Open World Analysis — Mafia 3

A look at New Bordeaux — Downtown District.

It’s no secret I love Mafia 3. It’s one of my favorite open world games out there.


Downtown sits in the middle of the Mafia 3 map and acts as a focal point for the entire world, mostly because you will have to converge in this location at some point or another while trying to reach your objectives.

  • Tram Lines

Road Networks and District Separation

  • River Row to the South
  • Delray Hollow to the west
Landmark Positioning in relation to player position (relative to district entry points)
  • The River Wall
  • Construction Walls
  • Embankments
  • Tram lines clearly separating Downton from the French Ward
  • The Palm Three stripe going down Canal Street
  • The Bridges separating the river into segments (when using a boat)
  • The suspended Highway to the north west wrapping around Royal Hotel like a mantle.
  • Large/Long building facades that act as barriers the longer they are

The Delray Hollow Connection

As the player attempts to cross the bridge from Delray Hollow into Downtown He will be prompted by a series of hints that will help him orient.

  • The Skyline framing the exit
  • Directional Street Signs explaining where you will end up

World Trade Center Building

Far across the bridge you can see what in reality is The World Trade Center Building.

The Hibernia National Bank

  • Now it is dwarfed by the nearby skyscrapers.
The Hibernia National Bank
  • By 1983 it became the largest bank in Louisiana.

The Royal Hotel

Tower Plaza/Crescent City Towers
  • Mafia 3 takes place in 1969 so in the logic of the world the hotel is fairly new.

Other Landmarks

As we approach the end of the bridge we start to notice some other things as well:

View of the Children's Hospital from the Bridge

Major Landmark

  • The Children’s Hospital
  • The World Trade Center
  • The Police Station
  • The Hibernia Bank Building
  • St. Patrick’s Church

Minor Landmark

  • Gas Station
  • Cinema Building
  • Book Store
  • Construction Area
  • Etc.
  • To be grounded in the narrative of the world but to also be easily replaceable if needed.

The Children’s Hospital aka Charity Hospital:

New Bordeaux Police Department

This one was rather tricky since the Architecture of the building is a bit unique and I couldn’t find anything remotely similar in New Orleans.

  • All the other forms of police buildings might not fit the current theme of the district
  • Too many landmarks already around Lafayette Square.

Lafayette Square

Moving even further down the street we start to spot the central core of Downtown, represented by:

  • St. Patrick’s Church
  • Hibernia Bank
  • The United States Court of Appeal
  • H.R. Laidlaw’s building (Aka the F.W. Woolworth CO. Building)

H.R. Laidlaw’s building (Aka the F.W. Woolworth CO. Building)

  • The other is on Canal Street

St. Patrick’s Church

Alongside the other landmarks in the area we have this church Saint Patrick’s Church.

Court of Appeal

The court of appeal is situated exactly where it is situated in real life, next to Lafayette Square.

Real World Vs Game World

If you have been following my blogs you might remember this one over here, where I was discussing that due to space restrictions, memory budgets, and a lot of redundant space in the real world, as world designers what we need to do in some cases is an attempt to contract space filter out the unnecessary bits.

Downtown New Orleans → As seen in Google Maps.
New Orleans/New Bordeaux as seen in Mafia 3

Closing arguments

Attempting to reduce unnecessary wondering

  • Real cities serve many functions. People live, work, commute, are entertained in them.
  • Video games cities don’t serve the same function. You want them to feel like they are lived in, but ultimately the player doesn’t live in them, at least not to the extent in which we (the populace do). That is an illusion that is there to ground the experience but the player/character isn’t really tied to it (unless mechanically).
  • Real worlds imply a lot of downtime (when we eat, sleep, work, etc) when people are generally static.
  • That sort of static behavior is what we (as level designers) are trying to avoid.
  • Under the mantra of “form follows function” if a space serves no function it will probably be cut, this therefore leads to discussion of having only useful (player centric) activity spaces and connective tissue (that doesn’t waste the players time).

Giving it a theme park feel

  • This implies that in order to trigger motion for the player curiosity needs to be stimulated. This is generally done using landmarks and rewards, by carefully measuring things like:
  • Distances between events
  • Location gravitational pool
  • Location novelty (how fast does the attraction loses it’s appeal)
  • Proximity of other attractions
  • Creating a closed loop circuit that keeps the player in the loop (and in the game) by continuously cycling the content of these areas so the player always has something to do.

Cutting away the unnecessary bloat manifested through too much filler space

This has multiple reasons why it’s needed:

  • It’s not viable to build spaces that are realistic in size due to time, cost, and tech constraints.
  • Usually it takes between 2–4 years (maybe more) to build a virtual city and depends greatly on how many people are working on it, their level of skill, the tech available, the artistic ambitions, etc. The less you have of all of all of those the longer it might take.
  • Also factoring in the necessary QA/QC time needed to check, report bugs and the Dev allocated time to fix these bugs.
  • And of course how well these things tie together in a management game plan for that duration.
  • Some of them serve gameplay purposes (maybe half) while the others are purely cosmetic.
  • The purpose has been strongly tilted into making it a fun place to drive around and sight see.
  • I feel like with such a great amount of depth and research put into developing these areas the game would have benefited with some sort of Landmark Collection/Description Feature.
  • In spite of that I found it really compelling to explore the streets, drive around, take shortcuts through back alleys and discover hidden gems, looking at them and the going to google maps and looking around those places on the real map, and then researching them in Wikipedia.
  • It really gave the game a new level of depth that I wish more people would be able to experience.

As a level designer I am not a creator, I am a facilitator. Senior Open World Designer @MassiveEntertainment. #Leveldesign #Open World #Design @notimetoulose.