in general, smaller sandbox. but more than that, i want a much more complex sandbox, with different kinds of interactions and gameplay than what we normally see in open-world games.
to be more precise… i remember reading a lot about what Bethesda was supposedly trying to do with Radiant AI in Oblivion. not just the idea of characters having their own schedules, but of characters having their own motivations and actions independent of the player. and they cut a lot of it out because it led to quest lines becoming unwinnable because of the AI’s actions. screw quest lines. i would really like to see a game that expands upon and fulfills those promises.
the two big things i want are a world where the players’ actions have much more consequence, especially in ways that are subtle and not explicitly stated to the player. and i want to see a world that morphs and changes as a result of the players actions (and as a result of its own independent ebb and flow) in similarly subtle and unstated ways.
like, maybe if you steal all of a town’s crops, a nearby butcher becomes suspiciously wealthy. or, maybe if you explain the idea of crop rotation to a nearby farmer (like in Fallout), that town suddenly becomes a major exporter of potatoes. and ideally, these are all values that fluctuate organically (dare i say, procedurally), not fixed events that are part of a quest log like some shopping list.
i also want a game that discourages a lot of behaviors in open world games that are often selfish, thoughtless, and cruel, but that rarely have any consequence. like if you rob a merchant of all their money and most valuable stock, that would normally have an incredibly detrimental impact on their livelihood. the player should feel the impact of that. in general i want to see gameplay that revolves less around killing and looting, and more around trying to build and develop and sustain and be a part of communities and societies through your actions.