Ep. 149 - The Dunked-On Ratio

Regarding Good Over Worlds…

For me it's diverse topography, distinct regions and engaging line of sight. It's not really valuable to just be able to go to a spot, but to WANT to go there based on subtle environmental clues. Of course this is difficult since it's up to the devs to actually put something worthwhile there (hidden challenges, a view to more points of interest, environmental story piece, etc.). It's also difficult to find the right balance of stuff to put in, but this has more to do with the game's economies. I also like drastic world state changes to drive the plot by making the player want to return things back to normal since they became so invested in the world. Also character presence - they must have a certain weight and ability to use/interact with the environment.

Some things I don't like are checklists with somewhat lazy escalating challenges. These typically pop up with superhero games (most Spider-Man games) and Assassins Creed. Much more engaging to have things organically discovered. Also, I always hate it when I stumble into a spot in an open world game that basically spoils a main mission. I think "hey this place is neat" only to see it's a set piece later. This is usually a problem in RockStar games. To counter this I do like the design described by @cubbienathan where these areas are locked until you activate the mission.

Some good ones off the top of my head are:
Arkham City and Knight (and Marvel's Spider-Man I guess... side mission warts and all)
GTAV and Read Dead Redemption 1+2
Zelda series (BotW's limited point-of-interest pins are genius)
Forza Horizon series
Metal Gear Solid V (one of the best character presence examples)
Dragon Quest series
Skate series
SSX 3 and 2012
Shadow of Colossus (the anti AAA open world game)

Edit: I guess some of my answers are more in-line with "open world" over worlds, but hey - it's relevant!