Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
July 23, 2014, 04:11:22 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
RPGFan Community Quiz
Next Quiz Date: January 11, 2014
Subject: 999 (Nintendo DS)
For more information click HERE!
327204 Posts in 13394 Topics by 2163 Members
Latest Member: KashelGladio
* Home Help Search Login Register
+  RPGFan Message Boards
|-+  Media
| |-+  Single-Player RPGs
| | |-+  RPG Overworlds and methods of travel.
« previous next »
Pages: [1] 2 Print
Author Topic: RPG Overworlds and methods of travel.  (Read 4555 times)
Prime Mover
Posts: 2791


All's fair in love, war, and the recording studio

Member
*

Shattre
View Profile WWW Email

Ignore
« on: December 22, 2008, 05:39:00 PM »

Of all of the devices used by RPGs, few issues spurn as heated debate and controversy as the distinct method of travel, commonly referred to as “the overworld”. Traditionally, it is seen as simply a disagreement about presentation and style: whether or not characters should be represented out of proportion to their surroundings or not. However, underneath this petty argument of stylistic leanings, there are much more fundamental questions of special scope, temporality, as well as the over-arching debate on the concentration of RPGs on exploration vs. tactics.

I will attempt to quickly define the three main transit methods that RPGs use.

Disproportional Overworld Method:
In this method, a large area, commonly the entire planet is portrayed on a continuous, scrolling plane. Some various examples include: FF1-9, most “Tales of” games, Chrono Trigger, Skies of Arcadia, etc. An image of the main character or vehicle is shown, out of proportion, as a marker for the party’s location. The character may appear to be 500 feet tall and running at 1000mph when compared to surrounding terrain, however it must be reminded that this is only an abstraction. When on the overworld, days turn to minutes, and miles turn to inches. It is an effective way of representing travel over large distances and times without forcing the players to actually experience this horrendously long time intervals.

To-Scale Overworld Method:
In this method a smaller region is shown, and the character is portrayed in the same scaling a that they would be within towns and dungeons. Depending on the game, sometimes the distinction between “overworld” and “town/dungeon map” is completely eradicated, with no more than a loading screen separating these two areas, as if the town really is just another part of the overworld. Games that use this method include Fallout 3, Final Fantasy XII, and the Zelda series. This method is effective for smaller scope games, in which the action takes place in a region small enough that one can experience traveling across it in real-time without experiencing horrendously long time intervals.

Point & Click Overworld Method:
This method eradicates any time spent traversing an overworld. Locations are portrayed as dots on a static map, and players are instantly transported to them. One assumes that there is actual transit, but the player does not participate in that event. Games that use point & click overworlds include most strategy RPGs, Suikoden III, the Shadow Hearts series, etc. Most, if not all, adventure-game aspects are removed from the gameplay, and time is repurposed towards strategy, combat, and plot. The designers use this method of transportation ONLY when they want to strip the game of overworld exploratory elements, which fundamentally changes the nature of the gameplay. Sometimes, point & click overworlds are seen in addition to traversable overworlds (for instance Fallout 3, Final Fantasy XII), in this case, the fundamental nature of the gameplay is unchanged, but a point & click interface simply allows for quick transit when specifically desired.

All three methods have merit, but they are used to portray vastly different things, and have various effects on over-arching portrayal of the game. Disproportional Overworlds are effective when a game takes place over a longer period of time in a significantly large region. To-scale Overworlds are effective when designers what to keep the scope of a game limited to smaller region and a shorter time frame. Point & Click Overworlds are used when the focus of the game is repurposed away from spatial exploration.

A player may prefer one method over another (I tend to dislike Point & Click overworlds, because exploration tends to be one of my greatest pleasures in playing RPGs), but one must realize that they serve different functions and all have their place. For instance, there is no substitute for Disproportional Overworlds without fundamentally changing the nature of the gameplay. There is nothing dated about Disproportional overworlds, as some would like to have you believe, they are completely necessary if the designers wish for the game to have a global-scope while retaining exploration and adventure elements.

It is a pet peeve of mine to hear people talking about how Disproportional overworlds are somehow dated or inferior. The reality is is that all three transit methods have been around for just about as long. Action-adventures / Adventure RPGs like Zelda have always had To-Scale Overworlds, larger scope RPGs have always used Disproportional Overworlds, and Point & Click overworlds have been used since the very first strategy RPGs. There have been recent attempts to merge some of these methods, to greater or lesser success, but the fundamentals will always remain the same.

New hybrid method: The Truncated To-Scale Overworld:
This is used by games like Dragon Quest VIII, Star Ocean III, and Final Fantasy X. In this hybrid between Disproportional and To-Scale, a large region or world is portrayed to-scale with the character, just that the amount of space between locations is significantly reduced. Towns that are meant to be 20 miles away may appear to be1/4 mile apart. A forest is reduced to 10 trees and a forebodingly large desert is reduced to something resembling a large sand-trap. Some series have found preference in this method; however, the downside is that it makes the world seem ridiculously small. FF12 feels much larger than FFX, however FF12 is supposed to be basically the size of Turkey, where-as FFX is supposed to be an entire content or planet. This means that truncated overworlds can have strange side-effects on the overall size of a game.

The bottom line is that this is not a debate over stylization vs. realism. It’s a more fundamental debate about what we look for in games: action vs. exploration, or global expansiveness vs. small detailed regions. Both of these are legitimate preferential questions, but we must be aware that they are nothing more than that, subjective debates over what we want the focus of the games we play to be.

My appologies for the long blog/article-type post. Though as a fan of epic overworlds, I often like creating epic posts.
Logged


eelhouse.net
- order the new album

Currently Playing: Metroid Prime 2, Trails in the Sky, Bioshock: Infinite
Currently Listening to: Devin Townsend, Dream Theater
Watching: Star Trek: TOS, Slayers, Doctor Who (as usual)
Dincrest
RPGFan Editor
Posts: 11615


Member
*


View Profile WWW
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2008, 05:58:03 PM »

When I saw "methods of travel" I automatically started thinking of vehicles.  I miss airships and vehicles in general.  Part of the reason I love classic RPGs is the unbridled joy of flight when travelling around the world in an airship; going to places you could never go before.  Phantasy Star 4 had the best vehicles; I even loved how the battle engine changed slightly when you were piloting a vehicle. 

Point-&-click overlands or no overland at all just don't lend themselves as well to airship travel as the classic overlands do.  It's only playing Eternal Eden (a Japanese style RPG by a new developer on the block called Blossomsoft) these past couple of weeks that I truly realized how much I miss airships and flying around the world in them.  It's akin to the joy I feel when exploring my neighborhood on my bicycle.  Sure I've driven and walked to those places, but it's different on a bike.   
Logged

I approve of this nonsense!
Prime Mover
Posts: 2791


All's fair in love, war, and the recording studio

Member
*

Shattre
View Profile WWW Email

Ignore
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2008, 06:14:01 PM »

Dinc, I feel EXACTLY the same way. And as an avid bike-rider, I totally know what you mean about exploring by bike vs. car. I think biking is one of the most peacefull forms of transportation, it's fast enough that you can get a sweeping sense of your surroundings, but its slow enough that you can take in the individual sights and sounds. Walking, you just feel confined to a smaller area, and it's difficult to get far enough away to really explore, without having to drive soemwhere first.

But yes, that's one of the reasons I love Disproportional Overworlds, the modes of transportation. Over the course of the game, you gradually get faster and better transportation that can get you to new places. You can't really do this with smaller-scope overworlds, and it just doesn't feel like anything special if it's point & click (Final Fantasy X & XII, I'm looking at you). I just absolutely love a great airship ride. But I also miss intermediate transportation methods like cars/boats, hovercrafts, and one of my all-time favorites: submarines.
Logged


eelhouse.net
- order the new album

Currently Playing: Metroid Prime 2, Trails in the Sky, Bioshock: Infinite
Currently Listening to: Devin Townsend, Dream Theater
Watching: Star Trek: TOS, Slayers, Doctor Who (as usual)
Blace
Posts: 3770


Member
*


View Profile Email

Ignore
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2008, 06:42:42 PM »

Dragon Quest VIII has the best, period. More games need to do it that way, imo.
Logged

Wild Armor
Observer
Posts: 1448


Member
*


View Profile Email

Ignore
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2008, 06:50:06 PM »

Hrmm, it really depends on what mood your in.

I personally don't mind the point and click overworld method as long as there is some exploration within the stage I enter. Some call it quick and convenient, others call it being plain lazy (haha).

Disproportional overworld Method was always my favorite. I enjoyed running from village to village as some giant colossus at speeds Sonic would blush over. I loved my airships as well... what happened to those beauties? I liked being able to drive my own darn vehicle rather than go inside some big flying thing and picking my location and brought to a loading screen.

To-Scale overworld method is fine by mean as long as there is some form of teleportation or vehicle later, sooner really, in the game. Give me a Horse/speedy vehicle any day. The only con about this is if you don't know where you are going, good luck.... well if you chose not to use gamefaqs.

The hybrid overworld method is actually pretty good if you can't tolerate walking/exploring for long. My attention span lasts for about 5-10 minutes, and there is no reason I should be in town for that long if I already have visited it already once. Especially if the reason being there isn't plot related/side quests.
Logged

Avatar Author's sig: Let me know if you know this author. :)
Willy Elektrix
Lord of the Sword
Posts: 531


Member
*


View Profile

Ignore
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2008, 08:58:21 PM »

When I saw "methods of travel" I automatically started thinking of vehicles.  I miss airships and vehicles in general.  Part of the reason I love classic RPGs is the unbridled joy of flight when travelling around the world in an airship; going to places you could never go before.  Phantasy Star 4 had the best vehicles; I even loved how the battle engine changed slightly when you were piloting a vehicle.

I feel exactly the opposite. Like in a Dragon Warrior 2 and 3, whenever I get the boat, it's like "Oh boy, now I get wander all over the world trying to find what the fuck I'm supposed to do." Dragon Warrior 1 feels like a more concise and tightly paced game than its sequels.
Logged
Hathen
Posts: 1935


FORUM IDIOT

Member
*


View Profile

Ignore
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2008, 10:04:31 PM »

I think it's more based on how interesting the world itself is, rather than whether I'm in the mood or not. If the world is strange and interesting, then I'll want to explore more and see things. If it's just boring grasslands and mountains constantly I'd really rather just skip all the traveling.
Logged
Lard
Posts: 5645


Member
*


View Profile

Ignore
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2008, 11:08:27 PM »

I have to say that P4's system (sqare button) cuts down on a *lot* of the monotony of walking around.

Genius move.
Logged

I avoid online multiplayer because my brain still works.
Sagacious-T
Posts: 2378


Official Pony Thread

Member
*


View Profile

Ignore
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2008, 11:24:13 PM »

Is anyone else sick of Airships?
Logged
Prime Mover
Posts: 2791


All's fair in love, war, and the recording studio

Member
*

Shattre
View Profile WWW Email

Ignore
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2008, 02:23:07 AM »

Is anyone else sick of Airships?
Hell no
Logged


eelhouse.net
- order the new album

Currently Playing: Metroid Prime 2, Trails in the Sky, Bioshock: Infinite
Currently Listening to: Devin Townsend, Dream Theater
Watching: Star Trek: TOS, Slayers, Doctor Who (as usual)
Sagacious-T
Posts: 2378


Official Pony Thread

Member
*


View Profile

Ignore
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2008, 06:40:36 AM »

I just think they are overdone. Progress through world, get an airship to get around faster. so cliche (unless they do something cool, like skies or arcadia)
Logged
Tomara
Posts: 1980


Member
*


View Profile

Ignore
« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2008, 07:01:33 AM »

I can't think of many RPG's that actually follow that pattern. The titles that come to mind are Final Fantasy (which, IIRC, introduced airships in the first place), Lufia II and some Tales games.

Airships are cool and convenient, just like submarines. We need more subs.
Logged
Hathen
Posts: 1935


FORUM IDIOT

Member
*


View Profile

Ignore
« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2008, 07:02:56 AM »

An RPG that completely takes place under the sea sounds kinda interesting.

I'm sure it's been done before, I probably just never heard of it.
Logged
Buddy
Posts: 240

Member
*


View Profile

Ignore
« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2008, 09:15:12 AM »

I pretty much like 'em all except the totally menu-driven overworlds. I hate games even more that have totally menu driven towns. I like to roam around towns and explre them, talking to people.
Logged
Dincrest
RPGFan Editor
Posts: 11615


Member
*


View Profile WWW
« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2008, 10:32:07 AM »

Is anyone else sick of Airships?
Hell no

Me either.  I may have been sick of them years ago, but nowadays since it's rare to find an RPG with an airship, I crave them again.  It's like when I was in India for a month with vegetarian relatives.  I was fine the first 3 weeks or so, but the 4th week I was there I craved red meat like there was no tomorrow.

One thing I'll agree with you on, Thoren, is that too often RPGs don't give you an airship till the very end, and by then you're kinda burnt out.  You just want to kill the endboss and be done with it.  Skies of Arcadia was cool in that you got an airship from the get-go and it became as much a character as Vyse or Aika. 

Still, more needs to be done with RPG vehicles.  I think Phantasy Star 4 did it right where if you hit an enemy encounter while in a vehicle, the battle engine was slightly different; as it you were in the vehicle's cockpit blasting enemies with the vehicle's weaponry.  Grandia 3 totally botched it.  For a game starring a boy and his plane, nothing interesting was done with the plane.  Where was the unbridled joy of flight?

Menu-driven environments are killjoys.  I like the fun of walking around.  To me, menu-driven towns and overlands just reek of lazy design. 

Hathen, it's not quite an RPG, but bit-blot did develop an undersea MetroidVania type game called Aquaria. 
« Last Edit: December 23, 2008, 02:48:24 PM by Dincrest » Logged

I approve of this nonsense!
Pages: [1] 2 Print 
« previous next »
Jump to:  



Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.19 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!