Making traversing the world less...boring.

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by GoodSelf, Aug 25, 2016.

  1. GoodSelf

    GoodSelf Zhu Li! Do the thing! Veteran

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    So, I'm trying to avoid making "empty" maps - for example, in the forest level, you can pick up unique herbs and then craft them into salves you need to help the withered plants grow, or your in a mining town, which means you can break the rocks scattered around the map to make some quick gold.

    What game mechanics do you use in your games to make the trip between point A to point B more meaningful, and fun?


    Keep in mind, I'm looking for mechanics for specific areas - for example, if you have to break rocks in every map, or gather ingredients in every map, it can become a bit tiresome. Let's think of unique ideas for the particular area (dessert, forest, port town, dark cave, etc). Hopefully we can put our heads together and come up with some great ideas!
     
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  2. Missile

    Missile Veteran Veteran

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    Personally, I like to use unique terrain traversal; climbing up cliffs, slowing movement on stairs for elevation change, wading through water or bushes, etc. Anything to change what kind of movements the player character is doing on the fly and quick and easy. It helps you feel more "grounded" with the setting. It also really helps if you can have individual animations for each of them, and are sure to make it feel natural so it doesn't stick out too much. And add in the pathway changing direction (so you're not just holding one direction all the time) with visual changes now and then for bonus points.


    Observed it in Journey, which obviously has a ton of open space where you're basically doing nothing but walking forward. The pacing is broken up (in other games, too. notably Zelda titles) about once every 5 seconds or so, and can range anywhere from a stairway, cliff, elevation change, or interaction. Pacing them at roughly random intervals (4-7 seconds of walking each) to make it feel less structured is probably a nice way to handle it. You could probably think of a ton more casual and natural movement changes as well.


    Breath of the Wild has a lot of this too, tons of tiny elevation changes, trees, cliffs, water, things to jump on, climb, and run around on (note the temple of time climbing ~6 mins in, too). Sometimes stacked with items, but mostly just to enjoy movement around the space itself.


    I think overworld puzzles can be a bit of a moodkiller in jrpg's sometimes (since battling is where most of the depth is had), but for others that might work too.
     
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  3. Canini

    Canini Veteran Veteran

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    I definitely think that travel can be made interesting with the scenery alone. Remember that there are pure exploration games (Yume Nikki being a famous RPGmaker example) that are nothing but travel.


    As for people like me who cannot make my own interesting scenery I have to solve it in other ways. My own games have a leveling system based on miniquests and so it is very easy to fill scenery with hidden quests. A personal game is to not have more than two quests of the same type in the entire game.
     
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  4. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    The most basic of mechanics is good, well designed mapping, with plenty of visual interest.  Without that, no amount of activities (gathering, breaking rocks etc.) is going to hold the player's interest for long.  Exploration is a big feature in my projects, so I have a range of different things to encourage that (which would meet your requirement of interest in going from A to B).  For example, different ways of giving EXP rewards for exploring; more unusual things to find, not just the healing-type items, money, weapons and armour.  For example, I have a strictly limited number of Skill Orbs which can increase the power of your skills.  Optional areas include bits of conversation between the characters to fill out background and personality.  Some side quests.  And so on.  And each area should have more than one thing.  If in your forest all I can do is gather herbs, and in the mine all I can do is break rocks, that quickly (for me, anyway) becomes a bit threadbare.  
     
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  5. Heretic86

    Heretic86 Veteran Veteran

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    Silly question but um, Vehicles?


    Vehicles, once unlocked, should be a change of TYPE of travel.  IE, most of the time, characters walk.  Giving the player a Vehicle as a means of bypassing previous areas that would be tedious to repeatedly walk through also allows exploring new areas that can only be accessed by certain types of vehicles, thus, change in TYPE of movement.  Changing the type of movement from walking to vehicles prevents repetition of too much walking.  Take a canoe to this cave and get this upgrade or boat over to this new town and find out more about the story.


    Key thing about Vehicles is they can be achieved without an actual vehicle script, just some graphics.  Get the power back on and allow FAST TRAVEL by train, recover a horse and allow that to be a FAST TRAVEL mechanism to and from a semi distant town, etc.


    At the end of the game, everything should be unlockable for the player, but much needs to be locked off at the beginning of the game.  It gives the player something to do more so that Fed Ex Fetch Quests. 
     
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  6. BigToastie

    BigToastie Veteran Veteran

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    Personally to me, my game will be vast, so a lot of exploring and walking around (not sorry!).


    I feel my mapping is coming along nicely which is the main factor when walking around (its not just a copy and paste of map feel, it actually feels like you are exploring an area)


    I have various key features in my areas, so one forest has a grand waterfall hidden away and a large abandoned ruin, so its not just forest over and over, it adds more life to this.


    I also have event battles rather then Random Encounters so maps have events on that level, I also have wildlife appropriately dotted around (so forest has butterflies flying around, squirrels in trees, ducks in ponds etc.) just to actually seem like the world is alive, rather then its you and the bad guys.


    Incorporating travelers, camps etc. (where it fits) also breaks it up, gives you people to talk to, who may give info on the surrounding area, side quests etc.


    I also have Explorer V.? quests, so you explore points of interest in an area and get rewarded for it, :)


    @Heretic86 further on Heretic's point, once you fully explore dungeons you could (and I have) set up a 'fast travel' like feature.


    So for instance you finish exploring a mine (its the only way in or out of a village) you try go back through, you have the option to 'fast travel' through to the other side, or go in and explore again.


    Depending on map size you could add horses and such, for instance you create a huge plain between 2 places, add a horse running round that, if you interact with it you can use it (when you dismount it runs off again) 
     
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  7. Dr. Delibird

    Dr. Delibird Veteran Veteran

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    Well you don't need to use mechanics to make the travel more interesting. Infact to many mechanics could lead to mechanic overload which is bad.


    If you look at something like an elder scrolls game or the witcher series, a fair amount of those games is travel. A lot of it is a player going from point a to point b, whether or not they know where they will end up. If you want travel to be a core gameplay experience you have got to make sure that it stands out and shines. Make all of the maps look great, graphics ARE important when it comes to games that focus on travel and exploration because the majority of that travel or exploration time will be spent stareing at your game environment. This also means your battles must look good, especially if they are random encounters though it is still very important for non-random encounters. 
     
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  8. RogdagoR

    RogdagoR Veteran Veteran

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    I'm doing exactly like @BigToastie, in my game also some side quests require you to find the place of the request since the quest giver only say the aproximate area, and each zone has evented encounter with respawn.
    Exploring and talking with strangers(or read stuff) met on the "out of the planned path" zones will be important for my game because they will give you hints on the big fights that will lies ahead.


    Also mini games and achievements will complete the efforts for walk the longest way from A to B.
     
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  9. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    For me, "walking" in general (not just going from Town A to Town B, but any movement in general) becomes a lot more interesting when I can use jumps, flips, dashes, blinks, and other cool types of movement to do it - it keeps me engaged when I already know what's happening for the next few seconds.  This tends to be present a lot in action games and platformers, sometimes in MMOs, and rarely in JRPGs where it can be sorely missed.


    Adding random chitter chatter between party members, unexpected animations, and stuff like that also prevents "travel fatigue", as long as you keep it fresh and not repetitive (which can be challenging to do over a 20+ hour game).


    Personally I find stuff like mining veins and gatherable herbs to make travel more boring because I feel compelled to abandon the quickest path between points to get that gatherable item - meaning that it takes longer and everything is still predictable.  An exception would be if the gatherables are somewhat uncommon (enough that running into one makes me feel genuinely lucky) and I don't know what item/resource I'm going to get until I actually obtain it.  Then, it would serve as a nice, engaging change of pace.  I remember Mining in WoW pulling this off pretty well (more than Herbalism and much more than Skinning).
     
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  10. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    What I do typically is simply create a "default" type map that's essentially blank except for essentials.  I then map around it, adding in things that are interesting visually or mechanically.  I do the "detail" last usually.  You know, adding flowers, bushes, NPCs, sidewalks, roads, etcetera.  I'll alter terrain as necessary (for visual interest or quest interest) and typically just give the player plenty to look at and explore.


    In all honesty, random encounters mitigate the "boring map design" a little bit.  If you aren't spending a lot of time on the maps, or it's interrupted enough that you can't explore everything immediately without combat...  Then you don't notice lackluster map design nearly as much.  Heck, just pick any MMO on the market for perfect examples of that.  Notice how they pack every few feet with new monsters to fight?  That's 'cause their map design is usually pretty terrible and pretty boring to look at.  Your attention in those is meant to be on the CONSTANT COMBAT.  Which, for some reason, nobody cares about in an MMO, but they get up in arms in a single-player RPG.


    Beyond that, I just like to make the world look alive and logical.  Okay, there's a house there.  Where do they get their water?  How do they get their food?  Do they have a trade to make money?  Do they have a family?  Are there enough beds for every family member?  Etcetera.  Usually, just thinking about that level of detail allows a map designer to actually put that level of detail into a map so that it not only doesn't look cluttered, but it doesn't look barren.


    Other things I've done is just change how leveling up works in my game or having certain things in the game world be altered a bit by which quests you've taken and how you've solved them.  I'll elaborate a little on how leveling up works in my game.  When you gain a level, the game checks to see what level you are, and then it usually changes a piece of the map to reflect that.  Usually, this is shortcuts opened up on the map, or maybe a new Quest to do (very rarely, and even usually optional), maybe a new Vendor... Maybe an old vendor or NPC has new items or dialogue...  Maybe a new section of the map opens up early...  In playtests, it's caused players to explore the map multiple times just to see what's changed, if anything.  When you condition them that "every level does something new to the map", each level up is exciting in a different way than giving out stats was.  Whether or not what you find in your exploration is "exciting" or not, is wholly up to the player, but it doesn't stop them from exploring again once they reach a new level.
     
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  11. Pierman Walter

    Pierman Walter Chunk Monster Veteran

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    Making a map interesting doesn't need to require genius scripting and sprites. For example, if you were walking along an empty road in a vast desert, and you saw a cactus that looked like a butt, it would make your boring journey slightly better, with only 30 seconds or so of sprite editing. That said, don't cover your entire desert with butt cacti. The butt cactus is enjoyable and funny because it is unexpected and distinct from the rest of the surroundings, while still fitting the setting. The wrong way to go about this is to put a LOL RANDOM object where it makes no sense.
     
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  12. Canini

    Canini Veteran Veteran

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    I think I have found my new life philosophy.
     
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