How to make a successful Open World game

September 14, 2015 @ 7:51 pm

I made a list of things I would like to see Open world games do for me to consider them successful. I have yet to play a game that does all of this but some other open world game's I have played have done most of them. The Games that I used as reference for this list are Gothic 2 Night of the Raven, GTA V, Red Dead Redemption & Skyrim.

Squash bugs, glitches, and other technical and performance issues. It's no secret that open world games will have lots of bugs at release but developers can always try to squash as much as possible. Quite frankly, this is one of my biggest issues with open world games. Having things like huge framerate drops, broken quests, deleted saves, AI & game freezes and more. It's really irritating playing a game and finding that you can't complete a quest because it's broken or your quick save becomes corrupted so you have to replay 2 hours worth of content again.

No loading screens. This should be a rule and the only exception should be reloading saves and starting the game.

The game should have a good content to size ratio. The larger the game world, the more content should be there but at the same time the content should be interesting and every difference counts.

Make sure your open world makes sense in the context of the story/lore. If I'm on a battlefield, I don't expect hundreds of normal people to be walking around doing normal things. It doesn't make sense. Just like if I were in a desert, I'm not expecting hundreds of people just wandering around in the hot sun.

The world itself should also be progressing as we play. I don't expect the world to be the exact same as what I saw and felt when I started the game. For the most part, this Same thing applies to the games characters.

Limit the amount of fetch quests/missions, repetitive missions, mundane tasks, filler and chore side activities and reward the player some way for exploring. I don't think a lot of people like participating in filler material in a game and it becomes bothersome to the player especially in a second playthrough.

Provide freedom for the player in how they can tackle their objective and limit linearity in exploration. I shouldn't always only have one way to get to somewhere except if said location is special, hidden or heavily guarded.

Limit the amount of invisible walls and let the player traverse the world easily. I understand if the devs want to put a barrier in the game but there are ways to do this that can make sense. For example, Gothic 1 was set in a prison colony that was surrounded by a magic barrier that would let anything in but nothing out, it would shock you if you got too close.

Make sure that game mechanics are actually good. Combat should function well, with little stiffness and have fluidity. If you have vehicular exploration make sure the vehicles controls well and it's mechanics functions properly, if you can explore on a horse make sure horse riding controls well works well. If on-foot exploration is the only way to go, make sure it works and controls well and the player is allowed to climb, run, jump, grab on things and do other things that make sense.

Greatly limit the amount of grinding. If you have creatures in the world that can be killed to basically get experience, then make sure that they don't have unlimited spawning and they won't give you so much experience to greatly over level your character. One way to alleviate the problem is to split the story into chapters so that creatures only spawn in the beginning of chapters and their spawn points, amount of creatures spawned, and what creatures spawned are changed in the beginning of each chapter.

Don't have unlimited resources in the world with exceptions. This is also on the issue of grinding, don't have unlimited herbs or crafting resources or items to pick up because the players will immediately exploit this. Do things in moderation and make sure certain items are far rarer than others.

Have a day & night cycle, weather effects, different climate for different locations. It helps with the illusion that the world is alive.

No static AI. Every AI in the game must have their own agenda as to what they do daily. People should be talking to each other, walking around, doing a job, going to sleep at the appropriate time. Let the AI do things. They should roam the world, take their horses for a ride, drive their car around to another store, even challenge the player to duels, try to steal from the player and more. AI should be reactive too. If you steal from them and you get caught, then they should either attempt to get their items back or call the authority on you. If you attack an AI they should attack back, flee or call the authority on you. If you do things against the AI then they shouldn't have a favorable opinion about you and can shun you from doing things.

Have random events and random occurrences. Okay, this is something that a number of recent open world games tout but in reality they are somewhat scripted but they are good enough to fool the player. Having things that happen in the living world outside of a quest or mission that has nothing to do with the player but the player can still get involved helps with the illusion that the player can make an impact or is part of a living world. GTA V had this in which you can randomly find people robbing a store and you can kill them and return or take the money for yourself or help them and evade the police.

Get rid of leveled enemies. You should remove or limit the amount of enemies that go by "level 10 skeleton" all the way up to "level 80" skeleton. Just increase the variety of creatures, monsters, mutants, aliens or whatever. A normal skeleton should have stats that stay the same throughout the game, an orc enemy should have stats that stay the same throughout the game. A fire dragon should have stats that stay the same but are different from the stats that an ice dragon has. Also, when enemies should spawn in places that make sense, no sense in seeing an ice wolf in a desert.

Make sure to never allow the player to become to over powered, there should still be a sense of challenge from the beginning of the game till the end of the game and this ties into the enemy variety that I mentioned earlier. Let's say, in the beginning of the game you will mostly fight human or bandit level enemies during main missions, later on in the game you should be fighting warrior or paladin level enemies and this also applies for monsters too.

Don't scale enemies and gear. You don't want to repeat the problem Elder Scrolls IV oblivion had by having bandits that had really high level gear.

There should be some level of interactivity in the world whether it is having conversations with people or picking things up around the world, or killing any and everybody that you see, stealing, breaking into houses, looting dead people. Interactivity should be there, it should make sense and most interactive items should serve a purpose. If I kill a wolf and take it's teeth, I should be able to sell it's teeth or turn it in to someone. If I see a weapon laying on the ground, I should be able to pick it up. If you are going to have crap in your world, most of it should serve a purpose.

Diverse locations should exist. Things like having a small town that had only intelligent super mutants living in it, or an underwater planet, or a giant prison colony. Your open world game should have somewhere that is cool or different from the norm in the world and it should be reflected by the people you find there, the items you find there and the story they tell.

Choices and consequences for minuscule and major actions. If your game takes place in a civilized world then I expect a police force or authority to come after you. If I am carrying my gun out in the open and there are laws against it or the general populace freaks out about it, then I expect the people to flee, attack me, warn me or call the authority on me. If this is set in a world that doesn't have a general authority, then I expect people to take matters in their own hands.

Have extra activities that can be done in the world to make the player feel like their character blow off steam in the world. Gothic 1 & 2 allow you to smoke various types of weed, Witcher 3 has gwent, GTA series has a huge variety of mini games like tennis, bike riding, racing and more.


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