Truth be told, I'm already not a huge fan of this supposed dichotomy between "Western" and "Eastern" games. Sure, there will be some cultural trends based on where media is released but I feel like it's being used less as a descriptor of these trends and more of just a blanket insult.
For instance, I've been seeing a lot of comments about how "western" AAA games are way too handholdy and explain mechanics too much. If only western developers learned from our Japanese gaming gods about real game design. This sentiment begs the question: Do you play any Japanese games besides FromSoft games? And why does this dichotomy even exist?
Just thinking off the top of my head, I think about something like Persona 4 and 5 in which the first solid 10 hours are pretty much an extended tutorial section in which the game needs to stop and explain to you the litany of mechanics you need to remember. Persona 5 Royal (my favorite of the series) has some serious pacing issues in this section too because they have to explain the mechanics from Vanilla P5 and the new mechanics they added for Royal. So characters are constantly halting everything to shout how the new mechanics work at you. Again, not a huge deal but it's definitely noticable.
Death Stranding is an "Eastern" game and an excellent one at that. Die Hardman, Mama, Deadman, Heartman, etc. call you constantly to verbally explain how every single newly introduced item or mechanic works. Supposed to redundancy. Die Hardman will brief you on a delivery and then call you again 30 seconds after the briefing to remind you about what he said at he the briefing. I imagine this game gets a pass because the gameplay loop itself is so freeflowing and open to exploration.
Yakuza is another game that I genuinely like but would sometimes find it annoying to play because there's so many mini games, mechanics and activities that are zany and not particularly intuitive. So what does the game do? It goes into a hard stop and you read text bubbles for about three minutes about how to accomplish whatever you need to do at that time. Whether it be in combat or in mini games. The game is constantly stopping to tell you what to do.
Or you have something like Pokemon Scarlet where you're not even able to meaningfully explore the open world until after a 3 hour tutorial session of meaningless dialogue where you're railroaded onto a certain path and the game will literally go into a hard stop to tell the player, "Hey. You can't go that way right now."
I suppose I could go on. I don't want to bring up old shit. But, "Get up on the Hydra's back!" is still a meme when it comes to this complaint and that's distinctly from a Japanese game. But I guess I'm not seeing this dichotomy where awful Western devs think their audience is stupid but Japanese devs think their audience are geniuses. Nor am I seeing this massive chasm in between an NPC explaining some game mechanics to you vs. the game pausing and being forced to read a text box for a couple minutes. Why is the latter inherently better designed? Obviously, I do think there are valid complaints about hand holding but I also don't think there's Western then Eastern on their respective sides of the spectrum on this issue. I think there's handholdy Japanese games and there's vague, figure-it-out-yourself Western games. To me, it just feels like everything that isn't taking a specific and deliberate FromSoft approach gets lambasted as "handholdy", and God forbid, let that game be made by people that aren't Japanese.
Don't get me wrong, I love being able to communicate with friends on the fly and be able to keep up with all sorts of news surrounding games and other pieces of entertainment, but my biggest concern is how Discord is being used to replace other tools. People are turning this app into messy versions of what are supposed to be Forums, Guides, Wikis, Community Events, Mods, you name it... Plus, there's a ton of gatekeeping out there.
I can't be the only one who has took noticed of this, right? It doesn't matter what kind of game it is or what kind of content it's trying to fill, there's gonna be a Discord for literally anything.
Instead of interacting with a guild/community you're part of in-game, you're essentially forced to stick to a Discord server even if the game has all the perfect means of a proper in-game communication;
Instead of keeping up with fan-made events that take place in-game or in other social media platforms, you need to stick to a server that might just do the opposite and draw all attention away from what is actually taking palce inside the game;
Instead of using websites and proper launchers for fan-made games or Private Servers for now defunct MMOs, you're stuck with a Discord server in order to even handle account creation, troubleshoot issues and even contact Support;
Modding as a whole has been shifting from organized websites like the Nexus and the likes to Discord servers instead, which furthers divides these kinds of communities and makes it harder to find things in general;
Any sense of RP has been killed due to the excessive amount of Discord servers trumping games, guilds, forums and chats;
Discord servers are still to restrictive and obscure when it comes to finding them.
There's a whole lot of more examples, but it's getting ridiculous that I have to join well over 20 servers just to keep up with the modding scene for FINAL FANTASY XIV.
In many games, Companies pretend like Bots are real players.
Fortnite your first few games,
Marvel Snap your first few games,
Battlefield games, especially the latest one...
The list goes on and on.
These games pretend like the opponent you are fighting is a real player, with real portraits, with "human like reaction times", with stereotypical name tags. All they can do to fool you into thinking you are fighting a real human.
To me, this almost sounds like it should be illegal. The companies are giving you the illusion that the game is more popular than it is, and you are winning against a human.
I really don't know if I am fighting a human when I play a game of Hearthstone these days.
I've recently had a discussion with someone who has very similar opinions on a lot of general design topics, and after talking a bit about open world games ( which I, disclaimer, am usually not the biggest enjoyer of ), we started talking about mounts.
We ended up talking about how mounts add and detract from open world games, but also games in general. One thing I couldn't struggle to get away from is the idea that having mounts in your game is kind of like implying that exploring on foot is a waste of time, and I would really rather have a world designed to be explored on foot.
One negative example I distinctly remember coming up is the addition of mounts in Guild Wars 2's second expansion. Basically, the open zones of the first expansion were designed to be explored at a pedestrian pace, and had lots of obstacles geared towards that. They flowed very nicely with one exception and are still very fondly remembered by us.
The second expansion added mounts - and to account for it, maps had to be massive, sprawling planes that couldn't really be traversed on foot due to a massive flux of enemies. In the end, I don't remember a single map from said expansion well. Additionally, the mounts completely warp the exploration in the base game.
I'm very interested in hearing some other perspectives on this, particularly from open world fans.
What games do exploration with and without mounts best?
Would you like a mountless open world game as well?
How do you think a game designer should approach on-foot exploration and combat versus mounted exploration and combat?