Game Mechanics What would you use a giant city for?

Discussion in 'Game Design, Development And Publishing' started by Yal, Oct 6, 2019.

  1. Yal

    Yal GMC Memer GMC Elder

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    I'm planning out a tactics RPG game set in a cyberpunk gigacity. But I don't want to just have an excuse to have cool skylines, I want to use set-seed procedural generation to generate the entire city, letting you explore all of it, down to being able to get into every apartment and office if you want. I might scale that back if it gets too impossible to do, but my plan is to use a loose, rule-based approach to generate things the moment they're needed, basing the contents of generated areas on what they're supposed to be, rather than the Minecraft method of generating a lot of stuff at once and then apply rules to them to figure out what they're supposed be.

    Now, the big question is: why. Why would I make an entire city when I could just make a bunch of story-important rooms and some pretty skyboxes? I want the player to feel like they're exploring a real place, seeing events unfold in a place that's alive (again using a healthy dose of procedural generation), but is there any gameplay benefits of having an entire city?

    I'm basically looking for ideas of fun ways you could use having access to an entire city in gameplay. It doesn't need to be core gameplay, gimmicks are okay. For context, the game is about doing detective work on supernatural cases, but the detective framing is mostly an excuse to have you get into fights a lot.

    Some examples of "gameplay ways a city has been used" in currently existing games that I've considered prior to starting this topic:
    • GTA games hide special collectibles and powerful weapons in hidden areas that you need to explore the city thoroughly to find. This is a no-brainer and RPGs usually have a lot of nice hidden goodies to pick up, but it isn't enough on its own to motivate building an entire open-world city.
    • Retro City Rampage II lets you buy any house in the city as part of building your evil empire. This doesn't really meld well with what my game is about, but it does open up interesting new perspectives of what a throwaway apartment building in the skyline means.
    • Earth Defense Force has buildings be destructible, letting you remove them to get a clear line of sight on enemies or use them as cover (but of a temporary nature) and letting you see the destructive nature of war as the missions drag on. I think this level of carnage would be a bit too over the top for my game but it would be a cool idea.

    If you've got ideas that require natural space outside the city to be used, I'm open for suggestions as well; I'm mostly on the lookout for ways to use a big open world in gameplay (rather than just as a way to make travel distance between missions longer) and implying that the world will be a city.
     
  2. Catan

    Catan Member

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    My first thought would be immersion, having a world that feels “alive” in an rpg really makes the difference for me, but you are right that just being able to walk through a world you can’t interact with or without any gameplay value is probably not enough.

    One thing you could do is having something like a neighborhood based economy, where different (procedurally generated) zones could sell / buy items that are rare or have different prices than other zones. You can go a step further by changing these stats based on the player behavior, causing scarcity or abundance of some materials for example, or by assigning other attributes that are “zone / neighborhood” independent like crime rate etc... that are affected by the behavior of the player in that specific area.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2019
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  3. Yal

    Yal GMC Memer GMC Elder

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    That's an interesting idea! I've toyed around with the idea of having "zone crime rates" as a mechanic (higher crime rates means more random crimes happening that you can try to stop - basically random battles), but I've not really thought about them influencing other things. Another of my half-baked ideas is counterfeit items that have lower stats than they claim they have (so you do less damage than the stats suggest), this feels like a perfect thing to tie up to the zone stability as well. Not really sure if resource trade would work in a modern city environment (I mean, when was the last time you peddled in raw materials? Everybody gets their stuff from factories in China these days, raw materials are shipped there directly :p) but I could see this work for contraband (e.g. drug and illegal arms trade) which would have a much clearer tie to policework as well.
     
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  4. pixeltroid

    pixeltroid Member

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    As a game environment, I'd just use an area of the giant city as a sort of a hub or a "break area" between levels, that the player can come back to explore and get upgrades and new missions. Kind of like the village in Zelda: Links Awakening.

    I personally wouldn't have the main levels set in a city (unless its a destroyed post-apocalyptic city) because IMO realistic city levels are difficult to create. In a real city, each building, store or house looks different and it would be too much work for one person to create hundreds of different buildings. And it might just end up feeling repetitive.
     
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  5. Khao

    Khao Member

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    It's all about movement.

    GTA cities don't work because there's things hidden on it, that's a bonus. They work because you're driving everywhere. Drivin is fun, and you need big places for driving to be worthwhile. The place is huge, but you can go from one end to the other in a pretty damn short amount of time. This is vital for a huge city to work. You could find fun in GTA even if there was literally nothing to do in the map, even if it'd be pretty short-lived.

    Another good example. The newest Spider-Man game has a massive city with very few points of interest relative to its size. The whole thing is seriously near empty, and outside the story missions and the randomized crime, there's objectively speaking just not a lot to do. It's also one of the most fun you can have in a gaming city because navigating it feels Amazing™. Here, you could also have fun even if there was literally nothing to do in the map. Perhaps even more so, as you quite literally need to interact with the environment itself in order to move, and the layout has a direct impact on your options.

    A bit of a counter-example, Super Mario Odyssey has a complex movement system and several different moves you can chain together, but the system is not really tied to speed, but to making sure you get exactly where you want. Since you're not that fast, the maps are a heck of a lot smaller, but they still managed to add a level that feels like a large city, and they had a fun way to navigate it.

    Don't worry about content. Worry about making the journey from point A to point B as fun as possible. Make the movement system compelling, give it a high skill ceiling. Reward good players with more speed. If you do things right, good players get the satisfaction of getting to their objective quickly, while bad players get to have fun learning the system and getting better at moving.

    Now you just have to worry about using a system that makes sense for your game, but that's really the most important thing. A fun movement system with a high skill ceiling can make any city fun. If navigation is not both interesting and effective, there's really no way to justify a large city. If traveling takes long, it feels tedious. If traveling is effortless and trivial, it feels boring. If traveling encourages you to get better at the mechanics and doesn't waste your time, you're gonna get hooked.
     
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  6. Morendral

    Morendral Member

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    Some thoughts i have about potential "zones":

    o Central Park type area- a given to have some wilderness in the game, though you could of course do smaller ones if that's too big.
    o China Town, Little Italy, etc - easy way to add some distinction and flavor, also you can have different mafias controlling each area. If your game isn't as serious, you could make something silly like "kiwi town" run by the new Zealand Mafia.
    o Underground transport/sewers - lots of interesting things going on there
     
  7. MissingNo.

    MissingNo. Member

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    I feel like there is 2 different questions being asked here. "What is the advantage of a giant map?" And "What is the advantage of having every building have an interior?"
    I'll try to give ideas for both.

    Advantages with a giant map:
    1: Like others have said, space for satisfying travel mechanics.

    2: Like you mentioned, Destruction of buildings.

    3: Random repeatable quests. Having a giant map gives you more spots for randomly generated quests to take place.

    4: Random Events. Similar to the above but for random events. Things like crimes occurring in the world.

    5: Territory. You could have gangs or factions have their own territory. Or you could have player owned territory.

    6: Sense of freedom.


    Advantages with having every building have an interior:
    1: Like you mentioned, rare loot or collectibles.

    2: Things to steal. similar to the first idea but this is specifically for bad guy characters giving them opportunities to steal things.

    3: Random repeatable quests.

    4: Random Events.

    5: Simulation of individual people. This is most likely too time consuming or too demanding on performance, but you could have NPCs have their own life. Their own jobs they go to
    and places they shop and houses they own. Again this is a unrealistic idea to implement.

    6: Sense of freedom. Even more so with having every building having an interior.

    7: More hiding spots. If for example the player is running from the cops they will have the option of breaking into a house and hiding there.

    8: Better escape. Similar to the above. The player can break into several houses weaving in and out of them to more easily escape the cops.

    9: Cover.


    Not sure if any of these ideas will fit your game but you be the judge.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2019
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  8. JackTurbo

    JackTurbo Member

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    Cyberpunk cat burglar simulator please yal.
     
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  9. GMWolf

    GMWolf aka fel666

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    Have missions they are not just (go to these coordinates) but more like "go to this bar" or "find such and such person"
    And the then you can ask people on the street answer the bar is and they give you directions, or all ship owners of they have seen the person.

    This can make for interesting gameplay is you add rules on top ofthat. Like is you are looking for an alcoholic you would go into bars to ask if people saw them.
     
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  10. Yal

    Yal GMC Memer GMC Elder

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    My idea to make buildings feel unique is to have them be randomly generated from parts that can be combined in multiple ways, so even if two buildings has exactly the same sprite set, they could look different if they have different shape (and even with the same shape, they might be different heights). I've done a bunch of research on this, like studying how EDF 4's city was generated (one of the fun tricks they used was making buildings whose short and long sides look different, and then turn some of them 90 degrees) and reading through Shamus Young's blog on the procedurally generated city screensaver.

    Some really good points here! The game would be a turn-based strategy game, so I've had overworld movement as an afterthought... but I guess I need to think more about how I can make it fun, not just the boring filler between the fun parts.

    Off the top of my head, I'm thinking being timed to get to places and get rewards for getting there early would make sense a lot within the game's theming - you know, when someone is being robbed or shot and you need to get to the crime scene while the trail is still hot. You get approximate coordinates and need to get there as quickly as possible, you get to decide whether you wanna parkour or get to a vehicle. Getting there quickly gets you some sort of bonus... extra money for a job well done, bonus EXP, a free first-strike turn because the enemies were unprepared, something like that. The game is set in the same universe as my big platforming game series, so I guess you could do a bunch of random parkour moves (wall jumping, jumping several times your own height, dashing) and I probably could work in one of those hang-gliders like in Breath of The Wild without too much handwaving. Maybe grappling hooks as well, I guess.

    Maybe I should forego the traditional menu-based movement altogether even in battle, and have you move around using the normal overworld turn mechanics (within a cylinder that represents your movement range or something) so the fun isn't taken away from you once you get in a battle? Not sure how much it would add other than a more tactile feel, but i guess it could open up new strategical situations like being able to get to places outside your normal movement range (e.g. high ledges) if you're good at all the different kinds of jumps?

    Don't worry, I have this covered! The city would have 5 major districts (old town, financial district, old slums that are getting posh now but have a nightmarish street layout so you get lost easily, modern villa area, modern slums that are still under construction), several major unique landmarks, enclaves that are "mini-districts" (little japan, little india and little USA being 3 of them), and there's gonna be a lot of subway stations... perfect way to get fast-travel points and stores to restock on stuff to be conveniently close everywhere.

    Good call on the split! I had some problems narrowing down my question, but I couldn't tell WHAT was the problem... turns out it was two questions all along. Thanks for the enlightenment! ^__^

    Giant Map 1-4 has been covered already, and arguably 6 as well (being my core idea). I like the idea of territory, though... I've played around with simulating gangs (and other entities, like all major story players like companies and bosses you'll meet later) so you could get info about current events, and going to a place one of them takes place while it takes place would have you witness it (e.g. a gang war) but I didn't think about gang TERRITORY yet... but that makes so much more sense than simulating multiple interconnected schedules! Or at least, is a lot easier to represent on a map... :p

    Inside a gang's territory, you have a higher chance of random encounters with members of that gang (combat or peaceful - NPCs that spawn just have a higher chance to be gang members), if two adjacent regions belong to different gangs there's a higher rate of random gang fights, killing defeating enough gang members will weaken their grip on the territory and lower crime rate, gangs will take over neighboring territory if left unchecked for long enough (crime rates go up EVERYWHERE over time because you're the only non-incompetent cops in the entire city)


    Good point on the "go do this, not gonna tell you WHERE" thing - I remember The Sinking City did that a lot and it made you really FEEL like a detecive, so I'll definitely steal that idea! The city would be on a Manhattan-style grid (to make coding how it works easier, mostly) so it would be possible to just give people simple coordinates (3rd avenue 25th street) as an easier challenge... or be more mean and tell them to go to "Robin Hood Mall" or "the wooden house on Long Island" and force them to do a lot more research. Not sure if I wanna go so in-depth that I simulate what different people know about different things, it's starting to feel like feature creep / simulation addiction, but it probably wouldn't be too much work to do that for scripted encounters... having designated people that deliver clues randomly spawn until you find them, and have list of WHERE they can spawn... specific places or types of areas.
     
  11. GMWolf

    GMWolf aka fel666

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    THe one issue i can think with this is that precodurally generated houses may look very samy. So you could get lost easily.
    Perhaps still use a grid, but have some building blocks take up different ammounts of grid sqares. Then maybe do "string pulling" on the roads to get diagonals (that just crush any buildings in the way). That would be a very simple way to give you city a lot more variety, but still be based on a grid layout.
     
  12. Yal

    Yal GMC Memer GMC Elder

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    My plan is to have multiple buildings in each city block (blocks being 3 x 3 buildings or so), and proper roads only around the edges of each such block... so things would be a bit less uniform. Most landmark buildings would take up an entire 3x3 block, and sub-regions like amusement parks (and regular parks) would take up several adjacent blocks, overriding their biome setting and also override the "there must be roads around all sides of a city block" rule.

    I'll have to see if things still get too samey once I have the generator running... the city is small enough that I'd be able to manually tweak building parameters for each cell if the pure randomness isn't good enough, even though I'd rather avoid it. (It would be even more fun exploring a world not even I know anything about!)
     

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