Thursday, December 30, 2010

LA2: Towns

Towns in Lucid Awakening 2 are different than the ones in most RPGs. For me, towns are some of the most memorable parts of RPGs; I think of the ones from Final Fantasy 6 in particular. But there was always something about towns I didn't like--my OCD would kick in and I would have to talk to every NPC in the entire town and check every barrel, crate, and pot for treasures. While this is something exciting and memorable, there was still a feeling of anxiety that would come with visiting a new town--"Oh no, I'm going to have to spend 15 minutes doing everything I can in this new town...."

In Final Fantasy 12 towns were different. The cities were absolutely huge and the amount of people there was more than I'd ever seen before in an RPG, yet something made them much less stressful for me--not all NPCs had something to say; only ones with a mark above their head were ones you could talk to. I used this as inspiration as I started making my very first town today on LA2.

I've always had trouble with towns and NPCs when making RPGs, but I think I finally did what's just right for me as a developer and designer.

Instead of being able to explore an entire town, there will be important locations in the town that you can visit via a menu; also, you cannot visit a location until you have learned about it from an NPC or story event. For example, in the town I was designing today you begin in the pub. Your character asks the bartender where a good place to sleep is, and the bartender tells him the Redstone Inn (which is marked in red, signifying that you have just learned a new location). When you leave the pub you are on the outside of the building and even though it may look like a typical RPG town, it's not. Once you step onto a crossroad next to the Pub, a menu pops up that lists all the locations you know about. Choosing a location will instantly take you there.

This is where I borrowed from FF12. There are a lot of NPCs, but very few are ones you can talk to. This saves the player from a lot of meaningless chatter. The NPCs you can talk to will usually be standing still. The ones you can't talk to will be moving around, and not just wandering aimlessly, they have a set path and when they appear is random.

Look at the screenshot. That flying black bird comes up from the bottom and makes a noise as it flies over the inn. That old couple comes out from the right side of the screen and walks down another path. That blue haired guy is waiting for his girlfriend, when she comes they talk for a little, and then walk off to the right. That one is different from the others too, because the guy is standing there from the beginning, but when his girlfriend comes is random. Also, all the other ones can repeat, but the guy and his girlfriend won't happen again until you leave that location and come back.

I really think that these things together make a beautiful town that seems huge, real, and living. I feel that doing it this way gives me the ability to make each location seem like a beautiful painting, or a small snapshot of a much larger picture. It's important to leave some stuff to the imagination. The player can imagine the stories behind each NPC and why they do what they do; the player can also imagine what the entire town looks like as a whole, since I'm not mapping the entire town, just several locations within the town.

P.S. I have about 20 minutes of gameplay for LA2 done...I think a demo isn't too far off =]


  1. Honestly? I think your concept takes away from the "reality" of the town being 'real and living'. Perhaps you do not agree, and you are entitled to your own opinion of course, however FFXII was not one of Square-Enix's better games. One of the harsher criticisms of that game was the lack of being able to explore as much as you wished to in the FF series' previous games.

    Also, the very concept of not giving the player real freedom in exploring a town is limiting to the player, and detracts from what really makes an RPG an RPG...exploration. Put it this way, I just told my roomies (who are avid gamers) word for word what your blog stated, and they reacted negatively. Four adult gamers in my home did not like the idea of an RPG being so limiting.

    Take this as you will, and if you choose to ignore it then so be it. I am not trying to flame you, as I think you have some interesting ideas, though I think the execution of those ideas is not congruent to what the RPG gamer looks for in a game of this nature.

    Just my two cents on the matter.

  2. Hello, RydiaofMistX =] Do I know you? Are you from one of the RM forums? How did you find my blog?

    I do understand what you're saying. This is an experiment and not at all final. I do disagree about Final Fantasy 12 though...are you sure you're not confusing it with another FF? Because that was the largest, most expansive FF game O_o

    Like I said, it's not a final idea. I'm going to keep it that way until I have my first alpha demo released, then I will gauge people's reactions, and if they react negatively like you have, I will change it.

    The reason I did this is because I am developing this game by myself. I have always had trouble mapping out large towns; mapping isn't one of my strong development skills. It is also difficult for me to make interesting NPCs.

    I know for sure though that even if I do give it free exploration I will still have inactive NPCs that are doing something or going somewhere, as opposed to just having everyone on a random movement path.

    In the final product, I might end up keeping some form of this. For larger towns there might be a quick-travel option while still being able to freely explore. Or I might only use this for a few very large cities. I think if I did this for the biggest cities in the game, it would make them seem much larger; think of a city in real life, such as New York City, to map a realistically sized city in an RPG would be ridiculous. Any real city is way bigger than any cities I've seen in any RPG.

    Thank you for your input, try my demo once it is out and then tell me how it feels. If you still think it is a terrible idea then, let me know. All these blog posts are just 'test ideas' that are subject to change, that's the whole point of an alpha demo.

  3. While on the one hand I agree with your sentiments of having to talk to everyone in a town, I don't like the system you have for travelling through a town. Something I think I'd rather see done (which I'll be doing in a game by my good self) is, for particularly large towns, maybe have it seperated into districts. Then each district could have notable places to be, and upon reaching a crossroads you choose which district to enter. Maybe it could show something along the lines of: Warren District (Inn, Potions, Training).

    I do really love your NPC idea though. It's something I've thought about implementing myself in the game I'm working on, but I've yet to get around to it.

    I'll reserve any judgement until the demo comes out though. ;)

  4. Yeah maybe I forgot to say this...but this is only for a couple really large CITIES not necessarily TOWNS. In fact, out of the three towns in my game so far, only one is a big city and has this travel method. The other two are just like regular towns you'd find in other RPGs where you walk around freely and what not. Each of the conventional towns has about four buildings you can go in, and several NPCs to talk to; but also there are sides/tops/bottoms of houses kind of going off the map to kind of create an "illusion" that the town is a little bigger than what you can explore.

    Thanks for the input =) it really helps me out a lot.