Open-worldesque Games?

Hey all. I’m considering getting much more deeply invested in making IF games with the end goal of using that experience to create a Magnum Opus project in the future. I envision a game in which the player is free to wander an expansive map, pursue side quests and hidden story arcs at will, and generally get lost in the lore of the world without necessarily ever “finishing” the game.

I know the skills for this are beyond me, and as a writer I know how long the creative process would take. But such things aside, is such a game feasible using IF as a medium? Fallen London does achieve a certain kind of freedom, but the layout of the game is very atypical for IF and relies on some graphics and buttons to work. Can this be done in a more traditional text based game?

I also recognize that terms like “expansive” and even “free” are subjective, and I’m interested in hearing thoughts about what is possible. Additionally, I would love to hear of titles worth looking at, especially those that may have a more RPG feel to them or that have an emphasis on exploration.

Thanks guys!


I’m no expert in this area, but the expansiveness sounds more like a multi-user dungeon (or MUD). This is strongly influenced by role-playing games, so you might want to look into this. Others may have recommendations.


Archmage Rises is an interesting game to check out. I’ve never played it, but it’s been on my radar for a while. It has graphics, but it’s text-based at it’s core and is open world with some procedural generation.

Here’s a video… →

Can this be done in a more traditional text based game?

Why not? :slight_smile:

Edit: I should mention that Archmage Rises is not meant as a quality game recommendation, but as inspiration for a framework and possible mechanics.

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A game like this is difficult under any circumstances. Parser IF wouldn’t make it any easier. The difficulty of creating a parser game scales up faster than the size, because you have to think about fiddly interactions between more and more objects.

(How fast it scales up depends on the tool you use. As someone who’s written large games in both Inform 6 and Inform 7, I can say that Inform 7 is better – the difficulty only increases a little faster than the game size…)

Fallen London tries to keep its complexity under control by having limited choices in every situation. The designer can decide exactly which qualities / items will be relevant in every scene; the player can’t go wild and try any command at all. Of course, Fallen London has gotten very large and complex anyhow! I have very little idea what the authoring experience is really like.

Big graphical RPGs rely on a few stable mechanics (movement, combat, NPC dialogue) which are the same all the way through the game. Also making big graphical maps is probably easier than making hundreds of textual rooms.


Ryan Veeder’s Authentic Fly Fishing is at least an open-ended game, if not a completely open world.


One problem you would need to solve is how the player will be able to disambiguate multiple identical (or very similar) objects.

You could get away with having one of everything in a game with 200 locations, but it would seem strange in one with 2000 (or more).


A while back I was considering how to go about building a modular game system. This is one way to go about designing a system for open-ended gaming.

Your open-ended game is not going to materialise all at once. And indeed, it may never be finished. So the idea is that it is built from “modules” and you “plug-in” these modules to a base system in order to expand starting from a minimum. For example a quest could be a module. A character and their behaviour and dialog could be module. A nice idea, but how would it work exactly?

To do this, i figured you’d need to start with an “upper ontology”. This would be a semantic basis of object types. Turns out there are as little as about 1000 such things. A module could introduce new types, but it’s crucial that all modules share the same a priori upper ontology otherwise objects from one module would not operate in another one - or even make sense.

So, what I’m saying is that the core of any open-ended expandable game system needs to start with a common semantic basis and some rudimentary behaviour for that basis.

After that it’s just a matter of making an infinite number of expansion modules :slight_smile:


These are useful thoughts and recommendations. Thanks!


I forget if Robert DeFord’s Onaar actually has an end, but when I think of an open (albeit small) world game with RPG mechanics and grinding and quests and stuff, this is the one I think of. And it was in IFComp.