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Bully gives a lesson in open world structure

A quick look at how Bully uses structure to create a closer connection between the player and their open world environment.

 Originally posted on my personal blog Heaven Twiddling

Open world games are so called for the freedom they give the player. The rules are made to be broken and the player is encouraged to do anything he likes within the game world. Despite the characters being human they rarely require even the lowest needs from Mazlow’s hierarchy.

Realism in games may be a completely separate issue, but it is interesting that most open world games don’t feel the need to even ensure that the player character is well rested. The closest most game worlds get to having a regimented structure is a day and night cycle.

What makes Bully interesting is it does try to give the player a structure and responsibilities. They are required to attend lessons during school hours and stay inside after curfew. Attending lessons results in experience encouraging the player to go to class.

When class is on, all of the kids usually walking around are gone, replaced by a few teachers. Should you choose to avoid your tutoring, they will hunt you down! It may not be an impossible punishment to avoid but it does change the environment dramatically depending on the time of day. It really helps the player get into the role of a school pupil.

It is a stretch to say the world of Bully feels alive, but it does makes the world make more sense compared to the aimless pedestrians of Grand Theft Auto.

The other side of the coin is that too much structure can become a chore. Most players don't want to be forced into mandatory real life requirements like eating and sleeping. They just want the most direct route to the action, it's why fast travel is so prevalent.

Why reflect realism when people are playing games for escapism? If we had the choice, wouldn’t we all like to chose exactly what we did and when?

While I agree with most of this argument I think a better balance can be reached between making the player feel and act like a part of the society they are inhabiting rather than a visitor passing through.

I don't expect a game to be as intense as the Stalker Reality Mod but I think some of the worlds we play in need to give the player more reason to exist there. This could even help create those closer relationships with the in-game characters, create better empathy and challenge our understanding of the world when the structure is changed.

Can anyone think of other examples of games that ask you to try and integrate with the world rather than be the ignorant hero? How fun could you make a game were the player was forced to obey more rules and actually look after their avatar like they do themselves?

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