Making an Open World Video Game? Do it Right or Not At All

Harness just the right balance of randomness and determinism to make something special and truly engaging.

Dusk Sharp
7 min readMar 1, 2021


Valheim is a Viking themed open world game taking the world by storm. Source,

If you haven’t heard, open world video games are all the rage. Again.

We’re not talking about Minecraft, Elder Scrolls Skyrim, and GTA 5 of the early 2010s. The new games on the block like Valheim, Spider Man: Miles Morales, and Cyberpunk 2077 would like to have a word with you. Heck, we even have an open world Pokemon game coming in the form of Pokemon Legends: Arceus. We can’t ignore it anymore — open world games are back.

But what exactly is an “open world” game? There are many schools of thought, but at the end of the argument there’s a clear dichotomy between what makes a game “open world” and “linear”. Open world games do not railcar you from one objective to the next, and do not limit your freedom to explore the greater game. Open world games allow you to roam free in the world, creating a play session that is different from any other players’. Linear games force players to complete the next story beat, the next quest, or the next level requirement in order to explore more of the world.

What kind of open world game do you enjoy playing the most? Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

As you can guess, open world games vary from the completely lawless to the “open, but with some limitations”. Some open world games are completely procedural, with every playthrough or instanced world being different from the rest. Other open world game are completely prefabricated, with every NPC, resource or monster being carefully placed and positioned by a game designer.

It doesn’t matter which approach you take, as long as your game is fun for the player. Making an open world game play just right requires forethought and skillful game design, not just slapping together a bunch of cool things. This article discusses some tips for managing the creation of you next open world game project.

Your Game’s Core Promises Are Important

Let’s get one thing straight right out of the gate. “Being open world” is not a game’s…



Dusk Sharp

Indie Game Development and Trends in Gaming