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FranklinX

Alternate Paths In Maps

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Caves, dungeons, forests, and many other areas are common in RPGs. The goal is to reach a certain room and you may need to defeat a powerful boss! Is there one way to reach this boss? It depends on the developer. Many games have a linear path and it holds the player's hand. You can't get lost. There is one path to the finish line.

 

On the other hand, great games have alternate paths. There is more than one path to lead to the boss or major event. Sometimes there are incentives to take a different path. Paths may have different enemies and hidden items. I like adding alternate paths in maps. I think all of my maps for dungeons have at least one alternate map. The player is rewarded with special items for exploring. 

 

Alternate paths have the potential to add lore to the story. These paths may give backstory to the area. This can be done by reading signs or understanding the meaning of pictures on the map. The Legend of Zelda has many hidden stories or details in pictures in a room. It is a good way to add story or make the player curious about particular events in the picture.

 

Do you add alternate paths in your maps? How many alternate paths do you make per map?

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A lot of games are like this, taking DOOM as one example where it's easy to get lost in an area, even with the map (something @Kayzee would know all too well lolz)


As for my games, I tend to go for the semi-forced exploration route, where you don't necessarily have to take all the multiple routes, but if you don't, you'll often miss things. I also don't always point out which path is the 'way out', either, or don't make it completely obvious. I don't do this with every map, and some maps are designed to just be a single corridor, or a forked path, because making a multi-map labyrinth that isn't 1F/2F/3F/etcetera, is not something I actually like doing/playing.

Sometimes, I do go a little bit cruel, and make it so that the 'way out' is hidden, in one fashion or another. I usually don't do this without some kind of way to 'reboot' though, because I don't like it when such is forced on me. One of the maps in DOOM has a couple places where the teleporter transports you back to the beginning of the level, which if you needed to backtrack, made such a lot easier (there are likely several maps that have this quick-track mechanic but I noticed it in E2M4).

The one thing I did when I made a game with RPG Maker 3 on PSX (internationally known as RPG Maker), was I added lore to the post game in the form of a 'Döppelganger Battle' at the ruins of the lab where the main character once worked at. A completely optional battle that was brutally hard, and if the player lost, would see an ending that is NSFW, or if the player won, would receive a permanent stat boost and a new skill. The battle was brutally hard due to the party needing to be just the main character, but was doable if the player had certain spells and certain equipment.

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Alternate paths definitely make dungeons more interesting. I think it depends on the dungeon, though. I personally value a bit of balance between realism, and function when it comes to game world design. Not every cave will have 3 different paths, all perfectly meeting at one exit. A forest path on the other hand may have many different paths, but as a rural kid, I can tell you very few lead to the same places, it's just not logical.

 

I am a fan of dungeons like old FF style dungeons. You hang a left down a hallway, up a flight of stairs, down a long corridor and find a chest with a unique accessory. Then fall through a hole in the floor which takes back to where you were. I like this model as opposed to hanging the left and coming out in the middle of the dungeon, looking back at the center and right paths you didn't take. So you double back down the center path, taking the right path back. <That just feels annoying.

 

I play games like Earthbound where they often do alternate paths that converge in the same place. I automatically get a flutter of anxiety ever time. I think real exploration should be about more than just doing a lap around a set of paths. If exploration is an aspect of the game you want to be pronounced, you're going to need to think about the quality and detail of mapping for those dungeons and areas. Today's gamer longs for more than treasure chests and extra monster encounters. We want to be rewarded with visual stimulation as well. Give us something to explore, not just chests to find. This also allows you to flesh out your game world, creating a beautiful, memorable setting that will endear itself to the audience.

 

 

In short I do like multiple paths, but I think it goes much deeper, and that it should be paired with great mapping to promote exploration in the first place.

 

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I am kind of two minds about this: One the one hand, I like the idea of having having different paths you can explore so you don't have to go exactly the same way every time. Other the other hand though, let's face it: Most players are going to go back and take them all regardless because they don't want to miss anything. I think @That One NPC's explanation of the 'flutter of anxiety' players get when forced to choose between two paths is a really nice way of summing it up.

 

How about this for an alternative: Maybe at least some dungeons are better designed less around taking a linear path to the end and more around a hub-like structure where you have a number of areas you can complete in any order. A simple example I see in a lot of games is where you have a big door or something near the start you need to find 4 or so thingies to open. Of course I think making every dungeon have the same structure is boring. Some linear dungeons are okay, and probobly even preferred to using the same formula over and over.

 

Another option maybe: You could try splitting the dungeon up into smaller distinct floor/area maps you go through linearly, but have each map be mostly non-linear in how you approach it. Having smaller maps means the number of branching on each one is more limited so you can much more freely explore it without worrying as much about missing stuff. This is the type of map commonly used in dungeon crawlers or roguelikes, because you can freely explore a floor of like 5 to 10 rooms (maybe 10-20) with out making it too hard to map everything out in your head but still give a sort of linear element of progression to a goal. You can also have alternate ways up and down between each floor if you want.

Edited by Kayzee

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The pre-built maps of VX Ace are examples of decent map making, however, they are quite large and all that space does naught but add fluff, unless you somehow utilize all that space (it could be done, sure but the dilemma at hand is if it should be done); I don't think I've ever seen any game made with VX Ace that only used RTP assets, just use those maps and nothing else, nothing modded or anything, unless it was an asset flip like the Arcane/Occult Raise series and ZAMBI 2 KIL (lmfao)

No, wait, even those had non-RTP/modified maps in them, but still looked very much the same.
...ZAMBI 2 KIL is an MV game...never mind that one...

It's all good tinkering material though. Just don't re-release those on Steam.


Square shaped maps are a bit too predictable. I avoid those as much as I can.

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I use squarish maps for certain buildings like houses because it's familiar, realistic architecture. I just have this personal preference. Having said that I like to put different architecture in different regions, so long houses may be rectangles, others may have more quirky design.

 

But yeah I do appreciate the classic squared house, especially if the outside looks like a squared house.

Edited by That One NPC

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Squared maps are fine for houses/shops/otherwise symmetrical structures, but for dungeons/caves/other such non-symmetrical areas, yawn, lolz

I've played too many games with those kinds of dungeon maps, and it's milktoast, really.

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Depends on the project. For the one I'm putting all my energy into, one of the main points is how goofily simple a lot of it is. That doesn't mean there's more to explore or there aren't multiple ways to achieve things, but there is a certain degree of linearness to most things in it.

 

For other projects that maybe aren't so simple (to play, I mean), I'd definitely do this and I really wish more games would do this. I can't think of a good example from my planned games that would have this, mostly because, now that I have all my projects back from holding, I'm deciding what will and won't be a game, but if any of them do end up being games, I'll 100% make this a thing because it's just so darn fun!

 

EDIT: Thought of an example. If I made Bloody Dark Night a game, you'd get to explore all of Holt Manor. Every secret passage, every nook and cranny, just everything. You'd get to learn the shortcuts and find several paths to travel throughout the place, even finding hidden bits of lore, items, puzzle pieces, objects, etc.

Edited by AutumnAbsinthe
Thought of an example-

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On 11/27/2019 at 10:10 PM, PhoenixSoul said:

Squared maps are fine for houses/shops/otherwise symmetrical structures, but for dungeons/caves/other such non-symmetrical areas, yawn, lolz

I've played too many games with those kinds of dungeon maps, and it's milktoast, really.

 

Are you talking about the shape of the map it's self or the shape of the space inside it? Because just because the map is square doesn't mean it has a square space inside it, and there is a good practical reason to use square maps if you have some complex structure that expands outwards chaotically like a lot of caves do. I mean, rectangle maps are nice at times, but they can be fairy 'directional' if you know what I mean. A square map be diagonal or a cluster of chaotic non-symmetrical spaces, and there could be large chunks of it that are simply empty.

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The shape of the structure itself. If you walk into a town and you see five square buildings with a flat front face and short rooftops (non-rectangular looking), when you walk inside, they should be square houses. I'm not saying the house is one big square room, but yeah, nothing worse than walking in a square house to find a labyrinth of hallways of weird shaped rooms. It's just a continuity issue.

Edited by That One NPC

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@Kayzee The shape of the contents of the map. Square map content is fine for square structures, but not so much for something that doesn't have that kind of external structure, visibly or not.

@That One NPC I agree with this, though I will give exceptions to some places where that is the design point, like the Trick House in Pokémon R/S/E for one of a long list of examples I could name. (I always waited until after beating the Elite Four to visit the place so I could get all the items in one sitting lolz)

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Hehe, yeah. Though the nature of the game being tile-based can sort of limit the shape of structures sometimes, but you can still make nice caves and such.

 

That reminds me of something I did for my game actually. As I have said, my game is a Mystery Dungeon-style roguelike. If you don't know how the random dungeon generation in a most of those games work, it basically splits the map up randomly into rectangles and makes rooms that it connects with passages. Basically like this page describes. But having simple rectangular rooms all the time was pretty boring, so on top of that I added an option inspired by this page too. Basically I have some tricks I can use to make some dungeons look more interesting, sometimes adding solid parts here, or trimming them away there... Had to do a lot of tweaking to make sure the player couldn't ever get in a situation where they were stuck though!

 

I also have at least one dungeon that set to explicitly use square rooms, but it fits the location.

Edited by Kayzee

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2 hours ago, Kayzee said:

Though the nature of the game being tile-based can sort of limit the shape of structures sometimes...


Alpha transparency is your bff in such a situation...Editing tiles so that they no longer look like squares when all is said and done... 💗

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