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#466890 - 07/06/17 06:55 Linear world vs open vs branching?
DriftWood Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/03/14
Posts: 70
Do you have an opinion on play and indie design for the three world types.

We know open style worlds are fun to play in and explore. But they are hard for Indie Developers to build. They often feel tied to linear stories that give a false openness. It feels like you can follow the story path or ignore the current task and do a side mission. Player leveling helps hold you in the linear path. After all even if you can go to 90% of places and missions - you can't really do them. It's a suicide march. Open worlds just feel like small open areas in a world of open areas.

This is the time tested Indie game path. A world that starts at a point and follows step by step to the end. It's a helpful limitation for Indie Developers. It allows more focus on story, character and environment development. Sure if feels like a park ride, on a track. But than so does every movie you watch. For the most part it's an enjoyable ride. Within games it's also an interactive ride.

Branching worlds are like linear worlds. They start at a point and lead to an end. The branching path is dotted with nodes. So getting through the Blind forest lets you choose from 2 or more branches on the path to the end. It's linear and there is no going back to go the otherway. But by being branching to opens up replay to not only new locations but hopeful a new story path. Branching seems to be a pain for players. I often hear how the branching was worthless for replay. That it left the player feeling the second play through was a waste of time. I've been told branching is a waste of development time.

Bonus -
There is procedural worlds. Wrapping a loose story around an ever recreated world is a type of game. It's almost a simulation type. But it is an idea worth exploring.
++ A little light reading

What world style would you choose to build a game around?
Which do you enjoy when playing small-studio games?
What path would you follow in your next project?

Edited by DriftWood (07/06/17 20:19)

#466898 - 07/06/17 11:52 Re: Linear world vs open vs branching? [Re: DriftWood]
Reconnoiter Offline
Serious User

Registered: 12/26/11
Posts: 1804
Loc: Netherlands
Interesting read.
I think pure linear is hard cause you have more chance to compete with big titles and more focus is on graphics and professional voice-casting & sounds etc. And personally I think they are boring to develop but that could be a personal thing.
I like open or semi-open with a storyline the most I think, you still have a goal but also some freedom.

#466902 - 07/06/17 21:12 Re: Linear world vs open vs branching? [Re: Reconnoiter]
Kartoffel Offline

Registered: 06/11/09
Posts: 2210
Loc: Bavaria, Germany
The problems I see with open world is that it requires you to put in a LOT of work, which indie devs might underestimate.
POTATO-MAN saves the day! - Random

#466905 - 07/06/17 23:34 Re: Linear world vs open vs branching? [Re: Kartoffel]
DriftWood Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/03/14
Posts: 70
Yes the open world thing requires so many assets and details. I've seen bland projects that need another 4 years of world building. But the devs think being indie will let them put out a bland world. Or even pixel art it all and call it retro.

There is one group I'm watching that is doing it well. But they did a really smart thing. They limited the size. It's a game about seizin and controlling a neighborhood block. It's larger than a single block but not large at all. They built it basically of gray art, then started the task of detailing it all. The team member I talked with said it was well over a year to build the game, but it might take 2 more to detail out the world and truly bring it to life. That's if they get more help and can raise the funding. I played a bit of the gray art game - It was fun , but really took a dev-player to be able to look past all the gray art.

#466906 - 07/06/17 23:49 Re: Linear world vs open vs branching? [Re: DriftWood]
WretchedSid Offline

Registered: 04/23/07
Posts: 3747
Loc: Canada
I currently work for a small studio and our game world is as open as it gets. We have a roughly 510 million km2 world fully accessible to the user, with over hundreds of thousands of cities and billions of houses and roads. So personally, I think open world is the way to go, although to be fair it really suits the genre of game we are making.
Shitlord by trade and passion. Graphics engine developer at Laminar Research.
I write blog posts at

#466958 - 07/10/17 18:21 Re: Linear world vs open vs branching? [Re: WretchedSid]
Dooley Offline

Registered: 05/12/05
Posts: 580
Loc: Chicago, IL
I am a huge fan of open world games. I love exploration, and I can't stand invisible barriers that stop you from going certain places.

I also love generative design, I think it makes for really interesting gameplay, and increases the enjoyment of replaying.

Both my games (see my signature) are generative. Star Explorers is an open world space exploration game.

As for being practical, that is an issue. I have been working on Star Explorers since 2013, and it's still very rough around the edges (as well as having some major problems that I hope I just fixed). I plan to keep working on it for about one year before I give it a full release, but I've already decided that my next game will be much more limited in scope.

So ideally - open world and generative, but practically, for a small studio, or individual like me, it's probably better to limit the scope, or be prepared to spend a long time.
Check out "Star Explorers" on Steam:

Anomalies released on Steam:

#467209 - 07/20/17 23:02 Re: Linear world vs open vs branching? [Re: Dooley]
jumpman Offline
Serious User

Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 1170
Loc: ny
me personally, I would stay away from open worlds as a solo developer or a even as a small team. There is alot to manage, lots of swapping in and out, whether its memory, AI, collision etc. youll be needing a lot of tricks up your sleeve to handle things.

There are so many questions to ask yourself as early as possible:

how will you handle AI thats out of the player's range? Despawn, Freeze etc. Youll need to know from the beginning before you code AI. Will you abstract the AI when its out of range (doesnt play animations or anything, but teleports to its target based on an average time)

How will you stream your world in? multiple models loading in on distance? Then your level will need to be designed with this in mind from the beginning, cant just design the whole world in one model file

how will you handle memory loading and unloading? How will you load that detailed landmark model without noticing frame stutter? Can you correctly unload that landmark when youre far away?

And this is all framework stuff, it hasnt even touched content. You cant just replicate the same trees, you need multiple kinds of trees, for different areas, multiple enemies/pedestrians. Cant have the same track suit jogger pedestrian in a snowy area.

I think its better to have a smaller pseudo open world/area and really work on making it efficient.
A8 Pro 8.47


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