Solutions for the Small World Problem

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by Robin, Aug 21, 2012.

  1. Robin

    Robin Veteran Veteran

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    As I see it, the small world problem is the observation that RPGs often have small worlds with few towns and cities. This results in countries essentially being city-states. Now, here's my issue.

    In trying to counter this, I've made an effort to create, in the lore of the world for Valiance, countries that have that main capital city, whilst also having a few towns. However, this has problems of its own, as going too far in this direction can result in a "quantity over quality" situation. In my heart, I'm sure that less is more, but I worry that having (nearly) every country be a city-state is one way less to distinguish between them.

    So, the solution is surely some middle ground. For example, instead of having 5 city-states, have 2 city-states and 3 countries with a capital city and just a couple of towns.

    My questions are...

    1). Does this middle ground seem like the best solution?

    2). Do you agree that having countries that seem to consist of a single city can seem a bit samey? Or perhaps there are so many other ways to distinguish between countries, that whether or not they only consist of a single city doesn't matter.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 21, 2012
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  2. Ronove

    Ronove ♫꒰・‿・๑꒱ Veteran

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    You could always make it appear there are more cities/towns but the player doesn't get to visit them. That way the country seems more filled up and you don't have to work on doing a bunch of towns that are a bit samey.
     
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  3. Robin

    Robin Veteran Veteran

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    Yeah, I should have clarified really. I have no intentions of, at least in the initial game, allowing the player to visit all the towns and cities. I'm just saying that despite the player not being able to visit them all, it still seems like, within the game's lore, I need to find the middle ground.
     
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  4. Lunarea

    Lunarea Artist Global Mod

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    I find that even if you use the same format (each country has a capital and two towns, for example), the lore you use can make each country stand out. One country can be a theocracy, for example, where the capital is the city with the largest cathedral. Another country is a democracy, with the "capital" being nothing more than the large town where the population meets for trade. Technically, they're both still a country with a capital and two towns. However, the player will experience them (and remember them) in very different ways.

    If you look at it from the gameplay point of view, large cities are important. They're basically the player's one stop for things like shops, quest hubs, or lore. They don't have to be called capitals, but they should somehow be representative of their country - and they give you a good platform to show cultural or political differences.
     
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  5. Levi

    Levi Veteran Veteran

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    Yeah... as far as lore, you don't need to be overly detailed.

    Why not simply infer the existance of other "cities" without going into detail? Lore doesn't have to be all encompassing. Are you really going to write about a little port town that sprung up a couple years ago where nothing of any importance or interest has happened? I find that the existance of insignificant towns adds to realism. Not every city has had some epic event occur within it's limits. And not every city requires any sort of expansive lore.

    I'll use my game as an example. I won't have lore for all the cities in the game... not even for all the cities that you can explore. Maybe some minimal details like "Established 15 years ago by tradesmen after the collapse of Ogdenville." But nothing more.

    I would worry more about the story itself than the number of cities per country. In my opinion it's just pedantic. There's no right number.

    I don't think that it matters.

    Not by definition.

    Yes.
     
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  6. Robin

    Robin Veteran Veteran

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    Yeah, that makes sense, Lunarea. :)

    Levi, the reason is that I want to have the whole setting written down and well-defined, even though the player might not be aware of it all in any one game.
     
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  7. Mouser

    Mouser Veteran Veteran

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    I'll point out a trend, and let you decide how it applies to you:

    Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall had an absolutely huge world. As in it would take real life weeks to cross it on foot.

    Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind cut back to (mostly) one large island, but still a lot of time running/jumping from place to place.

    Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion cut the distances even more.

    I never played Skyrim (I refuse to buy any game with that level of DRM), so I don't know if that followed the trend or not.
     
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  8. Levi

    Levi Veteran Veteran

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    Skyrim has a smaller footprint... but is much more "vertical". So even though the distance from one end of the map to the other is shorter, you're going up and down and around terrain in between, so it seems larger than it is.
     
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  9. Touchfuzzy

    Touchfuzzy Rantagonist Staff Member Lead Eagle

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    I have this weird love for Daggerfall's massive, ridiculously so, world. Like 99.9% of it didn't matter and none of it was very detailed because most of it was seed generated, but it was interesting.
     
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  10. prexus

    prexus Veteran Veteran

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    Sorry this is off topic, but aside from having to buy Skyrim, what DRM are you talking about? [also, Arena's world is 6million sq/miles, Daggerfall's world (High Rock) is 63,125 sq/miles, Morrowind is 6 sq/miles, and Oblivion is 16 sq/miles. They didn't cut distances back with Oblivion.]

    On topic: My favourite way of making a huge world but not having it become a huge ordeal or creating an entire planet worth of lore is simply to allude to the areas. Have you game take place in one part of the world, yet have NPCs and Main-Story characters often mention the places. The Elder Scrolls games are a GREAT example of this. The games don't take place in worlds of their own but in countries of the same world, Tamriel.. Morrowind took place in Morrowind (go figure) which was a sort of alien-like world. It wasn't an island (as Mouser mentioned) but was very different in geology, biology, and politics. Oblivion took place in Cyrodill, the most "Human" like of areas. This is central on the continent and has the largest city, and is home to the Emperor (who isn't recognized by ALL the races or cultures, but still.) Skyrim took place in... SKYRIM. The northern home of the Nords. A world built on Strength is Power. Yet in ALL the games they talk about the other countries, you run into people from the other places, races that are native to other homelands, and they tell you about them. It made the world feel MASSIVE. The scope of the games themselves is massive, that is to be sure, but even beyond that it seemed more massive.
     
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