Watching the recent IGN gameplay video, it seems that Bloodborne's approach to world design will follow the template of Demon's Souls fairly closely.
In Demon's Souls, players accessed the game's main zones through a central hub called the Nexus. Within the Nexus were several "Archstones" (one for each zone) that allowed the player to warp to a specific area. The zones, though they could be intricately designed themselves, were not however connected with each other, nor was the hub world attached to any of them. Rather, each zone simply had its own subzones which would be accessed by through its designated Archstone.
For many, this was a design shortcoming that Demon's Souls spiritual successor, Dark Souls, overcame by replacing the Nexus and its Archstones with a fully interconnected world in which bonfires provided checkpoints.
It seems that Bloodborne is backsliding on this point.
At around 5:10 in the IGN video linked above, you can see the player use a "headstone of
awakening" to warp from a central hub, called the Dream Refuge, to the zone "Above Ground." Specifically, the player selects the subzone called First Floor Sickroom. Crucially, other, yet-to-be-activated headstones can be seen nearby.
Later in the video, after the player has progressed through the area, another subzone (Central Yharnam) is added to the Above Ground headstone. The player returns to the Dream Refuge hub and uses the headstone to warp back to this more advanced point.
The scheme appears identical to that of Demon's Souls' unlocking subzones. But how does this show that Bloodborne will be subdivided like Demon's Souls? After all, couldn't it be the case the world is still interconnected like Dark Souls, just with a detached hub world grafted on top of it?
My answer is that it is highly unlikely that Bloodborne's world will be fully interconnected, and that instead, interconnection will be limited to self-contained zones. Here's why:
If the world were fully interconnected, there would be no need for the multiple headstones of awakening we see in the Dream Refuge hub. The only reason for having multiple headstones would be a divided game world.
Think about it. If the world were completely interconnected like Dark Souls, then any warp point should be able to send you to any other warp point. Having more than one headstone in the hub world would then be a pure redundancy with no purpose. Since it's implausible that the designers of the game would just throw in unnecessary headstones, there must be something that makes them useful. And the only thing that would make multiple headstones useful would be the existence of disconnected zones.
Another point to consider is the fact that when the player in the video touches the second warp point, Central Yharnam, that returns him back to the hub (15:07), the menu that pops up does not give him the option of warping to the First Floor Sickroom warp point. He is only given the option to return to the Dream Refuge--just as in Demon's Souls where warp points could only take you back to the Nexus and not send you to other areas (even areas within the zone you are playing).
Some might wonder why From would do this. Don't they understand that Dark Souls' interconnected world was a major improvement over the hub system of Demon's Souls!
The fact is, there are plenty of reasons why From would decide to do this. One is load times. Having a fully interconnected world presents design challenges concerning where to conduct loading as the player moves through the world. From might have decided to simplify this by putting hard divisions between areas.
Another possible reason is the inherent difficulty of designing a fully interconnected world. From might not have had the time to do this, and decided instead to focus on making each zone itself interconnected without bothering to make all the zones come together as well.
Of course, without official confirmation or more gameplay, this remains speculation on my part. But I feel confident that what I've said will prove to be true. What we've seen just doesn't make sense otherwise.
But what do you think? Would you welcome a return to the Demon's Souls hub system? Or are you disappointed that From is taking a step backward? Let me know in the comments below.