Thu. May 30th, 2024

Character development is a crucial aspect of any game, but it takes on a whole new level of importance in open world games. With the freedom to explore and make choices that affect the story, the player’s character can change in ways that are both meaningful and surprising. But what are the different types of character development that can occur in these games? In this article, we’ll explore the four main types of character development in open world games, and how they can enhance the player’s experience. So whether you’re a seasoned gamer or just starting out, get ready to discover the many ways your character can grow and evolve in the vast world of open world games.

Quick Answer:
In open world games, character development is often divided into four main categories: story-based development, skill-based development, exploration-based development, and social-based development. Story-based development focuses on the narrative and character arc, with the player’s choices and actions affecting the outcome of the story. Skill-based development involves the player improving their character’s abilities and skills through practice and experience. Exploration-based development encourages the player to explore the game world and discover new areas, items, and secrets. Social-based development involves the player interacting with other characters in the game world, forming relationships, and making decisions that impact the social dynamics of the game.

Understanding Character Development in Open World Games

Defining Character Development

In the context of open world games, character development refers to the process by which a player’s in-game character becomes more skilled, experienced, and powerful over time. This development can take many forms, from the acquisition of new abilities and equipment to the growth of the character’s relationships with other in-game characters.

Character development is an essential aspect of open world games, as it helps to enhance player immersion and engagement. When players feel that their character is growing and evolving over time, they are more likely to become invested in the game world and its inhabitants. This investment can lead to a deeper connection to the game and a greater sense of accomplishment when goals are achieved.

In addition to enhancing player engagement, character development can also affect gameplay mechanics. For example, a character with higher combat skills may be better equipped to take on tougher enemies, while a character with strong social skills may be better at negotiating with non-playable characters (NPCs). This can create a more dynamic and varied gameplay experience, as players are encouraged to experiment with different character builds and playstyles.

Overall, character development is a crucial element of open world games, providing players with a sense of progression and growth that can enhance their overall experience. By carefully crafting character development systems, game designers can create rich, immersive worlds that keep players engaged for hours on end.

The Four Types of Character Development

1. Skill-based Development

Overview of skill-based character development

Skill-based character development is a type of progression system in open world games that focuses on the improvement of characters’ abilities and skills. Players can acquire new skills or enhance existing ones by completing tasks, defeating enemies, or progressing through the game. This type of development is often linked to a character’s primary function or role within the game.

Examples of skill-based progression systems in open world games

Many popular open world games feature skill-based character development, such as:

  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Players can level up their character’s skills by using them in combat, crafting, or exploration. As skills improve, players gain access to new perks and abilities.
  • Fallout 4: This game offers a robust skill system with numerous perks and abilities tied to specific skills. Players can distribute skill points as they see fit, allowing for a high degree of customization.
  • Assassin’s Creed Odyssey: The game features a deep combat and stealth system, with players improving their character’s abilities through combat and stealth experience. As players level up, they can unlock new abilities and upgrades for their weapons and gear.
How skill-based development enhances player agency and customization options

Skill-based character development allows players to shape their characters according to their preferred playstyle. By allocating skill points and choosing abilities, players can create a unique gaming experience tailored to their preferences. This type of development fosters a sense of accomplishment and personalization, encouraging players to invest time and effort into mastering their chosen skills.

2. Story-based Development

Exploring story-driven character development

Story-based character development focuses on the narrative aspects of a game, with character growth being heavily influenced by the events and choices that unfold within the story. This type of development often ties character progression to the player’s decisions and actions within the game world.

The role of narrative in shaping the growth and progression of characters

In open world games with strong narratives, character development is closely tied to the story’s events and plot twists. As players progress through the game, they may encounter pivotal moments that alter the course of the story and, consequently, the development of their characters. This type of development often features moral dilemmas, complex relationships, and meaningful choices that affect the overall narrative.

Examples of open world games with intricate story-based character development

Some examples of open world games that incorporate intricate story-based character development include:

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: This game features a complex narrative with numerous side quests and characters that contribute to the main story. Players’ choices and actions impact the story’s outcome and the development of their character, Geralt of Rivia.
  • Red Dead Redemption 2: The game tells the story of Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang, with players making choices that shape the narrative and the growth of their characters.
  • Life is Strange 2: This episodic adventure game follows the story of two brothers, Sean and Daniel Diaz, as they navigate a journey filled with difficult choices and emotional consequences.

3. Choice-based Development

Understanding the impact of player choices on character development

Choice-based character development is driven by the decisions players make throughout the game. These choices can lead to branching storylines, alternative endings, and significant consequences for both the game world and the characters. This type of development encourages replayability, as players can explore different paths and make different choices to see how they

Analyzing the Benefits and Limitations of Each Type of Character Development

Key takeaway: Character development is a crucial element in open world games, as it enhances player engagement and immersion. The four types of character development include skill-based, story-based, choice-based, and exploration-based development. To achieve a balanced gameplay experience, game designers should combine different types of character development, providing players with a range of options to choose from based on their preferred playstyle.

Skill-based Development

  • Advantages of skill-based development in fostering player skill progression
    • Encourages continuous improvement and mastery of game mechanics
    • Provides a tangible sense of progress and accomplishment
    • Allows for diverse strategies and playstyles
  • Limitations in character depth and narrative engagement
    • Characters may lack depth and complexity
    • Narrative and storytelling may suffer from a focus on mechanics
    • May not effectively support character development beyond technical abilities

Story-based Development

Story-based development is a type of character development in open world games that is heavily influenced by the game’s narrative. This approach focuses on creating an immersive and emotionally resonant experience for the player by weaving the character’s development into the game’s story.

Benefits of story-based development

  • Immersive experience: Story-based development creates a strong sense of immersion for the player, as the character’s development is intertwined with the game’s story.
  • Emotional resonance: The player becomes emotionally invested in the character’s journey, leading to a deeper connection with the game world and its characters.
  • Motivation for exploration: The player is motivated to explore the game world to progress the story and uncover more about the character’s development.

Challenges in maintaining player agency and freedom in a linear narrative

  • Limited player choice: In a story-based approach, the player’s choices may be limited by the game’s narrative, which can be frustrating for players who value freedom and player agency.
  • Linear progression: The linear nature of the story can sometimes feel restrictive to players who prefer a more open-ended experience.
  • Predictability: The predictability of the story can sometimes make it less surprising or engaging for players who have experienced similar narratives in other games or media.

Choice-based Development

Choice-based development is a type of character development in open world games that focuses on player agency and the ability to make choices that impact the game’s story and world. This approach provides players with a sense of control over their character’s development and offers multiple paths for progression.

One of the key advantages of choice-based development is that it allows players to make meaningful decisions that have a direct impact on the game’s narrative. For example, players may be presented with moral dilemmas that require them to make a choice between two or more options, each with its own consequences. This approach provides players with a sense of agency and allows them to feel invested in the game’s story.

Another advantage of choice-based development is that it provides players with a sense of replayability. Since the choices made by the player impact the game’s story, players may choose to play the game multiple times to explore different paths and see how their choices affect the outcome. This approach also encourages experimentation and allows players to see how different choices can lead to vastly different outcomes.

However, choice-based development also has its limitations. One potential drawback is that it can be difficult to handle branching storylines and maintain narrative coherence. As the number of choices increases, it can become challenging to ensure that the game’s story remains consistent and makes sense. This approach also requires a significant amount of writing and content creation, which can be time-consuming and expensive.

Additionally, choice-based development can sometimes lead to “good” and “bad” endings, which can be limiting for players who want to experience all aspects of the game. This approach also requires a significant amount of player engagement and investment, as players must make meaningful choices that impact the game’s story. If players do not feel invested in the game’s story or do not care about the choices they make, they may become disengaged and lose interest in the game.

Overall, choice-based development is a powerful tool for character development in open world games, but it requires careful planning and execution to ensure that it is effective and engaging for players.

Exploration-based Development

Exploration-based development is a type of character development in open world games that emphasizes the discovery of new locations, environments, and secrets within the game world. This approach encourages players to actively explore and interact with their surroundings, leading to a more immersive and engaging gaming experience.

Benefits of exploration-based development

  1. Encourages player curiosity and discovery: Exploration-based development allows players to actively explore the game world, fostering a sense of curiosity and encouraging them to discover new places, items, and secrets.
  2. Creates a sense of wonder and immersion: As players uncover new areas and unravel mysteries, they become more invested in the game world, creating a deeper sense of immersion and engagement.
  3. Promotes non-linear gameplay: By designing game worlds with multiple paths and hidden areas, exploration-based development encourages players to explore the game world in non-linear ways, leading to increased replayability and player autonomy.

Limitations of exploration-based development

  1. Limited character progression: While exploration-based development emphasizes the discovery of new environments and secrets, it often lacks clear progression paths for the player character, resulting in limited character growth and development.
  2. Potential for aimless wandering: Without a clear goal or direction, players may wander aimlessly, losing interest in the game world and becoming disengaged from the overall narrative.
  3. May sacrifice storytelling for exploration: Exploration-based development can sometimes prioritize exploration over storytelling, resulting in underdeveloped characters and plotlines.

Overall, exploration-based development is a valuable approach in open world games, offering players an immersive and engaging experience. However, it is crucial to balance the benefits of exploration with clear progression paths and character development to maintain player engagement and satisfaction.

The Importance of Balanced Character Development in Open World Games

Achieving a Harmonious Blend

  • The significance of combining different types of character development

In open world games, it is crucial to offer a diverse range of character development options to cater to various player preferences. By providing a combination of different types of character development, players are able to choose the approach that best aligns with their playstyle, creating a more immersive and enjoyable experience.

  • Creating a balanced gameplay experience that caters to various player preferences

Balancing character development types is essential to ensure that each option provides a unique and valuable experience. A well-balanced game should allow players to experiment with different character progression paths without feeling forced into a particular direction. This encourages players to explore different aspects of the game and discover their preferred playstyle, leading to a more engaging and rewarding experience.

Engaging the Player

One of the primary objectives of character development in open world games is to engage the player. The following are some of the ways in which diverse character development methods can enhance player engagement and investment:


Offering a variety of character development methods is crucial to maintaining player engagement. Players should have a range of options to choose from, including combat, exploration, and social interactions. By providing different paths to character development, players can choose the one that best suits their playstyle, which in turn keeps them engaged and invested in the game.


Challenges are another essential element in engaging players. As players progress through the game, they should encounter increasingly difficult challenges that test their skills and abilities. These challenges can come in the form of powerful enemies, puzzles, or quests. By overcoming these challenges, players feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, which encourages them to continue playing and developing their character.


A sense of progression is crucial to player engagement. Players should feel that they are constantly improving and growing as they play the game. This can be achieved through a variety of means, such as leveling up, acquiring new skills and abilities, or finding better equipment. As players progress, they should be able to see tangible improvements in their character’s abilities, which helps to maintain their engagement and investment in the game.


Finally, players need to have clear goals to work towards. These goals can be specific to the game, such as completing a particular quest or defeating a boss, or they can be more general, such as becoming the most powerful player in the game. Whatever the goals may be, they should be achievable but challenging, and players should be able to see progress towards them as they play. This helps to maintain their motivation and engagement in the game.

Evolving Character Development in Open World Games

As open world games continue to evolve, so too does the approach to character development. In the past, character development in open world games often focused on combat and survival skills, with little attention paid to the emotional or personal growth of the player character. However, as game designers have become more adept at creating immersive and realistic game worlds, they have also begun to pay more attention to the psychological and emotional development of their characters.

One of the key trends in evolving character development in open world games is the focus on player choice and agency. Rather than simply following a linear story or set of objectives, players are given the freedom to make their own decisions and shape their own character. This can include everything from choosing which side missions to complete, to making moral choices that affect the outcome of the game.

Another innovation in character development is the incorporation of dynamic, real-time events and quests. Rather than simply offering a series of static missions, open world games now often feature events and quests that change based on the player’s actions and choices. This adds an extra layer of depth and complexity to character development, as players must not only make choices about their own character, but also about the world around them.

In addition to these trends, evolving character development in open world games also includes the incorporation of more realistic and nuanced character relationships. Rather than simply having a series of one-dimensional allies or enemies, open world games now often feature complex relationships with other characters that are shaped by the player’s choices and actions. This can include everything from forming alliances with rival gangs, to romancing NPCs and starting families.

Overall, the evolution of character development in open world games is driven by a desire to create more immersive and realistic game worlds, as well as to give players more agency and control over their own characters. As game designers continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in open world games, it is likely that character development will continue to play an increasingly important role in the overall gaming experience.


1. What are the four types of character development in open world games?

There are four main types of character development in open world games: leveling up, skill trees, crafting, and character customization.

2. What is leveling up?

Leveling up is a type of character development in which the player’s character becomes more powerful as they progress through the game. This is typically achieved by gaining experience points (XP) through various activities, such as defeating enemies or completing quests. As the player’s character levels up, they may gain new abilities or improved stats.

3. What is a skill tree?

A skill tree is a visual representation of the different abilities and skills that a player can unlock for their character. In open world games, the skill tree is often used to show the player how their character’s abilities will evolve as they progress through the game. Players can choose which skills to unlock and upgrade, allowing them to customize their character’s abilities to suit their preferred playstyle.

4. What is crafting?

Crafting is a type of character development in which the player uses resources to create new items or upgrade existing ones. In open world games, crafting may involve gathering materials from the environment or purchasing them from vendors, and then using those materials to create weapons, armor, or other items. Crafting can allow players to customize their character’s equipment and improve their effectiveness in combat or other activities.

5. What is character customization?

Character customization is a type of character development in which the player can alter the appearance of their character. This may include changing the character’s hairstyle, clothing, or other visual elements. In open world games, character customization may be used to allow players to create a unique look for their character or to reflect their personal preferences.

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