Open-World RPGs and the Hinterlands Problem

Originally published on Gamasutra 10/10/2017.

This article contains minor spoilers for the first act of Divinity: Original Sin 2, including location and quest names.

As the market for modern role-playing games grows, developers are under increasing pressure to appeal to as many niches as possible. This is a problem endemic to mainstream game development – AAA development in particular – but Western RPGs are arguably the hardest hit by this. In this genre, attempting to accommodate every type of player results in a vast diversity of viable approaches to quests, story, and combat, but can give rise to disparate elements of the game and its narrative clashing with each other, resulting in a final product that feels vague, unfocused, and unguided. This pushes players into feeling bored or frustrated, which can quickly translate into disengagement and unfulfillment.

Continue reading “Open-World RPGs and the Hinterlands Problem”