I’ve been thinking a lot about open-world games since moving out to Colorado. Between picking Horizon Zero Dawn back up, watching my roommate 100% Far Cry: Primal, and exploring the open-world that is Colorado hiking, I’m in love. The freedom to go anywhere, do anything isn’t daunting – it’s intoxicating. I came up with this challenge because I want more open-worlds in my life.


Here’s the thing though, I’m a little tired of sprawling, outdoor worlds. I love snowcaps and woods as much as the next, but does an open-world have to be a big landmass? An open-world, in my mind, is about choices and opportunities. It’s a world where you can go anywhere and do anything with little restricting. So, why don’t we narrow that down a bit?


When I was home for Christmas, I devoured Super Mario Odyssey and found myself continually drawn to New Donk City. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been trying to spend a weekend a month exploring Denver with my best friend, but I’m craving more cities in my games. The idea of so many people all in one small space? There’s so much potential there. It’s made me a little sad I live in such a rural, small town.



The dream open-world I’m creating is nothing but a giant city. Or, to be more specific, it’s basically a gigantic building that hold an entire city. I know what you’re thinking – isn’t that just the lore to the Judge Dredd stuff? Yes, yes, it is. And it’s such a good idea that I wish more people would use when their creating their own world. The idea of making a world sprawling by building it up as opposed to out – it’s a good one. Give me a skyscraper that has everything from an indoor zoo to an art museum to a cacti floor.


Or, better yet – let me design in. In my open-world, I want it to feel busy and full at every turn. I want those moments of silence and emptiness to stand out and feel rare. Basically, let’s take Breath of the Wild and do a complete 180. The point of this world isn’t to find every location or hidden secret collectable, it’s to find every person, every story. I want the world to push you to open every door and walk into every room in the way that so many other games ask you to find every bonfire.


I want this city to feel overwhelming. But, I don’t necessarily want every floor to be completely unique. I love the idea that you’ll find 10 floors in a row that are just apartments with black doors and white numbers. You can choose to open every door, or you can look for the one that you need to complete your quest. Heck, I would even love the idea that every single floor is just filled with black doors and white numbers. Maybe you’ll find a store, an aquarium, or maybe just a boring apartment that belongs to a boring dude.



Actually, I absolutely want this game to just be a lot of doors in a big building. This is a city that lives behind closed doors and is filled with secrets. Some rooms connect to the others around it, others will stay locked unless you know the password. I love the idea that you get to choose how many doors to unlock and how much to explore. Maybe you’ll find someone hanging out with an open door or walking the halls. Or you’ll run into someone in the giant elevators.


The one downside to this vertical world is the travel aspect of it. One of the best parts of Breath of the Wild is how fun it is to move around. If you’re just traveling in giant elevators, what’s stopping you from just tackling this world floor by floor? You start at 1 and end up at… some very big number. That’s why I want one of the puzzles and challenges in the game to be discovering how to unlock all of the floors and elevator buttons. Maybe you find a door that is a secret staircase. Or maybe you have to know a guy to get past the doorman.


When I decided to create a challenge about making an open-world, I knew that I wanted mine to feel populated. Honestly, I could care less about how physically big the building is. I just want it to feel full of stories. I want the player to get their own version of the Bomber’s Notebook from Majora’s Mask and discover that it’s 100 pages long. I want the player to care about knocking on doors and meeting people. I want the player to view the world not as a series of waypoints, but as a living body of people and thoughts and stories.


What do you think? How do you feel about an open-world that’s more focused on being full of people than locations? Do you think a vertical world could work? What about the idea of hundreds of doors ready for you to explore? I really hope that you guys will do this challenge yourself. I had so much fun pushing myself to think environmentally. I also just selfishly want to read about everyone’s ideas for open-world games now that I realize how much I enjoy. Thanks for reading!