A world that portrays relative realism.
Gaming worlds are a big issue in gaming right now. A good gaming sandbox is an environment that the players yearn to explore. The concept of relative realism is rarely discussed in the fantasy genre. There is a common misconception that to discuss realism in relation to fantasy in paradoxical. However the truth is the marriage of fantasy and realism go together like peaches and cream.
Today we are going to look at the 10 key components every world must have to create an effective believable environment for the game and its’ characters within.
This one is often forgotten. Think about any country, city or planet you have ever visited. Okay well maybe not planets yet. Everywhere you go will have a variety of cultures and races. With this comes a vast spectrum of languages. According to the latest US Census 350 countries are spoken in US Homes alone.
Now consider this some of these games take place in universes far bigger than the US and therefore should be home to similar or exceeding number of languages in comparison. I appreciate this is not always feasible to reproduce within realistic time frames however if you gaming world is city sized and features only one language. You have to explain why!
Lore is a prerequisite for any effective game universe. Lore is an effective narrative or history of said gaming world. it explains why the world is the way it is and why the inhabitants of said world act the way they do.
In Fallout the world is an apocalyptic wasteland, the law and discoveries as you search the wasteland explain why this is. Some games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne have less obvious lore. They choose to tell it by mystical messages but it is there nonetheless.
This article by Pablo Seara talks about the importance of video game lore on the narrative and is well worth a read.
The Witcher 3 paints an excellent political picture of the prejudice against magical folk. In Skyrim we have the Stormcloak rebellion. Much like the real world, politics is everywhere. In one respect real world politics has no place in video games. After all why stop at video games. Monopoly has its’ fair share of capitalist ideologies. Buckaroo is exploiting animals and not once in operation does it talk about whether you have private or free healthcare.
The truth is, the only people complaining and desperate is slide politics into video games are those with often left wing principles who simply want to hijack another form of media. Before I am labeled as a right wing pig bare in mind I voted green party in the last election. (for those in the US this is a party for people who want to protect the environment.
Anyway we digress. Politics belong in video games and game worlds as much as the lore and the languages. But to be clear by politics I mean politics that is relative to that gaming universe rather than real life.
Clothing is an essential commodity for every character within a world. By stating clothing, we don’t mean the characters should not walk around naked. There are certain situations when that might be fitting. When we talk about clothes they must be appropriate to the world and environment being crafted.
Final Fantasy XV likes to treat their characters as walking fashion models. The attempt to team up with Japanese fashion house Roen was one designed purely out of money and publicity. Upon closer inspection of the garments in the game they seem completely dysfunctional to the actions the character has to undertake. Cold weather needs warm clothing, warm weather needs loose, cooler clothing etc…
This is a very similar trait to the topic of politics in that even in modern day religion is everywhere. Not just this, but many of the greatest conflicts have arisen from compatibility or absence of compatibility between religious dogma.
Final Fantasy X’s story focuses mainly on this dogma and tells a brilliant story as a result. The religion weaves itself into the intricacies of the lore and the narrative is all the better because of it.
Even if religion is not a central component of the story you are telling there must be some evidence of a religion in place or if there is a lack of religion there has to once more be an explanation as to why it is lacking.
Once more, unless there is a reason for the gaming world to be lacking other characters to help drive the story they must be present in the gaming universe you have created. Keep in mind even the most isolated games for example the aptly named Alien Isolation is home to characters that push the lore and narrative.
Having NPCs is only the first step. The NPCs also need to be an active member of the world with at least the illusion of their own goals, motives and actions within the world. For instance when your character enters a settlement do the characters wander aimlessly simply waiting for interaction from the playable protagonist or die they act with purpose? Do the soldiers fight? Do the peasants struggle to get by? Do the people flee from danger?
Of course the main characters themselves matter. Check out my article on the best Final Fantasy characters. Shameless plug, I know!
Much like the non playable characters, worlds have wildlife. Even following the nuclear strikes the world of fallout still develops it own wildlife with Mirelurks and bloat-flies a plenty. There are even various wasteland fruits and plants evidenced to show the world despite barren and desolate still have an ecosystem and wildlife to display.
Older games were particularly adept at this. Final Fantasy X has 228 enemies alone. As games go by the graphical requirement increase and creating such a large phantasmagoria of enemies becomes increasing more labour intensive. The list of enemies in FFXV is whittled down to 153 many of which are carbon copies just in either quest, story or mark format.
However one thing that FFXV did do well is showcase some creatures as peaceful and functioning as part of a living ecosystem with inter species battles. Despite the open world in FFXV’s other inadequacies this was an area done really well.
8) Food and Drink
Humans, animals and any living organisms also have to eat and drink. The Witcher 3 present this perfectly with the wealth of consumables on offer. These can be eaten and even combined with alchemy to showcase the wide variety on offer. FFXV has a meal system with recipes to add to the function of subsidence. Even San Andreas had the option to become overweight through too many fast food visit.
If the world that has been crafted allows the players to endlessly maraud without a thought to hydration or hunger then the player will not feel immersed in the game enough to care about the characters in it.
Real world have curves……. and rivers, and mountains and beaches. Even smaller scale sandboxes have varying locations. For instance a city will have slums, business areas, schools, shops and parks.
To be able to fully immerse yourself into a gaming universe, world, or even city there must be a wealth of geography on show. If a large world the north must show noticeable differences to the south of the map. The reason older Final Fantasy’s did so well when world building was the clearness of the locations. All the older iterations have a snowy location, a desert location, cities, farms, towns, holiday spots, beaches, ports and forests.
10) Life and Death
To really establish a sense of living breathing world. Some characters unfortunately must cease to live and breath. Fallout and Skyrim succeed here in that when you kill certain characters they cease to exist. Death really means death for the characters in this world.
It adds to the sense of meaningfulness of the characters actions. Should you kill an NPC then they appear again right as rains ready to offer a new quest. The sense of captivation and relative realism is lost. Your decisions don;t matter and therefore does the story itself really matter that much?
I hope you enjoyed my 10 components for an immersive gaming world. If you enjoyed this why not check out my article on open worlds in gaming. or my website to check out the latest news in gaming and streaming. If you enjoyed this article on gaming world check out the video below by Gamespot of the 30 best open worlds in gaming.