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  • Video game players all have ADD.

  • They move from one thing to another without the basic ability to focus on anything for

  • more than 30 seconds.

  • Like moths to a flame and pigeons to gun-fire, they flock to the brightest lights and the

  • loudest sounds without clear rhyme or reason.

  • Now, clearly, if you're a gamer yourself, you know this statement, basically everything

  • that I just said, is false.

  • So, the question is: Why is almost every AAA open-world game designed as though these things

  • were true?

  • Don't think that's the case?

  • Well, I actually have numbers to back this up.

  • You see, I've made videos where I time out the space between individual instances of

  • interesting events.

  • Basically, I play a game that is focused on exploration and then plot on a graph how frequently

  • the game catches my attention.

  • I've done this with games such as The Witcher 3, Breath of the Wild, Fallout New Vegas,

  • and of course, Red Dead Redemption 2.

  • For the Witcher 3, the average time between moments of interest was 32.2 seconds; for

  • Breath of the Wild, it was 41.8; and for Fallout New Vegas, 48.8 seconds.

  • This all fell in line with expectations, specifically because in open world game design there's

  • a concept known asthe 40-second rulewhereby developers try to ensure that there's

  • always something interesting happening at least every 40 seconds.

  • And they live by this, most open world games that I've tested hold to this rule.

  • By the way, if you have a game you want me to test, leave it in a comment below because

  • I'm uncreative and rely on your ideas.

  • But yeah, almost every single modern AAA open world game adheres to this rule; however,

  • Red Dead Redemption 2 bucked this trend.

  • When I analyzed its density, I found that the average time for Red Dead Redemption 2

  • was close to double that of its competitors.

  • Now, an average of 80 seconds vs. 40 seconds may not sound like it is significant, but

  • it very much is.

  • Doubling any stat in game development is a major decision.

  • Imagine if in Ring of Elysium or Blackout or Fortnite (yes, I said Fortnite, bite me),

  • or even Apex Legeneds, what would happen if these games' developers doubled the damage

  • output of the game's most frequently spawned rifles?

  • It would throw everything into chaos.

  • Or imagine if in Skyrim or a Fallout game, Bethesda added a perk that made it so the

  • player could travel at double the speed, or half the speed.

  • It would fundamentally change the way that players explore.

  • And in Red Dead Redemption 2, doubling the space between moments of interest greatly

  • affects the gameplay loop.

  • But before we dive into that, let's step back.

  • Rockstar is phenomenal, specifically within the Red Dead series, at making players feel

  • empathetically attached to the player character.

  • Now I don't mean empathetically attached like you feel when playing The Last of Us-

  • Glass Cage of Emotion Bit Rather, Rockstar focuses on what I will call

  • Gameplay Empathy.

  • Now before you comment, yes, I completely made up that term, and I'm sure that others

  • have discussed a similar concept, but what I mean by it is that they try to make the

  • player feel the same way as the character they're controlling by way of the gameplay's

  • design.

  • They do this by making sure that both the player and the character are experiencing

  • the same emotions, feelings, and sensations while performing a given activity.

  • The clearest example is exploration, a cornerstone of these games.

  • If you haven't played the game, you may not know what this is like, but Red Dead Redemption

  • 2 has a very unique ability to cause players to lose themselves within it.

  • You see, the game doesn't allow you to fast travel from your map from city to city.

  • Instead, if you want to fast travel, you must go into a town, find the stage coach, and

  • then pay them to take you to one of a selection of cities which may or may not include the

  • one you're looking for; and furthermore, Rockstar didn't put a minimap on screen

  • while you are selecting which city you want to travel to, which seems like a mistake until

  • you realize that this too was done intentionally.

  • You see, by not putting a minimap on the screen, in this specific instance, it forces the player

  • to learn the map and the names of the cities in correlation with their relative locations.

  • It's a small detail, but it makes it so the player learns the names of the areas within

  • the world they are exploring.

  • Now, was this really necessary?

  • Maybe not, certainly some players, possibly even a plurality, will know the names of the

  • cities and be able to point them out on a game map with ease; however, for those players

  • who weren't paying attention and memorizing imaginary cities' names, this is their time

  • to learn because if they don't they'll end up selecting a random town and they'll

  • land in a foreign area far from where they needed to go.

  • This is just one of a plethora of tiny examples of how Rockstar crafted this experience around

  • forcing you to become engrossed in the world.

  • When you want to purchase an item in the general store, you can either walk through the store

  • and buy the item off of the shelf, or you can go through the store's catalogue which

  • is not made of a series of flashy menus but rather actual paper.

  • Well, in game paper

  • Or perhaps the most obvious and widely memed example would be the key mechanism by which

  • the traversal in this game operates: the horses.

  • When riding your horse in any other open world game, let's say Assassin's Creed Odyssey

  • since it came out around the same time, when you traverse the world, your horse intelligently

  • navigates the paths, rocks, and valleys, all by way of its AI which steers it away from

  • head on collisions, falling off cliffs, and general hilarity.

  • In Red Dead, one of the first things you'll learn while playing is that the horses in

  • this game do not play by these rules.

  • Like, at all.

  • If you so much as nick a tree branch, you will be thrown from your horse while it writhes

  • on the ground like Michael J Fox break dancing.

  • Initially, I thought that this was just another Rockstar game mechanic that existed just because

  • it could.

  • However, after thinking about it, I realized that the fact that your horse is gravitationally

  • challenged actually plays heavily into this Gameplay Empathy design.

  • How?

  • Well, when playing through Assassin's Creed Odyssey, you'll notice that the map is freaking

  • huge.

  • Now, normally, bigger is better, but when it comes to a game's map, it can be a blessing

  • and a curse.

  • Specifically, when navigation and traversal are not highly efficient, it can lead to a

  • trudge when you explore as opposed to a fun and interesting experience.

  • This inefficiency can take several forms.

  • For instance, if I'm running around the west part of the map in Odyssey and then my

  • quest tells me to travel to the opposite side of the map several in game kilometers away,

  • I'm going to be faced with a choice.

  • Ideally, I would have so much fun traveling through the game world that I would be thrilled

  • to be presented an excuse to do it for half an hour to reach the other side of the map;

  • however, an ideal situation this is not.

  • Most likely, I would instead feel frustrated and conflicted, because I *should* want to

  • travel there on my own but will likely just fast travel to the closest point instead.

  • For many this is an afterthought if it even becomes that.

  • Most players fast travel everywhere without thinking about what is actually happening.

  • When you fast travel, you are willingly and often joyously skipping past part of the game's

  • fundamental design and gameplay loop in order to get to another part of the gameplay loop

  • that is more fun.

  • And I know what you're thinking, why can't fast travel be integrated as part of the gameplay

  • loop?

  • Why is fast travel just bypassing it?

  • Well, it can be.

  • My argument is that it shouldn't be, at all.

  • Clearly, most fast travel systems consist of pulling up a map and then clicking on the

  • area to which you want to travel.

  • Then you sit through a loading screen and appear on the other end standing as though

  • nothing happened.

  • This is a huge missed opportunity.

  • An opportunity of which Red Dead Redemption 2 took full advantage.

  • And this is where we tie back into the first example of the fast travel system employed

  • in the game.

  • They didn't just try to spruce up the loading screens or add narrative recaps to them like

  • The Witcher 3, but rather, they made it incredibly inconvenient to do and incentivized traveling

  • yourself to the extent that, according to a recent poll I conducted, only 8% said that

  • they often fast travelled.

  • This is a huge success for Rockstar and I don't think it's receiving enough credit.

  • And this is where the crux of this video's thesis lies.

  • I believe that it is very clear to anyone looking for it, that Rockstar has fundamentally

  • shifted the way that open worlds treat their players.

  • They showed that emptiness and a lack of hand holding can actually feed the gameplay experience,

  • not hinder it.

  • Sure, the game still has some major problems, problems I intend to tackle in my upcoming

  • long form critique of the game, by the way make sure to subscribe so you see it when

  • it comes out.

  • However, just because the game has some issues does not mean that the entire game is unworthy

  • of praise.

  • Simply put, Rockstar proved to other developers and to us, the gamers, that it's ok to have

  • some empty space in your game; that it's ok to leave the player alone with their thoughts;

  • and that it's ok to leave the player to their own devices in making their experience

  • what they want it to be.

  • It's a style of open world design that forces the player into a state of Gameplay Empathy

  • for the protagonist and that also embraces freedom across the board.

  • It's a revolution, and one that we will be seeing the effects of over the course of

  • the coming years.

  • To me, it is clear, Red Dead Redemption 2 really did do something incredible.

Video game players all have ADD.

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'Red Dead Redemption 2' Did Something Incredible

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    Lon Lv posted on 2019/02/21
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