How to make desert maps more interesting?

AdeptusUK

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Hi all!

I am in the process of making my first rmmv game and I am thoroughly enjoying the process (my wife less so!), however I have begun my game in a desert town. The town itself is fine; houses, people, you know, all the usual stuff that keeps the eye engaged. The problem is when the protagonist leaves town it's into a desert; there's a sea and an oasis and erm... A whole lot of sand. Other than filling the map with cacti and bones I am suffering from a bit of a block on how to make it more interesting. Does anyone have any hot tips or clever thought?
 

V_Aero

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(my wife less so!)
Haha, same for me :D

I also had the feeling, that desert maps are a little bit harder to design in contrast to forest or mountain roads. I made mine more "rocky" and added cliffs and mountains, then I decided to make multiple pathes including dead ends so the player gets a feeling of beein trapped. But decide for yourself if you want a maze-like map in the beginning.
Also, I shortened the path because the RTP doesn't have many desert assets to make many point of interests.

A friend of mine used a fully different approach and made some kind of mini game. The full desert was a plain map with only some plants only. Then he put some signs as bread crumbs so the Player is forced to search for those. If the Player goes too far away from the intended way, he is surprised by a sand storm and then transfered to the beginning of the Map to try again. So well, the map itself was plain and not interesting, but it was a nice game changer.
 

Animebryan

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Deserts tend to be boring and desolate by nature. You could try the "Lost Woods" approach by making the desert map loop both horizontally & vertically & set Transfer Events at certain points on the map that may or may not have distinguishing features to hint the player into moving to those spots, otherwise they could find themselves looping over & over without realizing it.

One approach I can remember from Star Ocean 3 is have a Water/Hydration Gauge & have it drain when the player moves around but have water tiles scattered about that the player can walk on (shallow water) that replenishes their Hydration Gauge. If the Gauge runs out, the player could 'pass out' & return to the beginning of the area or even cause damage with every step or even a Game Over.

The Legend of Zelda Oracle games have sand pits that drag you into their center & then cause you to fall down into a underground cave. You make a maze by having the player navigate these sand caves to reach certain areas of the desert map in order to proceed or even reach hidden treasures or secret areas.
 

Black Pagan

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Here are some Ideas that i could think of :

1> Adding a Trade Merchant with his Caravan of Goods
Think of him as an NPC to repair your Gear or buy Exotic Gear not available in Towns.

2> Animated Weather Features
Perhaps you could pull of an Animated Tornado or Hurricane emerging in the Desert. Its your choice to make it to harm or not do any damage to the Player.

3> Ruins
You could either build a Hidden Ruins which grants you access to Side area or simply a bunch of Broken ruins - Can be Pillars, Bricks, Walls etc which probably mean nothing to the player, Just used as a Gap Filler.

4> Animals
Insert animated animals in the desert - Lizards, Snakes, Camels etc. Their only Purpose can be to fill the space and keep the Player amused.

5> Cliffs
You could insert Cliffs or Rocks to make Desert Terrain more interesting. Maybe a Cliff at the edge of the map that simply fills up the space ?
 

AdeptusUK

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Thanks so much to all of you. The hydration/exhaustion thing would actually solve another problem as I needed a way to stop the player from just wandering off into the desert and actually doing the first quest outside of town.

Then I can put in animals/traders and make it more of a hamada desert. Lots of food for thought, what an awesome bunch you are!
 

Finnuval

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Deserts are great fun and a great pain to design. The thing is though that ppl tend to think only of 1 or 2 very specific things (sand and cacti) and that is while in RL there is so much more to deserts and deserts often arent only what we think them to be.

Cacti forr instance while extremely common in many deserts are almost abscent in the Sahara (littteraly only 1 type grows there and sparcely lol).

My advice is research, research, research. Pref listening to ppl from (near) various deserts.

Things to spruce them up :

-oasis
-rockformations
-animal and human remains
-a carevancery
-bedouin camp
-abandonned campsites
-ruins (and not full explorable ones but simply a wall or statie buried in the sand)
-caves and cavesystems
- manmade wateringholes for a trade/caravan route

There is more but this is of the top of my head xD
 

hosercanadian

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Another option is to use a parallax and make it almost side scroller for the desert.

The background shows dunes and/or sky and the base is only 3-4 squares wide that can be walked on (with the rest filling to the bottom but not able to walk on it).

It will give the effect of the never-ending desert but prevents the players from going too far. In fact, I would keep it looped and have events to do transfer. It also gives a great opportunity for character exposition as the player is otherwise staring at the vast (and boring) expanse of desert. I did a scene in a game I finished which was just looping vehicle sprites and characters talking on the boring road trip.
 

Willibab

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I was thinking of having two maps, desert above and ruins/caves below. and have a bunch of places where you sink down and stairs exits that lead up. Depending on which hole you fall into you get access to different things including levers to open up other areas....so basically kind of a maze :p

Might add the never ending desert as a trap, so you gotta solve the puzzle underground to end the mirage spell. (I have a Divination talent that can warn players before entering such places)
 

Marquise*

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Mysterious crashsite/ruins/artefacts
 

CraneSoft

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You can add quicksand hazards or mirages in the mix, or simply a roaming sandworm monster that may randomly jump on you on certain "trap" tiles so the player had to watch their steps even on a desolated area.
 

Purest Prodigy

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I don't know how to explain it, but make the area centered around an oasis. Monster Hunter: World's Wildspire waste is a good example of a desert area because it doesn't focus on the vaster desert, but instead they snipped the oasis part for the player to play in. So you have a variety of flora, a small waterbed, underground caves, etc.

I suppose having ancient ruins would also spruce up a desert; look at Sandopolis zone of Sonic and Knuckles for inspiration there.
 

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