Storytelling in Open World Games

A Writer’s Guide

Story vs. Interactivity

Player choice and alternate endings

Cost of multiple endings

Tactics vs. Narrative

  • If the consequences of the choices are clearly minor or short-term, then tactical considerations have less weight when making the decision. For example, most conversational “dialog tree” responses are informational only, with no lasting effect on gameplay. (Designer Chris Crawford calls structures like this “fold-back”, alluding to the fact that the diverging branches of the story eventually converge, so no matter which path you choose you end up in the same place.)
  • Similarly, if the consequences of a decision are hard for the player to predict, they may simply choose the most appealing option rather than trying to work out which choice is most advantageous.

Story Arc Swarms

Laundering Violence

Story Arc Independence

  • If Sir Gawain must encounter the Green Knight before Sir Galahad reaches Castle Perilous, then the player no longer has the freedom to choose the order in which they experience stories — the world is no longer as “open” as before.
  • If the Green Knight somehow manages to kill Sir Galahad before he reaches Castle Perilous, then that story is “broken” — the events of the narrative can no longer play out.

Nested Story Arcs

Story and Geography

Stories and Quests

Stories and History


Character Development and Dialogue

  • [Mercy] — “Everyone deserves a second chance. Spare his life.”
  • [Justice] — “There must be consequences for actions like this. Carry out the sentence.”
  • [Non-Virtuous] — “It’s not my decision to make, you should decide.”
  • [Informational] — “What does the Law require?”


See Also



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