This is an idea I was toying around with for a while. My idea would involve a removal of the menu screen, instead making every feature accessible in-game, to create a large, cohesive whole.
Instead of separate mission areas with a loadout between each mission, locations are now only separated by public transport. Gear changes are done in safe rooms. This includes weapons, tools, mastery rewards and even disguises. Every item you obtain is automatically added to the safe room, for gameplay reasons. Each location will have a single safe room and they may not all be right at the start of the location. You have to reach a train station, a dockside, an airport or a safe room to travel to another location. In order to have an ongoing storyline, you can unlock transport to the next location by eliminating specific targets.
You can keep an entire world affected by your actions. Killing an NPC keeps it killed in your current playthrough. Elusive targets are added to your game for a specific time with no restarting necessary. These elusive targets can hold exclusive weapons, suits and tools, which you have to loot to obtain them. Those targets can still only be killed once and they can potentially flee the scene. Location specific achievements remain as usual and you earn mission mastery through them, but there is also an additional set of global missions and even a global mastery with its own rewards. Imagine a full playthrough SA/SO master difficulty achievement. Restarting a game respawns all NPCs, even elusive targets (unless killed or fled already). You do retain any unlocks, including areas, so you can restart a game choosing a location you've unlocked and start in a safe room, transportation point or regular starting point of your choosing.
Contracts exist in their own separate instances, for obvious reasons. You can start them simply from a mission board in your safe house.
Older areas, for the most part, barely change and simply be included in this "open world" system. A vast majority of currently existing areas already have starting points that work very well with this concept in mind, while the few starting points that don't, (New York, for example) can only be selected from a safe room. Alternative versions of locations (movie set Sapienza, for example) can be added in the same way, through selection upon fast traveling. The only non realistic effect here would be the expected. For example, the Wilsons in Whittleton Creek would have an eternal BBQ party. This isn't something that can reasonably be changed and I don't think it's a major issue. Besides, nothing's stopping you right now from spending 3 days at that party.
I think overall it's a system that creates a more fluent and reactive world.
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