A Charming Lot - Patrick Klinecz

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This is part of a series of interviews with the team behind Critical Charm and those who helped us getting our game together. Here’s Patrick Klinecz, one of our programmers!

What’s been the most memorable open world in a game you’ve played and why?

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It was probably the first open-world game that I played, at least first one I completed. It was mind-blowing how much stuff there was to do. And it's still a great game.

Care to elaborate?

Well, there's the story missions. It's a long story that takes you through all three cities and some of the countryside. Writing is great and the voice talent is awesome. They even have Samuel L. Jackson in a major role. Then there's all the side activities. Collectibles, vehicle schools, races, optional missions, dating, houses to buy, gambling, gyms and probably a lot of stuff I'm forgetting. Not to mention just fucking around.

Open worlds in games can go one of two ways - they’re either giant playgrounds designed with the player in mind or their attempts at simulating a world - what makes for a good version of each?

Bethesda's games, namely Elder Scrolls and Fallout, are great examples of giant playgrounds. You are free to do whatever you want, in what order you want. And the worlds are packed full of cool stuff to find. The most important thing about this version is the size:content ratio. If the world is huge but empty, it doesn't really serve any purpose.

Best example of simulating a world that comes to mind is the Yakuza games. The area is much smaller, but it is absolutely packed with things you can do. You can go gamble, or play mahjong, or eat and drink, or sing karaoke etc. There are people walking around, doing their own thing, other gang members looking for trouble. I think what's really important in this kind of an open world is to know when to change realism to game mechanics. Just because something would be realistic, it doesn't mean it would be fun to play. Even if you are trying to model as real of a world as possible, not everything has to be 100% realistic.

How important do you think consistency is in open world games? And what do consider the line when it comes to making something fun versus obnoxious from a game perspective?

I feel like internal consistency is the key in immersion and suspension of belief. I don't care if the world has some crazy rules, I can believe that. But they have to be internally consistent. Like, one of the most annoying things is when you can take out a bazillion guys but then in a cut scene the protagonist surrenders because there's five dudes surrounding him. Doesn't make any sense

And as far as realism goes, it has its place in games, but unless you are making a simulator, don't go overboard with it. Realistic doesn't automatically equal fun or good gameplay. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey got rid of fall damage and the exploration has never been more fun. It's not realistic but who cares?

What’s your opinion on randomness in open world games? Randomness could be procedural generation, system interaction, or any other form you can think of. 

I personally don't care that much for procedural generation in games. If done properly, it can be good for some games, but I do prefer hand-made locations etc. For systems, it can work. Maybe having a small chance of failing when making a potion (that gets smaller with skill increases) can work. Randomized loot is completely fine, especially if you have some items that are always in the same place. Ultimately I think randomness can add some variety to open-world games but should be used sparingly.

What about the systems interactions of NPCs that cause things like animal attacks in Far Cry, or guards chasing a particular character, etc?

That can be really cool. Having wild animals roaming around and attacking other characters than just you and people attacking each other can make the world feel much more alive. Like there's things going on even when you are not around. Makes you feel like you are in a real world.

What’s been your best and your worst experience of that?

In AC Odyssey, it's been fun to get into a fort to see a bobcat or a bear tearing apart the guards. Or opening the cages with your bow and letting some lion cause chaos while you sneak to steal the treasures. Worst is in Skyrim when a dragon or a vampire attacks a village and you are trying to help them kill it but accidentally kill a goat or hit a guard and then you are the new Public Enemy Number One.

Is there any sort of event you’d like to see randomly occur?

Skyrim was on the right track but the execution was flawed. I liked that there were couriers bringing you good and bad news and sometimes hitmen sent after you and whatnot. But the execution was indeed flawed. You could get hitmen after you even if no one saw you stole an item. They just somehow knew that it was you. And the courier letters were very inconsequential. So building on that system could be nice. And Shadow of Mordor/War had the awesome Nemesis system that could be built on too in terms of enemy types/personalities/resistances etc. Like apply that to normal enemies too. Maybe some enemies flee the battle easily or maybe they aggro when on low health and so on. The game would keep throwing you curveballs and you'd have to adapt in every battle.