| [Development]Corneria on 50 Gil a day
, Making your RPG town more than a dull pitstop.
Jun 9 2010, 04:52 PM
Unassuming Local Guy
RM Skill: Beginner
This is the first time I've written a tutorial. It probably sucks, but it's a subject that's been bugging me for a long time and something I felt I needed to get off my chest. Bear with me, please.
Towns are something take for granted in RPG design. You slap an icon down on the world map, spend an hour or two on a pretty map, put in a couple of shops and an inn, a couple of NPCs wandering around, maybe a side quest, and you're done. To some extent, this is fine. The town serves it's purpose as a gameplay element.
But stop and think about what you've just done. You've created a tiny, rural village high up in the mountains. The only way to reach it is through a cave overrun by Goblins which the party just barely survived going through, or through the more dangerous haunted forest they're going to next, and yet the farmer you talk to near the entry of the village talks about going to the capital, alone, to pawn off his goods like it was no big deal! Clearly, these are some badass farmers (Might explain why the local weapon shop sells those Dragon Slayer +5s)! Here is a town whose very existence makes no sense, and which has no connection to any other place on your game world. What you've done, probably without intending to, is create something utterly asinine.
Towns and cities don't pop up out of nowhere for no reason. There are several things to consider when designing the bastions of your world's civilization.
More than anything else, water is necessary to life. A ready supply of fresh water is a must to any sort of habitation, yes, even desert towns. Large cities tend to be located near major rivers or lakes, which also often serve as a source of commerce and recreation. Smaller settlements can scrape by with well water. A town without water is not going to be a town for very long.
But just because a location has fresh water doesn't mean it's a nice place to live. There are other factors, such as access to caravan routes, proximity to other settlements, a source of wealth, any sort of monsters living nearby, etc., which may determine whether or not it's a good idea to settle somewhere.
Now, in an RPG, you're going to see some truly fantastic places for a town. In a volcano, for example. Anybody who's passed 6th grade science class can tell you this is a very bad idea for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that exposure to magma will kill you. The heat alone is enough to boil the blood in your veins in seconds, and that's only if the extremely toxic fumes don't kill you first. Yes, I know you've seen it in commercial RPGs, but if Dragon Age's Orzammar was a real place, anybody who walked inside would keel over dead in mere moments. You can't live in a volcano. Period.
I'm not saying don't use weird or harsh environments for your towns, but just try to imagine the logistics of actually living in such places before you take the plunge and write them into your game.
You've called your town something like "Riagro". That's a nice fantasy name, but it doesn't mean anything (Well, it might, I don't claim to know every language in the world). People don't just make up names for the Hell of it, they name them after things, usually in their native tongue, or whatever their native tongue was at the time.
For example, I live in a city called Racine. It's name doesn't seem to have much meaning, unless you speak French, in which case you know it means "root". The initial founders of the town were French fur traders who named it after a nearby river, which was overgrown with tree roots (And actually still is. It makes the water look brown and nasty, too, even though it's relatively unpolluted and drinkable.)
Typically, a town is named after some significant nearby landmark, some significant event in it's history, a local hero, or it's founder (people can be conceited like that.) or some combination of these (For example, if a town had a famous hero called Steve living there, and a mountain nearby, they might call the town "Steve's Peak"). If you think plain English names are too mundane, look into translating those names into another language; just make sure the language reflects the culture you're trying to represent (Using a name like "Ryoto" on a very European trade metropolis is a big no-no.)
Of course, you could always make up a generic fantasy sounding name and claim it has meaning in your game's ancient/foreign tongues, but that's a real cop out.
How long has your town existed, anyway? Here on Earth, two hundred years is considered fairly young for a town, there are cities like London and Rome that have stood for thousands of years. Stuff happens during that much time. A lot of stuff. You don't have to have a full detailed timeline for the town, but you should have a major event or two or at least a story about the town's founder. If your town is old enough, it's probably been destroyed and rebuilt at least once; the ruins of the "old town" on the outskirts of the city could make an interesting setting for a dungeon. If the town is on a border, it's probably been passed along by multiple kingdoms through history, whether by conquest or treaty, leaving it's inhabitants with a vague national identity. There's always a war going on somewhere, those are always easy to slot into a history. Spend a lot of time brainstorming this stuff; this is the sort of thing that fills NPC conversations and bookshelves!
So who exactly is in charge here? No, not the king, kings don't rule towns, they rule kingdoms.
If the town is small enough, than a mayor or minor nobleman, a single judge and a small police force is probably all the government it needs. Large cities, on the other hand, probably have a council of aldermen, multiple divisions of constabulary, and an entire court system in place, and barely keep things under control. If the system is democratic, there will probably be multiple parties fighting for power and influence. Depending on the situation, these disputes can get quite ugly, and might cause problems for the hero's party if they get caught up in them.
Try to think how the local government interacts with the "big picture" as well. I've seen a lot of RPGs where the King is the only government official in the land, anywhere. That is simply not feasible. Kingdoms tend to be broken up into smaller provinces ruled by vassal nobles, duchies, counties, baronies and the like. The local government is likely to have ties with these higher officials, since they take orders from them.
Your town does not exist in a vacuum. It needs money, and money has to come from somewhere. People travel. They trade. They work.
This ties into the reason why your town exists in the first place, in addition to being a relatively pleasant place to live, there must be some source of income. You can get a lot of this from the terrain your town inhabits.
-Is it located on a large plain? Agriculture and livestock.
-Near a mountain range? Mining.
-In the middle of a big forest? Lumber and fur trapping.
-Along a major highway? Trade and tourism.
-A coastal town? Shipping and fishing.
-Manufactured goods are a wild card, it can happen just about anywhere so long as the required resources are easily obtained.
But now that your town has product, where does it go? Obviously, some of it stays right in town, but most towns will produce far more product than they need. The surplus generally gets traded away for cash. Perhaps your small rural town makes a killing off shipping cows to a desert town, where beef is considered a delicacy because they have no cows there.
But your rural town isn't going to be able to produce everything it needs on it's own, either. The horses the farmers use to plow their fields need shoes, but there's no iron to be had out in the prairie. The blacksmith buys his stock of ore from a merchant who buys them from another merchant who comes from a mining town to the north. The transaction is made halfway in a trade city who derives much of it's income from travelers and merchants who stay at their inns and eat at their restaurants. The merchants themselves both make their profit from a markup on their goods.
Once you've got your towns interacting with each other in this manner, you're on your way to a semi-believable economic system. But consider this; in the course of your game, the rural town, the hero's home town, gets overrun by monsters and destroyed. This would cause a major disruption in trade between these towns, and would be something NPCs would certainly comment on!
Entertainment and Tourism
Your town has a weapon shop, an apothecary and an inn. This is fine and dandy for adventurers, but where's the culture in this town? What do these people do for fun?
You're not going to find any town, anywhere, that's as boring as your typical RPG village. Large cities tend to have big entertainment districts, think Broadway. Even a small rural town might not have a permanent venue of entertainment, other than a few taverns, but they will have several annual fairs and festivals to balance things out. Places like music halls, theaters, amusement parks, art museums, and libraries might not serve any useful gameplay purpose, but they round out your settlement and make them seem more real, and might serve as a good setting for side quests or minigames.
And then there's the taverns. This is the one social place most RPGs actually have. In real life, of course, towns will have dozens to hundreds of such establishments, depending on the size of the town, but in most RPGs, the hero can only visit one in each town. That one should be special in some way. It may have a unique drink that's garnered a reputation, or it may be a front for the mafia, or maybe it just has a reputation for having particularly friendly barmaids (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).
Tourism is a good side industry for many large towns. If there's anything particularly interesting to see, chances are you can get people to come (and pay good money) to see it. A historic statue, an ancient cathedral, a famous hero's birthplace or just the world's largest ball of twine all make interesting additions to a town.
The people are the lifeblood of any town, though they tend to get shoved into a bunch of people wandering around randomly telling the hero to have a nice day. This is to some degree a necessary sacrifice; townspeople are, after all, not a very important part of your game unless they're related to a side quest. You could take the Ultima route and give every single NPC their own daily schedule and totally unique dialog tree, but that's more writing and work than most are willing or able to put forth, and a bit beyond the capabilities of RPG Maker anyway.
So, to some degree, your NPCs are going to be one-dimensional in the game as individuals. However, you will want to develop a sense of "national character" for lack of a better term.
Write out profiles for a few NPCs in your town, say a good half dozen, but more would be better, giving them the same attention you would give your game's main character. Make sure they're from all walks of life and different professions. You don't need to use these characters in the game, that's not really what you're doing here. What you're trying to do is develop a sense of how people in this town live on a daily basis. You're giving yourself ammo for those dreaded NPC conversations.
You've gotten plenty from the other categories, but not every citizen is going to care about the town's history or how the fur trade is doing. Some of them just want to talk about how their bratty kids have cut classes again. Some of them are going to talk about how they don't like the new pastor at the church. And yes, some of them are going to want to talk about the weather. If you've done well in reasoning out how people actually think about these topics, you can even make these inane topics interesting and/or humorous.
Another big thing that determines how the player sees a town is how it's going to see the player. In large, well traveled towns where new faces are the norm, they'll most likely be treated as just another traveler, with polite indifference. In small or isolated communities, the reaction may be different. Perhaps they'll be overjoyed to see a new face in town (It's the only time that poor weapon merchant ever gets business!), or they may be suspicious. After all, those adventurer types never seem to bring anything but trouble! If the town is one the hero has visited before, or is his or her hometown, this creates wonderful opportunities for characterization. People are likely to know the hero, if it's their hometown, then probably on a first name basis, and are likely to share embarrassing anecdotes with his or her party members. If that cute white mage girl knew the hero wet his bed until he was thirteen...
You've got a lot of information about your town now. So what do you do with it? Cram it all into the player's face in a thirty minute long cutscene?
Background information of any sort should only ever be given on a need to know basis. Information about a town's history, economic health and tourist attractions should only be given out in the main plot dialogue if the player absolutely needs to know it to understand the plot. If you can work any aspect of the town into your game's main storyline, that's fantastic! However, for the most part what you're going to do with all this information is delegate it to NPCs (If you can conceive of a way for them to share this information in a natural, conversational manner) and examinable books (If you can't).
What this unfortunately means is that a lot of this detail is going to be lost on your audience. Your typical gamer doesn't bother to talk to NPCs unless they must, and they're certainly not going to examine books. So why bother? Because you know it's there. Because it's a reward for the rare player that does look deeper. Because all this information makes it easier to map out your town in a semi-logical manner. And because, like any kind of creative writing, it's good fun.
"Game development is a very special job that requires a very special person. The high stress levels often drive our staff members to become...subhuman. They're violent and need to be caged. But we need them to make good games. This is the unfortunate truth of the game industry." - Segagaga
Posts in this topic
Milton Monday [Development]Corneria on 50 Gil a day Jun 9 2010, 04:52 PM Joe What an excellent commentary. I agree with many of... Jun 9 2010, 05:15 PM Kread-EX This is one true good tutorial. A thing which bugs... Jun 9 2010, 10:41 PM Knot I agree, that's a great tutorial, I really hop... Jun 9 2010, 11:29 PM mudducky Actually your tutorial covers a lot of good advice... Jun 10 2010, 02:31 PM Lyran Excellent Tutorial!
I'm glad to know that... Jun 10 2010, 04:34 PM Milton Monday Thanks for the feedback! I was worried it was... Jun 10 2010, 05:01 PM Locke Its really umm, huge! My eyes just decieved me... Jun 10 2010, 10:19 PM Lyran I've tried making an RPG Maker VX version of U... Jun 11 2010, 06:19 PM BamBamBib Now that I think...
Farmers that go and beat the ... Jul 10 2010, 05:49 AM proudlock Just finished reading through this tutorial and i ... Jul 12 2010, 07:02 AM Sparrowsmith This is another great Tutorial to recently hit RRR... Jul 12 2010, 09:21 AM userjosh704 There's a lot of good info here, a bit excessi... Apr 27 2013, 04:38 PM namco @Milton Monday Dude can I hug you?! I have bee... May 1 2013, 04:54 PM amerk Please read the rules for this part of the forum n... May 7 2013, 07:28 AM
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