Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, May 08, 2024
Mixing scales of time and distance

I have now played Medieval Dynasty for over 30 hours, and I like it quite a lot. The game reminds me a bit of Stardew Valley, just played with more realistic graphics in first-person / third-person view. But the more realistic graphics also encourage a comparison with real life a bit more, regarding time and distance. And there are some issues here, which might be impossible to solve.

Medieval Dynasty mixes gameplay which is more about running around and exploring the world with other elements that are more about farming as well as building and managing a village. At first you do most things yourself, later you can automate tasks and have villagers work the fields, gather resources, or craft items. As the farming depends on seasons, and the "life simulation" part includes marriage, and the possibility to play on as your heir, the seasons and years pass relatively quickly. 1 real life minute is about 30 minutes in game time, and 3 game days (about 2 hours real time if you don't sleep a lot) is one season. You can make seasons last more days in the settings; on the one side that gives you more time to finish tasks, and for example make money for the annual taxes, but on the other side it makes the years pass slower, and it takes a lot longer for your heir to grow up.

When you are doing quests, it often seems as if the distances in Medieval Dynasty are a bit too long: There are a lot of quests where you need several steps, each of which requires you to run to another village, with a typical distance of around 1 kilometer. Running 1 kilometer in Medieval Dynasty takes about 4 minutes real time, and that feels long compared to other games with quests, where quest targets are usually closer by (sometimes ridiculously too close). Those 4 minutes real time are 2 hours in game, which appears a lot of time to run 1 kilometer. And villages being only 1 kilometer or less apart seems very close, compared to the distances between villages in real life. Between doing your daily chores, and having to run for (in-game) hours between villages for quests, or to buy and sell stuff, in the early game it appears as if you never have enough time between seasons.

But later in the game you have done all the story quests, and you have outsourced your daily chores to your villagers. Then, if you want to play Medieval Dynasty more like a village management simulation, you run into the opposite problem: There is no way to speed up time. If you are just waiting for seasons to pass, you just stand around for a long time in real-world minutes and hours.

Some of these issues could be solved, for example by adding an option to speed up time. But fundamentally there are conflicts between how many real-time minutes a player wants to spend on a task, and how realistic that feels in game-world hours and days. The same thing applies to distances: Google says that medieval villages in Europe were about 5-6 kilometers apart, an hour of brisk walk. I certainly wouldn't want to go questing in Medieval Dynasty if distances were 5 times bigger. And with the world being hand-crafted, a much larger map would also be a lot more work for the developers. So I do think that in the interest of gameplay flow, we need to live with life simulation games which don't feel very realistic, and in which time and space is compressed.

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