Multiple Paths: Clear Design Goals

in Design

I’m sure that when you read the title, you thought “oh, he’s going to talk about games with non-linear sequences, or multiple endings”, but no, that isn’t it. This isn’t about giving your players multiple paths, it’s about what to do when you have multiple paths to the same result.

When there are multiple ways of accomplishing the same thing in the editor, what way should you use. So let’s look at an example

Recently, while doing a stream, I was building a camping system where you could put down a camp on the world map. You could go into your camp and talk to your party members, as well as pick it back up and put it down somewhere else.

One of the things I really wanted to do when designing it was make the map for the camp change depending on what kind of tile on the world map you placed it. If it was in the plains it looked like plains, in the forest it was a forest, a desert for a desert.

Immediately my brain jumped to three ways to handle this.

  1. A different map for each terrain.
  2. A different tileset that had different terrain types in the same places to switch to.
  3. Using a background image instead of mapping it in the editor itself.

All three of these methods would have gotten me to the goal. So how do you decide which one to use?

To me, this is where clear design goals matter. When you are creating any system, planning is key. Every method will have different strengths and weaknesses, and the only way we can tell which one to use is to look compare it to what you need it to do.

Now, I didn’t have clear design goals, because this was a proof of concept and not an actual game, but what are the strengths and weaknesses of each approach:

Different Maps

Strengths:

  • Can make the map completely different for every terrain, does not need to follow a single map layout.
  • Uses the least amount of hard drive space for finished product.

Weaknesses:

  • Takes the most amount of time in eventing to duplicate all the events on every map. Especially when you include all the different variations based on when in the game you are.
  • Is the hardest to update when you change anything about any of the events, as you would have to change it on every map.

Different Tilesets

Strengths:

  • Events will only have to be done once, so it is easy to update and takes the least amount of time.
  • Small variations in map layout are possible, though large changes would be more difficult.
  • Increase in hard drive space minimal.

Weaknesses:

  • Lots of time in layout out the tilesets themselves to allow easy tileset switches.
  • Complex changes to the map itself would make increasingly complex mapping and eventing necessary.

Background Image

Strengths:

  • Fastest possible method.
  • Events will again only have to be done once.

Weaknesses:

  • Changes to the map need to be purely cosmetic, everything else has to remain the same.
  • Need to use a small map, otherwise it could increase the hard drive space taken by the game by a lot.

Now, I didn’t have a list of Design Goals, so I of course, went for Background Images, which in a way, was 100% about my Design Goals: Getting this done on stream quickly to show people how to do the eventing.

But you could see situations where each would be the best. Do you want a larger map, but the layout can remain mostly the same? Then using Tileset switching is probably the best. Do you need complete control of the differences because of one of your Design Goals? Then go with different maps? It really just depends on what you NEED it to do. And knowing what you need it to do will dictate the best way for you to do it for your game. Because there isn’t just one right answer.

Have you had experiences where you could have done things in multiple ways? What were the reasons you chose to do it the way you did? Tell us in the comments below?

 

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