Mapping of old RPG games.

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Mouser

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I get nervous when a dungeon has a bunch of different paths because I'm like DON'T KNOW WHERE TO GO FIRST OH GOD. I hate guessing which path is going to lead to a treasure chest and which path is going to trigger a cutscene or boss fight. I prefer seeing an obvious main path with a few small branches here and there.
I'm going to comment on this point. Most players don't like 'complicated' maps.

See: Daggerfall. No RPG that I can think of before or since comes close to the awesomeness of Daggerfall dungeons and especially it's projective geometry auto-map (excluding games that are _purely_ dungeon runners).  Morrowind came along and shrank the dungeons to little hallways with a couple rooms. I skipped Oblivion but in Skyrim I've only found a few dungeons to really compare with what was 'normal' for Daggerfall.

Getting back to the 2D games - Final Fantasy IV is an excellent case study for using vehicles to 'gate' content: hover craft, airship, airship + hovercraft, chocobo, colored chocobo, metal plated airship, Great Whale, probably some more I'm forgetting. Some think gating content is always a Bad Thing - personally, I disagree. I know you can 'beat' Morrowind in under 5 minutes if you know what you're doing.
 

Ramiro

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FF13 has a reason why the maps are straight lines, most of them are mountains being narrow paths at least until midgame where the story at least starts to get insteresting, but even when half of the game are straight paths, they didn't put effort in rewarding exploration, probably theeir idea was not making exploration as something importar from people basically running for their lives, but when you actually start to have some freedom, you already invested 20 hours going from corridor to corridor to cutscene to corridor to corridor...

Of course, most of final fantasy games never did "puzzle maps" or not always (they are never like a zelda game), but they tend to be more movies than game and even if you have input, if your input si keeping forward and sometimes pressing A to defeat a mook it's not funny, at least not according to today's standards. Even if they actually fixed most of the problems in the second and third games, they won't make the first one any better. Or if the first 20 hours of the game are bad, and then the next 20 are enjoyable,  the last half won't make the first one any better. Actually you could remove half of FF13 and keep it as a 5 minute cutscene, and everyone would complain the game is too short of course, but at least those 20 hours will be better than the 40 hours with mixed feelings...

FF13 isn't the first FF with that kind of path, if you look at games like braverly default, or even final fantasy V, they suffer at least at the start from some, "go from point a to point B with some random chests in between"

3d games suffer more, because the environment has to be modelled on a 3d space, so they can take another forms on 2d you are really limited.

But take an idea on how long you had to wait to go to the "main hub" in FF13, and to go there in other final fantasy games, but that are other aspects of game design and are not exclusive to mapping. Of course, one make your maps to fit your gameplay.

Yes while FFI had the idea of more than just one vehicle (and II had that idea too later) IV went crazy over the world map and vehicles.

One game who had good maps (even when the storyline is a bit too silly and character development is almost zero) are golden sun games, they made you to use your abilities every time, even more than a zelda game, every town had at least one thing to do with psyenergy (and reading people's minds is funny...). On the second game, they even allow some skills on the world map.
 

Indrah

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(Warning: it was 5 am and I spent way too long at this, so it came out kinda spammy linky and ranty. Sorry bout that, nostalgia and sleep deprivation does that to me XD)

Ok, with the aid of a kind site that hosts old Snes maps, I'm gonna try to comment on games I played way back when (oh the era of snes emulators). Good and bad examples and I'll to to articulate why:

7th saga: [bad AND ugly mapping]

Okay layouts, extrmely boring execution:http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/7thSaga-CaveOfBarrier-1.png

LOOK AT THIS CR*P. WHAT IS THIS. There is absolutely no decoration at all, the colors all mush together. And no, that isn't a bad example, all the game was really that ugly. If it's not obvious, it's extrmely difficult to tell where the heck you are and to navigate areas (which couples with a high as balls encounter system, let me tell you, that game sucked).

Some more examples of suck: all boring maps with no good features to give them life. This is why themes and solid decoration is important, people.

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/7thSaga-TownOfBugask.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/7thSaga-TownOfGuntz.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/7thSaga-GrimeTower-Floor3.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/7thSaga-TownOfLigena.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/7thSaga-CaveOfEarth.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/7thSaga-CastleOfGorfun(Present)-Dungeon1.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/7thSaga-TownOfLuze.png

There are SLIGHLY less sucky areas, but they're still very borign since they stick to a very samey pattern and no decent decor.

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/7thSaga-CastleOfTelaine.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/7thSaga-CastleOfPatrof-Floor2.png

And then, there's the HORROR of the world map:

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/7thSaga-Ticondera(Present)-NortheastQuadrant.png

Yes, it's all THAT degree of ugly. Look at it, it's so BAD to look at, and it's even worse to navigate.

Basic good palettes and minimal decor. it's important :/ (That game came out two years after FF4, just so you get an idea)
Breath of Fire 1&2: [Nice graphics, bleh mapping]

Anyone reember BOF1? I barely do, that stuff was so old, and it shows. Grindy in combat, grindy in maps. look at this ****.

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFire-Nanai.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFire-Winlan.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFire-AuraCave.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFire-KarmaForest.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFire-ForestOfDespair.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFire-CleansingWaterCave.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFire-NorthCave.png

Do you see a pattern? All the dungeons are the same: either boring or too mazelike layouts composed of walls and floors, and that's it. Very minimal decoration, no big identifiable landmarks. I remember getting lost and frustrated with, say it with me again, HIGH ENCOUNTER RATES~ (Die in a fire you bastarrds)

Worse is, the tiles themselves are nice enough, as visible in towns and more elaborate areas, but even those become repetitive and share the same patterns over and over again. Was it such a hardship to make a couple of rocks and crap to put on the dungeons? 

LOOK at this! Try to tell the shop interiors apart at a glance. You can't! They all blur together. Which sucks, because as stand-alones the towns are the prettiest of them.

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFire-Prima.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFire-Tunlan.png

And then there's BOF2. It does SLIGHTLY better on both graphic quality and SLIGHT map decoration, but it's largely the same, just less aggravating.

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFireII-MtFubi.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFireII-MtRocko.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFireII-WildCat.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFireII-SkyTower.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFireII-Bando.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFireII-WhaleCave.png

It's obvious these games had excellent artists on board, so it's so despairing that the maps came out so bland. Hell, I'm pretty sure with the default tiles I could do better, and I'm not a professional. In BOF1 and 2's case, I believe the sheer AMOUNT of maps (the game was long and grindy with many many areas, not that they ever felt any different) harmed the game. So even if some areas got neat graphics, they never got the polish and attention they deserved. 
Chrono Trigger: [Good graphics, good maps: overall great]

Okay, so overall Chrono trigger is a great games and the maps only enhace it. I feel like I have to specify that the game also used on-map encounters, which both enhaces and influences maps, so they don't operate on the same rules as a random encounter game.

I don't think I have to remind anyone that this game was just nice to watch, but here are some non-dungeons:

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-1000AD-Crono'sHouse.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-1000AD-GuardiaCastle.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-12000BC-ZealPalace.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-12000BC-Kajar.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-2300AD-SunPalace.png

Now look at a few dungeons:

Notice anything? They all have a solid layout and excellent execution, but even if the graphic quality is good, you'll notice that each area isn't really using THAT many different pieces, yet the maps feel fresh and cohesive without being boring. Compare this to the examples of the other games above and realize the difference.

Heck, most of these even have a progression and change as they go in some way so the areas don't get stale. Changing environs, switching up layouts completely with stairs or other transportations, throwing in gauntlet areas, etc. There's also many visible landmarks and distinctive rooms/areas so getting lost is rare.

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-600AD-Magus'sLair.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-600AD-Giant'sClaw.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-1000AD-GuardiaForest.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-600AD-NorthernRuins.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-2300AD-ArrisDome.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-2300AD-DeathPeak.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-2300AD-Factory.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-2300AD-Lab16.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-2300AD-SewerAccess.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-1000AD-GuardiaCastleJail.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-600AD-Cathedral.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-600AD-DenadoroMts.png

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-65000000BC-ForestMaze.png

Try this: pick any of the maps and follow the player's route. You will immediately recognize the areas that will trigger certain events, the changes of pace, etc, even if you're not familiar with the game. 

And then...well. There's the last dungeon, the Black Omen. if you played the game you probably remember it at least a tiny bit, because it was a monster and really kickass place (and the tiles make me hate he game, because I WANT THEM).

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-BlackOmen.png

The Black Omen is really just a corridor with monster obstacles between you and the final boss, but does an awesome job and swtiching up the graphics (and recyling and repurposing them from previous areas) while still keeping a distinct style. Just pick one room. Any room. And really look at it. And cry because we can't privately hire whomoever designed those graphics.
And...it's 6 am. yep. I'm off to bed, continue another day with the nostalgia trip. (If I'm doing this wrong someone shut me up)
 

Amuseum

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The most memorable map designs are from early Might and Magic series and Zelda series. Both are puzzle oriented and theme oriented. Link's Awakening and MM games let you check the map layout in-game. LA dungeons' overall shapes resemble the boss or other appropriate shape. Probably the best dungeon in that game (even though all are brilliant) is the tower. The tower has several floors, and part way through you make the floors fall down to the next level, thus rearranging the bottom floor's layout.


MM puzzles have a wide range of interaction with the environment. Triggers can look like skulls, torches, buttons, levers, etc. Lots of wall shifting and floor shifting. One particular level that stands out is the life size crossword puzzle. You read questions on the wall and provide answers. The complete solution is basically a crossword puzzle like you find in the daily newspaper.

I'm going to comment on this point. Most players don't like 'complicated' maps.


See: Daggerfall. No RPG that I can think of before or since comes close to the awesomeness of Daggerfall dungeons and especially it's projective geometry auto-map (excluding games that are _purely_ dungeon runners).  Morrowind came along and shrank the dungeons to little hallways with a couple rooms. I skipped Oblivion but in Skyrim I've only found a few dungeons to really compare with what was 'normal' for Daggerfall.


Getting back to the 2D games - Final Fantasy IV is an excellent case study for using vehicles to 'gate' content: hover craft, airship, airship + hovercraft, chocobo, colored chocobo, metal plated airship, Great Whale, probably some more I'm forgetting. Some think gating content is always a Bad Thing - personally, I disagree. I know you can 'beat' Morrowind in under 5 minutes if you know what you're doing.
I love going through Daggerfall dungeons. Very fun to explore and they could be very huge. You get so much loot, you go back several times back and forth to haul the loot and sell it.


FF type of gating with vehicles seems cool the first time, but the gimmick gets old. It's like learning the secret to a magic trick, it loses its magic. Zelda also gates, but with nice useful stuff, i.e. new weapons that you utilize to open up new areas. Comparatively moving around in boats and blimps seems quite dull.
 

Euphony

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Pretty crazy that 7th Saga and Chrono Trigger were from the same era, right? One with maps so forgettable, one with maps so incredible. I think it's interesting to note that Chrono's chipsets have lots of details packed into the walls and even the floors--particularly in the futuristic environments where they use overlapping pipes, grates, and various doodads. Referencing my earlier point, it makes the map feel deeper. Part of what makes them so memorable for me. Well, that plus some creative obstacles...I mean, not many RPGs use big piles of junk and ruined trucks as walls in their dungeons hehe.
 

Ksi

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Um, what? The mapping in Breath of Fire II was actually very good for the most part. Towns could be a bit boring at points, but the dungeons were quite well done for the era in which they were created and each had charming aspects to them that made them different. The ones you pointed out, for example:

- Mt Fubi, the first one, changed after your first time through, creating a shortcut because you had to go through it fairly often for the first half of the game. Not only that, the boss battle isn't at the end of the map, there's treasure strewn around, a healing point exists so you can grind a bit if you want and you actually effect the environment as you go. http://i.imgur.com/oBSAvAI.png

That link gives an idea of your first time through vs your second - second being the red line, first being the green. Pink demonstrates special events - the one in the middle of the outside is the boss battle, the one next to the fountain is a healing point and the third is where you drop down out of the caves, which you never see again.

- Mt Rocko isn't much of a maze as there are NPCs to talk through in it and a quiz in order to make your way through. It's a bandit hideout, hence the living items there. You only go there once (twice if you want to get a certain something) but it's memorable.

- Wildcat Cafe is another that shortens itself after the first time you go through. It's a novelty dungeon and pretty cute, too, with an interesting design that stands out from the rest of the areas of an already interesting game.

- Sky Tower has both underwater timers and tides that you can get pulled into. It's another novelty dungeon where you have rooms with air to breathe and then dive back through the water to make your way to the end. Another one-off area.

- Bando church has hidden rooms that you have to expose by pressing a button that pushes the walls back. It's simple but it works for a non-dungeon dungeon and hideout of evil.

- You are in the literal guts of a whale where you hit things and they open and/or wake the whale up. How many games let you go into a whale's belly?
Frankly, while they're not the best maps ever created, they have a lot of great points. I think the real issue is the horribad encounter rates in the game, honestly, but the mapping is quite charming and all have interesting points to them, whether it be the theme, design or gameplay aspects within them. I'm just surprised you didn't pick out some of the towns or mist valley or the like because those? Those can get a bit on the bland side. They still have their charm but for what era they were made in, they're decent and quite interesting. At least on a level with CT when it comes to location interestante.

As for FFXIII, I played through it again this year. The first time I played through it I hated it because of just how little exploration there is in the game - which is the issue with the maps. They're streamlined to all hell with only a few offsets here and there to give an illusion of 'hey, look, we did a side route'. It didn't work because, frankly, it was shallow at best. Now, don't get me wrong - the graphical designs in some areas are really really well done and very lovely. The forest area is one of my favourites in recent games and it's lovely, it's just incredibly shallow when it comes to allowing you to actually explore the lands around you... which is annoying for anyone used to actually playing jRPGs where exploration is usually a big part of the fun. When treasure is just handed to you by taking a few steps to the left of the main path, it doesn't feel like you deserved it at all, even if you had to fight a monster to get it. Granted, there were some areas that were a bit more open, but it still felt confined in ways, and it was something that really hurt the game.

It's a pity but I can understand why they went that route - you are a group of people on the run, trying to escape 'the law', so exploring isn't exactly high on your list of things to do. It still made the game feel like an endless series of hallways - especially when you consider that people on the run in a world like that would have many areas in which they could hide - for example, losing yourself among the forest instead of sticking to that one path? They went for a thing but it didn't work the way they wanted.
 
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GrandmaDeb

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Indrah, I love you! =]

You are a great mapping talent, and I appreciate this little peek into that mind of yours.


 

7th saga: [bad AND ugly mapping]
Okay layouts, extremely boring execution:
(maps)
LOOK AT THIS CR*P. WHAT IS THIS. There is absolutely no decoration at all, the colors all mush together. And no, that isn't a bad example, all the game was really that ugly........
 
Some more examples of suck: all boring maps with no good features to give them life. This is why themes and solid decoration is important, people.
....................................
There are SLIGHLY less sucky areas, but they're still very borign since they stick to a very samey pattern and no decent decor.
Ahhh, this is definitely helping me see the progression from the previous maps. This map below has perfectly fine layout (in Granny's eyes) but as you say, the lack of any decor...
http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/7thSaga-CastleOfTelaine.png

 
Breath of Fire 1&2: [Nice graphics, bleh mapping]
Anyone reember BOF1? I barely do, that stuff was so old, and it shows. Grindy in combat, grindy in maps. look at this ****.
Well, I have admit Granny's 4:30 a.m. eyes think these two are okay, but I am starting to get your feel for this, a wee bit...
The elevations are nice but completely bare. Many rooms are just about empty.

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFire-Nanai.png
http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFire-AuraCave.png

 
Do you see a pattern? All the dungeons are the same: either boring or too mazelike layouts composed of walls and floors, and that's it. Very minimal decoration, no big identifiable landmarks. I remember getting lost and frustrated with, say it with me again, HIGH ENCOUNTER RATES~ (Die in a fire you bastarrds)
Worse is, the tiles themselves are nice enough, as visible in towns and more elaborate areas, but even those become repetitive and share the same patterns over and over again.
Was it such a hardship to make a couple of rocks and crap to put on the dungeons?  This is the stuff you excel in.
LOOK at this! Try to tell the shop interiors apart at a glance. You can't! They all blur together. Which sucks, because as stand-alones the towns are the prettiest of them.
Okay, I am seeing how a decision to make the shops all "similar/recognizable"  backfired into a rubber stamp mess. Good point.
http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/BreathOfFire-Prima.png
......................................
...................................... 
It's obvious these games had excellent artists on board, so it's so despairing that the maps came out so bland. Hell, I'm pretty sure with the default tiles I could do better, and I'm not a professional. In BOF1 and 2's case, I believe the sheer AMOUNT of maps (the game was long and grindy with many many areas, not that they ever felt any different) harmed the game. So even if some areas got neat graphics, they never got the polish and attention they deserved. 
Interesting game design point.
/me goes and counts maps.....

..................................
..................................
Chrono Trigger: [Good graphics, good maps: overall great]
Okay, so overall Chrono trigger is a great game and the maps only enhance it. I feel like I have to specify that the game also used on-map encounters, which both enhances and influences maps, so they don't operate on the same rules as a random encounter game.
Two excellent points.
 
I would have gotten lost in here though: =]

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-1000AD-GuardiaCastle.png
 
Now look at a few dungeons:
 
Notice anything? They all have a solid layout and excellent execution, but even if the graphic quality is good, you'll notice that each area isn't really using THAT many different pieces, yet the maps feel fresh and cohesive without being boring. Compare this to the examples of the other games above and realize the difference.
Heck, most of these even have a progression and change as they go in some way so the areas don't get stale. Changing environs, switching up layouts completely with stairs or other transportations, throwing in gauntlet areas, etc. There's also many visible landmarks and distinctive rooms/areas so getting lost is rare.

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-600AD-Giant'sClaw.png really intriguing tiles, eh?
http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-1000AD-GuardiaForest.png Kind of a parallax-tutorial, and I think there are only three similar trees, and a plant. 4 different ground textures go a long way.
http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-2300AD-ArrisDome.png I have to admit the use of tiles is very nice, but I find this one visually confusing.

Let's go steal these!!!!! I want this Forest Maze Stuff, too!

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-65000000BC-ForestMaze.png
 
Try this: pick any of the maps and follow the player's route. You will immediately recognize the areas that will trigger certain events, the changes of pace, etc, even if you're not familiar with the game. 
 5 a.m. You have totally lost me. Pace? Trigger events? I mean, for events I am used to our RPG Maker games, but I am not game-aware enough to get this, I think...
And then...well. There's the last dungeon, the Black Omen. if you played the game you probably remember it at least a tiny bit, because it was a monster and really kickass place (and the tiles make me hate he game, because I WANT THEM).
http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-BlackOmen.png
The Black Omen is really just a corridor with monster obstacles between you and the final boss, but does an awesome job and swtiching up the graphics (and recyling and repurposing them from previous areas) while still keeping a distinct style. Just pick one room. Any room. And really look at it. And cry because we can't privately hire whomoever designed those graphics.
You are right, these are incredible maps. =]

 
And...it's 6 am. yep. I'm off to bed, continue another day with the nostalgia trip. (If I'm doing this wrong someone shut me up)
Been invaluable! =] Thanks. I will read this again, and benefit again.
 
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BCj

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I liked BOF2's maps. As well as Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore Chrono Trigger etc.
 

EternalShadow

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I did actually have a point to make about this, but my phone kept crashing on webpages (getting a new one >_> ) so I couldn't reply.


Basically, if you look at old games, you'll quickly learn that most games which confined a lot of details to a small space were more popular than those that had sparse detail, large areas and more to explore.


For example, the original FF(3) Droga's Grotto was as such:

EDIT: image broken, look it up yourself: "Droga's Grotto" (the purple/blue one was the original)

And here is the remake:

final_fantasy_iii_ds_dogas.png

Yes, both are linear paths, but one has used the abundance of new technology and graphics in the remake of FF(3) to provide a better experience for the players. Treasure chests were placed a mixture of carefully nearby yet hidden so that the random battles wouldn't disadvantage those going to seek them, whilst also making them a little bit more of a risk to find than simply following the correct path.


However, I was never really a fan of FF3's maps as they often looked the same and didn't have much to them. Besides a few special areas (the end of Droga's Grotto for example) there was little difference in the graphics. 


I'm not going to leave without a comparison against FF12's technology, maps and gameplay though!

1818049578.jpg

FF12 thrived mapping-wise due to its lack of random battles, thereby allowing exploration. Tales of Zesteria, I couldn't help but notice shared many similarities in this regard.

1st-Screenshot.png

HOWEVER, FF12 lacked the ability to truly run (sprint) like you can in Tales, and so I think the designers took this as a cue to make the TOZ maps much larger than they were in 12. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of running about. I have not played TOZ so I don't know if there are vehicles to improve your travel speed, but generally from what I have seen, I don't think there are. Whilst pretty, the maps in TOZ can tend to be a bit barren and nonsensical as a result unfortunately, to make up for the possibility of players rushing through the maps while sprinting.


Also, I have to point out that one of my least favorite maps in FF12 is Ozmone Plain. It's extremely barren, but it's similar to a place near the start of the game where chocobos can be hired. Incidentally, chocobos can be hired in Ozmone Plain as a form of fast travel too. This again suggests that the maps were made wider and more barren to accompany the possibility of riding a chocobo to the detriment of on-foot travel.


In contrast, games with more limited experience possible cram more into their spaces. Shining Force is an example of this, despite being a turn-based strategy game. I spent the vast majority of my battle time in about 5 squares squared of one of the first maps, just trying to get through a mountain range with the optimal party layout to engage the enemy. The design had clearly been thought out in these few squares, as I found myself trying to flank the enemy or go down a certain path, the prior one of which had been destroyed or somesuch.


There's a lot to say on this topic, but the general cue is that maps have been designed around what the player is expected to do, how they can do it, graphical limitations and so on. There are linear maps but if there are random battles, that is usually the reason for it. Hidden treasure routes have been carefully balanced with distance away, like in FF3. However, linear maps with non-random but sometimes unavoidable battles are ripe in FF13. If more development time is condensed into a smaller space, then a better gameplay experience can come from a smaller space, than a large wide-open one.
 
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Sharm

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@Indrah and Ksi:  You guys both have good points and I'm enjoying listening to your opinions.  This seems like a  form vs function argument.  BoF maps end up being interesting due to being very functional in a good game, but are also bland because they ignored making each part of it beautiful.  I remember getting lost so many times in BoF because things looked the same.
 
@GrandmaDeb:  Red is a moderator color, you can't use it in your posts.  I removed it and replaced it with teal.
 
 

I would have gotten lost in here though: =]
http://www.vgmaps.co...ardiaCastle.png
 
You wouldn't actually.  It's less confusing than it looks, and many of the areas are blocked off until later segments of the game.
 

Kind of a parallax-tutorial, and I think there are only three similar trees, and a plant. 4 different ground textures go a long way.
 
I think the parts of the canopy are tiles so that they can make a large variety.  This makes the canopy itself look a bit odd and a little flat, but the forest overall becomes more dynamic.
 

I have to admit the use of tiles is very nice, but I find this one visually confusing.
 
Agreed!  I didn't like playing in the domes.
 
@BCj:  Could you go into more detail?  I'd like to know why you like them.
 
@EternalShadow:  I agree, maps should be laid out in a way that supports gameplay.  I think that's part of the reason games with heavy puzzle elements tend to be better mapped, because if they don't have the maps support the gameplay the whole thing falls apart.
 
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Indrah

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@ksi Hmm. I played this very long ago so I may be wrong, but I still feel that while the raw layouts (especially when it comes to cliffing) seem fine, they have a very severe lack of landmarks and decoration in general, and that's bad. I don't remember it being something that OFFENDED me or anything while ingame (the encounter rate was in charge of that) but neither was it impressive. Looking at it NOW I definitely do feel they're bland.

I did not remember the shortcuts however, so that point goes to you. That IS a definite plus to them compared to others.

And yeah, of the ones I linked (which I'll be honest, I clicked a few of the MANY MANY maps in the avaliable list, I didn't seek them out from memory so the selection is rather random) the whale interior seems the most unique and interesting, but even then it's a slab of the same colour with few highlights. 

Myself, I really don't like when maps are just the rooms/layouts and that's it, even if the cliffing is nice or the tiles for the walls and floor are well done. A few points of decoration to make it pop, please! Tho i understand this was a different time and the same rules may not apply, I still think the BOF maps have a bunch of wasted potential. (Which eh, is of course my opinion and within my bias, I may be wrong).

So yeah, in execution they were mostly fine and they definitely worked on the execution aspect, but to me they definitely lack some presentation polish in the decoration.

@GrandmaDeb

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-1000AD-GuardiaCastle.png

^That's actually the castle and counts as a "town" and (if I'm remembering it right) had a few secrets peppered thorough. While at first glance it seems laberynthic it's actually laid out in a simmetrical fashion. All those small rooms are actually part of towers, and they hold JUST the room and stairs up and down, so they never get overwhelming. You have the central area and the two wings, all with sets of stairs. It's not so much getting lost, really, as picking the stair and sticking with it. You see most of the rooms as you climb, so the worst you can do is pick the wrong stair first.

" 5 a.m. You have totally lost me. Pace? Trigger events? I mean, for events I am used to our RPG Maker games, but I am not game-aware enough to get this, I think..."

Ok, that's definitely the brain poisons of 5 am assumign too much XD Let me explain: trigger events are simply interactables or what happens automatically when you enter a space (a cutscene, enemies attacking you, etc).

As for pace: let's assume the "default" state/pace of the player in a dungeon is walk forwards with an occasional encounter. Usually and in most games this becomes a "walk walk walk, side road+treasure, backtrack to road, walk walk walk, repeat many times, save/rest, boss". 

Nothing is inherently wrong with that, but it's very nice when games switch it up. This can happen by peppering it with puzzles, shortcuts, optional rooms, and honestly anything interactable. By "pace" I mean how long do you go by doing the same thing? Changing pace would be "jarring" the player at least a bit by doing anything like the points before (interactables, multiple roads to explore, treasure, changing the environment, etc).

In the case of Chrono Trigger it's important to note that ENEMIES were a big pace-changer, since most of the time they had certain patrol patterns and it was entirely possible to evade them if you played your cards right. Also, it's not just the enemy you TOUCH, all the enemies onscreen or part of the enemy group at the time will attack you which made you pay more attention to the changing of scenery than most games, especially in rooms with a lot of enemies.

Let's pick an example from the screens below, one of the most famous and remembered ones (not necessarily the best), Magus' Lair: (apologies if I get anything wrong here, playing it by memory)

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/ChronoTrigger-600AD-Magus%27sLair.png

You start at the very bottom, from the outside. Right off the dungeon gets mad points for having a "prolog" to set the mood, the visual of the castle exterior (you don't do anything there, it's just there to set the mood, and the mood is "holy sh*t this is bamf".

The reason you came here is also important plot-wise and explains why the area is the way it is. You are expressly seeking out Magus, who is at the time about to do soemthing the party decides must be stopped, so you go to his stronghold. To get to him you will have to get past his defenses, including his subordinates. This sets the defenseive "against you" tone of the dungeon. This isn't an exploratory area, you're invading a stronghold ready for you.

You enter and the green fatso, Ozzie, yaps at you (and may throw enemies at you I forget). From here on you must first defeat two of Magus' subordinates to advance, each at the end of a corridor from the main room. 

So we pick the left side, up the stairs and into a room. You'll see the big fatty captain and some skeletons patrolling, and a bit further in another captain type and some sparring skellies (see a theme? this is the baddie's lair, and these are their minions acting like a recognizable army).

Next room is the miniboss...I don't rmemeber what his name is. I'll call him blue frog. He's the physical type or "army general" of the three minibosses (so it makes sense that to get here you had the "rank solider" enemies.) Defeat him, yank the treasures (including a neato sword!) behind him and go back to the main hall.

Back in the entry pick up the right door, beat up the slimes around the chest and continue to a DIFFERENT kind of rank and file rooms (including the magic types). Pass that, you'll find the caped orange thing, and assume it's the miniboss. 

After beating the thing, it turns up it WASNT the boss, and Flea (hey, I remember him! It was the crossdressing pink mage who went OHOHOHO and had a stupid name!) will fight you. And he's pretty darn tough, but anyway. Flea is the magical miniboss and fits as the "army mage leader" type.

After this you can go back to main hall and a shiny spot in the center will take you to a new area. Here there's a very logn corridor with patrolling enemies which, I THINK, you can time just right to evade. You'll also meet the taunting fatso ozzie again but he flees (this becomes a theme all thorough the dungeon, by the way).

Cross the log corridor (by brute force or perfect running) and in comes a trap room. And here my memory fails me because I KNOW something happens here but I don't quite remember what. Ozzie is pulling that crank and making the traps work, but you can again time it right and bypass it, making him panic and flee again.

After that there's a big shift in environment, the lair's exterior walls, with some more enemies you can evade (see those rolly polly things? They roll down the stairs, so you have to get out of the way without triggering the caped mages). This serves as a clean "partition" between areas. We're leaving behind the first floor and moving on to the second. Another trap room here. Ozzie again with the cranks. If you fall you'll be penalized by going into a room that will probably trick you into a fight (the save point is a trap) before allowing you back up.

Get past Ozzie again to another climb up the tower walls, with the enemies now getting harder (higher tier rolly pollies and samurai birds). The next room...I honestly don't remember what it is. I BELIEVE Ozzie messes up and instead of summoning all those enemies he makes them fall, leaving the room bare (idiot) and runs away.

Last corridor! This one is a gauntlet, but you can evade everything with enough run skill. Get past it and it's time to fight Ozzie as a miniboss (he's an advsior/cunning type, which fits with all the traps and hiding behind troops). Yank the treasure, enter the shiny spot and get transported outside again for a long stair, with some bats (noticeably less tough enemies, because this is a preparation room before the boss) you can run past.

You will realize you're going down, changing the pace of so far going up, and the straight nature of it will probably trigger some warning bells on the players. 

Finally you enter the boss arena. Important to note the music will fade out and get spooky, and the little flames will not appear until you walk past them, where they will pop up with a sound and animation, making the corridor very ominous and preparing the player for things to come. You finally arrive at the end of the room, with the flames going ahead of you and forming the circular arena where Magus stands. He finally confronts you and the boss ensues. (and he's pretty thought, the sexy bastard).

Okay, so this one was not the MOST pace-changing dungeon, but it still had clear highlights and a memorable pattern:

Part 1-(Open the way by defeating the two "army" bosses)

Impressive entrance, scene with baddie, corridor with fights, boss fight. Backtrack, corridor, fakeout boss, real boss. Backtrack and open new route. 

Part 2-(Defeat the "advisor" type boss Ozzie)

Gauntlet corridor, cutscene/trap room, change of environment. Another trap room and again partition. Corridor, gauntlet corridor, third and last miniboss.

Part 3-(Final walk to your goal, Magus, and stop him)

Descending (odd) corridor with enemies, pre-boss corridor with special effects, then boss.

If it doesn't seem like much, compare it to this:

http://www.vgmaps.com/Atlas/SuperNES/7thSaga-CaveOfEarth.png

That's a cave being used as a block between world map areas: enter, open door with key (you needed it), empty and useless aborted dead ends, jesus this is boring, trap chest SCREW YOUU (that is LITERALLY the only loot in the area, and it's a very hard enemy trap), Miniboss (that's the blue character in there), continue on. 

It's not hard to see the difference. Heck, the Magus' lair is not even the most complex or the most interactive of the maps in Chrono Trigger. In the future time period dungeons you often had to interact with the machinery, some dungeons were a lot more laberynthic with different elevations and layouts, some areas used and abused teleportation means (magic, quicksand holes, etc) to make you feel disoriented, etc.

In this particular example it was all about traps and interacting with the contextual characters of the area (the minions of the last boss, who all had a personality and names and some banter to throw at you) in a space that was designed to keep out intruders (therefore the gauntlet-like corridors and traps).

So yeah. Changing the pace, aka things getting shaken up and not being the exact same for 30 minutes, or in fact all thoroigh the game by making sure not every dungeon feels the same. (God that was a rant, I'm so SO sorry)
 

Sharm

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Interesting.  So basically you're saying Chrono Trigger's maps were good because the layout of the dungeon itself told a story.  I agree with that.  I'm definitely going to use that concept when creating dungeons myself.
 

DarknessFalls

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When it comes to looking at old maps and how people created said maps its all about how much detail you can get when working with what you have, in my game I am using the default tile sets and some other tile sets, but the vast majority of what I am making parallaxes with the default stuff. I think what people miss when it comes to maps, is that - its not what you use, but how you use it. Sure you can use the latest ancient dungeon forest pack from celina or you could use the default RTP. Its about the story you want to tell and the feel you want to give the world you are creating.
 

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Interesting topic. Here are my thoughts.

I kinda DISLIKE the... "standard" today... If your Screen isn't pretty much PERFECT than you're getting torn apart... Worse if you use RTP (which i think can look REALLY great...)

Earlier, you loved a game even if the graphics AND mapping weren't so good. The perfect example would be Final Fantasy 1 (NES) like here posted earlier.)

Z2TfhBv.png


Now let's translate this map into MV RTP (at least with an updated river):



Pretty bad, huh? Empty and lifeless... But at the time FF1 was released this wasn't a thing. I believe nobody would've screamed at the game because of its look.

If you would today make a "Game presentation" and this would be one of the screens everyone would go crazy and ignore the project...

Okay, let's spice the screen a little bit up and add more details:



NOW it looks more appealing... (at least in my opinion).

But this HAS to be pretty much the standard today. I know that graphic evolved. A LOT. But sometimes i kinda feel anger when i read:
"UGLY MAPPING! GAME IS BAD". I can understand that the map i recreated isn't good at all but if the gameplay is right and the story is told well i would

overlook the mapping. It's kinda sad imho...

There are people good at mapping... There are people good at writing and telling a story... But there aren't many that can do both good... I kinda wished that mapping would be rated

lower than actual Story... Because Story and Gameplay keeps the game running... Not perfect mapping.

Okay i think i drifted a little bit apart on the actual topic. Sry? :D
 

DarknessFalls

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the problem with today is the community, when parallax mapping came in, any other form of mapping was treated like a second rate citizen. if the colors and the clutter and the world didn't give you the 1990's play station chrono cross feel of immersion you were shunned from the community for your mapping skills. Its disgusting really.

This is why I chose to use the default rtp and show how beautiful the map can be with little to no effort and with out all the tricks and gimmicks that we take for granted today.
 

Kes

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I think this topic is in danger of being derailed and as Sharm is likely (given different time zones) not to be around at the moment, can I ask people to stick to the main theme which is not the merits and demerits of parallax mapping.
 
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Ksi

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@Indrah - the thing to remember with Breath of Fire II maps is that there were areas that were landmarks in most places, and there was also a bunch of animation in the maps themselves. That game is very hard to rip due to them using not only 16x16 tiles, but 8x8 tile mapping as well, which really helped make the maps feel more dynamic. Granted, Breath of Fire I had a lot of issues, but II upped the ante a lot in comparison.

The whale map, since you pointed it out, was actually set out in the shape of the whale itself. There was another map where you go into the body of a princess to fight a fat demon and set her back to rights - the dungeon was also in the shape of the human body. The inside of a body ain't exactly the best place to look for beauty in mapping, ya know? II had almost every dungeon set out in a way that was either interesting and easy to get back through (shortcuts included), aiding the gimmick of the dungeon or prettiness. Granted, it's not mapping that can compare to today's graphics and sure, I could definitely use the tiles to map better maps, but the fact of the matter is, during that time they were making a change from square maps to more organic ones (sort of the opposite of RM nowdays, hurr hurr) and they did their best to do that. Just looking at the map layouts doesn't give you a good image of the maps themselves because there's details that are missing - the animation, the NPCs, the lighting and effects that are added.
The innards of the whale pulse, for example - you can see them moving as you walk through them.

gfs_44774_2_32.jpg


bof2_0065.png


Almost every house has a toilet, for example. And check out those 8x8 tile walls - you can be seen when walking behind those windows, btw, and most cabinets have items in them. Sure it's not the most incredible map in the world but it does a pretty decent job. Also, all water and flames are animated (and not just 4-step - they have varied amounts of animations, which is what made my BoFII fangame fail - trying to rip animations where they each had a different amount of flames is, in a word, hell.)

1.jpg


Even though the towns aren't exactly amazing, they are each and every single one completely different from each other and small enough that you don't get lost. Off the top of my head you have:

- A cliff-side town with waterfalls and windmills (pictured above)

- A Colosseum town

44-Breath_of_Fire_II_(USA)040.png


- A castle town in the middle of a lake with running water through-out and bucket systems that you can traverse (and underwater areas and a sewer-type dungeon underneath - SimaFort is great) where Frog-people live

- A castle built on the ruins of an old civilisation which is very heavily fortified and militaristic

- A town you can customise the look of

- A small farming town that is rustic and very grounded

- A huge church town with built-up cobble streets and very clean, pristine feel

- A town in the middle of the underworld, built into a giant pillar

41-Breath_of_Fire_II_(USA)033.png


- A tropical town built with a musical theme where people only talk with instruments

And those are just the towns. The dungeons are just as varied - you very rarely get a case of 'forest 1, forest 2'.

26-Breath_of_Fire_II_%28USA%29023.png


For example, this forest uses these huts to zipline around from area to area.

24-Breath_of_Fire_II_(USA)021.png


It's not the most beautiful wood I've ever seen but I'll be damned if people can say it doesn't look pretty decent.

14-Breath_of_Fire_II_(USA)010.png


It has some pretty damn unique places.
It may not stand up to the graphics of today and yes, using the same graphics you could probably map some really neat stuff, but the maps were quite good (bar a few places) and were quite interesting in-game. And something I think you forget is that there were limitations to just how big they could make the game itself - would it have fit on the cartridge if they overloaded the maps with more and more details than they already had? Probably not.

edit: I'm so used to rmn using hide tags instead of spoiler tags. XD
 
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Mage Heart

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Honestly if you think about it FF10 was pretty much a straight line give or take some areas. The only fact was it was more outdoorsy you never noticed it.
 

trouble time

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Honestly if you think about it FF10 was pretty much a straight line give or take some areas. The only fact was it was more outdoorsy you never noticed it.
Oh, i noticed it, its wejrd no one ever mentions it, when people criticize the game its always the story. Though in Xs defense they are supposedly on a journey to a specific location, it'd be weird if you turned around.

I notice that games with no overworld tend to follow a hallwayish structure probablu to avoid backtracking. I think a solution could be a few optional paths that may dead end at a town or side dungeon and a few segments where the road forks at a town for mandatory content, but with an easy way to warp to the forking point .
 

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Yes, thank you ksjp17, I would like to keep the topic on what we can learn from old mapping, not just noticing that it's different or complaints about mapping standards of today.
 
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