How to simulate a very large house

I have the beginning of a project set in a very large house. The house doesn’t need to be large for the game itself-- I only need about 6 rooms. But it’s the house of extremely rich and ostentatious people and so it’s got to seem vast.

I’ve done big houses before where all, or nearly all, of the rooms were important in some way-- the castle in The Spectators is BIG and I’m proud that I utilized all the rooms/areas so none of it was extraneous.

What are good ways to make this realistic without having a ton of rooms you don’t need? In the Spectators, I had 2 whole wings and a floor of the castle that were sketched as “guest wings” or “servant quarters” but which were off-limits to the player for believable reasons, and it was STILL quite large.I could do the same thing here, like instead of letting the player enter a bathroom:

NORTH
“It’s your mother’s pink marble bathroom. It’s bigger than most Manhattan apartments and reeks of her designer perfume, which triggers your asthma. You think you’ll skip going in there.”

But I can’t do this for everything, I don’t think.

Keeping sections locked only makes the player think they need to unlock it. Having someone in a room tell you to bug off only makes you want to see if you can change that.

What are some tricks here to make houses feel large to the player even if you’re only using a few rooms?

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Maybe the House room is multiple coded room? Like :

[Living room end] -- [Living room middle] -- [Living room start] -- [Entrance]
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> GO TO LIBRARY

The matron of the house insists on accompanying you to the 
library, whisking you past countless anonymous doors and 
hallways. You are fairly out of breath by the time Mrs. 
Widdershins ushers you into the library.

Just a thought.

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Yeah I like Phil’s idea, with 6 “functional” rooms and a bunch more implied rooms as you move around. Like even if the Library and Foyer have a direct map connection, you can use flavor text to make it seem like a greater distance.

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I’ve used techniques like this in tabletop D&D games, where in-between areas aren’t important, but it is important that they, at least in theory, exist.

You can even have unpredictable connections where players might not end up where they intended to go, having taken a wrong turn along the way.

> GO TO LIBRARY

You try your best to get back to the library through the
seemingly endless maze of hallways, but you seem to
have made a wrong turn and you find yourself back in the kitchen.
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After the player types…

> GO TO LIBRARY

Maybe have the game delay feedback with a (more) key press as you travel between areas.

The main hall is more like a foyer to a museum. You keep a brisk, even pace with each step echoing like an enormous clockwork for all to hear. You draw the attention of some of the attendants.

– (More) –

You approach large mahogany doors that are easily 10 feet tall. They push open with surprising ease. Their grain has been recently waxed to an impressive sheen and the hinges are well oiled.

– (More) –

The library is a monument to countless literature. Rolling ladders allow access to the second level of shelves all around you. You wonder if even 1% of the books have ever been read.

Make each transition a linear journey. Have fun with some randomized descriptions and interactions. I also like Phil’s idea of having short NPC interactions in between.

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And, instead of just making a room “bigger”, if it’s the right kind of room, you could mention “your footsteps echo into the foreseeable distance, returning to haunt you seconds later.”

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When I started reading your question, I immediately thought of:

  • lots of locked rooms
  • an NPC like a butler who prevents you entering the rooms that are out-of-bounds

When I read a bit further, I saw that you had already considered these and the disadvantages of them.

When you stop and think about it, a large house has lots of hallways and corridors connecting all the rooms. Players hate useless rooms like this, so the best solution is to skip past them.

I think @rileypb’s solution may be the best. When you move, you get some concise text describing all the useless rooms that you pass along the way with a reason why they are of no interest to you. You could additionally have an NPC chaperone if that’s appropriate. They could be the ones that explain what the bypassed rooms are.

> N
You walk down a long corridor with rooms on both sides. The maid explains, “These are the guest rooms. Your room is at the end of the corridor.”

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this exclude locked doors and steering NPC, whose are immediately classed by every Adventurers as the classical “lock & key” and “guard” puzzles; conversely, I note that the mother’s pink marble bathroom can send a veteran of Curses into a fool’s errand…

I feel that Mike’s solution of using the travel messages for conveying the size of the place is by far the best solution.

oh, for environments bigger than an house, mass transit can be really efficient in conveying the size of the traversed environment, and perhaps… LISTENing can be useful…

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.

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> GO TO LIBRARY

The matron of the house insists on accompanying you 
on the tram, which whisks you past countless anonymous doors and 
hallways. Your head is fairly spinning by the time Mrs. 
Widdershins ushers you off the car and into the library. 
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LOL, but please READ carefully :wink:

best regards and winks from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.

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I like @manonamora 's idea. Have large rooms split into different areas. “By the fireplace”, “By the windows”, “Near the bookshelves” etc.

The trick would be, and not sure if this can be done, to somehow have objects in the room visible from the other areas as well, but perhaps not interactive.

For example, you can see the grand piano across the other side, but not play it without approaching.

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My concern is that it would make the house seem even smaller in some way. If I’m concentrating on intervals of several feet, how big could the house actually be?

It can be done. The trick is to keep it from being confusing for the player, which I haven’t really figured out.

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This might be kind of a silly solution, but instead of having lots of rooms, you could have not as many rooms, but make them ridiculously big. Like maybe it’s a several-story house, and each floor is a single room the size of a ballroom. And it has a huge fancy staircase.

Or one “room” could actually be a multi-story room. Like you walk into the library and there are staircases and multiple levels just within the one room (but don’t model the levels separately).

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You could imply distance by indicating how much time has passed when traveling from one room to another. For instance, by the time you reach the library, lamps have been lit, curtains drawn, fog lifted, shadows lengthened, etc. I feel like Piranesi might offer some useful clues. I think it does a great job of evoking space and variation but with a very limited palette. Can’t wait to play your game!

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I know there have been many answers, but I liked the way Curses handles it. The map has an enormous amount of rooms, but none of them are in the main parts of the house. You are actively avoiding your family, and being seen by any of them (except for a nice aunt) ends the game automatically. So you have to occupy the attic, a cellar, a blocked off wing, the grounds, servant’s passages, etc, always close to people but ever alone.

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I was playing The Elder Scrolls: Arena recently and then it just came to me now.

Whenever you travel from room to room, just show this graphic…

384x279

…and then you can say how many days have passed.

Boom! Done.

You’re welcome, Amanda.

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I think you could milk the “dismissive reason the player character isn’t interested in going there while not making it sound mysterious” a lot further and do a bunch to establish setting, back-story, and characterization of the player character and NPCs.

“You don’t go into Mom’s Craft Room. It gives you flashbacks to that time Mom cornered you and told you the history of weaving. All of it.”

“Nothing down that hallway except a couple of designated guest rooms gathering dust, dating all the way back to when Mom imagined a lifestyle involving visitors.”

"That room has been off-limits since you were a kid, so of course you used to play in there. When you got bigger, you found out there was actually a good reason behind telling you to keep out.

All these decades later, Dad still says he’s going to get around to having the floor fixed."

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Really recently, or “It seems recent in my mind, but it was decades ago”? :laughing:
I played it again about a year ago. There’s something about Arena; an atmosphere the later Elder Scrolls games are missing, I think.

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It was under a year ago for me. It’s really hard to explain the atmosphere in an attractive way. I just like how well those older games balance isolation and exploration. It’s a harsh, very spread out world. I thought Elden Ring came close to that feeling.

If you haven’t tried it already, Daggerfall Unity is free to play. It’s a great way to enjoy that same, familiar atmosphere with a fresh coat of paint.
https://github.com/Interkarma/daggerfall-unity/releases

(GOG and Steam also have the free Unity versions as well.)

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