Major Project 2: Open-world Game Design, A Practice

This assignment is an attempt to combine the design pattern of open-world games and Japanese Role-playing Games (JRPG).

In typical JRPGs, the plot follows a linear progression structure, generally telling the story of how the protagonist has grown to make some achievements. To strengthen the theme of growing, JRPGs usually set up complex systems of skills, collection and leveling-up. Additionally, JRPGs feature especially in turn-based combats, with players and enemies (usually NPCs, non-player characters) taking turns to make moves, and by providing a variety of skills, weapons and movements, a complexity of strategy can be presented.

In the overwhelming trend of open-world in recent years, more and more classic JPRG franchises embraced the open-world design. They have been combined with some of the key elements of open-world games, such as providing a free-roaming and interactive the game world, progressing the plot through the main and side quests filled in the world and making vivid the worldview with abundant exploration elements.

In this assignment, I first implemented the basic concept of open-world games, creating a large free-roaming world and adding multiple ways of mobility: walking, running, sprinting and eventually flying. To create the immersion, I kept a uniform stylized preference while gathering 3D assets. I was hoping to create a sense of mystery, so I added heavy fog and floating fire particles throughout the world, and tweaked the lighting to a dim level.

At the same time, to express the characteristic of JRPGs, I implemented a sort of level-up feature. The player can unlock the ability to fly or hover after talking to the first NPC. In my original plan, the player could gain experience through exploring or combat and thus level up to unlock different abilities. As well, I planned to make a turn-based combat system to make it more like a JRPG, but it’s not implemented due to the complexity to design such a system.

At a corner of the world, I built an abandoned hut where players could enter and get rewards.

“Hut in the Forgotten Land”

This is to demonstrate how open-world design could enhance the game expression of the original genre. In a real-world game, the hut could be designed to tell a hidden story, providing a powerful weapon or any other detail that helps to strengthen the world-build. In a linear-progression JRPG, what the players can see is limited to a few scenes specifically set up by the composers, lacking the freedom of exploring. When a player has more curiosity about the game world than simply the main plot, the way traditional JRPG game is made breaks the immersion. By combining the concept of open-world, composers can provide as many details aiding in the build of world view as possible and let players “stumble upon”, thus making it more effective in terms of creating immersive experiences, which is the essential purpose of video games.