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Research and Development of Freeform Gameplay in Computer Games

Contextual Report

Contents Section 1: Introduction………………………………………………………… | 1 | 1.1 The Project……………………………………………………………... | 1 | 1.1.1 Project Key Words…………………………………………… | 1 | 1.1.2 What is Freeform Gameplay?.............................. | 1 | 1.1.3 Project Goal…………………………………………………….. | 1 | 1.1.4 Project Context……………………………………………….. | 2 | 1.1.5 Project Objectives…………………………………………… | 3 | 1.1.6 Techniques for Realisation………………………………. | 3 | 1.1.7 Structure of This Report………………………………….. | 4 | Section 2: The Contextual Review……………………………………….. | 6 | 2.1 Market Research…………………………………………………….. | 6 | 2.1.1 Categorisation of Gameplay Elements…………….. | 6 | 2.1.2 Game Comparisons…………………………………………. | 8 | 2.1.3 Comparison Analysis………………………………………. | 9 | 2.2 Market Surveys……………………………………………………….. | 11 | 2.2.1 Target Audience……………………………………………… | 11 | 2.2.2 Survey Approach…………………………………………….. | 11 | 2.2.3 Questionnaire…………………………………………………. | 12 | 2.2.4 Survey Results………………………………………………… | 12 | Section 3: Project Planning………………………………………………….. | 17 | 3.1 Design Blueprints……………………………………………………. | 17 | 3.1.1 Design Approach…………………………………………….. | 17 | 3.1.2 Design Document……………………………………………. | 17 | 3.1.3 Production Planning……………………………………….. | 19 | 3.1.4 Testing Plan……………………………………………………. | 20 | 3.1.5 Evaluation Plan………………………………………………. | 20 | References………………………………………………………………………….. | 21 | Appendices…………………………………………………………………………. | 22 |

Section 1: Introduction
1.1 The Project
1.1.1 Project Key Words:
Game Design, Gameplay, Role Playing, Unstructured Play, Narrative, Virtual Environments

1.1.2 What is Freeform Gameplay?
Freeform gameplay is the concept in computer games design that the player drives the story or progress of the game based on the decisions they make, as opposed to reacting and accomplishing tasks that are imposed upon them. A freeform game may have no definition of progress or may indeed have no ending at all, but will rely on the creativity and intuition of the player to decide what these things are in the game world that they interact with or create.

A good example of a freeform game would be ‘The Sims’ (Maxis, 2000), a hugely successful game developed by Maxis. In The Sims, they player constructs a house and manages the day to day lives of the people they design and place in it. The player is given no real direction or incentive to do anything but create and experiment, the player is not punished for managing the house or ‘Sims’ badly, and is not rewarded in any real way for managing them properly (although well managed Sims will usually earn more money which allows the player to buy additional in game objects). The game will continue indefinitely until all Sims in the house have died through poor management by the player or until the player decides to evict the family. A player may decide the goal for their game is to build the biggest house possible, to buy the most expensive items, to max out the skills their Sims have, to raise a family or perhaps even to plan and carry out the most elaborate and dramatic deaths for their Sims that they can think of.

An example of a non-freeform game would ‘Time Crisis’ (Namco, 1995), a widely known and popular arcade game developed by Namco. In Time Crisis the player is given no major control over the movement of their character, instead they will be moved along a path set by the game and forced to come into contact with enemies (these types of game are commonly referred to as ‘Rail Shooters’). The goal for the player is to avoid being hit by enemies by deciding when to duck in and out of cover and then defeating the enemies by aiming the on screen crosshair and pulling the trigger. Once all enemies in an area have been defeated, only then can the player advance to the next area. This is an example of a hugely linear game, the polar opposite of a freeform game. The player is unable to make decisions of where to go in the virtual world, but instead must rise to the challenges presented to them or fail the game. Only by obeying the rules of the game can the player advance, and the ultimate goal is to reach the end point in the game after completing several levels/stages.

1.1.3 Project Goal
The goal of this project is to research into the nature of freeform gameplay in computer games and investigate what factors are important for making a game that can form an exciting story and/or enjoyable experience purely based on the actions of the player. The results of this research will then be used in the design and production of a freeform computer game which will be tested by potential users to analyse their experiences and draw conclusions as to how much potential freeform gameplay games have and what possible developments may be possible in the future.

1.1.4 Project Context
The concept of user decisions driving the story of a game has been present as a key element of design in many games since the idea of their creation. Early text adventure games can be seen as the founding fathers of the truly interactive story, allowing the player to navigate around the world as they see fit and making decisions that will ultimately affect the outcome of the story.

As games have become more complex over the years, so has the level of interactivity games can potentially offer. In modern game development, designers have to very consciously decide how much freedom they will give the player, depending on how structured the story they want to tell is, or other factors such as development time that may restrict how much choice they can realistically offer.

While freeform gameplay has been a recognised element of game design since the birth of computer games, very little games have actually boasted a truly free experience and open world for the player to explore at their own will. Many games that offer player choice to drive the story actually offer players a list of options for what they can do, with each option presenting the player with a different experience.

However certain games have based the player experience completely on giving them freedom to explore and develop a custom character. Multiplayer experiences in Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games such as World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment, 2004), Everquest (Sony Online Entertainment, 1999) and Guild Wars (ArenaNet, 2005) as well as single player experiences in games such as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Bethesda Softworks, 2006), Fallout 3 (Bethesda Softworks, 2008) and the S.T.A.L.K.E.R series (GSC Game World) have no ending the player is forced to reach (and in some cases, especially in MMOs, no ending at all) and instead rely on the delivery of huge amounts of content to give players a wide variety of things to do and explore, quite often supplying more content through downloads and expansion packs even after release.

Whereas the games mentioned above have a flexible story with objectives that the player can choose to pursue or not, games such as The Sims and Garry’s Mod (Team Garry, 2005) offer a simulation/sandbox experience that is completely free but has no story or actual objectives at all. The player is more or less able to do anything they choose within the rules/limits of the game in an environment with no real end goal or ending and instead the “progression” of the game relies on creativity and the results the player wants to see in the world they have created.

One thing that hasn’t been investigated to any major degree is freeform gaming in different genres of game. Free form games have mainly been focused around simulation games, action (first and third person shooters) and role playing games (RPGs). Some genres such as sport have touched upon it with games such as the Championship Manager (Eidos) and Football Manager (Sports Interactive) series that give the player a wide selection of options to manage a football team in an open ended environment (although these may be seen as simulation games with a sports theme), but other genres such as strategy rarely venture from traditional game structures, with a few notable exceptions such as the Total War series (The Creative Assembly).

The gaps in the market for free form games are plentiful and leave a lot of ground for future ideas and development which will form the basis of this study. This project will look into the possibility of hybrid games that combine genres into a free form environment (thus being able to explore multiple genres in only one project) and explore which factors work, which do not and their effect on game experience. This project will bring RPG/action games into an unstructured sandbox environment while also bringing in elements of strategy and resource management into the mix to explore strategy games in a way never seen before.

1.1.5 Project Objectives
To investigate into: * What freeform games currently exist (games which have freedom as a major part of gameplay) * What features are generally regarded as the best for making a great freeform game (Exploration? Customisation? Content? Chances for creativity?)
To produce a computer game that has: * RPG elements of gameplay for human and AI skills and character development. * If research deems it a plausible opportunity, implement Strategy elements of gameplay to allow the player to construct a settlement that can grow throughout the game. * Action elements of gameplay to allow the player to fight enemies within the game. * Flexible goals or ending, leaving the player to decide how to advance in the game.

1.1.6 Techniques for Realisation
This project will include study and research into gameplay theory, design and the content of existing freeform games. By categorising which features are commonly found in freeform games it will be possible to break things down into core categories which will then allow comparisons between existing games on the market.

By looking into professional journals and articles on the subject of freeform games and similar topics, it will be possible to gain a greater perspective on what has already been achieved, where gaps are left to explore as well as providing clues and inspiration for where to search next.

Using the results of the research it will be possible to plan out the implementation of this project with a clear idea of what needs to covered, what should take priority and hopefully will provide a balanced and in depth look into the world of freeform gaming.

Development Methodology
To keep the project well managed and structured it is necessary to choose an appropriate software development process/methodology. This project will be using a relatively new methodology (compared to classic standards such as Waterfall) called Agile which focuses on flexibility and high speed incremental delivery.

Agile is currently being adopted by many games development studios as their software development process of choice. Agile focuses on getting a working piece of software produced as soon as possible as opposed to planning out everything in detail on paper first. This early version of the product can then be constantly refined and added to throughout the project based on the analysis done frequently by both the development team and the representatives of prospective users.

The main reasoning behind choosing Agile for this project is the flexibility to scope it provides. If there is one thing that can be said about for all freeform games, it is that they must have a high amount of content to present to the player. The main point of choice is that there are many options to choose from, and so to provide the player with a free world that is interesting, there must be multiple features for the player to use/explore/create. Linear games have the advantage of making this choice for the player, but in freeform games development the problem of content is more complex.
Agile development works in short bursts call “sprints”. These sprints are usually around a week to two weeks long, and will focus on specific tasks. At the end of each sprint the development team must analyse their progress and decide where to focus next and whether priorities need to be changed. This analysis and re-arrangement ability that Agile possesses does not guarantee a project to be delivered on time, but it does minimise the scale of how much the project can fail. The constant analysis and re-prioritising means the development team should at least be able to produce the core part of the software but may have to leave non-essential features out in order to meet a deadline. This has its advantage over structured processes such as Waterfall where changes to the design and schedule halfway through a cycle can be disastrous and require a lot of re-planning.

Agile will be appropriate for this project as there will need to be as much content delivered as possible within the strict deadline. This will require a flexible core game to be produced with a high amount of modularity. Once this core part of the program is produced, Agile will really come into effect enabling features to be added and removed when and if appropriate, minimising the problems of scope and time management, making sure there is a usable piece of software ready at the end.

Development Creation
The development side of the project, the creation of the game, will take place using the programming language C++ and additional libraries provided by OGRE.

C++ is an extremely powerful language for games development due to its object oriented nature and performance potential, and is the language of choice for the majority of games development studios for general games production. There are other alternatives such as Java, C# (with XNA) and Flash to name a few, which have varying strengths (Java and Flash are more suitable for mobile/web/simple games). But for this project that consists of independent development of a standalone game for the PC platform, C++ will provide the flexibility and power necessary to produce the application.

The decision to use OGRE to aid development was made to decrease development time and increase the visual quality and performance of the final product. OGRE is first and foremost a rendering engine and graphics solution, but also through large third party support can extend its uses to many other areas of games development. Due to this project being based on games theory rather than technology, the features available in OGRE and its plug-ins will be used to maximum effect, with as little ‘reinventing of the wheel’ as possible. This means that less development time will be spent on implementing graphical effects, collision systems, interface coding etc. and will free up time to code actual gameplay features.

1.1.7 Structure of This Report
Section 1: Introduction
The first section of this report is the introduction. The introduction will attempt to set the scene of the project, explain the terminology, outline the goals that the project will revolve around and cover some of the methodology and techniques that will be used in its production.

Section 2: The Contextual Review
The second section will be split into two parts, Market Research and Market Surveys. Market research will consist of analysing existing freeform games in the market, categorising the major features that make them ‘freeform’ and comparing them to one another. Research will also look into theory behind freeform gaming and into game design in general to see what can be applied to the work in this project.

Market surveys will involve data capture and analysis to get a client perspective on the project and help outline requirement specifications. Anonymous surveys will be carried out on prospective users (which will ideally have a variety of experiences with games) to help determine which areas of freeform games are the most popular and which are most deserving of further investigation.

Section 3: Project Planning
Section 3 will involve putting the findings from section 2 to use in the planning of the project. Organising the features that proved popular in the surveys will help determine which features might be implemented in the final project, help create user stories (as an adventurous player, I would like to be able to…) and finally help form a timeline for the project that has rational targets and provides a balanced study.

Section 2: The Contextual Review
2.1 Market Research
2.1.1 Categorisation of Gameplay Elements
In order to compare existing freeform games in the market it is necessary to find common ground that all subjects can relate on. By narrowing down individual game features into global core elements it will be much easier to compare games and see what makes up a good freeform game and what is deserving of more study.

Moral Choices
One feature that is prevalent in open ended games is the freedom to make decisions that are good or evil in nature. Typical games rely on a “hero” image for the player and will punish the player for making an evil decision (this could be something like stealing or hurting an ally). Maaike Lauwaert talks about “player anarchy” and “borderless playgrounds” [1], in reference to the idea that players can play the game in a way not typically seen as good or proper, as seen in games such as SimCity (SimCity 4, Maxis, 2003) where players are free to do as they please in terms of moral choices, be it the raising of taxes to incredible levels or even the complete destruction of their town, the player will not lose the game on these actions.

In other games such as Fallout 3, moral choices are not so much an option, but an integral part of the game with real effects. Marcus Schulzke [2] talks about how such “games allow the content to change based on the players' decisions” and the ability to “remake the game world and produce their own characters rather than simply attributing meaning to those created by others”. This sort of freedom of choice sets freeform games apart from traditional games and other types of media and art in general. It is important to note that these two examples show that moral choices do not have to be involved with a story to be relevant, but instead can be a form of expression and creativity in any game situation.

Character Building/Role Play
In open ended/freeform games it is common for the player to be able to design their own character visually and also tailor the personality to their liking. The concept of playing as a character of your own creation has raised many questions and interesting theories. Thaddeus Griebel [3] talks about the common occurrence of players projecting themselves into their characters. It is interesting to look into how much extra depth of story and immersion features like this can add to a game. Instead of taking the role of a character in a story, you suddenly have become the character in the story. Griebel mentions a quote “everyone gets the opportunity to create characters that reflect who we are, what we hope and dream, what we fear. It's a very empowering experience” (Kambert, cited in [3]) that sums up how a player might feel by undertaking a quest or performing some kind of feat that wouldn’t normally be possible within the physical or moral limitations of reality, which in essence is what feeling video games have tried to capture from the start.

In terms of story and narrative, it is possible to organise freeform games into three simple categories (although it is perfectly possible to have overlap), those who allow the player to direct the story through branching quests, those that allow the player to choose quests and those that have no story or quests whatsoever. Sandbox and simulation games such as the The Sims and SimCity mentioned previously have no real need for a story as the purpose of the game is self explanatory, and the whole point of the games is to let the player decide what the story is. Other games such as Mount & Blade (TaleWorlds, 2008) provide a back story and a story framework for the player to use their creativity to direct what events will unfold (in this case the main centrepiece being a set of quarrelling kingdoms which must unite or conquer).

Adams describes branching quests as an opportunity for “the player to have a different experience each time he[/she] plays the game” (Adams, 2009[4], pg 169). Branching stories and quests are essentially the simplest method of offering freedom and decision making to the player. Adams goes on to categorise branching into two different types, “efforts to overcome a challenge or decisions that the story asks the player to make” (Adams, 2009[4], pg 170), for example this could be multiple routes of attack to an enemy base as a challenge decision (perhaps stealthy entrance or all out frontal attack) and a moral choice of whether to help a rebellion or help the government for money as a story decision. Decisions like these would make for very different experiences for the player, and can completely change the story in some cases (this may even lead to different endings, with good examples in games such as S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl [GSC Game World, 2007] and Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy [LucasArts, 2003]).

Adams also talks about different types of branching effects games can have (Adams, 2009[4], pg 170), specifically immediate, deferred and cumulative influences that decisions can have. A decision that the player has made that has an immediate effect will cause the story to branch straight away and will promptly show the changes that decision has caused (this could be something like insulting the leader of a kingdom causing the populous to become hostile towards you). Deferred influences are when the player makes a decision and the effects are shown later in the game (this could be something like insulting a serf on the street, only to find out later he has become king, causing the populous to become hostile towards you). Cumulative influences are when a series of decisions that the player makes add up to have an effect that is seen later in the game (this could be something like insulting the leaders of every kingdom in the land, causing them to unite as one and become hostile towards you, time to learn some diplomacy?).

Completely non-linear story oriented game experiences come in two types, a story that can be pieced together or tackled at any point (explore Egyptian temples and find the missing pieces of an ancient manuscript for example) and unrelated quests. Stories that can be approached from any point present a challenge for designers due to the fact that as they grow more complex, it becomes harder and harder to keep track of player progress and mould the story around it (Adams, 2009[4], pg 168). Games made up of unrelated quests cannot be said to have a story as such, but rather a collection of small stories all based in one game world. This would be a relatively attractive way of designing a game as it allows great flexibility to the amount of content featured in the game, both for the amount shipped by the release date and expandability for later on. This method of game design and storytelling is unsurprisingly popular in MMO games due to their nature of relying on long term play and subscriptions, but is also starting to become very popular in single player games as technology becomes more powerful, making it easier and more viable to create huge open worlds capable of holding such content.

2.1.2 Game Comparisons
To analyse what features make up some of the best known, successful and original freeform games, a chart will be used to provide an easy comparison.

A Table to show what features are present in the most popular freeform games

Game Name | Main Storyline | Side Quests | Sandbox World | Exploration | Moral Choices | Skill Tree | Character Creation | Diplomacy | The Sims 2 | | | | | | | | | The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion | | | | | | | | | Fallout 3 | | | | | | | | | S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl | | | | | | | | | Mount & Blade | | | | | | | | | Garry’s Mod | | | | | | | | | SimCity 4 | | | | | | | | | Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy | | | | | | | | | Empire: Total War | | | | | | | | | World of Warcraft | | | | | | | | | Guild Wars | | | | | | | | | Super Mario 64 | | | | | | | | | Crazy Taxi | | | | | | | | | Borderlands | | | | | | | | | Metroid Prime | | | | | | | | | Football Manager 2009 | | | | | | | | | Battlefield 2 | | | | | | | | | Grand Theft Auto IV | | | | | | | | | Far Cry 2 | | | | | | | | | Assassin’s Creed | | | | | | | | |

(The Sims 2, Maxis, 2004); (Empire: Total War, The Creative Assembly, 2009); (Super Mario 64, Nintendo, 1996); (Crazy Taxi, Sega, 2000); (Borderlands, Gearbox Software, 2009); (Metroid Prime, Nintendo, 2002); (Battlefield 2, DICE, 2005); (Grand Theft Auto IV, Rockstar, 2008); (Far Cry 2, Ubisoft, 2008); (Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft, 2007)
Green = the game has this feature as an important part of gameplay
Orange = the game features this in some way, but it is not a major part of the game
Red = the game does not feature this

Category Summary: * Main storyline: Whether there is one central quest or final goal for the game (this quest may or may not end the game upon completion). * Side quests: If there are minor quests that are optional for the player within the game. * Sandbox world: If it is possible for the player to manipulate the world in some way. * Exploration: If there are things in the game that the player must discover or the player is able to roam the world freely. * Moral choices: If the player has the option to be good or evil. * Skill tree: If the player has customisable attributes in terms of skill, and whether the player can specialise in certain traits. * Character creation: Whether or not the player can customise their appearance. * Diplomacy: If it is possible to change sides in a conflict, or the player is capable of making friends or enemies.

2.1.3 Comparison Analysis
This section will take a closer look into how some of the games from the previous section scored and why.

The Sims 2 * Main Storyline – The Sims 2 does not feature a main storyline or end goal for each house/family. The whole point of the Sim world is to be a sandbox environment where the player decides what will happen. * Side Quests – The game features targets and achievements for each individual Sim such as making 2 friends or getting a promotion that provide happiness boosts if completed. * Sandbox World – The world can be completely sculpted by the player. The player can add, remove and customise game items and geometry. * Exploration – The player is more or less confined to the boundaries of their property, but in some expansions it is possible to leave the house to visit other locations. * Moral Choices – The player can make their Sims good or bad, or can punish or reward them for whatever reason they see fit. * Skill Tree – Sims can learn and improve multiple skills to help them in everyday life. * Character Creation – The player has a huge degree of control over how Sims appear and how they behave. * Diplomacy – Sims can have complex relationships with one another.

Fallout 3 * Main Storyline – The game has a largely optional main quest (the beginning of the story must be completed before being set free into the world) to help focus the player and provide a back story for the events that unfold in the game world. * Side Quests – There are a large number of quests found around the world that are mostly unrelated and are completely optional. * Sandbox World – The player has the option to blow up specific parts of the landscape, move items around and kill key characters. The player also can obtain their own houses/personal areas around the map. * Exploration – A major feature of the game is a huge open world that the player must explore. The player can move around freely and at their own pace. * Moral Choices – There is an in game ‘karma’ system reflecting good and bad decisions, of which there are many opportunities to do so present in the game. * Skill Tree – Another major feature is the ability to level up, assign skill points and gain specialisations for your character. Players can also choose special abilities that can have varied effects. * Character Creation – The player can customise their character to a great degree in terms of appearance and natural talents (further talents are gained through experience) * Diplomacy – The player can have varied relationships with characters in the game. The player is often presented with multiple options to solve conflicts. This can be through persuasion, bargaining, intimidation or of course brute force (the most common form of “diplomacy” in games).

Empire: Total War * Main Storyline – When starting a campaign there is no real story but the player is given an end goal, it is not specified how to achieve this goal (usually to capture a certain amount of territories). * Side Quests – Throughout the campaign the player will be given certain tasks by the government, such as capturing a specific territory, making certain diplomatic agreements or ordering the construction of certain buildings. * Sandbox World – The player is free to build certain structures around the world and can manipulate pre-placed settlements and key locations. * Exploration – Armies, navies and nobles are able to roam anywhere in the game world. The player can make any decision as to where to direct the nation’s forces at any point in the campaign. * Moral Choices – The player must decide how much taxation is imposed on the people (can differ for upper and working classes). The player must handle the subject of religion when capturing new territory (let the people keep their current faith or impose your own). Player can backstab other nations and gain reputations. * Skill Tree – A wide variety of technologies can be researched throughout the campaign, allowing certain abilities for soldiers, economic boosts, political change and new options for construction. * Character Creation – Being a historical game it is not possible to create a country, but there is a wide selection of nations the player can choose to command. * Diplomacy – There is a huge array of diplomatic options the player can choose from to negotiate, befriend, intimidate and aggress against other nations in the world. The player can form complex relationships with other nations.

Super Mario 64 * Main Storyline – There is a main storyline driving the progress of the game and an end goal. Achieving the end goal does not end the game. * Side Quests – There are a selection of levels with a number of missions in each (including standard side missions such as collect 100 coins or all 8 red coins). * Sandbox World – The player cannot manipulate the world in any real way. * Exploration – The player can explore any section of the world at any time once it has been unlocked. The player is free to explore at their own pace. * Moral Choices – There is only the option of fighting for good. * Skill Tree – Certain abilities can be unlocked throughout the game. * Character Creation – The player must take the role of Mario. * Diplomacy – As Mario on the force of good, you must fight the evil forces of Bowser with no negotiation tools other than your fists and feet.

2.2 Market Surveys
2.2.1 Target Audience
Based on the content that my game will feature and on research carried out by the BBC (BBC, 2005 [5]) I aim to target the age range of 15 to 50. The game will feature scenes of violence and may not be suitable for persons under the age of 15.

The study carried out by the BBC shows that in 2005 the market for the age range this project is targeting was 17.3m, making 66% of the age range likely to purchase a game. Some more up to date statistics as shown below from games information site (Newzoo, 2009[6]) shows that in 2009 this figure rose to about 81% (Note: these statistics also include the ages 13 and 14, so comparison is not completely valid).

2.2.2 Survey Approach
To get a wide range of opinions and to ensure accuracy of the results, this survey will aim to gather 100 responses. The survey will be given to people who should hopefully have a varied and informed opinion on games. This will be achieved by sending the survey to select students from The University of Bedfordshire (in particular from the computer games course) and also posting a link to the survey on popular computer games forums such as

2.2.3 Questionnaire
A copy of the questionnaire given can be seen in Appendix A.

2.2.4 Survey Results
General Overview
Overall the survey was a success, managing to achieve 100 completed surveys (results stopped collection at 100) with many of the respondents choosing to leave additional helpful comments. This gives a wide variety of opinions and a large scope to get a more accurate representation of gamer opinions.

There was a positive take up on the survey from the students the survey was given to and a big online response from the thread on which can be viewed here:

Question 1

The results from this question show that the survey was targeted at the correct people. Every respondent claims that they play games at least somewhat regularly and the majority claim to play games very frequently. This in theory should mean that the survey respondents have an informed and broad opinion about games.

Question 2

The results for Question 2 show a strong leaning to freedom in games, with just 12.7% claiming they prefer the traditional linear game. Multiple pathways proved to be more than twice as popular and open world games proving even more popular still. The trend towards freedom suddenly declines it reaches the peak of game open gameplay when there is no story in games. This result shows that gamers do prefer some kind of direction when playing rather than just being left to their own devices.

Question 3

The results from Question 3 show that story is something that gamers consider to be important, but not critical, even in freeform games. This matches up well from what was learnt from question 2, which shows that players want some direction and purpose to their experience in the game.

Question 4

Question 4 again shows the overall opinion to be important but not critical when it comes to side missions and achievements. This shows that gamers definitely do want a wide variety of things to do at once, opposed to a single driving objective.

Question 5

Yet again gamers consider this feature largely important but not critical. It seems gamers like to have a lasting impact on the worlds that they play in. These kinds of features are not common in current and past games so this may indicate a gap in the game market.

Question 6

The results from this question clearly show that exploration is a key feature that modern games need to have. 89% of respondents claimed that exploration was important or critical to their enjoyment of the game. This means that developers need to make sure that maps are decently sized and curious minds are rewarded.

Question 7

In Question 7 we see that moral choices in games are not considered all that important to the gaming experience, but they are looked upon in a generally positive manner. The results of this question indicate that the majority of players generally do not mind about the moral alignment that their character is given.

Question 8

Question 8 shows a similar feeling to Question 7, in that skill development is considered a positive but not overly important feature. This may indicate that players want some kind of basic skill tree system but do not want it as a main feature of the gaming experience.
Question 9
Question 9 shows that gamers desire some kind of character customisation in their games, but don’t generally require an in depth/fine tuning system for looks. This might indicate that most players are happy with a choice of pre-made characters or a basic hair/skin/clothes customisation system.

Question 10

The results from Question 10 indicate a strong feeling for alternative forms of problem solving, but it is not judged as critical by the majority. This shows that players do like to have some kind of diplomacy or multiple solutions to a problem, basically something that allows for some creativity opposed to one standard conclusion.

Question 11

Custom content is clearly an important thing to the gaming community, 79% said that it was important or critical to their experience with a game. The ability to create custom content is popular due to the extra life it can breathe into a game, allowing people to customise the game to their liking and get more value for the money they paid for the game.

Questions 12 & 13
In questions 12 and 13, respondents were asked to name a freeform game that appealed to them and then asked to explain why. The red chart below shows some of the games that proved most popular in the survey (games that were mentioned at least twice). Games by Bethesda Softworks (The Elder Scrolls series and Fallout 3) proved to be the most popular freeform games by far, only being challenged by Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto IV. All of these games have a very similar structure of a huge open world full of things to do with a main driving storyline to focus everything around. The responses given for these questions are listed in Appendix B. The overall feeling from all the responses was that what truly makes a freeform game great is having a meaningful setting, a good story to drive the game along and most importantly freedom to explore and choice.

Question 14
Question 14 aimed to find out what genres of games were most commonly played by my target audience. The data gathered is shown below in the green charts as the percentage share of the gaming market a genre has, and also its appeal to the average gamer.

The clear winner of the survey was Action/Adventure/FPS as it holds the dominant market share with 20% and a near perfect appeal rating with 97% of gamers claiming to be a fan of the genre. This fact is unsurprising given the fact that very nearly all the games mentioned in questions 12 and 13 fit into this genre.

The two runners up positions went to RPGs and Sandbox environments, which also lend themselves very well to freeform games, often blending with the Action/Adventure/FPS genre to form hybrid games.
It is easy to see why the top games from questions 12 and 13 are so successful due to the fact they combine all of the top three genres from this question and will therefore statistically appeal to 88.33% of gamers and will have 54.76% market coverage.

As suspected, strategy games are a close fourth in the ratings and hold some potential for further development in freeform games.

Question 15
In question 15, respondents were asked if they had any additional comments to make on freeform games so that the survey might turn up opinions and data that might be useful but were not approached by the questions. The results of this question can be seen in Appendix C.
A decent number of respondents took the time to write sizable and/or useful comments. The general point of view was again driving home the point that the best freeform games give a decent story with a lot of freedom, choice and interactivity. Other good points were that moral choices shouldn’t be something tacked onto the game for marketing appeal, but should be something that really has an effect on the game.
Section 3: Project Planning
3.1 Design Blueprints
3.1.1 Design Approach
This project will take the traditional design approach for a game, which includes a design document, some code planning diagrams (such as a UML class diagram) along with a brief description of what is planned for project production, testing and evaluation.

Although the traditional approach has been deemed most appropriate for this project, there are a number of alternatives. Due to this project using Agile, flexibility is key, and planning does not go into fine detail so things are easier to change later. With more structured approaches such as Waterfall and Spiral, additional things such as detailed UML diagrams mapping out exact classes would be formed, getting all decision making out of the way before production starts.

3.1.2 Design Document
Game Philosophy
This game will explore what it means to be a freeform game. The game will introduce features deemed popular and important from the findings of the research carried out in the early stages of the project such as a storyline/setting along with a great amount of freedom and choice with places to explore.

The game will be based on the popular Action/Adventure/RPG/Sandbox hybrid that has proven to make the most popular freeform games. It will also explore including elements of the strategy genre into the game to explore the potential they hold.

The Player
Combining strategy with a 1st/3rd person shooter creates a conflict between the traditional methods of player control. 1st/3rd person shooters typically put the player in direct control of one character throughout the game (or perhaps alternating between characters at certain points) whereas strategy games give the player an omnipresent godlike control over characters and buildings created/placed under their control. To merge these two control styles together, this game will place the player in the role of a spirit/demi-god type character that is able to traverse the world at great speeds (akin to the typical strategy player moving across the world in seconds with their mouse) but will be able to possess characters on the player’s side (similar to the possess feature of the Dungeon Keeper series [Bullfrog Productions, 1997,1999]) to perform actions in a role similar to that of someone playing a 1st/3rd person game. The player will be able to use a first or third person camera perspective in the game similar to that found in games such as Oblivion, Morrowind and Fallout 3.

Game Setting
From the market surveys carried out, a medieval setting seems like an appropriate setting. Games such as Oblivion and Morrowind proved to be extremely popular and have a medieval/fantasy setting. This game will keep the medieval setting that has proved popular in open world games before, but will not pursue the typical fantasy theme as this will place additional strain on the amount of modelling and animation that will need to take place (modelling only humans and human structures opposed to also modelling other cultures such as Orc, Elf, Goblin, Dwarf etc.).

The game will be set in a typical temperate/European climate with north-western European architecture and weaponry. The game will take place in the day with no day/night cycles.

Game and World Structure
In the market surveys, free open world games proved to be the most popular type of structure for games. Therefore the game will feature a large open world that the player can explore at their leisure. The player will be able to develop their settlement based upon the resource gathering carried out by the populous.
The player’s settlement will develop on the opposite side of the map from the enemy settlement; the goal of the game will be to win the hearts and minds of the people in the world in a similar fashion to that of the Black and White series (Lionhead Studios, 2001, 2005). The player can do this by gaining influence, which in turn is received by running a very successful settlement, completing tasks and military force against the opposite side. This allows the player to approach the game in a variety of ways, allowing freedom but still giving some direction. Victory conditions for influence will be decided by the player before the game begins. The player will assign tasks to their citizens by possessing them and making them perform a task. These citizens will then continue to work on the tasks they have been assigned to. Citizens that are working and soldiers that are training will require an inn nearby to eat and sustain their work. When they player possesses a soldier, they will be able to command their soldiers in groups.

Gamers gave their opinion that story and direction are important in games, even if they are based on freedom and exploration. The player will be given optional tasks and quests to do throughout the game to help give them some focus and direction to how they play and perhaps take them out of their comfort zone to provide increased challenge.

The story will focus around the unseen battle between the spirit of pure light and good (who will be controlled by the player) and the spirit of pure darkness and evil (who will be controlled by AI). This metaphor for the struggle between good and bad, yin and yang will provide the basis of the story, and will focus on how the spirits fight each other by using humanity as their puppets. The humans will be aware of the battle between themselves, but not the battle of a higher existence.

Skill building
Character customisation and skill building were found to be desirable but not important in games according to the survey carried out. As a result, these features will not be a huge part of the game. Citizens of the game world will be able to gain skills in three different areas to allow them to specialise and to give the game some tactical opportunity. When citizens do certain tasks they will gain skills in that profession. The more they do a specific job, the more proficient they will become at it, allowing them to use specialised abilities and to be faster at their speciality. Skills will be gathering (collecting resources from the environment), construction (processing these resources into usable things and buildings) and military (ability to fight). The player can distribute citizens amongst these skills however they see fit, meaning many approaches can be taken to achieve victory.

User Interface
With the need to provide a user interface for strategy and first person controls, it will be very easy for the screen to be cluttered with objects and statistics. To keep things clean and simple, the HUD will dynamically change states to only show what is necessary at any one time.

Initial designs for the user interface can be seen in Appendix D.

Game Time
The length of one game session will vary based on how much influence over the game world will be necessary. The player must choose at the beginning of the game how much influence they must hold to be declared the winner. Light and Dark will each hold 50% influence each at the beginning of the game and must steal influence from each other. An average match of competing for 75% of world influence should typically last about two hours. Competing for 100% of influence will mean completely wiping the enemy off the face of the map and may take a significant amount of time.

The game will feature a number of items that the settlement can deal with throughout the game * Wood (chop down trees) * Stone (mine rocks) * Metal (mine ore) * Food (forage and farm)

There will be a number of simple buildings to construct in the town * Houses (need living space for citizens) * Woodcutter (place near trees) * Quarry (Place near stones) * Mine (Place near ore) * Farm (Can sustain self and can allow foraging nearby) * Inn (allows nearby citizens to work properly by eating) * Barracks (process metal into weapons and train soldiers) * Training post (allows soldiers to train up) * Tower (defences to town, can garrison troops)

UML Diagram
To see the initial UML Diagrams, please refer to Appendix E.

3.1.3 Production Planning
* The game will be based on the PC platform and will run on Windows based computers (specifically 2000/XP/Vista/7) * Machines must be compatible with OpenAL sound. * Machines must meet a minimum hardware specification to ensure compatibility with certain features of the game and to ensure decent performance. The initial specification will be Windows 2000, Nvidia 7600GT or Ati X1650, 1GB of RAM, Pentium 4 2.6Ghz (better or equivalent) and 200MB of hard disk capacity free. This may be subject to change throughout development and any changes will be listed in the evaluation.

Development Tools * Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 with C++ .NET for general programming * OGRE3D SDK + Additional Libraries (additional libraries will be gathered on a needs be basis and will be listed in the evaluation) for the 3D engine and some scripting * OpenAL libraries for sound * Autodesk 3DSMax and Autodesk Mudbox for 3D modelling * Adobe Photoshop for texturing and graphic design

3.1.4 Testing Plan
In House Testing
Throughout the game development, the game will be constantly checked for bugs and errors. As well as minor checking every time a few changes are made, at the end of each Agile sprint all features added will undergo functionality testing to make sure they are acceptable. Bugs will then be fixed in the next sprint along with making any changes deemed necessary as having a working piece of software is the priority of any Agile project.
Alpha Testing
To test the game more formally, three major stages will be carried out with external help. The first stage will be alpha testing, where a small selection of people will be chosen and given the alpha build of the program. These testers will report back any bugs and will be asked to give general feedback on their experience with the game. Feedback and changes will constantly cycle throughout the alpha testing period to try and iron out as many bugs as possible. The alpha stage will ideally last at least a week.
Beta Testing
The final stage of testing will be to release the game as a beta version to the public online. The beta version will be aimed at exactly the same target audience as the survey so it will be possible to compare the results and expectations displayed by the survey with the general feedback on the game in its current state. Like alpha testing, beta testing will ideally last at least a week. If time is very limited, beta testing may be combined with the next testing stage.
The final stage will be to conduct another survey, and will again ask the same places and target audience what they feel about the game. The feedback survey will be designed to be comparable to the original survey, so it will be easy to measure the success of the project.

3.1.5 Evaluation Plan
Survey Results and Success Criteria
To evaluate the success of the project, the research survey carried out in section 2 of this report will be compared with the feedback survey carried out after testing is complete. If the project is completely successful, the survey will show that the game will satisfies the needs of gamers in all areas of exploration, freedom, story, content, problem solving, interactivity and customisation. The implementation of strategy gameplay will also be a subject of the survey, if this proves popular, strategy games are definitely something that should be considered more for open world games in the future.

Other Findings
Although this project is ultimately concerned with the approach to games design and freeform games, it will undoubtedly turn up findings in other areas. When it comes to evaluation, things such as the choice to use OGRE and C++ amongst other development tools will be evaluated for how useful and appropriate they were along with any problems faced. Things such as the use of Agile in extremely small scale projects will also be evaluated in a similar fashion.

What Success Means
If this project is successful, it means that this project has found a formula for success with open world games. The success of a game depends on many things, but ultimately games and intellectual properties build their reputation on and are remembered by their gameplay satisfaction. Understanding what gamers demand in their games and finding a way to translate that into development and finally a finished product is more important than ever as the games industry develops, grows, diversifies and appeals to more people than ever before. The success or failure of this project will ultimately give a lesson to learn in how to approach this ever important and changing objective.
[1] Lauwaert, Maaike. 2007. Challenge Everything?: Construction Play in Will Wright's SIMCITY. Games and Culture 2007, [Online]. 195 (2),
Available at:
[Accessed 18 November 2009].

[2] Schulzke, Marcus. 2009. Moral Decision Making in Fallout. The International Journal of
Computer Game Research vol.9, [Online]. Issue 2,
Available at:
[Accessed 28 November 2009].

[3] Griebel, Thaddeus. Self-Portrayal in a Simulated Life: Projecting Personality and Values in The Sims 2. The International Journal of Computer Game Research vol.6, [Online]. Issue 1,
Available at:
[Accessed 29th November 2009].

[4] Adams, Ernest, 2009 Fundamentals of Game Design. 2nd ed. Berkeley(CA): Pearson.

[5] BBC Creative Research & Development. 2005. GAMERS IN THE UK: Digital play, digital lifestyles [Online] BBC. Available at:
[Accessed 4th December 2009].

[6] 2009. Today’s Gamers 09: British National Gamers Survey 2009 [Online] Newzoo. Available at:
[Accessed 5th January 2010].

[7] Market survey carried out with the services provided by and the URL of the online survey is Further details can be seen by viewing Appendix F.

Appendix A – Questionnaire

Appendix B – Survey Questions 12 & 13

Questions 12 & 13: Name a freeform game that appeals to you and explain why

Respondents were asked to name a game and explain why it appealed to them. The names of the games are written in bold and the explanations in quotes beneath them. Some game names have been modified from their original writing to clarify which game is specified but all quotes are as written on the survey. These questions were given as optional as some respondents might not have been able to name an appropriate game, and as such there is not 100 answers. Inappropriate or incomplete answers have been omitted from this list.

“Absolutely stunning landscapes, perfect graphics(pixelated graphics are perfected by now).”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“I have put hundreds upon hundreds of hours into that game. It is the one game I have never uninstalled.”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“Open world,nature,the feel of the overall game”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“There is so much to do and explore, and you can replay the game a second time and it be completely different than your first time.”

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
“The game has a long storyline, and hundreds upon hundreds of side quests. The game is also an open world, and has one of the strongest modding communities I've ever seen”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
“The superior story, coupled with the varied and alien landscape made this game amazing. The modability was merely a bonus.”

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
“The atmosphere as well as the seemingly large game world makes me want to explore it and learn more about it. The game doesn't just tell you everything, you have to figure it out as you go along.”

Fallout 3
“Open World”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“It has a large world with an intense storyline, Large amount of customazation and very, very good replay value.”

S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl
“Open world that lets you explore the majority of the world, may routes and ways to do the objectives in the games”
Assassin's Creed II
“While playing, I have the ability to make my own choices; Do I want to continue the main story line, or pass it for a while and go on some side missions... While it does have a pretty good story line, breaking up into different parts ( Main Story line: Seek revenge upon the people in the plot to kill your family. Second Line: Find the 'feathers', treasures and Assassin Tombs.) In the game, I have the ability to go wherever I want, and do whatever I want. Its also fun, as you have to keep track of your weapons, upgrade them, get new skills/moves, buy new equipement, etc...”

S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl
“Its an FPS/RPG hybrid, it has everything an FPS game has which I highly value but with that sweet taste of RPG, open world, and moddability”

S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl
“The atmosphere I guess.”

Red Faction: Guerrilla
“Engaging storyline, objective-based freeroam style playing, great destruction physics”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“Huge world, interesting characters, 100+ hours of play to get "100%", the game never ends”

Fallout 3
“Very large world to explore.”

Saints Row 2
“Huge number of side missions, nearly unlimited things to do and every activity is fun.”

Assassin's Creed and GTA IV
“Visually appealing design, a simple but effective GUI, and the ability to explore beyond the linear pathway of the game”

Fallout 3
“I just like that there are tons of things to do on the side instead of the main mission and there are lots of cool little details in the game. For example, there is a letter inside one of the houses outside of Vault 101 to one of the guards inside the Vault about leaving to go inside. It just shows that the developers really cared about the backstory to all the characters and the immense attention to detail.”

Shadow of the Colossus
“A large, "Open," world with no features except for the vast and impressive scale of the world itself. Constant wind effects that buffet your cape and hairs, slowly transitioning camera angles that portray a sense of scale.”

Fallen Earth
“Fallen earth is designed with a sandbox style, so you are free to do what you want, when you want. With most MMORPG's you are forced to level and stay between a certain area, however in fallen earth you are not. Instead you may roam and do as you want, it's this freedom that makes the game what it is.”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“It's awesome.”

Grand Theft Auto IV
“Near infinite replayability, especially with mods.”

Fallout 3
“Can customize how your character looks, ability to explore the wasteland, mods”

Elder Scrolls Series, such as Daggerfall/Oblivion.
“The large landscapes and ability to explore/choose what you want to do.”

“Large world, many quest”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“The choice to explore the game world and discover extra locations/items/missions”

Stalker series
“Free Roaming, soldiers, mustants, cool story, and eastern european theme of it.”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“Oblivion has a ton of replay value due to the enormous world and crazy amount of side quests. I've had the game for years and still haven't found everything.”

Fable 2
“Good evil choices effect appearence. Large open areas. Full customization.”

Grand Theft Auto IV
“The option to do absolutely nothing, yet be able to do everything, while still having reason to do the main storyline.”

X3: Terran Conflict
“Free form space flying/combat/trading/empire management game.”

Mass Effect
“Gives you freedom and choice to explore”

The elder scrolls series
“The choice of instant travel or going somewhere normally, the random encounters underway, the landscape. Mostly exporing and sightseeing I guess.”

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic
“Freedome and choices”

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“The landscape and the freedom.”

Dragon Age: Origins
“It has an engaging storyline, lots of content, lots of lore, great dialogue, lots of places to explore etc...”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“Probably the best game I've ever played. The sense of freedom gave me an extraordinary feeling of having an alter ego.”

Gta [Grand Theft Auto (assumed IV)], tes [The Elder Scrolls series], ultima online
“Fun gameplay, fitting atmosphere”

Saints Row 2
“You can customize every aspect of your character and every aspect of their life and how they are viewed.”

Burnout Paradise
“It is one of few free roaming racing games.”

Fallout 3
“Nice environment”

Oblivion, EVE, World of Warcraft
“Masiveness and open world”

Fable, Elders Scroll [The Elder Scrolls series], MMORPG: WoW, Guild Wars, Freedom Force, Hearts of Iron 3.
“Engaging story line with good visuals and fun gameplay mechanics.”

The Elder Scrolls Series
“Choices that affect your morality and standing in the in-game society and your class specialization”

Red Faction: Guerrilla
“The Exploration, the settings and blowing stuff up”

Grand Theft Auto IV
“Ability to go anywhere you like.”

Champions online
“High amount of customization, large enough world to explore, can choose to have online or single player.”

Grand Theft Auto [Assumed IV]
“Good Story, Good gameplay, doesn't force you to progress the story, allows you to explore the city. I wish the city felt more alive though”

Fallout 3, Oblivion, Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl, Rome: Total War
“Free-roam, fun, engaging storyline, interesting characters, NPC interaction, Strategy”

Red Faction: Guerrilla
“Blow alot of stuff up. Allows you to change how you play.”

X3: Terran Conflict
“Builds upon the existing space freeroam gameplay by letting the player own multiple ships and control them in any way he sees fit, and the ability to own space stations, building a military fleet and an economic empire.”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“It's a huge open ended game just by itself, the modding community has increased the games life 10 fold.”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“Freedom RPG”

System Shock 2
“The reason I find this game appealing is a whole lot because of it's storytelling, and overall atmosphere. The "roleplaying" elements, which might be compared to the ones found in "Deus Ex" make for replayability.”

Grand Theft Auto IV
“Due to the massive scale of the game and the immense amount of content and people. It truly brings the game to life.”

Fallout 3, Oblivion
“Great story, lots of details, lots of stuff to do.”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“Extremely modable, completley open world, immersing environment”

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
“Huge landscapes, free to explore, take whatever path (good/evil) as you want”

“Alternative endings, upgradeable weapons (choice), upgradeable/new abilities, freedom to explore, variety of environments, atmosphere of the game”

GTA [Assumed IV]
“The missions feel wonderfully open, the whole world is a lot more immersive, and when you're bored with the missions and stuff, you have tons of other stuff to do.”

EVE online the master of freedom
“Market is 100% player run and all items are player made. Evrything is allowed from scamming to thieving as long as you dont hack. Also 3000 man alliances duking it out for space that you actually care about. (Also evrybody plays on 1 server so no shards)” [Note: Shards are the exact same virtual world but are populated by a different set of players to ease server loads]

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“The fact that you can speak to almost anyone, the amount of playtime it holds and the many choices of things to do.”

Deus Ex
“Most engaging story I've ever played, also very solid gameplay”

Operation Flashpoint
“Freeform modern war”

Far Cry 2
“Large landscapes, choice of transport/weapons/missions/buddies, alot of different routes to places.”
“There are a large amount of non-mandatory side quests and most areas are large and can be explored at any time to look for hidden containers and monsters.”

Grand Theft Auto IV
“Engaging storyline, great gameplay, cool mods.”

Fallout [Assumed 3]
“Open world”

“Its a open-worlded RPG space simulation, with a lot of mods”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“Character creation, immersive world, side quests, exploring”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“The game allows free roam of a very large landscape, full of wild life, and human life too. You go around this large world doing missions for people, in which in some cases you get multiple choices on how to complete the mission.”

World of Warcraft
“There's always something to do -- getting new equipment, exploring world, plenty quests and less important things i.e. getting mounts, pets etc.”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“Character Customization, entirely freeform gameplay. Do basically what you want.”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Fallout 2
“No time limits, interesting setting, tons of things to do, different ways of doing things...”

Fallout 3

Fallout 2
“It presents the player with limited main quest guidance at the start, demanding that they investigate and explore thoroughly in order to proceed.”

Grand Theft Auto IV
“Lots to do, side quests are subtle, sometimes indistinguishable from main story missions”

Assassin's Creed II
“It's free roam and has a great story”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“It's got a huge world, lots of quests, huge modding community, customisation...”
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl
“I love the story and the concept and the setting. It's all very gripping and new, using gameplay elements that arn't entirely new, but giving you new ways to use them. I love how the entire main story is optional, as is anything in the game, it's there if you want it and, if you follow it, you're taken on an epic adventure with a major plot twist midway and an epic ending.”

“Resurrecting the hole damn world and developing the big cities.”

S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl

Dwarf Fortress
“It is basically an extremely detailed game with two main modes of play. Adventure mode, in where you control a single character in an open world. And fortress mode, which is the main mode of play and in which you get thrown on an area of your choosing (glacier, woodland, volcano, whatever you can find in the randomly generated world as each site of the thousands available is unique) with 7 dwarves and that's where the sandbox begins. You can pretty much do anything you like, as long as your fort can survive the enemy sieges, have enough food and booze and so on. You can, for example, decide to build an aboveground castle with towers and restaurants and ballistas, in any way you want, tile by tile, piece by piece. And if you like, you can go the more traditional way, an underground fort with tunnels and huge halls and royal tombs and whatever else you wish for. And the detail in the combat system.. bones can be broken, specific intestines can be destroyed, limbs cut off, there's vomiting, you can poke out eyes and noses and ears and best of all, it's going to be MUCH more detailed in the next version of the game. As a conclusion, I like it because it's a huge sandbox where you can do almost anything.”

S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl
“Open world, mods, different endings etc.”

GTA series and Prototype
“The scale of land that can be explored and the realisim of how much work went into making them”

Grand Theft Auto IV
“It makes good game and you have multiple ways to complete missions”

Fallout 3
“Good story, open world.”

Grand Theft Auto [Assumed IV]
“The good feeling when you play on the gigantic map for the first time”

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
“The game is very open ended and has a lot of replayability”

Appendix C – Survey Question 15

15. Are there any additional comments you wish to make in regards to freeform/open world games?

Out of 100 respondents, 46 chose to leave additional comments. Comments deemed inappropriate or unnecessary (foul language, unrelated information, answers such as “no” or “N/A” etc.) have been omitted from results.

1 [Omitted]

2 How good freeroam games are really depends on the means you get around. When it's an urban game, allowing the player who wishes to parkour is a good idea. Freeroam games need to get around the fast-travel VS exploration problem. Also level design is important. In borderlands I was sad when I left the first area, it felt like home to me. also the bit with the giant digger machine was dissapointing. I was expecting a huge empty flat saltlake, not a [Censored] of rocks, few piles of sand and that big thing in the middle.

3 As long as they make sense there are no bad freeform/open world games

4 All I can say is that they're not very good. Most just have one big level, with no other reason than it makes sense. Side quests are almost like an independant part of the game in that they generally are designed so that they make no impact on anything. I do think there is a gigantic void of open world games never even been touched, but unfortunately it's wrapped up in design trouble and really it's the kind of thing you'd see from an indy developer rather than a commercial one. The problem being is that indy developers could rarely put it together. My favourite game I think could apply is Deus Ex. It's got freedom but linearity in a story that blurs the line well. Exploration, rewards and permanent consequences. It's an unmatched and incredibly well done hybrid that ironically does things so much better than games in their own genres. It's really hard to describe why I paradoxically think it's the best open world game.

5 Freeform and open world games are great unless they force you to do the optional quests. If a game says "get your reputation up higher/lower to continue the main story" and you are forced to do optional quests to accomplish this, than it only serves to artificially lengthen the gameplay without actually accomplish anything meaningful. Another comment I'd like to make is that if you kill someone (or that someone is killed on accident either by outside forces or another character) it shouldn't make the game impossible to beat. There should always be two or three pathways to complete a required quest.

6 [Omitted]

7 No, not really. Well, maybe that they're my favorite kind of games. Especially if its a mix of FPS/Open World or RPG/Open World.

8 A game can still be great if it is a carefully crafted experience, that is to say liner, but having an exploring element or a choice to do missions or quests in any way you choose gives the player some freedom. However without an interesting world, a way to get around the world quickly, and some quests that are more than "go collect this" an open world game will fall flat on its face. Farcry 2 suffered from this, it had a giant world, but nothing else.

9 [Omitted]

10 [Omitted]

11 A focus should be made on proper conveyance of scale. In games like Assassin's Creed and Grand Theft Auto, there is this immense, explorable world, but all you ever look at is your character's back. Assassin's Creed is especially culprit: even when you're standing on the highest building, the camera angle is a boring isometric view of Altair's or Ezio's back. Effort should be made to eliminate the, "Fog," often found in high draw distance games, providing a more convincing DOF and color palette. Usage of 2D sprites and LOD models for far away parts of the world helps solve both problems of color palette and DOF.

12 [Omitted]

13 I think freeroam alone does not create the "freedom". It's mostly the choice to do what you want, when you want that allows this freedom. For example, imagine GTA only allowed you to run around the city and you weren't allowed to access certain features such as; drive a car or buy a weapon. I think it's this freedom to be interactive within the gaming world which really defines freedom.

14 [Omitted]

15 A game can be too open for all players, some form of direction is needed to give the player the correct idea of what to do or where to head too next in a game if its needed to progress. this brings up another point to where every different player thinks and acts differently and this must be accommodated to support all player types.

16 My motivation to explore an open world game soley depends on how immersed I am in it. Atmosphere really counts.

17 One flaw I've noticed in games that let you be "Evil" or in some that let you be "Good" is that there is always someone more evil or more good than you. I want to be able to go all the way and go from a normal human to a extremally powerful and corrupt entity like Voldemort from Harry Potter or Balrog from the Lord of the Rings and have the option to go from a normal human to someone like Batman or [Gandalf] from the Lord of the Rings.

18 I wish all games could be open world, it massively expands upon replayability

19 We need more with out magic.

20 The more diverse areas a game has, the more a game appeals to me. I like being able to walk through snow, make my way through marshes, travel my way through deserts. I love these things in games.

21 [Omitted]

22 Open world games give the player freedom, while linear games give you no freedom at all.

23 I love space games.

24 [Omitted]

25 Open worlds often confuse me, as they seldom have memorable landmarks. Fallout 3 and Saints Row 2 are the only games that have truly memorable open worlds to me.

26 I think being able to make changes to buildings and landscape in destructive and creative ways is very important.

27 They are pretty decent.

28 [Omitted]

29 I prefer to buy open-world games that have excellent AI and such

30 [Omitted]

31 [Omitted]

32 We need TES5. And Mass Effect 2. And Mount and Blade 2.

33 There needs to be a variety of environments to explore, or else the game gets repetitive. There needs to be a choice of weapons (if the game has combat) that are balanced, but for example high power/slow attack or low power/high attack If it's an RPG there needs to be a variety of classes

34 Oblivion (and Fallout 3 for that matter) both suck once you've explored everything. The core combat systems are terrible. They also have terrible voice acting for most NPCs. My two favorite games of all time are Deus Ex and Knights of the Old Republic, mostly because they have such great story and presentation that it pulls you in and makes you want to keep going and see everything. Also on the gameplay side, they both give you different solutions to most problems and allow you to make different kinds of characters with different combat abilities. This makes for great replay value.

35 I find them a lot more interesting than linear or set storyline games.

36 [Omitted]

37 [Omitted]

38 I believe developers should start focusing on freeform and open world games, instead of linear games where the user does not get much choice on how he completes the game. I find exploring a large landscape very exciting and finding out how making my own choices will affect the game compared to someone else playing the game.

39 [Omitted]

40 Sometimes they seem a little empty, and a greater sense of scale can sometimes be gained from linear games where we must use our own imagination to see the game world.

41 They should also be funny

42 There should be more and better

43 Play dwarf fortress

44 [Omitted]

45 In an MMO, I feel that it's nice to have a linear line of quests so as I know where to progress to. Such as in WoW when you finish 1 quest hub you're likely to get a quest to a new, higher level area with more quests. However, in a single player game with an open world it's nice to have the choice to do what you want and when you want to. It doesn't need to be so linear, as long as you some-what know what you're able to do in the game.

46 Many people say that games like GTA or The Elder Scrolls ( many other games too ) are sandbox games, but in my opinion they are not, they still have linearity to it. In oblivion for instance, you would start in the sewers, every single time you would see the king die. You carry on playing and the main quest line really is nothing more than a corridor based game with wider corridors. GTA is like that to. Real sandbox game often also have a very basic main storyline, but not following it does NOT make the game empty, like in GTA, where if you would not do some of the storyline missions the whole game would consist of stealing a car getting chased by the cops shooting some people and either getting away with it or not. On the other Hand, in the X series, drifting of the storyline often means an even better experience. Examples for real sandbox games are : The X series, EVE, Wurm, Garrys mod.

Appendix D – User Interface Designs
The picture below is a concept drawing of how the user interface might look in game. Due to there being different states the player can be in (controlling gatherer, controlling worker, controlling military, no control), not all of these UI elements will be displayed at once. The only consistent features of the user interface will be the influence level bar and resource statistics, other elements of the UI will dynamically slide in and out of view when they are needed.

Appendix E – UML Diagrams
The Class diagram below shows a basic skeleton structure of the object oriented design pattern that this project will follow. Objects in the game will be implemented using classes in the CEntity inheritance hierarchy. Rendering and controls will be handled by OGRE and the various function classes it provides. The management of all of these objects and functions will be controlled by the main CGame class.




OIS (Ogre Input System)








Appendix F – Survey Evidence
Survey was conducted via the free online survey site and the URL of the online survey is
Please note that the survey is now closed and is not available to view. The survey can be re-opened and additional evidence can be supplied upon request.

The survey gathered 105 responses, but results were collected at the time of 100 responses before the survey was closed. The last five responses have not been included in this report or any statistics collected. The screenshot below shows the survey summary, along with a list of IP addresses that have most frequently filled out the survey. The fact that no IP address has filled out the survey more than once is evidence that every response to this survey was carried out on a separate machine.

Appendix G – Project Log

Start of Log (18/11/09)

Project Preparations 1. Friday 4th December 2009 – Have project resource meeting (early as possible)
Contextual Report 2. Monday 30th November 2009 – Have introduction and market research completed 3. Friday 4th December 2009 – Have survey planned out 4. Monday 11th January 2010 – Finish market surveys 5. Monday 18th January 2010 – Finish design blueprints 6. Monday 18th January 2010 – Finish Contextual Report

Wednesday 18th November 2009
1 Hour * BSc Project Resource Meeting (Target 1 Complete – On time)

Tuesday 23rd November 2009 5 Hours * Searching for journals * Started Contextual Report (CR) * Added title and contents page to CR * Added Introduction section to CR * Added ‘The Project’ to CR * Added ‘Project Key Words’ to CR * Added ‘Project Goal’ to CR * Added’ Project Context’ to CR

Wednesday 24th November 2009 4 Hours * Searching for journals and website articles * Added ‘Project Objectives’ to CR * Added ‘Techniques for Realisation’ to CR * Added ‘What is Freeform Gaming?’ to CR * Re-structured project context and contents page in CR

Saturday 28th November 2009
4 Hours * Searching for journals and website articles * Added ‘Structure of this Report’ to CR (Introduction Finished) * Added Contextual Review Section to CR * Added ‘Market Research’ to CR * Added ‘Categorisation of Gameplay Elements’ to CR * Added references section to CR

Sunday 29th November 2009
7 Hours * Searching for journals and website articles * Expanded on ‘Categorisation of Gameplay Elements’ in CR * Added ‘Game Comparisons’ to CR

Monday 30th November 2009 4 Hours * Added ‘Comparison Analysis’ to CR (Target 2 Complete – On time)

Thursday 3rd December 2009
3 Hours * Added ‘Market Surveys’ to CR * Added ‘Questionnaire’ to CR * Added ‘Survey Approach’ to CR * Added ‘Target Audience’ to CR (Target 3 Complete – On time)

Christmas Break

Monday 5th January 2010
2 Hours * Expanded on ‘Survey Approach’ in CR * Expanded on ‘Target Audience’ in CR

Tuesday 6th January 2010
8 Hours * Carried out surveys

Wednesday 7th January 2010
8 Hours * Carried out surveys * Compiled Results * Created Appendix A in CR * Created Appendix B in CR * Added ‘Survey Results’ to CR (Target 4 Complete – On time)
Thursday 8th January 2010
4 Hours * Restructured entire CR * Moved content of ‘Questionnaire’ to new Appendix as Appendix A * Old Appendix A becomes Appendix B * Old Appendix B becomes Appendix C * Added ‘Design Blueprints’ to CR

Wednesday 13th January 2010
2 Hours * Planned out ‘Design Blueprints’ in CR

Thursday 14th January 2010
4 Hours * Added ‘Design Approach’ to CR * Added ‘Design Document’ to CR

Friday 15th January 2010
5 Hours * Added ‘Production Planning’ to CR * Expanded on ‘Design Document’ in CR * Added ‘Testing Plan’ to CR * Added ‘Evaluation Plan’ to CR (Target 5 Complete – On time)

Saturday 16th January 2010
2 Hours * Performed cleanup on CR * Created Appendix D in CR * Created Appendix E in CR

Sunday 17th January 2010
1 Hour * Created Appendix F in CR * Performed final cleanup to CR and attached Log as Appendix G * Contextual Report Finished (Target 6 Complete – On time)

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