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Making the wilderness interesting


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#1 Ashaman73   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7991

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 11:42 PM

Think of a wilderness, the space between towns and dungeons, in a rpg game.

What would make it interesting for you and not just plain boring ?

Edited by Ashaman73, 03 July 2012 - 11:52 PM.


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#2 mrjones   Members   -  Reputation: 612

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 02:21 AM

Add bugs and plants. Make them react to player. Scaring butterflies off flowers can sometimes amuse me for hours. Joking aside, it really adds a lot to have other interactive elements in wilderness than just animals that try to attack you.

#3 kseh   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2203

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 02:32 PM

I liked the wilderness in Red Dead Redemption. The ambient creatures gave more of a sense that things were living there. However some of the animals were too aggressive. They were also the only real danger in the wilderness and easily avoidable while on horseback which was more often the case than not. A few more basic survival elements in there might've been nice.

#4 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10631

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 02:50 PM

Skyrim's wilderness is pretty kickass.
Unfortunately, Skyrim is "over-populated". You are always one stretch away from discovering something, and I think that removes the awe factor (that and the compass telling you something's nearby!).

I'd really love to lose myself in a neverending forest and come across a deserted/ruined cabin with some lore (a letter adressed to a stranger) that could indirectly toss me into a subquest. Basically, anything that rewards exploring off the beaten path.

#5 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 19374

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 03:42 PM

If your wilderness isn't interesting and traveling through it is just filler between the real content then you might consider removing it entirely.

Some things you could add to make it more interesting include random (and preferably varied) encounters, optional side quests, and interesting scenery -- some interactive (even if really pointless) elements such as the above-mentioned scattering bugs could help with this, as could some unique pieces of scenery along the way.

You could include some sort of achievement for visiting x amount (and/or all) "tourist attractions".

If a player feels they have discovered something rare or unique (even if that discovery is otherwise useless) they will usually feel a sense of satisfaction.

Consider some way of skipping or reducing the duration of tedious travel time. Teleports might skip travel, or a horse rather than walking might make it faster.

#6 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2243

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 04:30 PM

For me the main joy of wandering in the wilderness is:
1. The chance of finding some unmarked quest or secret content.
2. Great views.
3. Random encounters.

It's even better if the "random encounters" have some procedural element to them, e.g. carnivore attacking herbivores, normally non-hostile herbivore attacking if it's young are nearby, etc.

#7 Ashaman73   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7991

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 11:41 PM

Make them react to player. Scaring butterflies off flowers can sometimes amuse me for hours.

I will keep this in mind, more of a gimik, but at least entertaining.

I liked the wilderness in Red Dead Redemption.

Never played RDR, but from what I watch on youtube, it seems to be quite large. My wilderness is a lot smaller.

I'd really love to lose myself in a neverending forest and come across a deserted/ruined cabin with some lore

I think that this would be the ultimate goal, but the content creation to archive this is just too expensive at the moment. Maybe a procedural approach, hmmm.

1. The chance of finding some unmarked quest or secret content.
2. Great views.
3. Random encounters.

This is in line with what Orymus sugguested. But there are already other parts in the level which fullfill this task,hmm..

If your wilderness isn't interesting and traveling through it is just filler between the real content then you might consider removing it entirely.

I think that I will start with removing most of the wilderness until I have the time to create one of the sugguested secret locations/random encounters.

#8 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2243

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 11:51 PM

I might modify my statement a little... a wilderness doesn't necessarily have to have all those elements, but I feel that it should at least offer the promise of those things. If you know nothing will happen for the next 2 minutes walking, it's annoying. If you're constantly looking out expecting something may happen, it can be fun. So offer tunnels, canyons, hills, leaves blowing in the mid-ground to keep the player alert. But yeah... don't put too much empty pointless space in. And let people skip past it later, e.g. teleport to discovered waypoints.

#9 Al_capwn'd   Members   -  Reputation: 125

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 12:45 AM

I find that what makes a wilderness interesting for me is a huge variety in shapes and colors of the world. i didn't like skyrim's wilderness because it all felt the same. Make it diffrent, make it vibrant, and if you can, make it huge. If you can make it large, add survival elements, possibly similar to DayZ.

#10 mKatz   Members   -  Reputation: 732

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 11:31 AM

I might modify my statement a little... a wilderness doesn't necessarily have to have all those elements, but I feel that it should at least offer the promise of those things. If you know nothing will happen for the next 2 minutes walking, it's annoying. If you're constantly looking out expecting something may happen, it can be fun. So offer tunnels, canyons, hills, leaves blowing in the mid-ground to keep the player alert. But yeah... don't put too much empty pointless space in. And let people skip past it later, e.g. teleport to discovered waypoints.

I find that what makes a wilderness interesting for me is a huge variety in shapes and colors of the world. i didn't like skyrim's wilderness because it all felt the same. Make it diffrent, make it vibrant, and if you can, make it huge. If you can make it large, add survival elements, possibly similar to DayZ.


These quotes really hit home with me. The fact that the wilderness in a game should be ever changing, as in seasonal wilderness, would definitely bring me in. AI when it comes to animals I'd like to see a breathing world without the need of the player to discover it. Animals hunting, plants growing while animals eat them, etc.

Variety is the spice of life. Rain forests, coniferous forests, deserts, snow wastelands. These all interest me very much, and to have a living breathing world that is not a ruins or temple every 3 minutes really would to me make the play experience one of a kind.

#11 Ashaman73   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7991

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 11:13 PM

AI when it comes to animals I'd like to see a breathing world without the need of the player to discover it. Animals hunting, plants growing while animals eat them, etc.

Simulations are not games, so integrating a simulation in a game is always a nice idea, but it brings a very heavy burden with it. You can compare it to hollywood movies, you don't need to simulate an whole ancient city with a million population to make 3 scene shoots in it.

The problem is, that the player would not recognise it as simulated world, there's even the danger of missinterpreting emerging behaviour as bug. L4D is a great example of a virtual populated world which is only simulated close to the players.

#12 mKatz   Members   -  Reputation: 732

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 12:41 AM

Your correct in your response, saying that a true simulation would almost be irrelevant because of the burden if it was an RPG. L4D is an example, but if say within 30 feet AI interactions would coincide with objects in the world or other AI animals in the wilderness would be ideal in my opinion.

#13 mKatz   Members   -  Reputation: 732

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 12:45 AM

Skyrim would be a good example of what im talking about. Just more AI interaction with the environment along with other AI.

#14 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2243

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 03:59 AM

Simulations are not games, so integrating a simulation in a game is always a nice idea, but it brings a very heavy burden with it. You can compare it to hollywood movies, you don't need to simulate an whole ancient city with a million population to make 3 scene shoots in it.

The problem is, that the player would not recognise it as simulated world, there's even the danger of missinterpreting emerging behaviour as bug. L4D is a great example of a virtual populated world which is only simulated close to the players.


Car racing and flight sim fans would care to disagree. Posted Image I agree that granular simulations are usually surplus to requirements. However I do think that simulations with a degree of LOD could be worthwhile. For example, simulate animals nearby in a granular way, and for other areas simply simulate broad predator/prey dynamics and migration patterns. I agree that emergent behaviour can be tricky. Perhaps truly emergent behaviour is not desirable, but rather representative set pieces, e.g. if a herbivore runs from a carnivore the carnivore should always be coming from a direction that the player can see. But overall I would welcome some sort of nature simulation as a source of new types of "random" encounter and to avoid that creepy "all these creatures exist only so you can kill them" feeling.

#15 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3988

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 08:11 AM

I think the real question is not how to make wilderness interesting (because it is trivial, just make a lot mini secret locations with secrets and quests and hidden treasures) but how to make it interesting in a cheap way (because you want to focus your development effort on the locations, not the wilderness).

The biggest thrill of wilderness travelling is discovery of secret locations, so I guess there is no way artound it, you need to make at least a few unique handmade mini locations without telling the player the coordinates of these). Everything else should be generated randomly.

There could be:
- 10 old bunkers (shape "generated" cheap way by putting together 3x3 sections made of 6 predefined sections), each holds a standard random treasure and 1 old electronic chip (3 of these bunkers will have broken chips), when ypou collect all working chips you can build something out of it. The exact coordinates of these bunkers changes every game and are totally random
- many hidden caches with random resources, come in 3 versions: small, medium, large.
- there are 20 parts of machine X, generated randomly among the bunkers and caches above as a rare treasure (and very rarely could be found just plain on the ground), when you collect 5 you can build something awesome
- rare plants that can be processed into something (so plain "found something" thing)

I also recommend checking "Barbarian Prince" and "Tales of the Arabian Nights" boardgames, these had a lot of randomly generated things with auto generated secrets and storyline.

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#16 mKatz   Members   -  Reputation: 732

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 09:09 AM


Simulations are not games, so integrating a simulation in a game is always a nice idea, but it brings a very heavy burden with it. You can compare it to hollywood movies, you don't need to simulate an whole ancient city with a million population to make 3 scene shoots in it.

The problem is, that the player would not recognise it as simulated world, there's even the danger of missinterpreting emerging behaviour as bug. L4D is a great example of a virtual populated world which is only simulated close to the players.


Car racing and flight sim fans would care to disagree. Posted Image I agree that granular simulations are usually surplus to requirements. However I do think that simulations with a degree of LOD could be worthwhile. For example, simulate animals nearby in a granular way, and for other areas simply simulate broad predator/prey dynamics and migration patterns. I agree that emergent behaviour can be tricky. Perhaps truly emergent behaviour is not desirable, but rather representative set pieces, e.g. if a herbivore runs from a carnivore the carnivore should always be coming from a direction that the player can see. But overall I would welcome some sort of nature simulation as a source of new types of "random" encounter and to avoid that creepy "all these creatures exist only so you can kill them" feeling.


I completely agree with you jefferytitan, The fact that sabre tooth cats aren't running around chasing foxes running across the screen instead they go after me is a little, how you say, boring.

I think the real question is not how to make wilderness interesting (because it is trivial, just make a lot mini secret locations with secrets and quests and hidden treasures) but how to make it interesting in a cheap way (because you want to focus your development effort on the locations, not the wilderness).

The biggest thrill of wilderness travelling is discovery of secret locations, so I guess there is no way artound it, you need to make at least a few unique handmade mini locations without telling the player the coordinates of these). Everything else should be generated randomly.

There could be:
- 10 old bunkers (shape "generated" cheap way by putting together 3x3 sections made of 6 predefined sections), each holds a standard random treasure and 1 old electronic chip (3 of these bunkers will have broken chips), when ypou collect all working chips you can build something out of it. The exact coordinates of these bunkers changes every game and are totally random
- many hidden caches with random resources, come in 3 versions: small, medium, large.
- there are 20 parts of machine X, generated randomly among the bunkers and caches above as a rare treasure (and very rarely could be found just plain on the ground), when you collect 5 you can build something awesome
- rare plants that can be processed into something (so plain "found something" thing)

I also recommend checking "Barbarian Prince" and "Tales of the Arabian Nights" boardgames, these had a lot of randomly generated things with auto generated secrets and storyline.


I don't think you got the point of this, me personally I get bored of the same old stupid ruins I come across of, or the fort. I want to focus generally speaking on the wilderness. I would like to see more diversity in the wilderness

#17 mKatz   Members   -  Reputation: 732

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 09:36 AM

and a lot more interaction with everything in the wilderness. The forts, secret locations, hidden treasures are all fine, but I want to see a real living breathing wilderness around the player

#18 Mratthew   Members   -  Reputation: 1581

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 12:41 AM

Consider the pacing of the gameplay as well. Pretend you are the player moving through that wilderness the first time, is it important that the player relax after a hard fought battle, build tension towards an intense encounter, experience something new (because the games been pretty quiet), learn something useful for the area they are headed to, etc? These factors will help decide what the reason for the gap between locations is an how big it should be. Now pretend you are the player who's been grinding for 4 hours in that god forsaken wilderness. The sections between player way-points can be very useful. Be the player, test it in your mind before you start filling it with assets. I don't know if I agree with removing it because travel and discovery are important aspects in an RPG they help the player prioritize objectives, number crunch, let the game and the OMG moments sink-in.

Explore the weather and the seasons. All wilderness experiences incredible things worth showing off from climate changing. So many RPG's have a static world. Plants move and change,animate them, they deserve it! And animate them for a reason. Have encounters with bad guys that blend in with the forest in fall, or grow hardier during winter, etc.

Hope this helps.

#19 Tecknowolf   Members   -  Reputation: 149

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 01:36 AM

Consider the pacing of the gameplay as well. Pretend you are the player moving through that wilderness the first time, is it important that the player relax after a hard fought battle, build tension towards an intense encounter, experience something new (because the games been pretty quiet), learn something useful for the area they are headed to, etc? These factors will help decide what the reason for the gap between locations is an how big it should be. Now pretend you are the player who's been grinding for 4 hours in that god forsaken wilderness. The sections between player way-points can be very useful. Be the player, test it in your mind before you start filling it with assets. I don't know if I agree with removing it because travel and discovery are important aspects in an RPG they help the player prioritize objectives, number crunch, let the game and the OMG moments sink-in.

Explore the weather and the seasons. All wilderness experiences incredible things worth showing off from climate changing. So many RPG's have a static world. Plants move and change,animate them, they deserve it! And animate them for a reason. Have encounters with bad guys that blend in with the forest in fall, or grow hardier during winter, etc.

Hope this helps.

I always thought it would be cool project to create an game environment with interactive wilderness like your saying, then building a game into it. I mean, first building a world that is very immersive and interactive. Then making a game world within it, even if only a few players at a time can enter it. It would be a great learning experience don't you think?

#20 samoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 5034

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 05:47 AM

Wilderness is (apart from crafting) another thing that Ryzom got just right (well, in my opinion, given the game's success, the majority of people didn't seem to think that way).

Most things in "wilderness" (especially in the Roots) was strong enough so you could survive being attacked by one, if you were high level and skilled maybe two. Most animals would group together somewhat loosely, sometimes one would maybe wander off a bit. Also, the groups would move around according to daytime and season. This usually left a "clear path" for the skilled player to move through, a big challenge in some regions.

Predators would chase herbivores, but this would inevitably bring them into your aggro range sometimes. Also, some herbivores seemed to run towards you (for protection? who can tell?). Nothing as entertaining as seeing a lumper being attacked by 3 kinchers, and then it comes running to you -- with the three following.

The downside is of course that it isn't precisely an easy entry, nor does it cater the typical crowd of players who are used to only click on the "win button". That's probably the reason why every company that went near Ryzom went bankrupt Posted Image

Edited by samoth, 13 July 2012 - 05:47 AM.





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