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# A sandbox RPG for tweens Part 1: basic gameplay and world outlines

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1. (Because of the issues with information overload that my previous threads regarding concept projects had, this thread will be broken into parts)

I may have mentioned a game called Somnion: Darkest Dreams in the past (most notably in the potential first game post). I also may have mentioned that I scoped it out to be similar to TES IV: Oblivion.

Well, after the concept began to crystallize fully, I redesigned that project; I looked for a smaller scope than even Oblivion and began to shift focus on several of the game's important elements. Today, I would like opinions regarding the gameplay designs I had in mind, as well as the game world (or worlds).

Somnion: Darkest Dreams is a sandbox RPG, albeit one built on a substantially lower budget than the industry norm (about 100,000$is the estimated budget). As a result, the game makes up for it's lack of scope with unique features and a complex in-depth game system. Among these include that the game has a day/night cycle somewhat similar to the Persona series (especially 3) in which the player socializes and advances the plot during the day, but fights and explores during the night. During the daytime, the player and the character they control can socialize with the residents of his town, make new friends which he can bring into the nighttime gameplay, and advance aspects of the plot. As the game is a sandbox RPG, the "waking world" depicted is quite large, with 13 hard-coded square miles of space. In these sequences, the current character is controlled through third person (though a first-person view is used for the game's dialogue sequences). Dialogue is another important part of Somnion. Unlike most other games, the dialogue sequences are interactive and play out similar to a point and click adventure rather than being another menu. The player navigates a cursor over objects in the world and presses an assigned button/key to trigger the dialogue advancement. The waking world sequences affect the "Dream world" sequences in a variety of ways. First, the player can recruit characters they have befriended for expeditions into the dream world at night. in addition, the targeting mechanism (elaborated upon later) can be used to change a character's behavior in the waking world. there are also other links between the two times, such as sidequests that stretch into both worlds. • segment questions: • Budget: for a game with the graphical fidelity of FFXI on a high-definition emulator, a total size (from all the game worlds added up) about 43 square miles big (30 of said 43 square miles is procedurally generated), partial voice acting (mostly for main characters and special scenes), and a customization and character progression system leagues deeper than any TES title, is this a realistic estimate for how much the game will cost to develop? • Day/Night cycle: I believe a common complaint for this idea is that some will feel as if this is like playing two games at once. Even though I plan to elaborate on this later, do any of you think this way currently? • Dialogue system: simply put, Is in interesting or refreshing? The nighttime gameplay is where the entirety of the game's combat takes place, as well as heavy amounts of exploration and customization. here, the player navigates through a world that is mostly procedurally generated, fighting enemies and advancing in power. the player can also alter a character's behavior in the waking world using the "Target" mechanic. this allows a player to affect a character in the dream world and change the behavior of their waking world counterpart. a good example would be the "FWTD" target mark, which allows a player to permanently kill a dream world character and drive the corresponding waking world character insane. The dream world also features chained sidequests (similar to TES games) as well as one-off and radiant sidequests. Finally, the game world is not a monolithic, uniform sandbox. Instead, the dream world is divided into self-contained zones that each feature their own biomes/inhabitants, appearance thematics, and items. Each of these five zones is completely independent form one another geographically and can only be accessed through fast travel (by way of teleportation) or through transportation services. The zones also vary in size. • segment questions: • day/night cycle: do any of you think it is an interesting, more involved mechanic that allows a player to have a greater effect on the game world, or are there still those who think that playing Somnion is still playing two games at once? • game world: created due to budget constraints, the game world is not what makes this game a sandbox RPG (that would be the mechanical system, to be discussed in a future post). that being said, does anyone like this hub-network idea? Other Questions: • was something to vague or just left out? point it out. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Advertisement Sand box ... If you can, investigate Procedurally Generated Content to try to 'fill your sandbox' It doesnt have to be for every aspect of the game, but you need sufficient (regional)randomness to make for differences across yoiur world. Understand that most of the PGC scripting involved will be constraints to limit things to logiical/cohesive options. Consider this will also involve 'Hierarchical Templates' being used to minimize work (as much as is PRACTICAL) Part of the 'game' would be observing and recognizing the elements in the current situation to knw how to handle them... Having some distinctive visual features (even if just overall color themes) to differential one area (with its own flavors) from another might help to get rrid of the 'everything the same everywhere' feeling players have about many 'sandbox' enviroments. And with the 'template method, having the Hierarchy Templates have 'variables' for substitutions of many (local) detailing bits (props, color schemes, etc...) you can have the system create significant visual variances without having to Hand Craft it all) Edited by wodinoneeye #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites I had expected to use procedurally generated content extensively for my game, and the hierarchical templates make sense, given that the game uses Unity as it's engine. That being said, Anybody willing to pitch in regarding the general idea of the game or the budget? or perhaps the gameplay? #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Mind telling me the specific reason? #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites I would not make your first game a procedural generated game. If you lack any experience with game design, you will create a game that's bound to fail. Sandbox and Procedural generation will not survive on it's own. Sure it sells well enough, because players are trying to find something that looks different. But when people start noticing that there's not much meat to it, the popularity of it's game will just run face first into an indestructible wall. Also, what good is a massive land, if there's nothing there to catch the player's eye? This is another issue I find a lot of indie games are not actually thinking about. They make these open world survival games, but these enviorments are unimaginative, left completely up to a random generator, or slopped together. but the enviorment tells no story, shows nothing about what this land was like in the past. Has nothing that's forboding about it. No giant skeletons of some massive creature. No corpse of a massive creature that got mangled by something. etc. No Ruins. No civilization. The animals don't even behave like animals, they're just interested in running their foreheads into you repeated. The list goes on. It's like no one sat here and thought about what made Fallout and Elder Scrolls stand out so much. The worlds were alive, and were carefully hand crafted. Every square inch told some story about the land. And there were such miniscule details that were put in, that it added to the greater picture. Skeletal hand sticking out of the muck holding a sword. a bunch of skeletons piled up against the door, many of which have shattered fist. Skeletons lying in bed and embracing each other. A child's skeleton with a pillow over it's head. Massive ruins embedded into the side of a mountain, with both ancient and newer items inside it. Burnt out torches, and freshly lit brazier's. Just... trust me on this. This project should not be the first one you do. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Mind telling me the specific reason? In term of budget estimation you are way too optimist, as says Tangletail. • Budget: for a game with the graphical fidelity of FFXI on a high-definition emulator, a total size (from all the game worlds added up) about 43 square miles big (30 of said 43 square miles is procedurally generated), partial voice acting (mostly for main characters and special scenes), and a customization and character progression system leagues deeper than any TES title, is this a realistic estimate for how much the game will cost to develop? For your expectaction count at least a medium sized team (so 20-30 people) multiply it by an average salary of 2500 euros (average salary of a programmer) to have a (really) rough estimation of the cost, by month, of your game. And this is only the salary of the people, without taking into account the tools and the marketing. So yes,$100,000 may be a little light.

• Day/Night cycle: I believe a common complaint for this idea is that some will feel as if this is like playing two games at once. Even though I plan to elaborate on this later, do any of you think this way currently?

This is a good idea, in my opinion. If you manage to make the feel of day and night really different and not just a loss of luminosity, it is an interesting feature.

• Dialogue system: simply put, Is in interesting or refreshing?

Interesting? Not much, how can you talk about thing not related to environment? Refreshing, not really. The dialog mechanic is not as important as the actual dialog quality (except if you have a good AI which can talk inteligently (use different dialog lines depending on what happened, his status, player's reputation, etc...)

• game world: created due to budget constraints, the game world is not what makes this game a sandbox RPG (that would be the mechanical system, to be discussed in a future post). that being said, does anyone like this hub-network idea?

If you have a well crafted hub, and the other area are some kind of dungeon, it can excuse the lower quality of the procedural area.

• was something to vague or just left out? point it out.

I would like to hear more about the combat system.

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Procedural generation doesn't have to mean it's generated at runtime. He could procedurally generate terrain once, then work on that to save time I think the Elder scrolls game do this (excluding daggerfall)

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Procedural generation can also be used to generate the rough form of the world (landscape, town, etc...), and then the level designer can go back on the world and add more things. That could help gain some time. Even though the time spent to create the procedural tool can be quite huge, depending on the complexity you want to attain.

$100,000 may sound like a lot of money at your age, but it really isn't - that's just 6 to 8 months of developer time. That depends on where you outsource to. If the outsourced developer or freelancer is working in one of the former soviet republics, eastern europe, or India, that might actually pay 5-10 people for that time, given the guys are ready to only charge a good local wage (instead of charging international wages minus some small sum to end up below the competition abroad). Of course that doesn't change your actual statement. About 4 guys paid for a year = not a lot of game they can produce. Even 8, or 12 guys couldn't do all that much. Also, people ready to work for these local wages most probably are not top of the crop devs (these are most probably already in the US or europe working for higher wages there). Don't forget: No Mans Sky was done by 15 people. 15 highly talented people most probably working for 100k$ per year EACH. They worked 3 years on it, at LEAST. Result might be impressive at first glance, might be a technical achievement even at second or third glance, but clearly is not "GTA V but to a bigger scale" that many people expected when they were fooled by the hype. Its - just - not - possible. Not even with procedural generation. Yes, you get rerolled planets you get to name and whatever. No, those planets are not filled with setpieces the way GTA V's world is.