Creating a world in a video game setting isn't exactly the hardest thing in the real world to do. In fact there isn't just one formula game devs have to follow in order to create an appealing custom world for gamers to get into. Does this game world possess the rules that you would see in simulation games such as The Sims? Does this game world have customization options that are cute and playful like that of Animal Crossing? Is this game world centered around the act of combat where you have to fight for more territory? Just knowing how far a game world can branch out is satisfying enough for any game dev team.
Now the question must be posed. What exactly makes a game world iconic? What makes a game world memorable? What are the key defining traits of a custom game world that make a gamer want to come back and revisit? What's the secret?
Mushroom Kingdom (Mario)
Donkey Kong Island (Donkey Kong)
Various Zones (Sonic)
Trio Islands (Crash Bandicoot)
Bomber Star (Bomberman)
Why don't we examine the listed custom worlds above? You only need to dig through parts of these worlds to realize why these worlds stick out to gamers. They're not only fun to explore through, but they're also challenging, breath-taking in visuals, and they can relate to some real life locations. The mannerisms of Mario characters in the Mushroom Kingdom, particularly how they live in the area, often remind gamers of London, England in one sense. Donkey Kong Island and the Trio Islands remind gamers of what a cruise trip to island resorts is like. The design of Bomber Star is basically a comical take on planet Earth. The various zones that you see in Sonic games remind you of modern locations in the real world that are easily relatable in the sense of how teenagers and young adults view it.
What is a basic formula that you could use for creating a custom game world? I'm no expert at this, but being a passionate student of game development, I'd have to believe that personally you need elements that can propel your own custom world into being something that gamers are going to enjoy and understand. Look below.
Imagination + Innovation + Inspiration + Resourcefulness + Reconstruction + Relation + Theme =
Custom Game World
I'd like to think that you need some sort of imagination, an idea of what you really want your custom game world to be about, before you dive in. There are some rules in the real world that you just can't break whereas in your custom game world you can afford to disregard, hence there comes innovation. Inspiration comes when you focus on something or someone and you want to take bits and pieces of that source and apply that to your custom game world.
However, don't expect every single part of your inspiration to remain in tact once it's applied in your world, so you will have to tweak and reconstruct it to fit in with everything else. When designing your world map, it has to be something that gamers can relate to, offering the chance of gamers having fun exploring through this world without getting lost in it. Lastly, the theme that you choose for your custom world, or maybe even an emphatic message you want to get across, will play a role in whether your custom game world sinks or swims.
I can only offer my opinion when it comes to creating your own custom video game world, but I hope this was helpful. Personally I'm always creating custom maps of areas that I think could be used in a video game setting. The creative juices need to keep churning, after all.