From Jet Rocket to Elven Ring: how the open world games developed


Gamers have a wide variety in choosing the games they want to play, although open-world games are consistently among the most popular. Whether it’s jumping off a roof in Assassin’s Creed or stealthy espionage in Metal Gear Solid 5, the open-world genre has become a constant and beloved aspect of the game world. Despite how long this genre has been around, developers have been able to constantly innovate, ensuring that gamers will always be impressed with the latest games.

In 2022, gamers can expect new star games with an open world, including Saints Row and Hogwarts Legacy, and while enjoying these games, they should not forget the long and eventful history of the genre. Starting modestly, open-world games have been built on the foundations laid by their predecessors to provide players with much more realistic worlds to explore. While some gamers may be tired of the open-world genre, it looks like it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

The Origins of Open World Games

There are a few candidates being cast when it comes to defining the first open-world game, but many point to Jet Rocket as one of the earliest examples. Released in 1970 by Sega, Jet Rocket is an arcade game that allows players to freely fly and shoot objects in the game world. In addition to being one of the first examples of an open-world game, it can also be seen as a precursor to the flight simulator genre. This influenced many other important games, including Elite, a 1984 space game with 3D graphics and open-world gameplay. However, the open world genre was not limited to flying games, and it was picked up by adventure and adventure games, where it achieved great success.

The Legend of Zelda, released in 1986, is considered by some to be one of the first examples of an adventure game in the form in which gamers recognize it today. The game spawned a cult series, which decades later continued the revolution in the open world genre. There are other noteworthy games released in the 1980s and 90s that served as important steps in the evolution of open-world games, including 1988’s Wasteland and 1986’s Turbo Esprit racing game, although modern gamers will probably find the blocky graphics and outdated gameplay annoying.

The beginning of modern open-world games

The Grand Theft Auto series was created by David Jones and Mike Dailey, and the first two games of the series used a top-down perspective, which allowed players to arrange criminal riots in an urban environment. Grand Theft Auto 3, released in 2001, has had a huge impact by introducing a fully three-dimensional world and increasing the level of freedom that players can participate in. Although the game drew inspiration from previous open-world games, including The Legend of Zelda and Elite, it offered a level of realism that was unsurpassed at the time. The game also made a splash due to its violence and controversial content, sparking public debate over the effects and censorship of video games.

After that, a few more Grand Theft Auto games appeared, but also a lot of Grand Theft Auto clones appeared, desperately trying to recreate the success of the franchise. Consequently, open-world games taking place in the city, which allow players to steal cars, participate in police chases and move freely when they are not completing missions, are ubiquitous, and Saints Row, True Crime and Watch Dogs are examples. Despite the fact that the genre has become popular, it shows no signs of losing popularity. Open-world games have also gained astronomical popularity thanks to the sandbox subgenre, which allows players to shape the world that is presented to them to their liking. Examples include Roblox and the world’s best-selling Minecraft game. The appeal of such games is easy to understand, as they allow players to unleash their creativity.

A new era of open-world games

Over time, technologies are being improved, which allows developers to constantly improve the genre and expand the boundaries of what is possible. This was achieved by improving graphics, increasing the verticality of the environment, increasing the realism of weather effects, and using thoughtful design combined with hardware to eliminate loading screens and ensure a smooth game, to name just a few examples. One of the most impressive improvements is due to the huge size of the open worlds that players have been able to explore in recent games, thanks in part to procedural generation. Released in 2016, No Man’s Sky by Hello Games allows players to explore billions and billions of planets, and although some critics claim that exploration can become monotonous, the game has gathered a significant fan base.


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