How important is sense a of scope in mapping to you?

jwgz

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Most JRPGs rely on visiting certain locations to get information or achieve certain objectives. In old-school RPGs, the amount of stuff to do in any given town tends to be proportional to the size of the map itself.

Example: Pokemon's Pallet Town is, in all its game incarnations, essentially just an enclosed rectangle with 3 buildings: your house (start of game), rival's house (get the map), and professor's lab (get your first pokemon). There are a few NPCs, but I have no idea where they're supposed to live because they don't seem to have their own houses. Do Professor Oak's aides just crash in his attic? lol :)

Then there's FFIV's Baron town/city, which has: 1 inn, 1 store, 1 permanently inaccessible house (for flair, I guess), 2 accessible houses (Rosa's and Cid's), 1 treasure hidden in the water, and 1 temporarily inaccessible building that comes into play later. Nothing else.

I can appreciate the sheer functionality of Pallet Town and Baron, but sometimes the jaded, Skyrim-coddled adult in me comes into play and I get to thinking how impractical these maps are; there's no way this place is a community... it's just a quest-hub. But the question is, is that a problem? To what point must newer JRPGs emulate a vast sense of scope in their towns and cities?

Playstation RPGs (like FFVII and Legend of Dragoon) got around this by painting on inaccessible "horizons" in the distance, but aside from window-dressing, this didn't really improve the game-play for me and really didn't help the illusion too much.

Even recent JRPG offerings like Octopath Traveler seem deliberately restrained in design, but worse somehow, with a plethora of inaccessible buildings per town just to make them feel like large spaces whilst doing little to benefit the gameplay or the game's pace. Yet again, more window-dressing.

What is your preference? The illusion of vastness or the compact old-school style where every building has a specific purpose, be it information, a quest, an item, etc.?
 

shockra

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This is specifically a matter of taste. Personally, I think inaccessible buildings are a good idea, especially in larger towns where the player has no reason to go into many of those buildings. Just because a building is there doesn't mean the player NEEDS to go inside. It's not Mount Everest.
 

Aesica

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I prefer the compact oldschool style because it's more useful to the player, however I try to convey a sense of vastness by having the "borders" of the town be parts of inaccessible houses, fences, and yards. The idea is that the players are entering the main communal area of the town, but that there's till more to it than just a weapon shop, armor shop, magic shop, item shop, inn, pub, and maybe 1-2 flavor houses.

Edit: That said, I've played games where the developer tries to make their towns vast and it's a god damned pain in the ass to find your way around anywhere.
 

Kes

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I don't think it has to be such an extreme either/or - there are plenty of options between them - and in fact such polarization probably doesn't help to arrive at workable solutions.

I keep my town maps compact, in the sense that there are not large spaces between every building, because that's not how most towns work - unless you are out in some car-driven suburb (bear in mind I'm writing from a European perspective which has a long history of quite compact, densely populated towns & cities), so it's possible to have a decent number of buildings on a reasonably sized map. Most of my buildings can be entered. I also have the entrances (clearly indicated by e.g. a different tile in front of the door) from the sides and the top as well as from the bottom. This not only helps visually and logically (have you ever seen a town where every door faced the same way?), but actually makes compact mapping easier.

I do try and take account of how many people live there, so that there is the impression that not everyone is sleeping in a barrel at night.
 

MushroomCake28

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This is a matter completely subject to personal preferences. Depending on game, the style, what you're looking for, and your tastes, you could design cities and villages for functionality, or for aesthetic. There's no bad answer. Some people like to explore, others just go to a town to rest at the inn and go to the shops.
 

LycanDiva

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While I don't like things to be too compact (for instance, no accessible NPC homes at all, only story-relevant places), I also don't think it's necessary to build a giant city with 100 accessible buildings, either. I take what I call "The Lunar Approach": Just enough accessible NPC homes to convey how big or small a town is, but not so many it's overwhelming to the player or so few the player feels like the game is on rails or they're being cheated out of a genuine RPG experience.

Take Burg and Saith from Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, for example. Burg has a grand total of 6 accessible buildings--Alex's house, Ramus' House, two shops, and two random neighbors' houses. It's a cozy little village in the country, and it feels that way both from the design of the buildings, and their quantity. The second town, Saith, is a bustling, prosperous port town with 9 accessible buildings--a shop, a tavern, the port office, and six houses, one of which is considerably larger than any of the homes in Burg. This, along with the over-all larger map size, conveys to the player that this is a bigger, wealthier town than Burg, without going overboard (no pun intended). Meribia (the third town) is bigger yet, being the largest city in the game's world, with not one, but two distinct districts to explore! This is The Big City. You ain't in the sticks anymore. Your adventure has officially begun! In these three first towns, we see an escalation. The player is sucked into the wonder the main character himself experiences in beginning this new adventure and setting out to make his way in the world and meet his destiny. You go from this tiny village to the world's biggest city, Lunar's New York, within the first few hours of the game and it gets you hyped for everything that is to come...THAT'S what great town design can do, even if you don't have 10-15 houses to go to in every town. It's the scaling, the little extra details, and to a certain extent the way you have your cast react to each new location, that are the most important aspects of making memorable and effective towns.

Going into people's houses, talking to them, and clipping their belongings is part of the fun, after all! The irony that the good guys are running around stealing cash from people's sock drawers is just hilarious on its own...plus, it encourages players to explore every nook and cranny of every new area they visit. Having dungeons that permanently close once they're completed has the same effect--it teaches players to check and explore everything and everywhere, just in case they never get a chance to check that area out every again.
 
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M.I.A.

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I try to build immersive and interesting areas.. but also Function before Fashion when designing a video game. If a house or NPC serve no story or loot related purpose, then give them something funny to say or do. If there are tons of houses, it's ok to have the "entry" be inaccessible.. add a fence and a dog.. put the door on the "back side".. etc.

In my main, I have "achievement" badges that give stat bonuses when equipped for accomplishing various tasks. Even minute/menial tasks such as "Socialite: Spoke to all people in X town. Reward: Badge grants wearer +3 Max MP" and "Spelunker! You've explored all 4 corners of the Deep Mine! Reward: Badge grants party 2x Gold after battle".

If you can't find an aesthetic reason for having a larger "Scope" of the world in your game, try to find a mechanical reason! :)
Hope this is helpful. :)
-MIA
 

sapphireLight

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I like to keep the maps as compact as I can with the important story/game-play relevant buildings near each other. I may sprinkle in a few buildings for flavor that the player can just explore if they feel like it, but it's no big deal if they ignore them. I'll also add inaccessible buildings around the edges of the map to make it seem like there is more to the town. I like the illusion of vastness, but still I prioritize functionally. It can be a tricky balance sometimes.
 

Henryetha

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I use to only add NPCs which also have a function, And like this the town stays compact aswell.
It isn't realistic, but I'm not aiming on realism in my games.

I've seen players dislike to run around unnecessarily, so I've changed my style, making maps, into "functionality > exploration".

Also when working alone, I think, it's better to set priorities.
With this I mean, not to waste time, implementing things, the player cannot interact with and might even feel disturbed by (in best case the player would think 'oh nice to look at' and then would continue his way).
I'd rather keep the map compact and make sure, that existing elements are visually pleasing AND make sense.

If we implement too many things, that aren't really necessary, the work can and will become overwhelming.
 

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