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Author Topic: Outward - Cities  (Read 5559 times)

Keos

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Outward - Cities
« on: July 21, 2015, 04:25:39 pm »
Living in the wild will be your day to day routine in Outward. This does not mean that there won’t be any cities.


Designing a city can be hard. We want them to be easily navigable, so you do not have to move back and forth to get between two points of interest. Cities have to be unique, both by their architecture and geographic position. We want them to be memorable.


Creating big urban areas have also bring other difficulties. We know our limit as developers. We are currently only 6, so filling those large spaces with NPCs could be an enormous task (probably bigger than making the city itself). So how do we explain that such big constructions exists in Aurai?


Well, you have to remember that the Scourge which appeared hundreds of years ago wounded the world, cities were partially destroyed and most of people died or left the continent. Now that the region is stabilizing, the few that stayed lives in the ruins of the previous glorious metropolises.


We're currently prototyping some big cities and wanted to share a few screenshots with you. What kind of cities would you like to see in Outward?
« Last Edit: July 21, 2015, 04:33:16 pm by Keos »

godspeeed

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Re: Outward - Cities
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2015, 11:06:30 am »
I hope to feel the survival aspect throughout all design aspects. I would be interested to see how this idea can be integrated to cities. What if its a survival game for everyone, players and props. Cities are also in survival, versus the elements of nature, human corruption and politics, wildlife, etc.

In this example this city's survival is expressed in the fact that its a city built on a city. In the past it was a stronghold protecting an important trade passage in a mountain pass. A flood submerged part of the stronghold and forced most of the citizens to immigrate to neighboring cities but the citizens who didn't have the strength to leave built homes on top of the walls and roofs. Homes are modest, but the city is again booming with access to fresh water from the mountains, plenty of game to hunt, etc. Its a city of collaboration, strong social equity, etc. Its premise is dark and sad, built on top of ruins, a reminder of the strength of the elements... but its inhabitants are expressing the story of survival in an different way, the strength of humans and their capacity to adapt.

The city tells a story of survival, both for its infrastructure and its inhabitants, and this blends with the purpose and vision of the game.


Sern

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Re: Outward - Cities
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2015, 08:11:47 pm »
Creating big urban areas have also bring other difficulties. We know our limit as developers. We are currently only 6, so filling those large spaces with NPCs could be an enormous task (probably bigger than making the city itself). So how do we explain that such big constructions exists in Aurai?


We're currently prototyping some big cities and wanted to share a few screenshots with you. What kind of cities would you like to see in Outward?

An Environment with a Story Behind it Almost Creates Itself

First let me say that which is probably already obvious as experienced devs. IMO, more often than not, creating the story behind your world (including specific locations like cities/dungeons) prior to design or building makes the process far more effortless. I know how silly and trivial a comparison this will be but back when I made a few Minecraft maps using a layered paint tool I first asked myself what kind of world I was trying to create. With each biome I asked and answered what the history of that area was and how players would engage with that biome. Also considering biome proximity in relation to other biomes was important. Unlike in vanilla Minecraft, my map environments had to maintain plausibility. Having tropics right next to an icey biome was inexcusable.

My point here is less to do with climates in Outward but a correlation that the story helps to determine the design flow of a given environment.

In the making of my Minecraft maps I thought about placement of interesting areas to be discovered by players in the roleplay server we operated. The best part was not telling anyone about what was out there but watching them discover these terrain features and other sites on their own and saying, "wow, this is cool. What is it and what's the story behind it?" I once made a mountain overlooking a softly rounded plateau with two rivers flowing down from the mountain above. These rivers formed a a few pools of water on the plateau before running further down the side and into the ocean. These terrain features appeared, at first glance, to be naturally occurring. However, if seen from above - on the mountain - one could see there was nothing natural about it. The two small rivers flowed in a dilapidated but calculating manner into the pools on the plateau and the plateau itself seemed sculpted when viewed from above. Indeed, from above the various terrain features joined to form the image of a weeping skull. Creepy much? I had further plans to create a dungeon inside the plateau but that would have not been possible through the paint tool. I would have had to manually craft it and it took me a good many hours to make the map as it was. The idea here was that a civilization, small in number, once had a thriving society at that location but mysteriously disappeared and left their terrain formations behind. This of course creates intrigue for the player who begins asking all kinds of questions. Why did they create these formations? Who were they? Where did they go? What else did they leave behind?

These are the kind of questions I want to find myself asking in Outward as I explore the world because, when plausible (even fantasy plausible), it creates a whole new level of immersion. IMO there's a difference between realism and fantasy realism. As long as the fantasy realism is plausible in its own definition and has a basis and foundation in realism as we are accustomed to then the fantasy remains believable.

Empty Game World

This is something I desperately hope you are able to avoid. This is especially troublesome in cities.

Fallout games, IMO, are a notoriously good example of this problem as I see it. They're good games that suffer from a lack of NPCs to fill it. I've spoken to many others who feel the same. Even TES: Skyrim had mods that added random NPCs to road paths between locations, to cities, dungeons, etc. This was obviously because someone felt a need to fill the game world up a bit more with people and thus activity and encounters. I used these mods and they drastically increased my immersion. No one wants to play in a world that feels overly empty.

Fallout: New Vegas was worse for wear in this than TES: Skyrim. I liked the game design and quests but it was so difficult to care much when I felt like one of a hundred (not even?) NPCs in the entire world. Some would argue that's half the premise of the game, due to the inherent characteristics of a post apocalyptic world. But let's face it, half the purpose behind making a game is not to copy/paste a potentially realistic scenario and say, "Play this." It's important to make sure it's fun too. I'm not saying Fallout NV wasn't fun either, it just seemed less fun or interesting being one of so few overall people in the game. I like to feel small and insignificant in most of the games I play to make the feeling of progression seem that much more rewarding. At least that is the case for games similar to Outward, a story driven sandbox RPG that doesn't hold your hand and allows you to forge your own path and make your own decisions.

So ultimately what I'm saying here is, please please, don't feel obligated to make massive sprawling cities and then sporadically plop some NPCs about. I understand the justification for having a large city with a small population in a fantasy game like this where cataclysmic events have been or are occurring. I just think you need to be very careful not to replicate the same problematic conditions, as I see them, in games like Fallout where NPCs seem so spread out and the landscape seems so suffocatingly desolate that your very existence seems futile and pointless. If you have to make a smaller game world to compensate I don't see the issue with that because the alternative is worse. A moderate to large game world where there's so little population you wonder how anything gets done or how the monsters haven't already completely taken over the world and made humanoids extinct.

I hope I've made myself clear enough through all this rambling on this issue. It's probably the thing I'm most afraid of happening with this game. I also know this complicates things with a small dev team of six and I try to do my best to adequately take these things into account.

What Kind of Cities I'd Like to See

I'm a bit less specific here. I think the main thing I'd like to get across is to consider the resources available near the location of a structure or set of structures. Most locations will be constructed using only the nearby resources in a near-medieval technological world. Depending upon the level of civilization and their interconnectedness resource trade for construction purposes would certainly be plausible.

So in a dense forest with limited amounts of marble/stone I think a town/city/location constructed mostly of wood makes more sense than a marble/stone megastructure.

On a side note, I'm a big fan of elvish type lore - both their aesthetics, constructions, and philosophies. If you have a civilization similar to this (self sufficient tree huggers wary of outsiders) and it is compatible with your overall lore I would really like to see a city built with cohabitation with the environment, self sufficiency, nice aesthetics (not ignoring function), mystique, secrecy, wonder, and scientific achievement (including fantasy pseudoscience) in mind. I imagine such a city would rely more on magic than messy and environmentally unfriendly mechanical constructions too. Forests have traditionally been excellent locations for such constructions due to their renewability, aesthetics, flexibility in construction, and so on. However, other non-traditional locations shouldn't be discounted either.

Also who can argue with cities/towns on or near the water (ocean, river, stream, delta, lake)? I would expect, depending upon tech/civilization level, they would also utilize the water; whether for its multitude of power usage options (not necessarily conventional power as we know it), easy access to river/ocean resources, travel, food, etc.

Well that should cover it for now. Lol.  :-X
« Last Edit: August 14, 2015, 11:21:40 am by Sern »

Keos

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Re: Outward - Cities
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2015, 08:56:48 am »
We are indeed aware of the feeling of an empty city and that will probably be one of our biggest chanllenges regarding city design and making of.

The lore is kind of one of our speciality I would say. Have you heard of the Lore of GoD Factory, our previous game? Even for a full on 4vs4 PvP game, we had a pretty decent lore I guess.

I also like cities in harmony with Nature.

I can't wait to show you more!

Sern

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Re: Outward - Cities
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2015, 11:26:25 am »
Have you heard of the Lore of GoD Factory, our previous game? Even for a full on 4vs4 PvP game, we had a pretty decent lore I guess.

I was not aware of Nine Dots or GoD Factory before coming across your Kickstarter campaign. I'll have to do some reading up on that.

Zonto3

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Re: Outward - Cities
« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2015, 05:18:40 pm »
I was the same way and than I was like "I need to try there game GoD Factory" and turned to be more fun than I thought it would be.

Keos

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Re: Outward - Cities
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2015, 03:18:57 pm »
I was the same way and than I was like "I need to try there game GoD Factory" and turned to be more fun than I thought it would be.

hahaha, we will take this as a compliment :P I know its a bit off topic in the current thread, but we are streaming every wednesday around 7:30 EDT (UTC -4) as the twitch embed says. Could come play with us :)

Gheeyom

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Re: Outward - Cities
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2015, 11:41:48 am »
In pretty much any big RPG, the reason for a lack of NPCs is mostly technical, not design, and the same challenges apply to us. In fact they affect us more than other developers making games in that genre, since our team is smaller.

While I think we all agree that big, sprawling cities are usually a good thing, the dense population will probably be a sacrifice to be made on a technical level. We'll still try and figure out creative ways to fill it up, but  this is not where we'll focus our energy, especially considering that we want the players to spend more time outside in the wilds.

Besides, Aurai has been hit with a massive exodus from its population when the scourge appeared, so by design the cities are bigger than the population currently filling them. It's even reflected in their design, for instance the town of Sirocco is falling into ruins because they don't have the resources to maintain it. Erosion is slowly claiming the town's plaza, which is not reassuring when you're right next to a volcano. There's also Harmattan, which uses buildings from the ruins of a previous city, notably to host the Sorobor Academy.

I guess what I'm saying is that we don't want to overpromise. We're a small team set on making big things, but we don't intend to rival AAA megaproductions, we'll make smart choices to make sure our resources are well spent to create a unique global experience. We'll try our best though to find the right balance :)
We seriously need more alexandrite in our games.

Sern

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Re: Outward - Cities
« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2015, 03:25:48 pm »
In pretty much any big RPG, the reason for a lack of NPCs is mostly technical, not design, and the same challenges apply to us. In fact they affect us more than other developers making games in that genre, since our team is smaller.

Yes I am most certainly aware of this, even if only on a basic level. I have not set my expectations to AAA standards and it would be unfair to expect that from a small dev team. Nevertheless, I felt it important to at least mention my perceptions obtained from other games in the same or similar genres. You say your world will be large but of course, from what I've seen, I've no method of comparison.

Regarding these NPC technical limitations; does that include the time that goes into their creation (and all of those characteristics), the engine's limitations of handling X number of AI routines, and how do the limitations differ worldwide compared to a particular area? Or is it all of the above? And by my last inquiry I mean, are the technical issues lessened by spreading out NPC populations as opposed to concentrating them? Obviously the more AI loaded the more computations required but are there global technical details to consider with NPCs too? If so, what are those?

Depending on exactly what your technical limitations are, I would suggest to consider, instead of making nothing but complicated NPCs with widely varied backgrounds, also contemplate populating the more rural areas with more generic NPCs that do not require much effort to create. This way there's less initial effort necessary to make them a reality but they still fill empty space, hopefully without compromising the game engine's performance. That's not to say ignore making interesting NPCs but I'd wager that if the proper balance is struck it would be nothing but beneficial.

I suppose a rudimentary example of what I mean could be portrayed in the Skyrim mod, "Immersive Patrols." All NPCs associated with that mod are generic and given paths to wander Skyrim's roads. Some of them are merchants with one bodyguard, or more like a merchant caravan. Some are roving bandit clans looking to attack weaker targets on the road. Other groups are soldiers moving from one place to another, or wandering adventurers like yourself. Interaction with them is very limited, except in the case of the merchants which you can trade with but even that is only a single dialogue option. Regardless of these limitations, this relatively simple mod enhances the player experience (especially traveling the wilds) by providing more opportunity for interaction, discovery, observation of events (two bandit clans or soldier units coming together), and IMO makes one feel a little bit more insignificant because you don't feel like you're the only adventurer in all the lands. Or the only person who leaves the city/town limits.

Ultimately I am just throwing out ideas because I don't know the limitations you're dealing with in detail.

Gheeyom

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Re: Outward - Cities
« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2015, 01:47:53 pm »
The technical limitation is primarily on the number of characters that can be on screen all at once. If we had more programmers at our disposal, we could optimize the game in such a way that additional NPCs wouldn't drain the hardware. Regarding AI, it depends. If we only do a scripted sequence, we need to do a different sequence for every character, which adds up quickly.

If we do an actual AI that changes behaviour, it's possible that its pathfinding would have a hard time dealing with the paths of multiple characters in the same place, and would look weird, bumping in each other or such. If it ends up not looking good, it would mean that we wasted our resources on something for a subpar result. It's a big risk and I'm not comfortable enough to take it.
We seriously need more alexandrite in our games.

Sern

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Re: Outward - Cities
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2015, 11:45:32 pm »
Alright. I feel like I have a better understanding of those limitations now and I was not far off regarding number of AI on screen at once. I could only presume that would be one of the bigger issues. Thanks for taking the time to explain.

Furie

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Re: Outward - Cities
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2016, 07:39:37 am »
What about NPCs that are purely there to fill in the gaps? As an example, you have a doorway that generates an NPC every X minutes and that NPC follows one of three paths to get to a doorway that removes them from the world once they go through it. This could be drunks stumbling home from a tavern, merchants entering the area and making their way to a guild, even guards patrolling. Apart from the guards, there would be minimal AI needed for those path followers (at least compared to full NPCs) while they'd give the impression of a more lived in city.

Would that help with resource management, perhaps to the point you could have something like six of those for every four regular NPCs? Or would it barely impact?

Keos

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Re: Outward - Cities
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2016, 11:30:55 am »
What about NPCs that are purely there to fill in the gaps? As an example, you have a doorway that generates an NPC every X minutes and that NPC follows one of three paths to get to a doorway that removes them from the world once they go through it. This could be drunks stumbling home from a tavern, merchants entering the area and making their way to a guild, even guards patrolling. Apart from the guards, there would be minimal AI needed for those path followers (at least compared to full NPCs) while they'd give the impression of a more lived in city.

Would that help with resource management, perhaps to the point you could have something like six of those for every four regular NPCs? Or would it barely impact?

The biggest issue we had was that animated characters were way to heavy to put many of them. But we made another version of characters that uses the old anim system of Unity (which is lighter than Mechanim and also more limited, which isn't a problem if used for NPCs). This way we were able to put a lot more NPCs. There is still some testing/benchmark to do to see exactly how many we can fit, but it is definitely more than we could before.

 

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