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OurJud

Let's talk about map size

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OurJud

With the ever-growing popularity in open-world games, I'd like to get some feedback, opinions and facts about map size.

I don't profess to know much about what goes into developing an open-world map, but on the most basic of levels my understanding is that the engine/platform only needs to render what the player can see, at any given moment. Or to put it another way, those soaring mountains in the far off distance don't actually exist. Even if you made a b-line directly to them, what is rendered when you reach them, is not what you were seeing from a distance. The obvious question which then occurs to me (and maybe others) is why maps can't be of an infinite size?

No Man's Sky claimed to do something on this scale by supposedly using the Universe as its settings, with infinite planets to explore, but although I've not played the game, I doubt anyone's going to be fooled into believing anything other than the fact there's really only one planet, albeit with a different look each time.

 

So, I refer you to the question at the end of my first paragraph.

 

.

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Cosmic Gypsy

Maps can't be infinite size for many reasons. If they went the procedural route, a giant map would be boring, go the designer route and a giant map takes a long long time to design and make good. Some games render everything in the world at once regardless of weather it's in your field of vision or not, good in some ways, for example nothing pops up in front of your face and if a car turns a corner and you catch up to it, it won't have just disappeared into the ether, downside of course is this method is seriously taxing.

 

Infinite maps is ridiculous though, not even the Earth is infinite, No Mans Sky is the closest thing you'll get to infinite map and that has a finite map also. It's procedurally generated, so that's how they got the size, but the planets are samey and the environment tacky and unbelievable.

 

Devs go for a balance of space and depth/gameplay to save time, money and to keep the player interested/focused on the game itself.

Another thing is, what's the point in designing a map so huge most people will never even see 90% of it anyway? Devs want their work to be appreciated and played, too large of a map would just be a waste. I heard the No Man's Sky devs actually sent virtual space probes into their virtual universe to visit planets and take screen shots of them, to send back to the devs because most planets were so boring or just plain stupid that they needed editing, of course, 99% of the planets will never be revisited by the devs or edited because they don't have the time or incentive.

Edited by Cosmic Gypsy
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Rhoda

Believe it or not, the first game I thought of here was Minecraft. Despite its primitive graphics engine and fairly simplistic aesthetic, it has some impressive map generation tricks. Vertically, the game is 256 blocks tall, from 0 upwards. Horizontally however, the game spans 60,000 kilometres. By size, this makes the game's map world bigger than the planet of Neptune. I think it's as close as the game could get as infinite, because Minecraft isn't technically procedurally generated - it's a fixed seed, which generates textures in chunks. I think it sort of... makes it up as it goes along?

 

It's by far the biggest I know in that sense, but it might work differently with other games that handle pre-rendered content.

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OurJud

I suppose 'infinite' was a poor choice of word, and that I should have been asking, just how big can open-world, pre-rendered maps go with current gen graphics?

 

 

Believe it or not, the first game I thought of here was Minecraft. Despite its primitive graphics engine and fairly simplistic aesthetic, it has some impressive map generation tricks. Vertically, the game is 256 blocks tall, from 0 upwards. Horizontally however, the game spans 60,000 kilometres. By size, this makes the game's map world bigger than the planet of Neptune. I think it's as close as a game could get as infinite, because Minecraft isn't technically procedurally generated - it's a fixed seed, which generates textures in chunks.

 

It's by far the biggest I know, but it might work differently with other games that handle pre-rendered content.

I've no doubt those facts and figures are correct, but I don't think MC qualifies, for the reasons you gave regarding primitive graphics. I'm sure a game with graphics and details like those in GTAV and FC5 could not give us a map the size of Neptune. Edited by OurJud

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Cosmic Gypsy

Stupidly big, check Just Cause or even Far Cry 2 on PS3.

Of course those games aren't jam packed full of dynamic objects, cities, civilians, traffic jams, transport networks, etc etc etc, it's just lots of empty space with nothing happening.

I even remember True Crime: Streets of LA on PS2 having a massive map, bigger than GTA V, probably isn't actually bigger but that's how i remember it

Edited by Cosmic Gypsy

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OurJud

[...] or even Far Cry 2 on PS3.

Not played JC, but FC2's map was tiny in comparison with modern day open-world games :barf:

Edited by OurJud

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Cosmic Gypsy

dude its 50 square KM on last gen technology, pretty decent size even for today to be honest.

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uNi

The size itself is not a problem, keeping it interesting is. As mentioned NMS is huge but after visiting a couple of planets the "wow" turns into "meh...".

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OurJud

The size itself is not a problem, keeping it interesting is.

But this is what I don't understand. Size must be an issue to some extent, otherwise developers wouldn't boast the map in their upcoming game will be "Twice the size of [insert other open-world game here]"

 

And nor do I fully understand why keeping it interesting is a problem. If a map of a given size can be made interesting, why can't one twice the size be made interesting?

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DOUGL4S1

The biggest world I can think of without going full procedurally generated is Kerbal Space Program, where you have 7 entire planets, plus their various moons, to explore. But then again, the game is about building rockets and going 10.000km/h in them, and even then you'll need to speed up time so you don't have to stare at a rocket floating around for 20 hours for your next manuever. A map the size of one of their planets would be very terrible if you need 30 hours to cross it with a car. Sure, you can have fast-travel, but that entirelly defeats the purpose of such a huge map.

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GTA3Rockstar

No Man's Sky was my first thought.

 

18,446,744,073,709,551,616 possible planets...

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OurJud

A map the size of one of their planets would be very terrible if you need 30 hours to cross it with a car. Sure, you can have fast-travel, but that entirelly defeats the purpose of such a huge map.

Maybe I'm trying too much, to relate an open-world game with reality, but that 30 hour (virtual) drive wouldn't have to be done in one sitting.

 

It seems to me, that people don't actually want huge open-worlds when gaming, despite getting all excited about the suggested map size of upcoming titles. They want to be able to access locations instantly, whereas I really like the idea of having to grind out distances, providing the means of travel is engaging. And by engaging I simply mean intuitive and that it 'feels' right. Sometimes I play GTAV, merely to drive about, because the driving in that game (at least to me) feels 'right'.

 

I think opinion is also probably divided between arcade junkies and role-players, with the latter being far more prepared to do the donkey work in an open-world environment.

 

My dream open-world game would encompass the whole of the UK, using data to map every street, road and motorway, with real-time distances. The idea of being able to hop in a virtual car, and be able to navigate from A to B because I know the area in real life, is oddly appealing.

 

 

No Man's Sky was my first thought.

 

18,446,744,073,709,551,616 possible planets...

But by all accounts, they're all just variations of each other. This isn't open-world to me. Edited by OurJud
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uNi

 

The size itself is not a problem, keeping it interesting is.

But this is what I don't understand. Size must be an issue to some extent, otherwise developers wouldn't boast the map in their upcoming game will be "Twice the size of [insert other open-world game here]"

 

And nor do I fully understand why keeping it interesting is a problem. If a map of a given size can be made interesting, why can't one twice the size be made interesting?

Well it's kind of like, there was X 3d modelers making the GTAV map, they had Y time for it and in that time they payed Z money.

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RedDagger

Size is restricted purely by development resources, i.e. how many modellers/texturers/environment artists etc. you have, and how repetitive you're fine the map being. If you don't mind obvious repetition over larger scales, then a procedurally generated map can be infinite in size; if you want it all to have been designed and placed, it gets restricted a lot more. Disk space would also be a limitation depending on how many assets you're wanting/how many times they'd be reused, along with how the terrain would be created, but development resources are easily an earlier bottleneck if you're smart about it.

 

Also, map size is relative to the type of game you're making - racing games don't require the detail of on-foot games, and flying games require even less than street racing games. A flying simulator can get a ridiculous map size with a sufficient level of detail for normal play, for example. Measuring map size purely by a real-world comparable measurement doesn't really mean anything when comparing between genres for that reason, so in the most general sense it depends entirely on how far you're willing to stretch the definition of map size.

 

Normally however, map comparisons are left to grounded games, so it's no surprise in this instance that it's usually racing/driving games (or games with those elements) that boast the larger map sizes. Currently Fuel and The Crew are at the top for this at around 5000 square miles each, although I don't know how much procedural generation each one uses. You can probably use those as an estimate for how large maps can really be before things get silly.

 

 

But this is what I don't understand. Size must be an issue to some extent, otherwise developers wouldn't boast the map in their upcoming game will be "Twice the size of [insert other open-world game here]"

Advertising. Size, on its own, is really meaningless, for the reasons given above. Giving map size like that is purely for advertising.

 

 

And nor do I fully understand why keeping it interesting is a problem. If a map of a given size can be made interesting, why can't one twice the size be made interesting?

As uni said, there's a finite amount of development resources. That's pretty much the hard bottleneck.
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DOUGL4S1

 

A map the size of one of their planets would be very terrible if you need 30 hours to cross it with a car. Sure, you can have fast-travel, but that entirelly defeats the purpose of such a huge map.

Maybe I'm trying too much, to relate an open-world game with reality, but that 30 hour (virtual) drive wouldn't have to be done in one sitting.

 

It seems to me, that people don't actually want huge open-worlds when gaming, despite getting all excited about the suggested map size of upcoming titles. They want to be able to access locations instantly, whereas I really like the idea of having to grind out distances, providing the means of travel is engaging. And by engaging I simply mean intuitive and that it 'feels' right. Sometimes I play GTAV, merely to drive about, because the driving in that game (at least to me) feels 'right'.

 

I think opinion is also probably divided between arcade junkies and role-players, with the latter being far more prepared to do the donkey work in an open-world environment.

 

My dream open-world game would encompass the whole of the UK, using data to map every street, road and motorway, with real-time distances. The idea of being able to hop in a virtual car, and be able to navigate from A to B because I know the area in real life, is oddly appealing.

Sure, I like to drive around maps when I'm bored, one of my favorite games is ETS2, but sometimes I like to take it slow. I love walking around GTA IV's Liberty City, because the world just feels so detailed and alive, even tho it isn't anywhere close to the largest worlds out there, and I already walked across the entire Just Cause 2 map (took me about 2 hours and a half), but most of it was very repetitive. Apart from the little village here and there, the entire experience was just go from being surrounded by jungle for 20 minutes, being surrounded by snow for an hour, being surrounded by jungle again for 20 minutes, being surrounded by desert for 30 minutes and jungle again for 20 minutes. Very few interesting things, and they were very far apart, so that part of the world wasn't meant to be explored, it was meant to be seen from a plane.

Edited by DOUGL4S1
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ClaudeSpeed1911

 

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Dock

FUEL came to mind almost immediately when I read the title. It may be void of life or activities (more or less) but boy is it beautiful.

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Mister Pink

(Sorry OP, I'm not trying to answer your question, I'm just babbling on about my opinions on maps :p)

 

I love traversing large maps. Sometimes, I just want to cruise in my car, driving a normal speed, taking in the sights, listening to the radio. I find that sh*t relaxing. I also love the sense of scale and size. Like when I'm "settled" in one section of map and missions are local then I need to go to another city or destination, the first time I go there, I'll take the long, arduous journey there for the same of realism and feel small in a big map/universe.

 

Unfortunately, the massive maps lack detail like a IV's Liberty City or Watch Dogs 2's San Francisco can offer. My dream is to have the large scale map like Just Cause 2's with the detail of a Deus Ex map or the detail of a Watch Dog's map. At least two cities, separated by large and mountains land mass, diverse environments from desert to lush green and wooded mountains with lakes and rivers with little towns contrasted with a Watch-Dogs size city, large skyscrapers, full of people, cars, and things moving. That might not happen for a time yet but I think we're getting closer.

 

For me, city-size like Los Santos in V or Liberty City in IV is the perfect size. I don't think cities need to go any bigger than them, really. Maybe it's because my city is small, but I think in the context of a video game, Los Santos, San Fran in WD2 or Liberty in IV is sizable enough that it encompasses everything a city should have in a game. Also walking across it will take quite some time and frankly would a little boring at the current size of cities and I don't think making them better will add much more value. Perhaps a little bigger to appear more realistic. But traveling from one side of the city is just OK at the current sizes. If the cities remain this size for the next few titles in GTA or Watch Dogs, I'll be happy. Just make the cities more detailed, more explorable, more enterable sewers, buildings, malls etc etc.

 

Although I love a huge map, I miss the detail. So playing Watch Dogs 2, the map isn't massive but it doesn't feel small. There's always something going on. It's highly detailed.

Edited by Mister Pink
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Tchuck

Why can't they be of infinite size? It isn't really the size of data, because we can as you say stream them, load them on the fly, and an engine purposefully built for this could keep you going on for years.

 

There's no limitation in regards of "can't".

The limitation comes in the form of "should".

 

As others have mentioned, an infinitely long but boring map would be boring. You'd grow tired of essentially seeing similar things pop up, no sense of history about the world, no sense of permanence. We humans like to think our actions matter, and like to see some indication that we can change the world. In minecraft, we can do that by building up our little corner and all. If you simply go exploring from end to end, you'll get lost, make a new base, build out this corner of the world, get bored etc. Minecraft gets by with its simple graphics, so it's easy for you to fill in the narrative gaps with your own little stories.

 

But with a higher fidelity world, the same doesn't work. You'd eventually run out of random events, or run out of meaning for those events, or rewards, and it just wouldn't feel the same.

 

In short, we can do an infinite world, but it would be a very empty/procedural one without any feeling of history or permanence.

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DOUGL4S1

Why can't they be of infinite size? It isn't really the size of data, because we can as you say stream them, load them on the fly, and an engine purposefully built for this could keep you going on for years.

 

There's no limitation in regards of "can't".

The limitation comes in the form of "should".

 

As others have mentioned, an infinitely long but boring map would be boring. You'd grow tired of essentially seeing similar things pop up, no sense of history about the world, no sense of permanence. We humans like to think our actions matter, and like to see some indication that we can change the world. In minecraft, we can do that by building up our little corner and all. If you simply go exploring from end to end, you'll get lost, make a new base, build out this corner of the world, get bored etc. Minecraft gets by with its simple graphics, so it's easy for you to fill in the narrative gaps with your own little stories.

 

But with a higher fidelity world, the same doesn't work. You'd eventually run out of random events, or run out of meaning for those events, or rewards, and it just wouldn't feel the same.

 

In short, we can do an infinite world, but it would be a very empty/procedural one without any feeling of history or permanence.

Pretty much this. Taking your Minecraft example, if Minecraft had a single world, the game would be much much more boring and it would have little to no replay value. People would be quick to map out every structure and every biome, maybe even ore occurances, so the game wouldn't be about randomness and making grander, more beautiful or more useful structures, it would be this weird grind of stuff. Half of the fun of Minecraft for me was to just create new worlds and explore and find cool places to build. This would be hard on a game where people love to share their builds like Minecraft.

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Lock n' Stock

Size matters to me, but also how diverse and detailed the map is. You could have the largest map in a video game to date, but if all of it looks the same, there's really nothing worth exploring in it.

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OurJud

I suppose another way to look at why massive maps may not be what people actually want, is to look at the average life for a given individual. Unless you're a nomad or a drifter, we don't aimlessly wander around our cities and wilds. We get up, go do our thing for the day, then return home and stay there until tomorrow when we do the same thing all over again. In other words, the way we tear around our virtual worlds doesn't reflect real life, so it's easy to get bored.

 

However, I don't quite understand why people keep making the point that a massive world with nothing to do would be boring. Of course it would be boring, but my point is why does it have to be boring in the first place? Sure, there's the resources, cost and time to consider on a development level, but theoretically I don't see why a map five times the size of another, can't provide the same level of interest.

 

I think it also depends on the game's theme. I'd be perfectly content with a massive map, even with little to do, if the setting was of the post-apocalyptic survival variety. I love the idea of a DayZ type game, with a wilderness the size of (let's say) FC Primal, and a city the size of GTAV. You live out in the wilds for safety reasons, and commute to the city to scrounge and gather supplies.

Edited by OurJud
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El Dildo

'space' maps like Kerbal and No Man's Sky don't really count :pp

Minecraft takes the cake, after traditional games like FUEL or Elder Scrolls.

 

 

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OurJud

Interesting video @El Diablo, but I'd like to know how much of Minecraft's size is down to the fact it's made up entirely of blocks.

 

I'm sure if a 'world' as detailed and alive as GTAV could have had a map this big, it would have been done by now. Unless - as others have said - the restrictions are purely down to resources.

Edited by OurJud

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trip

Depends on what you call an open world game.

Randomly generated landscapes(like no man's sky) or hand designed environments.

 

For me a map size where the game is hand designed can never be too big...even if you never visit 90% of it. But if you did explore it would be there for you thus adding to the immersion.

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OurJud

For me a map size where the game is hand designed can never be too big...even if you never visit 90% of it. But if you did explore it would be there for you thus adding to the immersion.

That's pretty much my take on it. There's no rule to say the whole of a map has to be explored, if you're the type of player who likes to keep things a little more confined.

 

Also, I think by open-world, my personal preference is for the hand-designed, rather than randomly generated. I think it's important for a true open-world game to be consistent with its landmarks and locations, otherwise we could never familiarise ourselves with the environment.

Edited by OurJud
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Arrows to Athens

I've always thought the Burnout Paradise map was small. It seems as if it's almost the same size as Los Santos (not including Blaine County, of course).

 

snakeeysfriex_rightdevil77_burnout_parad

 

353c51-Map01.png

Edited by Arrows to Athens
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Lock n' Stock

One map I thought was particularly disappointing in regards to it's size was Steelport in Saints Row: The Third, which barely felt bigger than Liberty City in GTA III.

 

2874487-steelport.png

 

The design I thought wasn't too bad. It was an interesting (if not generic) caricature of an industrial/rust-belt city, but still a far-cry from that brilliant artwork they made. Stilwater felt more diverse and inspired.

 

53346-city-skyscraper-Steelport-Saints_R

Edited by Lock N' Stock
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deadx23

Infinite is unnecessary but 100 systems Is good :p, there's a good balance between procedural generation and hand crafted content. [in development]

 

Ark corp

[YouTube]

[/YouTube]

 

 

If you watch this video chris Roberts explains the content they want to add to the map.

Hurston

[YouTube]

[/YouTube]

 

 

Edit:And to add;

all that you can see in map or space you can visit there is no backdrop background, no faking even in buildings it's physical space you enter is in place and no teleporting to a closed room.this isn't just open world, it's open Galaxy :p

Edited by deadx23

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luisniko

Well, can you make something 'infinitely'? I don't think so. But you can make something to work 'infinitely'. So I guess when you want a world that works 'infinitely', the world will have to be built based on several objects which automatically mixed together into random variables. I've played games that does this, except they did it for dungeons instead of open world. Anyway, this kind of thing basically makes the map to be different but similar.

 

Those mountains in the horizon that you see could be a backdrop set far away from where you stood. It's nothing but plain image like a cardboard caging the world. Games these days also use a combination of, I don't know the official term in 3D design, but let's just say: 'bleed', which adds another several percent outside the explore-able area for more blending backdrop that obviously you can't visit.

 

Back to map, developers up until today still have vision and taking on challenge in creating a diverse map whether it's focusing on cities or wild environments. Hence you see hand-made map which comes in smaller size, though the next games will compete against the last games regarding to map detail and size. But this also doesn't mean that hand-made map is good. Saints Row The Third Steelport, for example, the city comes with different districts, but the feel is too similar to one another. Industrial, downtown, urban areas are all like coming from one full district. There are the so-called landmarks there, but it's unable to distinguish the district very well. Basing itself to New York city, Steelport was unable to present on the same line as III and IV Liberty City.

 

Another example is New Bordeaux from Mafia III. The map is really small compared to recent maps. The map is very diverse, the streets have quite a natural feeling, making the travelling in the small map doesn't really feel that small but also not dragging as well - at least IMO. Forgetting how much the map supported the gameplay, you can see how much they really developed each districts even though you can spot reused assets here and there. This obviously took more research and work that adds on to the production time on top of the ever-increasing data size that keeps as many assets that are required to built a better looking map.

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