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Can open world games work without quest markers?

Jan 9, 2018
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Not only should they remove the markers, but I’d also prefer to kill the whole concept of “explicit quests” once and for all.

When I speak to a random character and they mention a problem, I despise seeing a little “added to your quests checklist” notification, which kills the open-ended organic feeling of wondering whether you even can pursue or solve what they mentioned to you. It’s even better if dialogue can be less task oriented, and preserve enough ambiguity that you might need to piece together comments from several characters to deduce the location or nature of a side quest.

Even more controversial: eliminate the tracking of overall “completion” of the game. Anything which makes playing take the form of checklists—instead of just pursuing the threads or mysteries you find compelling—is unwelcome.
 
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AMSCD

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Aug 19, 2019
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Maybe I'm not remembering things right, but I thought that a number of quests in BOTW didn't have markers, or the marker would just be a mark where the quest giver is located, not a mark of where you need to go to complete the quest.
 

NahaNago

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Aug 29, 2014
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yes they can work and no they won't stop putting them in. AAA companies will continue putting quest markers in game so you don't get frustrated finding something in a game and quitting.
 

SlimeGooGoo

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Jun 29, 2020
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If developers feel like they absolutely *need* to add quest markers, they could always add "area markers" instead.

That is, you highlight some region of a specific size, and say "hey player, whatever you need to do is in this circle delimited by this circunference, so good luck!".
Which is what Kingdom Come Deliverance do for some of its quests, and it works really well.

That is, it works as long as the circle's radius in relatively big, otherwise you get the same result as quest markers.
 
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Jan 9, 2018
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Replaying Arkham Knight now, and I wish I could do away with the markers. It makes me constantly aware of exactly where the next main-story situation is located, when I'd rather it take the approach mentioned above and just tell me something like which island of the city, and a name of the building, then let me enjoy the journey or stumble onto secrets as I look for it. Quest markers make you instinctively feel rushed to the next goal, always lighting up in the UI somewhere.
 

Bodomism

On perm notice for Nintendo spam in unrelated threads. Report me!!
Jun 1, 2020
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YES




Selling over 23M units of software at $60 MSRP after 4 years on the market is an insane feat for any gaming software and BOTW managed to do that.
Many open world games needed to have big discounts and massive price drops in order to sell over 10M units.
 

Zog

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Oct 24, 2017
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Although not an open world game per se, I think the reason why Zelda Ocarina of Time worked so well is because you had to figure out what it is you had to do to progress the story forward. You weren't shown on a map a mission marker, and it was actually interesting talking to the characters as you never quite knew if it would result in a side quest or not. You kind of just stumbled across it. It was organic. Same for collectibles. There weren't a million of them, and they actually served a purpose (i.e. killing the spiders). Same for items, you had a small set of items and it was actually satisfying when you got a new item as they weren't every five feet and you didn't get overinundanted with a bunch of useless crap.

It may not work for games like GTA, but I definitely think it could work for games like Horizon Zero Dawn or other open world rpg games. Bring back the magic of finding secret areas, don't show them on the map. Don't have 500 weapons, 95% of which suck and ate useless. Don't have 50000 collectible items, that don't contribute to the game in any other way beyond padding the game length. Don't have a bunch of useless fetch quests, that require you to run across the world.
Like you said though, Ocarina of Time isn't an open world game.

I agree that useless crap is a problem with modern games in general. Collecting crafting materials instead of a few great items in treasure chests was never fun.
 
Jan 9, 2018
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YES




Selling over 23M units of software at $60 MSRP after 4 years on the market is an insane feat for any gaming software and BOTW managed to do that.
Many open world games needed to have big discounts and massive price drops in order to sell over 10M units.

"but the game is sooooo boring there's literally nothing to do in it" :pie_eyeroll:
 
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ThatOneGrunt

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Feb 23, 2015
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Am I crazy, or isn't there a setting in RDR2 where you can turn off markers and the mini map and you have to actually use road signs to get around.
 

YCoCg

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Apr 25, 2020
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The original Assassin's Creed was good for this, if you turned off the HUD then the towns people and guards became a lot more talkative and descriptive about things relating to the current mission.
 
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Deanington

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Jul 15, 2018
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Its crazy to me that people to this day think that people now are so stupid to not be able to figure out a game. We figured it out before quest markers, what would be different now? Whats crazier is that it was Beth that popularized it after creating one of the greatest open world rpg's to date ( Morrowind ). It kills mystery, adventure, thinking, and reading/listening skills. It's lazy...
 
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TheKratos

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Sep 21, 2020
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I'm probably too old and trash but I often found myself lost in Link's Awakening remake on the Switch. Really wished I had quest markers there.
 

DaGwaphics

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Depends on if the game remains fun or not without it. Getting lost several miles deep in the forest with no idea where to go might not be fun, for example.
 

Dr Bass

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Jun 6, 2013
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My favorite game of all-time, but this design would not fly today.

I thought BoTW felt as close to a modern version of Zelda 1 as you could get, and that’s what made it feel so brilliant. Personal opinion at least.

I really hope the Switch Pro rumors are true so I can go through the game again with a better frame rate and resolution.
 

Yselacrey00

Banned
Nov 20, 2018
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Although not an open world game per se, I think the reason why Zelda Ocarina of Time worked so well is because you had to figure out what it is you had to do to progress the story forward. You weren't shown on a map a mission marker, and it was actually interesting talking to the characters as you never quite knew if it would result in a side quest or not. You kind of just stumbled across it. It was organic. Same for collectibles. There weren't a million of them, and they actually served a purpose (i.e. killing the spiders). Same for items, you had a small set of items and it was actually satisfying when you got a new item as they weren't every five feet and you didn't get overinundanted with a bunch of useless crap.

It may not work for games like GTA, but I definitely think it could work for games like Horizon Zero Dawn or other open world rpg games. Bring back the magic of finding secret areas, don't show them on the map. Don't have 500 weapons, 95% of which suck and ate useless. Don't have 50000 collectible items, that don't contribute to the game in any other way beyond padding the game length. Don't have a bunch of useless fetch quests, that require you to run across the world.
Hey, according to the majority here Horizon was a great game and it didn't even have quests.
 

Valonquar

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Jun 27, 2013
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It worked okay in FFXI many years ago. It didn't make the game very user friendly, but it was doable with loads of fan websites and collaboration between players.

However, adding quest markers made FFXIV much much more approachable and accessible for most mainstream casual players
 

Ozzie666

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Jun 27, 2020
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Entertainment consumers these days need to be handheld, in movies, TV and games. I blame World of Warcraft, which at the time changed things from Everquest and Ultima Online. The famous '?' became a thing.

Prime example: Did Johnny Walker take the serum?
 

Keihart

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Jun 23, 2013
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Hey OP, did you played BoTW? since you are referencing Ocarina, well there you have an even bigger open world in BoTW without any form of "Quest Helper"
 

Ikutachi

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Aug 20, 2019
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OoT has flashing spots on the world map in the pause menu to help you. For the story as well as the trading sidequest for the Biggoron's sword. Also, if you collected all gold spider tokens in a given area, its map will have the gold spider icon to tell you that.
 

cdthree

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Jan 30, 2018
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What would the modern equivalent of the op be? A 100 percent accurate simulator of the world? So if you burn down the game town it stays burnt down until the game citizens rebuild it in real-time? If you mine or cut down trees the landscape stays that way until you fill in the mine shaft or replant trees? In game jobs filled with real life people voted on by the gaming community? It would be incredibly boring like real life, but also a highly fascinating social experiment. Games mostly compress many lifetimes of one of a kind moments into a 100 hour game. So I'm ok with quest markers, or you could join that highly sophisticated simulator called adulthood and real life. Its pretty demanding and confusing and can be totally immersive. 😂
 
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Keihart

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Maybe I'm not remembering things right, but I thought that a number of quests in BOTW didn't have markers, or the marker would just be a mark where the quest giver is located, not a mark of where you need to go to complete the quest.
That's exactly how it works, it only marks the quest giver. There are lot of quests that even require for you to interpret what the NPC tells you (not the sentence in the quest log) and then look at the surroundings carefully.
 

AMSCD

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Aug 19, 2019
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That's exactly how it works, it only marks the quest giver. There are lot of quests that even require for you to interpret what the NPC tells you (not the sentence in the quest log) and then look at the surroundings carefully.
Good, my memory isn't wrong. This made questing a lot more fun for me in BOTW then in Witcher 3. Witcher 3 has a huge open world, but I never really explore because I'm always just going where the markers tell me to go. I love Witcher 3, but I wish it encouraged more free roaming exploration.
 

eastcoastkody

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Nov 5, 2016
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its only worked for BOTW because there is something interesting around every corner.....and even if theres not, u have the tools to make something interesting happen.

AC Origins holds ur hand and tells u where everything is. Because left to ur own devices u will get lost and die of boredom
 

mxbison

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Dec 9, 2020
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That's the reason I don't enjoy most open worlds games.

What's the point of the open world if I'm just gonna follow that stupid quest marker anyway. Might aswell just play a linear game with cool level design then.
 
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bender

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That's the reason I don't enjoy most open worlds games.

What's the point of the open world if I'm just gonna follow that stupid quest marker anyway. Might aswell just play a linear game with cool level design then.

Putting a GPS in a game is easier than writing meaningful quest text. That also allows more copy/paste or procedurally generated quests. They also wouldn't want our player base to miss out on any of that wonderfully generic content in our game. Ironic considering most people will not even finish the main quest line. Lazy implementations of fast travel, maps, quest markers and GPS shouldn't be in a lot of games except where they make sense with the narrative and time period. It was bad enough when Ubisoft started making all of their game franchises converge on one another but now every other developer thinks that is the blue print for an open world game.
 

Azurro

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Jun 11, 2018
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Zelda N64 is such a tiny, tiny game when compared to today's open world games that it doesn't make sense to have that kind of design nowadays. How many NPCs were there in that game in total? Like 30 or so? You have more than that in two blocks in any random next gen Assassin's Creed game.
 

mcjmetroid

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Feb 11, 2019
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A lot of people didn't like Breath of the Wild for this reason.
Breath of the wild has very few map indicators so the complaints usually were " the map is so empty"

I really enjoyed breath of the wild for this reason. The side quests while not very interesting at times made you search the map and look for it's location.
 
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Bramble

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Jan 15, 2016
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Ghost of Tsushima doesn't have quest markers. And AC Odyssey (last one I actually played) had an option to turn them off and get hints instead.
 

Soodanim

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I think these days with voices and animations everything becomes that little bit more difficult to put into a game. I imagine a lot of quest stuff is still being made as the voicing is done, so if they get a VA to say “You need to go down the road and turn left at the boulder” it becomes a waste of time and money if the quest or world changes. Multiply that risk by the number of quests and side quests that any given open world game might have.

With the recent developments of AI voice generation, we might find that it’s something that we start to see again as time goes on. But for now, I think that map markers are a consequence of modern games.
 

Rhazer Fusion

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In my own world.
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Yes, but I actually like quest markers. I still have the ability and option to explore and figure things out, yet I know where I need to go when ready. I feel like games are getting too large, bloated and numerous and I just do t have time to have to figure everything out all the time as funny as that may sound.
 

Braag

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Of course they work, there are older games which don't have any markers on map to follow.
It's just that your average everyday gamer would absolutely hate that. There are a lot of newer players now that if you sat down to play Morrowind would quit within the first hour.
My English wasn't all that great as a kid and I remember wondering around that game trying to find the next objective of a quest without understanding exactly what the NPCs were saying. A lot of people don't have the patience to even try to read all that stuff.
 

ZywyPL

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Would work on PC, where the audience is more patient, but not on consoles where people want as much on-screen action as possible.
 

SHIV4

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Great thread
I play velheim
the map in velheim don't show anything and you don't know what is there
If you find for example some cave and you want back for it after some time, you can mark the place and write a note on it
it's make the Exploration more fun and interesting
 

Sentenza

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It's not just that "they can work" but they are generally at their best precisely when the hand-holding (markers, minimaps, omiscient GPS systems, etc) is kept at its bare minimum.
 

Filben

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It worked in Morrowind and Gothic before the invention of quest markers. Remarkable landmarks, good descriptions from NPCs and an inviting world that wants you to explore and deal with it with great rewards helps tremendously.

If the gameplay gratification comes from ticking off lists, checkboxes and other "challenges" or "activities" that actually don't want you to immerse yourself, interact and deal with the world and its characters and rather treat the game only on a mechanical level, then it won't work out of course. No quest markers require deliberate design concepts which you don't find in most of modern (bigger) open world titles.
 
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Keihart

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A lot of people didn't like Breath of the Wild for this reason.
Breath of the wild has very few map indicators so the complaints usually were " the map is so empty"

I really enjoyed breath of the wild for this reason. The side quests while not very interesting at times made you search the map and look for it's location.
One of the first quests, the one that allows you to find the shrine on the mountains that needs a dragon scale to open it's so cool.
First you hear a tale about a treasure hidden in some trees in the mountains, with the description of the tale if you look at the mountains from afar you can guess the spot. Then you have to figure out how not to freeze on your way up, you have ingredients to make cold resisting food or you can just use fire. Fater solving that riddle and finding the treasure you are greeted with a glimps of the mountain top and some POI , one of them is the shrine and going to the top allows you to find the dragon.

All of this i'ts organing with not a single one quest marker telling you where to go exactly or what and how to do it.
I really shake my head when people downplay the design of BoTW as a ubisoft collectaton, even Korok seeds are miles appart from Asscreed collectibles, Korok seeds have rime and reason, you have to search for them by spoting anomalies in the enviroment, no need for guides.