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Architecture in RPG/Sim

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One of my favorite things in an RPG/Sim, is architecture. Designing and building your own home/place of business/etc. In my design, I'd like architecture to be a major gameplay element. Examples A couple of games with this feature are the Sims, Ultima Online and A Tale in the Desert. Unfortunately most of these systems have some pretty heavy limitations in them. The Sims for example is limited to square walls of an exact height, no curved surfaces, only a couple floors, etc. I've never used the system in Ultima Online (left before it was implimented). In A Tale in the Desert, you're even more limited then the Sims, each building is limited to a few modifications, size/shape is determined by adding/removing sectors (chucks of floorspace), no upper levels, etc. Goals of My System I have a couple main goals for the design of my architecture system. - Flexibility for the player - Ease of Use - Believable end product (buildings that look like buildings) - Functionality (the building should have many functional elements) Flexibility In most game that allow for the construction of buildings, you're pretty limited on what you can ultimately create. I'd like to remove as many as these limitations as possible in my design. The following is a list of common limitations I'd like to remove: - Allow Curved Surfaces - Non-Square Walls - Varying Thickness of Walls - Varying Height of Walls (Cathedral Cielings anyone?) - Sub-Terrain Buildings - Deformable Terrain If you can think of any other major limitations I've missed, please point them out. Ease of Use With increased flexibility comes increased complexity. How to make this experience as simple as possible while still allowing the player's imagination to run wild, is one of the more difficult aspects. Believability One downside of flexibility in the design, is the fact that players will create wild and crazy buildings that detract from the games atmosphere. I'd like to combat this in a realistic way. One thought I've had, is to introduce a structural safety system. Most buildings look the way they do because of the limits of architecture. Functionality I'd like the building the player creates to be functional, for there to be a reason to build multiple floors instead of one, to use thicker stone for a keep's wall, etc. Therefore I'd like the architecture system to have the following functionality: - Structure Strength (thicker walls, better material, etc) - Resistance to Weather - Floor Space (more storage, more equipment space, etc) - Building Value (build a nice building, for more fame, etc) Again, any thoughts here would be appreciated. My Design What I've come up with so far is the following. Every building starts from the ground up, literally. For a believable architecture system, the game must include deformable terrain, especially the ability to flatten a piece of land. The deformation of terrain (like in the Sims) will be a standard part of the building process. To accomplish this or any other building task, the player will open a building interface, this will be a small tabbed floating window taking up roughly 20% of the screen. The user will continue to view the world as normal. Allowing them to see their changes as they make them. Every change they make is not actually changing the world, but instead, altering a blueprint that is stored on the character. For example, as they flatten, raise, or lower the terrain with the terrain tools, it will show them the result, but not actually affect the real terrain. Once done, the user can save the blueprint for later use. At anytime, a user can start the work on the specific addition they've stored in a blueprint, for example, if the use flattened some terrain, they may now (using that blueprint), use a shovel to create the changes they wanted. The actually designing of the building would be done in the same way, once a piece of terrain is flatted, they can place walls, floors, structural components, etc. These will appear as partially transparent representations in the game world. The user could if they so chose, design their entire building before ever starting on it. Certain design elements will require the user complete other tasks before work begins. As an example, if the user flattens the terrain on the blueprint, and adds a wall on the terrain, they would have to complete the alterations of the terrain before beginning work on the wall section. If the user tries to place a component in the blueprint design phase that is structural unsound, the component will turn red, indicating this. They will also be given information indicating why this component is deemed unsound so they can make the neccessary changes. Blueprint Trading After a blueprint for a building is complete, the player may choose to trade the blueprint, or save it for a later date. Some players may become good enough at designing buildings to sell them off for use by other players. When trading a blueprint, the ground alterations will not be transfered, only the building itself. It will also be possible to save only part of the blueprint is another seperate blueprint. When using a blueprint you've acquire from someone else, you can position the blueprint until you have it in the required spot, and then start construction from there. Common Blueprints Certain common blueprints will be a standard part of the game, for those that don't wish to go through the architectural process. These will be fairly vanilla building's and can be purchased from NPC's. Blueprint Storage Blueprints will be stored on parchment or paper. They can be copied, traded, stolen, etc. Components of Buildings This is where I still need alot of design ideas. What are the pieces that make up a house? A Store? A Shipyard? Keep in mind this design is being used in a Medieval/Fantasy Genre. So far the components are as follows: - Walls - Floors - Structural Beams (both vertical and horizontal) - Cielings - Doors - Windows - Stairs - Fences - Posts - Pillars - Roofs - Trim and Moldings - Fireplaces - Furniture and Other Equipment - Cabinents and Shelving - Lighting Each component can be built of multiple materials, in multiple styles, and many in multiple sizes/shapes. Component Placement Interface Here's one area where I still need alot of design work/ideas. When placing a component, for example a wall, how do you allow the player to define all the different aspects of that wall? Position it in the exact spot they want, connect/align it to another wall to form a proper corner? I really don't want the interface to become too much like a 3D Modelling package, they aren't intuitive for new people, and it's not very immersive. I know I'm going to have to somewhat remove people from the world to do this, but I'd like to limit their removal as much as possible. I'd appreciate any comments, questions, or ideas you have on this concept. Would you enjoy this in a game? Is this too much? Too little? Thanks in advance.

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Well, it sounds like a 3d architecture program, you seem to want to include lots of detailed and heavily involed architectural aspects. But my thoughts immeditely become why? What purpose does this detailed system serve in the game? Why does desigining buildings play such an important part in the game? What effect do diffrent designs have on the outcome events? As it stands you seem to want to create an extremely elborate system which has purely cosmetic purpose in the game. So perhaps you should elborate further on the purpose of this system, instead of merely telling the specifics of the system.

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I have to agree with TechnoGoth. It appears you are allowing your facination with architecture to lead you astray.
1. How many players of such games have a detailed understanding or interest in architecture and would thus be intered in creating buildings? Why not simply buy a stock building and then get on with the game itself?
2. More importantly how does this help the actual game. What is the purpose/story of the game and how does having all this architectural freedom help to progress the story?

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Original post by TechnoGoth
Well, it sounds like a 3d architecture program, you seem to want to include lots of detailed and heavily involed architectural aspects. But my thoughts immeditely become why?


In no way do I want to include heavy architectural theory in the game, only when it add's to the gameplay.

As to why I want such an advanced building system in my design? Because its fun, it allows the player to create something which is theirs and unique.

I perhaps should have added a bit more background as to the overall game's design. The basics are, an MMORPG with a heavy tradeskills element. An example of this style of game would be ATITD.

Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
What purpose does this detailed system serve in the game? Why does desigining buildings play such an important part in the game? What effect do diffrent designs have on the outcome events?


In my design, the world starts mostly unpopulated, one of the driving goals of the players is to move out and populate it, build their own cities, their own homes, etc.

Because of this, I want the process of designing/building of structures to be complete, complex and yet easy to use.

Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
As it stands you seem to want to create an extremely elborate system which has purely cosmetic purpose in the game. So perhaps you should elborate further on the purpose of this system, instead of merely telling the specifics of the system.


This is my first time posting a thread here, so I might have gone about it the wrong way, I just didn't want to put my whole design document in here (it's pretty huge). This specific area of my design is one that I am most interested in currently, and so I thought I might get some feedback on it specifically.

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Original post by Obscure
I have to agree with TechnoGoth. It appears you are allowing your facination with architecture to lead you astray.


Not at all, this is only one aspect of my design which ties in with a number of different gameplay elements I am designing.

Quote:
Original post by Obscure
1. How many players of such games have a detailed understanding or interest in architecture and would thus be intered in creating buildings? Why not simply buy a stock building and then get on with the game itself?


I don't want to bring architectural theory into the game, only use it as appropriate. An example of how a system like this is done well, is the building system in the Sims/Sims II.

As to interest in a system like this? From what I've seen, a large number of people enjoy tradeskills, and enjoy custom housing. And besides, at the end of the day I'm designing this game for myself, whether anyone else likes it doesn't matter at the end of the day. :)

Quote:
Original post by Obscure
2. More importantly how does this help the actual game. What is the purpose/story of the game and how does having all this architectural freedom help to progress the story?


As I described in my reply to TechnoGoth, this system ties in to the overall goals of the players. Moving out from the starting cities to build their own is a central part of the story. As I mentioned in my original post, I hope to make the building system not just cosmetic but functional. Strength of the building, cost, materials used, style, etc. will all be of importance.

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I think as long as you have standard blueprints that people can just use when they dont feel like building from scratch then its quite a cool idea! Sounds like it would be very complicated to impliment though.

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Original post by grekster
I think as long as you have standard blueprints that people can just use when they dont feel like building from scratch then its quite a cool idea! Sounds like it would be very complicated to impliment though.


Common blueprints will be included in the design. These are predesigned buildings that players can use instead of going through the design process themselves. In addition, players can trade blueprints. I don't expect all players to use this system, many will just want a standard "Blacksmiths Shop", and they'll just use a common blueprint, or buy a predesigned building from a player.

But, if a guild builds their own city between two mountains, and wants to design and build a fortified stone wall beween the two mountains, to protect themselves from threats, they can.

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Well, to make this less complicated, just use a 2D tiles system. The concept of having small pieces all the same size is easy to understand for most people (they're like Lego bricks).

The part that simplifies the whole process a lot, both for you and the player, is that the tiles all align perfectly. For each floor, you have a 2D tiles map and then build the geometry based on that...should be trivial. To keep the polygon count low for something like a long wall made up of many tiles, it should be easy to detect these cases and create a single "box" instead of all the tiny ones. Also, for most tiles you should be able to control the height of the ceiling, which should also be pretty easy to implement. This system will simplify the process a lot while still retaining all of the control you want :)

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...an MMORPG with a heavy tradeskills element.


Quote:

If the user tries to place a component in the blueprint design phase that is structural unsound, the component will turn red, indicating this.


Well, why not make architecture a specific skill then. Anyone can create a blue print but only an architect will get the warnings you talk about, or structures above a certan complexity can only be designed by architects.

Quote:

The user could if they so chose, design their entire building before ever starting on it.


Unless the character is doing all the work himself, I would think a complete blueprint would be required. And if you are making trade skills a big part of the game, when the blueprint is done it generates a list of materials and what trade skills are required, bricklayers, carpenters, etc.

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