When I first set out to create Skullforge the series, I thought about how we could make the world interesting. The first design of the game called for an open world approach with a seamless connected world and not much loading. We eventually scrapped that idea since we were using Unity Free at the time and it didn’t allow for doing that in a way we were happy with. We then decided to make the world a collection of zones and just make each zone fairly large so that we had a big enough canvas to do what we wanted in that zone.
What this meant was that we had to get creative about how we utilized all that space. I always felt that one of the best parts about playing an action RPG was exploring the world and looking for some trouble to get into. With this idea, I set out to populate the world with lots of interesting little things. Some of those things don’t have any gameplay value other than to add more lore to the world. Other things start tasks or add to a player’s treasure list. Some things are requests by NPCs to find landmarks, animals, trade goods, etc.
One thing I decided to do early on was to avoid holding the player’s hand and allow them to chat on forums and Miiverse to get information. I think healthy player interaction keeps the game fresh and gives a sense of accomplishment when you do find something out there and you can tell your friends about it. We hid many tasks (quests) and things out there for players to find. Some of them are easier to find than others, but that’s what makes it all interesting.
If players come together and pool information to find all things out in the game world, then I’ll consider my job done. More than that, I hope that players actually find it fun to wander around and look at all the stuff going on. I guess that’s the most rewarding thing about being a game designer.