The open-world exploration genre is one of the most popular genres in gaming. Developers love to create games where players can explore and do whatever they want – but how? This post will give you a few tips on how to make an engaging open-world exploration game.
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1. Research games similar to what you want to make
The best way to learn how something is done is to look at what others have already accomplished. People have been making open-world exploration games for a long time, so there’s a lot of good examples to take from the genre. When you’re developing an open-world game – these are a few examples that you would do well to consider:
Minecraft – the cube world looks simple at first glance, but it’s got a ton of depth. Minecraft uses procedurally generated environments to give players infinite possibilities to their game. Players can explore and mine in order to gather resources that they can use for a building or crafting potions.
Epic Games’ Fortnite – this is definitely not an open-world game on the scale of Minecraft. However, it’s worth taking a look at because Epic Games does sandbox gameplay (which is also called open world) really well. They allow players to build new objects out of materials they find in the environment – and there are no hard boundaries or limitations on what you can create.
Grand Theft Auto – this game is a classic in open-world video games. Most people were introduced to the genre through Grand Theft Auto, so naturally, there are some good things to take from it. One of the best things that Rockstar does with GTA is making the city feel alive – players can explore shops, restaurants or even join sports teams within the world of the game.
2. Add depth to your open world with secrets and collectibles
When you create an exploration video game, say Minecraft, there are a few things that players can do within it: exploring, mining, crafting items. If you just have these activities then the game will start to feel repetitive quickly – of course there’s nothing wrong with doing it, many games do that.
However, to create an open-world game that keeps people engaged you need to add more activities into the mix. One way to do this is by having secrets and collectibles in your game – so when players are exploring they can discover things they didn’t know about before. This will give them something to do beyond the main loop of your game.
3. You don’t have to create a massive map from scratch
One of the biggest challenges when creating an open world exploration game is making each area feel unique and different from one another. In order for you to achieve this, you need high-quality assets which can be very time-consuming and difficult to create.
Many developers get around this by creating a huge world that they then slice into pieces – allowing players to visit one area at a time. In order for you to do it, you’ll have to think of the overall design of your open world from the very beginning – and plan out how far apart each location is going to be.
4. Think about how players will move around the map
One of the most important things you need to consider when developing an open world exploration game is how players can travel from one location to another. If they’re able to fast-travel across the world then it limits your exploration and makes it feel less engaging – so avoids doing that if you can.
However, you need to be careful about how big your world is – if it’s too big then players might get frustrated with having to walk long distances to get anywhere. This brings us back to the idea of creating smaller chunks of open-world instead of making one massive continuous map. It’s all about finding the right balance so players have a smooth experience exploring your world.
Don’t forget to check out our advanced guide on how to build worlds in virtual reality.
5. Think about the map from a realistic perspective
If you’re creating an open-world exploration game then players will be spending a lot of time looking at the map – so it’s very important that it’s not something you throw together in five minutes.
Instead, think about how the map is built – are there mountains? Water? How high are they? What kind of buildings are there and where are they located on the map? All these elements can help create realistic landmarks which players can use to navigate around your game world.
Players will often use the map to help them find points of interest or secret areas within your world – so you want to make sure they can easily spot these things before they leave a scene.
6. Think about how players can interact with objects in the environment
Players love exploring open-world games because there are a lot of different ways for them to interact with the things around them – whether that’s smashing down doors or looting objects within houses.
One way to keep players engaged with your game world is by giving them opportunities for different types of interaction whenever they come across an object in your game. They might use their bare hands to try and open a locked door, or pick up rocks off the ground and throw them at windows to break them.
Just having one item that players can check out isn’t enough – it needs to be a diverse set of objects which allow players to do things and solve problems they come across throughout the game.
7. Players love exploring open-world games because they’re free to follow their own path
The best thing about open-world exploration games is that they’re player-driven – meaning they can go wherever they want and be whoever they want.
In order for you to achieve this, you need to make sure your world is big enough that it feels endless and never-ending, but at the same time make sure there are multiple areas players will want to visit.
To do this, create a few landmarks within your game world which are either difficult or impossible to reach – these will act as the main points of interest for players regardless of where they’re exploring.
Open-world games are all about exploration – that’s the main pleasure players enjoy when playing these kinds of games. You should always think about how you can adapt real-life experiences into your game world, and use this to create exciting game mechanics which will leave players satisfied once they’re finished.
If you haven’t already – be sure to check out our guide on how to create compelling game mechanics that will help you design better gameplay within your open-world exploration games.