This assignment is an attempt to merge the design pattern of open-world games with Japanese Role-playing Games (JRPG).
In a typical JRPG, the plot follows a linear progression structure, generally showcasing the protagonist has growth and achievements. To reinforce this theme of growth, JRPGs usually have complex systems for skills, collection, and leveling-up. Additionally, JRPGs feature especially in turn-based combats, with players and enemies (usually non-player characters) taking turns making moves. By providing a range of skills, weapons, and movements, these games can present a variety of strategic options.
In recent years, the overwhelming trend of open-world games has led many classic JRPG franchises to embrace open-world design (e.g., The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Xenoblade 3). They have incorporated some key elements of open-world games, such as providing a free-roaming and interactive game world, driving the plot through main and side quests scattered throughout the world, and making vivid the worldview with abundant exploration elements.
For this assignment, I first implemented the basic concept of open-world games, creating a large, free-roaming world with various ways of moving: walking, sneaking, running, sprinting, and flying. To enhance immersion, I kept a consistent and stylized preference while gathering 3D assets. I also added heavy fog and floating fire particles throughout the world and adjusted the lighting to a dim level to create a sense of mystery.
At the same time, to express the characteristic of JRPGs, I implemented a sort of leveling-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 level up to unlock new abilities. I also planned to include a turn-based combat system to make it more like a JRPG, but it’s not implemented due to the complexity of designing such a system.
In a corner of the world, I built an abandoned hut where players could enter and get rewards.
This demonstrates how open-world design could enhance the game expression of its original genre. In a real game, the hut could be designed to tell a hidden plot, offer a powerful weapon, or provide other detail that helps to flesh out the worldview. In a linear-progression JRPG, players are limited to a few scenes specifically set up by the composers, lacking the autonomy to explore. When a player has more curiosity about the game world beyond the main plot, the traditional JRPG way can break the immersion. By incorporating the concept of open-world games, composers can include as many details as possible to help build the game’s worldview, allowing players to “stumble upon” any of them, making it more effective in terms of creating immersive experiences - the ultimate goal of video games.
However, the open-world design is not without drawbacks. Some voices have criticized the open world of Elden Ring, as being only “with visually interesting things” but “not enough structure” (BM-Panda et al.). While Elden Ring is not technically a JRPG, they have somehthing in common. It has received such a review partly because its main plot is relatively loose, while the game is relatively hard, and all the rewards are combat-centered, making players get easily tired of this combat-heavy exploration.
BM-Panda and KagKitten. “Which JRPGs did their open world correctly?” Reddit, 27 Mar. 2022, https://www.reddit.com/r/JRPG/comments/tonwpg/which_jrpgs_did_their_open_world_correctly/.