World map

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World map

Postby MedicineStorm » Fri Feb 03, 2017 1:08 pm

At this point we have some idea of the locations we want in our game world. And we know (roughly) how many of those locations relate to each other; approximate distances, relative direction, etc.


What I am not so sure of is our "Region Gating". Region gating refers to restricting content available to players at the beginning of the game, then granting access to larger and larger areas for them to explore. It's pretty important for keeping the pace exciting, but not overwhelming the players with too much to explore all at once. If you let them explore the whole world right from the beginning, a lot of players will inadvertently stumble into an area with unexplained context or with monsters that are way too powerful for level 1. Frustratingly, the player gets wiped out in seconds. They could just come back later, but when? They decide to explore some other place, but they end up lost and spending hours just trying to find where they were supposed to go for that very first quest. It gets frustrating when you travel hundreds of leagues looking for that one guy "Importanto del Questgiver" but it turns out he was in the town just two leagues east of where you started.

FFI SPOILERS AHEAD

Final Fantasy 1, as unrefined as it seems now, actually gated its areas very brilliantly. Maybe my nostalgia is biasing me. I think the grinding and combat mechanics were probably less than ideal by today's standards, but FFI definitely got Region Gating right in my opinion.

(Click to enlarge) Starting out, you're able to travel from Corneria (1) to the Temple of the Fiends (2). That's it. But that's all you need. You've got some grassland and forests to explore, fight some random level 1 monsters, learn the mechanics of battle, rest and heal after not doing so hot against 3 imps, learn a spell and buy some new equipment in Corneria, check out what's up with the Temple. Soon you're strong enough to take on Garland. Boom! Loot the treasure and rescue the princess. The king is pleased. He builds you a bridge. Gate #1 down.

(Click to enlarge) The new bridge gives your party access to new lands. The new area you have access to is even larger than the area you just finished exploring! New and harder monsters, more experience, better loot. Matoya's Cave (3) is kinda interesting, but she's blind without her crystal apparently. Not much else to see there. Eventually you reach a coastal town, Pravoka. New gear, new spells, new pirates. Wait, what? The pirate captain doesn't think your party can take all 9 of his crew at once. You prove him wrong, of course. What's a pirate ship without a crew? Captain gives you a ship. Gate #2 down.

(Click to enlarge) Now you can go anywhere there's a port near the water! This gives you access to an area even larger than both previous areas combined... although a lot of it is water. Sharks, pirates, sea monsters. Tougher battles, better loot, some of the monsters are even casting spells right back at you, now. Stop by Elfland (5) to the southwest or Dwarf Cave (8) to the Northwest. Interestingly, opening Gate #2 isn't just access to new areas, with new towns, new gear, and new spells. It's also a new shortcut back to the area you stared from. You can sail back to Corneria (1) a lot faster than trudging back over land, now.

The elf prince is under a curse a la Sleeping Beauty. You could wake him with some herb. That blind old hag, Matoya (3) has some herb, but she still needs that crystal. An elf in the Northwest castle (7) could give you a crystal, but the dark elf Astos took his crown. So you head down to the Marsh Cave (6) and bash your way through all kinds of goopy horrors. No sign of Astos, but you duke it out with some wizards and burgle the crown. Book it back to the surface before the denizens of the marsh cave finish you off! Rest up, then bring the crown to that one elf guy (7). Oh, no! Astos didn't take his crown, he IS Astos! Oh, you trickster, you! Battle ensues. Now that Astos is Astoast, you take the crystal to Matoya. Wait, she wasn't blind, she was the dark elf Astos the whole time!... just kidding. You hand over the crystal like a civilized adventurer and she hands over the herb like a civilized witch. Back to Elf Prince SlumberPants with the cure. You light up the herb and administer the pharmaceuticals. Lo and behold, the prince awakens. "Thanks. here's a mystic key. Get out of my castle." Pff! Typical Elven royalty. After looting the prince's treasury with the key he just gave you, you take the key to all the places you remember seeing those mysteriously locked chests. Marsh Cave (6), Northwest Castle (7), Dwarf Cave (8), and Corneria (1). In one of the locked chests in Corneria castle you find some TNT. Who likes explosives? Dwarves like explosives! Back to Dwarf Cave (8). They love your TNT gift so much, they blast a new canal open for you. Gate #3 down.

(Click to enlarge) This newly explored area is again larger than all the ones before it. Most of it is open ocean, so not all that overwhelming or exciting. Still, a couple of new towns and dungeons to explore. Not to mention a peak at what is to come. You can sail up north to see whole new continents! At this point it's look, don't touch. No ports to park your ship on the new continents... but it sure looks exciting and it just makes you wonder how you're going to get there eventually.

After doing some shopping in Melmond (9) and Crescent Lake (13), it's time to head over to the Earth Cave (10). Pretty rough monsters inside, but your skill has grown to match by now. A vampire! He yammers on about some girl who smells like whisky or something and moans about sparkling in the sunlight, so you put him out of our misery. After nabbing his ruby, you talk to a hungry titan in the Titan Tunnel (11). Not so hungry that you can get past his fat frame! Oh, well. You hand him the vampire's ruby. He eats it and lets you pass. Gate #6 down... kinda?

(Click to enlarge) Honestly, the mystic key was more of a Region Gate than this since the key opened up so many new options, but that wasn't really presentable on the map. This new area was previously inaccessible, but it's so tiny it hardly counts! Whatever. You head over to the hermit cave (12) and talk to Sandra. He gives you a rod. Uh, sure. This is a rad rod, Sandra. Thanks, I guess. Back to the Earth Cave. Behind that Emo Vampire you wasted earlier was a stone slab. You couldn't do anything with it at the time, but now you can lift it out of the way with the rod! I can't tell if it's a magic-wand type rod, or just a pry-bar. Either way, it does what you need. Deeper down you go until a lich you find. You update his status from undead to just dead, then power up your Earth Orb. Woo! Eventually, you head over to Crescent lake and talk to some sages. One of them happens to have a canoe in his pocket, so he gives it to you for doing such a great job with the lich. Gate #7 down.

(Click to enlarge) Now you can travel on the rivers that were too shallow for your pirate ship. Not only does this open up new areas like the Ryukhan Desert (16), the Volcano (11) and the Ice Caverns (15), it also acts as yet another shortcut to previous areas. Instead of walking around rivers, you can just walk right across them. Any river flowing into the ocean acts as a new port where you can debark your ship onto the river, then hop onto land. Since it's a pocket-canoe, you can fold it up and take it with you instead of leaving it behind like the ship. If you went exploring around the northern continents earlier, you'll remember a little river going into the ocean up there. This is a nice exploration reward. Just a little bit of area is opened up to you on the new continent now. Head into the Castle of Ordeal (17) to test your mettle! I had to leave and come back later when I was stronger several times before I finally made it through, but that was ok since the Castle of Ordeal is not something you need to conquer right when you get to it. Head down to the Ice Caverns (15) and battle your way through loads of undead. It might help to have the flame sword and other great gear found in the volcano (11), but it's your call. A giant eyeball at the bottom of the Ice Caverns left behind a floater. Grab the levitation-log and head down to Ryukhan Desert. With the floater, you lift an airship right out of the sand! Gate #8 down.

(Click to enlarge) With the airship, you can fly right over every obstacle. Also, it's really fast. Yet again we're given a faster route to all our favorite places right along with new places to explore. I love it! Loads of new towns to explore. Onrac (19), Gaia(21), Leifin (24), make a pilgrimage to the Sea Shrine (23), or hang with the dragons on Cardia Islands (18). More dungeons to check out, too. Canoe up to the waterfall (20) or check out the Mirage Tower (22) in the big desert. However, Just because you can fly over everything doesn't mean you can land anywhere you want. Has to be open grassland, so it doesn't take all the joy out of exploring. A lot of places are deep in the forest or across treacherous deserts, so you have to land quite a distance away and fight your way to your destination.

(Click to enlarge) If the game opened up with this much land to explore from the beginning, I wouldn't just be overwhelmed, I'd be enjoying the game less for having been denied the journey. It opened up exploration to me a piece at a time, but almost always doubled the places for me to explore at each step. It actually made the world feel much larger when it forced me to consume what was on my plate before giving me the next serving.

How can we gate our regions this way? What sorts of map features and game elements can we use to promote exploration and excitement? Can you think of other/better examples of Region Gating in RPGs?
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Re: World map

Postby jennah » Mon Feb 06, 2017 7:53 am

Initially we're in the mine, we come out near the marsh right? Do you want some kind of barrier to prevent people from getting into the Imperial City for a little while so they can build up levels? I'm thinking maybe it might make sense to people need to meet up with a soldier or someone with credentials to temporarily join your party before going into the city. Alternatively you might come across a badge or some type of credentials off of someone that you fight or a dead body?

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Re: World map

Postby jennah » Mon Feb 06, 2017 7:59 am

Also, storyline wise, could we label the map as far as intended order? This might make planning easier ( mine- ghost city- imperial city? Etc) or do we come back for ghost town because we don't have marsh shoes?

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Re: World map

Postby MedicineStorm » Mon Feb 06, 2017 11:23 am

I was first seeking suggestions for world map redesigns. Alternative ways to lay out the continents and natural boundaries. Once we had that, I figured we could find a good place for each important location. After Jennah's comment, though, I'm realizing that is rather backward. We need to list our locations, in the approximate order we want them to be encountered by the player, then design some geographical features that keep that order in mind.

I still feel the map at the top of the post above could use some redesign- It's less geographically interesting than I'd like because of the single dominant contiguous landmass- but perhaps listing our places-of-interest in the storyline forum should come first. In the meantime, let's brainstorm some interesting ideas for world geography. Sketches and drawings are welcome!

@Jennah: To answer your other questions... that map is not necessarily accurate with the new story elements you and the other writers came up with. It was more of a showcase example. Maybe the mine should be somewhere else. Some of the cities listed aren't in the right place or shouldn't exist at all. The Imperial City is a mid-game location, so yes there should be at least some soft-gating around it. I'm sure there are mountains and other natural barriers, but they aren't really shown all that well on that map. Those sorts of boundary details are what I was hoping to define, but you're right; we should list our POI's first... In the storyline forum, though... because spoilers. ;)

Bigkahoonaberger mentioned it may be helpful to brainstorm some of the kinds of barriers, gates, and keys we could use. It'll give us a pile of interesting features to pick from when designing a new world map. Here's what we came up with as a start:
  • Many things will be soft-gated, some things will be hard-gated: Hard gates prevent passage unless the player has obtained the very specific and unique key required. No amount of skill or creativity will circumvent the boundary without the gate's key. Soft gates, on the other hand, allow some players to traverse the boundary earlier than other players. Example: An area with very difficult monsters. The player is only prevented from going there because of their character's insufficient combat skill. A player who strategizes carefully and specializes their character for combating those specific monsters may traverse that area long before their character's skill should allow. Another form of soft-gating is a gate where there are multiple keys. Example: travel is blocked by a fast-flowing river. One character ties some rope to a ballista arrow and fires it across the river, forming a zip-line they can use to cross. Another character barters passage on a ferry across the river. Yet another character casts frost spell at the water, freezing it temporarily, and walks across the ice. A final character drinks a levitation potion and simply floats a few feet above the river. All are effective ways across the boundary.
  • Occam's razor of magic vs. mundane: No need to use a magical explanation when a mundane one will do. Don't place a magically sealed mystical doorway in the player's path when a regular locked door would do just as well. At least not right up front. Later, when things need to be more profound, sure use magical grandiosity to illustrate importance and lore. But if it's used everywhere, magical things lose their esoterica and specialness.
    Image
  • Gate keys that open multiple gates are cool: It's fine to have a key that only opens one gate here and there (like the Gate #1 example above; The bridge is only ever used for crossing that one channel), but it's better whenever a key can open more than one gate. Example: The ship in Final Fantasy 1. In order to reach Elfland, you must have the ship, but Elfland isn't the only place the ship allows you to access. It also opens up access to Dwarf Cave as well as being a shortcut to previous areas. Nearly every item in any Zelda game also operates this way; one key opens all gates of that type.
  • Many modes of transportation are cool, but none should eliminate the need for exploration: In case it wasn't obvious, I'm a fan of the Final Fantasy Franchise's ever-graduating vehicles; Chocobo -> Canoe -> Hovercraft -> Ship -> Airship -> Airship+submarine -> Airship+subterranean tunneling. But each vehicle should only be provided once the boundary it traverses has been explored by the player. And the vehicles should never allow you to go everywhere with no restrictions.

    Not all modes of transport need be vehicular or even owned by the player. Renting a horse and carriage to get to a far away town, or bartering for passage on a ship to a distant port. The carriage and shipping company only travel to a specific set of places, and always for a price. Perhaps the player activates a series of stonehenges that allow teleportation to other stonehenges. Old cavernous tunnels provide a shortcut under impassable mountains. A giant sandworm can temporarily swallow the party and travel beneath the desert sand like some sort of meaty dirt-submarine. Instant Fast Travel is the worst thing to happen to exploration RPG's in my opinion. Should it be easy to travel to previously explored areas? Absolutely! Should it be trivial? Never. No need to force things to be slow or boring, but traveling huge distances quickly should be meaningful.

TL;DR: Let's brainstorm some cool ideas to make the world map geographically interesting, not just a single dominant contiguous landmass. What sorts of interesting Gates and Keys can we come up with? Sketches and drawings are welcome!
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Re: World map

Postby jennah » Mon Feb 06, 2017 12:33 pm

Cool! This is very helpful. I'll brainstorm new design and some possible barrier ideas

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Re: World map

Postby jennah » Wed Feb 08, 2017 4:15 pm

Alright, first thoughts are that we might have equipment limitations. You emerge as a slave from the mine right? You probably have terrible/no shoes. I'm thinking there is some type of area we can't cross without new shoes (barrier type: possible desert or even they existing marshlands). I thought you might have to travel to the farmland and muck some stalls and then get to keep the galoshes/muck shoes and then use those to travel back to marshlands.

Alternatively you may need a horse from the farmlands to cross marshlands or difficult terrain.

I'm thinking the imperial city is blocked off by a mountain pass and you cant get in without credentials. Two possibilities include getting arrested to get there or joining forces with an army deserter/person with credentials to get through the pass.

for the forest path and elven city, I like the idea that maybe you arent able to find the correct path to the elven city without an amulet or some token from the elves. If you try to turn off the main forest path, you continually end up at the beginning or end but cannot find the city. Your character might say "I keep losing my way." maybe you need an elven compass? This could eventually be something that allows you to travel between forests/elven cities when you get this token way down the line.

for the caves other than the mine, I think you may need a special light or just a flashlight in order to travel through them.

The desert could require a canteen that you will pass out and wake up back at a village if you go without it
More thoughts to come...
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Re: World map

Postby Argitoth » Wed Feb 08, 2017 11:46 pm

Are we making a "Day of the Tentacle" action adventure or an RPG? I don't like the idea of region gating, though I am biased towards Ultima Online's way of doing things and I've never played a Final Fantasy game. But allow me to state my case.

MedicineStorm wrote:If you let them explore the whole world right from the beginning, a lot of players will inadvertently stumble into an area with unexplained context or with monsters that are way too powerful for level 1. Frustratingly, the player gets wiped out in seconds. They could just come back later, but when? They decide to explore some other place, but they end up lost and spending hours just trying to find where they were supposed to go for that very first quest. It gets frustrating when you travel hundreds of leagues looking for that one guy "Importanto del Questgiver" but it turns out he was in the town just two leagues east of where you started.

There's a lot to say about this, but let me speak from my personal experience. To enter a world that is unhindered arbitrarily feels great, it feels real, I am able to suspend my disbelief. In my idea of a realistic fantasy world you would not have monsters that are "way too powerful" roaming around constantly creating "character level barriers". Therefore, said player won't die frustratingly. If they leave the safe roads and wander off into the middle of the forest, sure they could encounter some beasts, but that's part of the fun! If there's a quest to "find that one guy", then create a map marker, and better yet, let that one important guy be a few towns over and let the player have fun travelling, learning the roads and towns, learning what towns sell what goods better than other towns, finding more quests and points of interest along the way. Don't keep the player bound to a small area. I see the world we are trying to create as a living breathing system with roads and towns, villages, camps, cities. Travel is essential. If you "region gate" me out of what I expect to be a fundamental part of the world (i.e. travel) then I am taken out of the experience, my suspension of disbelief is ruined, I realize I am just playing a game where I'm the only one in the world who can't travel.


See my map:
region_gating_alternative.png
region_gating_alternative.png (63.75 KiB) Viewed 357 times

black = safest, towns and roads
blue = safe-ish
orange = not safe
red = really not safe
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Re: World map

Postby jennah » Thu Feb 09, 2017 7:19 am

Hmm. I think you make a good point, however, we can choose realistic region gates. For example. You can't get to Denver easily without a car or plane. You might have difficulty surviving in tundra without a jacket, etc. Real life is somewhat region gates.

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Re: World map

Postby MedicineStorm » Thu Feb 09, 2017 9:31 am

I agree with Argitoth. And I agree with jennah. That is a good point about not restricting everything, but I think this question:
Argitoth wrote:Are we making a "Day of the Tentacle" action adventure or an RPG?...
is a misrepresentation of the difference between all RPGs and an Open World RPG. That being said, I do think we want a fairly open world. I think mimicking the Final Fantasy model (a predominantly single-player game franchise) would not fit with what we're going for. Players should be able to travel to various other player-centric areas with relative ease. It wouldn't be much of a living breathing world if all the merchants, farmers, craftsmen, and soldiers couldn't even travel from one town to another until some random PC came along and unlocked a gate for everyone.

Then again, as jennah says, the things that restrict a player's movements are not necessarily unrealistic. The things that restrict our players movement don't necessarily restrict the movement of merchants, farmers, craftsmen and soldiers. Just because I don't have a ship doesn't mean no one else in the world has one either. There is a reason Boromir's line is so famous: "One does not simply walk into Mordor". The whole story would be over in 5 minutes if Middle-earth weren't Region Gated up the wazoo. Not everywhere, of course, but even The Shire, Gondor, and Laketown have some hard-gating between them, and they're all peaceful allies with each other!

Even open world RPGs have gating. In Ultima Online, there are multiple forms of transportation, just like we plan to have: Horses, moongates, recall runes, and the Gate spell. But you have to pay for a horse, you can only travel to a moongate from a moongate, you have to charge your runebook (which takes resources) and you can't Gate to places you've never been before. There are multiple continents, all of which cannot be reached by simply walking to them. Many are easily accessible by moongate, but not all. Pretty much the entirety of the Lost Lands is gated off from players until passage to it is activated and specific knowledge of how to get there is obtained (hard-gating). Even open world RPGs that employ the- hated- instant fast travel (Skyrim, Oblivion, Guild Wars) still require you to 1) find the path to the destination and 2) defeat or evade the monsters blocking that path before you can fast-travel to that destination (soft-gating). Again:
MedicineStorm wrote:Many modes of transportation are cool, but none should eliminate the need for exploration...Should it be easy to travel to previously explored areas? Absolutely! Should it be trivial? Never. No need to force things to be slow or boring, but traveling huge distances quickly should be meaningful.

We don't need to region gate out the entirety of travel, just regions off the beaten path. A good example of this kind of quasi-open world RPG is (any) Legend of Zelda. Ocarina of Time, for example: Link is able to travel all over the place, to different towns, biomes, and other POIs unrestricted, but Death Mountain Trail is still off-limits without Zelda's letter. Gerudo Valley is hard-gated until you get Epona. I like the map Argitoth posted showing potentially increasing areas of dangerous monsters. A good illustration of the soft-gating we can do. This still needs to be done carefully, though. Having areas of ever-increasing risk does not solve the problem. If a player is not ready for even the "safe-ish" area, those monsters are still "way too powerful" for that player and they will still die frustratingly if they thought that is where they were supposed to go. Point made, though: Ambiguous destination instructions.
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Re: World map

Postby Argitoth » Thu Feb 09, 2017 12:02 pm

If we are creating a single player campaign I don't mind hard region gating, it's a natural part of story-telling. I'm hoping there will be a more "open adventure do whatever you want" Grand-theft-auto-esque mode in our game as well.
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