Open world games can be divided into two rough groups. There's the traditional one that we're all familiar with, including markers and 'question marks' galore, like Assassin's Creed, and then there's the kind that gives you a map and leaves you to it – Breath of the Wild being the most popular example. Ever since the launch of the latter, every open world game announcement has people wondering which bracket it will fall into. This has given devs a whole lot to think about, and Blizzard also had to go through it with Diablo 4.
Game director Joe Shely and Diablo general manager Rod Fergusson spoke to IGN about how the team came up with the open world formula for the latest entry in the iconic series.
"One of the concerns about putting 'open world' in a big neon sign and flashing that sign is that people have that notion of the Breath of the Wild kind of, 'Oh, it's completely organic and I can go anywhere and do anything and eventually I can figure it out for myself'," said Fergusson (thanks, PC Gamer). "That's not really our story. Our story allows for non-linearity, but there is a story. We wanted to have a beginning, middle, and end. We wanted to start a certain place, we wanted to end at a certain place."
He went on to mention that instead of a wide open world for players to explore however they want, Diablo 4 has a branching story with elements that can be played in any order, but still goes in a particular direction.
"We actually had so much stuff that getting through it on a mount was challenging, and so we had to say, okay, let's make sure that the roads actually are connected to good places, are a good way to travel through this area so that you can get through, get to places that you're going expediently, and also have the opportunity to go off the path and see interesting things," added Shely.
Fergusson, who worked on Gears 5 before moving to Blizzard, said that his research during the time revealed that a lot of devs believe that the idea of an open world is an illusion. "[Players] say they want open worlds and free choice. But they also want to be told where to go."
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