How Do Open World Video Games Add Realism to their Environments?

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If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to turn code into a photorealistic, virtual world, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ve explored the process of creating photorealism in open-world video games like Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed and The Last of Us Part II. Intrigued? Let’s dive right in.

It Starts with Sightseeing

Creating an open-world video game takes time. During the first six months, executives send a team of journalists, photographers, scriptwriters and developers to a city, country or region where the game will be based on.

They descend to these locations with clear instructions—to learn about the game setting as much as possible. The explanation, according to Tommy Francois of Ubisoft, is that exploring a place first-hand helps you write an original story about it.

In an interview with Time Magazine, Francois gives an analogy of visiting an airport in ten minutes. Although some people might only notice major things, the ten-minute experience can warrant an infinite number of words on Wikipedia.

In other words, allowing game creators to visit a setting helps them learn stuff their counterparts might not notice. Importantly, it helps avoid situations where artists, writers and developers create content based on stories told by others.

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Hundreds of Thousands of Pictures and Videos

After developers, photographers and writers visit the place of inspiration, the next team to visit consists of photographers and video takers. This time, their goal isn’t to observe. Instead, they take as many relevant photographs as possible.

Depending on the publisher, photographers and videographers can spend more than three months taking photos and videos. This data is added to a database through which developers can reference their stories.

The average video game takes one year to complete. As such, developers and writers usually have enough time to watch the audio-visual data taken by their colleagues. They also work with editors to help skim through the data and only use necessary videos and photos.

Creating Relatable Games

What do you like the most about open-world video games? Maybe you relish their resemblance to the world around us. Maybe you like to play god by creating, killing and controlling characters and places without feeling guilt.

Someone else might enjoy the fact that you can play games within games. If you get bored by Red Dead Redemption 2, you can spend a few hours playing the mini-games inside it: Blackjack, Five Finger Fillet, Dominoes, poker, fishing, and hunting.

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Balancing Between the Storyline and Mechanics

Creating a beautiful, expansive, realistic setting is important. But creating a game with efficient mechanics is even more essential.  Fortunately, technology, more so AI, helps bridge this gap. Writers and developers create the narrative. Technology makes it possible to play them smoothly.

Needless to say, technology hasn’t always been so advanced.  A couple of decades ago, most games depended on code alone to work. In turn, they were laggy, slow, and uninteresting to play.

Although not everyone publishes takes the time to create games with truly responsive mechanics, the big developers do. This is why many of the best video games take years to finish. Developers need to create the mechanics over and over, often cutting out parts that seem impossible to finish.

Grossly Simulated Environments

Take a minute and think about your favorite video game. How interactive was it? Chances are it is hugely stimulated. You can interact with nearly every character inside there. You can control your role, create and destroy things at will.

Dynamism and interactivity are indeed the core principles of a good open-world video game. According to Nvidia’s Tony Tamasi, video gamers love open-world games that feel alive and interactive.

Sure, creating these games costs hundreds of millions of dollars. And they need to be carefully done. But they’re more popular with players than games whose environments are like film sets that offer little to no interactivity.

With that in mind, some experts feel games are still lacking when it comes to capturing human emotions. Not many games focus on things like empathy, sadness, anxiety, and depression.  What’s more, developers are yet to fully simulate complex weather patterns.

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Educative and Informative

Today’s open games do a lot more than provide entertainment. They have advanced from the days of point-and-shoot action games to simulation-based life experiences. In light of that information, many video games have lots of informative and educative elements.

Informative and educative video games are a niche. They’re popular with senior citizen gamers that might not keep up with the fast pace of games like Assassin’s Creed. To them, video games about relinquishing old memories or learning new things about the world.

When you think about it, everyone has learned something new from an open world video game. Some kids learn how to drive, how to do CPR or protect themselves using a gun by playing video games. These are all part of the things that make open world games realistic.

Customization

Many video gamers today can’t imagine a world where their progress is lost after they stop playing a game. Imagine losing all your earned points, skins and kills go to waste every time you need to shut down your PC.

Fortunately, no one has to live in that world again. Thanks to Artificial Intelligence, video games learn about you every day. They know your favorite weapons, your hangout places and can keep up with your new records.

Against that backdrop, playing a modern open world video game is a must-do thing for every gaming fan. You get an experience not even the biggest blockbusters can provide. To some extent, playing video games beat reading some stories.

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