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World driven design holds the consistency and believability of the world as the first priority. Every entity and interaction in the world should be designed as a sensible part of said world, the player included.
- All possible player actions should adhere to the same rules as the actions of other entities and vice versa.
- Characters and objects in the world shouldn’t be there just for the player or the story, but rather for the world.
- Events should be based on sequences of actions that happen in the world, rather than whatever is convenient for a story/mechanic.
One reliable tool for world driven design is simulation. When the world and its inhabitants are all run by the same set of systems they stay internally consistent and tend to appear believable.
When designing this way the following questions are useful:
- What universal rules does this world follow?
- What consequences do these rules have?
- Why does this entity exist?
- How does this entity interact with the rest of the world?
World driven design isn’t extremely useful for story or player interaction focused projects where creative flexibility is required. In those cases it can still be used to flesh out the backstory, setting and theme.