Town exploration incentives. No ransacking NPC homes.

duty

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It seems the formula for discovering a new town centers on three activities:
  • Speak to the NPCs
  • View shop inventory
  • Rummage through every open container
The first two are adequately plausible, with perhaps the greeting of every visible individual bordering on the excessive.

The third is effectively burglary and feels like a greater suspension of disbelief. Maybe it's nitpicking for an imaginative fantasy setting, but wizards casting fireballs from their fingers seems more believable than the townsfolk tolerating a stranger in their homes. Let alone allowing that stranger to inspect and take whatever they want from every barrel, cabinet, pot, and shelf.

Is the looting of the town's containers a critical incentive for exploring a new town? If so, what private property respecting alternatives could be presented to the player?

Aside from the three activities listed above, are there any other town-based actions to be considered?
 
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Xelion

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Well, the hero will save the world eventually, so they can steal everything from poor people's homes as it serves for a bigger purpose! :rswt2:

Some games make you explore the most important parts of towns with sidequests or even with the main story but I guess that could be put in the "Speak to the NPCs" formula.
 

Hudell

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Houses give great insights into how people live. It's a great tool to expand on the lore of your game.

You can also add hints for puzzles inside houses: as an example, make a random NPC have a few decorated vases in a certain order that matches the solution of an optional puzzle on a nearby dungeon.
 

Pine Towers

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1. The player can rob everyone, and no one gives sh*t.
I guess we all agree this is lame.
2. The player can try to rob everyone, but people do give a sh*t.
STOP RIGHT THERE, CRIMINAL SCUM! I prefer this approach.
3. The player can't rob everyone.
Door is just decoration, you can't enter anyone's house without their permission.

The number 3 have some serious implication in game design:
A. No need to have a big town map if the player can only enter a couple of buildings. This is padding, its not fun, even if your town is beautiful, by the 5th time the player walks in it he would wish a teleport/quick travel option.
B. No need to even have a town! Make it more like a menu, Visual Novel style.

Number 1 and 2 allows for hidden secrets in back alleys, but I find this approach to enforce the "look every nook and cranny" of some games. I find it tedious and for those who likes 100% games it becomes a chore - "great, a new town hub! time to speak to every NPC 10 times and click everywhere".
 

duty

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No need to even have a town! Make it more like a menu, Visual Novel style.
That seems to be the logical conclusion if the town itself is not very explorable.

As Huddell suggested, could the lootable items be replaced with lore or other amusing descriptive text?

And perhaps the player knocks on the door and gets invited in before gaining access to the NPC's home?
 

RCXDan

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My answer to this is kinda lame but I don't let you go into other people's houses unless you were invited in.

Instead what I focus on more are the public landmarks and facilities you can go into since those tend to be just as useful for shaping the impression of a town - more than some random NPC's house, at least.

If the player wants to loot for items they can forage through one of the many dungeons across the land.
 
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xsmittyxcorex

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The number 3 have some serious implication in game design:
A. No need to have a big town map if the player can only enter a couple of buildings. This is padding, its not fun, even if your town is beautiful, by the 5th time the player walks in it he would wish a teleport/quick travel option.
B. No need to even have a town! Make it more like a menu, Visual Novel style.
On B., IDK, I think by that logic, why even have graphics and not just numbers? Something pretty to look at is it's own reward/experience. Having a town, even a small, simple town, is much more satisfying than a nearly context-less menu. Do you wish you could just skip the mountain pans every time you watch LotR? It's part of the overall art piece, so to speak. Especially with RPGs vs other game genres; they're designed to be a bit more "slow" and invite the player to take it all in. Every single little thing doesn't necessarily need to be "functional." How often the player returns and how quick it is to get in, where they want to go, and out should already be taken into account with the plot, gameplay, and intended overall experience either way, anyhow. Either have the main place(s) right at the entrance or have nothing needed to be gone back for (at least not often).

On A, I mostly agree. unless the couple of buildings are spread apart and designed for the player to not need return after the initial visit. You can also have NPC's walking around outside who offer clues/lore/maybe they give you an item a la FFX (a LOT of NPCs give you items in that game) instead of chests? For that matter, are items outside of homes really as immersion breaking/seen as "stealing"? You can have a town with chests to find outside, but not necessarily a lot of buildings to enter.

Number 1 and 2 allows for hidden secrets in back alleys, but I find this approach to enforce the "look every nook and cranny" of some games. I find it tedious and for those who likes 100% games it becomes a chore - "great, a new town hub! time to speak to every NPC 10 times and click everywhere".
I think there are a couple of ways around this. You could design the rewards to always be obvious, or you could make any "secrets" not be unveiled by randomly searching everywhere, but rather always have clear clues given by NPC's, or made very obvious in the environment. If the strategy employed can be conveyed early game then it (hopefully) lets the player know they don't need to just click everywhere. Re-talking to every NPC 10 times might just reveal either poor secret/puzzle design or poor ability of the player to pick up on cues.
 

SeaPhoenix

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If players can step into NPCs' houses, I think it's nice to reward them for looking around. (In that manner, I also prevent entry to areas - like the second floor containing the bedrooms or whatever - that I don't think will have anything interesting for the player.)

But instead of players just taking whatever they want, I usually just put one or two things in each house that the player can take or finds useful - it can be either loot, lore, or an item for a main or side quest or a puzzle. (Maybe you can even do a mini-game?)

And if you don't want players to feel like they're just stealing stuff, the NPC can either give it to them or say they don't need it anymore/is looking to get rid of it.
 

Andar

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there are other ways to handle this, like the NPCs giving quests or telling stories about the area that you wouldn't get otherwise.
but you are not the only one who feels that way about stealing from NPCs:

 

Quexp

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1. The player can rob everyone, and no one gives sh*t.
I guess we all agree this is lame.
2. The player can try to rob everyone, but people do give a sh*t.
STOP RIGHT THERE, CRIMINAL SCUM! I prefer this approach.
3. The player can't rob everyone.
Door is just decoration, you can't enter anyone's house without their permission.

The number 3 have some serious implication in game design:
A. No need to have a big town map if the player can only enter a couple of buildings. This is padding, its not fun, even if your town is beautiful, by the 5th time the player walks in it he would wish a teleport/quick travel option.
B. No need to even have a town! Make it more like a menu, Visual Novel style.

Number 1 and 2 allows for hidden secrets in back alleys, but I find this approach to enforce the "look every nook and cranny" of some games. I find it tedious and for those who likes 100% games it becomes a chore - "great, a new town hub! time to speak to every NPC 10 times and click everywhere".
I have a mix of 1 and 2 in my current project. Everything seems up for grabs in the beginning but, after hints, the player is surprised with consequences if he ransacks NPC belongings too many times (each take = +1 in Theft variable).

I have another spot where the player gets caught red-handed if he chooses to sneak potion from a shop.
 

Cyberhawk

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Sometimes I make my NPCs self aware even sometimes have them stand in front of their homes.
"Oh don't you have anything else better to do than ransack my home?"
Even the ocasional NPC will fight you for trying to rob them, and they make for incredible post game superbosses. But the homes you can go into may or may not give you items and stuff. Not everything needs to be 100% open. NPCs have normal lives too so they may also lock their doors when they go to work for an example.
 

Aesica

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This is why I like to have the denizens of various houses make snarky comments to the player when he/she tries to open chests right in front of them. Assuming they haven't given permission to take the stuff, of course.
 

Rayhaku808

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Since I'm primarily sticking with a one town/hub system (which another thread has touched on), I can focus on putting more life and things to do in said town.

Being able to solve NPC'S problems can improve your relationships with them. They'll invite you to their homes and maybe treat to you one of their meals, offering special food buffs for the next time you venture out. They may also give you some more quests within the confines of their homes.
 

WaywardMartian

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I did one town where if you chat to the NPCs, they tell you that you can take whatever you need from their house and you can go ahead and loot as normal. If you don't talk to the NPC and go straight to looting their house, every chest inside was a mimic. ( It didn't make a lot of sense but any excuse for mimics. )
 
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Kupotepo

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How about the main characters are the pillager and pirate. They can do that, right?
Because I see in the generic rpg game of having a rouge class.

Also depending on your game settings, the hero like many nobility depending on the personality: just take the stuff from peasants house if they want too. They are above the laws.

Is the looting of the town's containers a critical incentive for exploring a new town?
Not nessearies. Good Mapping encountered people to explore because it is beautiful art.

If so, what alternative, private property respecting alternatives could be presented to the player?
The NPCs should lock the door. The player has to do chores for the NPCs and NPCs might allow them to take their stuff as "gifts" like people claim in the court.

Thank you to @Andar. Now I find really funny video. Just parody, not much of politic lol.

This video gives me a great idea: why npcs doesn't install the security in their home against the heros?
 
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TheoAllen

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On B., IDK, I think by that logic, why even have graphics and not just numbers?
Believe it or not, if you play Mount and Blade, when the first time you enter a town, you will be brought to menu-based exploration. Whether you want to visit tavern, arena, or actually explore the town itself and manually walk if you want to. Once you pick the location, you will be teleported there, skipping the walking. And it's not bad. The flavor text was pretty nice, to be honest.
 

KakonComp

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I really like RCXDan's answer, which gives me a lot to think about. I would usually focus on townspeople's homes half as much as I did the shops and landmarks, but if you completely focused on important places, you can instead put people's homes in the background as walls you can't reach, or into a parallax background somewhere.

Of course, some small villages wouldn't have that as an option, and they'd also have little in the defense of you just going in there and looting their homes.
 

turbobumblepuppy

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You could have a 'Popularity' system like Fallout New Vegas, so if you're welcome in the town it's ok to look through people's stuff and maybe take it if it's not too valuable (or negotiate with them if it is), or if you're not welcome, the items/homes are locked.

Another way is to get new items or useful information from NPCs in exchange for completing tasks for them. I think that's a fairly standard RPG/adventure game technique.
 

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