If there’s one thing open world games want us to feel it’s a sense of possibility; they allow us to make choices about what we look like, where we go on their sprawling maps, how we fight – sometimes if we fight – and how we complete quests. Giving players control over how they complete quests often involves some kind of morality system where they can do the right thing or the wrong thing; kill or don’t kill, steal or don’t steal, work alongside the villainous character or go against them.
These choices are wonderful, but sometimes they can feel oddly sectioned off in that your decision in one part of the map has absolutely no affect on your reception in another part, or your interaction with a character, positive or negative, actually has no bearing on how the game plays out at all because everything has been scripted and has to play out a certain way. This can, unfortunately, leave the choice systems in these games feeling shallow and you as a player feeling ineffectual.
In his game Great Cascade, indie developer Brett Johnson seeks to find a way to make our choices as players feel more important to the outcome of the game, to create an open world “where characters remember and react to the things you do — where your actions matter.” He plans to do this through creating dynamic AI characters and using a system of cause and effect rather than a morality system or a scripted story with branching paths. Brett says that by creating characters with individual personality traits, memories, and goals, who will, as a result, act and react differently to your decisions the game’s story will emerge through your play and will be more obviously shaped by your choices.
The game’s trailer shows the kinds of decisions you’ll be able to make in action; you can help a character get back a mysterious box that’s been stolen from them or you can steal the box for yourself and sell it off to someone else that wants it. Whatever decision you make there will be consequences and it will shape the way the game and your character progresses. Brett says that at the start of every game character traits and relationships are completely randomized making each playthrough a different experience as each decision will be received differently.
Even outside of the game’s mechanics, we’re interested in its visuals; they’re simplistic and bright but extremely pretty and considering it’s coming from a one-man development studio, Great Cascade looks incredibly impressive.
Although there isn’t a release date for Great Cascade yet, the game is currently on Steam Greenlight for a PC and Mac release and Brett is recording its development on his blog. It might be in the early stages of development but Great Cascade has a promising and interesting approach to open world gameplay as well as appealing visuals so we can’t wait to see how it progresses.