everything you have seen from the initial play through. In Kingdom Hearts 2, we were graced with The World That Never Was, a giant dark city with an even bigger castle. We didn't get to explore any of it. We walked down a path that told the story.

Metal Gear Solid 4 apparently also suffers from this. 40 hours is the average playthough. 3-4 hours is actual gameplay.

Which reminds me, we didn't get a Metal Gear August this year. I was hoping they would get to another part of the story.

Finally! Someone mentions Metroid Prime in a positive light! That game was awesome. (and series; I only own the third one, sorry) The way Yahtzee kept mentioning Nintendo knocking off games like Metroid I got the feeling he didn't like them.(Sorry people, but Other M looks like a load of bullshit to me. My god does it look horrible!) Anyways, I love exploration, especially when a game manages to mix tension, mood, and a sense of discovery into the mix. Great job Yahtzee.

...I miss you Metroid Prime...

due to having curiosity, i also enjoy exploring game worlds when possible; especially if the game rewards you for it. the extra health and stamina came in handy for my initial gamefaq-less playthrough of SotC. that tiny colossus beat my ass all the way back up to the platform as punishment for missing him the first time.

being able to go where i please without getting reminded my next destination every five minutes helps with immersion. speaking of, people complain about the bleak and boring landscape of SotC when it just wouldn't have had the same atmosphere if a rainbow guided you through a lush green forest to the next smiling colossus armed with a giant lollipop.

games like bioshock, ratchet and clank, and kingdom hearts had some exploration as you could backtrack to old areas with new upgrades to reach previously unreachable areas which increased my interest in them.

In SotC, I liked getting fruit and shooting lizards. The banality of needing to hunt for nourishment in order to better face your challenges seemed right at home in this world. Remember the Neverending Story? The feel that there was true trials in a hard world for everyone was palpable, and I felt this game was the immersive version of that kind of story. Epic!

-Grumble- I'm incredibly frustrated that I have to constantly sound like a sheep here and agree with you. I sort of wish you'd attack some thing that I agree with just so I don't have to sound like a complete and utter sheep when I praise your reasoning and ideas. However it seems again you'd struck a cord that plays a sound I like. Exploration that is.

Though I'm not going to lie to you. I never played Shadow of the Colossus, the game was out for the PS2 and at the time of release I'd been stuck with an Xbox. When I finally got my hands on new PS2 the game was out of shops and the 360 was on it's was out. However I did play Windwaker and it truly was my favourite Legend of Zelda. I was at first a little sceptical as while I enjoyed Ocarina of time... I'm not that big of a LoZ fan and I wasn't all to interested in that game. However when I finally forked out the money for the game I started to enjoy it. I enjoyed it for, like you mentioned, exploration. I enjoyed going through the ocean trying to fill in every blank spot like that Cutler Becket fellow in PoC. I also enjoyed the whole mystery of it all, having no idea what would pop up next, a ghost ship?, a typhoon?... A Krakan maybe?. The fact that I was all alone on my little boat helpless and out in the middle of the ocean also helped increase the tension when some thing like a Ghost Ship did pop up.

I liked that kind of exploration. I like open ended world that I can sink my teeth into. It does seem like new games are trying for this type of exploration however they seem to think the best way to do it is to just make the map massive... However when they do this they seem to forget to fill the maps with anything of interest and this large map seems empty.

Speaking of maps, that's what also can spoil a large open end world. Maps revealing everything. Now I'm not against maps, however I would rather they leave all the areas you haven't been blanked out rather than revealing it all. That creates a sense of mystery, you don't know what's around the next corner, that black spot on the map could contain anything... Might be worth taking a look. When it's all revealed to us... there's no fun to it... I don't feel like I'm exploring, I feel like it's all already been done for me and I just have to go to set places to pick up a few items.

Well that's my two quid on it.

Speaking of exploration though, that new PoC game looks like the type of game to have some potentially good exploration. I mean you go around sailing every where, there's got to be plenty of undiscovered islands to explore, nasty sea beasties to run into and possibly a few ghost ships.

Also I'll apologise if my grammar is extremely off in this post. It's 6 in the morning and I haven't slept since 8 Yesterday morning.

hermes200:
I enjoy exploration in games, but I wouldn't consider SotC as a great example of it. It is truth that you had a huge world to travel trought, but I didn't found it specially mandatory or rewarding to explore it, mostly because it was almost empty.

The article went over your head. Exploration in SotC is rewarding precisely because there are no artificial rewards. There isn't a guaranteed landmark every 100-200 yards or the promise of countless shiny collectibles. You explore because you want to see what's out there - as opposed to chasing some dev-inserted carrot. Exploration, like the story, is highly organic. There isn't an overriding sensation of "game design" permeating every inch of SotC. That's what makes it a special game to so many people.

Also, people hating on the graphics are pretty far off-base. The art design holds up amazingly well, and the tech behind some of the effects was extremely high-end for PS2 at the time. In fact, HD versions of SotC and Ico look pretty damn good without any changes to texture detail or effects. It was a feat at release, and it still looks good with a simple bump in resolution and frame rate.

Finally, I think people are confusing "empty by design" with "empty because the dev is lazy". Wandering around the forbidden valley of SotC, I get the distinct impression that it's a dead land. Yes, most things are absent, but that absence is a palpable thing you see and feel as you journey through the many decaying ruins and remnants of the previous age. There's a very real sense that a vibrant and fully populated world once existed on that very spot - and now it's gone. That's entirely different playing through a game with a needlessly sparse or empty environment brought on by the limited funds or talents of the developers.

AgentNein:
The whole point is that SoTC is about exploring. Not exploring to find new items, or cool shit to add to your weapons, but just simply exploring. It's not a means to an end, it IS the end. If you need to find cool shit to warrant exploration, than you don't like exploring, you like cool shit.

No my friend, I like to be rewarded by the developers for the time I spend in their game. If a world is bland and empty, it's bland and empty. If I wanted to waste my time just to "explore" such a wonderful gameworld I'd go play WoW instead. It's gameworld is infinitely vaster and boring-er.

The poster above said he found the same things I find boring, wonderful. It's different tastes. I just wasn't convinced, while others may be totally immersed.

While I'm certainly one of the types that like to visit every corner of an area before moving off, in the case of SotC, I found myself ignoring a good chunck of that. I like exploration, don't get me wrong, and the reward can just as easily be a stunning vista as it can be a shiny bit of loot.

The thing though is, with SotC, is I found it lacking in variety: After a few finds, you clue into the fact that there isn't anything else but pretty scenery to find, and a few lizards. If you are exploring, you want to find something, but at least I would prefer not to know beforehand what I'm going to find. In SotC, I do just that: I will find landscape. Pretty landscape, but still just more landscape.

Morrowind, bleak and repetitative scenery nonewithstanding, did it better in this department. You might find a small village, or a sidequest, or just a cave with a few people in it. Had the landscape been more interesting, and the trekking across it less mindnumbing, it might have gotten the best of both worlds. I did have the sense that "If you just keep walking north, eventually I'll find something cool, and I may even get to use it". Same deal with Fallout 3, really.

Exploration is a great part of many games. As long as they put some variety into it.

Neuromaster:
I think Hitman blends stealth & exploration quite well. It's not a sprawling countryside, but many of the quieter or more creative assassinations require quite a bit of searching & investigation to reveal and carry out the key method of ending your target's life.

I'd also argue that at least for me, exploration was a fairly central part of Oblivion and Oblivion 2: With Guns! (Fallout 3). While you rarely had to explore, I sort of thought it was the point of the game, and Bethesda went to a lot of work creating content for you to discover. Exploration was also graphically gorgeous, frequently profitable, and loads more interesting than the main storyline.

I agree, even though Oblivion had the compass-arrow-in-your-face mechanic, this problem was partly sidestepped, given that there were always something else to do. Oblivion didn't force you to explore, but it rewarded you if you actively went about it.

I can't believe all the affiliate links to amazon! Yahtzee aren't you happy enough with your Scrooge McDuck esque fortune!?
(would be funny to see it done with Mogworld :) )

I agree mostly though -even while many of my favorite games have heavy exploration- we mustn't forget the benefits of encapsulating the player (ie. the tight, claustrophobic spaces in portal and the streamline of many shooters)

Love 'ya Yahtzee

Note: Just on the exploration as a gameplay mechanic point; has anyone played any ToT games? (the studio bases itself largely on explorative gameplay)

I suspect I may have asked Yahtzee this before in his retrospective Thief review (does he read the forum as well as Twitter?) but I do wonder what he thinks of mods for games like Thief. There are a lot of high quality fan missions that have much better exploration than Deadly Shadows had, good enough that I still play them.

To be fair to Deadly Shadows though, while it was in just about every way not as good as the first two games, I have to give it credit for The Cradle. It even did exploration right! There were optional little notes and visual details in out of the way places that let you learn the background of the place, such as the birdhouses and the elevator that goes up but not down.

I also need to find Shadow of the Colossus. I remember getting a demo with a magazine and playing the first Colossus fight over and over. Seeing the other 15 would be nice.

I don't really see SotC as being about the exploration. I think the game is naturally appealing to those of us who like leaving no stone unturned (and don't need a carrot for our efforts). However, I feel the huge sprawling landscape had a much more important purpose. It was there to make you feel small and insignificant; to make you feel alone, and hopeless.

Nearly everything in the game was there to emphasize the mood, the narrative, etc. The game is essentially a powerful and cohesive interactive film. There is little to distract you from the plot, little to interrupt immersion, and little to break the mood. The games shortness even helps maintain it's narrative focus. Adding in side-quests, mini-games, collectibles, power-ups, Easter eggs, etc. might have made the game more fun (to some), but it would have completely destroyed it's impact. Making it just another decent game in a sea of decent games, and certainly making it less prevalent in the discussion of games as art.

I can appreciate that some people aren't looking for Mass Effect to become more like 2001: A Space Odyssey. That many people just want fun, and excitement, and replayability (I certainly hope most games stick with this formula). I can appreciate that some people don't get the appeal of SotC, and never will, and that's perfectly fine. I just think it's pointless to fault SotC for not catering to your taste in games, when there was clearly no intent to.

Credendo:
Another GREAT exploration game is the under hyped always awesome minecraft. Not only do you have an entire infinite map to explore that generates terrain above and below ground but Notch (The sole developer and living god behind minecraft) managed to make that terain in all it's 8-bit blocky format, look as stunningly amazing as anything in Avatar. That plus rewarding your exploration with the resources your looking for makes this one of my favorite games to play.

If you've never heard of or played minecraft check it out at minecraft.net

if you need proof of it's awesomeness check out this video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NszGurDUlHc

I have not tried minecraft yet.. And videos i have seen from it dont really tell me that much..
What is the purpose of the game? What is the goal?
Do you fight other people?

To me it looks extremely boring, but so many people like it so i start to wonder what the fasination is..

Ok so there are many, many things I loved about Fallout 3, and some things that I didn't.

One of the things that I didn't - you have a MASSIVE sandbox landscape, full of interesting stuff to find and do. And while you're making your way across it, especially at the higher levels, you will be interrupted by scorpions or robots or raiders EVERY. TWO. GODDAMN. SECONDS. Also see: Oblivion, and every other single-player RPG ever made.

Seriously, random encounters should die a slow, agonizing death, alongside monsters that level alongside the player. (See "Oblivion", where the most challenging opponents in the entire game are the f--king goblins.) Why not give us a lot of set points where larger-scale encounters can be found, should the player want them? Instead of constantly being molested by minotaurs in "Oblivion" once you reach a high enough level, why didn't the game have "hard" areas, such as the spooooky forest which all the villagers would warn you not to go into because there was nasty ghoulies in there?

Another thing that should disappear: levelling with no visible signs of levelling. If I double my sword-swinging stat, I want the sword to be visibly faster and more powerful, capable of a lot more swings in the same time, etc. I don't want it to look exactly the same but get told that I've done more damage by some stat on the screen. I have Microsoft Excel for that. I want that sword to produce a more visible effect on the enemy - stagger them more, or produce more blood, etc - and LOOK like it's being swung with more force. I also want there to be a gameplay "benefit" other than just being told that it's doing more damage (and because the monsters level with you, this turns out to be a deficit anyway).

Soooo to recap this rather long-winded post:

1) Get rid of random encounters that just detract from the "exploration" aspect. Add encounters that you can (and must) plan ahead for, each one challenging and imaginative and different in difficulty. So if you're feeling ambitious, you can take on a minotaur king at level 1; and if you're looking for some easy XP, you can take on a cavern of goblins as a level 100 sorceror who can summon demon-lords at will.

2) Get rid of levelled creatures. There is NOTHING more annoying in "Oblivion" than being able to finally take on those damn goblins, only to discover that they're now all "Goblin Warlords" because the game arbitrarily decided that you were too powerful.

3) Make "levelling" feel as though it has an actual effect. If I level up magical abilities, I want my fireballs to be bigger and burn stuff for longer. If I level up bludgeoning weapons, I want them to be visibly more forceful. If I level up blades, I want them to swing faster and do more cutting damage, etc.

Seriously, is there ANY reason why this stuff can't happen, technically speaking, in a modern game?

PS - sorry about the rant up there. I just really really really hate those damn goblins.

I really enjoyed exploring in the Penumbra series, that is until I realized that I was hopelessly lost and the growling in the distance kept getting louder and louder. Ahh fun times, fun times...

I should start by saying that I've enjoyed exploration in the past, I've enjoyed the scenic views in games like Brutal Legend, my exploration and navigation skills have helped keep me alive in games like AVP and Dead Rising and exploring and settling distant lands and continents in Civs is strangely compelling.

However.

Exploration in a game is only as good as the player is willing to explore, in my opinion, the most important thing behind a player's willingness to explore is their motivation to do so, many open world games have seemingly neglected this (I'm looking at you Far Cry 2), they just set you down in a huge map and say now go make it up as you go along.

For some people this is great, they'll have a strong idea of where they want to go, what they want to do and how they want to play, good for them (hope you enjoy it). But for others this can result in them wandering about for an hour with no real goal in mind just wasting time (which gets boring really fast) before they finally say 'fuck it' and switch over to something more direct and purposeful, if the guy Yahtzee quoted found that wandering about amounted to nothing more than 'lame boss fights', then it was nothing but lame boss fights (just as to most fans of the game it is a brilliant masterpiece).

I find it strange that exploration and a huge world are always assumed to go hand in hand (sometimes they do, but as I said before, this isn't for everyone and it shows) when exploration can be done in many other ways. I'm gonna bring up AVP again as a game that required me to explore for the basic purpose of survival (I'm talking about the original version released on the PC in 2000), the game consisted of mostly tight, linear corridoors but it still left great oppertunities for exploration, you would have to search every last room, every last corner, every last vent for supplies, hiding places, alternate routes, hidden enemies...everything (and failure to do so could very easily result in horrible death).

Playing as the Marine highlighted this especially, most levels would consist of me cautiously stepping into the unknown darkness, paranoid of every sound and anxious to see what was ahead (correct me if I'm wrong but isn't exploration supposed to be something along the lines of 'heading into the unknown'), this uncertainty made for a vastly more memorable experience than any open world, sandbox, scenic game that I've had to pour days of playtime into just to get the 'worth' out of them.

FieryTrainwreck:

hermes200:
I enjoy exploration in games, but I wouldn't consider SotC as a great example of it. It is truth that you had a huge world to travel trought, but I didn't found it specially mandatory or rewarding to explore it, mostly because it was almost empty.

The article went over your head. Exploration in SotC is rewarding precisely because there are no artificial rewards. There isn't a guaranteed landmark every 100-200 yards or the promise of countless shiny collectibles. You explore because you want to see what's out there - as opposed to chasing some dev-inserted carrot. Exploration, like the story, is highly organic. There isn't an overriding sensation of "game design" permeating every inch of SotC. That's what makes it a special game to so many people.

I got the article, I just don't agree with the example... I feel exploration is rewarding when the designer give you something to explore. Its the little details that I found interesting and flesh out a setting for me. If the game is set on an huge, empty or generic environment, I don't feel interested in exploring it. It was just me, my horse, the ocassional lizard and endless miles of grass. While finding a new Colossus was always new and interesting, and maked me wonder what was next; riding over a hill was never a surprise, and never got me wonder what I was going to find...
Its the equivalent of Fuel, which advertised as "world record winner for world size"... It turned out, the world was mostly empty and functional generated.
Sorry if the example got into a soft spot for you, but you have to wonder, if the world gave you the feeling of a big, dead and empty world, maybe its because it was big, dead and empty.

I agree with the fact that exploration is great, but as you mentioned, it has to be done well. Some games try to be exploration games, but are so confusing, that any exploration just gets you lost, or it's nearly impossible to find your next objective. I agree that all the games you mentioned had good exploration elements, but they also always had a good way of alerting you if you were on the right track. For some, it was as simple as more baddies, but others, like zelda, simply had you see that big lump on the horizon and keep going towards it. Games like World of Warcraft (sad to say, I play) seems to have a huge exploration element, and at times it can be fun, but the world is way too big to realize if the ogre your killing is the correct one that will drop that stupid pice of meat, or if it's the ogre over the hill about 100 feet over. Exploration, I think, is just a risky endeavor, and that's why developers stray away from it, and give people big green arrows so they don't have to work too hard to find the next baddie to kill.

It seems to me that there's a difference between "exploration" and simply "finding all the goodies hidden in nooks and crannies". I'm the kind of person who encountered all the bugs in Baldur's Gate because I exhaustively completed all the quests, but on the other hand I've never tried to shoot every pigeon hidden in Liberty City. That's not exploration, it's just "something to do if you're REALLY bored".

Clicking on things to add their descriptions to a list doesn't seem very compelling to me. The thing which works about Thief 2 or -- far better -- the original Thief, the original System Shock, or the first Fallout game, is that there's a complex and interesting story shattered into fragments and intelligently embedded in the world. In Fallout you can even be part of and shape that story.

I've not played any Zelda game all the way through because there's never an even remotely interesting story anywhere to be seen.

Yahtzee, in regards to a game that encourages exploration, might I suggest "Endless Ocean: Blue World"? I think you'd enjoy it.

Exploration is a very important component in games in my opinion. It's something that many games could've used. For instance, the creators of the .Hack// series could've tried harder to make you feel like you were exploring this giant online world. Instead, they simulated a mediocre dime a dozen online game with JRPG elements and repetitive copy-paste dungeons.

I believe The Elder Scrolls series does a much better job. You are free to see and do everything the world has to offer. Embark on quests, discover ancient tombs, visit cities or just check out the beautiful landscape. Just imagine Oblivion if it were completely linear.

SyphonX:

I feel the exact same way and find Oblivion to be such lost potential for true exploration. It is impossible to ignore the directions entirely because you are given NO other choice, be it through asking around, reading scrolls, finding maps, and so on. This is what made Morrowind far better for exploration, and in general I think that is something all games with exploration need to learn from.

The whole point of exploration is to find something different, and to use Oblivion for further example, there never was really was a unique destination outside of a few nooks. Considering its landmass, there is no excuse either. Games need to reward you for going out of your way, not just through loot or enemies unique to a new area or dungeon even, but just a new feeling. Exploring Oblivion was monotonous when you could pretty much guess what the end loot was going to look like if you ran into an undead lair, goblin lair, bandit lair, or monster lair. What's the point? I know there will be no special ring or sword at the end, and all armor in the game is available on bandits. It's the perfect example of how not to treat the exploration in games by leaving the player with a "why bother?" lingering in the back of their mind.

I remember playing Morrowind for the Xbox and following the fold-out map provided, which featured a lot of little details such as small representations of buildings and towns in the exact area. The in-game map never displayed that a small building resided along some distant mountain path, but the fold-out did. It was possibly the best exploration in a game because it required me in life to look at an actual map and merge reality with the game world. Slowly I would venture to new areas I had never been to, adventuring along the way to find new quests, locations, you name it. Morrowind was smaller than Oblivion, but with only so many paths through the mountains, unique coves of discovery scattered about, and danger lurking all around, Morrowind feels MUCH larger as a result. Instead of creating an empty large world, games need to use what is available and make the most of every foot or else you may as well take a walk through one giant field or forest.

Too bad I lost that bloody map somewhere. *sighs*

I'd say that Shadow of the Colossus is the greatest game of all time.

It ascends above other games in terms of atmosphere and engagement. It's so haunting on a personal level that I have never experienced in such measure in any other game.

Sovvolf:
-Grumble- I'm incredibly frustrated that I have to constantly sound like a sheep here and agree with you. I sort of wish you'd attack some thing that I agree with just so I don't have to sound like a complete and utter sheep when I praise your reasoning and ideas. However it seems again you'd struck a cord that plays a sound I like. Exploration that is.

Though I'm not going to lie to you. I never played Shadow of the Colossus, the game was out for the PS2 and at the time of release I'd been stuck with an Xbox. When I finally got my hands on new PS2 the game was out of shops and the 360 was on it's was out. However I did play Windwaker and it truly was my favourite Legend of Zelda. I was at first a little sceptical as while I enjoyed Ocarina of time... I'm not that big of a LoZ fan and I wasn't all to interested in that game. However when I finally forked out the money for the game I started to enjoy it. I enjoyed it for, like you mentioned, exploration. I enjoyed going through the ocean trying to fill in every blank spot like that Cutler Becket fellow in PoC. I also enjoyed the whole mystery of it all, having no idea what would pop up next, a ghost ship?, a typhoon?... A Krakan maybe?. The fact that I was all alone on my little boat helpless and out in the middle of the ocean also helped increase the tension when some thing like a Ghost Ship did pop up.

I liked that kind of exploration. I like open ended world that I can sink my teeth into. It does seem like new games are trying for this type of exploration however they seem to think the best way to do it is to just make the map massive... However when they do this they seem to forget to fill the maps with anything of interest and this large map seems empty.

Speaking of maps, that's what also can spoil a large open end world. Maps revealing everything. Now I'm not against maps, however I would rather they leave all the areas you haven't been blanked out rather than revealing it all. That creates a sense of mystery, you don't know what's around the next corner, that black spot on the map could contain anything... Might be worth taking a look. When it's all revealed to us... there's no fun to it... I don't feel like I'm exploring, I feel like it's all already been done for me and I just have to go to set places to pick up a few items.

Well that's my two quid on it.

Speaking of exploration though, that new PoC game looks like the type of game to have some potentially good exploration. I mean you go around sailing every where, there's got to be plenty of undiscovered islands to explore, nasty sea beasties to run into and possibly a few ghost ships.

Also I'll apologise if my grammar is extremely off in this post. It's 6 in the morning and I haven't slept since 8 Yesterday morning.

I also really enjoyed exploring in Wind Waker. Unfortunately it wasn't entirely geared towards that style of play because of the semi-linearity of the story. Still, it was really good fun.

Always thought Deus Ex had a fantastic element of exploration to it, not in actual exploration terms, vast distances, but in finding out things about the world around you, going through the game again to find something new and different about the level you have played 8 times before.
(which is apparently something they're bringing to the new deus ex when it comes out, lets hope they achieve it)

Also, Fallout 3 was great for exploration because it had more interesting things to stumble upon, unfortunately it suffered from the same problem as oblivion (only not as much), that the world didn't inspire exploration as much as blind wandering hoping you come across something worth poking with a stick.

Rakor:
Final Fantasy XIII: The Day Exploration Died.

The day final fantasy died.

I have to agree with this article. Exploration is definately one of the major overlooked elements in a lot of modern games. Heck, I just played a flash game where exploration was the only element of the game, and everything about who you were and where you were and what had happenned is learned indirectly as you find artifacts. You might like it; very atmospheric for a free game. Give "Looming" a shot some time.

I'm going to completly ignore that exploration is the topic here and just say that Shadow of the Colossus was like eating steak after a having nothing but vegetables for a year.

Now I'm not saying that vegetables are no good. We need them too. If we had meat every day we would soon tire of that aswell.

Looking forward to my next proper meal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHzHoMT5eRg If there was a Michelin guide to game developers - these guys would be in it...

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