Open World Interactive Fiction?

To define open world I’d like to use a game called Skyrim as an example. It creates a large explorable world, in which the player can do just about whatever he wants within reason. While there is a main storyline you can completely skip to instead enjoy the world that has been created, as most do.

I think wikipedia does a good job of describing Open World as well :arrow_right:

For the last three weeks I’ve been working on a open world game in Inform 7. The initial seed for my idea came when I was playing Rune Factory 3 a game for my DS. And I thought, Hey look if I can run a farm here why can’t I somehow implement this in a interactive fiction. So I sat myself down and began to type away furiously at my keyboard. And the more I sat the more complicated my farming implementation got, requiring water and fertilizer, levels of sunlight ect

And then, finally, I finished it. And my mind began to wander. Why just stop there why not keep going. And soon I was adding mining, weather and a form of crafting items. Now if I get this done, and don’t fall into the trap of to create everything, of which I am slowly making the maddening descent, I could have a open world IF game ready within a few months. Maybe more than a few.

But the more I work the more I would think is there even a niche for this kind of game in interactive fiction which is itself a very small niche, do most people just want emotional well crafted stories? Would they play a text-RPG? I’ve heard it said that interactive fiction has moved past the conventions of the past in games like Zork where gameplay was the foundation rather than plot? :neutral_face:

So my long winded rant has finally led me here to ask you the community, is it possible to create an open world RPG with out plunging into the madness that is trying to recreate a whole world in text? And if a game is created would people actually play this game which seems to break the traditional norms of todays IF conventions? And is this just a stupid question :unamused: ?

You might look into MUDs, multi-user-dungeons/domains, with possibly a look into roguelike games. Both are text-based adventure game genre, with traditions stretching back to the days of Zork.

MUDs are the multiplayer successors to Zork and those early rpg games, and/or the text-only predecessors of the later graphical MMOs. They’re exactly the kind of open world rpg style adventure games you’re describing, with thousands or even millions of rooms/locations to explore, huge lists of items, extensive libraries of commands, and scads of rpg-style beasts to slay, and (to varying degrees) an open sandboxlike world rather than a linear narrative, allowing the player to choose their own goals, and quite a few have the kind of simulationist features you seem to be interested in: farming, mining, dynamic weather & seasons, etc. As might be expected of an old, rich medium genre, there are many popular flavors or families of MUD engines, free for downloading and open to editing, to allow creators to customize them to their setting and story genre. Like many text-based IF games, the player interacts with MUDs through a command-line driven text-parser. They are, as the name suggests, generally intended to operate online for multiple users to explore at once and interact, but I would imagine they could be run in a stand-alone, single player mode.

Roguelikes, unlike MUDs, are single player, but tend to be more focused on pure adventuring, sword’n’sorcery, hack’n’slash style, with little that’s not directly related to combat or exploration; so not quite as “open” as you might be looking for. Moreover, they’re not pure-text; they’re based around an overhead map, traditionally rendered in ascii (which I guess is kinda like text?), but roguelikes are particularly known for being featuring huge, randomly or procedurally generated worlds, which can be extensively explored with no over-arching plot or motivation beyond earning experience and loot. Also an old and varied field, also with huge sprawling worlds, oodles of settings, items, commands, monsters, etc. Rather than a command line, roguelikes tend to be keyboard driven. A number of roguelikes have source code that can be downloaded to study.

And if it helps your googling, Zork and games of that nature are often collectively called “text adventure games”.

Good luck with your project :slight_smile:

I was actually brainstorming something along these lines a few months back. It wasn’t going to be a gigantic Elder Scrolls-sized world, but more along the lines of the Might and Magic worlds. I guess they would be considered medium depending on how you interpreted their scale.

I ultimately decided to take a different approach, but I am still interested in the concept of a sizable world to wander through. It would be very challenging and stressful to pull off, though. Even more so to do it in a way that adequately immerses and lures players in the path they need to go.

Keep in mind Skyrim had a development team of at least 100 people. A large IF sandbox game could be created, but it would probably take the whole community to do so!

That said, the Kerkerkruip team is always keen for more people! One of the guiding design principles of Kerkerkruip is No Grinding, so each play through won’t be a huge exploration game, but it can still have a large variety of content to choose when building a dungeon.

I don’t think its as hard as it first appears as long as you get the underlying systems to work. I find the hardest part trying to name each room uniquely :laughing: that and scrambling through code to find where pieces don’t fit. I’ve played MUDs but I prefer a single player experience. With my world I decided to start designing all the complicated underlying work first, as I mentioned farming and weather and such. Before I start the world, and then build the world around it.

Agreed that a game like skyrim would have a huge team but a text game would mainly only require writers and programmers which already removes the large portion of animation teams. So a much smaller team could do something similar in interactive fiction.

I wouldn’t be much help with Kerkeruip, I find it hard enough to play the game let alone work on it, especially the fact that it must have massive amounts of code I have a hard enough time making sure the code I make fits together let alone someone elses.

While I’m on the subject and maybe people have had similar ideas I could always do with someone taking a look at my coding which tends to be sloppy or even better providing their own talents to help.

The one thing no one has mentioned is whether they would try a game like this if it was ever made.

OK well I probably wouldn’t. The main reason is in the first phrase I quoted. Why would I play a game that is so cookie cutter and factory-like in its approach that the designer found the hardest part to be trying to name things uniquely? I consider that to be a very bad sign that my time is about to be spent trekking through a bunch of template-fabricated material that I will be putting more thought into just by reading than the actual designer put into designing it. This is not a criticism of your design ideas in particular – your approach to this concept is quite normal. The reason I wouldn’t play is because I object to (and find boring) the whole philosophy of setitng up a bunch of variables for creating a very long series of mostly-superficially-different objects in the hopes that I will perceive this as a ‘world’. I won’t. I’ll perceive it for what it is - very quickly.

I like (and have advocated for) the idea of a limited-arena sandbox-style IF, but an ‘open world’ is the opposite of a limited arena and will lead to everything simply being a thin variation (with a unique name, and no more) on something I have already gotten bored with.

There are still people out there who want that experience, I guess, especially in 3D graphical form, but over the last 20 years I have had it with that ‘experience’. I only want to use my brain to consume art that has been specifically thought through in every particular by another human brain. I don’t wish to play at length with template-driven or procedurally generated toys that operate according to principles I probably understood fully in the first half hour. The moment I understand the main mechanistic principles behind any ‘open world’ game is the moment I consider myself to have ‘solved’ that game and stop playing regardless of how many ‘quests’ or resource-collection goals remain. The time before this happens can usually be measured in minutes.

As always, YMMV! Take all my opinions with a grain of salt. My views often diverge quite widely from what others in this forum say and are in no way representative of anyone but me. But you did specifically ask… 8)

I was making an attempt at humour when I said that. But when a world is sufficiently large, it does become more difficult to name and describe things differently. My question is you call it cookie cutter? Why would you think it is cookie cutter or factory designed? I haven’t mentioned much about it so it seems a leap? Or are you saying that that is your opinion for every open world game?

I have had it with that 'experience'. I only want to use my brain to consume art that has been specifically thought through in *every* particular by another human brain

Why can’t an open world game have the same amount of thought put throught into its design as something smaller?

Note: I’m not disputing your points but rather asking questions seeking to understand why you have this opinion

It sadly hasn’t updated in a while, but you might be interested in forumgoer Gravel’s blog about building an elaborate homesteading sim in Inform:

I’ve started and shut down multiple open world IF projects, so I can definitely understand the allure of working in a Really Big Space. (I used to work on GemStone IV, so Really Big Spaces have serious nostalgia for me.)

Would I play your game? Maybe yes. Maybe no. It all depends on whether it sounds appealing. (Right now, probably not, but farming/gardening in graphicals tend to leave me cold.)

I’m going to disagree with Laroquod here and say that I do understand the naming difficulty here. If the experience of the game is about farming, and if you’re modelling (for example) 24 fields of wheat, then describing those 24 fields of wheat in unique ways is going to strain your creativity. In real life, fields of wheat DO look very similar.

…but you’ll need to write separate, unique fields of wheat anyway - at least, if you’re trying to present your game as being an open world game that is in line with polish standards for Ye Standard Modern IF. Maybe that isn’t your plan - maybe you want to set different expectations for players of your game. The farther you move away from modern IF standards, the farther you’ll move away from immediately appealing to modern IF players, but you may have to make some compromises there depending on your vision for the game.

One compromise that might work well is a procedural description, like this:

[A Field of Wheat - A4]
You have planted this field with wheat. The green shoots coming from the rows appear healthy and stable. At its current rate of growth, you should have a crop here in 21 days.
This field has been watered 4 times in the last 7 days (3 days of rain, 1 day of manual watering).
You have fertilized this wheat with a compound of horse manure and dead fish.

And for a game that is really about how well your wheat is doing, that might be ideal.

I would probably try it out at least for half an hour; I like wandering around in things as long as the things I’m wandering around in are interesting. (Like Proteus; I like Proteus.) Though I’m not so sure I’d be interested in extra-detailed farming simulation, at least not if tending the simulation required me to worry about lots of fiddly details.

One game that might be interesting for you to look at is Calm. It’s not quite open world and has a definite goal, but it’s got a huge map (at least the map feels huge) and lets you start in three different locations, and also has a bit of simulation going on and lots of alternate solutions to its puzzles. So it’s more open than “Character starts here and goes there finding these puzzle solutions along the way.” I’ve only tried one beginning.

To answer your actual question: if you could do this and do it well, people would play and enjoy it. The doubt expressed here is largely about whether it would be possible to do that without spreading your efforts too thinly.

The question you should be asking is not ‘will people like this kind of game’; if you make a good game, people will play it. The important question is ‘given my resources, will I be able to make a game of this kind and do it really well?’

It could have the same amount of thought put in, but it probably won’t, due to a clash that plagues these kinds of projects (as others have mentioned and I won’t rehash) of ambition of goal (represented in ‘open world’) vs. available dev time.

It’s like asking, why can’t a 10,000 page work have the same thought put into every word as a 14-line poem? It can it’s just that it won’t for reasons that to me seem fairly obvious.

Anyway I base my opinion not really on theory but on practice: what people call ‘open world’ games generally really bore me as I described. I’ve just tried to explain to you why that is but even if my reasoning is misconceived in some way, it’s not really going to change how little I get out of these games because I can see right through to the mechanics so damn quick that it’s just a turn-off that apparently there are dozens of hours left to play -after that- to get to the putative ‘narrative’ ending. I guess this is just why I have always preferred puzzle games in which one doesn’t conclusively understand the way the game works until the moment one is finished with it. Once I understand it I have probably lost interest in it.

For the OPs sake, I want to point out that is a subjective opinion–obviously it is valid, and Laroquod probably won’t play your game, but I expect if you make a good open world game a lot of other people will play it!

I tend to be very enthusiastic about open worlds and then see my enthusiasm disappear once I’ve played enough. I play open world games for the sense of mystery and exploration. I don’t know that I’d play a straight-forward farming simulator–I might–the big thing for me would be level of exploration and surprise.