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Freedom vs structured: which kind of gameplay do you prefer?

Which do you prefer?

  • System based, let me break the game with my ingenuity, design be damned.

    Votes: 25 42.4%
  • Design based, I wanna play the game as the developers intended, handcrafted beats chaos anytime

    Votes: 34 57.6%

  • Total voters
    59

Majukun

Member
Jun 19, 2009
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Just a really quick question, which kind of gameplay do you prefer between the two?

System based: gameplay only offers a set of tools to the players and allows him/her to come off with his/her solution to the issue. This means that there are often exploitable solution, either intended or unintended by the developers that break the game in multiple ways.This approach rewards player's ingenuity but potentially damages stuff like the difficulty level or level design. More extreme example of this kind of philosophy might be Zelda BOTW, but most WRPGs follow more or less this kind of formula.

Design based: gameplay is tightly designed by the developer in all aspects, from level design to what you are allowed or not allowed to do. There's little space for a player to express creativity, but also little space for exploits that would allow the player to break the game, allowing the designers to keep everything under control. Extreme example of this would be really linear games like the recent God of war, uncharted, but in general any level based single player game.

I know that games can have a bit of both, but for this question i just wanted to know which one is your preferred style and why.

Personally while I love a tightly designed level (although it's a lost art nowdays), i find the ability to use the game system against itself incredibly immersive, so i must give my point to the system based gameplay...although sometimes completely breaking an encounter leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth
 
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MrJTeera

Member
May 9, 2013
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Bangkok, Thailand
Can’t a system based design have a tight design as well? A semi open level like Hitman that still fits in the narrative?

I’d say a game achieve something when it can blur the line between the two.
 

Stuart360

Member
Sep 9, 2018
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I suppose this is another way of saying 'open world' vs 'linear', in which case i say open world by far.
I actually struggle playing linear games now, something really needs to hook me to keep me going.
 
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brokenduck

Member
Dec 20, 2018
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System. Almost all of my games played involve use of mods or at least some functions of trainers. They really enhance the experience and iron out annoy me to segments or certain cumbersome design mechanics that exist in games.
 

Gandih42

Member
Dec 25, 2019
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I don't agree that "Systems Based" necessarily means open world. I would consider immersive sims "Systems Based" games - you are given a set of tools and there is a level it objective you need to complete with said tools.

There are excellent examples of open world systems based games (BotW, the survival/crafting genre) but my favorites will always be something more akin to Prey and Divinity Original Sin (two different genres of games that are examples of systems based gameplay with closed levels). But maybe my interpretation of "Systems Based" games is off?

As for the poll, I enjoy both very much with a slight angle towards the systems based. I mostly play design based game, but I feel like they rarely engage me at the same level that systems based games do.
 
Last edited:
Feb 18, 2019
1,220
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Just a really quick question, which kind of gameplay do you prefer between the two?

System based: gameplay only offers a set of tools to the players and allows him/her to come off with his/her solution to the issue. This means that there are often exploitable solution, either intended or unintended by the developers that break the game in multiple ways.This approach rewards player's ingenuity but potentially damages stuff like the difficulty level or level design. More extreme example of this kind of philosophy might be Zelda BOTW, but most WRPGs follow more or less this kind of formula.

Design based: gameplay is tightly designed by the developer in all aspects, from level design to what you are allowed or not allowed to do. There's little space for a player to express creativity, but also little space for exploits that would allow the player to break the game, allowing the designers to keep everything under control. Extreme example of this would be really linear games like the recent God of war, uncharted, but in general any level based single player game.

I know that games can have a bit of both, but for this question i just wanted to know which one is your preferred style and why.

Personally while I love a tightly designed level (although it's a lost art nowdays), i find the ability to use the game system against itself incredibly immersive, so i must give my point to the system based gameplay...although sometimes completely breaking an encounter leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth
When I was a kid, free approach games used to marvel me
Nowadays is the exact opposite, open world games and such tired the hell out of me, so I only want structured, linear games
 

Hawks Eclipse

Member
Nov 15, 2019
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I'm not thinking too hard here, so if I'm not answering your question properly or am meandering, my apologies in advance.

IMO, any game worth its salt and the player's time, is one that at the very minimum offers the player the illusion of being smart.

Sometimes the player figures a way to play and beat the game in a way that was unintended and/or unforeseen by the devs, think of those "Developers react to ___ minutes speedrun of their game" videos.

Other times the devs have encountered, and accounted for a particular exploit or big brain move, eg. that one gyro shrine in BOTW where you can just flip the platform over to roll the sphere across a flat surface instead of through a maze.

Personally, I think the worst design is the type called "moon logic", most famous in some old point & click adventure games where the only solution was something that you wouldn't come up with, be it inside or outside the box.

That's about as "designed" as it gets yet the player gains no cerebral satisfaction upon stumbling across it or seeking the answer out online or as it were, calling the game helpline (lol). If anything they'd probably feel stupid for spending time/money on that damn puzzle.

Looking back at this, I think I've given you a non-answer. Both methods have their merits, but the tightly-designed needs care to make players feel smart and not trolled. And when done too hard it can feel like you're just playing along with what the developer wants you to do.

Still, let me offer you a question to ponder: in a rhythm game, whose charts are obviously designed and meant to be adhered to very strictly for the most part, would you feel smarter or less smart when you've practised and figured out how to perfect it? :)
 

Sentenza

Member
Dec 3, 2011
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I have different preferences based on specific genres and subgenres. There isn't a correct answer that fits everything.

I wouldn't want an XCOM with scripted and pre-designed linear missions (the first one tried and it sucked for it) for instance.
Also, I'm a fan of good systemic designs as long as they are TIGHT enough to keep exploitative behavior at bay.
When "being free to try things" becomes "Every bullshit exploit works because the system is lousy" the game loses its meaning and becomes more a toy to mess around with rather than a focused experience.
 
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brian0057

Member
Jun 18, 2018
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I suppose this is another way of saying 'open world' vs 'linear', in which case i say open world by far.
Not necesarily.
System-focused games involve various in-game systems, hence the name, that interact with each other in ways even the developers didn't intend.
Such games, by their nature, encourage out-of-the-box thinking, exploration, and problem solving. They can be open world but not all of them are.
This is the bread and butter of immersive sims. With titles like:
  • The Thief trilogy (The Dark Project, The Metal Age, and Deadly Shadows).
  • Far Cry 2.
  • The first four Splinter Cell games.
  • The entirety of the Hitman series sans Absolution.
  • System Shock 1 and 2.
  • The entire Deus Ex series.
  • Dishonored
  • Prey
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
As you can see, out of the ones I mentioned, only Far Cry 2 and the Zelda game are open world.
GTA V is a "system-driven" game, but once you start a quest of any kind, it makes Uncharted look like Minecraft
 
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Zannegan

Member
Feb 20, 2018
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"Design based" in anything other than a rhythm game always strikes me as kind of pointless. Why make a game at all if there's no room for creativity in how you approach a problem? Just sell controller shells with your bluray. =P

Seriously though, I don't want every game to be Garry's mod, and I'm not against linear levels as long as there's some room to maneuver and make choices. BUT most games that rely on "setpieces" for their big gameplay moments hit me like a B-movie combined with a weakass version of Simon says, not a pulse-pounding roller-coaster ride.

Plus, the majority of videogame writing is awful. I'd rather make my own fun than suffer through some reject screenwriter's magnum opus.

All things considered, if I have to choose; systems all day. Thank goodness most games are a decent mix of the two, not purely one or the other.
 
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NeoIkaruGAF

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Dec 8, 2019
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Usually, design (structured). Give me a goal and a set of tools. If there’s too much choice and no pressure to get to the next goal, I feel both overwhelmed and compelled to do side material first and foremost. This is why I like older, more focused games while very few RPGs and open world games manage to pique my interest. I also never was the type for strategic / managerial games. Stuff like Minecraft is my kryptonite.
 
Last edited:

Griffon

Member
Oct 28, 2017
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Either or a mix of both.

Good games are good games. Doesn't matter what kind.
 
Last edited:

Wunray

Member
Jan 7, 2018
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Those who voted for design mist love stealth sections with instant fail states. As for me I want freedom or at least wide area design structure like deus ex dishonored cyberpunk 2077 and the like, even the witcher 3 had some elements of wide structure.
 
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John Day

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Jan 12, 2018
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Depends. I didn’t answer cause it seemed absolute. Sometimes I crave for that freedom. Sometimes i crave a curated experience.

There is ample space in the industry for both philosophies.
 
May 8, 2016
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The majority of the time, designed. With a few exceptions, things like open world bore me because it feels like a non video game with the freedom to go anywhere, it feels like a virtual "real world", like a large park. It doesn't entertain me/immerse me the same way my favorite guided games do. But just because most of my favorite games are guided doesn't mean they don't have exploration or lack interactivity. I think my favorites got a balance of freedom and exploration, but generally are guided enough to still be considered guided.
 

UnNamed

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Dec 21, 2006
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Too much freedom is a double edged sword, you can do whatever you want but you will end to do the same things excluding every other possibilities.
See BotW for example: you can kill with physics, with weather conditions, using objects on the ground but in the end you'll use the sword 90% of the time, why bother since it's easier and much more effective? Your freedom is useless. Instead you should be forced to kill some monsters only with physics, only using weather conditions etc. Games need boundaries in game desing.
 

Yoboman

Member
Sep 17, 2005
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Give me whatever blends the two

Something like Portal is clearly systems based in its mechanics but with careful linear design to the game structure

God of War 2018 has an open design where I can go off track at any time, complete side quests etc. But it is meticulously crafted by game designers. I generally need to figure out the puzzles they’ve laid out to access these parts or get upgrades through the game rather than it just being purely open and ready to go
 
Nov 24, 2020
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Both

I love games that give you the freedom to go where you want and make choices, but also have structured missions and story, sort of like GTA5. My only gripe with games like that is the lack of dynamic missions. The missions all end up feeling scripted.