How many people in a city, village, town, or castle to be believable?

Caitlin

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NOTE: I was not sure where to post this, as it really isn't a thread about game mechanics, but deals with people/towns. So, if a MOD feels that this would be better elsewhere, feel free to move it.

I am in the middle of making a game, animals life is easy just enough to make it seem alive, but people are another matter. What I mean is how many people do you suggest for a community. I will state the typical people that I am going to put in my game.

1. People drinking in a bar
2. People resting in their homes
3. Children playing outside
4. (I'd have to make them) farmers dealing with their crops
5. People selling in a market place
6. Customers who are talking to merchants (who may or may not sell to you)
7. People fishing
8. People loading and unloading wagons, boats whatever
9. People sweeping or cleaning outside
10. Guards patrolling a set route

And then, I was thinking about the number of people that makes a community believable. Too many people would a pain, while too little people would make you think something else. I suppose we could break this down into groups rather than one number for each.

Village
City
Town
Castle Town

I have no problem with a small farm, or even a large farm, because I know that a family (small) and the larger would only increase with a couple of employees. (-_-') That's the one thing that I think I've never seen a tutorial for and it is one of the biggest most important parts of game making. Thanks! I do hope that this actually not only helps me, but other people making their own games, too. I would go off of professional games for this, but sometimes that isn't the best way to research it.
 

Plueschkatze

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I think some other thing to keep in mind is:
Daytime and the usual activities during that time of day (which kinda shifts with the setting, since in modern times people will behave a little different than in medieval settings.)


Markets might end at noon/afternoon/early evening, since people have to go home before it's to dark to hit the road to their farms. Streets might be a little harder to travel at night.
Children might attend school at specific daytimes.
Bars might be more crowded during afternoon/evening and the streets probably get emptier.

Even if you are not using a day-night cycle, you might think about what time of day you usually present your player.

I think you did a good list of activities!
For most of them you probably get away with 1-3 people doing that.
3 children playing outside, 2 farmers putting their goods upon a wagon, 2-3 soldiers walking around, a man/woman cleaning the street, etc.
But I think you'll need more to make the enterable housings feeling alive, which might be the biggest group (this includes bars/inns/shops).
 

The Stranger

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I'm a fan of large crowds for large cities\spaces. I don't believe every person has to have dialogue, you can just use them as decorations - simulate large crowds by making groups of people as tiles\barriers. If you tell me this market town is bussling, then I expect to see it bussling. :p The idea that every NPC needs to have something to say is a bit silly, in my opinion. Most people in reality don't speak with one another when out and about, they just ignore each other unless forced to do otherwise. It's why I liked Novigrad in The Witcher 3. Novigrad is the largest city you visit, and it has an awful lot of people just milling about. Some might not enjoy this, but I loved it and felt it was an important aspect of such a large city.

Not saying you need to flood the streets with people, but I personally feel that fairly large groups of people serve an important role for immersion inside cities and crowded places. Now, if you want to make every single person interactable, have a schedule\life, and offer some sort of quest, then I can understand opting for a smaller amount of people.

I think @Plueschkatze covered different activities based on time of day fairly well. Did so without rambling on like an old man, unlike what I would've done. :p

Other things you might consider adding to a town\city are: preachers & doomsayers, entertainers, a group of people admiring some local celebrity\idol, a mini-event in which a thief is spotted stealing from a stall and is chased off screen by a guard; you could even have criminals on public display as punishment. You can have a lot of fun with passive events. Cities have always been very lively places.

Just think of the things you've personally seen when out and about in your own town. The size of your own town will also help you understand some basic differences between how life and community functions between various settlement types. In general, cities and towns tend to be focused on gathering a large group of people for the purpose of trade; they were often founded in areas of high traffic, near rivers, and were protected by high walls. If I remember rightly, in the UK a town became a city only when the ruling monarch granted it the right to call itself one; they also usually had a cathedral. Of course, you don't have to stick to what I've written, but it's the little details which help bring your locations to life and give you a rough idea of what sort of things might be happening there.

Oh! Also consider the main function of your settlements, as well as the technology level of the people who inhabit them. This will help give you an idea of the kind of things you might see within your towns\cities.

Now I'm just rambling...
 
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CleanWater

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Remember that there are persons who will never appear on your game.

You can see the person in the counter selling weapons, but not the blacksmith inside the workshop for example.
You won't see all the guards in the city, some of them might be patrolling in the fields out of the walls, etc.
There are a lot of other examples I could list here, but I think you already got the idea.
 

kirbwarrior

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I would go off of professional games for this, but sometimes that isn't the best way to research it.
I'm going to do it anyway ;)
Pokemon is an example of low number of NPCs. And even then they probably have too many for what they are going for. But even in first gen the large towns felt like large towns. People weren't often out in the street, but in their homes, stores, gyms, training in the wild, etc. In the larger cities, many houses don't have doors. It was assumed they have entrances, and the ones you could go in would have something for you.
Bravely Default uses the "hide in plain sight" technique; The town was drawn and you could feel how large a kingdom is, but you could only access maybe two or three roads, which just happened to have the stores and anywhere important. Background sounds and NPC movement helped give the feel of a large kingdom.
On the other side, Skyrim has tons of npcs, and yet it never felt like it was as much as there should be, and yet it was also confusing trying to figure out who was and wasn't important. It both had too many and not enough npcs.
But a game that I think did a ton of NPCs well;
I'm a fan of large crowds for large cities\spaces. I don't believe every person has to have dialogue,
Final Fantasy 12's minimap told you which people do talk to you at an easy glance. It was maybe 5% of the NPCs. You could run right by anyone that doesn't matter, or walk close enough to hear them talking about whatever they talk about. There was an overload of information of the setting that you could learn at whatever pace you wanted and however much you wanted.

You can do a lot with a little. More importantly, it should feel like there is the right amount of people, not so much you see the right number of people.

As for specifics, I think density can do a lot for selling the point. A percentage of walk-able areas taken up by townsfolk can make things feel cramped or open;
Village: 5% or less. It could be small enough that you name all the NPCs
Town: 7%
City: 10%
Castle Town: 15%
If you add in random NPCs doing something that takes up that much area, it'll feel like far more than you see. And as @The Stranger pointed out, you can build barriers that don't feel like barriers by using crowds or even clever placement of people. You can even put people in places you can't get to (someone fixing the roof, playing in a yard, looking out the window, etc).
How much of your town you show also matters. The Castle town might only give access to the main road for the PCs, but with branches that give the feel that they only see a tiny fraction of it.
 

MMMm

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You use as many NPCs as it takes to tell your story. Very few games have toddlers running around or mothers carrying young babies with them, even though these people would have to exist in any typical city.

You focus on the people that are important.
 

.//SnowAlias

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You use as many NPCs as it takes to tell your story. Very few games have toddlers running around or mothers carrying young babies with them, even though these people would have to exist in any typical city.

You focus on the people that are important.
I agree with this. Think of your game as a movie:

When presenting a scene, does it have enough people in the 'area' to present the right atmosphere?
Does your diner have a heavy lunch rush crowd to make the scene exciting?
Does your diner have a bunch of empty seats and just the regulars drinking their coffee for that relaxing nostalgic feel?

What you should be asking yourself each time you're making a number of NPCs is if they are necessary.
If they are, then make as many as you need to. If it isn't necessary, tone it down in synergy with the mood.
 

slimmmeiske2

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Lots of people above me have given real good advice. I’m mostly posting this to show you my personal approach to NPC/town communities. :ahappy:
  1. First, I decide what type of town I need. Is it big or small? Is it a trading town, fisher town or farming village, etc.?
  2. Now that I’ve decided what type of town (let’s say a big port town), it’s time to decide what type of buildings/areas it should have. In my example, I would need docks, a fish market where the fishermen sell their freshly caught fish, pubs and inns for sailors, an administration office that regulates sailors/ships/fish, a sailor/fisherman’s guild and an auction house. (And obviously shops and houses)
  3. Then I start drawing a map on paper giving the above areas and buildings a place. Where it seems appropriate houses are added.
  4. Now, it’s time to start and think about NPCs. I actually start by deciding who the houses belong to. (Let’s say two twin fisher brothers live in the small house near the docks, while the auctioneer lives in the big house near the shops.)
  5. Now that all houses have an owner, it’s time to decide where those owners will be in-game. (The auctioneer will be in the auction house, auctioning off some treasure brought back by a sailor crew; one of the twin brothers will be at the docks unloading still, while his brother will be at the fisher market selling fish they just caught.)
  6. Since this port town is big, has a lot of trade, there will also be tourists visiting/people from neighbouring towns working.
  7. Now the only thing remaining is implementing the above in game.
Some other things to keep in mind:
  • As someone else mentioned, it’s also important to decide what time it is. Is it night or during the day? And if it’s during the day, is it morning (sailors leaving) or afternoon (fishers returning to sell) or evening (pubs and inns are packed)? Seasons can be important too, if they play a role in your game.
  • If you’re unsure, you can always take inspiration from your surroundings. :awink: We had a task in Geography where we had to look at our neighbourhood and identify all the different types of housings (apartments, closed/open/half-open houses, villas, shacks, etc.).
  • A small settlement only gets to be called a village when there’s a church. Anything that doesn’t have that are called hamlets. So basically a lot of villages in games would be considered hamlets. (Just mentioning it, since you didn’t list it.) Reading up on different type of settlements, might give you some inspiration too.

I hope this post was somewhat useful to you (and others). :aswt:
 

Stanley

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I'd like to conceptually reiteratively illustrate what @kirbwarrior said. :kaohi:

In FFIX's Alexandria...you could see that the city is very very huge with rows and rows of houses and buildings. Yet, you are not accessing even half of em. Point here is, it's okay to not literally make all would-be citizens interactible for immersion purpose. As long as you can make the impression, you are good to go.:kaopride:
 
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