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The ‘open world survival’ genre – a magic mantra on Steam?

Video games come in a plethora of genres, and most of these games have a linear path bound for the player to take as “story mode” or “campaign mode”. Developers tried to change that by adding more depth to the game world, so that players can explore it and do random stuff other than progressing in the story. The formula was successful, and games like the Witcher 3 still lead sales charts due to the freedom allotted in the game. However, having pre-defined objectives still hangs heavily on the player – what if the player himself sets the objectives, and not the game? This gave birth to the sandbox generation, which started out with Minecraft. It painted a crude picture of survival in its world, which painted out a formula for other games to follow. Thus came the “open world survival genre”.

Carefully seeing the timeline that led to the birth of the genre, we can say that the games have made it big because of the theme of customization itself. The player gets to customize everything, starting from the in-game character, to his own base, his mates (possibly a clan too!) ,etc. The added level of freedom is quite a refresher from the scripted objectives that made you complete missions like an Al designed to do as instructed. The worlds are diverse, if not infinite. So there’s no limit to what one can do in the world itself.

Successful

franchises have already tapped into the heart of the open world genre. There are a few modifications done to the basic framework of “free will”. ARK : Survival Evolved is based on humans starting on The Island’ with other ferocious creatures, including dinosaurs. There are herbivores, which ignore you, and carnivores, who love you so much, they will tear you to shreds on seeing you (or at least try to, because there’s no way a Dilphosaur can approach you if you have a bow and arrows) . In Subnautica, a mining vessel, the Aurora, crashes lands on the surface of an Earth-like planet. It is different from good old Earth in only one aspect – it’s 100% water. You need to survive besides the underwater flora and fauna, and one can definitely say that not everything’s friendly down there.

There’s H1Z1, set in a post-apocalyptic world, where most people are made into zombies. The only humans unaffected are the players themselves, who need to resort to all means necessary to survive in the harsh environment. Or there’s Rust, which is a glorified version of Minecraft, where you have to gather resources and build stuff, kill people, etc.

Most of these games also employ a base-building and crafting system, where you can craft stuff by gathering resources enough for doing the necessary work. Again, the freedom kicks in here, as there’s no restriction on how big or how small a ‘base’ you want to build. Whether you want monumental palaces, dedicated to your clan as a whole, or lowly shacks, dedicated to people who can find friends to play with.

The only problem with the

survival genre is that it’s a fairly new one, and most of the games use the ‘Early Access’ feature on Steam. This basically means that the game’s in its alpha or beta stages, and needs help from the community to improve. While most developers interact with the players to know what they want, some don’t, and they basically stop development after the kickstarter money, and the money from sales, are enough to start another project, with enough to stuff inside their pockets. This does leave people in a dilemma of whether to support a game or not – there’s certainly a risk involved. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all developers abandon their projects – most games are already finished (ie, the developer has delivered on all the promises that he made when he revealed the game).

This beautiful genre of games is indeed an ‘Aladdin’s lamp’ – you rub it, and out comes a genie to fulfill your wishes. In this case, your wish is “hours and hours of fun” , and these games certainly give it to you.

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