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Towns in an "Adventuring" Game

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My current project centres around the part of an adventurer or wandering hero, with the meat of the game resting in the levels, which are explored in first-person, with challenges including traversal (leaping gaps, finding routes, etc.), puzzles, and a bit of combat. Levels are connected by an "overworld" of sorts, which takes the form of a Myst-like panoramic view with hot-spots for levels, other overworld nodes, and so on. As part of the experience I intend to allow the player to visit towns and cities, in which they might gather information, buy supplies, and perhaps even find one or two small "levels" to explore.

 

The question, then, is that of how I implement my towns and cities.

 

Ideally, I would like to convey the sense of being in a new town or city while travelling: at first the place is unfamiliar and strange, but one can ask directions to find places of interest. If one hangs around for long enough, the city may start to become a bit more familiar, and places visited often become easy to find. However, if this is infeasible within my parameters, I'm willing to scale down or set it aside.

 

As towns are not part of the "meat" of the game I don't want to invest too heavily in them; for one thing, I don't intend to represent them in full 3D, as I do the levels.

 

At the moment I have two main ideas:

 

1) Towns are represented by static screens with hot-spots, one for each location of interest. This should be fairly easy to make, but seems rather limited.

 

2) Similar to the above, but with rather more screens, including unimportant locations, and thus allowing for some degree of exploration. The resource-cost of this could be reduced by employing reusable images for common elements (such as houses)--but it could still be rather resource-expensive for the likely result achieved. Additionally, I'm concerned that players might find the static screens somewhat counter-intuitive to navigate, beyond simply being unfamiliar with a given town.

 

In both cases new locations can be discovered by asking passers-by for directions.

 

Finally, I could use a simple map-representation, with icons appearing on the map to indicate new areas. I don't find this to be a terribly satisfying idea for this game, however.

 

(I would rather not represent my towns via panoramas, as used in the overworld: I'm concerned about the resource-cost of having too many such panoramas, and I feel intuitively that it's worth differentiating the towns from the overworld.)

 

So, does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions on this?

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Maybe the town could be like a series of those dumb hidden object games. It could be like an image of the main street, and when you hover your mouse over the main buildings, they light up so you can easily see what shops are available to you. But if you pay a little more attention, you may find that there's an alley you can go down, leading to the thieves guild or whatever. Or maybe you find a tiny little gem or quest item that was hidden.

 

 

While I generally have no respect for hidden object games, that could be a pretty fun mini game for a town, allowing simple shopping for any player, and extra quests or whatever for people that choose to explore. Interactions with different characters might be another way to unlock different areas in the town, so you have more access to the town, the more you do there.

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Finally, I could use a simple map-representation, with icons appearing on the map to indicate new areas. I don't find this to be a terribly satisfying idea for this game, however.

Combining this with static screenshots could work, especially if you used a layered approach with points of interest at front and fillers at the background.

 

Example.

The player is in town and a map appears, thy can now select a point of interest. Pub, Market, Temple and Barracks these are clearly displayed so the player know thy can interact with them.

The player selects Market.

 

Now in front of the player is a screen shot of a bazaar like market, this tells the player that in this town there is no order among the merchants.

The player can now select a merchant, these are more screenshots layered over the others. Other layer things can be used like people walking around, birds, flowers waving in the wind and any other thing that moves.

 

When the player selects the merchant a easy to use buy and sell menu pops up. Keeping the menus simple will allow players to quickly do what thy want allowing them to spend more time taking in the background.

 

With this kind of town you can reveal small things to players through the images, allow players to see for them self what is happening. A town is about to be attacked, no one is roaming the streets, unattended window shutters bang against buildings in the background and only a few merchants are around.

 

 

Pre-rendered backgrounds used to be popular you should be able to learn useful tricks from older games.

 

Is this a linear or open world like game?

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Maybe the town could be like a series of those dumb hidden object games.

... Not the most enticing start to a suggestion... tongue.png
 

It could be like an image of the main street, and when you hover your mouse over the main buildings, they light up so you can easily see what shops are available to you. But if you pay a little more attention, you may find that there's an alley you can go down, leading to the thieves guild or whatever. Or maybe you find a tiny little gem or quest item that was hidden.

Ah, I think that I see what you mean; to be honest, this reads rather like my first "main idea" above: sparse static screens with hotspots, albeit with the addition of "hidden" hot-spots (which is worth considering...)
 

 

Finally, I could use a simple map-representation, with icons appearing on the map to indicate new areas. I don't find this to be a terribly satisfying idea for this game, however.

Combining this with static screenshots could work, especially if you used a layered approach with points of interest at front and fillers at the background.
 
...

 

Hmm... I like this idea, but I'm still not entirely happy about the map: it's not as immersive as I'd like, and, more concerning to me, I worry that it will feel a little odd to move from first-person levels and a more-or-less first-person panoramic "overworld" to city gameplay that centres around a top-down map.
 

... a bazaar like market ...

This, by the way, is an idea that I want to keep in mind. happy.png
 

When the player selects the merchant a easy to use buy and sell menu pops up. Keeping the menus simple will allow players to quickly do what thy want allowing them to spend more time taking in the background.

Actually, I think that I can do one better: This game isn't an RPG, and so the player isn't expected to buy five weapons, three suits of plate armour, several scrolls, dozens of potions and a handful of wands. Instead, merchants might provide items of more specific use, whether plot-related, alternate solutions to puzzles, or whatever. (In short, think of a merchant in a gamebook, selling you items that may or may not be of use in your adventure.) As a result, objects for sale might be placed directly in the player's view of the shop, where the player might simply click on them to buy. Similarly, since I don't intend to give the player lots of vendor trash to flog off, when selling is called for it might be little more complex than selecting an item from the inventory and clicking on the relevant merchant--which might make use of some of the exant gameplay code.
 

Is this a linear or open world like game?

No. tongue.png
 
To answer more seriously: The immediate project is intended to be quite short, and thus perforce somewhat linear. However, I also have in mind potential subsequent projects, at least one of which would lie somewhere between "linear" and "open-world", lacking the enormous directionless traversal of a true sandbox, but with less railroading than a linear game: not all levels would be necessary, and the player might visit in arbitrary order (and indeed may well not discover all).

 

For now, however, it's perhaps wiser to design for the shorter, fairly linear game, as that's the most immediate concern.

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As a result, objects for sale might be placed directly in the player's view of the shop, where the player might simply click on them to buy.

I personally like this in games, it keeps things clean and easy.

 

If you plan on a short linear game, you could give it a popup book feel. This will help players accept strange things without breaking immersion, although it will spoil any seriousness of the game.

The only real advice I can give on a game like this is keep your text short and informative, having to read long text in this kind of game can really aggravate players.

 


The resource-cost of this could be reduced by employing reusable images for common elements (such as houses)--but it could still be rather resource-expensive for the likely result achieved.

Strange I wouldn't think a game like this is resource expensive, what game engine are you using for it?

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1) Towns are represented by static screens with hot-spots, one for each location of interest. This should be fairly easy to make, but seems rather limited.
Sounds perfect to me. I would not spend time on features that are not important anyway (players won't care and you would invest a lot of effort on pretty useless stuff).

 

BTW, if you are an indie/solo you should cut on everything you can. In the end it makes your game better.

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I personally like this in games, it keeps things clean and easy.

That's encouraging to read; thank you. ^_^

 


If you plan on a short linear game, you could give it a popup book feel. This will help players accept strange things without breaking immersion, although it will spoil any seriousness of the game.

I'm really not going for a cartoony feel with this; I don't think that it would suit what I have in mind.

 

It is an interesting idea, I will admit. ^_^

 


The only real advice I can give on a game like this is keep your text short and informative, having to read long text in this kind of game can really aggravate players.

Honestly, I'm not sure that I entirely agree: well-written, interesting text can really improve a game, such as by supporting the tone of the experience, I feel.

 

The best comparison that I have for the flow and feel that I have in mind for this game is, again, gamebooks. (This is not a coincidence: gamebooks, and especially the Fighting Fantasy series, were a significant inspiration for this project, as I recall.) This isn't a straight action game (indeed, combat encounters will likely be rather fewer than in most action games), nor is it a straight adventure game. That doesn't mean that I intend to outright describe each scene--this is a visual medium, after all--but rather that I feel that a degree of writing beyond "just the facts" might be called for.

 

(It might be worth mentioning that two of my favourite genres are adventure and RPG, genres noted for their writing.)

 


Strange I wouldn't think a game like this is resource expensive, what game engine are you using for it?

Oh, sorry, I perhaps didn't word that very clearly! ^^;

 

I don't mean that it would likely be expensive in terms of computer resources, but rather in terms of my resources: time, content-creation, etc. I'm already investing in 3D levels, so I'm concerned about over-extending myself in other parts of the game.

 


Sounds perfect to me. I would not spend time on features that are not important anyway (players won't care and you would invest a lot of effort on pretty useless stuff).

Hmm... You do make a good point--although the towns aren't useless, I don't think, and the experience of being lost in a new town is something that may be worth expressing, even if it doesn't serve the mechanics of the 3D levels, I do feel. Atmosphere and immersion are important, I think. That said, that experience of being in a new town while travelling is something that I'm willing to cut back on, if I don't find a good way of expressing it within my means.

 


BTW, if you are an indie/solo you should cut on everything you can. In the end it makes your game better.

I only half agree with this--depending, admittedly, on what you mean by "everything you can". I could cut pretty much all of the project, leaving it as something like a visual novel, but that makes no sense and I doubt that this is what you mean: I presume that you're recommending cutting elements that aren't important to the project. So, what can I cut? Which bits are fat to be trimmed?

 

I could cut my overworld, replacing it with a simple menu, but I suspect that I would lose immersion and atmosphere; I could cut my towns entirely, but would likely lose some depth, not to mention flavour; I could cut the puzzles from this game, but again, I would likely lose depth. Any of these losses results in a lesser game, I feel.

 

That said, I do think that--especially as a solo indie developer--it's worth keeping in mind one's available resources when selecting a game idea, and trying to work within one's means (hence, in this case, my selecting this shorter, fairly linear project to start with). Additionally, I think that it's worth having some idea of what one is willing to cut in a given game, and what compromises are acceptable. I do very much think that it's worth being very wary of letting a project become too large.

 

And I have cut back--for example, my earlier ideas for the "overworld" were rather more expansive.

 


Sounds nice. Show some scetches if have smt!

I don't have sketches of the town mechanic at the moment, I'm afraid--in part, I suppose, because I haven't yet settled on what mechanic that is! I am in the process of putting together a prototype of the game, including a few levels, an overworld hub, and a town, however, which I hope at some stage to post in this sub-forum for comment.

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and the experience of being lost in a new town is something that may be worth expressing
Nope. Dungeons are the places where you can be lost, towns are to buy healing potions and you don't want to get lost there :)

 

If you are to make "lost in town" then obviously you should move towns to standard level (town being just another location it just won't have a ceiling). That would be a consistent approach.

 


I could cut my overworld, replacing it with a simple menu
That was my first idea :) Some nice menu to buy potion, buy equipment, talk with an NPC to move forward the story. Come on, does longish walking around town to reach the only destination you care about (potion shop) sounds fun? Leave these overbloated & boring things to AAA studios...

 


I could cut pretty much all of the project, leaving it as something like a visual novel
Why not? If the core gameplay and fun can be conveyed in a form of a visual novel then by all means you should try it...

 

To clarify, I'm not talking only, not even primarily, about your dev resources or the project becoming too large. The game would be simply better if you get rid of all the bloat. Trust me :) I have cut the fat in my games many times and it NEVER made the game less fun (usually it was opposite). And yeah, simetimes I even end up removing features that work and are playable (not to mkae the game simplier, to make the game better). And my worst games are those where I forgot to cut the fat or was too merciful :)

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I think that we have very different tastes in games, and very different ideas of what this game is. ^^;

 


Nope. Dungeons are the places where you can be lost, towns are to buy healing potions and you don't want to get lost there smile.png



If you are to make "lost in town" then obviously you should move towns to standard level (town being just another location it just won't have a ceiling). That would be a consistent approach.

Why need there be only one place, or one way, to get lost? The experience of being lost in a new town seems to me at least a little different to that of being lost in an ancient crypt or ruined city.

 

As to portraying towns as I do my standard levels, I have considered that, but full-3D levels are somewhat resource-intensive, I fear.

 


That was my first idea ...

But is that really worth the loss of immersion and atmosphere? It doesn't seem so to me.

 


Some nice menu to buy potion, buy equipment ...

Remember, this isn't an RPG: the player doesn't buy new armour, or twenty potions of healing. There is exactly one point at which a new weapon is acquired, and that's plot-related and done in a level, as I currently envision it. There isn't likely to be a potion shop in each town, and if there is one then the potions available to buy are likely to be plot- or puzzle- related than mana, barkskin and stamina potions.

 


Come on, does longish walking around town to reach the only destination you care about (potion shop) sounds fun?

Have been travelling, yes, it does.

 

The idea is less to have the player trudge around pointless scenes, but rather to convey that feeling of being in a new city: you don't know where things are, but you can find out. Everything is new, each place a little discovery. Little by little you get to know the place, and how to get around easily.

 


Why not? If the core gameplay and fun can be conveyed in a form of a visual novel then by all means you should try it...

I wasn't suggesting that they could be expressed that way, but rather that it's possible to cut an element regardless of whether it's important or not.

 

For example, let's step away from this specific game for a moment. Let's say that I was designing a first-person shooter, with procedural levels, various enemies, several weapons, etc. That's the core of the game.

 

Now, I could cut the shooting, and just let the player walk around. I could cut the procedural levels, and have the player walk around the same levels each time. I could cut the enemies, leaving nothing to challenge the player. The player would then walk from level-start to level-end, and then repeat until there were no more levels. (Of course, there might be a story to save the experience--but I could cut that, too...)

 

In short, the fact that it's possible to cut something doesn't mean that it's advisable.

 

I do very much think that it's possible to oversimplify.

 


The game would be simply better if you get rid of all the bloat.

But as I said, which bits are bloat?

 

One thing that occurs to me is that supporting mechanics can very much help to build of the "feel" of a game.

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