Making an Open World Video Game? Do it Right or Not At All

Harness just the right balance of randomness and determinism to make something special and truly engaging.

Valheim is a Viking themed open world game taking the world by storm. Source, https://www.valheimgame.com/
What kind of open world game do you enjoy playing the most? Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

Your Game’s Core Promises Are Important

Let’s get one thing straight right out of the gate. “Being open world” is not a game’s core promise. It’s more of a genre or a design choice.

As game designers, we create games that promise gamers a certain kind of experience. Photo by Andrew Petrov on Unsplash
  • I want to “grind” it out — leveling up everything from walking to running to throwing a punch to using a hammer.
  • I want to interact with everything in the game, and master the world through dextrous skill

With Great Randomness Comes Great Responsibility

Don’t rely on straight randomness to supply a rich and exciting experience for your players. Believe it or not, randomness is not as unexpected when you know its coming.

The concept of constructs in your world is more powerful than scattering random elements across a barren wasteland. Source, https://www.igdb.com/games/dayz

Let Your Players Obsess Over Their Character

The vast majority of open world games are all delivering the same core promise — to give the player an escape into a new world. The vastness and allure of unexplored content in open world games is something that players yearn for. Even more so, the assimilation into this world reinvents the player into someone new.

Character customization deepens a player’s connection to their character, and the game as a whole. Source, https://www.igdb.com/games/cyberpunk-2077

Open World Does Not Equal Aimless World

Don’t let your “open world” become a pocket dimension of nothingness. No, this doesn’t mean you need guardrails on your game in order for it to be fun. But a complete and utter lack of direction kills player motivation. Players want to discover your world, so make it easier to be discovered.

Conclusion

Open world games are back in vogue — due in part to how they’ve evolved over the years. Players still crave exploration, discovery and control over a vast world. The implementation of said world is the most important component! With the tips outlined in this article, you are well on your way to designing your own perfect world.

Freelance game designer / developer. Full stack developer. Board game geek and cat tamer.

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