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Nerds Without Pants   

Nerds Without Pants Episode 80: It's Like GTA Meets...

It's an open world. We just play in it.

Welcome to another episode of Nerds Without Pants! We have our first topic episode in ages, thanks to a thought-provoking blog from regular listener transmet2033. Before that, we of course have Consumption Junction.

Patrick and Julian no longer see eye to eye on Scott Snyder's Batman, while Angelo dives deep into Megaman Legends. Julian finshed Undertale and wishes he hadn't. We're a little light on games this week, but we make up for it in the topic.

And that topic is open world games. After spending some time talking about the genesis of this genre, the Pantsless Ones discuss where they first encountered the open world game, lay out some of their grievances, and make a case for the return of level-based gameplay. We close things out by trying to come up with some ways to move the genre forward.


Guns 'N Roses- Welcome to the Jungle

See Saw- To Nowhere (.Hack//Sign)

Paul Engemann- Push it to the Limit

See Saw- Key of the Twilight (.Hack//Sign)




01/31/2016 at 07:22 PM

Entertaining show, guys. Reminded me of 1up podcasts/Retronauts. A couple of things:

About lack of actual characters in open world games: In Ultima 7, every NPC had unique dialogue and a daily schedule where they rose, went to work/church/traveled, did leisure activities after work (like eating at a pub), slept in their own bed. As far as I know, it's the only open world game to have done this, although I heard Gothic had similar attention paid to characters.  No one has done it since though.

What open world games do wrong - lack of fun or interesting core mechanics: I beat Dragon's Dogma twice and may do it again soon. Why did it keep my interest while I drop most other open world games? Because it was built around very good combat and monster design. It's fun just to run around and fight.  You look forward to the next quest or dungeon, wondering what cool monster you'll come across and how fun it will be fight it.  You're also going into very immersive dungeons, where light and darkness matter.  There is no parallel in GTA or Far Cry to fighting some of the beasts you fight in DD, nothing as fierce, challenging, or grand of scale. Nothing as atmospheric or full of tension.  Another example is The Phantom Pain. Now there is a lot of tedium and bloat in the game, and a lot of throaway level design, but controlling Snake is fun in itself.  You get a lot of cool toys to play with, both technological and organic.   I can only imagine if the boss fights were up to the standard of other MGS games that this would easily be the best game so far this generation.  Still, I will finish this game on PS3 and then probably get one of the current gen releases and do it all again. This while so many other open world games I've played recently have fallen by the wayside.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

02/01/2016 at 07:35 PM

You bring up some great points. I wonder if there could be some sort of indie RPG out there that could do what Ultima 7 did, but bringing in some of the advancements that have come since. That would be an impressive game, and makes me again sad that I missed out on so much of the PC gaming from the '90s.

I totally agree. I keep bringing up Saints Row IV and Shadow of Mordor, but those games were just so damn fun to play that I wanted to keep playing them. The Nemesis system in Mordor made even mundane quests thrilling because at any time a captain could walk in and mess your plans up. And Saints Row is just so over the top that it almost doesn't matter if there is an interesting story behind it. It's just icing on the cake that it has that, too.


02/02/2016 at 07:22 AM

I was thinking of Saints Row 4. I haven't played it, but I know about the super powers.  They made travel fun, which is another area most open world games fail in. Insipred by this podcast, I am thinking of doing a fairly detailed blog on how I would make GTA and similar games fun in each of their core areas, traversal/locomotion being one of them.


02/04/2016 at 01:26 PM

I like the idea of being able to nearly anything that you would like.  I keep coming back to Dishonored when I think about what I want from open-world games.  Dishonored gives you large levels that you can do nearly anything and go nearly everywhere in the confines of the level.  The increasing size of the worlds that companies are creating are the thing that doesn't really appeal to me.  Who cares if you faithfully recreate the entire United States...  I don't want to driver through the Great Plains in real life, what makes you think that I want to do it in a videogame?

Julian Titus Senior Editor

02/04/2016 at 08:13 PM

EXACTLY! There was a mission in GTA V where I captured a couple and took them to some cult compound. It was a series of side quests. But when I realized how freaking far the compound was from everything I decided I would never do any of the other ones. 


02/05/2016 at 01:25 PM

I could be wrong, but I feel as though I remember sandbox being thrown around when people were talking about open-world games.  When GTA III first came out, that is exactly what it felt like to me.  The only problem is that in recent years we have been given games that actually feel like sandboxes...  here is a level, here is your objective, complete it however you must.  

Super Step Contributing Writer

02/09/2016 at 12:08 PM

Mr. Bloom looks like a cool villain to me, and I'm still interested in Snyder's take, especially Court of Owls, but I can't say whose side I am on without reading. Sounds like a case of letting the creatives a bit too loose, which happens, but maybe Julian is right about staying the course? But then, tell that to shareholders ... I don't know enough about comics, though I want to. Would I be ok picking up Snyder's run as a relatively new fan? (I have seen the cartoons of Dark Knight Rises and Year One, as well as Under the Red Hood).

I love Jim Gordon and wish he had his own series outside of being Batman. The Mirror sounds like a cool villain as well. Dollmaker shows up in Arkham Knight, I believe. At least the dolls do ...

I have a sneaking suspicion that while the Court of Owls is not in Arkham Knight, maybe there's a reference in the Infamy DLC when Batman talks about swearing an oath?

I love Kojima for making games more cinematic. I always considered a cutscene an award growing up and cared less about points systems. I don't like the overall turn to watching my video games for large portions at a time. That works in batshit MGS. I'm more and mor annoyed with too much story told through cutscenes, particularly when games start.

Never played FFIX, but my least favorite part of open worlds is the aimless wandering. Oh, the aimless wandering. So aimless ... and tedious. And dull. And fuck it, I'll just look this up, which I shouldn't have to do. I still take issue with the fact people who like From Software games openly say you probably need to look stuff up early on. I get that it's supposed to be challengin, but come on. The early goings should be SOMEWHAT accessible to people without an Internet connection.

As for CoD, I've only ever played multiplayer, but yeah, barely straying off course meaning death is just as annoying.

There are strat guides that have you look stuff up online? The fuck is that? The whole point is to have everything there in print.

Hey! I come from a Texas ... Catholic school. But I graduated from a public university where I now teach and love photography. Sounds like a cool game.

I notice you opened with "Welcome to the Jungle," which was in a San Andreas trailer and "Push It To the Limit" is in GTA III, and would work in Vice City. Nice touch.

I just started Witcher III and I find it to be a lot like ESO, but much more attractive and not online.

I've never played Shenmue, but you bring up an interesting point I think. How big does a game's world have to be to be "open?" or is it just the ability to choose to ignore missions or play them in whatever order you want?

I do like that in Witcher III, your actions have consequences, unlike GTA where the world is completely disconnected between missions and the world itself. I also played old GTAs at friends' houses and when my older bro was gone, but I never really got into them for a similar reason: I don't care about the stuff outside the missions so much except for the Crazy Taxi and Vigilante minigames. What I honestly like most about GTAs is their satirical writing. I rarely feel compelled to complete the open world side quests once I'm done either. So that's one thing about open world to me: I play it mostly mission-based anyway, because that's what I'm used to.

GTA III was a game changer, but having gone back to these now on PS4, Vice City is LIGHT YEARS better in terms of control, story, missions, etc. I'm surprised you were surpirised by hooker hiring and killing, since GTA has so often been reduced to "Hooker killer sim" by news outlets. Listening to some of those old stories, you'd think that's ALL you could do in these games. I feel uncomfortable killing the hookers, but am fine w increasing my health that way. It's interesting what I do and don't feel comfy with in those games ...

I completely missed Morrowind on Xbox and never heard much about it at the time, odlly enough. Heard TONS about Oblivion on 360 though.

Vice City's soundtrack is amazing and I love that they give you the sports cars right away. I did not like how far you had to get for those in III. I never found the destruction amusing in GTA because I always wound up dying and having to go over it all again. But the jumps were awesome and I have always loved drivig around in that series.

I remember State of Emergency on the PS2 as well. Even though that's Rockstar, is that what you mean by the games capitalizing on just the violence?I never played it and I don't think it did well, but wasn't mostly the idea to get points by doing bad shit (which is what you'd believe GTA was if you listened to all those aforementioned newscasts?)

Angelo hit the nail on the head: there needs to be a there there.

Patrick, City has a better story, but God is it dull and ugly. I don't care if it's the most popular, it's the worst one. Tongue Out Asylum is more like Prime, which to me is a good thing. Knight is still my favorite though, so you can ALL suck it.

Metroid is great because while it has discovery, it's also very well-contained, to Julian's point. Honestly, I think that's a big strength of the Metroid series. There's always a "there" there because of that.

Angelo hits the nail on the head again with the "hub world" mask. Being able to choose which level to do now is a differentiator from level-based, but you still have to win to advance. I don't consider 2013 Tomb Raider open world ... it's just that you advance through a bigger world, still in a linear fashion, but you can go KIND OF out of your way for collectibles. I feel the same about Bloodborne, but then again it's not like I've gotten far.

I dunno if I need a reason to be in a fire or ice level, I just want the levels to be good. I'm a bit of a completionist when it comes to main games/story, so I understand wanting to know how far you are in the game. Having said all this, I'm very interested in the experiment that is No Man's Sky.

I'm still playing Wolfenstein New Order, also bought on Winter Sale. I got stuck early on cause I suck at FPS. I hate that feeling of where was I? I'm VERY confused on that with Spirit Tracks in the last dungeon, to the point I have considered restrating that game, but I really don't want that.

I think this is the podcast where Angelo basically speaks for me; absolutely they need to just do whatever works best for their game instead of shoehorning a dead hub world in there. I don't feel cheated by smaller worlds, I feel cheated by boring gameplay.

You can reduce and turn off icons in GTA V. I hate not having icons, cause I honestly hate exploration ... especially when it's aimless. I suck at direction, so it takes me too long to find crap where I get bored. One thing I like about GTA V is that it's a REALLY accurate representation of L.A. from what I've seen of that city when I visited. I also like the gorgeous graphics in Witcher III. So in open world games, there is something to be said for scenery.

I'm honestly not the guy for open world games in many cases, because I like being given tasks to complete more than I like exploring. So my favorite open world games are ones with a lot of area, but also a ton of missions available. Withcer III seems to be that so far. I've become more accepting of side quests and kind of want to go back to older Zeldas and complete those, but I still need a quest at some point, or at least something interesting to find. I hate when I find something really cool in Zelda and it ends up being a chest with a $1 rupee in it. HATE IT.

I kind of want to play a GTA where your actions have more of a lasting impact beyond just the games you fight in missions. Maybe how often you get in trouble with the law will change how law enforcement sees you in the story, or the town will turn against you based on how you treat pedestrians. That might not fit in GTA and I doubt I see that happen, but to me that would make it more interesting, because the overall GTA formula has not changed much from III to V imo. Sure a lot has been added, but the core game really hasn't been messed with outside of maybe San Andreas with its RPG elements for CJ.

Here's where I will disagree with Angelo: I kind of want the objects I'm able to interact with to be important, so I don't just sit there trial and erroring my way through games like that. I've run into some of that in Ether One, which I need to get back to. Would like a map to that game ...

I haven't played San Andreas much, so I will have to see for myself. I do get annoyed by traversing in V, but I like how there are the city and country communities. I just wish there were a teleport option. I'm surprised Saints Row IV and flying has not been brough up here yet. I think I most want to play Red Dead Redemption of all Rockstar titles. Also need to play my Steam copy of Bully.

So that's why those other two songs are from .hack ...

Petting the chocobo sounds fun because it builds the world and makes it feel more full. I still don't want to trial and error my way through f*ing coasters though. Tongue Out

AR Pokemon sounds amazing. I am sure it will be turn out to be overhyped, but still. Best idea they've had since Snap. Video games getting people OUT of the house, now that's a concept!

Yeah, I'm ... never on Twitter. Y'all got a Facebook?

Julian Titus Senior Editor

02/14/2016 at 12:00 PM

If you start with with the beginning of the New 52 Batman you will be fine. Snyder spends the first 12 issues establishing the Court of Owls, which is a totally new addition to the Batman universe, while helping you understand some of the "Bat Family" workings. The weird thing about the New 52 is that everything was started fresh except for Green Lantern and Batman, which makes the continuity kind of wonky. But the Joker doesn't show up until after the Court of Owls stuff, and it's one of the better takes on the character.

Do you feel like you see a lot of cutscenes these days? I feel like a lot of video game storytelling is now done in engine, and with audio logs and such that you can ignore if you want. I'm not saying that I want to go back to PS2 RPG days where you wouldn't control a character until 30 minutes into the game, but I find myself missing true cutscenes.

What you want from GTA is what I've been begging for pretty much since 3. When I thought it was going to be like Shenmue with actual named characters I thought it would be awesome if you could find some high-level mob moss just doing his business and assassinate him to take over. It would be super hard to do, but if you could it would change the game. True emergent gameplay right there. Also, the concept of having an overall notoriety that is separate from your wanted level would be really cool. Imagine going shopping and getting noticed by a beat cop. What do you do in that situation?

We have a facebook page, but it is dead. I've been thinking of resurrecting it, but first I want to iron out the audio problems we've been having.

Super Step Contributing Writer

02/14/2016 at 12:24 PM

Ok cool, I might pick up some new 52 then or see if library has it.

I want cutscenes less and less, so if they're going away I'm all for it, tbh. I espeically want the beginning of a game to be mainly gameplay.

Yeah, only problem is GTA formula is so established in some regards that they may not risk doing stuff like that. Also, I do sometimes like to turn police off altogether, since it gets annoying when i want to drive fast and accidentally bump them. Still, I think it's worth exploring and maybe a new franchise could pull it off, who knows?

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