Agency in Open Games

17 Feb 2019

A whole two years have passed since my last post, huh? I don't even remember what all has happened in this time. Recently, I helped out a little with the indie game Vintage Story (such as refactoring mod loading), created my CarryCapacity mod for said game, and something I called "hyxel", a ray-traced, 4-dimensional game experiment.

I also started working on yet another game engine from scratch, but more on that when there's actually something worthwhile to show and talk about.

I figure I'm going to make things brief, and be open about that fact. I'm not particularly good at this whole blogging thing - I have a point to bring across! Let's start by outlining my experience with and opinions about different kinds of "open" games as I see them.

What "open" games do we have today?

(The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, The Legend of Zelda™: Breath of the Wild and Elite: Dangerous, three games that came to mind when thinking of what "open world" means to me.)

(Dwarf Fortress, Minecraft and ECO, games I actually have played - or at least tried to.)

(Terasology, Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead and OpenTTD.)

We need to give players AGENCY!

Agency is the capability for a being to act in an environment. It sounds like a great way to describe and discuss how much of an impact a player actually has on their game world. Especially when it comes to actions the developer didn't necessarily intend or at least ones that they have less control over.

For me, it started even before I looked for a "multiplayer Dwarf Fortress" and ended up finding Minecraft while it was still in its infancy. Ever since I got infected with this "need" for games to give me something to do that I can be proud of. The desire to create something that allows others to create, express themselves and experience has only grown as well.

Here's some notable examples in games today that bother me:

... I've played a lot of Minecraft over the years, okay?

What Agency could look like

Allow players to shape the world they're in!

Both as a player and developer, I want more agency in games! Other than hopefully creating more fulfilling gaming experiences, we could also inspire and perhaps even teach people to reshape their human existance and environment in the real world!