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Gameworld structure for platformer/rpg?

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Im planning a 2D, side-view platformer with rpg-elements, similar to metroid or zelda/link and such. I can see 3 ways of organizing the gameworld:

1. Linked courses (like super mario or old castlevania. Maybe a simple overhead map that access them but in the big picture map 1 unlocks map 2)

2. Open overhead map (like zelda 2. You walk rather freely on the map and can find locations to enter (instances))

3. One big world (like metroid or "A link to the past". Everything is in the same world, you unlock new areas by finding items that allow you to reach those areas).


The game will have some collecting which allow the player to upgrade sword and health (and other things). But no grinding: once you collect the reward for a mob or chest/location; you can never get that reward again. Unique (ability-unlocking) items can only be found at a predetermined location. In option 1 and 2 such items can still be used to unlock new areas (for example on the overhead map).


What are the benefits? What would you prefer? Any other ways of doing it?


Thanks for your input!

Edited by suliman

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I would make an list of priorities of what you want the player to experience. These may not be your priorities, but I am just putting some out as an example.

1. Exploration - the player should be excited to discover and is rewarded for exploring
2. Character progression - the player should be seeking ways enhance and improve their character
3. Mastery of the mechanics - the gameplay should have enough depth and challenge to engage even the best gamers

Your list may be longer than this, spend some time to figure what priorities you want for your game then compare them to world options or any other decision for you game.

If exploration is your top priority I would choose option #2 since an open world lets you better hide secrets and gives more freedom
If character progression is most important then #3 seems to make sense.
If mastery of the mechanics is most important then option #1 makes sense since it avoids crossing an overworld and gets straight to the action

So it really depends on what experience you want the player to have. Edited by HappyCoder

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An overworld map (#1 or #2) makes it easier to have very large settings, or a few points of interest in a larger open, space. #3 tends to shine with a naturally bounded area, like an island or dungeon.


#1 (and I suppose #2) allows you to establish collection expectations: e.g. 8 red coins per level in Mario, a particular set of secrets in each level in Donkey Kong. You can also more easily give rewards for things like finishing a level in a set time frame.


#2 and #3 make it increasingly easy to get lost, although you can do plenty as a designer to alleviate that.


#2 and #3 make returning to an area more natural. This can create some fun aha! moments where something you saw earlier suddenly makes sense. On the other hand, you need to balance progression carefully so slogging through overly easy areas isn't a chore.


#3 is more immersive


These are all tendencies, though, anything fundamental you can do with one you can do with the others.

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Im leaning towards a mix of #1 and #3.


Distinct maps/level that are linked with "doors". Each one has collection goals and shows no of unique secrets/items still left to be found there. And a overview map for orientation where intermap-connection points (with lines maybe?) show how different maps can be accessed (this map can maybe be used for quick-travel to already visited locations). This is in a way similar to super metroid.

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