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Open World Game Board Concept

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MarkJindra
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While listening to the Building The Game podcast the hosts were talking about the open world concept and how that might work in a board game.

I thought I would put together some thoughts I had about the idea and see what you fine folks might have to add. Are their games out there that already do this? What theme do you think would best be suited to this concept?

And... Discuss

=M=

===================================

Open World Game Board Concept

The open world game concept of video games seems like it may be difficult to bring into a board game especially a board that has no real boundaries. The board from Forbidden Island goes away as it is affected by cards that speed up the end of the game and remove tiles. It might be possible to use this concept along with a way to extend or build out the board to create the illusion of an open world but because most games have a finite length the board would probably not reach beyond the boundaries of a tabletop gaming space.

Random decay might be interesting and allowing players to shore up areas of the board. If decay would cause the board to split the smaller half could be lost and players on that section removed from play and returned to the game board on a future turn. If it splits evenly then the side with less players is eliminated. Then finally it could be random after that so that players have some control over the board.

As an idea the game board could consist of tiles that are double sided. The front being state 1 and the back state 2 and when reaching state 3 they are removed. Another option is that tiles could be layered. Or a combination of the two solutions.

It might be interesting to have a board working against the players while they also work against an enemy such as how Pandemic or Castle Panic work.

Soulfinger
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One game that I was working

One game that I was working on allows characters to explore an underground area. Illuminated areas remain on the map. Darkened areas are removed, and models placed on those areas become temporarily lost. There is an abstract quality to it as a path can lead to a location that is later replaced by another, which is explained as the vagaries of navigating these labyrinthine passages. Technically, it makes for an open world but not a persistent one.

X3M
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Isn't an open world an

Isn't an open world an infinite expanding world?
Like minecraft?

You need to have a lot of board. But I think it can be done in some extend. Like keeping track of your world on a minimap?

For the general public, this is a NoGo. But for hobiƫsts like myself. We do have some ways in doing this.

Mosker
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Confinement: space and incentives

Decaying tiles, map spaces could all be possible--out of sight and gone for good.

Perhaps action could be roughly anchored the center region of table--think of scroll-lock.

But to make this work, there might need to be some sort of incentives for players to stay in relative proximity to one another, even (especially?) in a competitive game. This would most likely put an added priority on theme.

Also playing with ideas regarding limitations on player movement in that as soon as they change direction, what was explored vanishes, but there are penalties that more they travel in a single line.

Time to pull Flatland off the shelf.

MarkJindra
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A Few More Thoughts

The open world concept in video games has several aspects.

The first is a play field that is less confined by artificial restraints. Players can move freely through a virtual world. This does not mean infinite as technology restricts this. Even games such as Minecraft can have restraints put on how big the sandbox is that you get to play in.

The second is that there are multiple paths to an objective or various ways to play the game that all reward the player in some way. For instance a space ship captain could pick up and deliver goods, or that same captain could defend against attacks, or mine asteroids etc.

Then there is a concept of procedurally generated content in a game. This goes way back to games like Elite or Rogue where not only the map but in cases like Elite entire planets, their locations in the 3d environment, and what resources there were available to pick up and deliver were generated randomly for every game.

In a board game I think that the concept where players have many paths through the game have been well explored. Games like Xia give player quite a bit of leeway as to how they want to play the game.

What intrigues me most is the possibility a procedurally generated game board that is mostly limited by the tabletop you are playing on. And has enough variability to give players a familiar yet unique game play experience each game.

Is this doable? I think it would be with a really good theme. Placing lets say hex tiles into a bag and having players pull them out to build the game board. Tiles could decay till removed and based on the proximity to the tables edge certain tiles would or would not be returned to the bag. Moving towards the center could be rewarded with those previously removed tiles returning to the bag. I think of this as sort of a bag building and destruction mechanic all rolled into one.

Thanks for the great discussion thus far =)

=M=

Soulfinger
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Well, you could take the

Well, you could take the sandbox concept literally and run a game set in an actual sandbox, or any malleable terrain, like clay or play-doh. It would be fun to roll out a clay surface and then draw a random stamp each time someone moves off the map. You stamp the surface to create the new terrain, which could then be changed by natural disasters, acts of the gods, clumsy drunk players, etc. If it is oven bake clay then it would be possible to cut the map into sections and bake them for re-use if you are particularly fond of a world that you've generated, kind of a tabletop equivalent of saving your Minecraft map.

X3M
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That was a well written post.

That was a well written post MarkJindra

Minecraft
Well, minecraft can go infinite if the computer has an infinite storage of hard disk. Every "card" of terrain is called a chuck and is stored as a separate file in the "map"map. Not only is the terrain stored, but also what the player has changed.
However, it seems that this is rather limited at the moment. And some players just go walking off in the distance getting their hard disk as full as possible. My personal record is 478 MB.

Boardgame limits
When copying a game like minecraft into a board game. The first issue would be, remembering where we put a certain terrain. Of course it is impossible to take note of all the terrain. You would have to write a book eventually.
The suggestion of the bag with cards intrigues me. That terrain is also disappearing over time is also an interesting concept. With this you could imply that the land changes over time when going on a journey.
But when going on a journey, well, you only have to remember the terrain if you come back. So, we need to think of theme possibilities where we won't come back.

Theme possibilities
Now, the best way to indicate a forever changing land while forgetting where we were. Is setting on a journey.
But what is the reason for this journey? Is there a goal on the end? Of course there is, or else we would not go there.

Now, reasons to get somewhere and not stay where you are is something like running away from something. Perhaps a volcano erupted. And you want to go as far as possible. In this way, the board could be overflowing with lava. I see a game possibility here.

But then you would be needing each other for help. I don't think that is a good goal to get a game with a contest. So I leave that one for others.

How about trying to reach a treasure? One located at the far end of a cave. Now that is a goal where others might try to stop you.

***
The following is just an idea. You may use it or add something to it. But it is how I could use the open world concept for my game.
***

Board set up
The board has little square pieces as terrain (magic maze style). The pieces can only move from left to right. When one is added, all pieces move to the right, just to make room if the new piece needs it. The players themselves will be going from right to left relatively.
The size? Lets say that the width is about 6 cards and the length is ehm... 15? That leaves room for playability. But I think a play test is needed for that one.

Every time a card is removed on one end. A new one is place on the other end. Players that fall behind might be able to remove/place more cards than players that are ahead. This way they could force a player into a canyon. And then that player needs to move back, just to move into the correct path.

Terrain cards
- Clear terrain (with ehm, a clear terrain on the back, you will understand later on... :) )
- Rock terrain, where you cannot move (with a clear terrain on the back)
- Item cards (with a clear terrain on the back)
- Monster cards (with a clear or rock terrain on the back)
- Pool cards (with a clear terrain on the back) for water

Item cards
Now they will contain an item for a player to use. However placing this close to another player is not wise. Several types are present, all random to be picked from another bag once a player gets on the item card.
- iron chest, you need a key for this one, once opened, you may grab another item.
- wooden chest, same story, but... you can use the chest itself as wood for your torch. You can carry it with you including the item. If you find a key, you can open it. If you need wood, you can burn it including the item. This item has 2 sides, closed and opened for that purpose.
- rusty key, well, there you have one :). Once used, it is gone. You can save them up. Making sure no one else finds them.
- key, this one can be used twice. When used once, flip it over to the rusty side.
- mushroom, to be used as... medicine? food? weapon?
- water bottle. This is a permanent. You can save up water and go for a longer period of time. Since water is your main source of staying alive that is.
- Some more wood for your torch. Once it goes out, you will be dealing with a monster EVERY round. No matter what terrain it is.
- A weapon;
---Iron Shield (With a good and damaged side)
---Wooden Shield. Like the wooden chest it is burnable, less burnable when it is damage of course and if it is in a good state, after burning it once, simply flip it over to the damaged side
---Axe (with a good and used side), you also may burn it
---Sword (with a good and used side), not burnable, but durable
---Gun (can carry bullets),
---Another gun, more range, less damage (same bullets)
---Ammunition for the guns
---TNT: pesky monsters, rocks, players... BE GONE!!! To be placed on a field and you need to be able to run away enough fields

Some tricks with TNT:
Ok, here it comes with the TNT. Some players might be laying a double trap. Like a monster with rocks on the back side. If the player destroys the monster with TNT. They might get stuck in the rumbling rocks. Or, when rocks are destroyed. They are suddenly facing a monster.
The only player that knows if it is a double trap, is the one that has laid down this card. :)
There might also be a rock hidden under the clear terrain. So by placing TNT in the middle of no where. You are allowed to turn around 9 fields. And who knows what pops up. More rocks? Perhaps monsters? Items? That much needed water?

Monster cards, with a clear of rock terrain on the back.
Well, you could use these as traps as well.
- 0 range monsters, simply not run into these unless you have to. They are the strongest kind. So using TNT on them is the best way. Attacking them with melee weapons means that when they die, the player might end up under rubble. The chance here is 1/2 for rock.
- 1 range monsters, they can grab a player from some distance, still to be beaten with TNT, or the longer ranged weaponry. Chance for rock is still high; 1/3.
- 2 range monsters, same but a better distance for the monster. TNT doesn't work well on these. You need to roll 6 to get away safely. Chance for rock is low; 1/6.
- 3 range monsters, well, there is no going around this one, is there? Luckily it is weak. Attack these with your melee weapons since they are common and do not posses a rock when dying. Each time when a weapon is used. It gets damaged or destroyed.
For the 0 ranged monsters, you need 4 weapon points. For the 3 ranged monsters, you need only 1 weapon point.
A gun has 1 range and 2 damage each bullet, the Another gun has 2 range but does only 1 damage each bullet.
---A dead monster will drop an item. So you might be able to do some harvesting.

You can use weapons to attack monsters, but also players. Players are more durable of course. And carry a weapon. It is a risk, but eventually worth it.
For staying in the game:
- you may not fall to far behind.
- You need to drink and eat from time to time. You have a thirst bar and a hunger bar. Which declines every round.
- You need to keep your torch burning. A wood in stock bar.
- Your health needs to remain in check. So a health bar.

Well, I guess I made a TLDR post. But it is an interesting concept to be explored :)

MarkJindra
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Great Concept

That is a great concept X3M.

Not getting left behind on treadmill like experience is a great example of classic video games from the old 8 bit era. When games didn't have much memory to work with it was common to have the game move forward only to punish you if you fell behind. I need to dig out my Atari 2600 from storage soon.

=M=

thoughtfulmonkey
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Cards for encounters

I'd had a similar idea to X3M's a while ago (although in less detail). You would have a high-level map showing various towns/villages/dungeons, with roads between them that had different journey times. You'd then have various card decks to represent encounters as you travelled.

If a journey took 6 days, you'd turn over 6 cards one at a time and resolve the encounters.

The original idea got a bit out of hand - with cards having a day and night encounter on them, separate decks for forests and settlements etc. Dungeons were going to have three small decks of increasing difficulty, and you needed to find a door card to move between them.

If you think of computer games like the Fallout series, the large open expanses are filled with random encounters.

I'm currently looking at re-working it into a post-apocalyptic scenario - where you go on scavenging raids in cities and a single deck contains locations, enemies, and items. The locations would stay and expand similar to the old Aliens Vs Predator game.

larienna
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I had an idea that could be

I had an idea that could be something considered as an open world game. But there are special consideration and restrictions:

First it must be a solo game. The goal is to give the player and experience and multiplayer's abtion conflict with each other.

Second, it must be very flexible and have a lot of possile actions. Like explained in this thread, the possible actions of a player strengthen the theme of the game.

http://islaythedragon.com/featured/thematics-knizia-and-evocative-mechan...

The problem is that more options equals more rules so harder to play. This indirectly implies that it is more suitable for a video game, even if more like a video board game. So that some rules could be hidden

I have explored the concept by playing a board game as a toy. A transcription of the results can be found here.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blog/4124/design-exploration-master-magic-a...

An idea I had is like in the star wars bane trilogy where you start as a sith and you try to overthrow the republic and jedi councils. You have multiple path to reach your goal from military attack, to diplomatic manipulation. Adding more options adds more replay value and path to victory, but makes the game heavier to learn and play.

Another experience similar to open world has been transcribed here after a video game experience of mine. The game was not open world but it gave a similar experience:

http://www.videogamegeek.com/thread/1235379/stories-pacific-part-1-were-...

Enjoy!

radioactivemouse
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While the thought of an open

While the thought of an open world board game sounds incredibly awesome, there are things to consider.

Expansions: Even with MMO's, players are always clamoring for new content. Should a concept like this take off, it's imperative you need to create new content. Even Minecraft in all its glory has iterated over and over, adding in new things each time.

Immense amount of testing: With games like Fallout, WoW, and Skyrim, each feature added in exponentially increases the time needed to insure a smooth game. Making the game may be awesome, but its downfall may be in the amount of testing it needs to make it good.

Retention: Board games that demand retention like Risk Legacy, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, and card games like Lord of the Rings LCG have a very small niche audience. It's hard enough to get a regular group of people to play a game consistently, much less an open world board game.

Single player: Larienna mentioned it. Again, this falls into a very niche group of people. I know there are many solo board games out there, but how popular is it? Is the genre strong enough to warrant a person to spend $50+ (assuming there's somewhat of a decent quality to this game) just to play a game alone? Yes, we play video games solo, but the mechanics are all automated; in board games, we do all the automation (flipping cards, battle mechanics, etc.).

But is this impossible? I don't think so. Games like Xia: Legends of a Drift System prove it can be done.

Here's what might work in making an open world game:

There has to be limitation: The world has to have limits, skills must have a cap, you can only give so many options to players. It's hard enough to balance a game where a player has to decide between two choices in their turn, it will be impossible to balance the game if they have unlimited options.

The core mechanic must be be simple: Open worlds can be intimidating...especially if it's a board game. Multiple boards, cards, options need a lot of explaining and can just turn a novice player off. I've stopped playing certain board/card games just because the learning barrier was too high (and I'm an experienced player). To get people to play, it must be simple to understand...and that's a lot harder than it sounds.

Must be released in sections: Your audience must be aware that you have this goal in mind and if you're going to have a lot of options, you're going to have to present it in easily chewable chunks. Unless you're planning to release it all at once, then you're looking at a high price tag and a lot of parts. You'll have something like a Betrayal at House on the Hill where there will be tons of tokens and bits that are only used for very specific situations.

I have experience with making everything from MMO games (WoW) to simple cards games (worked at a board game studio). Open worlds sound like a veritable holy grail for the game consumer, but it's a herculean task for the designer.

larienna
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"Expansions" + "Must be

"Expansions" + "Must be released in sections"

True, you need to release the game as a core game then make expansions that extends the capabilities of the game.

"Immense amount of testing"

In a regular board game that would be true. But if making solo game, the balance does not has to be as thigh as a board game. Because if the player finds a dominant strategy, he can force himself not to use that strategy in another game to get a different experience. But in a multiplayer game, if somebody find that dominant strategy, he screw up the experience of everybody. This is why it is much more prone to solitaire play.

"Retention"

Unless your game can be played fast, or you can split your game in small session where little info jump from a session to another (A bit like thunder bolt apache leader), retention of the information is a problem. This is why it is more suitable for video games. Still it can be done.

"Single player"

Single player also mean less plyaers to enforce the rules so more task for that player. Again implemented as a video game solve this issue. (This is why I am working on my secret project).

radioactivemouse
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larienna wrote:"Expansions" +

larienna wrote:
"Expansions" + "Must be released in sections"

True, you need to release the game as a core game then make expansions that extends the capabilities of the game.

"Immense amount of testing"

In a regular board game that would be true. But if making solo game, the balance does not has to be as thigh as a board game. Because if the player finds a dominant strategy, he can force himself not to use that strategy in another game to get a different experience. But in a multiplayer game, if somebody find that dominant strategy, he screw up the experience of everybody. This is why it is much more prone to solitaire play.

"Retention"

Unless your game can be played fast, or you can split your game in small session where little info jump from a session to another (A bit like thunder bolt apache leader), retention of the information is a problem. This is why it is more suitable for video games. Still it can be done.

"Single player"

Single player also mean less plyaers to enforce the rules so more task for that player. Again implemented as a video game solve this issue. (This is why I am working on my secret project).

I don't think there's enough of a demand for a single player open world board game to merit the work needed to make one. Maybe in the future, but not now. It's far easier to play an open world video game.

Even single player games need testing. Irregardless of the number of players, there's still the human element, which means the game still needs polishing and there will be players that will try and take advantage of the mechanics (min/maxing). I've been through the process, both in video and board game production. Lowering the number of players does lessen the amount of testing time, but for an open world it's not going to lower the test time enough to make that much of a difference. Open world = massive amount of testing. Period.

X3M
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Instead of testing new parts

Instead of testing new parts over and over.
There might be a way for having some sort of rules to your rules. That's right, rules for your rules. So when you do add new stuff, it would be balanced.

Of course it sounds like gibberish if you can't picture what I mean.

For example, I know that I would like to make infinite expansions to my game, mainly new kind of soldiers and tanks. But for keeping it balanced, each new addition requires a minimum. And I have to deal with my RPS system that is going to change when things are added.

Example:
Basic game contains infantry and tanks. This is 2 types of units. For having my RPS balance, I need at 2x2 different units.
When adding a new type like jeeps my types goes to 3. And thus I need 3x3 units. In other words. My expansion will at least be adding 5 new units (9-4=5),

This can only be done if the RPS system is not a fixed one A>B>C>A but a self stretching one. And self stretching can only be done by numbers and math.

So having an open world means, we would like to add some self changing rules.

I hope that this got across, I am a bit vague with explaining today.

radioactivemouse
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X3M wrote:Instead of testing

X3M wrote:
Instead of testing new parts over and over.
There might be a way for having some sort of rules to your rules. That's right, rules for your rules. So when you do add new stuff, it would be balanced.

Of course it sounds like gibberish if you can't picture what I mean.

For example, I know that I would like to make infinite expansions to my game, mainly new kind of soldiers and tanks. But for keeping it balanced, each new addition requires a minimum. And I have to deal with my RPS system that is going to change when things are added.

Example:
Basic game contains infantry and tanks. This is 2 types of units. For having my RPS balance, I need at 2x2 different units.
When adding a new type like jeeps my types goes to 3. And thus I need 3x3 units. In other words. My expansion will at least be adding 5 new units (9-4=5),

This can only be done if the RPS system is not a fixed one A>B>C>A but a self stretching one. And self stretching can only be done by numbers and math.

So having an open world means, we would like to add some self changing rules.

I hope that this got across, I am a bit vague with explaining today.

If you're adding new units that are not unique in any way (other than cosmetic) to the ones before it, then I can see this happening. But the appeal of an open world is also a massive variety of stats on units, weapons, and items. All of these need testing, regardless of the format it's being presented. If it's RPS, then players are going to min/max, putting only the best units in their group, leaving the weaker ones collecting dust, which is ultimately a waste of time and money on those units.

X3M
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Don't just stats

The variety of unit stats. Yes. It is a problem for most designers. However, I don't simply add stats to an unit. The number has an effect that is BOTH bad and good in the game. A natural RPS, not a mechanical one.
Without design rules, I don't design.
***
I could post a TLDR thingy here about one of my games where infinity is not an issue except for an infinite table and free time/lifespan. But I guess if you are interested in that. I could PM you about it. It would contain all the stats and their effects. But also the formula in how the stats truly work behind the scenes. With that I mean the part of the game that players don't see.

PM because...
Without annoying the rest here.... again....no snatching topic... :)

let-off studios
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card concept

I would likely start a simple version of this using a deck of cards for the map, similar to how I used to run things as a DM back in the day with D&D.

Cards would represent steps along the journey between destinations (technically, a distance of like five miles of travel, for example). You would flip a card for each step/increment of distance, and there's a chance of an encounter. Resolve the encounter, and continue on the journey to the destination.

Encounter cards could have more cards "nested" in them. For example, if on card 3 of a 6-card journey the players uncover a cave complex nestled in the hills, they could explore the caves, which may have 4 to 8 cards that must be flipped to thoroughly explore them.

Once players make it to a given destination without any hazardous encounters (or all hazardous encounters have been resolved), the path between them is considered "safe" and they no longer have to deal with the cards between the two destinations.

It also allows for players to explore in wilderness territory. Players can simply continue to explore in a given "direction" until they happen upon a wilderness encounter, then explore that (like the cave complex above), and that becomes the most recent destination.

This can change periodically, for example when future cards indicate a group of bandits has moved into the area, players seek out encounters (which would indicate the bandit groups) along the path between the two destinations. When X number of bandit encounters have been resolved, the threat is considered neutralized and again the path is streamlined.

The process of continually streamlining the travel path limits the amount of space that a given game will occupy on the table, ut still allows for the fluidity of occasional changes and new developments within an area already considered "fully explored."

The game could be sorted by simply using note-taking, random tables, or additional decks as time and complexity is desired. Using it for a "story-telling game" framework could also work well enough.

Icynova
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The (good?) old days.

MarkJindra said: "Then there is a concept of procedurally generated content in a game. This goes way back to games like Elite or Rogue where not only the map but in cases like Elite entire planets, their locations in the 3d environment, and what resources there were available to pick up and deliver were generated randomly for every game."

Wow! I've never known of anybody who remembered Rogue. I played that on an ancient Pr1me Computer. I'll never forget the time I zoomed down every stairway I found until I ran across a treasure room full of storm giants on some deep level in the 40's. Dead, dead, dead...

And Elite? Easily the best of its kind, of the time. Hardly anyone knows what it is.

Good to hear there's somebody out there who remembers the early ground-breaking games. /bow

MarkJindra
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Elite & Rogue

http://store.steampowered.com/app/359320/

Looks the the new generation has their own Elite. But I miss the old c64 version with that horrible plastic copy protection key.

http://royal.pingdom.com/2009/08/26/wacky-copy-protection-methods-from-t...

I also remember those horrible code wheels.

As for rogue. I feel like Sword of Fargoal from the vic20/c64/and now iOS was the most fun rogue-like I think I ever played. But then again I loved Telengard and Temple of Apshai on the c64 as well.

Icynova
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Expansion vs. Scenario

I think the best route would be to create a modular game world using the aforementioned tiles, but also with a modular rule set and generic resource bits, meeples, units, etc.

The shared aspect would be where content developers would create 'scenarios' using the kit game components and rules. An 'Expansion' would be where the developer provides a new rule set, new tiles, new units, etc.

The real value in such a system would be in scenarios, sort of like the Pathfinder RPG world, where the added content would take the form of a document. That means downloadable digital content (printable 'games' or MODS) using the pre-purchased board game physical components.

That's a very interesting concept.

chris_mancini
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Keep an eye out for

Friedmann Friese's new game 504 coming in October...it's basically an "open world" of 9 unique modules, allowing players to mash ANY 3 they enjoy (say, pickup-and-deliver, exploration and racing) into a unique experience. Perhaps there is something to be gleaned from his approach...

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