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Video Game» Forums » Video Game Related » General Video Gaming

Subject: VGG QOTD 2019 March 30: Should a game shine in all given moments? rss

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Simon Lundström
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Original post, quoted for back relevance:

Patrick Carroll wrote:
Zimeon wrote:
I'll stick out a chin here and say that I kind of enjoy a game that goes in waves. I don't like when a game turns into a mess, but I prefer when it has certain moments of shining, and certain moments of boredom, than if it just shines all the time.

krux wrote:
Oof, not me. I have very little patience for the mundane moments in video games. I'm a big proponent of "make everything matter" when it comes to my entertainment. Extends to books and movies as well, which makes me impossibly choosy, and leads to me rereading and rewatching a lot of things to compensate for my frequent disappointment.


[…]

I suspect most everything runs in cycles, and I guess that's because this is a world of opposites--night and day, easy and hard, birth and death, and so on. We wouldn't know what good gaming was if we never experienced bad gaming.

Sometimes I feel I'm navigating a narrow passage between boredom and frustration. I don't want gaming to go either of those ways, but I get caught up in one or the other pretty often. I'm just glad that most of the time I'm somewhere in between--enjoying the game without being either bored or frustrated.

So I wouldn't even know how to "make everything matter" in the sense of ensuring that all my gaming is always enjoyable. If I ever do manage to accomplish that, I suspect it'll be due to a change of attitude rather than a choice of games.

And I'm starting to realize that's a big part of what gaming is to me: teaching me about myself and how to adjust my attitudes. I've gotten to where I can tolerate periods of boredom without losing interest. Now I'm working on tolerating periods of frustration without flying off the handle.


So the question: Would you prefer that a game is at its best at all time, or do you think that moments of boredom/grinding/travelling are OK, and if so, why?
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Monica Elida Forssell
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I don`t think I have ever played a game that has some kind of down time, even though the overall feel makes the experience awesome. As long as there is some balance between the shining moments and the bored ones, you can well endure the boring moments, because you know there will be awesomeness waiting for you on the other side.

Gems of War is one game that shines a lot with me these days, but even here I see I need to use a lot of time to reach goals I want to reach fast, or I find some of my goals being not to my liking, so I leave them in order to focus on other aspects of the game. Especially now that I have reached a high rank in my Guild, and high level on my hero.
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Interesting question.

So... I guess I would start by saying that I don't think a game should have weak content just to provide contrast with strong content. I definitely don't think a game needs moments where I'm bored, and generally I hate it when games try to artificially extend their length with filler (copy-pasted quests etc).

But, I also don't think the goal of a game should be trying to constantly 'wow' me. A game can have downtime, moments of reflection & solitude, breaks in the action, etc. I would file all of that under 'pacing.'
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I think what makes those moments shine in a game is the build up to them. You need to travel, you need to level up, you need to grind your way to that goal. That is what makes that moment special. Not the moment itself but the resolution of that grinding. It is basically a reward system.
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Jennifer Hanses
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No.

And I don't actually think that any piece of prolonged media can (don't know any other way to say everything except painting/photo/sculpture/stuff that is one instant captured in time.)

When you tell a story, there are peaks and valleys. You can't have all high points or the story is boring because there's no challenge. Video games in general usually have stories.

And for those that don't, they rely on repetitive motions, whether it's shooting things on a battlefield, stacking actions in a management game, or clicking a button, and those are certainly not moments of shining. The shine comes when you pull off a tricky shot, finish a game under the time limit, or acquire the things that clicking the button was leading to.
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p55carroll
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Thanks for posting this question (I was going to get around to it, but I'm glad you beat me to it).

Now I'm just waiting to hear from
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.

It'll be interesting to hear if there's really another side to this issue.
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I'll point out that exploration is a key aspect of what I enjoy in video gaming.

If everywhere I can go is the right direction then I'm not exploring.

I wouldn't say I enjoy traveling somewhere to find it's just a side room with nothing in it. I wouldn't say I enjoy going down a path to find it dead ends. I certainly wouldn't say those moments shine. But without them there would not be that feeling of exhilaration in finding a hidden chest.
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I wouldn't say that I expect a game to constantly maintian a high level of action-packed excitement, but I do want to see every moment in a game actually matter. Every part of the game should have some kind of purpose, providing meaningful decision points, impactful action, or worldbuilding, or driving the story forward, or appropriately managing the pacing of the game. I don't want to feel like I'm playing pointless padding or wasting time grinding levels so I can move on to experience more meaningful gameplay.


Example of bad low-intensity scene: Collect 10 Murloc fins to get rewarded with some slightly inferior pants and access to the next fetch quest. I feel like most of these pointless loot grinds are just time-wasting padding or filler.

Example of good low-intensity scene: The beginning of HλLF-LIFE has you ride a tram into work, suit up, and walk to your lab area. The entire intro scene provides a lot of initial worldbuilding, some foreshadowing for future things you'll see in the game, and starts to build suspense towards the moment that everything goes wrong. The juxtaposition between the everyday-feeling workplace environment and the post-anomaly horror scene that it becomes makes it much more impactful and scary.
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Depends on the game. Shorter games definitely that kind of factor to make the price tag worth it, but I don't mind lulls in longer games. You need a bit of a break some times so having some less interesting, slower content from time to time is ok in my book.
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Mysti_Fogg wrote:
No.

And I don't actually think that any piece of prolonged media can (don't know any other way to say everything except painting/photo/sculpture/stuff that is one instant captured in time.)

Music, perhaps?
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Yes, I think a game should shine in all moments, but that doesn't mean it has to be a constant stream of non-stop action. A game can shine during the slow exploration bits, the grind-y combat, or the quiet moments of exposition and character building. This is why I tend to me more drawn to AAA titles, because they usually have the resources to spend more time polishing all aspects of the game, so it can be a complete entertaining experience throughout.
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I think there's a difference between downtime and bad time.

A game shouldn't be devoid of downtime, as others have said, because you need that for pacing. But a game should be devoid of slog that makes you hate the game.
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Osirus wrote:
I think there's a difference between downtime and bad time.

A game shouldn't be devoid of downtime, as others have said, because you need that for pacing. But a game should be devoid of slog that makes you hate the game.

Of course one gamer's slog is another's pleasure walk.

And another thing that makes me hate a game is frustration--running into something that's just way too hard. Maybe with a lot of trial and error or some online research I could eventually do what the game demands of me, but up to that moment I was having fun, and now I'm not.

The worst thing is that I can't blame either the slog or the frustration entirely on the game. It's at least partly me. If I were more patient, the slog could become enjoyable. If I had a winner's mind-set, the frustration would be an amusing little bump in the road.
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
Osirus wrote:
I think there's a difference between downtime and bad time.

A game shouldn't be devoid of downtime, as others have said, because you need that for pacing. But a game should be devoid of slog that makes you hate the game.

Of course one gamer's slog is another's pleasure walk.

And another thing that makes me hate a game is frustration--running into something that's just way too hard. Maybe with a lot of trial and error or some online research I could eventually do what the game demands of me, but up to that moment I was having fun, and now I'm not.

The worst thing is that I can't blame either the slog or the frustration entirely on the game. It's at least partly me. If I were more patient, the slog could become enjoyable. If I had a winner's mind-set, the frustration would be an amusing little bump in the road.

I think I recall reading some article with Blizzard saying when they were balancing single-player campaigns in Warcraft or Starcraft (don't remember which), they said they aimed for levels to take an average of 1.5 tries to complete. In other words, you should fail your first attempt at a level half the time. This strikes me as a reasonable amount of frustration, and the failure makes the victory sweeter so it's not all a cakewalk.

Currently in Hollow Knight, in addition to tough bosses, I've started encountering some platforming sections that seem implausible to me. Like, split-second timed jumps amidst spikes with moving lasers everywhere. After 4-5 tries and not getting close to victory, I gave up. That's too frustrating.

But a boss that takes 3-4 tries to beat, especially if there's a spawnpoint close by? Can certes be the good kind of frustration.
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E Decker wrote:
Mysti_Fogg wrote:
No.

And I don't actually think that any piece of prolonged media can (don't know any other way to say everything except painting/photo/sculpture/stuff that is one instant captured in time.)

Music, perhaps?



I wouldn't include music. Music has peaks and valleys just like books, TV, movies, and video games.

I can't remember if it was Handel or Bach or maybe someone else who found out that audience members were sleeping through some of his pieces and wrote a work specifically to act as a lullaby interrupted by sudden sharp shocks.

And you can hear the tide of battle in The 1812 Overture. It tells a story in music form.

Sculpture, painting, and photographs are static. There's a single image, so the artist can pull out all the stops for one memorable impact. And then they can do it again to the same heights or depths in their next work without fear that if one work overshadows the other that it destroys something he was building to.

Now, some artists can always do a serial study and purposely connect different works, purposely placing them around the room in a gallery for storytelling purposes. (Or they can just be cartoonists). But in general, each image is meant to be taken separately and mean its own thing. There is no build, there is only that instant.
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Mysti_Fogg wrote:
Sculpture, painting, and photographs are static. There's a single image, so the artist can pull out all the stops for one memorable impact. And then they can do it again to the same heights or depths in their next work without fear that if one work overshadows the other that it destroys something he was building to.

Now, some artists can always do a serial study and purposely connect different works, purposely placing them around the room in a gallery for storytelling purposes. (Or they can just be cartoonists). But in general, each image is meant to be taken separately and mean its own thing. There is no build, there is only that instant.

But there's still the contrast of light and shadow, salient and background features. The eye may seem to catch it all at once, but if you take time to study the picture (or sculpture or whatever), you notice what stands out and what doesn't, or what's explicit and what's left to the imagination.

So I think the same principle is at work even in still art.
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Osirus wrote:
Currently in Hollow Knight, in addition to tough bosses, I've started encountering some platforming sections that seem implausible to me. Like, split-second timed jumps amidst spikes with moving lasers everywhere. After 4-5 tries and not getting close to victory, I gave up. That's too frustrating.


That was my beef with Celestia, where some sections literally required some 50 tries from me. When I completed those, I didn't feel I'd accomplished something. I felt like I'd rolled 1 on a d20 – pure luck.

As for my personal opinion on the subject, I think Oozan hit the nail on how I see it:
ooozan wrote:
I think what makes those moments shine in a game is the build up to them. You need to travel, you need to level up, you need to grind your way to that goal. That is what makes that moment special. Not the moment itself but the resolution of that grinding. It is basically a reward system.


I fully agree with this. I want some downtime, and I don't want every aspect to be entertaining. I want travel time, I want the sense of distances, I want a build-up, and this may very well be a bit dreary. Like JohnRayJr, I too think it bad style to just prolong things in a bad way, but only if it's overdone, or if it's out of place.

For example, in Saints Row 2 (and 3, I think), you needed to do "side missions" in order to be allowed to do "story missions". This was a quite artificial way to prolong the game, by forcing the player to do silly mini-quests that didn't advance the story. But at the same time, these enhanced the story for me, because they provided a for me necessary backdrop.

However, if these minigames had been "play tetris", then I'd have hated it, just as I hated the additions of Colosseum and Gold Saucer and card games in the Final Fantasy series. I had no interest in them, they felt hugely out of place (I hate gambling) and their mere existance in these games was an annoyance.

I have a strange recollection from a time when I lived out in the country side. At the time, we had some horses, and it was on me to get up at 5:30 in the morning and water the horses. One winter, it could drop to –20° centigrade (–4°F), and I had to jog out and smash the ice in their water buckets. I also had to fetch firewood to heat up the house each morning. I hated going up that early, and I didn't like the cold. The weird part is that when I recollect the time out in the country side, what I most fondly remember are those exact moments. I didn't enjoy them then, but I obviously miss them in a way.

I think I game in the same way. Sometimes, what makes a game shine is the strange, dreary things you did, all the while thinking it worth it.
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
Mysti_Fogg wrote:
Sculpture, painting, and photographs are static. There's a single image, so the artist can pull out all the stops for one memorable impact. And then they can do it again to the same heights or depths in their next work without fear that if one work overshadows the other that it destroys something he was building to.

Now, some artists can always do a serial study and purposely connect different works, purposely placing them around the room in a gallery for storytelling purposes. (Or they can just be cartoonists). But in general, each image is meant to be taken separately and mean its own thing. There is no build, there is only that instant.

But there's still the contrast of light and shadow, salient and background features. The eye may seem to catch it all at once, but if you take time to study the picture (or sculpture or whatever), you notice what stands out and what doesn't, or what's explicit and what's left to the imagination.

So I think the same principle is at work even in still art.


Individuals may have different opinions on which works of art or good or aren't, but it either "shines" or it doesn't.

Studying the greater details is something that adds to the experience, but its still part of the same instant. There's no "lull," there's just the impact of seeing it. There's not a moment when you're bored, and if you find part of the picture boring, then it's probably not that great of a picture. It isn't shining in the first place.

I mean, for something over time, Mass Effect 2's Shepard scanning planets is boring busywork. But I can still appreciate the crafting details of the images, the sounds of the scanner, and the planet history blurbs. Those are all well executed details. Its the game play and time sink that make it dull, and therefore create a lull in play.
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Mysti_Fogg wrote:
Mass Effect 2's Shepard scanning planets is boring busywork. But I can still appreciate the crafting details of the images, the sounds of the scanner, and the planet history blurbs. Those are all well executed details. Its the game play and time sink that make it dull, and therefore create a lull in play.

I haven't played that game, but I get what you're saying. There's always foreground and background, or cycles of activity and rest; you can't have one without the other, so we always get both. But the question here is, Do you want to feel fully engaged with and pleased by a game all the time you're playing it, or is it OK if there's an ebb and flow, where waves of engagement and pleasure alternate with tolerably short periods of boredom or frustration?

Ideally, I think I'd like to be engaged and pleased all the time. But I've never met a game that does that for me. Even if I'm playing my favorite game, there are always moments when I say, "Aargh, I hate it when this happens!" (I'm frustrated) and moments when I say, "Grrr, this just goes on and on" (I'm bored).

If the whole game--or maybe just most of it--is boring to me, I'll stop playing it and find a better game. But as long as the game mostly shines (is engaging and enjoyable), I'll tolerate the periods of boredom or frustration.

If the whole game is frustrating (I'm looking at you, SpaceChem), I'll struggle with it for as long as I can stand to. If I make enough headway, I might keep struggling, as every success is a reward. But if I'm stumped to where it makes me miserable, I'll quit the game.

A story-based game is like a book, though: I always feel committed to getting all the way to the end, no matter what. (Last year, I finally finished the novel I'd stopped halfway through in 1985. It sat on my shelf all those years, and I was determined to finish it, so I did.) So I tolerate a lot of boredom in exchange for the "reward" of completion. If it gets frustrating (as the puzzle elements often do), I look online for hints or solutions to keep things moving ahead. But mostly I avoid story-based games because I don't like being caught up in the commitment.

So, that's my experience. What I'm curious about is whether anybody else has ever played a game that shines all the way through, each and every moment. No boredom, no frustration--just pure absorption and enjoyment. Sounds like heavenly bliss to me, but I've never seen it on earth.
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
What I'm curious about is whether anybody else has ever played a game that shines all the way through, each and every moment. No boredom, no frustration--just pure absorption and enjoyment. Sounds like heavenly bliss to me, but I've never seen it on earth.


The closest I get to that is Inside and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. I wasn't bored or frustrated at any point in either of those games. I was just playing and going "dear god…" all the time. Maybe some rare points in "Brothers" I was a bit frustrated, but only a little part. But then again, both games were short, and they both fit me like a tailor-made glove.
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Mysti_Fogg wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:
Mysti_Fogg wrote:
Sculpture, painting, and photographs are static. There's a single image, so the artist can pull out all the stops for one memorable impact. And then they can do it again to the same heights or depths in their next work without fear that if one work overshadows the other that it destroys something he was building to.

Now, some artists can always do a serial study and purposely connect different works, purposely placing them around the room in a gallery for storytelling purposes. (Or they can just be cartoonists). But in general, each image is meant to be taken separately and mean its own thing. There is no build, there is only that instant.

But there's still the contrast of light and shadow, salient and background features. The eye may seem to catch it all at once, but if you take time to study the picture (or sculpture or whatever), you notice what stands out and what doesn't, or what's explicit and what's left to the imagination.

So I think the same principle is at work even in still art.


Individuals may have different opinions on which works of art or good or aren't, but it either "shines" or it doesn't.

Studying the greater details is something that adds to the experience, but its still part of the same instant. There's no "lull," there's just the impact of seeing it. There's not a moment when you're bored, and if you find part of the picture boring, then it's probably not that great of a picture. It isn't shining in the first place.

I think this very much depends on your relationship to the type of art in question. For me at least, the overall impression of a piece is like the intro sequence of a game/book/film/TV-show. If it doesn't grab me, then I probably won't explore it any further. And while some art is all about the instant impression, much like a short story, I think I have a preference for "long form" in almost any form of cultural artifice. I like pieces the reward deeper examination.
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I'm in two minds about this. On the one hand, it's been common knowledge that it's best to sandwich really impressive, engaging stuff in between slower paced moments in any medium. For movies it's the plot and editing, and in gaming it's that and also the gameplay. You can't be on the edge of your seat a 100% of time, because that's exhausting.

On the other hand, the way this question is presented sounds to me like you're asking if a game should be its best self at all times, and to that the answer is a resounding yes. The alternative is the game having the option to be good/polished/enjoyable/engaging in a given moment, but choosing not to be for some reason.

So I guess we'd have to settle on what "shine" means, and I think that's so specific to any given game (not even genre, but what a particular game strives to achieve) that it'd be very hard to get a one-size-fits-all definition.

In general, I'm a huge believer that polish does make a big amount of difference. Maybe it's a bit of a tangent here, but consider superhero movies and their music. For years those soundtracks have been criticized, and not without merit, for being samey, run-of-the-mill, predictable etc. Along come two examples - Black Panther and Into the Spiderverse - that have the balls to actually do things their way, use proper leitmotifs for characters, create themes that can be weaved into the story. The effect? Black Panther's soundtrack wins an Oscar (not the best quantifier of things, but hey, somebody thought it was good!) and one of Spiderverse's immediately impactful scenes would've been so much less if not for the music that goes with it.

They could've went with the same-old, same-old. They didn't, they picked something that fit THIS movie and THIS scene, not that genre or that plot point. Games often have the same choice, but usually, due to time constraints, publisher meddling, budget, or just a lack of clear creative vision, they make the wrong call. That's one of the reasons that among my favourite games of all time you'll find many shorter, more directed and creatively whole titles, but not a lot of the open-world f**k-around games I tend to spend many more hours with when I just want to relax. And in the end, it's a question of impact vs value for money. For me, those can be equivalent. For many, the latter is much more important, hence live services, busywork side activities, huge maps with nothing interesting on them etc.
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Lord_Kristof wrote:
So I guess we'd have to settle on what "shine" means, and I think that's so specific to any given game (not even genre, but what a particular game strives to achieve) that it'd be very hard to get a one-size-fits-all definition.

Then maybe we should talk about our experiences with specific games.

Each game design might shine in its own unique way, but we game players know shine when we see it, no matter what form it takes.

The game I've been playing a lot of lately is Age of Wonders III. I think it shines brightly overall. Game play keeps moving right along (it's turn-based, so I can do a lot to determine the pace); the art and music are very good; and best of all, I'm always confronted with an interesting, complex challenge that I can work out logically if I put some time and effort into it.

The game features that don't shine (for me) are so few and far between that I can easily overlook them. There's one piece of music that irritates me (it has a strong, repetitive beat that I'd like to ignore but can't). There's some distasteful humor (like monkeys flinging feces). There's the tedium of managing production queues or moving distant units that will never make it to the fight in time. I notice all these potential "shine spoilers," but I shrug them off and chalk them up to variety. They're not to my taste, but they do add more to the mix. And a dash of ugliness or tedium makes the overall beauty and excitement stand out even more.

I find the appreciation of "shine" is sometimes an acquired taste. Though I don't currently like the above-named features in AoW3, I might learn to like them more in time. Meanwhile I can easily tolerate them.
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Luis
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A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.
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As others have said, games need pacing, but they should never veer into being actively annoying. Thing is, what each of us considers "actively annoying" is widely different. Let's bring some examples to the table.

For instance, Seth mentions three or four attempts for a boss is fine for him. Personally, the boss battle I've enjoyed the most in the past few years was Bloodborne's final DLC boss, and was stuck with it for three or four... Hours. And I loved every minute of it. But not every minute of Bloodborne is that hard: you get gradual ups and downs in difficulty, not to mention there's a lot to discover through item descriptions as well as through environmental storytelling. Paying attention to all the little details brings some respite and helps balancing the game's pace.

Now, on the opposite side of the spectrum, three or four minutes of mandatory stealth sequences in Spiderman had me grinding my teeth. Thing is, Spiderman already has a great downtime mechanism: web slinging. Slinging through New York offers a break of pace which is both relaxing and fun. Mandatory stealth sequences in Spiderman break the pace by introducing linear sequences that must be read and performed in a very specific way, which goes completely agains the fuild and open-ended nature of the game. Thus, they actively hampered the overall experience for me.

So yes, games should shine all the time, they just don't need to be on a continuous high note: lower notes are there for a reason.
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Krzysztof Zięba
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To me, personally, travel in open world games is a weird edge case. You could say it's just paddding in between missions, and you'd be correct from the perspective of production, but it's also sometimes indispensable to set the mood of the game, and can often be a pleasure a few times, before it - almost inevitably - becomes a chore.

Since at least the early to mid 00s, fast travel has become a staple of open world design, and it is overtly there to let you "skip the boring parts", which begs the question why are those in the game in the first place. Well, they're there because they can really give you something cool to experience as you learn about the world's layout, and are often great for maintaining an atmosphere and helping you immerse yourself in the setting. Plus, you often move around those vast spaces with a vehicle or mount, so there's an additional element of gameplay there, and sometimes even a set of interesting optional challenges.

In the past, you could often encounter confusingly laid out levels which had pretty much the same consequence, if not a clear role - they took a while to get out of, and weren't necessarily "fun" throughout. For example - as I'm replaying Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines currently, it has at least a few stages that are clearly unnecessaringly long, while being unreasonably empty - essentially corridors with some enemies to fight but no actual substance. Have these areas been designed this way with a purpose, or is it that way because of necessity (they planned for more but ran out of time), or did they have a point to make but just failed to communicate it? Hard to say without talking to the people who made the game - and besides, modern critique of media doesn't care about authorial intent, it's only interested in judging whatever they can dig out of the experience (something I'm irked by, but can't offer a better approach to).
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