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Forums - Gaming Discussion - Tight Level Design vs Open World


Which ones you like better

Open world / Sandbox 3 8.33%
Tight Level Design 14 38.89%
An in-between 19 52.78%

Which one you prefer and why

I see some people are not very into non linear games, they prefer games with clear goals and directions 

Other people see open world as boring and uninteresting, as they don't need a particular effort to make smart/well designed challenges  only manpower to make big worlds and fill them with some random stuff 

Other people don't like to be controlled, and feel like non open word games make them feel trapped and constrained, they like to discover things by themselves and put a lot of value in exploration over challenge 

Ppus open world games can be a new challenge every playthrough as long you dont try to recreate your previous journey

Which one you find better and why

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I mean, I don't see why you can't have both. It may be an experiment, but I think Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury did a great job of marrying the two and I hope to see Mario games go in that direction in the future.

But if I have to choose, I guess I would prefer tighter level design over open world games. Only because most open world games prior to Breath of the Wild tended to bore me to tears. Though, BOTW has really changed my outlook on open world games. But in general, I prefer tightly crafted levels and worlds that you can tell were made by hand and not a displacement/height map. By this I mean, most if not all Open World games use something similar to these 2D black and white maps to create 3D terrain as the base for their world. So if you've ever seen underneath the world in Breath of the Wild you'll find that the geometry is stretched and pulled up or down to create the terrain.

But I digress. If you had asked me this before titles like Breath of the Wild and Bowser's Fury I would have said Tight Level Design, but now as long as it's done right then I would rather Open World. It really depends on what the developer is going for and how well they're able to execute their vision.

Overall, I prefer open world games, especially if you are talking about games made in the past 25 years or so.  It's probably because I think very few 3D games actually have tight level design.  Everything is so spaced out in a 3D game.  Racing games are fine, because of the speed, but other 3D games just don't feel that "tight" to me.  There are a lot of old 2D games where I prefer tight level design though.  I like Life Force better than any other spaceship game out there (2D or 3D), even though there are plenty of open world type of spaceship games.

But overall, I like a game that is mostly open world, but with some goals that I can pursue at my leisure.  I prefer Civilization to Sim City or Dragon Quest Builders over Minecraft.  I like all of the freedom, but I prefer the game give me some clear goal on top of that.

I really cannot say if I prefer one over the other, because it depends. I like exploration though, which meshes well with open world games. But artfully crafted levels have their own advantages. I would count Demon's Souls and Dark Souls here, with their fine-tuned short-cuts. Or many old Atlus-games with their ingenious level design like Wizardry Tales of the Forsaken Land or Etrian Odyssey. Each time it feels like the layout of the level makes sense.

As Liquid Laser I like goals in my games, so the freedom of exploration is fine, but I don't like exploring for nothing, I want to find something that helps with goals set by the game. So yeah, Civ over SimCity and DQ Builders over Minecraft for me too.

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I used to think open world was better and that only cheap games stick to the tight formula. In some cases, such as my limited experience with Yakuza 0 before quitting it, that seems to be the case (that game's inability to go into so many buildings or down so many streets just felt very limiting and low budget). In general, though, I've found that big open world games are increasingly getting more bland with repetitive content (especially Assassin's Creed). So, while I think low budget tight experiences are better than Open world, I would say high budget tight experiences are my favorite (where everywhere you go has unique features, situations, and meanings).

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Using Zelda as an example: Linear >>> Open

Using Mario as an example: Open >>> Linear

As long as it's done well, both are good ways of approaching level design. Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Odyssey approach level design in very different ways: Galaxy has more levels and they are pretty linear in their nature, while Odyssey has less levels but they are a lot bigger and more open, allowing for more freedom. I wouldn't say one is better than the other. They are different, but they are both excellent games.

Neither one is superior to the other. This is completely dependent on the game, its style and its goal. There’s games that are open world that are good because of that fact while there are others that would have been better if they were more linear, and vice versa.

Last edited by S.Peelman - on 25 February 2021

Both styles can be great, but most of my favorite games are linear so I'll say that.

Tight level design usually results in more memorable games. Open ones can be outstanding too, but, you know, the great moments are more sparse.

My bet with The_Liquid_Laser: I think the Switch won't surpass the PS2 as the best selling system of all time. If it does, I'll play a game of a list that The_Liquid_Laser will provide, I will have to play it for 50 hours or complete it, whatever comes first.