Creating Memorable Villages

Musashi

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Tutorial
Creating Memorable Villages

Introduction
 
In the middle of a long journey, after going through a dangerous forest, the hero finally arrives in a small village where he can rest and ... what else?
 
Cities are important places in RPGs, be it large or small, that receives the player multiple times or only once. It is where most stories begins and develops, and important places should be memorable.
 
To test whether the village you created is good and memorable, do this simple test: imagine two players talking about their game, and one of them tries to remember the other of the village in question:
 
- Do you remember the *** village?
- No, which one is that?
- That one after the Dark Forest!
- Huh?
- After we defeat the King Slime ...
- Ah, OK!
If you can only describe your village with 'where' (it is) or 'when', than your village is probably not so memorable for the player. The ideal conversation would be something like this:

- Do you remember the *** village, the one with the giant statue in the square and a cult of crazy people ...
- Of course! What about it?
So, let's try to create a nice and memorable village in RPG Maker!
 
The Idea
 
You may be wondering - "OK, but what does this have to do with mapping?". Everything! We should not create a village from nothing, without any idea to guide us - beginners usually do create villages without planning and end up creating a boxy map, spread some random houses and then fill it with various trees and plants:

Done! I already have a village! I have made some different houses in order to the map remain asymmetrical and beautiful, surrounded it with some trees  and decked the floor.
So, is this right to do? Of course! Nothing wrong with this map, but it is a little bland is there's nothing which really catches attention - we can do better!
Let's create our village then! For this, let me start the project from scratch again.
 
The Idea - Part 2
 

At first I decided the following about the village I wanted to create:
  • small and cozy
  • High ground with a river separating it from the forest (from where the player will arrive)
  • It will be built around a square with a giant tree
  • many flowers, mostly yellow ones
With your ideas in mind draw the outline of the village as I did, just the basics. As I do not really enjoyed the shape of the river, i change it a bit.

Just don't end up using the wrong water tile as i did! Duh!
 
Representations
 

In games we work with representations of reality; it is logical that a game city of 12 houses don't have only 12 houses or 12 families living there, it's just a representation! In the case of small villages, these representations get even smaller. I just thought that the people of my village lives of plantations, but that does not mean I have to put plantations all over the map, so i put a house with a plantation in outstanding size compared to the map size and it is enough, plus it allow me to put more different things in the scene, preventing it from becoming repetitive.
 
Placing Houses
 

This is a tricky part in mapping cities, in small villages however it gets easier. Choose a house style, I used the most basic of RTP with some variations (don't make too much of architectural variations).
As I had decided before starting to assemble the map, the houses will be around the square, and that's what I did. Always follow your initial ideas, position the houses as you think is prettier.
 
Adjustments:
Not always first guesses are the right ones - while building your map you realize that something would be better elsewhere, now what?
 
In the map editor you can copy and paste map pieces you've done, just pick up the brush, click whith the right mouse button and hold and drag the area you want to copy. Then just click anywhere you want and a copy of that selected portion will be made! This greatly helps to make adjustments and that's what I did to fix two houses at the bottom.

 
 
 

Time to create the map details! Before you start throwing trees and, in my case, flowers, let us first give some thought in the people living in the city - who lives where, who does what and how it influences the landscape? For me, this is one of the most fun and creative parts of the process.
In my case, I thought the man who lives in the red house down the square bother with people and children passing and running near his home, so he made a small fence. In the pub they have a horse and work a lot with hay. Set the professions; a blacksmith and tailor fit well here, better than an armor and magic potions shop. Always think about what is logical and what your newly created people need there.
 

Now, time to play with your creativity! Complete the map with trees, flowers, stones or whatever fits more with your village, just try not to exaggerate!
 
My Village
Once you finish filling out the map, finalize it as usual. Make your light effects, fogs, color corrections, etc.​
 ​
Now players can have fun on the giant tree in the village square (kind of hard to do that using the RTP!), with the  farmer who leaves his wife working and go take a nap, the good old village chief that takes care of the tree and it will tell you a legend that will be useful to find the best weapon in the game, the busy tailor's helper, the hard worker blacksmith that devotes some hours to get outside the store and watch girls passing by... 
 
Using the RTP or a different tileset, using or not the perfect sprite for your idea, your map will be great if your ideas are represented correctly, if your village is well planned. I did two map versions, with different tiles but the same idea, what do you think? What about your villages?

 

Miss Nile

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Useful tutorial, and you've touched some pretty good points. ^^ Good work. ;)
 

Vox Novus

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One thing I like to consider when making a village, town, city, etc... is the type of economy that area has and how that will effect the look of the area.

For example you made what appears to be a relatively small village that probably doesn't have a high source of income; perhaps there is crops they sell, or fish from the river or maybe even herbs/mushrooms from the nearby forest or cave. You mix all sorts of buildings in the village some look to be made out of brick (something that would be expensive) and have shingles while others are wood with a straw roof (something suited to a relatively poor village). Given that this village seems to be in the middle of a forest it would also make sense that the buildings would be made from wood rather than brick because that is what is readily available to the villagers.

I also like to apply color schemes to the roofs when possible, it sort of brings together the area in one uniform way; for example your forest village could have all green roofs or all straw roofs. You can even use the color scheme to your advantage and denote one building of importance (such as an area related to a quest or the main story) a slightly different color or style, that way it stands out a little as a cue to the player.
 

JaiCrimson

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I really like what you say in that first section.

If you can only describe your village with 'where' (it is) or 'when', than your village is probably not so memorable for the player. The ideal conversation would be something like this:

Quote

- Do you remember the *** village, the one with the giant statue in the square and a cult of crazy people ...
- Of course! What about it?
So, let's try to create a nice and memorable village in RPG Maker!
That up above is life changing advice! Everyone should strive to have maps that leave an impression in some way. They should have a unique signature. A town should have something special that makes it the town that it is. A dungeon should similarly have something special that makes it the dungeon that it is!

Thanks for the good tuts, bro ;D
 

amerk

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You give beginners too much credit. That first screenshot is what most beginners (myself included at one point in time) would like to achieve. Keep them coming, though, the RM community has been lacking real good mapping tutorials as of late.
 

GoodSelf

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Great tutorial!  :guffaw:


What tileset did you use for the final screenshot?
 

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