the Open World Dilemma

Dragonite

The cake is a lie, so give it to me
Member
Posts
191
#1
"Open world" is one of the more fun buzz words in our industry. I was on another site and people were talking about applying it to Pokémon, and I thought we had a thread for it too but I can't find one (maybe it was old Relic?) and I know an uncertain number of people have brought it up before anyway so let's dive right in.

As most of us have probably realized, there is no plug-and-play PBOpenWorld module that we can just enable when we load up a fresh copy of Essentials, so if we want to do that we have to do it ourselves, to whatever degree feels appropriate. I don't really want to just turn this thread into a brain dump of what I think about open world games, so I'll probably just respond to wherever the conversation goes, so here are some common questions to get started. For most of these I'm picturing a game that takes 50-60 hours to complete rather than 25, but you don't have to.

- How does pacing work in a game where you don't control the order in which events happen?
- Do any Pokémon-specific mechanics have to be adjusted? (Level cap, evolution times/methods)
- Are there any other things that Pokémon games do (I don't really want to call them "mechanics") that have to be adjusted? (Rival battles, Elite Four)
- How do you gate progress, not so much for general areas where the player isn't supposed to go but for things that they might be able to do that would completely break the story? (Do you need a key to enter a dungeon, or will a relevant NPC not do battle with you until a specific event, or just not exist until then?)
- Do HMs exist at all, as a move, key item, mount, or otherwise?
- Do you implement level scaling for foes, or hard-code separate teams/encounters for different points in the adventure?
- Do your relations with NPCs/their response to you change over the course of the game, or does Mr. Ledge Dude say the same thing at the end of the game as he did at the beginning?
- Do you give the player a discrete starting city, or have them begin at a random point on the map, or let them choose?
- Does anything about Fly/fast travel/warp points change?
- If technical limitations weren't a problem, would gates between routes still be a thing, or would that break immersion?
- How do you organize a project like this without it becoming a tangled mass of spaghetti?
- Can you think of anything else that might come up when making open world Pokémon that I missed? Have you done anything like this before? (If you have, can I have your autograph?)
 

Aki

Starry eyed
Administrator
Posts
338
#2
Birdcall is open world (Thanks Deo!♥), so I can answer some of these literally...but that's also a short game an not a traditional gym challenge kind of format.

>Pacing in Birdcall is controlled by having a main goal in each area (a big boss that drops a key item) and after completing that goal the player has to return to the hub. In this way the dev can control the order of events because they know that the player will return to the center hub at some point, and the player will have a key item if they've completed an area. In a larger game I think the most reliable place you could predict the player going would be Pokemon Centers, and probably some gyms. If I was doing a large game with a rival I think I'd just have a variable keeping track of the number of times the player has battled them, and have multiple instances of the rival appearing. Then I'd check that variable to turn off duplicates.

>For mechanics adjustments, Birdcall went with a couple small things. 1. The bossess are level balanced based on the party, instead of having a fixed level. The boss is allways gonna be a little higher, which specifically in Birdcall's case is because the boss is a single wild legendary and we figure it's fair to be overlevelled when the player is allowed to fight with a whole team of Pokemon. 2. All wild Pokemon and trainers get a level boost after the player beats a boss (any boss, every boss) and that's how the game keeps pace with the player no matter what area or order that play. 3. The whole party gains experience from battles, and this isn't an option that can be turned off like the exp all item. This might be a less popular choice for some players, but when every trainer and wild pokemon gets their levels boosted as the game progresses, that leaves no lower level areas to go back to and train up weaker pokemon on the player's team.
Taking this idea to a larger game...there would need to be checkpoints somewhere for the dev to gauge where the player is at and rebalance. So I think this could be done either when the player leaves a Pokemon Center (check the party's levels and balance the whole game accordingly) and/or the check could be done when the player passes through a gate towards a route (check the player's party and balance just the upcoming route, or rebalance the whole game if that works better). I think the Pokemon Center check is probably the easier choice for the dev, but a player who keeps healing items on hand could kind of cheat the system and get overlevelled. Checking at every gate might be more tedious for the dev, but I think might be a smoother experience for the player since it would allow for instance a healing spot on a route to be a stable spot to grind and heal. Plus the gate check event would be a good excuse to include other checks on the player just to see what kinds of story events to activate and such. This is still simplifying a bit though, since there's still decisions to make about how the balancing happens. In Birdcall everything only goes up, but in a game without forced exp all there will probably be instances where the player swaps their party around and needs the game balanced to lower levels...maybe two systems would be needed to keep the player on track, one balancing system for the wild pokemon based on the player's current party, and one balancing system for trainers that can only increase levels to maintain the upward curve.

>Gating content is probably more a of a general question for open world design than a Pokemon specific one...but I think it'd be fair to have an open world design that bottlenecks in some places. Like for example you might not want the player to run straight to getting a legendary too early and having a majority of the game being too easy after. Having a NPC or other block in the way that requires [a number] badges is still more open than the typical design, even if the number of badges is equal to the number of gyms available at the time, the player would still get the freedom to fight those gyms in any order.

I think using HMs as a means to gate content would still work too, especially if there's still multiple paths. The player could go one way and run into a Rock Smash roadblock, but then they have the choice of going the other way and eventually hitting a Cut roadblock. With both gyms available to fight and win those Rock Smash and Cut HMs, the player still has a ton choice. The actual system of HMs and being forced to carry certain party members to use those abilities is pretty outdated though compared to an open world concept; I'd adjust it somehow so that the player can move more freely like making the HM move tied to items, or making any Pokemon that's capable of learning the HM move able to use the field move without actually having to learn it.

>Hardcoding at certain points would be perfect for an evil team's base. That would set them up immediately as a certain level of competent, and give the player a specific goal to work towards. It's probably also worth trying for gym leaders, give them hardcoded levels but there's different versions of them depending on the number of badges the player already has; depending on how open the world is though the player could end up overpowering themself before fighting any gyms at all though, so maybe it should be more of a hardcoded minimum level to keep the player from doing the opposite (going straight to fighting a bunch of gyms before doing other content).

>Normally I'd support NPCs saying different dialogue, but I'm gonna say that players won't notice or go back to check on Mr Ledge guy. Birdcall actually has more characters and trainers appearing as the player progresses, and I don't actually see a lot of players noticing. They'll notice the Rangers because that was specifically pointed out in the dialogue, but when being spotted by a new trainer that hadn't been there before, the player's reaction is, "Oh...I guess I missed this guy". The same goes for NPCs that appear as the game goes on, I haven't seen players notice them even when the NPC is placed in a really visible spot that they has to pass by multiple times. Basically, I'd recommend pointing out at least some changes to make sure the player has a reason to double check their surroundings, or else they'll assume they've seen everything the first time.

>Honestly I'm not sure letting the player pick their own starting city is the best idea on the dev's side (what a nightmare) but it would be hella cool. If possible, I think it's be reasonable to balance around 3 starting cities. Just let the player choose their starter Pokemon and starter city at once! The player who picks the Water Starter gets to start in Water City, and the immediate surround areas could be created and balanced knowing exactly which Pokemon the player has. (Which sounds awesome, maybe it's just me but the earliest game balancing is the most important section to balance properly imo)

>When organizing, I'd make the game fairly normally but have the balance check be a simple script call/common event. Playtest, playtest, playtest and tweak the balancing formula.



Yes you can have my autograph :P

But honestly Deo deserves all the credit for making our little game open world, it was his idea and he made it work.
I think he ended up coding some strict level jumps, but when I prototyped it my method was way messier was to pump everything full of EXP which would make some more variance in levels but had weird side effects like weak Pokemon being the highest levelled compared to stronger Pokemon that level up slowly. When writing a method it's also worth considering when the levels are getting silly. Like, wild Pidgey at level 57? That's silly, any player is going to question why it hasn't evolved. When you're not personally setting the levels there might also be cases where the trainers "cheat" by having evolved forms that are underlevelled, or knowing moves that are only learned at a certain level, and that might offend more hardcore players.
 

Mr. Gela

Elite Trainer
Member
Posts
140
#3
My solution? A not-100%-open-world game or a short game where there's not a long plot to develop such as Birdcall mentioned above.
Branch out the game a little, with each branch eventually converging back except for a few differences. I had a vague concept that goes like this:



My rough idea is that at some point you can go to three different places with their own gyms and usual plot stuff, once you're done with that bit, you can choose to do the other two, or advance further. If you do visit the other two "branches" they will scale in level and difficulty accordingly. You could also ignore these bits to go for a quicker ending (from Branch1 to Branch4 skipping 2 and 3) but that might also play against you.

Imagine if Team XXX was to gather the Red Orb and the Blue Orb. Maybe you can stop them from getting the Red Orb and you can push through and stop the Blue Orb attempt too and something something Rayquaza happens, or you could just stop them from picking one, and then have them awaken Kyogra/Groudon with the other orb or whatever. Eventually you can play through all of the content in the game if you wish and in the order you wish, with events changing slightly or dramatically depending on the order and the choices you've made. Idk, I'm still just brainstorming/drafting such a plot.
 

kmb

dabbling in game design
Member
Posts
61
#4
While I plan to have a large map, or series of connected maps, for the player to explore, I'm not planning to make my game 100 percent "open world" but instead plan to open up certain events with switches that change the scenes and dialogue.

- How does pacing work in a game where you don't control the order in which events happen?

I do control the order of events with switches; what an NPC says and what happens during one event can be completely different depending on what mission the player is doing.

- Do any Pokémon-specific mechanics have to be adjusted? (Level cap, evolution times/methods)
There's a script that can cause the wild Pokemon's levels to scale with the player; that might not be a bad idea for me to try, but as it stands, Pokemon's levels just get a little higher as the player progresses through the map. Yeah, I guess it is possible to catch a level 20 Pokemon and make the first part of the game super easy, but it's better than having to grind really hard when you get to the end of the game and can only find low level Pokemon.

- Are there any other things that Pokémon games do (I don't really want to call them "mechanics") that have to be adjusted? (Rival battles, Elite Four)
In my game, I plan for the player to go on a series of missions--I think it's going to be a total of eight to replace the gym badges; the gym battles and Elite Four are just extra quests they can do for fun.


- How do you gate progress, not so much for general areas where the player isn't supposed to go but for things that they might be able to do that would completely break the story? (Do you need a key to enter a dungeon, or will a relevant NPC not do battle with you until a specific event, or just not exist until then?)
Switches; they have to collect certain items, complete certain tasks, learn certain moves, and in some cases even have to be carrying certain Pokemon before they advance to the next "level."

- Do HMs exist at all, as a move, key item, mount, or otherwise?
I plan to have certain wild Pokemon that naturally learn / know the HM move, eliminating the need, but also the possibility, for the player to teach it themselves.

- Do you implement level scaling for foes, or hard-code separate teams/encounters for different points in the adventure?
Since switches are going to control these, I think it's safe to just make them a certain level depending on what part of the game the player is in. If the player decides to grind and re-battle the same trainers over and over, I might need to put a cap on it, then.

- Do your relations with NPCs/their response to you change over the course of the game, or does Mr. Ledge Dude say the same thing at the end of the game as he did at the beginning?
Some NPC dialogue will change, if it's pertinent to the story...

- Do you give the player a discrete starting city, or have them begin at a random point on the map, or let them choose?
They start in the bunks and have to complete certain training missions to have others unlocked.

- Does anything about Fly/fast travel/warp points change?
No...

- If technical limitations weren't a problem, would gates between routes still be a thing, or would that break immersion?
It doesn't matter. The player can travel the whole region if they want, but they won't be able to unlock certain events without activating certain switches...

- How do you organize a project like this without it becoming a tangled mass of spaghetti?
So far, I'm going a little at a time. The only real problem I'm having is with map connections. I don't think I want to use the Kanto map, but that's the sprite set I have. I'm kind of wondering if I shouldn't just use the whole Kanto map and just change the events and NPC dialogue...

- Can you think of anything else that might come up when making open world Pokémon that I missed? Have you done anything like this before?

I'm not really sure how "open world" my project is. I just don't want to create switches for maps unless it's absolutely necessary. If my player wants to wander into a portion of the game where there are level 60 Pokemon running around, why not?
 
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Dragonite

The cake is a lie, so give it to me
Member
Posts
191
#5
my nerd senses just went off hard

>Pacing in Birdcall is controlled by having a main goal in each area (a big boss that drops a key item) and after completing that goal the player has to return to the hub. In this way the dev can control the order of events because they know that the player will return to the center hub at some point, and the player will have a key item if they've completed an area. In a larger game I think the most reliable place you could predict the player going would be Pokemon Centers, and probably some gyms. If I was doing a large game with a rival I think I'd just have a variable keeping track of the number of times the player has battled them, and have multiple instances of the rival appearing. Then I'd check that variable to turn off duplicates.
So it's sort of modular? That's an interesting idea, I probably wouldn't have thought of it. Early Zelda does that, kind of, doesn't it?

>Gating content is probably more a of a general question for open world design than a Pokemon specific one...but I think it'd be fair to have an open world design that bottlenecks in some places. Like for example you might not want the player to run straight to getting a legendary too early and having a majority of the game being too easy after. Having a NPC or other block in the way that requires [a number] badges is still more open than the typical design, even if the number of badges is equal to the number of gyms available at the time, the player would still get the freedom to fight those gyms in any order.
This might be controversial but I generally don't have a problem with the "legendary Pokémon will spawn at a minimum level of 45, so if you're level 13, good luck" strategy, especially considering there are usually no Game Overs in Pokémon. (Removing the speed requirement to flee might be a good idea though, but then again I never liked that mechanic in the first place.) When given the option I like to encourage the player to not go to a place instead of making it so that they can't, but in cases where it's necessary that they don't, physical barriers are probably the way to go.

(By the way, if anyone can figure out a way to make a location in a grid-based game physically not exist until it's required, that would be fantastic.Maybe you could redirect all map connections after an event or something?)

I think using HMs as a means to gate content would still work too, especially if there's still multiple paths. The player could go one way and run into a Rock Smash roadblock, but then they have the choice of going the other way and eventually hitting a Cut roadblock. With both gyms available to fight and win those Rock Smash and Cut HMs, the player still has a ton choice. The actual system of HMs and being forced to carry certain party members to use those abilities is pretty outdated though compared to an open world concept; I'd adjust it somehow so that the player can move more freely like making the HM move tied to items, or making any Pokemon that's capable of learning the HM move able to use the field move without actually having to learn it.
I still like HMs in 2018 because they force you to make choices, actually, although requiring you to carry them all at once in a single area might be a bit much. But I guess the important part here is that different parts of the world open up based on the order through the game that you take, so that doesn't necessarily have to mean a move slot, right?

>Hardcoding at certain points would be perfect for an evil team's base. That would set them up immediately as a certain level of competent, and give the player a specific goal to work towards. It's probably also worth trying for gym leaders, give them hardcoded levels but there's different versions of them depending on the number of badges the player already has; depending on how open the world is though the player could end up overpowering themself before fighting any gyms at all though, so maybe it should be more of a hardcoded minimum level to keep the player from doing the opposite (going straight to fighting a bunch of gyms before doing other content).
This would be an awful lot of work, but what do you reckon would happen if someone like the evil team had a set level or a small range of levels, giving the player something to work towards from the beginning of the game, and even having the game react differently based on your performance?

(Defeat in fewer than ten turns)
"You'll never defeat me, go back under the rock you came out of, etc, etc, etc."
(Defeat)
"Who are you? I'll be keeping an eye on you."
(Victory in ten or more turns)
"Who are you? That did not just happen."
(Victory)
"That did not just happen. The Universe is conspiring against me. That's it, I'm outta here."

>Normally I'd support NPCs saying different dialogue, but I'm gonna say that players won't notice or go back to check on Mr Ledge guy. Birdcall actually has more characters and trainers appearing as the player progresses, and I don't actually see a lot of players noticing. They'll notice the Rangers because that was specifically pointed out in the dialogue, but when being spotted by a new trainer that hadn't been there before, the player's reaction is, "Oh...I guess I missed this guy". The same goes for NPCs that appear as the game goes on, I haven't seen players notice them even when the NPC is placed in a really visible spot that they has to pass by multiple times. Basically, I'd recommend pointing out at least some changes to make sure the player has a reason to double check their surroundings, or else they'll assume they've seen everything the first time.
Lmao I didn't even think about that. Probably. Maybe it would work if you could alert the player to the change in state somehow, if a cutscene played out mid-game and Mr. Ledge Guy was directly involved or something.

Coming up with multiple sets of dialogue for each NPC instead of just one sounds like a huge pain for most developers our size, anyhow.

>Honestly I'm not sure letting the player pick their own starting city is the best idea on the dev's side (what a nightmare) but it would be hella cool. If possible, I think it's be reasonable to balance around 3 starting cities. Just let the player choose their starter Pokemon and starter city at once! The player who picks the Water Starter gets to start in Water City, and the immediate surround areas could be created and balanced knowing exactly which Pokemon the player has. (Which sounds awesome, maybe it's just me but the earliest game balancing is the most important section to balance properly imo)
Someone on the other site mentioned that the Crystal Clear hack lets you do that with New Bark/Pallet, but that might only work because those towns were both designed to be starting points in the first place. It would create a bunch of different problems though, like how and where the story would begin (are there separate stage directions for the NPCs to follow in each city? does it only initiate after you've entered some other map in between?) and how early-game Pokémon are distributed if you don't know where "early game" is going to be.

(I actually thought about doing something like what you described back in 2013, but that didn't go anywhere for different reasons.)

I think he ended up coding some strict level jumps, but when I prototyped it my method was way messier was to pump everything full of EXP which would make some more variance in levels but had weird side effects like weak Pokemon being the highest levelled compared to stronger Pokemon that level up slowly. When writing a method it's also worth considering when the levels are getting silly. Like, wild Pidgey at level 57? That's silly, any player is going to question why it hasn't evolved. When you're not personally setting the levels there might also be cases where the trainers "cheat" by having evolved forms that are underlevelled, or knowing moves that are only learned at a certain level, and that might offend more hardcore players.
When I did this I scaled stuff based on the second-strongest member of your team (and some other things), since if you accidentally overleveled your leader or caught a +5 legendary Pokémon you don't want to be forced to use them. Once the player notices this it's still easy to break/take advantage of, though. You can make stuff auto-evolve if they're of the correct level (or "strong enough," in the case of nonstandard evolutions) but hard-coding foes instead of just adding them programmatically still takes care of a few edge cases, like "my automatically-filled moves consist of three status moves and Quick Attack at level 25" or "I spawned a team of three level 19 Magikarp instead of a level 19 Magikarp and two level 20 Gyarados." It got even worse when I ran my script to auto-populate team rosters because I was too lazy to do even that myself.

(switches, at the core)
This is probably the way to go if you don't want to create some kind of other massive internal data structure, but I've never actually made anything bigger than a game jam using this. Does this kind of thing scale well, or does it become a tangled mess after a while? Mutually exclusive switches, switches that depend on another switch that depend on another switch, etc. I guess that could happen to any data structure though.
 

Aki

Starry eyed
Administrator
Posts
338
#6
This might be controversial but I generally don't have a problem with the "legendary Pokémon will spawn at a minimum level of 45, so if you're level 13, good luck" strategy, especially considering there are usually no Game Overs in Pokémon. (Removing the speed requirement to flee might be a good idea though, but then again I never liked that mechanic in the first place.) When given the option I like to encourage the player to not go to a place instead of making it so that they can't, but in cases where it's necessary that they don't, physical barriers are probably the way to go.
I'm okay with this, if the player walks up to a legendary Pokemon and gets wiped, then that's on them for not being prepared. The problem for me comes in the form of, there's a change the level 13 player could get a free level 45 legendary. Unless Pokeballs are overhauled in someway, there's a chance that the player could get lucky with something a Quickball or Duskball, which are stupidly good in some cases. Even if that chance of the ball working is pretty unlikely, you're allways gonna have that stubborn player who soft resets untill the Quickball works. Maybe the Legendary's catchrate could somehow be adjusted if the player is too far underlevelled?


(By the way, if anyone can figure out a way to make a location in a grid-based game physically not exist until it's required, that would be fantastic.Maybe you could redirect all map connections after an event or something?)
Heck yeah, another reason I like gates. when the maps are connected with a transfer instead of map connections, you can pull off stuff like using completely different maps when a switch is set. More games should do it in general not just open world ones! With the power of multiple maps for a single town you can give the player a real immersive experience by watching the world change...I'd love to see Machop flattening out some land for construction and as the game progresses, a building actually gets built there. Can't do it too often since that'd be a lot of wasted maps but for some important sets it'd be awesome.


This would be an awful lot of work, but what do you reckon would happen if someone like the evil team had a set level or a small range of levels, giving the player something to work towards from the beginning of the game, and even having the game react differently based on your performance?
I love that idea! It'd be a neat mechanic to have the grunts react different depending on how the player battled...like if on the first floor they cleared most/all of the grunts in just a few turns, then the grunts on floor 2 would attack as pairs or hordes. Then the player who was breezing though annoying grunts could have more interesting battles. Maybe even throw in a secret/bonus miniboss if the player is still doing too well; have one of the Team Admins ambush the player and fight with a better team.
 

Poq

Trainer
Member
Posts
57
#7
I really dig this thread - I'm glad this conversation is happening.
I want to jump in with the question of how you gate the player's progress. One thing that can really open up a game is having different ways to reach the same goal.
Let's say that the player finds out that the evil team's hideout is in that locked warehouse. Normally, you'd have to defeat that one grunt on the outskirts of town (who doesn't appear until after you beat the gym or something like that) and he would surrender the key. So maybe the random grunt is still there to battle, but if you have a pokémon with intimidate in the front of your party, you can scare him into giving up the key or use dialogue options to persuade him to let you in the back way. Maybe a pokémon with Psychic can compel him to help or with Charm can make him easier to persuade but only if its SpAtk is high enough. Maybe there's another option where Headbutt can break down locked doors, but only if the pokémon using it has a high enough attack stat. None of these different options change what happens when you get inside (other than maybe going in the back door), but they still allow the player to choose - to develop a different strategy for how they build their team and move through the world. As a bonus, choosing certain strategies could change variables that have long term influences on events. Maybe compelling people using psychic too often makes other makes you untrustworthy, shutting off certain options later.
Combining options like this along with branching storylines really allows the player to feel like they are controlling the story. And I think adding more outside of battle effects could really make the pokémon world seem more immersive, as long as you aren't completely dependent on them like HMs.
 

kelsey

Trainer
Member
Posts
60
#8
Open world games are my favorite, and I've posted some threads talking about the game I'm currently working on, which is an open world game (and also one which adapts to the player's choices).

I'm not going to respond to everything you've prompted because I'm trying to only take a five minute break from game making and I don't want to get distracted, but i will say- to the 50-60 hour comment- I think you're off by a power of ten on a good open world game- at least the way I conceive of such a game.

Open world games are amazing because they allow the player to get lost in their own path, rather than being pushed from one location/main story event to another. My favorite aspect of them is nearly limitless sidequests and aspirations to follow, and changeability between playthroughs so that each time you play it feels different and fresh. That means that an open world game should not be finished in a couple of weeks, but for full completion should take months. This is especially true in a pokemon open world game since we already have a built in long-term quest "gotta catch em all" and several hundred pokemon at this point.

With a good story line, a flexible plot, and a couple hundred side quests, I expect a GOOD game like this to take several months of solid play to beat. And that's as it should be because they take F****** forever to make, but in the end, the goal is something expansive and amazing that makes all the time worth it.

--- she says as she's on hour 4 today of JUST WORKING ON MAP CONNECTIONS---
 

kelsey

Trainer
Member
Posts
60
#9
Also:

A million switches.

Common events are your best friend.

EVERYTHING (yes- ALL wild pokemon and trainers) has to scale based on player progress in order to make levels feel balanced.

see above comment about this being a ton of work. the basic plug and play dynamics that come with essentials require a lot of "tweaking" (i.e. you're basically starting from scratch in a lot of ways) to make it work, because essentials was built for a regular pokemon game maker- and the OG games are notably not open world


Example: this is my hand written map-connection spreadsheet - game making is truly a labor of love guys.
 
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Dragonite

The cake is a lie, so give it to me
Member
Posts
191
#10
but if you have a pokémon with intimidate in the front of your party, you can scare him into giving up the key or use dialogue options to persuade him to let you in the back way. Maybe a pokémon with Psychic can compel him to help or with Charm can make him easier to persuade but only if its SpAtk is high enough. Maybe there's another option where Headbutt can break down locked doors, but only if the pokémon using it has a high enough attack stat.
This isn't as much about making an open world game as it's about using the existing mechanics for things that we usually don't. Which is also an awesome topic that would be really fun to talk about, by the way. A while ago I wanted to make a game like this but didn't for a bunch of reasons, most of boiled down to not knowing what I was doing.

but i will say- to the 50-60 hour comment- I think you're off by a power of ten on a good open world game
Yeah trying to define "open world" in just one sentence probably wasn't the best idea I ever had, since they usually contain so many moving parts. (It usually takes me 50 hours to finish the main quest in Skyrim at a leisurely pace with a standard amount of goofing around, even though the line itself can probably be done in 12, but my previous 100%ings took about 250 and my current one is looking at 150+ since I sort of know what I'm doing now.)

Realistically there's not even a point to defining open world by number of hours, since if you turned War and Peace into a game it'd take way more hours to finish than The Pit and the Pendulum and neither of them would be remotely open world. Until I come up with something better let's just go with "a game that gives you an above-average freedom to screw around without completing the story."

and a couple hundred side quests, I expect a GOOD game like this to take several months of solid play to beat. And that's as it should be because they take F****** forever to make, but in the end, the goal is something expansive and amazing that makes all the time worth it.
You don't even need that kind of scope honestly, because if an organization with fewer than about fifty people tried to do it they'd probably never finish. Also then it's sorta easy to fall into the trap of generating content by copying and pasting stuff, how many "open world" (or even not big not-open world) games do you know that have been accused of being nothing but empty space, generic NPCs and Ten Bear Asses quests?

--- she says as she's on hour 4 today of JUST WORKING ON MAP CONNECTIONS---
No. Stop. Don't burn yourself out. I'd rather play this game later than never ಠ_ಠ
(Or just find a way to automate it.)

EVERYTHING (yes- ALL wild pokemon and trainers) has to scale based on player progress in order to make levels feel balanced.
I keep talking about having code (math) that does this and I really should probably post it as a resource one of these days, but it's all horrifically spaghetti and I'm not sure how to refactor it so that it becomes plug-and-play =/

Also most people who try to make these kinds of games are probably going to need something slightly different from everyone else's because of the way they want the overall thing to work.
 
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