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Making the wilderness interesting

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Car racing and flight sim fans would care to disagree.

Simulations are good and funny, but not games. Flight sims at last are not really games or not really sims. Ok, car racing games are really a working hybrid of game and simulation, but I'm talking about more complex,living simulations.

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.

Emergent behaviour is fun, but only if you know what and why it happened. Therefore often developers are impressed by emergent behaviour, players without background knowledge do not have the chance to understand the behaviour, even it is logical, it seems often to be a bug.

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've played around with this approach in my game, including a need based logic to control the behaviour of entites (herbivores, carnivores, interesting objects on the ground, the player as intruder, all entities needed food and water etc.).

The first effect was, that it got quite complex really fast. The reason is, that a simulation get unstable quite fast. First all seems to work, suddenly all animals are dying around you. Was it a bug ? No, the water sources could not supply all the animals.

After fixing all the issues, it got really messy. You see some unlogical behaviour, same question: is it a bug ? After analysing several logs you discovered that this behaviour was correct. That's fine, but the major issue was: the resulting behaviour was not funny at all, but boring.

One of the most successful games (and game-simulation) with emergent behaviour is dwarf fortress. Checking their forum, you will discover quite fast, that almost every emergent situation is discovered and discussed by using the log as story. This is not a bad thing, but not always suitable for every game type (do you want to check several pages of a log to understand why an opponent has discovered and killed you in a FPS, although you were sure, that you were hidden from his view ? )

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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?

I'm not entirely sure I was clear with my post. Interaction doesn't really need to be the focus with the wilderness between waypoints in an RPG. I just think wilderness needs to be animated and change over time. To give the player a sense that the world is just as dynamic as the story. The wilderness should seem somewhat like it exists as a habbitat to the flora and fauna in the area. On top of this random monster encounters could feel more natural as they could appear more connected to that environment like in the examples I suggested, visual and physical adaptation to their environment.
If we wanted to take this to the next level the impact of removing a monster from an area could be visual as well. For example. A monster near the purple flowers eats the rabbits. You kill monster=tons of rabbits, rabbits eat all the purple flowers, no more purple flowers. Next time you go to where you killed the monster you can barely recognize the area.

It would be pretty great to experience a game where you explore the glory of nature the best a game can muster. (If that's what you're meaning) But at this point I just want it to look a little more natural. Nature changes and its great that developers like CryEngine and UDK can visually show day and night cycles and visually impressive weather effects but the next step should be animated textures on the flora and fauna that has a reason to populate an area (like setting mood). RPGs are fantasy stories, these usually span over the course of months/years/decades and in that case when a player returns to a location after being away for an extended amount of time, it should change.

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Well, i have thought about this for my own game. I will tell you what we are going to aim for and you can see if this matches what you would want/desire.

  • I thought about what strikes a player as "epic". I remember creating a world for NWN and one of the things that I wanted to do most was make the creatures pop out of places. Goblins or Wolves that would pop out of brush/behind tress rather than just spawn in.
  • I thought about making bugs attracted to light, and then having spiders spawn there because of the bugs.
  • Maybe you have randomized questing that happens or occurs while in the forest. Find an item on the ground, it will give hints to another location that could be randomly generated as a possible quest region.
  • Maybe force the player to ineract with something to start a quest line. They come across a stream or brook of water that could be blocked by the player. The player doesnt realize that doing so helped save a family of gnomes or fairy's that were a bit down the road. So the player comes back to the area and some NPC is there to reward them for their efforts. This would encouage the player to explore to find things and thus lets you play with what they can and cant feel or touch.
  • Start a minigame where they must plant some acorns, or they need to cut down and clear some land, while some outside force is rushing them to do so.
  • Have a section of the forest that they walk into, start to spam their chat box with some whispers. The player has to pay attention and walk around to hear the other whisper, and doing so will give them some inside scoop on the storyline of the game. Like trees that talk
  • Have some random ghost event where at night in a certain spot a ghost will show up and they can either help the ghost and make them pass to the new world or they can fight him and try to end his existance there.

    Small things like that help to make up the feeling of actually being intergrated within the enviornment.

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To be honest, I really don't understand the question :/

What exactally are you aiminig at? You want players to "volunteerly" leave quest areas an wander in the wilderness? Or want them to take their time when going from town to town?

If its not fun, then you shouldn't consider it in your game. Traviling is not fun, in game or in real life. Most games will only force you to travel through an area once, and make it as challenging as possible to get to the other side. You know, The fun part. After that they give you a "fast travel" option so you don't have to go throught it agian, just to travel to a place you already been there.

fun = a challenging goal. The goal is going from A to B. You can make it chalenging by adding multipul ways to get killed, diffuclt to navigate, self revealing maps, etc...

OK, I know that I may have not answered your question, but I guess it becomes easier to think about if you already know what you want from it.

Remeber, its all about fun. It way we play.

Cheers :)

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What exactally are you aiminig at? You want players to "volunteerly" leave quest areas an wander in the wilderness?

Playing Skyrim today again, after a long pause. I've actually found myself leaving the quest book altogether for over 5 hours, simply wandering off and picking up on levels.
The wilderness didn't feel so much a chore despite not using the fast travel.

Not fun:
- Wolves and Bears. They keep showing up while I'm riding, and it just slows my progress - Random encounters that chase you to the death kinda suck.
- The compass: It tells me "Stop wandering and go 'there'" - Discovery is more interesting if it feels like the player worked for it. The compass defeats this. I would prefer in-game feedbacks (sounds, traces on the ground, etc)

- Sneaking on animals to soul bind them and collect their furs (pretty kickass as I was trying to get both my enchanting and smithing skills up!)
- Plants. Some I actually collect :) - The wilderness needs to have 'stuff' you can interact with
- Strategic approach - I see the next level, but the wilderness allows me to move around to get the best angle. I know there will be villains guarding that area, so I want to circle around and come from the forest where I can sneak and deflect their arrows.

My advices:
- If you handle random encounters, make them fairly easy to escape most of the time. The player should choose whether to fight or flee.
- Make discovery player-centric. Don't give it away with a compass, make level design hints in the wilderness as to the whereabouts of a location. Make it subtle, but teach your players early on to pay attention to the details (sounds, traces on the grassland, etc)
- Put some gameplay in (skyrim uses animals and plants for example). Put stuff the player can interact with, so he can choose whether to stop or not. A journey feels long only if you feel like you're forced through it. If you put options along the way, the player no longer sees A to Z, but a series of decisions that led from A to Z
- Allow the player to gain advantage by using the wilderness wisely. In this case, allow them to put themselves in an angle where they gain the upperhand against the enemies outside of the next dungeon. That way, the players will figure out its a better idea to walk a bit longer in the wilderness if it allows them to survive the next encounter

hope that helps.

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Reintroduce an actual Tracking skill, a la EQ/UO, to MMORPGs. That takes you off the standard path. Edited by Caldenfor

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[font=comic sans ms,cursive]

First I would like to say that everyone here has a valid point, so here is my thoughts. As far as wilderness, it need to not only be alive, but reactive and interactive. I mean everything from when the wind changes direction to you stray to close to a flower and you scare away bugs. [/font]

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