Town exploration incentives. No ransacking NPC homes.

xsmittyxcorex

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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.
Huh. Never played that.
 

Kes

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Locked doors and "Get out of my house" dialogues can wear thin, and I think it is useful to have alternatives. This video shows an example of each. The only tricky thing was getting the identity of each follower so that the correct personal dialogue happens regardless of the order the player has put the actors in. Of course, alternatives like this can't be repeated exactly in the same game, but there are many other possibilities. Also, it doesn't have to be items which are looted. Sometimes I give EXP for exploration when they interact with an object. Useful to the player, and doesn't cause qualms about stealing from the poor.

 
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The Stranger

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I'm a big fan of being able to use skills and attributes to explore not only dungeons, but towns\hubs too. Maybe now you can go back and unlock those doors in town with your brand new lockpicking skill. Maybe you now have high enough stats to jump slightly higher, allowing you to reach that balcony in town. This sort of stuff can be used to unlock alternate routes, side-quests, expand upon pre-existing side-quests, and a whole bunch of other things.

Game areas don't need to be so clearly divided between dungeons and towns, the two can sometimes mix.
 

duty

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@Kes that was brilliant
 
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Kes

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@duty Thank you. I've got more of those up my sleeve (or rather, on my hard drive).
 

BloodletterQ

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Some RPGs I can think of like Esthar in FFVIII are massive and you only enter certain parts while a lot of your sights of the city are on the world map.
 

Mystic_Enigma

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I make it so that you cannot enter someone else's house at all, besides your own. Unless the building in question is a public spot or mission-relevant. if you want loot, you'll have to go out on the field and find it lying around in spots on the ground(Even then, sometimes you won't find anything at all...). That or buy it or earn it in battle.
 

kyonides

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I have to say this now...

I WANNA RANSACK OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES!​

:D I know, it's childish to say the least but it's true! :o

There are people that think they'd manage to know the townsfolk better if they keep searching for all kinds of items there.

On the other hand... well, I guess you could leave tips on what to do next without being too explicit. After a couple of times they've forgot to investigate its people should suffice to make them learn that they can't skip their homes and their joyful or dark secrets... So make them regret they didn't find out what was happening there.

In my humblest opinion I think the player should understand that almost every town should have a story to tell them. OK, I guess some "pseudo" quests might help you there.
 

Shikamon

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Do it like from FF 4HOL, There are always kids NPC who claimed hide some stuff in the town and challenge you to find them. In my game, I think I will justify that some bad fairies love to steal the stuff and hide it somewhere in the town. They normally cant seen by ordinary humans, so it could be accepted that only players can see the treasures.
 

ADMtn

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Open world games deal with this in ways that I've enjoyed. They have books and other discoveries which grant experience points, have a large quantity of quests which send you to otherwise random houses, and/or allow looting with consequences (if an NPC spots you stealing, they attack; in Elder Scrolls you can only sell stolen good to fenced and not normal vendors).
 

palatkorn

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Every time entering the house, he knocked on the door and asked the NPC what he was doing.
Choice 1
Come and steal
Choice 2
Just say hello
Choice 3
I don't know, I just want to explore your home.
 

Wavelength

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I think that gathering information in towns is a lost art. RPGs often fall into either "tell you exactly what to do to make the narrative progress" or "wander around until you stumble into the plot flag you needed to trigger to make the narrative progress". RPGs can be way better than that! If the player has a compelling goal presented, but needs to do a bit of piecing-things-together to figure out how to get them done, they feel like they have agency in the story. Towns are a great place for this - give some indirect clues through the town environment and through NPC conversations - bonus points if the player can take multiple paths through that NPC conversation! Once the player figures out what they need to do, they can just do it. If they feel lost, they can keep asking around for clues. It's a win-win.

Besides that, there are a lot of gameplay functions that work well for towns without needing to resort to "poke around to find peoples' treasured possessions". Crafting systems, and buying/trading for the ingredients necessary. Minigames. Making relationships with people (and reaping the benefits of those relationships), or even with entire factions within the town. Starting optional sidequests. Larger systems such as decorating a home base (usually best in one-town games) or manipulating cities' economies. Your imagination (and your ability to Event stuff) is your only limitation.

Also, don't forget that just creating some really interesting town/city environments, where the place not only has a unique visual look but really feels like it has a life and history of its own (and isn't there simply to be a convenient waypoint on your journey), can be reason enough for the player to want to fully explore and enjoy a town. Adding some of the above information-gathering or gameplay opportunities to this will create something memorable.
 

ADMtn

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I think that gathering information in towns is a lost art.
Not sure if I consider it a lost art, but I definitely agree that reasonable information-gathering requirements are more fun than an RPG that's completely on-rails or entirely too arbitrary.
  • "On-rails" meaning an RPG that overdoes it giving explicit instructions in quest logs and quest markers over NPCs' heads.
  • "Arbitrary" being the old JRPG method of having the player talk to all 20 people in town until they come across the one clone that tells you what to do.
Quest logs and NPC directions can work if they only give overall goals and clues, as opposed to extremely detailed instructions. Of course, people will have differing opinions as to how much direction is too much. It's always a balancing act, considering your target audience and what you personally believe is the most fun.
 

Hadria

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I did a small learning project for some friends some time ago, it was a small dungeons and dragons like adventure on RPG Maker, there was a big bad villain necromancer the player had to go beat passing through some villages, there was a couple of secondary activities and the players had to go forth and back around the villages in the way for some of them.

The player on this game was able to loot any container as usual but I made it so the value of everything the player got was kept track on a variable per city.

One of the secondary activities was some bounty hunting and eventually after the variable passed certain amount a mission will pop up about pursuing some mysterious thief that stole stuff around the city which can't be completed because the thief is the player itself, the player was given a hint to look the stolen places which were the houses he stole from containers and that was it.... but is something more annoying for a player that having a quest pending forever?... I can't think of it :kaolivid:

For bigger games I thought about keeping track of the stolen amount in some ways and have it affect the economy of the settlements, so in the future when the player visits the towns and villages there is less items on the stores (starting by removing the rare/expensive ones) and the ones that still have stock are more expensive. Maybe even change the visuals a bit to make it look more poor, or add some text about missing stuff from the villagers if you want to go that extra mile

About giving them some incentives it really depends, there are some games that I just felt like exploring every single house to learn about the game lore from the people, but the writing has to be really good then to feel the player feel immerse, other than that maybe having NPCs on houses give small tasks to do around the city or something like that as a common thing so the player looks for it in an organic manner when he reaches a new town.
 

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I like mix of it all, find some ones hidden stash in secluded spot behind a tree or bush. But also like making it so at least one box in some ones place they catch you and get upset for you trying to steal their stuff just to remind players its kind of silly going around taking peoples potions and stuff with out asking especially if they are in the same room lol

I seen people do a rep system with people they like you enough you could put a trigger on the event if viarable at or greater then have scene where they tell you can take it pop, if not trigger scene where they get mad and lose x amount of value to said variable
 

Dororo

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Phantasy Star 4 make a joke on this, telling you don't have to steal private property when you try for (not speaking inspecting Alys stuff...).
There's practically nothing to steal into builidngs even if you try for. I mean, you are richer than most of the townsfolk of the entire planet, they probably don't have anything you actually need for.

I think early ransacking was the actual incentive to have you enter houses and feel the game magnitude - the moment you know that the best you can obtain is some dialogue line and you're on a rush, all of such small maps will be wasted.

An idea to prevent that and have a good deal of town exploration are services. Both usefull to gameplay than just color (like watching an actor in the theater).

Let's count them: alchemist, weaponsmith, "temple", a bank, auction house, duel arena, gambling house, SPA/thermal baths, worker guild, fortuneteller, adventurers grocery, vehicles dealers, bargainer, inn, restaurant, theater, circus, jugglers, trobadours, errand merchants, ... you can split some and also have day/night differences. Pairing that with interaction events on the streets and some legit exploration (sewer, well, cemetery...) and the town should be fun enough on his own without entering people houses.
 

Tai_MT

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Honestly, I just don't have any homes in my games with "lootables". No chests to open. Nothing hidden in cabinets.

Players are meant to use my towns as "home bases". They arrive to stock back up on consumables (because you must use consumables :D no HP restoring magic in my game to promote doing just this!), to visit the Inn (where you can get insights into your party members much like would happen in Dragon Age Origins with the camp system and speaking to party members there), to pick up quests, and generally to be "safe".

If a player is in town to loot what the people there have... they're doing it wrong. They need to be killing monsters and raiding dangerous locations for treasure instead.
 

Zalzany

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Oh yeah another fun trick is making some boxes locked and requiring a specific character to be recruited and in your party. I seen this done a few times, like there is tower in one you can't enter with out a rogue girl you need to recruit who picks it and chests dotted all over the game that require her to pick, And even a few that require a special pick be made for her, as a little sub character quest for you to do, like you had to mine some mithril ore, and find a smith to help you make her a fancy lock pick for one chest, and it was part of her personal side quest line and opening the first chest you find needing it, started a quest chain for her.
 

RachelTheSeeker

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I mean, when playing Dragon Quest where you still loot villagers' homes, I like to daydream and pretend they're like, "Oh, hang on. You might need this more than I would". It's a weird JRPG trope, but it's here to stay for that series. In any other game, especially with a (often half-arsed) moral system, I don't steal.

For RM games, I'm fond of finding items scattered around town. Could be finders-keepers for some lost coins, like a dollar bill on the sidewalk. Could be finding a mushroom or herb in the neighbor's overgrown backyard. Whatever way you do it, there would be an incentive to exploring a town beyond hints from NPCs.

There could be a sidequest where more than money is misplaced, and you could have three options: turn it in to a lost-and-found, decide to keep / sell it, or find its owner. The first option gives a reward later, the second could be acknowledged if you run into its original owner, and the third could give an added bonus to the reward. Heck, Super Mario RPG does that, with that one Toad and his wallet in the first town.

EDIT: And of course, as @Zalzany reminded me from their own response? There is another way to do this within Dragon Quest tropes. One could come back later to a normally-inaccessible door, holding its key, and use that to unlock treasure that would've been OP at the time. |3
 

Basileus

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Dragon Quest probably is to blame for the kleptomaniac hero being such a common trope. I read that Yuji Horii really likes the idea of having things to collect, but didn't want every plot to revolve around collecting some token plot items. His solution was to make items like Mini Medals that the player can find scattered around and eventually cash in for rewards. It was probably revolutionary back in the day when they made barrels and pots and cupboards lootable, but then as games get more realistic it starts to get a little weird.

I still think that Dragon Quest has some neat ideas for reward exploration even without stealing though. In DQ3 there was a pyramid in the desert that housed a Magic Key the player needed to proceed. Instead of guarding it with a boss, all the player had to do was figure out how to open the sealed door. The player could just mess around until something worked, but the solution was actually back in town. There were some kids playing a silly kid game while singing some nursery rhyme song - and the game/song were actually the way to open the door, possibly lost to time until it became some kids game.

Dragon Quest 11 really makes great use of the full 3D space to keep things fun. The game introduces a jump button so it can add some light platforming to reach secret areas, combined with climbing ladders, running across rooftops, walking along tightropes, and falling off multi-level platforms from the right spot. The major cities have treasure chests kept just out of reach that make the city maps sort of like a puzzle that needs to be solved. There's still the usual stealing but it's mostly cheap stuff to sell off or quirky things that add some flavor to the NPCs living there. The crafting system also means that the game can reward the player's exploration with crafting recipes instead of items (the hero even memorizes the recipe and puts the book back on the shelf). This has a side benefit of making the hero want to check out every bookshelf which leads to them reading lots of the in-game books in the process.


I really loved the vertical map design and I'm trying to make something more like that in my own game. RPG Maker is a bit limited there, but I think if I can capture that feeling of hidden pathways to bypass obstacles and going up and down within the same map, then I can make my cities/spaces more fun to navigate.
 

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