Map Design Topics

A discussion area for general design issues that staff would like detailed feedback on.

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Map Design Topics

Postby Roots » Tue Apr 24, 2007 11:07 am

Although map mode isn't nearly as intricate as battle mode, there are a few suitable points for discussion and ideas to share and contemplate. Below are a list of some ideas that I've had for map mode in the recent weeks, as well as a mentioning of planned features that we have not yet implemented. And FYI: none of these features will be making it into the 0.2.0 demo, just so we're clear on that.


#1: Running and stamina
I think there definitely needs to be a run/walk option. But the question we need to address is: can the player continue to run continuously, or do they have a limited amount of stamina? I think that we should either add a stamina meter in one of the screen corners, or find some other way to restrict the player from always running (ie enemies spawn faster while running or something). Some random thoughts about this:

- player should be allowed infinite stamina in 'safe' areas such as towns, where no battle occur, but limited stamina everywhere else
- stamina regenerates slowly while walking, and faster when standing still
- stamina should be static throughout the game (higher experience levels do not increase stamina amount or regeneration rate on maps)
- no 'potions' or other typical means available for quickly restoring stamina
- perhaps that if you encounter an enemy with a low stamina, the enemy party has a head start on you (ie they get the first attack), meaning that its not always wise to keep the stamina bar continuously drained in dungeon maps


#2: Running animations
I know that its not wise to further burden our art department, but I really feel that eventually, all main playable characters (and perhaps some more distinguished NPCs) should have running animations. The "turbo walking" just doesn't cut it. :|


#3: New dialogue icons
Refresher: all NPCs that have dialogue that the player has not yet read will have a small little icon appear above their head that indicates they have something new to say. This eliminates the need for constantly querying NPCs to see if they have any new information.


#4: Weapon use in puzzles
If you've ever played Lufia II, you'll know what I mean. Basically, you have different weapons available to you to try and solve puzzles. Swords can slash down brush and vines blocking your way. Arrows can hit distant targets to trigger switches. Fire arrows burn all that cross their path, etc.

I was thinking we could do something similar, only the weapon that is used depends on the active character sprite on the screen (which can be cycled through by pressing the swap key or something). So when Claudius is showing, he swings his sword. When Laila is showing, she can shoot arrows, etc.


#5: Weapon use against map enemies
Perhaps weapons can also be used to avoid encounters with enemies on the map. Maybe a sword slash will stun the foe that it hits for a second to allow the player to run away. Or maybe it allows the player to then encounter the enemy and give them first strike in battle or something.

If we do something like this, we'll have to have a limiter on how many times weapons can be used on maps (ie, only once every 2 seconds). Otherwise, the player can abuse the ability to make it through a dungeon without a single encounter.



I think that's a good list for starters. Basically, I want map exploration to be more than walking around and talking to people. I want the environment to be more interactive and "fun", because I find random dungeon crawling in most RPGs to be a bore. :| Share your ideas here as well please! :angel:
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Postby ChopperDave » Tue Apr 24, 2007 2:21 pm

#1: Running and stamina


I'm against this :disapprove: . If the player wants to sprint all day long and dodge every enemy in the dungeon, that's fine by me. He'll attempt the boss battle severely under-leveled, get his ass whooped, and realize that maybe he should fight a few battles.

On the other hand, if he's the appropriate level, but ran back to town to get suited up for the boss fight, he's probably gonna want to dodge all the enemies so that he can fight the boss with full health and a full set of items. At least, that's what I would want to do.

#3: New dialogue icons


I've seen this same system used in Summoner. I think they had a question mark over the head of anyone with something interesting to say, and an exclamation point if they were quest related. This is definitely a good idea.

Or maybe it allows the player to then encounter the enemy and give them first strike in battle or something.


Quit stealing my ideas!

Aside from the first topic, I agree on all fronts :approve:. But we'll see what the art department has to say (and the other map mode coders).
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Re: Map Design Topics

Postby gorzuate » Tue Apr 24, 2007 5:37 pm

Roots wrote:#2: Running animations
I know that its not wise to further burden our art department, but I really feel that eventually, all main playable characters (and perhaps some more distinguished NPCs) should have running animations. The "turbo walking" just doesn't cut it. :|


:uhoh: Hmm I think turbo walking does cut it. I mean, yes, ideally, running animations would be very nice to have, but, given the circumstances, that's like saying a million dollars would also be nice to have.

I do think it would be nice to have running capability in map mode though.
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Re: Map Design Topics

Postby Jetryl » Tue Apr 24, 2007 7:58 pm

Roots wrote:Although map mode isn't nearly as intricate as battle mode, there are a few suitable points for discussion and ideas to share and contemplate. Below are a list of some ideas that I've had for map mode in the recent weeks, as well as a mentioning of planned features that we have not yet implemented. And FYI: none of these features will be making it into the 0.2.0 demo, just so we're clear on that.



#1: Running and stamina
I also think there definitely needs to be a run/walk option. If the player can continue to run continuously, though, we'll have a problem where they will try to run 100% of the time. As was the case with the game "marathon", some people might go so far as to do goofy stuff like mapping the 'run' key to caps lock. So, I say that yes, we absolutely need to make a run option, and yes, we absolutely need to impose some limit on how much the character can run; as for the specifics, I'm not sure yet.


#2: Running animations
For main characters, I think running animations would be worthwhile to have.


#3: New dialogue icons
Easy to make, and very good to have.


#4: Weapon use in puzzles
Using weapons would be cool - I would limit their use in certain "civil" areas, such that the player won't go around trying to slash NPCs. (Alternatively, we can let them do so, and let them face the consequences; but it would almost certainly ruin the winability of the game for them; it works in some RPGs I've played, but you always have to reload from an earlier save when you do.

As for having more than just Claudius standing around as the active character; that would totally rock. I'd vote for going as far as CT/SoM, and actually showing the sprites of the other characters walking behind in file (I'd probably handle their collision with other things differently; or really, not have them collide with anything; only the front character would do that).


#5: Weapon use against map enemies
If players can fire their weapons, they will be expected to have _some_ effect on enemies in map mode. Initiating battle mode, and/or causing the enemy to flee would both be valid options.



Roots wrote:I think that's a good list for starters. Basically, I want map exploration to be more than walking around and talking to people. I want the environment to be more interactive and "fun", because I find random dungeon crawling in most RPGs to be a bore. :| Share your ideas here as well please! :angel:


Legend of Zelda- Link to the Past would be an extremely good example to learn from. At least for the main characters, it would not be unreasonable to add animations for "general object manipulation"; things like "lifting up", "carrying", "tinkering with".

Having somewhat mutable objects lying around; possibly dependent on player-facing direction for their function, would also be great - it was very intuitive how the player could face the front of the sign to read it, and face the side/back of it to lift it out of the ground. The cool thing is that, as zelda demonstrates, we only need like ... one frame for the lifted state of the object.
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Postby ChopperDave » Tue Apr 24, 2007 9:21 pm

we'll have a problem where they will try to run 100% of the time


You say this is a problem, but you don't explain how it is a problem. How is this problematic?
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Postby Jetryl » Wed Apr 25, 2007 4:47 am

ChopperDave wrote:
we'll have a problem where they will try to run 100% of the time


You say this is a problem, but you don't explain how it is a problem. How is this problematic?


Why even have walk mode if they use the increased speed all the time?

If they use the increased speed all the time, they'll just (either by muscle memory, or other hackery) leave it on, continuously. This ruins certain things like:

• Forcing the player to make a split second dash away from a monster who suddenly showed up out of nowhere.

• Forcing the player to gauge their speed on certain time-based puzzles.



If it's just a constant thing, it'd be better to just increase the basic run speed. There'll be other ways to traverse the map quickly. (Though I do think we should give map-mode walk speed a boost).
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Postby ChopperDave » Wed Apr 25, 2007 4:51 am

You're assuming the run button will be a toggle. Just force them to have to hold it down to sprint. They'll get fed up with (or their finger will hurt) having to hold it down and just walk.

But if you guys want stamina in the game, go for it.
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Postby Roots » Wed Apr 25, 2007 5:50 am

ChopperDave wrote:You're assuming the run button will be a toggle. Just force them to have to hold it down to sprint. They'll get fed up with (or their finger will hurt) having to hold it down and just walk.


Uhh, I don' think its a good idea to try and make our players get fed up with anything. :uhoh: And IIRC, Chrono Trigger had infinite run mode but you had to old down the B button. Well, you can imagine that my thumb was holding that button down throughout all X number of hours it took to beat the game. :eyespin:

I like Jetryl's argument for stamina, btw. I'll admit that I couldn't come up with a compelling explanation in favor of it. :angel:
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Postby ChopperDave » Wed Apr 25, 2007 2:22 pm

One of the things Wild Arms did was if you wanted to dash, you could do it infinitely, but you could not steer yourself. You would sprint straight ahead until you either stopped or ran into something (or off of something).

Just another thought I had.
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Re: Map Design Topics

Postby Burnsaber » Thu Apr 26, 2007 8:20 am

Roots wrote:I think that's a good list for starters. Basically, I want map exploration to be more than walking around and talking to people. I want the environment to be more interactive and "fun", because I find random dungeon crawling in most RPGs to be a bore. :| Share your ideas here as well please! :angel:


One thing I find boring in those "random dungeon crawls" is that the dungeons seem to be made by 13-year old Dungeons & Dragons DM. There is a 20x20 foot room with monsters.

Then the next room is another 20x20 room with monsters! The dungeon is like that until you hit the boss room. Why not make rooms have an actual purpose? In an orc-infested mine some room might be made into a kitchen, another armoury etc. It is of course not enough alone, but when a game does that (Bladur's Gate 2 springs to mind) I feel it really brings life to the dungeon. Perhaps you could run into a "mini-boss" in the kitchen. The Troll-cook! (just a regular Troll sprite with a huge Rolling Pin, white apron and an ridiciliousy tall cooking hat)

Perhaps the palyer could have other goals in the dungeon than "kill the boss" or "rescue the princess". For example, if you find the boss's bedroom, you might recover his/her/it's diary and be awarded with knowledge from some character's backround (maybe that baddie had killed some character's mom or something).

Perhaps there could be events in the dungeon. Let's imagine a dungeon whit two rivaling baddie factions. Let's say Orcs and Goblins. Currentlythe factions are well entrenched and in a stale-mate. So the heroes come and start killing orcs. Goblins see that their time has come and also atack the now-weakened orcs. If the player decides to attack the goblins first, vice versa happens.

Of course, you could just take the Zelda route. While playing "Twilight Princess", I was just too busy having fun to start thinking about the practability of those dungeons. Now that I think about it, those places are kinda silly. What do the monsters eat? How in the heck they could be any kind of temples? It must be a real pain in the ass to be an Iniatiate in those places.

Priest; "Clean the main altar, Bob. And do it now!"
Bob the Initiate; "Oh man, I need to press those three valves in correct order, make 3 leaps of faith across rivers of molten lava and climb 5 floors up and down."
Priest: "Don't forget the quicksand-traps. We lost 2 initiates to those last week."

Oops, I derailed a bit. Anyways, there are many routes one can take while designing dungeons. Just find one you like and stick with that.
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Postby Viliam » Sat Apr 28, 2007 12:35 am

How is it determined who has the first strike in the battle? Maybe if the player was running, monsters should always have the first strike. It would mean that player was moving carelessly, and was surprised by an attack.
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Postby Roots » Sat Apr 28, 2007 6:35 am

Viliam wrote:How is it determined who has the first strike in the battle? Maybe if the player was running, monsters should always have the first strike. It would mean that player was moving carelessly, and was surprised by an attack.


Seems a little unintuitive to me. :| If I'm looking straight at an enemy that I run towards, its not like I'm going to be surprised and let him get the first hit in. I'm thinking the following:

- If player faces enemy when encountered on map, no one strikes first (unless the player manages to catch the enemy from behind)

- If the player is facing at a 90 degree angle from the enemy when encountered, there's a 50% chance the enemy will get first strike

- If the player is facing in the reverse direction on the encounter, the enemy will always get first strike



I have a couple more ideas below.

Non-interactive NPCs

This idea comes from FFXII, and its about the only feature that I like about that game. :heh: In the past, there have been a very limited number of "people" in the game world, but you can interact with almost every one of them. In FFXII however, there were tons and tons of living, breathing NPCs, but you could only speak with a few of them (which was a good thing IMO, because talking is pretty boring and you don't want to give the player too many people to talk to).

This is simple enough to do in the code, and we could create a little icon very similar to the new dialogue icon for sprites that are interactive. Anyone have any thoughts about whether this is a good idea or a bad idea? It could make our world much more believable because we can have a huge populace. The only disadvantage that I can see really is that we'd see a lot of "repeated" sprites, although we may want to create several small variants of our NPC sprites (different clothing, different skin/hair tone) to lessen this negative effect without too much work required art wise.


Roaming Critters

This idea came to me from WarCraft 2 and Starcraft. You know how they have "critters" roam around on their maps? Maybe we could do something similar, showing small spiders crawling on the ground and walls in caves, etc. Just another small boost to make our environments more alive and animated.
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Postby Roots » Fri May 04, 2007 2:02 am

Also here's what I was thinking in terms of the control scheme for map mode (when it is in the roaming/explore state):

Confirm = interact with nearby object/sprite
Cancel = toggle run/walk
Menu = bring up menu mode
Swap = show/hide GUI (stamina bar, dialogue icons, etc)
Left Select = toggle through actively displayed character (reverse direction)
Right Select = toggle through actively displayed character (forward direction


* The purpose of the actively displayed character is that the actively displayed character can do different actions for puzzle solving (sword swing, arrow shot, etc.). That is, if we end up implementing such a feature (I hope that we will).
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Postby Roots » Sun Jun 17, 2007 7:03 pm

I'd like to continue the discussion we've been having in this thread and not let it stagnate any further. Following the release of demo 0.2.0, I've come to question the way we do enemy spawning/zones. No one has complained about this yet mind you, but its just not "clicking" with me.

Here's how enemy spawning/zones work right now:
- Several enemy zones are declared on a map
- Each enemy zone is populated with one to several enemy sprites
- Each enemy sprite has one to multiple possible encounters (== group of enemies in battle)
- The enemies may be confined to only move about in their zones, but can also be allowed to roam outside their zones
- Once an enemy is defeated, it will respawn after a short while
- All enemies are constantly spawning in all zones across the map

What I don't like about this scheme in particular is that we have to define all these really specific zone areas. I also don't like the fact that you can easily get into a new battle right after returning from one (its kind of annoying).


I have an idea for how spawning/zones may be changed, so let me know what you think. Here's the basic points of my idea:

- Enemy zones will cover much larger spaces, and together cover pretty much the entire map
- Enemies spawn around the player as they walk around. The type of enemy that spawns and the number of enemies that can be actively roaming depends on which zone the player is in
- If the player manages to out-run a roaming enemy, the enemy will slowly fade away and disappear as the distance gap widens, allowing for a new enemy to be spawned
- The possible battle encounters that can occur depend on which zone the player is in when they come in contact with an enemy

I think this would make it a little more interesting to try and dodge away from enemies, rather than the current scheme where you pretty much just take it one zone at a time trying to avoid the foes that lurk there. What do you guys think about this scheme proposal?
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Postby Jetryl » Sun Jun 17, 2007 8:35 pm

Roots wrote:What do you guys think about this scheme proposal?



What I think we should do instead, is make the enemy zones much, much larger, without increasing the number of enemies in the zone. Second, I think we should make some of the enemy zones overlap considerably.

Third, I think we should separately define, for each enemy zone, the region within which the enemies can spawn, and within which the enemies can wander. The spawn region should be very small, the wander region should be very large. This way, the player won't have enemies constantly spawning around him, like they currently do, and will have certain areas he can avoid. Second, this can be used to make the monster seemingly not be appearing out of thin air, but rather coming from some logical source, like a burrow in the wall.

Cancel = toggle run/walk


The more I think about it, I think we should do walking/running like "legend of zelda - link to the past" did it, perhaps with a few slight additions.

In zelda, when you ran, you sprinted in one of the four cardinal directions, and you couldn't change direction during the run; that was the big limitation that meant, although running was very useful, that players would be forced to also use walking quite a bit, for control. Furthermore, one of the best things about zelda's running mode was that it was a useful element of puzzles. You could ram things by charging at them, useable for breaking weakened walls, or knocking books off of high shelves.

The changes I'd make would be:
- You can make some movement perpendicular to the sprint direction, but it can't exceed walking speed. This allows for a little adjustment for realism's sake, so that you can avoid not running into that small object if it just happens to be exactly in your path. But it preserves most of the good limitations of the running model.
- After stopping a run, just for graphical flair, you'll skid a little bit, depending on terrain (grass gives very little, sand gives a bit, ice gives a lot.) Maybe half a tile to two tiles - you can still walk and influence your movement during this, but it'll give a bit of temporary "momentum", and make the game feel a little more alive by doing so.
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Postby rujasu » Sun Jun 17, 2007 9:20 pm

Jetryl wrote:What I think we should do instead, is make the enemy zones much, much larger, without increasing the number of enemies in the zone. Second, I think we should make some of the enemy zones overlap considerably.

Third, I think we should separately define, for each enemy zone, the region within which the enemies can spawn, and within which the enemies can wander. The spawn region should be very small, the wander region should be very large. This way, the player won't have enemies constantly spawning around him, like they currently do, and will have certain areas he can avoid. Second, this can be used to make the monster seemingly not be appearing out of thin air, but rather coming from some logical source, like a burrow in the wall.


I agree. I don't like having enemies bound to such a small area. In fact, once an enemy has spawned, why should it have these arbitrary invisible boundaries at all? I'd like to see more realistic ways to escape from enemies, such as having a ladder/stairs that the monster cannot climb, or a creek that the enemy can't jump over.

The more I think about it, I think we should do walking/running like "legend of zelda" did it, perhaps with a few slight additions.

In zelda, when you ran, you sprinted in one of the four cardinal directions, and you couldn't change direction during the run; that was the big limitation that meant, although running was very useful, that players would be forced to also use walking quite a bit, for control. Furthermore, one of the best things about zelda's running mode was that it was a useful element of puzzles. You could ram things by charging at them, useable for breaking weakened walls, or knocking books off of high shelves.

The changes I'd make would be:
- You can make some movement perpendicular to the sprint direction, but it can't exceed walking speed. This allows for a little adjustment for realism's sake, so that you can avoid not running into that small object if it just happens to be exactly in your path. But it preserves most of the good limitations of the running model.
- After stopping a run, just for graphical flair, you'll skid a little bit, depending on terrain (grass gives very little, sand gives a bit, ice gives a lot.) Maybe half a tile to two tiles - you can still walk and influence your movement during this, but it'll give a bit of temporary "momentum", and make the game feel a little more alive by doing so.


I've seen this in both Wild ARMs and Zelda, and I'm not such a huge fan of this. I like giving the player limited ability to run, but I'd like to avoid the whole idea of having the character mindlessly charge ahead in one direction. I like the idea of having the party "skid" or somehow lose control of their momentum when trying to stop running. I think that a "stamina meter" based on running would be a good idea, where if the party is running for too long, they run out of gas and are more vulnerable to a pre-emptive strike by the enemy. We could also put some situations in the dungeons where charging ahead recklessly sacrifices your stealth and can lead to a string of encounters with tough enemies that can really pummel. (In other words, the player should really have to try to sneak by enemies, as beating every enemy in a dungeon will not only be annoying, but will likely result in a party that's too beat-up to face the boss.)

I know some of that seems like a tall order, but I really think we should try to get something a bit more interesting than "auto-run" while being a little more realistic than "charge in one of four arbitrary directions."
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Postby Roots » Sun Jun 17, 2007 9:51 pm

I'm the same as rujasu. I like your proposal for small spawn zones Jetryl, and I love rujasu's idea of having more natural barriers (ladders, etc.) to escape from pursing enemies. It would make the environment feel much more real and less arbitrary with things spawning and disappearing out of nowhere.



I dislike the idea about running == charging blindly in one direction. I find it to be a mildly annoying restriction that doesn't make much sense. The run stamina bar idea that I proposed a while back is what I'm still looking to implementing (and that's going to be a feature in the next demo too, unless we collectively decide on another run implementation before hand). I do like the idea of using running as a useful puzzle element though, and I think that with a limited run meter we could still do that to an effect.


As for the suggestion of skidding, that's also a good idea, but its fairly heavy-weight to impelement. Especially if we have to account for all these different surface types that effect the amount of skid... that's more information the map file has to store and that has to continually be examined and processed. I'm not saying we shouldn't do it... but now is not the appropriate time to try and implement such a heavy feature. Maybe later down the road when we have more regular map mode programmers and not many other critical features to implement we can re-consider it then.
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Postby Roots » Thu Jun 21, 2007 8:19 pm

Does anyone have any unique/interesting ideas for the implementation of treasures found on maps? I'd like to solicit for them if you do. :)


The basic idea I have right now is:
- One image of the treasure when it is closed/not looted
- One image of the treasure after it is open/looted
- A simple GUI screen that pops up informing you of the spoils earned, and a little sound to play or something


We could also have ChronoTrigger like treasures, where there are essentially sparkles on the ground that you have to look for and examine. We could also do some attenuation-based sound perhaps (sound that grows louder as player gets closer), but I don't know how we'd explain the fact that you can "hear" treasures in the game so that it make sense. (Note: they did this in Skies of Arcadia).
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Postby fydo » Thu Jun 21, 2007 8:46 pm

I really like those ideas. Nice and simple.
The Chrono Trigger sparkles are fun, and can add a lot of replayability to the game. (People trying to find every item, etc)
Also, to be honest, I think 'hearing' treasures as you get closer to them is kind of weird.

Also, I think it would be a good idea to have the ability to have a battle encounter upon opening a treasure chest.
You know, if a monster or something jumps out of the chest/box/whatever.
In some cases (I think Super Mario RPG did this) the treasure chest itself could attack you when you try to open it! :)
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Postby Roots » Thu Jun 21, 2007 10:30 pm

fydo wrote:I really like those ideas. Nice and simple.
The Chrono Trigger sparkles are fun, and can add a lot of replayability to the game. (People trying to find every item, etc)
Also, to be honest, I think 'hearing' treasures as you get closer to them is kind of weird.


We could also design maps such that the player can see visible treasure boxes, but have to figure out how to reach them (solving a puzzle, finding a hidden passage, etc.). :) One thing we have to be careful about though is placing treasure boxes that are intentionally unreachable (ie they are just part of the environment) but visible, because that can frustrate players who continually try to reach them.


fydo wrote:Also, I think it would be a good idea to have the ability to have a battle encounter upon opening a treasure chest.
You know, if a monster or something jumps out of the chest/box/whatever.
In some cases (I think Super Mario RPG did this) the treasure chest itself could attack you when you try to open it! :)


I think I have an even better idea. :D We can make enemy sprite graphics which assume a treasure box form and sit and wait idly, but when the character comes to close it suddenly unfolds/uncamouflages itself and aggressively chases after the player. That's a lot more fun than walking up to a treasure chest, opening it, and having "Monsters!" displayed on your screen before you go into a battle. ;) (This scheme is also implementable -right now- with our current code, so there's an extra bonus).
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