The Indecision, what a show! The Indecision, here we go!

It's been only ten days since I announced that I had finally made a decision for which of my two game ideas I want to pursue, and only two days since I wrote a bit more about my priorities for making an open-world immersive-simulation.

And yet, here we are again.

In the last two days, I cooled significantly about my plans to make an open-world first-person game and instead rediscovered the spark that had me originally excited about making a top-down party-RPG.

The biggest factor has probably been my contemplation about representing the scale of the world in-game. While it's not strictly a technical requirement, open-world games basically always have a single continuous overworld map. Skyrim somehow manages to just pull it off to make its world feel like the country it is supposed to represent, but that map is already of a size that would be completely delusional for me to attempt all by myself. Other than that, open-world games usually cover a single island, valley, or city, and have a clear focus on a very local story. But I really like the idea of travelling the world, and also the world feeling world-sized. Isometric RPGs typically had a big world map screen that was covered in icons that you can click to travel between small local area maps. And with this approach, you can imply these maps being any distance apart from each other that you want. You could do that in an open-world game too, but the idea of having a loading screen say that you traveled for 60 days and arrive at a new location somehow just feels off. Again, Metro Exodus uses that approach, but it's really much more a cinematic narrative game than a sandbox. For a top-down game, using a travel system between areas as in Fallout feels much more appropriate.

Fallout Travel Screen
Travel Screen in Fallout

But another thing that has been on my mind is that I am quite in favor of the game being more about exploring and taking in the world rather than the personal story of the player character. I feel that such a game would benefit from having a certain distance between players and characters. A degree of detachment that is in direct conflict with a first-person perspective. I think this kind of game would probably feel rather empty and boring as a first-person game where you have to be very hands on and precisely control every character movement. In a top-down third-person game, you simply give a command to a character with one or two clicks, and then can lean back and observe the character execute it autonomously. You can pause the game world while thinking about what commands you want to give to characters, and success or failure depends entirely on the choices you make, without need for precision movement or timing. When combat happens, it becomes much more of a tactics game rather than an action game. This is a bit of a difficult concept to express in words, and I can totally understand if this sounds boring and dull when phrased like that. But I think people who have played older iso-RPGs or even JRPGs might know what I am trying to get at.

Thirdly, even with my plan to go for a rather low-fidelity visual representation of the game world, there is still a considerable gap in the amount of detail that you can see when looking at indoor environments with a camera from half a meter away compared to 10 meters away. With a top-down third person camera, you can make the clutter on tables and on shelves somewhat oversized and with much lower detail and still look good and appropriate without getting cartoonish. This should speed up the amount of time it takes to create towns and the insides of buildings by several times.

So here I am, again very much considering how I would want to make a game that is much similar to classic Fallout and Kenshi than to Morrowind and Thief. But who knows? After a week of considering the potentials and consequences for such a switch, I might come back to favoring the first-person game option again.

To close up this post, here are a couple of reference screenshots I collected that represent the graphical fidelity that I would want to reach with a top-down game.

Encased Screenshot #1
Screenshot from Encased (2021)
Encased Screenshot #2
Screenshot from Encased (2021)
Kenshi Screenshot #1
Screenshot from Kenshi (2018)
Kenshi Screenshot #2
Screenshot from Kenshi (2018)
Atom RPG Screenshot #1
Screenshot from Atom RPG (2017)
Atom RPG Screenshot #2
Screenshot from Atom RPG (2017)
Dungeon Siege Screenshot #1
Screenshot from Dungeon Siege (2002)
Dungeon Siege Screenshot #2
Screenshot from Dungeon Siege (2002)