Maps: Simple VS. Complex

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Faye Valentine, Jun 6, 2019.

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Simple vs Complex. Let's go!

  1. Simplicity, of course.

    58.8%
  2. Complexity, forever.

    41.2%
  1. Faye Valentine

    Faye Valentine The Mapgician Veteran

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    "The necessity for complexity in maps has born from the lack of resources that RTP gives, failing to fulfill aesthetic expectatives of said maps."

    Okay. After something happened to me, which left me questioning myself in a lot of aspects, I decided to bring up this discussion here. And so, I'll make it short and clear: what do you value more in your game maps/scenarios, simplicity or complexity?

    The standard for 'good' maps in the RPG Maker scene is maps that are big and complex. This showcases the ability of a mapper to put a lot of elements into a structured design to pull off a purposeful scenario. While this of course would (if done correctly, we understand) make the map good, is it necessarily heavily structurated maps the only good ones?

    Big cities, large forest mazes. Maps like these are devilishly difficult to make, every mapper would know. And yet, are these necessary?

    Before hearing your opinion, I want to put mine here. And mine is that simple maps not only can be as good as complex ones, but also simple maps can be better.

    First, let's understand simplicity doesn't mean emptiness, lack of interesting elements and/or dull design. Simplicity means a lowering of some elements to highlight others, to finally create a balance. Important stuff, folks.

    Taking a look into classical, awesome RPGs (cough cough Chrono Trigger cough), we can see this:
    [​IMG]

    The above map is Guardia Forest, from the aforementioned game. You don't need to look closely to see that it only contains: trees, little high grass, and dirt road. And some small rocks here and there. Go ahead and try to do the same in RTP, or, I dare you, other common tileset packs. It won't look nearly as good. And this has a reason.

    The necessity for complexity in maps has born from the lack of resources that RTP gives, failing to fulfill aesthetic expectatives of said maps.

    In the Guardia Forest map, the tileset, or whatever you want to call it, fulfills an aesthetic expectative, meaning it doesn't needs further add-ons to make it visually appealing or interesting. It stands by its own.

    However, and to finalize my point, the simplicity from these maps can be yet translated to RM maps, be it RTP or common resource packs. Not only that, I also opine that it is a necessary thing to evolve in map-making.

    But first, let's hear you guys out.
     
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  2. Engr. Adiktuzmiko

    Engr. Adiktuzmiko Chemical Engineer, Game Developer, Using BlinkBoy' Veteran

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    I prefer trying to use minimum sized maps but filled with enough stuff that makes sense on it... I prefer it this way because I can design it exactly how I want the player to see it, since for larger scrolling maps, the views differ depending on where the player is...

    It also allows me to make complete maps with non-standard stuff with just customized tilesets and no need for parallaxing since I can fit stuff that I need for a set of maps in one tileset.

    And I'd still call them simple, even if lets say I customize the tilesets..

    PS: I cant see your forest image.
     
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  3. BlueMage

    BlueMage Slime Lv99 Veteran

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    I think a map without clearly purpose in the way it's been constructed is a bad map (in my opinion).
    However it's complex and big, if you don't have a good reason for player to travel to X, or to Y, it's still a bad map.
     
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  4. Engr. Adiktuzmiko

    Engr. Adiktuzmiko Chemical Engineer, Game Developer, Using BlinkBoy' Veteran

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    Highly agree with this one... A map can be good even if its simple and can be bad even if its complex..

    Like maybe you dont need complexity in a prawling dessert map for it to look good because desserts are naturally barren so everything makes sense.
     
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  5. shockra

    shockra Slightly Crazy Programmer Veteran

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    There are a lot of different factors to consider in this question. First and foremost, what is the location? Let's use a lab environment as an example. In a room that is used frequently, such as for research, experiments, etc., such a room would be more complex because of desks, computers, and similar objects. But in a simple hallway, there wouldn't be as much detail because it's less used.

    But now let's say the lab is abandoned and ruined. In that event, even the hallway would be more complex with cracks in the wall, holes in the floor, and maybe even collapsed areas.

    Overall, I wouldn't go more complicated than necessary because it eats up time to create more complex maps. But certain maps take more time to make correctly. It all depends on the exact nature of the map.
     
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  6. Finnuval

    Finnuval World (his)story builder and barrel of ideas Veteran

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    minimum in size and layout-complexity maximum in detail and visual complexity.

    If that makes any sense
     
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  7. MushroomCake28

    MushroomCake28 KAMO Studio Veteran

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    Let me summarize it:

    Are complex map mandatory? No

    Are they cool and beautiful (assuming complexity also includes design and aesthetics)? Yes

    So I'd say a mix of both would be ideal: it's nice to sometimes have an impressive map (like a big city), but every map in the game doesn't need to be huge and epic. The truth is that most maps aren't that important and the player will most likely be on it for 5 mins max and never return (ok, maybe once or twice).
     
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  8. Ksi

    Ksi ~RTP Princess~ Moderator

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    That CT image has a couple of different types of trees (the trunks, background trunks AND leaves are different), bushes, flowers, stones (more than one type), dirt cobble (more than one type), long grass, dark grass, dark grass with long grass, dirt tiles, grass tiles, a sign.

    Just wanted to point out that it's not just 'grass, tree and dirt'. There's different versions of the same thing there. Even the bushes, though they are the same colour and visual, have different versions of themselves. The difference is that they are teh same kind of things with variance, so they blend in together easier and all appear more like the same kind of bush or tree having variance rather than a few different breed of trees, etc.
     
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  9. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    In my opinion, the best maps:
    • Are easy to navigate (this is the most important thing!)
    • Offer things to do besides just walk around - interactive elements, challenges, or memorable events
    • Offer things to see - give the player that "wow" moment a few times and present visual variety
    • Feel like they have been lived in (by people or native wildlife)
    If the kind of map pictured from Chrono Trigger is the kind of simplicity you have in mind, I'd rather have a "complex" map that uses lots of fancy elements and better placemaking.

    With that being said, it's so important for a map to be easy to navigate (and even if it's supposed to be maze-like, the player should immediately know when they've wound up in an area they've already been through, and have some sense of orientation for where they are in general - this is your job as a map designer). This is hard to do on RPG Maker where the visible area is only 17x13 tiles (VX Ace) or 20x15 (MV), so I tend to find that relatively small map sizes and an emphasis on making sure no two areas of a map look very similar are key to ensuring that your maps are navigable.
     
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  10. Aesica

    Aesica undefined Veteran

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    To be fair, Guardia Forest works because if you look closely:
    1. It actually has several different tree, flower, etc tiles so that they don't all look the same.
    2. The paths don't just move in the 4 cardinal directions, but also branch off diagonally.
    3. The assets are higher quality than the RTP ones in general. Especially the trees. You can really see this if you swap out the RTP stuff for some of the premium content trees, or even some of the really good free user-created trees.
    Anyway, I tend to prefer medium-sized maps (broken into several sub-sections rather than just 1 huge map) with higher complexity. I've played enough RM games where the dungeons were little more than autotile walls/floors with maybe a few placeables occasionally, and it made for some pretty boring/forgettable content.

    That said, don't mistake "complex" for "clutter-bombing." Especially if your clutter isn't passable stuff. Don't make me feel like I'm constantly tripping over all the junk you have strewn about your maps, please.
     
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  11. Bex

    Bex Veteran Veteran

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    1. The Ground texture will be more difficult in MV, because of the 2x2 autotiles instead of 3x3 which allowed that style by standard in the past.
    2. Lightmaps and smoke effects and stuff like that make even ugly maps very nice to look at.
    3. The tree layering was a problem in vx but in mv thanks to extra map layer, no problem to recreate.
    4. Fully clustered Maps are often nice to look at in the Screenshot threads, but often those maps are not very playable in some circumstances.
    5. Iam not sure if i can understand the question in a way that i could link it with a correct answer...:confused:
    For Prototyping simplicity seems to be Key. For Polishing a good Prototype into a Golden Gem could need the oposite approach.
     
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  12. Engr. Adiktuzmiko

    Engr. Adiktuzmiko Chemical Engineer, Game Developer, Using BlinkBoy' Veteran

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    I think this also depends on what kind of graphics you expect from games with RM or 2D games in general.

    Like if you expect to play HD 2D graphics then even a complex RTP map probably will never be good to you coz no matter how complex it is, the base resource itself is still not to your ideals/standards.
     
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  13. Faye Valentine

    Faye Valentine The Mapgician Veteran

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    Minimum sized maps are best for me. Of course, the 'minimum' treshold varies depending on the map we're talking. A 20x15 town is impossible to make. However, you said something important: "enough stuff that makes sense of it". A common problem with, for example, interior maps, are putting stuff just to fill empty spaces, forgetting that, sometimes, some spaces are OK to be empty, or have a lack of elements in them.

    Totally agree. A map is a mean to an end. It having no purpose for its existence is there just to make bulk. Also agree with second point.


    I meant like, map structure per se. For example, you could make a lab environment full of tech-y stuff, passages, levels and all that stuff, as well as you could make a lab environment with only meaningful elements to it, and a simple layout. In this case in particular, though, the layout couldn't be complex either way, what would only vary is if its overcluttered or not. Unless we're talking about, like, the whole building.

    Yes, and no. Depends on what do you mean with visual complexity. If it is what I think you meant, then visual complexity and overcluttering are dangerously close to each other, barely divided by a fine line. So better be cautious. Specially in small scenarios.

    I agree with the thought that some maps could be big. It's dev's decision. In my case, I'd divide mazes and big cities into various maps, as I said above. Helps me with better personalization of each area plus helps with lag issues on some computers. I myself used to have a very old, bad PC.

    Okay, but that's part of the tiles, bitmaps or whatever they used. The point remains: its still trees and etc. Now, the variation of course makes it more appealing to the eye, and that is exactly my point. RTP, or common resources, do not possess the capacity to do this. Not only because of design (even if, for example, Celianna's trees are cool), but because they're helplessly repeated. This is why maps often *need* lighting effects to be visually impactful, whereas custom resources would make a map shine for itself.

    And you are not alone. Most people I've encountered think the same as you. They'd like maps like this, for example:
    [​IMG]
    (image taken from google images, apparently from a steam thread, don't know who the autor is exactly).

    That said, gotta add that the simplicity I have in mind, when using RTP/common resources, is basically a blend between CT and usual RM mapping. Just like other users have pointed out above: small size, simple layout, meaningful elements.

    No. Complexity means both the layout, structure *and* the elements that conform the map. Example of a complex map (though I find this one well-balanced):
    [​IMG]
    (taken from Google Images, the author is Ashley Malmstrom from Pinterest)[/QUOTE]
     
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  14. GLM

    GLM ブラッドシェド © 1989 POLOCOM Member

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    I don't think a map needs to be swimming in minute details to make it visually interesting.

    The CT map graphics also have the advantage of being made specifically for that game and have subtle variations of the same sprites to break up the repeating patterns. The RTP is a catch-all fantasy thing that doesn't really do much to not accentuate the blockiness of tiled graphics. There are lots of 8-bit games that are more visually interesting.

    I love MV, and the other PC Makers, but they've NEVER had memorable or interesting design in the stock graphics. It's all very.. sterile and sort of bland.
     
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  15. Aesica

    Aesica undefined Veteran

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    [/QUOTE]
    Oh yeah, that's an excellent example of a complex map that isn't cluttered. It's also a reminder to me that I really need to look around for something to replace the RTP with. Maybe not with my current project (it was meant as more of a first/learner game anyway) but for future projects? Definitely. While I've done plenty of RTP edits, that stuff can only carry things so far. An ugly RTP tree is still an ugly RTP tree, no matter how many shades and sizes it comes in.
     
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  16. SolonWise

    SolonWise The Lonely Maker Veteran

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    I only would like to add that pokemon emerald have extremly simple maps, and the "tileset" from pokemon games are much more alike RPG Maker than Chrono Trigger's tiles. In fact, maybe we can do better maps with the MV's RTP than the maps from the pokemon games from generation 3. So, altough I like to do complex maps myself, I don't think its a mandatory thing. In the end, what really matter is if your game is fun to play or not. I think I've never seen someone complaining about pokemon's maps.
     
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  17. empresskiova

    empresskiova Untitled Project1 Veteran

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    I dunno, I’ve always thought the XP RTP tiles were quite good. I was especially a fan of the third layer for mapping. And “taller” in general.

    Edit: Come to think of it, besides the cartoony battlers, a lot of the assets in XP were better than VX Ace’s. More music, tiles, and nicer sprites. Of course none of that means jack now lol.
     
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  18. Ksi

    Ksi ~RTP Princess~ Moderator

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    Maps do not NEED lighting effects. A good map can be enhanced by them into something truly wonderful, but it's not a necessity.

    Besides, a few minor edits can help graphics look different similar, yet still different enough, so that they can have that variance but still fit in well. Hell, you can make a decent map with only using the base resources by themselves if you think about how you map and actually learn how to map properly.

    Lighting effects, especially in most RM games, just tend to cover up the image and make it harder to see the bad mapping. It's like trying to hide a badly baked cake with icing. Sure you can put a ton on and make it look good, but when that cake is cut, the truth comes out about how shitty your baking is. When the person plays the game and sees the maps in action, they can tell that it's bad and that the dev is being lazy and trying to hide just how terrible it is.

    Because if you're going to be lazy about making decent maps, you're very likely going to be lazy about other aspects of the game, too.

    Learn how to map properly instead of hiding errors with horrible gammak practices.



    That aside, I'm not arguing against simple map design, just that some of the stuff you've put forward as 'simple' and 'a necessity' are neither. The CT map isn't simple at all. A lot of thought has gone into creating the map, it uses a lot of different tiles and even then it is one of the more bland maps in the game (being an introductory map they went for empty easy pathing to get the player used to the game, rather than some of the more detailed and interesting maps later on (the various dungeon maps, sewers, mountains, etc.)

    Is it a good map? For a starter map, yes. For what the game needed at that point of the game, yes. For a map in and of itself? Not really - it's decent, if a bit bland, but that's what was needed for this kind of area.

    It has good level design - clear pathing to lead the character (and the player's eyes), different shaped areas to easily tell which part of the map the character is in and points of interest (part of the poi are the enemy spawn points/events, but some are things like the sign, the lower-left shaping and clear areas for battling).

    Another aspect you haven't considered is that CT has a reason for the map to be designed like it is, that other jRPGs do not have. That's because in CT the battles play out on the actual map itself. This requires there to be enough room for three heroes and a bunch of enemies to spread out and fight in.

    That, however, isn't necessary for most jRPGs where battles take place outside of the map. For a normal jRPG, that map is a bit too large in places (the clearings, for example), bland for anything but a learning area and empty of interesting details to help build your world. It is, in essence, a map made just to get the player used to on-map combat. A generic wood path to introduce fighting.

    It is certainly not something you should be advocating that people follow when it comes to designing maps, unless it's to design for action battle based games.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2019
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  19. Faye Valentine

    Faye Valentine The Mapgician Veteran

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    We're assuming a lot of things here, don't we. lol.

    Anyways. Maps in RM do need lighting FX IMO when using general graphics (RTP and usual tiles) basically because they all look the same. You're saying lighting is not good because it is used to cover errors? I've no words for that. Again, stock graphics like RTP you can make a good or excellent map but it's still RTP, mate. Sorry it won't look good. Not from VX and onwards. I know you love the RTP and all but we have quite a clash of opinions here.

    CT map is excellent, I never mentioned otherwise. But it is simple. You're looking at it as a dev, not as a player.
     
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  20. Aesica

    Aesica undefined Veteran

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    Actually, it kind of seems like you two are saying the same thing here, in that lighting is useful for making RTP maps look less crappy. I use lighting effects because they do help disguise how dull the RTP looks, however that's not the only reason I use them. It's also nice to have things like day/night cycles, dark caverns that require a light source, neon signs that flicker, glowing embers that sit on the ground after you blow your way through a door.
     
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