Assassin’s Creed Black Flag Started the Empty Open World Trend: A Paradigm Shift in Game Design
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Assassin’s Creed Black Flag Started the Empty Open World Trend: A Paradigm Shift in Game Design

In the realm of open-world gaming, Assassin’s Creed Black Flag stands as a pivotal title that revolutionized the genre. Released in 2013, this installment introduced players to an expansive and visually stunning rendition of the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy. However, while the game received acclaim for its immersive world and thrilling naval combat, it also inadvertently birthed a trend that would shape the future of open-world games—an emphasis on vast yet empty environments. This article delves into the impact of Assassin’s Creed Black Flag on the gaming industry and explores how this trend has influenced subsequent titles.

The Birth of a Trend:

Assassin’s Creed Black Flag invited players to explore a vast and visually impressive world that extended across multiple islands, bustling ports, and treacherous seas. The game’s sheer size was awe-inspiring, providing an unprecedented level of freedom and immersion. However, in its pursuit of scale, the game compromised the density and meaningful interaction within its open world.

The Empty Open World:

The empty open world trend refers to the phenomenon of creating expansive game environments that lack substantial content and meaningful activities. Assassin’s Creed Black Flag played a significant role in popularizing this trend by prioritizing sheer size over substance. While the game featured stunning vistas and breathtaking landscapes, it also suffered from a lack of engaging content beyond the main storyline and repetitive side activities. The Caribbean was a beautiful but hollow world, with numerous islands and vast stretches of ocean that ultimately lacked a true sense of purpose.

The Impact on Game Design:

Following the success of Assassin’s Creed Black Flag, many developers sought to replicate its formula of a massive open world. However, in doing so, they inadvertently focused on creating vast landscapes without filling them with compelling gameplay experiences. Numerous subsequent open-world titles, such as Ghost Recon: Wildlands, Just Cause 4, and Fallout 76, fell victim to the allure of a sprawling yet shallow environment.

The Negative Consequences:

The empty open world trend has had several negative consequences for the gaming industry. Firstly, players often feel overwhelmed and fatigued by the sheer size of these worlds, leading to a loss of engagement and motivation. Exploring a vast open world can become a tedious chore when the content fails to match the scale. Secondly, the lack of meaningful activities and interactive elements detracts from the overall immersion and diminishes the impact of the game’s narrative. Finally, the resources invested in creating these expansive yet empty environments could have been better utilized in developing more intricate gameplay mechanics and compelling storylines.

Moving Forward:

While the empty open world trend has undeniably made its mark on the gaming industry, there is hope for a more meaningful and engaging future. Recent titles such as Red Dead Redemption 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 have demonstrated that it is possible to strike a balance between expansive environments and compelling content. These games prioritize depth, interactivity, and a rich assortment of activities, giving players a sense of purpose and immersion within their vast worlds.


Assassin’s Creed Black Flag undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the gaming industry, introducing players to the allure of expansive open-world environments. However, it also unintentionally set a precedent for prioritizing size over substance, leading to the empty open world trend. As the industry moves forward, it is essential for developers to learn from the shortcomings of this trend and focus on creating meaningful and engaging content within their open-world games. By striking a balance between scale and substance, developers can provide players with truly immersive experiences that go beyond mere size and deliver compelling gameplay that keeps players engaged for hours on end.

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