There is an interview over at Shacknews with some developers of Id's upcoming Rage game and they had this to say;
Shack: Would you say it's open world?
Matt Hooper: Our little
catchphrase is "open but directed." The reason that fits so well, Tim
and I both we say this all the time--I think a lot of game companies do
this. It's almost like, if you have a white board, you write up the
main things. Never getting lost is one of the main things. We just
don't like that, we're not trying to make a complex RPG, we're not
trying to confuse players. We want them to know exactly what they
should be doing.
It's kind of like an action movie versus an indie flick. We're
making the action movie and making the little decisions as you go
through the action movie. But, at the same time, we want the world to
feel big and open and we do encourage the player to look around.
We actually entice the player, we tease the player, we put
little points of interest around the wasteland that we expect the
player to go and visit. At the same time, if they ever feel lost,
there's always somewhere to go to know exactly "where am I on the main
story, oh, I can go there."
Tim Willits: That's something
important to us. The fact that Matt and I, we love to play games, both
of us, we hate when we have like twenty quests to do. It's like, "ugh,
where do I go?" I want to do this one, I want it to end here, and
hopefully I can pick up the next one, it starts there, right? Because
I've got too much stuff to do to be walking around in the wasteland
looking for a job.
We really want to keep it focused.
Matt Hooper: We actually make a
conscious effort too--we talk about memorable characters and what that
means, everything from that concept to how they fit in their location
to their voice acting, we want that to be as unique and diverse as
"I have to go talk to the sheriff, I know exactly where the sheriff is. I'll go up there and talk to him."
Not exactly what you always want to hear but it should be a good shooter I guess. You can read the rest here.