Daily Reaction: The Evolution of Discovery

With the release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and the console launch of The Elder Scrolls Online, the Daily Reaction team wanted to discuss the a concept that has become a diminishing option for many gamers, the ability to explore and find to something rare, the ability to truly make your own experience.  

Dan: As I sit here waiting for the launch of The Elder Scrolls Online, I have been putting more time into CD Projekt RED’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and started to contemplate the beauty of what it means to play an open world game. With the emergence of the internet, and the growing reliance many gamers are starting to have with data mining information, the ability to find something new is become an incredibly rare experience. While you can try to completely avoid information about certain things, the growing ease for gamers to share experiences makes it difficult for almost anyone to have a pure experience, especially if they have a late start.

Whether it is min/maxing your build, players are generally finding themselves being forced into certain constrains just to keep up. The best example of this is Destiny’s PVP mode, Crucible, which has more than half of the user base using the same weapon. In many MMO’s you also find players having to recreate builds they find online, simply because if they don’t they could be put at a disadvantage for simply playing the game their way.

This is why I think I am starting to appreciate the ability to get on my horse in The Witcher and just ride. The vast size of the game’s map, as well as its density allows for the world to feel like there is something to find myself, and not something that everyone has seen or experienced. Development like this is far from something that is new, but I do wonder how much more we could be seeing out of this type of development, if players didn’t need their hands being held to find the content in modern games.

We have seen a growing emergence of difficult titles, such as Dark Souls, but even then, the ability look online for an easy answer to a boss fight, or a puzzle completely destroys the concept the game is being built around. The concept of discovery and self satisfaction of finding your own way to beat a boss. This is where I start to think that the future of discovery will solely be placed on the shoulders of procedurally generated content.

A game that has the making of becoming everything I think the industry is going to be needing in the near future, is Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky. With its ability to generate a unique world for every player who decides to take flight and explore, they are going to have something that only they, or a handful of people will ever get to see, and that is a completely beautiful thing.

No mans Sky

Chandler: Discovery in games is part of what makes open world games for me. Sure, you’ve got open world games that you can run around a vast space in, but the world has to hold so much more than that. The environment has to feel alive, dynamic, and interesting. One of my favorite games is Red Dead Redemption for this very reason. The feeling of the Old West is captured very well, and the environment comes alive, almost as a character within itself. Other open world games can fail to elicit the desire to go off exploring. As good of a game as inFamous: Second Son was, for example, the drive to explore the world wasn’t nearly as strong as in a game like The Witcher 3.

This is where questions about length of a game become muddied. How long is The Witcher 3? Red Dead Redemption? I’m sure at E3 we’ll all be wondering about the length of Fallout 4. But what does that question mean? Campaign length? Side quests? Just random enjoyment that you can get from the world? A game is as long as we want to make it based on our desire to discover the world that the developers have created.

As you mentioned Dan, The Witcher 3 is littered with so many things to discover within the world. Things that tell a story. Things that lead to new quests. Things that are just plain interesting. We’ve heard the campaign is over 25 hours, the side quests over 200, but what about simply discovering the world. You told me about your random journey up a staircase on a mountain to a random stone door. I’ve had my fair share of missions, interesting characters, and intriguing environments come up just from taking the road less traveled and doing a bit of exploring. That’s not something I can get from the internet or strategy guides or data mining. That’s simple, old-fashioned discovery, which is key in the longevity of a title.

Fallout 4 is sure to be littered with the same kind of world discoverability, which I think is a major element that Fallout 3 had over New Vegas. New Vegas didn’t feel like it held as many stories or little secrets in the environment that made exploration worth trekking across the unknown. The world felt barren and bland. Yes, I know it’s a game set in the barren wastelands post-apocalypse, but even Fallout 3 managed to take that world and breathe it’s own special spark of life into every corner. I’m sincerely hoping for more of that intrigue when it comes to Bethesda’s next outing in the Fallout universe.

Of course you couldn’t talk about discovery in games without bringing up No Man’s Sky, the ultimate game in allowing discovery of something far beyond ourselves. While exploring wastelands or vast forests and mountains is a lot of fun, there is something to be said for expanding that ability to discovering entire planets, species, and star systems. As you said, with a procedural system in place, discovery in No Man’s Sky will truly feel special, as you look on something that very possibly only you will ever see, and that element could be the key to unlocking a whole new chapter in the evolution of the gaming industry.

What was the last thing you discovered on your own? Do you have an unique experiences in gaming? Let us know in the comments below, email us at [email protected] or Tweet us @Foolsjoker and @Finchstrife

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