I don't like open worlds, the stark contrast between story content and side missions leaves the side missions/"exploration" a bore. AC and Far Cry 3 did this to me, but I had fun with AC 2.
I'm not looking forward to lots of open world games, I would say the only one actually worth having a look at would be Mirror's Edge 2, because even if it's as bad as the first one it'll be fun to get around the city (which was the reason you liked Spiderman 2, obviously it was used differently in Spiderman but there you go). Of course we could look at some positives, some games may be actually improved by open world.
Of course, I hope we get more games like Half-Life, FarCry 1, BioShock or the earlier Halo games (CE-ODST) the world can always benefit from linearity.
It seems the heart of the matter is that half-assed designed games bring the gamer a poor experience regardless of what kind of world the game is set in. Having an open world sandbox is pointless if there is fuck all fun to do in it. And as stated in the article, downright retarded when combined with a linear story driven main quest line.
I think a major reason for so many hackneyed and cliched and just downright shitty AAA games is that the developers are trying to push the technological envelope to make their games sight and sound spectaculars, without first properly inspecting the foundation the game is built around. I don't care how many swarovski crystals you glue to it, a turd is still a turd. I wish game companies would hire some people to do quality control over the basic game ideas before they wasted millions of their own or the customers hard earned cash, not to mention the time of everyone involved in these train wrecks. Sadly though they don't and instead look to accountants, public relation specialists, and financial annalists for their inspiration. Which is why we are stuck with games that seem like either someone just pulled random game elements out of a hat, or hired a team of hyperactive primary school children to write the plot and dialogue.
I find it a bit sad that while gaming technology has made huge leaps and bounds in the past decade, most of the basic game elements are little better, or worse, than games twenty years old. They still fall under the basic premise of "shoot that blip, eat that dot, run around in a panic like a headless chicken." Only now we also have to suffer from a pretentious B movie quality story trying to badly hold the whole thing together. All while praying our aging technology can play the over produced fucking graphics of these techno turds at a better frame rate than a slide show.
I guess that's why the only two games I've found worth my time this year have been Path of Exile and Rogues Legacy. Both retro element games that were created with the idea of being entertaining games rather than a bunch of over blown, over produced, and over hyped nonsense, akin to cinematic turds such as The Lone Ranger, Prometheus, or Man of Steel.
Until game producers get back to their roots and actually attempt to make fun challenging games, instead of trying their best to be the next Michael Bay, the video game industry will continue to be mostly "sound and fury signifying nothing."
It's funny, I didn't see any mention of Red Dead Redemption? I loved the GTA games of old because they're sandbox was new and unexpected. There were hidden mini-challenges back then, often without much explanation. Mayhem missions, hidden races. It was worth exploring. Nowadays a lot of those are trophy/achievement checklists. Plus the world is so "real", commuting in them isn't much fun. The random joy of annoying the cops and spawning spontaneous car chases got old quickly. The incongruity between story missions and open world missions was jarring.
But Red Dead took some ground back for me. First, the world wasn't your generic cityscape or germanic fantasy Tolkein forest. It was westerns, admittedly treading the generic locales of movie westerns but fairly new to gaming. There was a joy to just rambling around the map. Hunting was a side-quest but it was more organic than most side missions, plus a new type of gameplay, and challenging when hunting legendary beasts. The story missions still suffered from compressing you back to linearity. Plus the standard GTA model of work-for-this-guy-for-awhile-now-kill-this-guy was in full effect. Not perfect but better.
Half-life 2 is still one of my all-time favourite games, and one of the only games I've played through multiple times. Hard to say why I think it's so good? Two things come to mind
1. It's linear but LOGICALLY linear, by which I mean you intuitively move in the direction the developers want you to. Nothing jars more than seeing what looks like an optional path or doorway, only to hit some barrier. In HL2 I found myself reacting to things and then releasing later than was the smart thing to do, and the only way to get through. The Early CoD games had the same forethought about player behaviour.
2. The organic variation in gameplay. You start off unarmed. Then you're running for your life. Then you've got a pistol and practically golden eye your way until the fan-boat. The fan-boat! Ravenswood scared the crap out of me. Tunnels, the coastal road and the car, the ant-lions thingies, Nova Prospekt, back to the city, town hall, then the spire fight. All this with balanced pacing between exposition, varying gunplay from battles to stealth, and sensible puzzles thrown in. And none of it requiring set-pieces or taking control away from me.
Of course it has some ridiculous logic in it. If you're a fan of Half-Life 2 then you MUST read "CONCERNED: THe half-life and death of Gordon Frohman" the best web-comic I've ever seen http://www.screencuisine.net/hlcomic/index.php?date=2005-05-01
There's a reason why Open world is becoming such a thing. Skyrim. Skyrim did incredibly well... so in true corporate fashion every game now wants to make itself like SKyrim because ... money.
It's considered a way to extend the gameplay without actually creating content or having proper pacing.
2. Video game sandboxes are not real sandboxes (hence the quotes above); they are collections of programmatically generated mini-encounters in which the possible interactions are tightly scripted/controlled. A real sandbox would require something close to hard AI (or, as is the case in table-top RPGs, a human referee on the other side of the screen).
AI coding being something most game development companies seem to be generally shit at doing and a sadly neglected area of game development (despite great progress during the birth of FPSs)...
i do think that eventually someone will crack that nut however...its just no one seems to realise that its nut that holds massive rewards if cracked...and you don't need "hard AI"...without going into the realms of existential philosophy most peoples options in any given situation are actually quite limited and/or predictable.
processing power is one of the big hold backs; most of our current "open worlds" don't actually exist when you aren't there...they aren't "persistent" when our back is turned...but if you want to make a world full of little computer people leading independent lives...it kinda has to be. natural sounding "text to speech" and some of the conversational AI projects are also part of the long term key imo.
I've often wondered why GTA didn't make more of its missions open world. So you realise you have to rob a bank so you organise the whole thing and then hit up the bank. I guess it would be difficult to script any dialogue or sequences that way though.
I for one hope to see a LOT more open world games, if only because if enough people try it, one of them is BOUND to do it well eventually. As it currently stands, all 5 elder scrolls games are probably in the top 20 open world games of all time, which considering they are mostly shallow buggy messes says we have a LONG way to go in improving the genre, which has the untapped potential to provide the greatest experiences in video gaming.
90% of everything is crud, including the remaining 10%, so give me all the ride to hells you can muster and maybe I'll live to see that final 1% one of these days.