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Cities in MMOs

MoodahMoodah BrusselsPosts: 181Member

One thing has always bothered me in MMOs - and games in general, to a lesser degree. Why for heaven's sake the designers never seem to "get" the feel of a real city, regardless of how it looks like?

I reactivated LOTRO recently after a long time and having fun in general. In some places, like outdoors, the game aged pretty well. On the other hand, the cities like Bree were never that good looking to begin with, which make me think, did I ever see a city or town that gives out that feeling of a real place, and the answer is, not really. 

Stormwind, Ascalon, Old Athens, Bree, you name it - they are all designed arround accessibility, but look like just a bunch of house models thrown in one place to give the player the access to everything a hub has to offer. They however show no sign of urban planning or design.

The streets are usually too wide. Wide streets are too many. There is no claustrophobic little back-alleys with suspicious bars. No slums with beggars. Everything is basicaly a series of squares connected by promenades.

They also never seem to nail the size and width, it always seems "off" so to say.

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Comments

  • Professor78Professor78 TamworthPosts: 588Member

    I agree to some extent, but they are out there. Two that sprig to mind are Freeport in EQ2, and the first main one you get to in Spellborn - loved the cities/ hubs in that, shame about the rest of the game.

    Core i7(d0)on Foxconn Bloodrage, 6gb Tri DDR3,GTX 680, 120gb OCZ Vertex 2 SSD, 640gb Caviar Black, Windows 7, HAF 932 case, 24" Full HD Dell, Logitech G19, Rat 9, 50mb BB.

  • SulaaSulaa nPosts: 1,151Member Common


     

     

     


    Remember it is still very unfinished so at parts (especially later ones) might seem too empty , it will change though. Also watch in hd.

    I played Lotro so I know what you mean. Cities were way too little and unrealistic. I think there is possible to do a city that at same time will be very convenient (easy access to bank , auction house if exist , traders , trainers) and have a feeling of a big city.

    You just have to design it correctly. Position facilities good , not very far away from each other.  So there is certain place or places filled with people , and rest of city with jsut occasional player walking/ riding. Like in normal cities.

    City center and main artery is crowded while other places not so much.

  • xKingdomxxKingdomx SydneyPosts: 1,541Member

    Originally posted by Moodah

    One thing has always bothered me in MMOs - and games in general, to a lesser degree. Why for heaven's sake the designers never seem to "get" the feel of a real city, regardless of how it looks like?

    I reactivated LOTRO recently after a long time and having fun in general. In some places, like outdoors, the game aged pretty well. On the other hand, the cities like Bree were never that good looking to begin with, which make me think, did I ever see a city or town that gives out that feeling of a real place, and the answer is, not really. 

    Stormwind, Ascalon, Old Athens, Bree, you name it - they are all designed arround accessibility, but look like just a bunch of house models thrown in one place to give the player the access to everything a hub has to offer. They however show no sign of urban planning or design.

    The streets are usually too wide. Wide streets are too many. There is no claustrophobic little back-alleys with suspicious bars. No slums with beggars. Everything is basicaly a series of squares connected by promenades.

    They also never seem to nail the size and width, it always seems "off" so to say.

    The only cities that I ever loved are in Single player games, Assassin's Creed. Everthing is to a certain scale, so structure are coherent with each other, but then again, they are based on real cities.

    How much WoW could a WoWhater hate, if a WoWhater could hate WoW?
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  • VhalnVhaln Chicago, ILPosts: 3,159Member

    Bothers me, too.  A good city could offer all sorts of gameplay possibilities, and just make for a really nice environment, but developers never do anything like that.  

     

    I remember way back in EQ, wondering how they could make such a ridiculous city as Qeynos or Freeport, when any little bit of research into what medieval cities looked like would have given them tons of ideas on how to make it more realistic, interesting, and immersive.

     

    Games like AOC and LOTRO have done better, but still.. not that much better.  I don't know what the problem is.  Often, just seems like MMO devs are so much more amateurish than devs in other genres, but that can't be right, can it?

    When I want a single-player story, I'll play a single-player game. When I play an MMO, I want a massively multiplayer world.

  • MoodahMoodah BrusselsPosts: 181Member

    True, Assasin's creed games come closest to real that I've seen.  I always wondered those things because whenever you set out to do something, you do need to do a little bit of a research.  If anyone watched the making of LOTR the movies, you can see just how much thought and design went into creating a city like Gondor for example, which is very far from making a copy af a realistic city template, more taking some principles of how a city should function that were established to ages, and then applying it to the fantasy place. It was unreal, but believable.

     

    Sulaa, the video you linked. The first thing I see for example is that the door is way out of proportion with the characters. Second thing I notice is that except for public plazas, you would never have so much open space in any large city. The land was too precious and expensive, so people tried to cram as much useful space as possible per square meter. That's why you can see that medieval cores of today's cities have those tight narrow claustrophobic streets.

  • EscargonEscargon OranPosts: 78Member

    I would say that Stormwind actually looks like a city and feels like it when youre a level 8 noob exploring.. kids playing and npcs selling breads, poor people in need of money, horse seller, thousands of houses and stores, a blacksmith subtown.. But in many MMOs its just quest and AH hubs.

    Yawn

  • ElikalElikal ValhallaPosts: 7,906Member Uncommon

    Oh man I SO AGREE! You see, cities are so often a downer.

    - a good city needs a character, it is like a person, so to speak, and most developers have little to no idea how to make that alive

    - too many NPCs are just glued to the ground like animated statues!

    - in a good MMO city there should be a day/night cycle with schedules, similar to the cities of Ultima; remember how in Ultima VII all NPCs had daily schedules? The opened the shop in the morning, got to dinner, got back to shop, closed shop in the evening, went to tavern or some place and then to bed in the night. Ok for a MMO you possibly need night-shops. But still.

    - only few MMOs have NPCs in their city which actually talk with each other, walk around, do stuff and move on; in this terms Stormwind from WOW is quite good IMO

    - a good city need to be placed inside a world so it can reached soon by low level players so it becomes a hub for all to meet, also it needs unique functions to attract people, like an AH

    - of course a good city needs a decend size and not a merely symbolic size, which more represents a real city

     

    Alas I fear this is something we aren't gonna see for years to come.

    People don't ask questions to get answers - they ask questions to show how smart they are. - Dogbert

  • SulaaSulaa nPosts: 1,151Member Common

    Originally posted by Moodah

     Sulaa, the video you linked. The first thing I see for example is that the door is way out of proportion with the characters. Second thing I notice is that except for public plazas, you would never have so much open space in any large city. The land was too precious and expensive, so people tried to cram as much useful space as possible per square meter. That's why you can see that medieval cores of today's cities have those tight narrow claustrophobic streets.

    Yeah out of proportion unfortunatelly but not as much as you would think.  In old cities there is alot of doors that can easily have 2,5 -3 m and I am not talking only about doors to churches or palaces but also about doors to apartments. In those very old apartaments even though I have 1,90 m I even when I jump I sometimes cannot touch ceiling. Take note: that are not temples or palaces but just apartments in old city. Not all of them are like that ofc but many are. (depends on how old are them as well).

    I am living in a city that has over 750 years so I know what I am talking about. Nowadays proportions vary greatly even in old buildings , because certain buildings /parts of buildings were build in diffrent ages , and were constantly modified or rebuild after wars or fires.

    In city center of my city in places when there are old buildings some of building have like 80 years and some like 250 or even much older. Of course there is much more of this youngest ones.

     

    So anyway AA creators overdid / messed some proportions BUT not all of them and not as much as maybe you think.

    First of all - as hard as is to correlate "earth age" to game age , but ArcheAge certainly is not medieval anymore. In this game you have cannons (on ships, castle walls + siege ones I think) , already big ships ,etc so It is renessaince era not moedieval.

    Cities in renessaince were not as cramped as those in early, middle medieval.

    Second thing. This city in video mimic clearly middle eastern style. It's style was a bit diffrent than in most european cities. There were more open spaces , more squares , more wealthy houses of traders, aristocracy , officers ,etc

    Video itself picture big places alsmot exclusively unfortunetally , it starts in marketplace , then player go to some kind of palaces/temples/gardens  area. Though at 4.20 - 4.32 you can see few "tight" streets on the sides , unfortunatelly he don't decide to go into them.

    Gallery with some pictures of Damascus - that shows that apart of public squares there are many places with space in old cities.  http://imgur.com/a/NrSFi#Qrc6T

     

    Of course you're right that there are many "tight" cramped streets as well ,and maybe there will be not enough of some small streets in AA. I don't know , that's possible but it is impossible to know before more info , movies will come out of next closed beta.

     

    Here you have pictures from old city in my city which is in Europe , Poland. There is actually small amount of very small streets. That is becasue city was altered during centuries and most old buildings now are post-medieval , build and/or modified in renessaince at earliest frequently later. Though core square is medieval I think , well at least proportions. Take a look anyway. Those are streets adjacent or close to central square. There are of course more narrow and "tight" streets but I could not find photos in inet , but there is really not so much of those , there is more relatively broad (as for 'old' standards) ones.

    http://imgur.com/a/7xBWI#TN3rS

     

    So anyway those parts I saw are far from perfect and proportions are bit messed but still imho looks better than in most other mmorpg's I saw.

     

  • xKingdomxxKingdomx SydneyPosts: 1,541Member

    Originally posted by Moodah

    Sulaa, the video you linked. The first thing I see for example is that the door is way out of proportion with the characters. Second thing I notice is that except for public plazas, you would never have so much open space in any large city. The land was too precious and expensive, so people tried to cram as much useful space as possible per square meter. That's why you can see that medieval cores of today's cities have those tight narrow claustrophobic streets.

    haha I realise that too, but first thing I notice is how huge those steps are, or maybe the created character just really small?

     

    Actually DCUO have pretty nice crafted cities as well, but they didn't do anything with the city....just spawn zones everything.......so the game was ruined......

    One thing I realise in a lot of games is that environment artist usually make building bigger than they are in real life, so size does matter, don't let anyone tell you different.

    They should employ architects to do this.........

    How much WoW could a WoWhater hate, if a WoWhater could hate WoW?
    As much WoW as a WoWhater would, if a WoWhater could hate WoW.

  • MoodahMoodah BrusselsPosts: 181Member

    You have a point there, most of today's cities did go through a couple of modernisation phases and wars, where things god destroyed, redone etc. Don't forget however that most of the fantasy, at least western, does happen at the certain historic times when those buildings should be contemporary.

     

    One particular picture from Helsingor in Denmark komes to mind

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b4/Helsingør_street.JPG

    Salzburg

    http://famouswonders.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Salzburg-Old-Town.jpg

    Brussels

    http://ih1.redbubble.net/work.1830457.4.flat,550x550,075,f.old-street-in-brussels.jpg

     

    While most of the towns are not like that, the remains, since I hand picked the old part photos, the ones that remain intact more or less are.

    What all those have in common is that they had squares/plazas/markets, where most of the stuff was happening, which were more wide open, but then everything else was as crammed as possible. What I just came to realise at the time that I'm typing this is that what they do in all MMOs is that they just take out those squares/plazas/markets and leave out everything else. Put a fence arround it and call it a city .... that's probably why it feels so weird.

    Nice city btw.

  • TokyojoeTokyojoe Aurora, MOPosts: 49Member

    Agreed. Cities always seem so shallow and have such lack of detail that they seem like just another part of a theme park. I think developers would be amazed at the response they would get if they would actually bring a city to life. But I am  part of what  seems to be a minority of gamers who would appreciate quality housing in a game,not just model houses with a chair in the corner.

    I may know the least here,but I am the loudest about what I do know.

  • Lille7Lille7 Ljungskile, AKPosts: 301Member

    You need overly large doorways in games, or they will feel way too cramped, and just 1 person standing in the doorway would block access for everyone else (if the game has player collision). Usually when it comes to games, doors and doorways are overly large, while the buildings themselves are way too small.

    A few citys i think are pretty good are Stormwind in WoW and whatever the main city is called in AoC. What they lack is some sort of schedule for their NPCs, they stand in the same spot 24/7 which is pretty dull. In WoWs case it would probably be a nightmare to have all the NPCs go to bed during the night because the day/night cycle is based on 24 hours. While AoCs isn't, so there you will have multiple ingame nights during an IRL day.

  • dinamsdinams Muriae, VAPosts: 1,362Member

    I get bugged everytime I see a supposedly big city and then I see a empty courtyard with half a dozen structures in it (Theramore, the wiki says that have a big population and then you arrive in there and see exactly what I said)

    Stormwind is ok I guess, GW cities really suck in this topic, all the cities of GW are so out of proportion (glad they are changing it in the sequel)

    Another thing that bugs me is the fact that sometimes you have a gigantic city and then you see only 10 npcs in the streets (not counting with the eventual guards)

    "It has potential"
    -Second most used phrase on existence
    "It sucks"
    -Most used phrase on existence

  • Lille7Lille7 Ljungskile, AKPosts: 301Member

    Originally posted by dinams

    I get bugged everytime I see a supposedly big city and then I see a empty courtyard with half a dozen structures in it (Theramore, the wiki says that have a big population and then you arrive in there and see exactly what I said)

    Yes, but the numbers in the wiki is based of the lore (which usually comes from the books or the Warcraft RPG. If all of WoW was to scale it would take you several days to walk from Theramore to Ironforge ;)

  • BillyJimBobBillyJimBob London, ONPosts: 35Member

    I suppose if there was a Limbo it would be as an npc in a city in one of these mmo's.  The example that comes to mind is in LoTRO and the town / city of Bree, perhaps the western entrance.  This poor bastard with a dull axe has been hacking away on the same log since the launch of the game.

  • dinamsdinams Muriae, VAPosts: 1,362Member

    Originally posted by Lille7

    Originally posted by dinams

    I get bugged everytime I see a supposedly big city and then I see a empty courtyard with half a dozen structures in it (Theramore, the wiki says that have a big population and then you arrive in there and see exactly what I said)

    Yes, but the numbers in the wiki is based of the lore (which usually comes from the books or the Warcraft RPG. If all of WoW was to scale it would take you several days to walk from Theramore to Ironforge ;)

    This is why I said "big population" and not 9500 citizens =P

    If atleast there were more 5 houses in the place it would be more beliavable, but you know the place have 1 barrack, 1 inn ,1 blacksmith, 1 lumberyard and I think theres a house in there...

    And this is supposed to be a big city!

    "It has potential"
    -Second most used phrase on existence
    "It sucks"
    -Most used phrase on existence

  • corwinepiccorwinepic Utica, NYPosts: 8Member

     






    Originally posted by Elikal



    Oh man I SO AGREE! You see, cities are so often a downer.

    - a good city needs a character, it is like a person, so to speak, and most developers have little to no idea how to make that alive

    - too many NPCs are just glued to the ground like animated statues!

    - in a good MMO city there should be a day/night cycle with schedules, similar to the cities of Ultima; remember how in Ultima VII all NPCs had daily schedules? The opened the shop in the morning, got to dinner, got back to shop, closed shop in the evening, went to tavern or some place and then to bed in the night. Ok for a MMO you possibly need night-shops. But still.

    - only few MMOs have NPCs in their city which actually talk with each other, walk around, do stuff and move on; in this terms Stormwind from WOW is quite good IMO

    - a good city need to be placed inside a world so it can reached soon by low level players so it becomes a hub for all to meet, also it needs unique functions to attract people, like an AH

    - of course a good city needs a decend size and not a merely symbolic size, which more represents a real city

     

    Alas I fear this is something we aren't gonna see for years to come.

     



     

    I'm shocked that the capital city's in Warhammer haven't been brought up. If you want examples of city's done right. That's where you should put a spot light.

    They covered every element that's been discussed in this thread. They where living city's built with in the medieval fantasy concept. Random walking NPCs talking to them selves. Events (public quests) interrupting the normal flow of city life. It was to bad that the concept of the city prospering and expanding different areas was abandoned out of hand. But I think that had to do with the fact that the player base hated when the city was destroyed and they no longer had access to the outer city limits (and dungeon content)

    /edit I found a youtube video showcassing my point.  The city tour does wander into some building interiors here and there but over all it's a good show case for my claim. 

  • OhamOham PraguePosts: 24Member

    Some random thoughts:

    1) Developers know little to nothing of urban planning.

    2) Cities are more GPU intensive than general landscape which somewhat limits what developers can do, especially taking into account people with weaker rigs.

    3) Designing cities takes lots of time and resources. For the developer, it's largely about money. This is imo why we see so many copy-paste(tm) designs (e.g. capitol in Oblivion) or artificial 'inflating' of city size by putting inaccessible huge areas into them (like the central part of Bree in LOTRO where you can get from roofs).

    4) Everyone has seen many real world cities so players are more aware of imperfections. I can imagine a speleologist would be amused by how unrealistic caves look in videogames. However, as there are not many speleologists playing videogames, noone notices.

    5) Camera movement considerations need to be taken into account in third-person view games, i.e., most current MMOs. That's why we get so high ceilings, otherwise it'd be awfully annoying to be inside a room with a camera bumping into something at every slightest movement.

    6) Buildings out of scale are also more prominent when seen from far away. This means you need fewer buildings per area unit to make the world feel inhabited, that means lesser GPU load and allows for longer viewing distances.

    All that being said, I'd also love to see a MMO with huge, carefully designed cities where every place looks unique and special.

  • garrygarry Birmingham, ALPosts: 263Member

    Since the above posts cover most of the city territory I will try a little something else by asking a question. Does anyone here follow the progress of TSW? I have pre-ordered SWTOR so will be interested in Coruscant and their 'levels' of the city. Also will buy GW2 but can't speak much as to its cities as most views/info are grandiose, not specific (dockside mabey?). But TSW will revolve heavily around 3 of earths major modern cities, London, New York and Seoul Korea. How many places will you be able to get into? What about NPCs? Streets? Businesses? Dens of Iniquity? Hideouts? Safehouses? Suits and rags will be available for clothing. What about that heavy rifle or shotgun you carry down the center of Wall Street? Police? Laws?

     

    Coming up with a city within the confines of  programming and resources has to be a major undertaking (pain).  I just wondered what people thought about TSW having to deal with existing modern cities.

  • DW74DW74 Reading, PAPosts: 8Member

    It always amuses me when people who are not in the business of making games automatically assume that people who went to college, got degrees, and now work for game studios are stupid,  uneducated, or unwilling to make cool stuff just to displease their customers. Do you honestly believe that mmo devs wouldn't -love- to be able to put huge, detailed cities in their games? As a previous poster said, it's always engine-related. Devs know they can't build an in-game 15 square mile city full of homes and skyscrapers and landmarks and then fill it with 10000 players at the same time. It just won't run. Not until we have mega-servers, everyone is on fiber, and everyone has the equivalent of a home supercomputer will we get cities of that magnitude. Or they would have to make it sectional, and have loading screens between "city blocks", as it were.

    Don't misunderstand me. I have often said to myself and others that cities could be more realistic. I have asked "where do the orcs sleep in Org?" more than once. But I recognize that game design is about budgets. Monetary, polygonal, effects, and so on.

    "I think its just important to remember that no one falls into a simple set of labels, and its even more important, I think, to learn from your mistakes and to fight for the positive choice." - Lindsey Buckingham

  • EricDanieEricDanie Rio de JaneiroPosts: 2,238Member

    Yeah, cities are something that designers usually don't get right and instead just create major social and NPC hubs instead of cities. Cities shouldn't have useful NPCs only and neither should they remain the same exact thing for two or more years, not to mention being extremely small for a capital (teleportation statue such as in Aion would be an easy method so size doesn't become an incovenience). it would be great if there was some feeling of change and growth/decline. Say, some people moving in, a new building, a fire, a plague, etc.

  • MMOExposedMMOExposed lalal land, DCPosts: 6,257Member Uncommon
    Problem is servers can't hold that amount of people to make cities populated like what we seek from a real life city.

    In Wow, the world is not to scale with lore. But damn if it was, ,,, that would be awesome

    image

  • MoodahMoodah BrusselsPosts: 181Member

    Originally posted by DW74

    It always amuses me when people who are not in the business of making games automatically assume that people who went to college, got degrees, and now work for game studios are stupid,  uneducated, or unwilling to make cool stuff just to displease their customers. Do you honestly believe that mmo devs wouldn't -love- to be able to put huge, detailed cities in their games? As a previous poster said, it's always engine-related. Devs know they can't build an in-game 15 square mile city full of homes and skyscrapers and landmarks and then fill it with 10000 players at the same time. It just won't run. Not until we have mega-servers, everyone is on fiber, and everyone has the equivalent of a home supercomputer will we get cities of that magnitude. Or they would have to make it sectional, and have loading screens between "city blocks", as it were.

    Don't misunderstand me. I have often said to myself and others that cities could be more realistic. I have asked "where do the orcs sleep in Org?" more than once. But I recognize that game design is about budgets. Monetary, polygonal, effects, and so on.

    Far from that ..  although size of the cities is not what I was taliking about as proportions for example. Putting right things into right places.

    I do think that they do it in part on purpose, because when designing a city, what they are really doing is designing a hub. Making sense in the urbanistic and historical kind of a way takes a back seat to accesibility, quests, going in and out etc. It would be nice to see a compromise of those two approaches.

    And in a way I do think that people are in a business of making games do not and in the end - can not even, know about everything in such detail that they are able to mimic an architect, historian or an engineer. That is the reason you see games and movies hiring military advisors for example, to help them make the way soldiers move and hold guns the right way. I do not doubt their inteligence or education.  I would like to see the financial priorities re-shuffled a little bit so that sometimes in the future we really get to see urban enviroments done better.

    I remember watching the documentary from making of LOTRO, where John Howe, tried to teach the other designers how the medieval armor actually worked and how separate plates interacted with each other etc, so that the armor would look right, because thus far they haven't been doing it right.

    In turn, when the looks of felbeasts was being discussed, one of the artists who's speciality was biology, suggested that the wings would never work the way John Howe initially designed them. Two artists, single art, different disciplines. Doesn't mean one of them is less educated or intelligent, just that they can not know everything.

    Take the main Deviant city in the first area in Rift. It's a slightly oversized appartment complex, not a capital. At least for AOC for example tried to give you an illusion, by making the other side of the river in Khemi, so it looked a little bigger.

  • Loke666Loke666 MalmöPosts: 18,041Member Uncommon

    Originally posted by DW74

    It always amuses me when people who are not in the business of making games automatically assume that people who went to college, got degrees, and now work for game studios are stupid,  uneducated, or unwilling to make cool stuff just to displease their customers. Do you honestly believe that mmo devs wouldn't -love- to be able to put huge, detailed cities in their games? As a previous poster said, it's always engine-related. Devs know they can't build an in-game 15 square mile city full of homes and skyscrapers and landmarks and then fill it with 10000 players at the same time. It just won't run. Not until we have mega-servers, everyone is on fiber, and everyone has the equivalent of a home supercomputer will we get cities of that magnitude. Or they would have to make it sectional, and have loading screens between "city blocks", as it were.

    Don't misunderstand me. I have often said to myself and others that cities could be more realistic. I have asked "where do the orcs sleep in Org?" more than once. But I recognize that game design is about budgets. Monetary, polygonal, effects, and so on.

    Some people who makes game are both well educated and have good historical knowledge.

    And cities don't have to be huge n MMOs, but most MMO cities doesn't feel like real cities or even like a real village. I rather have a small city that seems like a ral one than a huge city that just feels fake.

    AoCs Tortage is one of the best I seen on account of feeling real. It is at least partly planned like a real city.

    I wish that MMO devs actually visited a few old cities and figured out what made them tick or just stole the city planning right off, it would add some realism to the game.

    Most old cities weren't that big anyways so it is not that hard to put them in with a regular MMOs resources. Games don't have to have 6 cities the size of ancient Rome to work. Think small is not the same as to make something with no sense whatsoever.

    I spent a few weeks in Wisby, a real town that is in great shape and very close to how it looked in the 14th century, and it would be pretty easy to add it in most games If that is too much, skip the city and have a few smaller villages instead. 

    If a game looks more realistic it feels more alive.

  • azmundaiazmundai St Louis, MOPosts: 1,417Member

    goto Leth Nereau (cant remember how to spell it anymore) in Vanguard. Really cool city .. though parts of it suffer somewhat from what you are saying, overall its a nice place to be.

    LFD tools are great for cramming people into content, but quality > quantity.
    I am, usually on the sandbox .. more "hardcore" side of things, but I also do just want to have fun. So lighten up already :)

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