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Chris G. Williams Beware: I mix tech and personal interests here.

I'm working on a 2d tilemapped RPG. I've actually made quite a fair amount of progress, but I'm at a point where I need to make a UI decision. I have the overland world completely mapped out, and I have several towns and special areas. I'm on the fence about how to integrate the two.

Scenario 1:

I have one ginormous map, where everything is the same scale. This means you can walk in and out of towns without having to load or wait and transition in any way. With everything the same scale, movement costs the same no matter where you are (in terms of time/turns/energy/hunger/whatever/etc...)  The potential downside to this is that it could take quite a long time to get anywhere on foot.

Scenario 2:

I have an overland map, a set of town maps, overland tactical maps, dungeon maps & special area maps. The overland map is at a different scale than the other maps. This means that time/turns/energy/hunger/whatever/etc is calculated at a different rate than on the other maps, which have a 1:1 scale. When entering a town, dungeon, special area or having a random encounter, you would effectively zoom in from the overland scale to the tactical scale. When you are done with combat, or exit a dungeon or town, it would zoom back out to the overland map. The downside to this is that at the zoomed out scale, the overland map isn't all that big (comparitively) and you can traverse it fairly quickly (in real time, not game world time.)

Options:

1) Go with scenario 1, as is.

2) Go with scenario 1 and introduce a slightly speedier version of overland travel, such as a horse.

3) Go with scenario 1 and introduce "instant" travel, via portals or some kind of "click the big map" mechanism. This would only work with places you've already been, or somehow unlocked (perhaps via a quest.)

4) Go with Scenario 2, as is.

 

Thoughts, opinions, suggestions?  Feedback appreciated.

Posted on Monday, March 29, 2010 6:14 PM | Back to top


Comments on this post: Game Design Dilemma

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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can't you do slow walk-about then have speedy jump to areas you've been?
Left by Keith Nicholas on Mar 29, 2010 7:04 PM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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Keith: Wouldn't that be the same as Option 3? Or did you mean something different?
Left by Chris G. Williams on Mar 29, 2010 8:51 PM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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I say Option 3
Left by JeBuS on Mar 29, 2010 11:36 PM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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Justin: Scenario 2 isn't that much more work, I have the maps mostly designed already and the framework to support it, so I would mostly just need to work on the visual effects of zooming in and out.
Left by Chris G. Williams on Mar 30, 2010 1:03 AM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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Version 3 seems to work well for Bioware :)
Left by Sam Judson on Mar 30, 2010 3:49 AM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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Option 3 FTW.
Left by Jim Perry on Mar 30, 2010 7:46 AM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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Option 3? Really? The instant travel seems so artificial to me. It's probably my least favorite option. Gonna have to think a while on this one. How would you make it (the "instant travel") not be lame?
Left by Chris G. Williams on Mar 30, 2010 9:31 AM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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Start with option 1 as is, but keep things structured in mega-squares or territories or something. That way you have a bunch of flexibility on how game-play develops over time. When a territory is both safe* and well-known*, the game can zoom out to scenario 2.

I tend to think that teleportation should either be special when it exists or so fundamental that you've designed the game-experience around it.

*However you define those
Left by Christopher Weeks on Mar 30, 2010 3:35 PM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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Chris, my biggest gripe in MMOs and regular RPGs these days is that I spend so much of my gaming time 'commuting' rather than doing something interesting. I don't care how 'lame' the instant travel method is, at least it let's me do something interesting.
Left by JeBuS on Mar 30, 2010 4:25 PM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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For me part of the fun of RPGs and MMOs is the exploration, but when traveling through the same areas frequently a faster mode of transportation is ideal. I would use Scenario 2 but only granting access the the faster modes of travel after they have been earned.
Left by jasonred on Mar 31, 2010 10:39 AM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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This is great feedback from everyone, thanks a bunch!! (Keep it coming... working in a vacuum sucks.)
Left by Chris G. Williams on Mar 31, 2010 10:42 AM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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I would go with Option 2 as is. It reminds me of all my favorite RPGs. Travel is boring and I like getting a sense of the "world" by seeing it all zoomed out and laid out before me. Just makes me feel larger than life being able to travel like that. I think it also tends to make encounters and dungeon crawls more special because they zoom you in to the action.

So yeah, Option 2 feels right to me. But then again, Zelda II was one of my favorite games of all time and I still play Final Fantasy I and Shining Force...
Left by George W. Clingerman on Mar 31, 2010 10:55 AM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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#2 would be my preference but you are going to alienate some folk no matter what you choose.
Left by The Zman on Mar 31, 2010 11:00 AM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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So it sounds like you're trying to decide between Final Fantasy 1 (which did the overland map for distance travel, zooming in for random encounters or if you entered a dungeon) or WoW which makes you walk accross the world to get from point a to point b (and even with the flying mounts, it was go-get-coffee time).

My personal feeling is that I'd rather spend time in the main gaming quest areas, towns, etc. and only have random encounters when travelling. I think Dragon Age: Origins does a great job of this, and it helps keep the pace of the game. Since it sounds like you want to give players more control over how they traverse the larger world map than DA:O though, I'd vote for Option 4, but make traveling the world map slower than in the detailed dungeons.

D
Left by D'Arcy from Winnipeg on Mar 31, 2010 11:02 AM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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JeBuS nails it - you want the game to be fun and that means you need a way for players to avoid long waits. Traveling gets boring fast and is often worse than waiting since typically you have to keep clicking or something to keep doing it. If the map isn't too big for now, just go with Option 1 to start. As a v.Next you can add the Scenario 2 zooming or some variation, such as letting the user set a waypoint and just say "Go Here" and have it (quickly) go there. Game time updates, but real time doesn't change much. And if some random encounter or whatever interferes with their travel, then put the character at the point where this happens and go tactical from there.

As for managing waypoints, you could let the user store them by name, or just let them go to a map of places they've been and click to go somewhere (which would be preferable to me so I don't have to try and remember and manage the things)
Left by Steve Smith on Mar 31, 2010 11:10 AM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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I like option 3. I’ve always liked the ability in games to drop your own portal stone wherever you like and even the ability to move both portal stones or drop multiple portal stones wherever you want so that you can determine where your secret stashes are located or where you like to go the most (shopkeeper to sell loot).

Divine Divinity has a great example of this. I was carrying entire barrels and crates through the portal with me to a house I had “claimed” as my loot storage house, even though the game hadn’t been designed in that way, the engine allowed for it.

Hope that helps!

-Seth
Left by Seth on Mar 31, 2010 12:52 PM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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If both are valid options for how he wants the game to feel then he should pick the one that takes the least amount of time to get in and see if he’s happy with it.

Seems like Scenario 2 requires paging and more involved memory management which he may have to implement anyways. The GW2 map is HUGE and requires memory paging of textures to make work properly and it still needs to get optimized.

If he wants a particular “feel” to the game then he needs to choose the implementation that supports the experience he wants to give the player. I couldnt say which way supports his vision more as I have no idea what the game is about.

But generally speaking – that’s how I’d look at it.
Left by designer on Mar 31, 2010 12:53 PM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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Seth: that is great feedback... I hadn't even considered portable portals. This opens many possibilities.
Left by Chris G. Williams on Mar 31, 2010 12:55 PM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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In the days when I used to play MMOs, transports like griffons or horses were fun at first since they decreased travel time, but still irritating when I was sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting to get to my destination. It was especially irritating doing corpse runs. After grinding, that's my second biggest annoyance with MMOs.

Yes, instant travel is artificial, but people play games to have fun, first. An immersive experience is great as long as it doesn't detract from the fun. Dragon Age at least made the load time seem like you were still traveling by showing an animated map. It didn't totally break the immersion and kept me from becoming frustrated with wasting time watching my character run from place to place on a macro level.

As a gamer I can tell you I wouldn't even consider playing a game where it was all scenario 1.
Left by Jim Perry on Mar 31, 2010 1:01 PM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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you could always use an option like the taxi's in GTA you can ride at normal speed, ask the driver to go faster or skip to your destination. I always feel giving the player more control over the way the game is played is the best option.
Left by jasonred on Mar 31, 2010 1:33 PM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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I’m in favor of choice 3. Give me the big explorable world but also give me some sort of “travel scroll” to us to get back to cities and landmarks.

+1 to choice 3
Left by Evan on Mar 31, 2010 1:42 PM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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Scrap the whole thing, start over by using Unreal and add in pew pew gunz.

Of course, I kid. Option 2 or option 3 are my choices. I agree with the comments that have said that tedious travel is, well, tedious. I also agree that too much of option 3 can disrupt the feel of the game. It feels too much like an unexpected seg fault if I'm using the Enterprise to beam myself from place to place. However, a careful blend of the two kinds of travel can be really good and capture both your overworld feel, but eliminate a lot of the tediousness in travel for long distances.

An example: Star Wars Galaxies had the ability to travel from port to port instantly, but then you were on foot for the surrounding area. Initially the ports were spaced apart far enough that attempting to get to the ports by speedbike was just unreasonable (it features really big maps). That felt pretty good to me.
Left by Alan Jamieson on Mar 31, 2010 2:08 PM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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Many people have stated my thoughts on this but I'll post since ya asked. =)

I'd go with Option 3. As an adult gamer my time has changed dramatically. Gone are the days where I could sit and trek my away across the vast lands of FFVII. I point this game out since it had some of the most tedious travel of any RPG I can remember. Only about half way through the game did you get the ability to use an airship and it was still incredibly boring.

My gaming time now has to be as streamlined as possible. I agree with others that travel, really doesn't do much for a game. Even storyline wise there isn't much to be gained by having someone continuously go from point A to point B. Getting me there and into the action is where it's at. I want rich environments that expand on the theme you are expressing and I want to be immersed in it. Nothing detracts from that more than repetitiveness.

Fallout 3 is a good example of the way travel in RPGs should be. Just like you suggested for Option 3, after the player has visited the area on foot, they can now fast travel. Not much explanation went into this. You just brought up your Pipboy, picked where you wanted to go on the map and you went. Time was removed for the travel to keep things in check, but that was it. And that in no way took away from the overall feel of the game.

So like others have said, I think you are cool going with that option. I'm sure the experience you create will be solid enough to handle us not having to walk around for miles. =)
Left by Yaboiksar on Mar 31, 2010 7:50 PM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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I like option 3. One of the best games that I've seen do this well was Oblivion. It tailors to both crowds in that if you want to fast travel because commuting is boring, then fast travel. If you don't want to, then walk. Also, in Oblivion there were hidden points of interests between major cities that you would only encounter if you walked instead of fast traveled.
Left by Beau on Apr 02, 2010 4:25 PM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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My favourite RPG was always Ultima and they had both options 2 and 3 (horses, carts and moonstones) - if you have the time or the inclination I would recommend that :)
Left by Mladen Mihajlovic on Apr 03, 2010 10:28 AM

# re: Game Design Dilemma
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Option 2 or 3, preferring option 3. The options are only available after completing a quest. I hate waiting to travel through areas that I go through frequently. Its a waste of time.
Left by Robert on May 10, 2010 8:06 PM

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