What Godfather, Oblivion and Sims Have in Common?

Godfather is a game based on multi-million dollar license. I haven’t played the game, but the reviews I’ve seen have been somewhere around ‘good’, but not exceptional.

But the one thing that gets praised in the reviews is the freedom: you can interract with in the game quite freely. The game has an open-design world for you to manipulate – to a certain point.

Oblivion is big & hyped game that got great ratings pretty much from anyone who has either reviewed or played the game. It’s said that the game has a massive world, and again the freedom to do what you want is something unseen. You can choose what you want to be, and how you want to act.

Sims (and the sequel Sims 2 and numerous expansion packs) is propably one of the biggest selling game families in this planet. And, important part is the freedom to act & play the game. Different people will build different houses, have different jobs, different decoration, different appearance – different anything. The freedom to choose (especially when you plug in some expansion packs) is once again great.

Freedom is something we might want to see also in small-budget games. I know there are some games that use open-world design. One quite good example could be the old Nethack – hack’n’slash rpg. One newcomer could be Kudos, a game where you control someone’s life. There are some, but it would be great to see more games with more freedom.

And, a tricky design issue: could casual games be designed around ‘freedom’?

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. @Thomas: yeh, some goals (even for sandbox modes ;) – some purpose IS needed

    @chris: Hah, I bet you shouldn’t show Kudos (when it’s released) to her… otherwise you need to buy a computer for her (or to yourself ;)

    @Craig: Yep. Too many options *can* lead to confusion… KISS – keep it simple, can sometimes be the answer. Good Instructions & fine tutorials can alone help you getting addicted to some game.

    @Kartones: Even though you might be joking here but I strongly agree with you! Cool face-creation/customization is important! Not just the person, but also for other things in game (like customized weapons… or making your style of home in Sims…)

  2. mmm, I’m going offtopic, but all three of them have another thing in common: They all have a cool face-creation/customization system :)

    The best one goes to Oblivion (which is fun taking into account that is just “another feature” of the game, being more important in Sims series).

    Anyway, freedom is very important. Thats why I like games like GTA games, Sims, RPGs and such. The freedom to do “side-quests” or just have fun in the virtual world.

    And that was the failure of Fable… Had a cool “interactive world” but was too linear.

  3. Too many options = confusion

    Oblivion has really gotten it right. They have a main story-line you can follow or you can go and do your on thing. For the majority a completely open world is just confusing and intimidating to the point they give up (Morrowind).

    Take X3. On paper it is a great game. But the lack of direction and instruction make the game overwhelming to most.

  4. Up until recently my girlfriend used to always hijack my computer to play the Sims II. It’s interesting to note that I believe it was freedom to do what she wanted AND the ability to have direct control over a person or group of people.

    It was like an RPG to her (which I think Sims could be loosely classified as).

    However, she’s now given up on the Sims, being bored with doing the same things and frustrated that she was constantly “fast-forwarding” through large portions of the game.

    Her game of choice now, strangely, is “Fate” by WildTangent Software. I think she’s partly playing it to try and make her character better than mine (she’s already richer and stronger in the game, :) ).

    Fate isn’t really a game dealing with freedom, nor does it have any sort of real story. It’s completely randomized and quite repetitive. I think it’s the ownership of the character and character progression that she’s drawn to. Interestingly, this is also something that I find very important in games and am drawn to games that have such features.

    Overall, I don’t think Women or Men are that different when it comes to what games they have the “capacity” to like and/or dislike. Some people love freedom, other’s prefer rail-games. As for the majority? I haven’t a clue.

    Hopefully this was somewhat on topic.

  5. Captain P makes a good point. Whenever I play a story-based game with multiple paths I too feel like I’m missing out on something when I have to take one path instead of another.

    I really dislike sandbox type games because I feel like there’s no purpose in playing when there are no goals for victory. A nice compromise might be a game that has a primary goal (like; destroy the One Ring at Mt Doom in Mordor) but gives you complete freedom in how you go about achieving that, instead of providing a free world but having the main story as a strict linear one inside that.

    Even then, though, I think that a linear story has the advantage of being completely hand-made, which allows for a richer experience than a completely free but mostly computer generated world. When done well, strictly structured storylines and scripted events simply have more personality and are more enjoyable than a series of mostly disconnected events.

  6. Seemingly more people enjoy games that give them such freedom, but that’s not to say everyone does

    Yeh, good point – that should be remembered always. Every feature has a flipside… freedom is good for those who prefer freedom, but would turn out gamers who want more linear experience. Online multiplayer games are good for people who want to play online together… but not good solution for those who prefer single player gaming.

  7. I recently played the latest Tomb Raider and I believe they found a great way to eliminate that ‘what am I supposed to do?’ feeling. Their solution is simple yet elegant: Lara is wearing a headset, by which she communicates with her tech and history experts. These give clues and info in situations where you’d absolutely not like to find them out through trial and error.

    Anyway, as for freedom, I believe it depends on the gamer. Seemingly more people enjoy games that give them such freedom, but that’s not to say everyone does. I easily get that feeling I’m missing something by taking one of many possible routes (one reason I don’t like RPG’s). I like story-telling games and puzzle/platformers more.
    I do believe some form of freedom can fit in such linear-by-nature games as in having multiple paths and the like. Another sort of freedom would be parallel missions where players can switch to another level if they get stuck in one of them. Sort of what Freedom Fighters did, or a game like Mummy Maze (Popcap puzzle game).

    I think the important thing here is to allow players to play the game as they want (to some extend), rather than being forced to go through a serie of hoops exactly like the designer set them up to be used. Their choices must have an effect, and creativity from their side should be rewarded (again, to some extend – you can’t predict, let alone cover, every player action).

    //2 ct.

  8. Freedown IS good, but maybe for more experienced players and for certain types of games. Other games are more suited to a more linear path and also certain types of player prefer games where they are led along by the hand with no change to get lost and think “what the hell am I supposed to do next”.

  9. Ha! Quite funny to see kudos mentioned, as when I was reading this, I was thinking “but thats EXACTLY what I’m aiming to do”.
    Freedom is massively importnat. ever since playing Elite in 48k on the Sinclair Spectrum, all I have wanted is a game with that much freedom. Actually it may have even been 16k ZX81. How scary is that?

  10. That´s so true, freedom is nice. And oblivion or morrowind…. well they are the best examples of it. Even while they lack in certain areas they are still very very addictive. :)

  11. I’ve been playing Oblivion on my Xbox 360 since the release and i totally agree with the reviews. This game rocks!

    Right now I have been playing for nearly 40 hours and I’m only around 1/6 or so through the game. It is massive! Just getting to the top in Thieves Guild has taken me around 20 hours.

    Freedom is nice!

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